With the surge in popularity for true crime, it can be overwhelming to decide which podcast to tune in to and catch the next murder/crime case. This post will share some of the podcasts I’ve been absolutely consumed by over the last few months and why. Equally important, I’ll mention the podcasts I felt ‘meh’ about and provide reasons for why they didn’t appeal to my true crime tastes.
My last post on the obsession with true crime hopefully paved the way to understanding why we as a society are consumed by the macabre true crime stories made famous by pop culture. If you didn’t catch it, you can read it here to become familiar with my own personal justification for why I love hearing about true crime stories (so that you don’t read this thinking, ‘this girl is an absolute nutter’). I’ve spiralled down into this massive consumption of true crime stories both solved and cold, becoming glued to my headphones and taking advantage of every minute I’m able to listen to a podcast to hear details about yet another murder case and form my own opinions on each story. And I mean it when I say I’ve been glued to it. Every walk to the bus stop, almost every day in the lab, when I’m laying in bed at night, you can bet I have my headphones in listening to true crime podcasts. In fact, my podcast app Stitcher has counted that in the last 3 months I’ve listened to 164 hours of true crime podcasts. That’s 55 hours a month, and about 2 hours a day, every day for 90 days. So you can be sure that I have a fair bit of experience in listening to these podcasts!
SWORD AND SCALE
My number one podcast favourite has to be Sword and Scale, where we learn that ‘the worst monsters are real’. Mike Boudet presents this podcast with impeccable story-telling, yet in such a haunting way that it really sets the mood of impending doom. That’s the only way I can really describe it. Every episode explores a new crime story, or for ones that are terribly complex, he’ll break into parts. He’s also very resourceful in inviting experts, reporters and people involved in the cases, as well using interview and tape recordings to better explain each story. Episode 2 is by far one of my favourites. Not specifically about an actual crime, it explores the psyche of socio- and psychopaths to try and understand how their brains are wired differently to ‘regular’ people. It’s a very intelligent, educational and insightful episode if you’re interested about learning about the minds of some of the worst criminals out there. The main reason I love this podcast though, is because it’s so real. Mike presents each story in a very factual way, giving all the details but going light in discussing his own opinions on some of the concepts and topical issues involved in crime. So if you’re after a podcast that is more of a discussion about crime, Sword and Scale won’t be for you.
Just a note: This is by far the most disturbing and emotional podcast I’ve listened to, because Mike Boudet is no stranger to the grisly details. He shares a lot of horrific details about the crimes and experiences of some of the victims. This is definitely NOT for the faint-hearted or those easily affected by this type of material. One episode affected me so much that I had to stop half way through my lab work to take a break because I was so emotional about what someone had to endure, and I’m usually pretty hardy to this type of information. This series will share some crime stories that will really rock you down to your core, so be warned.
MY FAVOURITE MURDER
This podcast takes a completely different approach to Sword and Scale. Presented by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, My Favourite Murder always starts and ends with something positive or light-hearted, often describing personal experiences or recapping previous events. Most of the time it’s just them talking random unscripted shit that actually makes you laugh. Being comedians, there is a good mix of both comedy and crime in these episodes, and there is lots of unfiltered swearing and dialogue – love it. Where Sword and Scale had me balling my eyes out, MFM can have me laughing on the bus to work. Each episode Karen and Georgia will present a case separately, and with their sidekick Steven, you can hear stories about true cases in a way that’s not so depressing as Sword and Scale. MFM reminds us to ‘stay sexy and don’t get murdered‘. From my last post, you would have seen that some people are drawn to true crime stories by using them as cautionary tales so they can identify potentially dangerous situations, or ways in which we can prevent crimes from occurring. The ladies at MFM focus on this quite a bit in their podcast.
In an attempt to lighten the mood, sometimes they can say some things that might seem a little insensitive. While they try to correct themselves for doing so, some people may be offended by it. They are also prone to run off on tangents throughout the episode intros but that’s just a result of it being unscripted. These episodes can be upwards of an hour and a half long, so you’ll need to put away quite some time to listen to them.
CASEFILE: TRUE CRIME
Closer to home, this is a true crime podcast produced in Australia by the narrator who has chosen to remain anonymous (oooo the mystery!). Casefile is presented to emphasise that sometimes ‘fact is scarier than fiction‘. While he does explore crime stories from all over the world, he does focus on a lot of Australian crimes, both high profile and lesser known. It informs the listeners to some crimes we didn’t even know occurred on our home turf and that’s something I really enjoyed from this podcast. You can easily tell it’s scripted, but like Mike Boudet, he does tell a lot of the facts and goes over pieces of evidence really well. He’s another great story-teller. Another reason I could be biased is because I’ve been personally invested in one of these stories, but I’m not allowed to tell you which one! He covers a range of mysteries and crimes from murders, abductions, to shootings and bombings in a very calm, sometimes sleep-inducing manner (I’m not saying it will bore you, just that the way he presents the episodes are so relaxing you could easily drift off). He will also walk you through infamous criminal trials, and present a range of theories that could possibly explain some unsolved mysteries. I also love to support a product of Australia, and I think we need more Aussie crime podcasts!
This podcast is one of my favourites because it not only covers crime and murder, but mysteries, conspiracies, cults and sometimes the paranormal. Generation Why will really pull at your curiosity strings. It’s presented by Aaron and Justin, and like Sword and Scale invites many experts involved in these stories for more insight. For exploring theories, mysteries and unanswered questions, Aaron and Justin attempt to remain unbiased and objective. Although at times I can detect hints of their own personal opinions coming through, especially in their more recent episodes, which I actually enjoy. They really aim to presents both sides of the story, but stick close to the facts and evidence. This duo do have quite a calming vibe (sometimes monotone) on their podcast too which makes this one of my go-to’s for night time listening. They delve into a lot of discussions about the justice system and motivations behind some of the crimes. They hope to answer the main question of why something occurred, hence their title.
One of their most notable episodes for me was the death of Annalise Michel, a young woman from Germany who in the 70’s was most likely suffering from some form of psychosis or schizophrenia, but her devout Christian parents interpreted this as demonic possession. A truly harrowing and tragic case, they actually play the audio recordings of some of her 67 exorcisms (67!) which are so freaking creepy so if you’re going to be affected by something like that, DO NOT LISTEN.
SOMEONE KNOWS SOMETHING
All podcasts I’ve presented earlier usually cover a different story with each episode. However, Someone Knows Something is episodic. Each season (there are 3 produced to date by CBC Radio, Canada), follows the case of a Canadian unsolved disappearance or murder. This podcast is presented by investigative journalist David Ridgen, and in a fashion you’d expect for a TV docu-series. David makes it his quest to perform his own investigation into the cold cases, fulfilling his need to seek the truth just as much as ours. He will talk with just about anyone he can who was related to the case, often with investigators, family members and even some suspects. Season 1 follows his investigation into the tragic disappearance of 5-year old Adrien McNaughton, who vanished without any trace on a family fishing outing. Season 2 focuses on the disappearance of Sheryl Sheppard, a young woman who previously worked as a stripper and just suddenly vanished shortly after her boyfriend proposed to her, leaving all her possessions and personal effects behind. Season 3 explores the horrific murder of two young coloured men, Charles Moore and Henry Dee found in Mississippi River. David Ridgen goes through his investigation and production of a 2004 documentary in podcast form, and unlike the others, this case does end up having somewhat of a resolution.
The thing I love about this podcast is that David is tenacious in his quest for truth and closure, yet he is so respectful to everyone in the series. At times you can hear his own breathing grow shallower, even his little sniffles as he starts to get emotional when hearing the torture these family members have had to endure for years not knowing what happened. It’s a very relatable series, and I really enjoy hearing how David tries to pull together the facts from the cases. The only thing I have a hard time dealing with in the series, is that no matter how hard he tries in the first two seasons, he is no closer to finding the answer of what really happened. But I guess that’s no fault of the podcast, it’s just the tragic symptom of a cold case.
THE ‘MEH’ CATEGORY
While it’s worth presenting the podcasts I can’t stop listening to, I still feel it’s equally important to share ones I haven’t enjoyed and I’ll give you a bit of rundown why.
First up is Serial. Yep, and I may get hate mail for saying this since it was a huge success among millions of people and remains one of the most successful podcasts today. I just found it dragged on for so long and after some episodes I would sit and think, ‘that whole hour felt like a waste’. It’s an episodic series, with Season 1 based on the potentially false conviction of Adnan Sayed for murdering his girlfriend Hae Ming Lee, a really perplexing and frustrating case. I felt like the series completely failed to tell Hae’s story, where was her voice in all of it? What it seemed to focus on was their need to clear Adnan and nothing else. I felt like this podcast was disjointed and biased, and just honestly thought this series could have presented a lot better because it’s a really fascinating case. I just wanted MORE.
True Crime Garage is also another murder podcast presented by two men (Nic and Captain) who I can only picture as middle-aged and burly by the sounds of their voice and the way they present. I feel like this would be a ‘tough’ man’s answer to True Crime podcasts. I just feel that the way they present is very ‘detached’, and I am left feeling totally unengaged. I just can’t get into this one.
The last one I’ll give is S-Town, and I don’t like it for the same reasons as Serial. Funny that, considering they are made by the same people as Serial (in conjunction with This American Life). I just can’t get hooked into this one either and find I am easily bored with it. I don’t find the protagonist particularly relatable or captivating. Although it starts off exploring a murder in Alabama, it morphs into something that seems to focus on everything but that. To me, it wasn’t a true ‘True Crime’ podcast. But on the other hand, some people say “The problem is, is that you EXPECTED a true crime podcast”. Well, if that’s what it’s advertised as, that’s what I’ll expect. I didn’t finish this one.
To be fair, it really depends on what you look for in a true crime podcast. Are you after story-telling, investigative journalism, or more a discussion of the concepts, motivations and ideas behind some criminal cases? For me, I’m after good story-telling. I want a beginning, a middle, a climax and an end. I want to hear about the ways an investigation was performed, and how pieces of evidence came together to reveal the truth about what happened. In saying that, it doesn’t make sense for me to love ‘Someone Knows Something’, because there is never is a real answer. I just love the way it’s executed.
Do you listen to true crime podcasts? Let me know which ones you can’t stop listening to! Or, if you want to get started, I hope I’ve given you some ideas about what you might love. Give me your thoughts in the comments below.