Is this Ireland’s scariest podcast?

Podcast review: the latest series of Irish horror podcast Petrified is firmly located on home turf

Artwork for Petrified podcast

A 2021 study of more than 300 participants by a team of Danish and American scientists found that “fans of horror films exhibited greater resilience during the pandemic”. The theory is that the more fictional horror you’re exposed to, the more coping strategies you’ll develop for any real-life horror that might come your way.

So listening to Petrified could be thought of as a sensible precaution. The horror fiction anthology podcast is beginning its third season, lugging a few awards and plaudits from lovers of recreational fear across the world. Written by Peter Dunne and produced by Liam Geraghty, Petrified, so the tagline goes, is set in a “Darker Ireland”, darker, presumably than the one we inhabit in real life, though you might be forgiven for confusing the two.

These stories are firmly located on home turf: one takes place at a panto, one follows a group of nuns up a mountain, another unfolds on a 12 pubs of Christmas crawl. And then there’s the one on the ghost estate, the most fitting locale for a macabre tale of isolation and betrayal.

These stories are filled with demons and monsters and ghosts and vampires but also with real people, people who fight with their sister or phone their mother, gauchely order chardonnay on a pub crawl or say they’re minutes away when they’re stuck in a lengthy tailback. And every story is a world unto itself, though grounded in enough that’s recognisable, giving the podcast the necessary verisimilitude to make it truly scary.


The Petrified team are making enough of a name for themselves to coax the likes of Anne Doyle on for a recent cameo on an episode that puts a new and painful spin on the moving statues of 1980s Ireland. And Cecil Baldwin of the long-running hit podcast Welcome to Night Vale is joining a skilled local cast this season, as well as cult filmmaker Larry Fessenden, bringing some international heft and horror chops to the endeavour and probably a trove of new listeners with them.

There’s some high-end audio production here – the Petrifiers know how to maximise the medium, creating an audioscape that sets each scene while grabbing every tool, from a phone call to a broadcast to a conversation to thinking out loud, to move the events to their inevitable gory end.

Here’s the thing: if you listen to Petrified, you’re here for the recreational fear factor, the thrill of terror and the sense of dread that builds over the half-hour episodes as you wait for the axe to fall and try to work out who was holding it last. These stories all come with a bad guy, a devil, an inside-the-house caller, but the trick is to keep you guessing at their identity. Peter Dunne is a dab hand at the bait and switch on that score – every voice begins to sound sinister, and if some of the plot lines get blurred and go off track on occasion, they all still find their way to the final scream. Some tropes repeat – be very wary of drafts and any kind of package that’s cold to the touch, is all I’d say to you – but in each episode, a fresh hell awaits. All the better to prepare us for the real horrors, apparently. Petrifying indeed.

Fiona McCann

Fiona McCann, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and journalist