Ever since I was a youngling, I’ve had a fascination with creepy stories. The best ones were always those touted as true around the campfire; the tales of horrific encounters with strange entities in the woodlands; the mysterious unsolved disappearances; the accounts of hauntings and ghostly activity, scary enough to give even the toughest Viking the flaming heebiegeebies. While all creepy tales are exciting, it’s the true stories that lodge themselves in your subconscious and poke away at your paranoia with their skeletal fingers, because if that shit happened to someone else who’s to say that they won’t happen to you?
I would always sit there wide-eyed as these stories were being told, riveted to the spot with a mug of hot chocolate in my hand and my imagination in overdrive. Yes, afterwards I would get into my sleeping bag absolutely terrified with a head full of nightmare fuel, listening intently to the dark world outside and whimpering at the slightest perceived sound. And inevitably it was on those nights that I would be forced to get up at 3am to use the loo, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, but that was just part of the fun! And the long-lasting psychological scarring, of course.
As I’ve grown older my fascination with these stories has grown with me, and in these days of websites, forums and media streaming, they’ve become a lot more accessible to us all. Sites like Reddit have some intriguing threads about users’ experiences with the weird and supernatural, such as ‘Let’s Not Meet’, ‘No Sleep’ and ‘Glitch In The Matrix’. It’s all good stuff but the downside is that they do take a bit of sifting through to find the best ones, so imagine how happy I was when I discovered that there are a lot of channels devoted to the narration of these tales of terror on YouTube!
Now, before you get all excited and dash off to go and have a look, I should say that storytelling really is an art form. The best storytellers on YouTube take pride in their work and go out of their way to produce good quality videos that are easy to listen to, and while it’s great that this is an open platform for anyone to use, it does also mean that you’ll come across narrators who haven’t quite mastered their art yet. Some of them merely talk too fast, don’t enunciate very well or try to put on a creepy, dramatic voice that actually ends up grating on your nerves. Others fall into the trap of not taking the time to get to know the piece they’re going to read, resulting in odd inflections, pauses mid-sentence to take a breath and, every now and then, just becoming plain old lost. Perhaps I sound too picky, but it’s these kinds of verbal static that can ruin the immersion and jolt you out of a storyline.
But you are in luck, dear readers, for I have listened to literally tens of storytellers on YouTube and can share a couple of truly outstanding ones with you right now! The two YouTubers I’ve chosen are both exemplary narrators with very different styles, and both produce consistently great videos for true reader-experience stories that will draw you in and keep you transfixed. They also both have great attention to detail, using background music and images that add to the creepy atmosphere, yet don’t detract from the storytelling. And they have some similarities too – both are ex-military, and both started narrating scary stories after being inspired by Mr Nightmare, another popular YouTube horror-reader.
So are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.
Having only joined in September 2015, Phantom Librarian is relatively new on the YouTube scene, but in my humble opinion he’s landed with a bang, and possibly a ‘Mwahahahaha!’ or two. His speaking voice is fantastic – he has a relatively soft tone, but he’s clear, well-rehearsed and very easy to listen to.
Phantom Librarian also makes good use of his library theme, with each tale clearly separated from the next by spooky whispering and the turning of a page. Perhaps this isn’t as important to some people, but to me it ties everything together in one glorious, spooky package, as if he really were reading from an enormous, leather-bound tome of horror while lounging menacingly in a huge Victorian armchair.
And, when you hear him talking about himself, he actually seems like a nice dude along with it. In a recent question and answer session, he revealed that he’s a fan of HP Lovecraft, keeps adorable pet frogs and that his favourite colours are green and grey (there’s a deep-cut for all you Damh The Bard fans out there!)
I thoroughly recommend his videos about camping, the outdoors and the middle of nowhere stories – he admits that these are his favourites, and his enthusiasm for them does come through in his narration. All in all, his attention to detail really pays off and you may end up looking at camping in a whole new light!
MaddMike is a three-year YouTube veteran, although he’s only been doing scary stories for about seven months. Sadly he has had negative stick in his comments sections from people who think he sounds like a rapper, but to me this is a bonus as his voice has an almost musical quality to it, while still being quite haunting and very compelling to listen to.
Another guy who seems really cool in real life, he says that he took a while to find his niche on YouTube and actually started narrating scary stories as a bit of joke to start with, but now really enjoys making his narration videos and spends a lot of time creating them. He takes the time to choose the right music and adds some sound effects to enhance the atmosphere, and I think that it’s this professionalism that really makes his efforts stand out.
A fan of the classic horror movies such as ‘Halloween’ and ‘Friday 13th’, MaddMike favours his night shift stories because they’re all about being on your own while crazy stuff is happening. I tend to agree, and as a starting block I’d recommend his four-part series ‘My Night Shift At MacDonalds’ – it’s insanely creepy and, if you weren’t scared of the dark before, you might be after listening!
I’ve stuck to YouTubers here who specialise in true reader stories, either gleaned from the internet or from viewer submissions but, believe me, there are a lot of other channels out there that are also very good and include other types of videos as well. I’ve already mentioned Mr Nightmare – his channel also has items such as weird and creepy lists, and his style is more that of a TV show narrator. This isn’t really my cup of tea but does appeal to a lot of people. An honourable mention should also go to Eden, who has an ‘Eden Reads’ section for creepy stories, but also an array of gaming videos. She’s a very capable narrator, although sometimes comes across as a wee bit overdramatic for my liking!
So anyway, there you have it. Give these chaps a listen, and if you’ve found any good storytellers online that you’d like to share with us, please do! And, to quote Crimewatch, don’t have nightmares…