Oh the weather outside is frightful…
…and there’s no better time to snuggle up indoors, plug in, and get caught up on the best that true crime podcasting has to offer. In this list, I’ve compiled my Top 12 True Crime Podcasts that you should check out instead of braving the cold.
Onward to the list!
12. True Murder
In True Murder, host Dan Zupansky interviews true crime authors about their work. The podcast covers a different book and case each week. One of the greatest strengths of the show is that the wealth of research and knowledge each author brings, having devoted the time to writing about it in depth, which often leads to an in depth conversation of each case, rather than a surface reading of the facts. Authors are eager to promote their work and their enthusiasm shines through, while Zupansky’s engagement with the work provokes a more meaningful Q&A.
True Murder falls lower on this list due to the poor audio and production quality, which often leaves the podcast sounding like a gritty phone conversation on both ends. The audio rarely cuts out but it will likely leave you with a bit of a headache. Zupansky also has a tendency to interrupt his subject’s train of thought, which in some cases drives the conversation and in other instances hinders it – it depends on the author. Regardless True Murder is worth a listen, especially if you are looking to pick up a new podcast and a few new true crime books to read with it.
Start With: The Good Nurse – Charles Graeber which was published on Dec 10, 2014. A registered nurse, Charles Cullen is suspected to be one of the most prolific serial killers in modern history with a killing spree that spanned over sixteen years with perhaps more than a hundred victims. Over the course of a decade, Graeber dug deep into never-before-seen interviews and police records in order to compile the grim tale, which is full of twists and turns and is well worth the listen.
Picture source. True Murder is a member of Blog Talk Radio.
11. True Crime Garage
True Crime Garage is the two-dudes-talk-murder entry on this list. With a beer of the week recommendation on each podcast, Nic and The Captain set more of a conversational tone right from the beginning. Nic tends to take the driver’s seat, narrating the crime of the week while the Captain serves as the listener’s stand in – peppering the conversation with questions and comments. This podcast doesn’t take itself too seriously and is well produced, interesting, and well researched. Despite this, I tend to pop in and out of this one in favour of more riveting offerings – True Crime Garage is a welcome space but one that requires a certain frame of mind to be enjoyed to its fullest. It doesnt really ask as much of the listener intellectually as some of the other entries on this list and so I tend to pass over it for more engaging options if the opportunity arises. Sometimes it verges on just being a little too silly.
Full disclosure: The worst thing about True Crime Garage is that unlike most podcasts, episodes aren’t free forever. Seasons are removed from the podcast periodically and episodes are sold on a one-by-one basis for a small fee.
Start With: The Brian Schaffer two-parter that spans over Episode 16 and 17 of the show. Unfortunately, this episode is no longer available for free and can be found here for a small fee. For a free entry point, Episode 47 – Joshua Guimond is similarly themed and still free (as of Feb 2017) through the podcast feed.
10. Real Crime Profile
Real Crime Profile is hosted by former FBI profiler Jim Clemente, Former Scotland Yard and criminal behavioural analyst Laura Richards, and Criminal Minds casting director Lisa Zambetti. The podcast focuses on long-form discussions that usually span over a dozen episodes on any given topic. These have included cases such as Steven Avery, O.J. Simpson, Oscar Pistorius, Jon Benet Ramsey, and Amanda Knox.
This podcast stands out from the rest due to the host’s depth of experience in criminal investigations, though hosts often make bold assertions of guilt that may alienate some listeners that hold a different viewpoint. The hosts aren’t afraid to say whodunnit with a high degree of certainty – which is admirable and often based on an informed analysis – but sometimes comes off as unfair to those involved. Despite this, the finger-pointing is offset significantly by the podcast’s insistent focus on the victims, their families, and their stories instead of on the perpetrators.
Start With: The show hit its peak in Episode 7 with the discussion of The People vs. O.J. Simpson, which spanned for 13 episodes. It’s even worth a re-listen once you are done. It’s that good.
Picture source. Artwork created by Jim Clemente. Real Crime Profile is a Wondery Network podcast.
