True Crime Podcasts
True crime is a non-fiction literary genre involving actual crimes and real people’s actions. The genre explores numerous movies, TV shows, documentaries, books, audiobooks, and podcasts. A podcast is a digital audio file users can download to a personal device.
With most true crime podcasts, the author or team of authors focuses on telling the story of unsolved murders, crimes, or mysterious missing person cases. Often, the murders are the work of serial killers. At other times, authors re-examine the evidence in high-profile murder cases such as O.J. Simpson and Jon-Benet Ramsey.
Why are podcasts so popular?
For the most part, the true-crime genre is just like any other. However, the popularity of delivering true crime stories via podcasts has grown considerably during the past five years. Hundreds of stories investigate everything from urban legends like Bigfoot to cold cases. Uniquely, the format draws listeners in and allows them to develop their own theories. In some cases, listeners themselves participate in helping to solve the crime. Often, they become engaged in online discussion forums, social media groups, message boards, and more. They offer up their own theories about what may have happened. Also, they contribute their own research, track down data and information, help make connections, and more.
List of the Best True Crime Podcasts
The following is a list of the best true crime podcasts.
Bear Brook is a story about how amateur investigators and new forensic techniques help solve a 30-year-old cold case. Reporter Jason Moon and the editorial team at New Hampshire Public Radio tell the story of the case.
The story begins when a group of kids finds a barrel hidden deep in the 15 square miles of woods in Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire. However, they simply kick the barrel over but do not open it. Little do they know, it’s not just an empty, rotting barrel. Rather, inside are two decomposed bodies, the remains of a man and a child could. In a twist, the kids walk away and think nothing of their discovery.
Years later, a hunter happens upon the barrel, now on its side and partially open. Immediately, he calls the police. However, the case goes cold after a small-town officer fails to find any answers.
When Jason first began covering the story, he wasn’t even a crime reporter. Also, the police still had not identified the bodies. Visit the Bear Brook website to listen to episodes, review case timelines, and read transcripts.
“Believed” is a podcast series produced by Michigan Radio, a public radio station based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The podcast first aired in October 2018. It is an investigative journalism series that delves into the story of Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor who was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of young female athletes under the guise of medical treatment.
“Believed” is widely praised for its in-depth reporting, sensitive handling of the survivors’ stories, and its overall impact in shedding light on the Nassar case. The podcast is hosted by journalists Kate Wells and Lindsey Smith, who provide extensive research, interviews, and narration throughout the series.
The title, “Believed,” reflects the central theme of the podcast—exploring how Nassar was able to abuse so many young women for so long, and why it took so long for their allegations to be taken seriously by authorities. The series features interviews with survivors, their families, law enforcement officials, and others involved in the case.
The series not only examines the systemic failures that allowed Nassar’s abuse to persist but also highlights the resilience and strength of the survivors in their pursuit of justice. The podcast played a significant role in raising public awareness about issues surrounding sexual abuse, the #MeToo movement, and the broader conversation about accountability and reform within institutions like USA Gymnastics.
Listen to Believed on Apple Podcasts.
“Criminal” is a widely acclaimed true crime podcast that delves into intriguing and often lesser-known criminal stories from around the world. Launched in 2014 and hosted by Phoebe Judge, the series has gained a dedicated following for its compelling storytelling and unique approach to exploring the complexities of crime.
Each episode of “Criminal” focuses on a specific case, ranging from high-profile incidents to obscure, fascinating tales. The podcast is known for its diverse range of subjects, encompassing everything from true crime to legal proceedings, historical mysteries, and even some elements of the supernatural.
What sets the series apart is its emphasis on the human aspect of crime, often delving into the motivations, emotions, and personal experiences of those involved, including victims, perpetrators, and investigators. Phoebe Judge’s calm and empathetic narration style helps create a deeply immersive listening experience.
Moreover, it doesn’t shy away from exploring the broader societal implications of the cases it covers, prompting listeners to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of crime and punishment.
With its meticulously researched content and skilled production, “Criminal” stands out in the true crime genre, offering listeners a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant journey through the intricacies of the criminal world.
Visit the website for information about the show, its creators, the schedule, episodes, and more.
“Dirty John” is a true crime podcast produced by the Los Angeles Times. It first premiered in October 2017 and quickly gained widespread popularity. The podcast is hosted and reported by journalist Christopher Goffard.
The series tells the gripping and harrowing story of Debra Newell, a successful interior designer, and John Meehan, the man she meets and falls in love with online. As their relationship develops, Debra’s family becomes increasingly concerned about John’s mysterious and manipulative behavior. It soon becomes apparent that John is not who he claims to be, and he harbors a dark and dangerous past.
The podcast unravels the layers of deception and manipulation that John employs to control and exploit Debra. It delves into his history of deceit, criminal activity, and his predatory behavior towards vulnerable women.
“Dirty John” is known for its captivating storytelling, meticulous investigative reporting, and its ability to convey the psychological manipulation at play in abusive relationships. The series also raises important questions about online dating, trust, and the complexities of human relationships.
Due to its success, “Dirty John” has been adapted into other forms of media, including a television series and a documentary. The podcast’s impact extends beyond entertainment, shedding light on issues related to domestic abuse, online deception, and the importance of vigilance when forming new relationships.
Download Dirty John on Apple Podcasts.
In The Dark
“In the Dark” is a compelling true crime podcast produced by American Public Media (APM). Launched in 2016, the podcast is renowned for its in-depth investigative journalism and meticulous storytelling. The series, created and hosted by Madeleine Baran, has garnered widespread acclaim for exploring criminal cases shedding light on systemic flaws within the criminal justice system.
The podcast gained widespread recognition for its first season, which delved into the case of Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who was abducted in rural Minnesota in 1989. The investigation took a critical look at the law enforcement’s handling of the case and raised questions about the effectiveness of sex offender registries.
Following the success of its inaugural season, “In the Dark” continued to tackle other high-profile cases in subsequent seasons. Each season focuses on a different case, meticulously examining the details, unraveling the complexities, and revealing the broader societal issues embedded within the criminal justice system. The podcast stands out for its commitment to holding institutions accountable and advocating for justice reform.
The production quality of “In the Dark” is exemplary, featuring in-depth interviews, archival footage, and ambient sounds that immerse listeners into the narrative. The meticulous research and attention to detail contribute to the podcast’s reputation as a thought-provoking and impactful exploration of true crime. Download at Apple Podcasts.
Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo
“Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo” is a compelling true crime podcast that delves into the mysterious disappearance and tragic fate of Cleopatra Semaganis Nicotine, a young Indigenous girl from Saskatchewan, Canada. Produced by CBC Radio, this investigative podcast is part of the larger series titled “Missing and Murdered,” which seeks to shed light on the cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada.
The podcast, hosted by award-winning investigative journalist Connie Walker, follows Cleo’s family’s emotional and complex journey as they attempt to uncover the truth behind her disappearance. Cleo was taken from her Indigenous family in the 1970s as part of the Canadian government’s controversial Sixties Scoop policy, which forcibly removed Indigenous children from their homes and placed them in non-Indigenous adoptive families.
“Finding Cleo” explores not only the individual case but also the broader issues of colonialism, the impact of government policies on Indigenous communities, and the ongoing struggles faced by Indigenous families searching for their missing loved ones. The podcast is notable for its sensitive handling of the subject matter and its commitment to amplifying the voices of Indigenous communities.
Walker’s investigative journalism is meticulous, and the podcast incorporates interviews, archival recordings, and expert insights to construct a comprehensive narrative. As the series unfolds, listeners are taken on a poignant and often heart-wrenching journey, grappling with the historical injustices and systemic failures that have disproportionately affected Indigenous communities. View the website to learn more.
My Favorite Murder
“My Favorite Murder” is a highly popular true crime comedy podcast hosted by comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Launched in 2016, the podcast has gained a massive and dedicated fan base for its unique blend of true crime storytelling, humor, and the hosts’ relatable and conversational approach.
The format of “My Favorite Murder” typically involves Kilgariff and Hardstark discussing true crime cases, both notorious and lesser-known, with each host taking turns sharing a story. The podcast covers a wide range of cases, from historical crimes to contemporary mysteries, and the hosts inject their own comedic commentary and personal anecdotes into the narrative. The title of the podcast itself reflects the hosts’ irreverent and lighthearted approach to a dark and often grim subject matter.
One distinctive aspect of the podcast is the hosts’ focus on the human elements of the cases. Kilgariff and Hardstark emphasize empathy for the victims and explore the societal and cultural factors surrounding the crimes. Additionally, they frequently encourage self-care and mental health awareness, fostering a supportive community among their listeners.
“My Favorite Murder” is known for its enthusiastic fan engagement. The podcast has a large live show following, and the hosts often refer to their fans as “Murderinos.” The community aspect of the podcast extends beyond the episodes, with fans sharing their favorite murder stories and forming connections with each other through various social media platforms. Visit the website to learn more.
Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. The show has multiple seasons, following one story each during the course of a season. Notably, the first season, the Alibi, was popular enough to become a Netflix documentary and is a great example of why true crime podcasts are so fascinating. Episode by episode, the show follows the events surrounding the disappearance of a popular high school girl. Several weeks later, the police arrested her classmate Adnan Syed for her murder.
Serial won several awards, so if you’re looking for a place to start, this is a good bet. It is considered one of the best true crime podcasts of all time.
“Undisclosed” is a highly regarded true crime podcast created by three legal professionals: Rabia Chaudry, Susan Simpson, and Colin Miller. Launched in 2015, the podcast deeply dives into cases where they believe individuals may have been wrongfully convicted.
The podcast employs a rigorous investigative approach, examining legal documents, conducting interviews, and consulting with experts to reevaluate the evidence and circumstances surrounding each case. Unlike traditional true crime podcasts, “Undisclosed” focuses not only on recounting the story but also on dissecting the legal aspects and potential miscarriages of justice.
A notable case explored in the podcast’s first season is that of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murder in 2000. The hosts meticulously analyze the trial proceedings and present new evidence, ultimately contributing to Adnan’s case being reexamined in court.
“Undisclosed” stands out for its commitment to uncovering the truth, meticulous legal analysis, and advocacy for those who may have been wrongfully imprisoned. The podcast has garnered a devoted following and sparked meaningful discussions about the criminal justice system.
Visit the official Undisclosed website for information on current and past seasons. Also, you’ll find case files, cast updates, and more.
Up and Vanished
“Up and Vanished” is a riveting true crime podcast hosted by Payne Lindsey. Launched in 2016, it quickly gained a devoted following for its intense investigative approach. The podcast primarily focuses on cold cases and mysterious disappearances, aiming to shed light on unsolved mysteries.
The breakout first season centers around the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a former beauty queen and schoolteacher from Georgia who went missing in 2005. Payne Lindsey’s meticulous research and dogged determination lead him to uncover new leads and reexamine old evidence, ultimately generating significant developments in the case.
The podcast’s success lies in its ability to draw listeners into the intricacies of each case, presenting them with a detailed and often emotional account of the events. Payne Lindsey employs a mix of interviews, recordings, and personal reflections, creating a deeply immersive narrative.
“Up and Vanished” is more than just a true crime podcast; it’s a testament to the power of investigative journalism and the impact it can have on real-world investigations. The podcast has not only generated renewed interest in cold cases but has also played a role in bringing about crucial breakthroughs in some of the cases it covers.
Visit the website.
Where to Get Podcasts
- Apple – Apple offers a catalog of millions of podcasts, from the biggest celebrities to unknown independents. If you’re a true crime junkie, Apple is one of the best places to get your fix.
- Audible – Audible has a library of over 60,000 audio casts and is growing rapidly.
- Google – Google has a wide variety in many popular categories, including news and politics, sports & recreation, self-help, education, and many more.
- Pandora – Pandora has numerous categories, including daily news, music, business, comedy, and more.
- Stitcher – Stitcher supports podcasters, listeners, and advertisers with a network of top-ranked original shows and a deep library of content filled with every genre imaginable.
- RadioPublic – RadioPublic helps podcasters succeed with tools for marketing, promotion, monetization, and more.