Since the release of Adnan Syed’s story in the award-winning podcast Serial, true crime has become one of the most popular genres in the podcasting world. Podcasts—downloadable audio productions—are a fantastic way to stay informed and entertained while doing chores, cleaning house, working out, walking the dog or burying a body.
If you’re a fan of murder, mayhem, and mystery, you’ll devour these five wildly popular podcasts.
Join hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie as they host re-enactments of unsolved crimes in the style of the old-school radio drama. Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories tends to focus on classic true crime from Hollywood’s golden age, including The Black Dahlia mystery, and film pioneer Thomas Ince’s mysterious death following a party cruise on media mogul William Randall Hearst’s yacht.
They’ve also brought to life the baffling story of Texas socialite Joan Robinson, the Oakland County Child Killer’s reign of terror and New York’s Alphabet Murders.
As with all true crime podcasts, the subject matter is dark, but the hosts, voice talent and producers manage to maintain an energetic, suspenseful pace with this entertaining throwback to audio drama entertainment. And oh, yes. Jazz riffs!
Do you like long-form deep dives into true crime, with interviews, backstories and a heart-stopping, gratifying twist to tie it all up? You’ll definitely want to download all seven installments of this tragic story of how one con man nearly destroyed a family. Dirty John is produced by the Wondery podcast powerhouse and hosted by L.A. Times reporter Christopher Goffard, whose interviews, research, and narration helps us understand what horror can ensue when intelligent people ignore their instincts and let their hearts lead the way.
The scariest part of Dear John? As we hear the backstories of each key player in this often baffling tale, many of us reflect on our own personal values and attitudes toward acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion. We ask ourselves if we’d let romantic love overrule lifelong bonds of trust, and ultimately, how we would act if our darkest suspicions are trivialized by deadly reality.
No rundown of true crime podcasts is complete without a spotlight on Sword and Scale, hosted and created by writer and veteran podcaster Mike Boudet. First uploaded January 2014, Sword and Scale’s fantastic production values, in-depth storytelling, exclusive interviews, and its inclusion of media clips and 911 calls have set the standard for other documentary-style true crime productions.
Boudet and his production team create an immersive, emotional experience for Sword and Scale listeners, prompting audiences to ponder complex social issues, legal loopholes, and the intricacies of our justice system.
If you’ve been delving too deeply into the darkest corners of true crime, you might want to curl up on the sofa with a couple besties and a box of wine and lighten things up a bit.
Television writer Georgia Hardstark and stand-up comedian Karen Kilgariff are the irreverent girlfriends you always wanted, ramping up to the meat and bones of their podcasts with casual, often bawdy banter before each takes a turn sharing the dirt on a horrible crime they’ve selected from fan suggestions and internet rabbit holes. And My Favorite Murder‘s fans are a HUGE part of the show’s success. The “Murderinos” pack venues on the duo’s international tour, and provide the gristle for MFM Mini-Episodes by submitting “Hometown Murders” and first-hand accounts.
The audience at a recent MFM live show experienced an astonishing moment when the heroic survivor of one of Kilgariff and Hardstark’s stories, Jennifer Morey, came onstage to thank the hostesses for their compassionate presentation of her story in MFM’s Episode 33. Morey claimed that Kilgariff told her story as if she were a compassionate friend. That very moving and genuine endorsement defines the success of My Favorite Murder.
If “My Favorite Murder” has you running for your man cave, True Crime Garage might be up your alley. Hosts Nic and The Captain usually kick off their episodes with reviews of the microbrews funded by fan donations.
Nic manages to keep things going while The Captain breaks in with his own sometimes awkward commentary, but the pair’s dynamic just plain works.
True Crime Garage favors popular contemporary cases, including the dead-end disappearances of Kyron Horman and Maura Murray, the multi-layered Kenneka Jenkins case that touched on issues like bullying and date rape drugs, and the death of rapper and cultural icon Tupac Shakur.
According to criminology professor Scott Bonn in a Time opinion piece, “The public is drawn to true crime because it triggers the most basic and powerful emotion in all of us—fear. As a source of popular culture entertainment, it allows us to experience fear and horror in a controlled environment where the threat is exciting but not real.”
Unfortunately, violent death is all too real and exists outside the safety of your earbuds. We at National Crime Scene Cleanup deal with the aftermath of true crime every day as trauma cleanup professionals, and we work hard to make sure that families of crime victims don’t need to experience any more horror than necessary.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a good murder mystery once in a while!