It is an eerie fact that many mysteries on earth remain unsolved. Some of these enigmas are fascinating unknowns of the natural kind (looking at you, pyramids) while others are the result of utterly creepy, dark, and disturbing facets of human deviance. Both fascinating to explore, though the latter seems to grab our attention most. Hence, the birth of the true crime genre.
It’s hard to imagine how disturbing the human mind can be until you find yourself in the middle of a true crime binge. The world’s obsession with all things true crime and murder mystery seems to know no bounds, evident through the wide array of neverending content available. From the critically acclaimed Knives Out, a throwback to the Agatha Christie-style crimes of our (or our parents’) youth, to the Making of a Murderer series, and the different-but-sort-of-the-same recent national fixation with scammer content. A mystery is a mystery and always intriguing.
Fair to say, True Crime as a subject matter enthralls us as a society, with experts pinning this on the way it affects the human psyche: mystery taps into our survival instincts, human need to problem solve, and a general curiosity or fear of deviance in the human mind.
True crime podcasts, in particular, are impressive because they set the tone and standard for investigative journalism in the auditory sphere. Many crime podcasts feature narrators or commenters who are industry-leading experts, psychologists, researchers and survivors—making for an even more thrilling experience for listeners. We become a fly on the wall, forming our own opinions, theories, and perspectives on each case, fancying ourselves overnight experts.
Whether interested in a standalone series format or a new case each week, below are some of our favorite podcasts to get you binge-ing.
The world’s most devoted true crime enthusiasts and podcasters tend to cite Serial as a major inspiration. Dubbed as the holy grail of the true crime genre, Serial is a multi-award winning podcast hosted by journalist and radio personality Sarah Koenig. Each season, she guides the listener through the details and facets of one true crime case.
While fans wait for season four, dive into seasons 1-3, including the now-infamous murder of Hae Min Lee and her ex boyfriend Adnam Syede’s trial which put Serial and Koenig on the map, as well as the Bowe Bergdahl case. Serial’s successful uncovering of Hae Min Lee led to an HBO docu-series, while the Bowe Bergdahl case sparked a record download for the podcast. This podcast is best for those who want a weekly tune-in akin to their favourite TV series. You’ll follow along as Sarah tries to uncover the facts of each case.
THE MINDS OF MADNESS PODCAST
Host Tyler Allen launched this podcast after indulging Serial and becoming inspired by the ins and outs of the true crime genre. Minds of Madness transformed from a DIY basement-made podcast into an award-winning show featured in The New York Times and beyond. The show does a deep-dive into different true crime cases: dissecting what happened, the aftermath of the crime, as well as featuring victims, forensic professionals and psychologists. The show asks, “What causes ordinary people to do unthinkable things?” and spends each episode unravelling some potential answers. This podcast is for those looking for more versatility, as the show exposes the listener to a new case each week. This show puts real meaning behind the disturbing notion that we don’t know what happens behind closed doors.
If you want the thrill of a true crime fix but have a shorter attention span, the smaller episode style of Criminal might be for you. Hosted by Phoebe Judge and launched in 2014, this true crime podcast features episodes ranging between 15-35 minutes on average. Criminal keeps listeners hooked: the foundation of the podcast is to tell “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” The narrative focuses on the stories surrounding a particular crime, the decisions that led to it, and what true crime experts think of it all.
BAD BLOOD: THE FINAL CHAPTER
Any entrepreneur can tell you the importance of raising capital when launching a start-up; it is part of what allows new businesses to scale and expand. The process seems simple enough in theory: business owners pitch their company, balance sheet and beyond to venture capitalists with the end goal of landing investors. So, what happens when that process goes wrong? Insert the well-publicized Theranos scandal and Elizabeth Holmes.
Holmes—once the world’s youngest self-made billionaire—claimed to launch a breakthrough health technology that would allow for rapid blood tests with minimal samples. Her company’s 10 billion dollar valuation came crashing down once her technology was disproved. Her official trial for conspiracy and wire fraud began in August 2021 and caused a media frenzy ever since. While you wait for Amanda Seyfried and Jennifer Lawrence to bring the story to the big screen (yes, there’s an upcoming Hulu miniseries and an Adam Mckay-directed film about the scandal), you can indulge in this podcast as it follows Holmes’ trial to present day—uncovering a fascinating blend between ethics, white-collar crime, and the blurry-lines of start-up culture. Bad Blood: The Final Chapter uncovers the fact that true crime doesn’t always have to be gruesome.
This is a story for which you will lie to your loved ones on your whereabouts in order to get more time in the car to finish listening: Dirty John is a true crime story focusing on the life and exploits of John Meehan. Los Angeles Times journalist Christopher Goffardfirst heard of Meehan when he learned that police were investigating a possible murder in Newport Beach, California. Upon investigating, Goffard discovered a bizarre web of deceit and abuse. The main focus of the story is Meehan’s relationship with successful interior designer Debra Newell, whom he met via an internet dating site and married within months, as well as her immediate and extended family. The podcast was downloaded over 10 million times within six weeks of release.
TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA
“In Hollywood, dreams collide with harsh, sometimes tragic, realities,” claims the To Live and Die in LA podcast. An unnerving but definitive truth for the cases discussed by Neil Strauss in this podcast. Strauss, 10x New York Times best-selling author and Rolling Stone writer, examines disappearance cases based out of Los Angeles throughout a series of episodes. The first season studies the case of Adea Shabani, an aspiring actress who disappeared without a trace, while the second focuses on the original case that sparked Strauss’ interest in true crime: Elaine Park. Strauss believes the type of crime in LA is distinct, and he uncovers this narrative through each season. Consider this podcast your gateway drug to specialized true crime content: To Live and Die in LA is produced by Tenderfoot TV, which is also responsible for Up and Vanished and various seasons of Monster: The Zodiac Killer and beyond.
In 2012, horologist John B. McLemore sent an email to the staff of the show This American Life asking them to investigate an alleged small town murder in his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama—a place he claimed to despise. After a year of exchanging emails and several months of conversation with McLemore, producer Brian Reed traveled to Woodstock to investigate. This story will take you places you could never imagine. The show was downloaded a record-breaking 40 million times in four days, and it has since been downloaded more than 92 million times, making it one of the most popular podcasts ever produced.