Skip to Content
Culture

‘Out Cold’: New MN-Made Podcast Hopes to Make Listeners’ ‘Horror Dreams Come True’

Featuring time-looping road trips, terror in the skyway, ‘spooky mommy’ stories, and more.

Courtesy of James Napoli|

Napoli’s stills for “Out Cold” were “inspired by classic horror movie tropes, VHS era promo pics, and old film stills.”

November isn’t usually thought of as the spookiest month of year… so why release your horror podcast then? Well, because in October, Sophie Nikitas and Julie Censullo were plenty busy with other scary stuff. 

“I was actually performing in a Twin Cities Horror Festival show—it was my first time doing scripted theater acting,” Censullo says. 

“And then my roommates put on a very elaborate haunted basement in our home for Halloween,” Nikitas laughs, “so I was doing the narration for that.” 

Their shared commitment to all things creepy is why you’ll have to wait until Thursday to hear the first episodes of Out Cold, the duo’s new fictional horror anthology series.

Censullo is a horror fan—in fact, a nonfiction audio editor by trade, she worked on Sean Dillon’s podcast Blight Christmas last year. Nikitas, on the other hand, says she’s not great at handling the genre in general; she likes the scary stories her friends tell, but they’ll have to recap especially frightening movies for her. 

A scary audio project, though? That sounded like an interesting exercise, “especially because I think sound is often the sense that activates our fear the most,” Nikitas explains. It turned out she and Censullo had both separately been bouncing around the idea of a spooky series, and they started working on Out Cold, which will debut its first few episodes on November 9, last December.

Now, when Viraluae announced its short horror fiction contest set in skyway last month, we acknowledged we weren’t the first to have the idea. It turns out we weren’t the second, either—the debut episode of Out Cold, “Lunch Rush,” tells the story of Zoe, a newly employed downtown office worker who has an unusual experience searching for a salad during her first day on the job. Written and directed by Nikitas, it’s inspired by the surreal feeling she got years ago working a corporate job in a Minneapolis skyscraper.

“I find the skyways to be extremely bizarre and, like, creepy,” she confirms. “I just wanted to try to heighten that feeling of the bizarre culture inside the skyway.”

Mulder and Scully vibesCourtesy of James Napoli

Nikitas and Censullo each wrote and directed two original scripts for Out Cold, and there’s also a short story. In Nikitas’s second episode, a man grieving the loss of his wife—who was on the board of a museum—takes an audio tour of one of its collections, when he starts to hear unexpected voices. 

In Censullo’s “Remember This,” a woman processing the still-fresh emotions of a recent breakup during a drive over the Cascade Mountains to visit her ex’s family starts to feel like she’s seeing the same things over and over. The episode “Bad Reception” follows a woman who’s packing up belongings of her recently departed mother and recording voice notes to send to her partner—but the messages on the receiving end are different from what the woman remembers recording.

Like many of the episodes, it’s about “the horrors of grief, and dealing with challenging emotions. But it’s also just a spooky mommy story,” Censullo says with a grin.

“I feel like a lot of our stories end up being about unreliable narrators, which is its own kind of creepy thing,” adds Nikitas, who also works as an occasional popcorn critic for Viraluae

Censullo is a full-time freelance podcast producer whose projects include Funny Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Nikitas is behind a podcast about online dating called The Zoo, but this was very new territory for the two. “You realize, like, you don’t have any visual cues, and so you have to put stuff in the script that’s like, ‘Oh no! My lighter fell!’” Nikitas chuckles. They don’t have plans for a second season yet, but she says that’s not necessarily their endgame here. 

“Our dream is that people start coming to us with, ‘I want to try writing a script and maybe you can help me produce it?’ If people have always been interested in this type of thing or are interested in this type of thing, we’re totally open to working with new people and making their horror dreams come true.”

Out Cold debuts on Thursday, November 9, and though there is a launch party at Soft Cult Studio it’s very sold out. Sorry! You can still listen to the series on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter