There are some habits you really should give up as an adult: trying to swing over the top of the swings, endless Saturday-morning cartoons, crying when you’re hungry or tired or bored. But one thing you should never grow out of is a good bedtime story – even when your eyes are too tired to read an actual page, there are plenty of fiction podcasts to lull you off to a fantasy world. Here are some of the best:
Being a bedtime-story enthusiast as an adult means we can listen to scary tales and still nod off without worrying about monsters under the bed (maybe). The Message is a collection of recordings from journalist Nicky Tomalin as she joins a team of cryptologists deciphering a message supposedly sent to Earth from aliens 70 years ago. It’ll have you googling to find out whether it’s a true story within one episode.
The Mahabharata is one of two ancient Sanskrit texts telling the epic of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of two princes, and this podcast takes on one tale per episode. It might sound a little dry, as books written in 400 BC can often be, but orator Sudipta Bhawmik (who is also a playwright and seasoned yogi) narrates with such calmness that it feels like a meditation session.
As one of the most popular short-stories podcasts, The Moth has a lot of hype to live up to. It’s recorded live at a weekly community night in New York dedicated to the promotion of storytelling and all of the speakers are encouraged to tell true stories of their lives. Our favourite is this one by Jenifer Hixson, in which a bad boyfriend leads to a happier chance meeting with a woman with similar problems.
Night Vale is a town where all the conspiracy theories are true and all the residents have something to hide. This podcast is presented as a radio show from the fictional southwest American town, with news, announcements and adverts combining to create a mysterious and seemingly unending story. There are currently 104 episodes to get stuck into, and counting.
This podcast is actually designed to send you off to sleep, with every episode lasting between eight and 18 minutes, which happens to be the perfect amount of time for you to switch off. Host Seymour Jacklin has a soothingly rhythmic way of telling a story, some of which are suitable for both adults and children – perfect if you need a night off from storytelling yourself.
More of an investigation than a straight-laced story, S-Town is the latest offering from podcast champions Serial and This American Life. Journalist Brian Reed travels to a town in Alabama to investigate a confusing murder, not knowing that someone else will die just as he leaves. S-Town is a good listen if you don’t need to get a lot of sleep, not because it’s scary but because of how hard it is to turn off.
A truck driver is certain that her wife, Alice, isn’t dead and sets off into the night to find her. Along the way, she meets unsavoury characters, who each unravel the story further and further until it’s not just about the missing Alice. This podcast carries on the creepy vibe of Welcome To Night Vale, most likely because it’s created by the same people and, lucky for us, series two episodes are now available every other Tuesday.