Best True Crime Podcasts 2018
20 Best True Crime Podcasts Just in Time for Halloween
10.15.18 | Podcasting | By: Jon Street
Podcasts are a favored go-to source of education and entertainment for millions of people worldwide. While the trend clearly shows continued, steady growth for podcasting as a whole it’s equally as undeniable that some genres of podcasts have found a niche following of listeners who are incredibly loyal and know what they like (and don’t like). These fans will readily binge-listen their favorite podcasts to get their daily dose of satisfaction. One example of this are true crime and investigative podcasts. True crime seems to have burst onto the podcast scene with a sudden surge in popularity over the last few years building a cult following of listeners who are committed to the cause. While the content of these podcasts may be too much for some listeners to handle, millions of people are flocking to true crime in droves to get their full of true crime goodness. The truth is, true crime is incredibly popular right now with countless podcasts popping up regularly to hop on the bandwagon. In fact it’s so popular there’s an annual CrimeCon conference dedicated purely to true crime. But like anything in modern media, there is so much at the fingertips to choose from that it can often be daunting to decide just where to start. In light of it’s surging popularity and the fact that, well, it’s nearly Halloween, we wanted to give you a list of Best True Crime Podcasts for you to investigate…if you can stomach it.
Trustworthy True Crime Tune-In’s | Top 5
Our number 1 spot goest to a podcast that burst onto the scene and has never looked back, the crowd-favorite S-Town. S-Town was released in 2017 and has gained a cult following of loyal, raving fans ever since. The American south known for quaint towns, southern hospitality, and hard-working, honest people, but S-Town will show that is not always the case. A podcast from Serial and This American Life, hosted by Brian Reed, S-Town dives into the story of, “a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks Brian to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But when someone else ends up dead, the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.” Yes, really. The episodes tell a sequential story, to be sure to kick things off with Chapter I called “If you keep your mouth shut, you’ll be surprised what you can learn” to see what all the hype is about. The creative sound design and engaging storytelling are what make this show a favorite and why it takes our number 1 true crime podcast spot.
This next podcast is one of the most popular true crime podcasts to date. Currently kicking off its third season, it has won numerous awards and honors and has become a staple for the true crime community. In fact it has won every major award for broadcasting, including the duPont-Columbia, Scripps Howard, Edward R. Murrow, and the first-ever Peabody awarded to a podcast. I am of course talking about Serial, a podcast from the creators of This American Life, which is hosted by the infamous Sarah Koenig. The concept is simple. “Serial tells one story — a true story — over the course of a season.” Fair enough. But what has made it so ravingly popular is the content it brings and the format it packages it in. While it may not offer the listener guts and glamor, it brings an engaging storytelling format to shine the light on known cases which are clearly not all they seem to be at first glance. Season 1 covered the nationally publicized case of Adnan Syed as host Sarah Koenig discovered that, “the trial covered up a far more complicated story than the jury – or the public – ever got to hear.” Season 2 covered the case of MIA US soldier Beau Bergdahl who received national scorn for his believed desertion during time of combat. In Season 3, “Serial is heading back to court. This time, in Cleveland. A year inside a typical American courthouse. This season we tell you the extraordinary stories of ordinary cases. One courthouse, told week by week.” And with grippingly witty episode titles like A Bar Fight Walks into the Justice Center and A Bird in Jail Is Worth Two on the Street you’ll not want to miss a moment!
Another intriguing episodic true crime podcast is the infamously popular Criminal. Criminal is an award winning and highly publicized podcast about crime which is known for its captivating sound design and enthralling writing style which seem to bring it to life in a way many podcasts do not. It offers, “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle. Not so much the “if it bleeds, it leads,” kind of crime. Something a little more complex.” Part of the Radiotopia family, Criminal covers bizarre and often misunderstood tales of crime and punishment. It has been noted as, “A true crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological – that crime is a function of people, time, and place.” For newcomers the Criminal crew recommends starting with episodes like In Plain Sight, Money Tree, 695BGK and Animal Instincts.
Another true crime podcast that has become wildly popular is Crimetown, a podcast that, “investigates the culture of crime in different American cities”, produced by Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier in partnership with Gimlet Media. If you’ve ever thought your town was crooked, just listen to this podcast. Crimetown focuses on a different city each season and highlights the bad and the ugly not often seen by outsiders. While Season 1 focused on Providence, Rhode Island, Season 2 (which kicked off in October), is transitioning the landscape to Motor City-Detroit, Michigan. Like many big cities, Detroit has waded through issues of “race, poverty, policing, loss of industry, the war on drugs. They’ve weathered riots, a drug epidemic, political scandal, and innumerable other hardships, but they’re still here—and they have stories to tell.“ Each week you will hear real-life tells of the problems they’ve faced. New Crimetown episodes are out Mondays, exclusively on Spotify. Check out the season trailers here and here.
Like the classic casefile television and radio shows of old the Casefile True Crime podcast presents listeners with stories of true crime cases which have been solved, but are nonetheless intriguing. As is not uncommon with true crime podcasts which cover sensitive content, the host is anonymous to protect their identity. Be sure to check out fan-favorite episodes like The Vampire of Krakow, The Burgate House Murders, The Black Widow and The Battle of Alcatraz to see what all the hype is about.