Serial is the granddaddy of all true crime podcasts from the creators of This American Life and WBEZ Chicago. It is a historic entry into the podcast medium as the first series to draw in mainstream audiences and take over the office water cooler. Podcast junkies went home in 2014 to find their significant others, parents, and friends plugged in and asking “Have you heard of Serial?” My mom listened to Serial.
The first season covers the case of Adnan Syed, a high school senior charged with the first-degree murder his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Besides the many twists, turns, fact-checking car rides, and cliffhanger endings, Serial’s strength lies in its host: Sarah Koenig. As a stand in for the listener, Koenig’s sympathies sway back and forth – its human and emotional – a tone which has been adopted by several other entries on this list since. Unlike the clinical broadcasts and studies often heard on public radio, Koenig clearly has an opinion, a voice, and is a character in the story as it unfolds. Unfortunately Serial may have set the bar a little too high in the first season as the second season is lackluster at best. With that said, the first season is worth a listen…and then another…and then another. I think I’ve listened to it 3 times.
Start With: There’s really no other place to start than at the beginning – check out Season 1, Episode 1: The Alibi.
8. You Must Remember This
Ok, ok, ok. This isn’t a true crime podcast. It’s a podcast covering the history of Hollywood in the early 20th century, created by Karina Longworth. However You Must Remember This (which draws its name from Casablanca’s “As Time Goes By”) sneaks onto this list due to its 12-part series on Charles Manson in addition to the brand new season that debuted in January 2017, which promises 11 episodes about the unusual deaths of Hollywood blondes. If history, Hollywood, and true crime are your thing, this one isn’t to be missed.
Start With: Episode 44: Charles Manson’s Hollywood, Part 1: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Manson Murders is a great starting point and the first episode of the 12-part series on Charles Manson. If you want to jump right in to current episodes, start with the most recent episode, Episode 93: Peg Entwistle (Dead Blondes, Part 1).
7. Someone Knows Something
The unsolved crimes and mysteries covered in CBC Radio’s Someone Knows Something occurred just outside my backdoor. In Season One, host David Ridgen investigates the mysterious disappearance of five-year-old Adrian McNaughton from Arnprior, Ontario. There’s something familiar and homey about the softness of Ridgen’s vowels, symptomatic of a childhood in the Ottawa Valley. This is key as Ridgen’s subjects are not always eloquent in their self expression and the familiarity of his lilt gives them the space to work through their emotions, thoughts, and ideas – like they are talking to a friend or neighbour rather than an investigative journalist. Most pronounced in Season One, you can hear his accent progressively strengthen as he ingratiates himself to them. In some ways, the podcast becomes an examination of Ridgen’s own relationship with the families and indirect victims.
Season Two capitalizes on the foundation set by its predecessor and improves on the format. It’s actually significantly better. This time, the disappearance is that of Sheryl Sheppard from Hamilton, Ontario after her boyfriend proposes to her on a live New Year’s Eve broadcast. It’s like a book that’s impossible to put down – with twist after twist and cliffhanger after cliffhanger.
Start With: Season 2, Episode 1: The Trailer Park. Season Two is the better of the two seasons and is a great place to begin. Once you are done, go back and listen to Season 1 as well.
Lore’s production quality, writing, editing, and research are unparalleled. So much so that it was picked up for a television adaptation by Amazon Studios in late 2016, which has engaged the producers of The Walking Dead for the project.
Need I say more?
Host Aaron Mahnke narrates weird, unusual, and mysterious cases. It’s a bi-weekly examination of the human condition: what scares us, what makes us tick. Sure there are twists and turns in each narrative – but they are often outshone by the twists in direction that Mahnke pursues – the connections he draws. You never really quite figure out what he’s getting at until the loose ends are tied up at the end. At the end of each episode, I’m in awe of his storytelling prowess.
Start With: Episode 45: First Impressions is creepy and disturbing. It leaves you saying, “wait – how did she do that?” right until the very end.
Accused investigates the murder of Elizabeth “Beth” Andes in 1978. Who did it? Was it her soft-spoken boyfriend? Her somewhat creepy and aggressive manager? The mentally ill stranger that lusted for her beau? Or someone else entirely?
