Podcast of the Week: The No Sleep Podcast

Halloween 2016 gets one last gasp in our latest Podcast of the Week winner

Welcome to “Podcast of the Week!” Every week here at Den of Geek, we will be highlighting a podcast that we believe turned in the best episode or episodes that week. It will be a tall task as somehow there appear to be more podcasts than actual people on Earth, but we’re going to scour a diverse set of as many shows as we can every week to find the best example of podcasting excellent and bestow one with the immortal title: “Podcast of the Week.”

Like any legitimate award there will be snubs and there will be flubs. But that’s just part of the process. If you have any podcast episodes that you feel deserve recognition or just want to scream incoherently in rage at a snub, direct all inquiries to @alecbojalad.

Podcast of the Week: 10/28/16 – 11/3/16

The No Sleep Podcast: Halloween 2016

Halloween is over but we at Podcast of the Week don’t want it to be.

Halloween brings out the storyteller in all of us and podcasts reveal themselves to be a stupendous storytelling medium this time of year. All sorts of podcast view late October as the time to let their freak flags fly and come up delectable scary stories for the ravenous listening public.

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But what about podcasts where scary-story telling is the norm?

The No Sleep Podcast is a weekly show, hosted by voiceover master David Cummings, in which actors (and presumably foley artists) act out scary stories written by horror writers and other listeners. It’s a spin-off of Reddit’s popular scary-story telling forum “r/nosleep” and mostly borrows from its “everything you see here is true” ethics.

A warning at the top of the No Sleep Podcast’s website reads “This is a horror fiction podcast. It is intended for mature adults, not the faint of heart. Join us at your own risk.” Still, almost every story featured is from a first person perspective and seeks to capture the real-life sensation of hearing a paranormal story from a friend of a friend.

The No Sleep Podcast unites creative writers and creative actors week after week to tell scary stories with nearly no limitations. The only qualifications for a No Sleep Podcast story are: is it good? And is it scary? Halloween, however, is slightly more limiting.

Whereas other non-paranormal or scary-story-telling podcasts can view October as a month to indulge scary stories without any limitations, The No Sleep Podcast adds one: each of the five stories featured in “Halloween 2016” is at least tangentially related to All Hallow’s Eve.

At first glance, that might not seem like a big deal. Scary story podcast tells scary stories about Halloween. Where’s the difficulty? When you think about it, though, Halloween as we celebrate isn’t that scary. It’s a social holiday. Children band together and explore their neighborhood while kindly strangers give them candy. Adults get dressed up in colorful outfits and get drunk with one another. Halloween is Christmas with darker colors and more moderate weather.

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So “write a scary story about Halloween” is a much more restrictive creative writing prompt than one would think. Thankfully, this week’s No Sleep Podcast is more than up to the task.

“Halloween 2016” features five stories that range from interesting to excellent. It begins with “Marked,” which is the most first-person focused and reddit-esque of the bunch. It’s an excellent, easy introduction to the theme at hand if a little conventional.

“The Last Passenger” comes up next and is fabulously creative and the feature that fits the medium most perfectly. It is a spooky radio play, simply put. And Orson Welles would be proud of it.

“The Best Candy in Beverly Valley” is…a bit much. It certainly satisfies the gore-seeking portion of the audience and is the most overtly Halloween-centric.

“We Don’t Do Halloween” is pound for pound the best story on the show and is downright cinematic in its storytelling.

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“The Dancing Dead” is the closer and features a few too many characters and confusing elements but when it gets to the “spooky” portion is sublime. It’s worth mentioning that the musical score (composed by Brandon Boone) for each episode is excellent but is particularly perfect in “The Dancing Dead.”

Any anthology podcast that puts forward several stories is going to face the reality of some stories simply being better than others, but no “Halloween 2016” story is a true dud and at least two are superb – a ratio that any anthology would die for.

Halloween 2016 may be over but “Halloween 2016” gives it an admirable send-off. That’s why The No Sleep Podcast is this week’s Podcast of the Week.