It's no secret that true crime has an indelible place in the pop culture canon. The success of shows like
The People Vs. O.J. Simpson and Making A Murder prove that no matter the cultural weather, the world is interested in criminal acts. New to this canon, though, are podcasts. The audio-only medium is new to the entertainment world in general — in fact, the word "podcast" is but 13 years old. The medium did not immediately take to true crime. For a while, newsy broadcasts like This American Life dominated the podcast world.
And then there was
Serial. The WNYC-produced podcast sunk its teeth into a decades-old case that had been solved long ago, and it seemed that everyone was listening. (There are not one, but two excellent sketches parodying the podcast, which, if you ask me, cements its relevance.) Serial gave birth to a whole range of crime-themed delicious listening. Today, there's a track for every palate. Love comedy? We've got humorous crime podcasts. Love the details? This one is so thorough you'll feel like you just left a college class. Interested in only Hollywood murders? Oh, boy, there are bunches.
Ahead, find the top true crime podcasts on the market right now.
For the perpetual hypochondriac: Dr. Death Wondery's podcast, which is based on an LA Times article, is scary because it pulls on a real fear: that the people taking care of us aren't exactly equipped to do so. This tells the story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, who went to prison after several failed and flawed operations left patients in dire conditions. He's a neurosurgeon — but he really shouldn't be. The scarier idea, though, is that there are more Duntsches running around, unencumbered by lawsuits and a dogged reporter.
For The Mindhunter Fan: Atlanta Monster Next season of Netflix' Mindhunter will focus on a series of murders that took place between 1979-1981. In that span, 25 children were disappeared and murdered. While Wayne Williams was ultimately convicted, many questions remain. Atlanta Monster delves into those questions with vigorous journalistic rigor. You'll hear new revelations in each episode.
For The Person Suspicious Of Everyone: Dirty John Something about John Meehan got under L.A. Times reporter Christopher Goffard's skin. "I've been a reporter for 20 years ... but there's something about this guy, John Meehan, that chills me, that gets under my skin in a way that nobody else has," he told Rolling Stone. In Dirty John, Goffard explores the relationship that blooms between Debra Newell, an interior designer, and John Meehan, a supposed "freelance anaesthetist." He delves into the suspicions that brewed between Debra's daughters about John. And finally, he investigates the murder that occurs in Newport beach, that first drew him to this case.
For a good Portland mystery: The Polybius Conspiracy
limited, seven-episode podcast
tells the story of a mysterious arcade game called Polybius which may or may not have popped up in Portland and brainwashed a few kids some time in the '80s. Get ready to go further down the Polybius trail than anyone has ever gone before. The podcast is still in progress, so we still have to see what side the podcast comes down on.
For fans of the X-File: Lore Who said true crime had to be completely true? In each thrilling episode of Lore, host Aaron Mahnke delves into folklore surrounding a different superstition. Behind every legend, of course, is a spot of truth. From stories of people being buried alive to teachers supposedly imbued with the devil, these historical legends will haunt you just as much as true crime.
For anyone who thinks variety is the spice of life: This American Life Most of the hour-long episodes of this wildly popular podcast explore a different theme from a many different angle. Yet some of the show's most gripping episodes use the entire hour to explore a crime or a fascinating incident. In DIY, a man with no legal background helps his innocent friend get out of jail. In Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde, a beloved small town doctor undergoes a character change, and ends up in jail. The most climactic them all is Petty Tyrant, the story of abusive of power within an elementary school janitorial staff. This American Life makes extraordinary our ordinary lives, and makes true crime out of otherwise unknown stories.
For the Generation Why Car Talk of true crime: Hosts Aaron and Justin examine true crime cases, theories, and unsolved mysteries with the same expertise as the hosts of Car Talk once answered questions about cars. The prolific duo has created over 200 episodes over the past 5 years, so you'll never run out of stories.
For the fiction lover: Rabbits Even though Rabbits is technically a fictional podcast, its gripping premise will have you hooked with the same ferocity as Serial. At the start of the podcast, Carly Parker's best friend Yumiko goes missing. Ever the radio journalist, Carly documents her investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Yumiko's disappearance with a radio show — that show is Rabbits. It turns out Yumiko may have been involved in a game called Rabbits, which has been running for centuries, and could have dire implications for its players. The more Carly searches for Yumiko, the more she gets involved with Rabbits herself.