The greatest strength of Accused is the production team’s commitment to the case. From the outset, host Amber Hunt – channeling her best Sarah Koenig – makes it clear that they will not provide answers but instead are publicizing their findings in the hopes that someone out there might be able to help. Maybe it’s an armchair detective, someone who worked on the case, or someone involved in it. The stakes feel real and are real.
In a live taping posted on December 26, 2016, a gentleman submits during open Q&A that he is unimpressed with Accused and the money being spent by it’s parent – the Cincinnati Enquirer – on reporting what he perceives as old news. Hunt’s response is telling: “This actually gave my life meaning,” she says, “doing this made me feel really good about being alive right now.”
Start With: the beginning – Chapter 1: The Crime.
4. Sword & Scale
This one is not for the faint of heart. In fact, Sword & Scale is the only podcast on this list that comes with a listener discretion warning at the beginning of each episode – and it is well earned. Sword & Scale is gritty, relying heavily on police interviews, 911 calls, and audio from the crimes themselves. Though I have started every episode, I haven’t finished each of them. Some really are too difficult to get through. However – masterfully produced and scored, Sword & Scale is a warts-and-all look at the darkest segments of humanity and the monsters that dwell there.
Start With: Episode 45 & 46 feature a two-part examination of the Carnation Murders, showing off Sword & Scale’s use of documentary audio.
Avoid: Episode 20 due to extremely disturbing content and over-the-top graphic descriptions of cannibalism and child abuse. This episode is well-known in the Sword & Scale community for the use of computerized voices to replicate the perpetrator’s chat logs. Really use discretion before choosing to listen to this one.
Australian true crime has got to be some of the best true crime out there. Painstakingly researched and craftily written, Casefile is a seamless true crime podcast that often feels like an expertly crafted audiobook. This one is best listened to while doing something monotonous – as I often find myself listening intently, having forgotten all about what I set out to do in the first place. It is also is the only podcast on this list in which the host chooses to remain anonymous, removing the appearance of subjectivity and emotional involvement. It lets the case speak for itself.
Start With: Case 02: The Somerton Man – because this podcast is at its best when it’s covering Australian cases and this case is probably one of the pinnacles of the genre. Frequently referenced in subsequent episodes and featured on other podcasts on this list, The Somerton Man is essential listening.
2. My Favorite Murder
Is murder funny? Not really – but Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are! Having tried true crime podcasts with a comedic approach in the past (ahem…Last Podcast on the Left…sorry!), I just couldn’t seem to find one that clicked – until My Favorite Murder. Kilgariff and Hardstark approach their assignments seriously and with real consideration for the victims. The podcast is funny because they are funny women – not because they are laughing at someone else’s misfortune. Listening feels like hanging out with a few really funny girlfriends (and a few glasses of wine) and swapping stories about crazy stuff other human beings do sometimes. It’s quiet and sensitive when it needs to be and laugh out loud funny when appropriate. Though all episodes are worth a listen, the earlier episodes aren’t well researched and should be taken with a grain of salt – these ladies really stepped up their game when the podcast took off.
Start With: Episode 40 – Squad Gourds. Really any episode will do – but this one covers the My Way killings in the Philippines, which I had never heard of!
Picture source. My Favorite Murder is a Feral Audio podcast. Casual as can be, this podcast doesn’t have a website with show notes or further details about the cases covered – but it does have a merch site!
Apart from the fact that I would listen to anything Phoebe Judge narrates, Criminal tops the list at number one due to it’s short, sharp episodes that pack an emotional punch each time despite their lean run times. The editor is godlike. Episodes are released bi-monthly and since the show’s debut in 2014, it has consistently made me smile when it appears in my podcast feed.
Tightly edited, deeply human, and wide in scope, Criminal is a half-hour that will stick with you until the next episode drops. The creators interrogate the notion of criminality covering cases from identity theft to robbery, tree-poisoning to Buddha decorating, and euthanasia to America’s private prisons. Criminal is sometimes told from the perspective of the ‘criminal’ through interviews, sometimes through their families, sometimes through victims. It is a show that always seems perfectly assembled while never succumbing to formula.
Start With: My favourite episode is one of the rare two-parters, Episode 51: Money Tree and it’s follow-up Episode 52: The Checklist.
And that’s the list! Did I miss any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments.