The world of podcasts has steadily grown over the past few years to accommodate a wide range of interests and niche topics, from politics to police work to poltergeists. And it doesn’t hurt that most of them – even the best ones – are free to stream and download.
Each week, we’re rounding up the team’s favorite podcasts for every sort of listener, in the hopes of either turning you onto podcasts in general or helping you find a new show to try.
This week, we’re focusing on podcasts for true crime buffs: whether you enjoy hearing about cold-blooded murder, the minds and motivations of criminals, and intrepid investigations, you’ve come to the right place.
WARNING: If you’re sensitive to stories of human suffering and cruelty, you might want to skip this week’s roundup. We’ll have happier things to share next time!
Alternatively, check out last week’s recommendations for gourmets.
How to find and tune into podcasts
If you’re just getting started with podcasts, you’ll want to get an app to browse, download and play them on your phone. Android folks can try Pocket Casts ($4), Acast (free) or Player.fm’s Podcast Player (free). iOS users will find Overcast (free) up to the task.
Our favorite true crime podcasts
Few podcasts have had as much of an impact on the medium as Serial. Produced by the folks behind the excellent This American Life, Serial’s binge-able first season focuses on the curious case of Hae Min Lee, a high school student who was killed in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland in 1999. The blame fell on her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, who was then convicted of first-degree murder and jailed in 2000. But something didn’t add up; did the courts send an innocent man to prison?
You’ll want to clear an entire day to finish listening to the first season in one go (yeah, it’s that kind of show). And if you find yourself wanting more, check out Undisclosed, whose first season features Syed’s advocate Rabia Chaudry, and deals exclusively with his case and appeal for a retrial.
Out to reveal that ‘the worst monsters are real,’ host Mike Boudet draws from news reports, court recordings and the knowledge of experts to chronicle some of the most chilling criminal cases from around the world, as well as the minds and circumstances behind them.
The format might be familiar to fans of true crime podcasts, but S&S is perfectly paced, and packed with details and insights to give you plenty to ponder, and quite possibly, nightmares to boot. From serial killers to death cults, this show has it all.
Start with this episode:
Episode 49 tells the tragic and disturbing tale of Claudinnea “Dee Dee” Blancharde, who was found lying face down in a pool of blood in her house; her mentally challenged daughter was nowhere to be found. All that was left to explain what had happened were a number of disturbing posts on Blancharde’s Facebook page. The truth about how this incident played out is stranger than anything you could imagine.
Episode 70 includes a chat with Adam Higginbotham, author of 1,000 Pounds of Dynamite, who describes one of the most complex bombs ever created, and how it was snuck into a Las Vegas casino to hold the entire establishment ransom.
Hosted by award winner Phoebe Judge, Criminal is perfect for getting started with true crime podcasts. The show packages stories of every manner of interesting cases from the present day to several decades ago, into short commute-friendly episodes.
Start with this episode:
Episode 51: Money Tree focuses on the Hamilton family, who found their identities stolen in the 90s and couldn’t figure out what was going on with their mail and other services – until their daughter went to college and found her credit score in shambles. What they discovered will shock you to your core.
Solving crimes requires a keen understanding of how people think, and how we react to difficult situations. Perhaps one of the best sounding podcasts out there, Detective gives you a close look at the challenges and vagaries of police work from some of the best in the business.
This show features detectives (one per season) with long, illustrious and colorful careers during which they’ve seen society at their worst, and applied their minds to tackle difficult cases.
Start with season one, in which detective Joe Kenda takes you through some of the most eye-opening moments through his 23 years of service and 387 solved homicides.
Facing the consequences of your actions can change you. Ear Hustle, produced by a lifer, takes you inside San Quentin prison for a glimpse at life behind bars, from relationships between cellmates to the tribulations of solitary confinement.
This is a new show, so start with episode one; you’ll be able to get through the next few in just a couple of hours.
Enjoyed our recommendations? Let us know which shows you liked; share your own favorites in the comments, check out last week’s list and stay tuned for a new bunch of podcasts every week here at TNW.