For the Conspiracy Theorist: True Crime Garage True Crime Garage takes the classic podcast format of "two friends talking" and applies it to the subject of true crime. Nic and the Captain talk lingering mysteries, grisly murders, and craft beer. Each episodes opens with a retelling of a crime. As the podcast goes on — and so do the beers — the episode unravels into entertaining tangents.
For The Person Who Suspects There's More To The Story: Criminal Even the most well-researched true crime projects only tell a sliver of the story. Recognizing this truth, radio producers Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer decided to start a true crime podcast in which they focused on the stories around each crime. Each half-hour episode manages to deliver a holistic picture of a crime.
For lovers of This American Life: S-Town
This American Life producer
Brian Reed receives a rambling email from a man in rural Alabama, claiming his town's corrupt police covered up a brutal murder. Like any good podcast sleuth, Reed follows up, and gets pulled into
John D. McLemore's dark, charming, mind
, which spewed complaints and conspiracy theories about a mile a minute. Reed goes to
McLemore's so-called "Shittown"
to investigate, but the story becomes much bigger and more powerful than he ever could've imagined.
Photo: Courtesy of Gimlet Media.
For those who loved The Jinx: Crimetown Gimlet Media's investigation into the labyrinth of organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island. The series is helmed by the creators of HBO's The Jinx, so expect the same level of depth and spookiness as the hit show about Robert Durst.
For the detail-obsessed: Casefile This popular true crime podcast relies on the idea that facts, presented as evenly as possible, are really fucking scary. There's no melodrama or frippery in this case-by-case analysis of crime. Each episode details a different case — an anonymous host recites a monologue about the situation and, if you're a details nerd, you'll be transfixed.
Photo: Courtesy of Tenderfoot.
For the Serial addict: Up And Vanished Delve into Georgia's oldest cold case with an in-depth investigation of the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a southern beauty queen. Each episode explores a different corner of this erstwhile mystery. Unlike Serial, Up And Vanished is current, so you're better off if you catch up quickly. Documentary filmmaker Payne Lindsey makes the podcast as he investigates for a separate documentary and publishes episodes as soon as he is able. Think of this as a scrappy low-budget version of NPR's hit podcast.
Photo: Courtesy Of
For those who love to chuckle: My Favorite Murder The premise is simple: two gals gather to talk about their fave murders. No edits, no dramatizations of the past, and no interviews. Both hosts, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, are LA-based entertainers (Karen is a comedy writer; Georgia hosts a cooking show), so the banter is engaging, playful, and not all that detail-oriented. The hosts frequently do a segment called "correction corner" where they apologize their errors in the previous episode. One iTunes reviewer compares it to "high tea at a morgue." I might compare it to champagne at cemetery, but the image is accurate.
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For those who need an expert: Sword And Scale It sells itself as an "immersive experience," which means sound effects, music, and all the atmospheric edits that will spook you in your car seat (or subway seat, depending on your commute.) Each episode details a different type of crime — for example, episode two explores the phenomena of female serial killers. Experts provide more bone-chilling details on the topics.
Photo: Courtesy of Wondery.
For the cinephile: Hollywood & Crime Hollywood's seedy underbelly is the setting of some of the world's most famous murders — so why not have a podcast devoted entirely to that particular location? Hollywood & Crime adheres to the traditional "true crime" format, replete with dramatic reenactments and sound effects. Abandon the present and leap into the hazy days of unsolved crime.
Photo: Courtesy Of Cave Comedy Radio.
For horror fans & sci-fi nerds: The Last Podcast On The Left The Last Podcast On The Left isn't strictly true crime. Instead, the podcast widens its umbrella to include literally anything scary. From women who fall in love with serial killers to Bigfoot, hosts Ben Kissel, Henry Zebrowski, and Marcus Parks lead you through every bone-chilling thing to stalk this earth, imaginary or real.
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For the person who gets impatient with Up And Vanished: Accused The Cincinnati Enquirer produces this Serial-esque show about a 1978 murder in Ohio. Accused has two serious journalists at the helm, so it takes the shape of a journalistic ride-along. Like Serial, though, the podcast wonders if the wrong man is imprisoned for the murder. This sort of investigation adds urgency to the story — if an innocent man is in prison, then there's work be done, and quickly.
Photo: Courtesy Of APM Reports.
For the law expert: In The Dark In The Dark focuses on the failures of one particular case: the abduction of Jacob Wetterling. Yet again, a journalist takes to a case long forgotten to explore the repercussions. Wetterling's abduction is often cited as the origin of "stranger danger" and anxiety over child sex offenders. The podcast is a deep investigation into America's harmful fears in the guise of a jaunty true crime podcast.