Fri. Jun 14th, 2024
David Cummings, creator of No Sleep, a popular horror podcast, started out by leaving comments in audio clips on the No Sleep Reddit forum. He now produces No Sleep podcasts, which get two million downloads a month, in his basement north of Toronto.

There’s something so satisfying about listening to a horror story as opposed to seeing it on the movie screen. Your imagination makes the shadowy figure that much closer behind you, the walk home at night longer and quieter, the stranger’s smile on the other side of the door more sinister and demented. The mind is a brilliant thing, and sometimes it’s also the most terrifying.

Horror junkies who have cheered for Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers are now penning their own scary tales and sharing them in podcasts with the world.

No Sleep has become the go-to place for amateur horror authors to share their stories and for listeners go for shivers down their spines. Created by David Cummings, a software developer in the town of Georgina, just north of Newmarket, No Sleep now has some two million downloads a month. The podcast is a global production with voice actors across Canada, the States, and the UK; composers; illustrators and story editors communicating with each other over the web to put together weekly episodes.

“One of the big aspects of audio podcasting is people rediscovering the old-fashioned radio drama and understanding the power of storytelling,” says Cummings.

“There are generations that grew up watching horror movies and they see what the director or filmmaker wants them to see … When you listen to a story, you don’t have to rely on one filmmaker’s vision of what the ghoulish face through the window looks like. People will envision their most terrifying face, so it’s like they’re crafting part of the story. It’s a powerful thing.”

Cummings, 50, hosts No Sleep, a weekly two-hour anthology of horror stories. Amateur horror writers post to the online forum on Redditand voice actors perform the stories.

Hundreds of stories have been told on No Sleep since it’s creation in 2011. There are tales about a strange light following a group of hikers on a midnight hike, a serial killer who turns his victims into bars of soap to sell at the farmers’ market, and a college dorm dubbed “The Suicide Room.”

A few years ago Cummings, who is also a small-time voice actor, was posting his reactions to No Sleep stories with audio recordings rather than written comments, for fun. Another user suggested he read stories that had been posted on the No Sleep board, which was created about six years ago by a user named asmith1243 (Cummings says he’s actually never been in contact with him).

Cummings put together the first few episodes in his home studio, enlisting fellow Reddit users to record some of the stories. The first season was an immediate hit, spreading beyond Reddit and on to other online horror communities, giving Cummings the confidence to quit his day job to do the podcast full-time and start a subscription service where readers pay $20 for a “season pass” of 25 two-hour long episodes (the first hour of each show is free).

Now, the podcast is a global effort. A story editor in North Carolina scours the No Sleep forums or fields direct submissions for potential stories to adapt. She sends her picks to Cummings who then casts the stories, sending the scripts to the 20 or so voice actors living across the U.S., the UK and Canada. They record their lines and upload the files to the show’s producers (one’s in Hamilton and the other is in the UK) who piece it all together, along with original music from the show’s composer based in Cincinnati. All this happens in a two-week cycle.

“It’s amazing that the Internet can allow for such a collaboration to happen,” says Cummings.

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