Resonate True Crime Tune-In’s | Top 5
While there is no doubt enough here for you to get your fill of chilling tales of real life crime and punishment, aside from these top podcasts we recommend you check out these additional true crime podcasts from the Resonate Recordings family. Truth be told, we have had the privilege of working with some of the most reputable and well-respected podcasters in the true crime genre. In all honesty, you will be sorry if you do not check out the following titles!
Few podcasts in the true crime genre have has as much impact and helped to shape the future of the genre as much as Up and Vanished. As the makers share, “What started as an experiment to explore a story turned into a mission for the truth.“ Hosted by Payne Lindsey and produced by the Tenderfoot TV crew, Up and Vanished is a true crime podcast that has dedicated itself to unpacking a different case in each of their 2 seasons. Season 1 focused on the 2005 disappearance of Tara Grinstead whose case file was the largest in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s history, with no arrests in 11 years. Due to the podcasts’ investigative journalism, in February 2017 the GBI arrested two suspects for Grinstead’s murder. The recently released Season 2 now focuses on the case of Kristal Anne Reisinger who, on July 13, 2016, reportedly disappeared from Crestone, Colorado. She has not been seen since. After 2 years with no arrests, Saguache County Sheriff’s Office is no longer treating Kristal’s disappearance as a missing persons case, but rather suspected foul play. What makes this podcast so special is the high quality production they focus on while enabling the investigative journalism to weave an engaging storyline. With over 250,000,000 downloads for season 1 alone, as well as a frequented and respectable appearance in iTunes’ New & Noteworthy, you’re sure to find something worth listening to again and again.
It can be said that all podcasters are committed to their craft and many in the true crime space are passionate about their work. Without Warning host Sheila Wysocki is a clear example of this. “After solving her former roommate’s murder, a case that had gone cold for more than 25 years, Sheila devoted herself to detective work completely, founding the non-profit Without Warning: Fight Back. She uses this as an outlet for advocating for victims of crime.” The first season of the podcast is dedicated to investigating the still unsolved Lauren Agee case, where 21 year old Lauren was found dead in a lake while camping with friends. This podcast has gained incredible traction and was featured in iTunes’ New & Noteworthy and genre top charts. Be sure to check out the trailer episode to learn more.
For a completely different approach to true crime podcasts, be sure to check out The Cleaning of John Doe. While most true crime podcasts focus on the details surrounding the events of the crimes that took place, this podcast offers an inside look into what happens after the crime has been committed. “This is a true crime podcast where your host Vanessa Phearson, takes you on a journey of her experiences cleaning up the aftermath of some of the grisliest, most heartbreaking and most intense cleanups a crime scene cleaner can face. She shares some of the internal conflicts she wards off, in an effort to keep her head in the game.” Aside from offering an interesting and unique concept, The Cleaning of John Doe is an example of how podcasting can gain tremendous traction, even through a simple grassroots following. Aside from the trailer episode we also recommend that you check out popular episodes like Lakeside Suicide – Episode 1, The Beginning – Episode 2, The Cat House – Episode 5 and Why I Love My Mother – Episode 4.
If you are looking for another true crime podcast that is known for creative sound design and engaging storytelling, then be sure to check out Counter Clock. This podcast is the journalistic investigation into the unsolved murder of Denise Johnson. The podcast is narrated by Delia D’Ambra and offers a fascinating look into the case through a blend of creative narration, recorded phone calls and other sound bites and sound design elements. The episodes created are absolutely stunning. To get started, check out the trailer episode as well as highlighted episodes like Dainty, Manner of Death, The FBI and Ex-Wife. You will simply not be able to turn it off!
Another true crime podcast with a unique spin is Murderous Minors: Killer Kids. While children are usually viewed as cute and innocent there is literally nothing more terrifying than the thought of a child taking the life of another human. This podcast though shows that this is sadly more common than you may think. Murderous Minors is, “A true crime podcast bringing tales of killer kids. Factual stories of murderous children throughout the years- a parent’s worst nightmare.” For a nightmare-invoking start to the podcast be sure to tune in to top episodes like Family Ties, Bang-Bangsgiving Dinner, Yellow Ribbons for Maddie and The Wrestling Defense. You’ll likely be sleeping with one eye open from now on…
Trustworthy True Crime Tune-In’s | 6-10
Stories and folklore about creepy creatures, unthinkable acts and downright frightening events have been part of history, it seems even since time began. We often write them off as nonsensical campfire tales designed just to give people a good scare. But what if they aren’t? Enter Lore. “Lore is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares. Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.” Created, written and hosted by Aaron Mahnke, these bi-weekly episodes deep dive into some of the most bizarre and frightening legends ever heard (and attemptedly covered up), with the purpose of discovering the truth behind the folklore. With episodes like The Beast Within, The Castle, A Devil on the Roof and Broken Fingernails you’re sure to get your fill of chills. But heads up-you’ve been warned.
Many true crime and thriller podcasts present their content with somberness, seriousness and really just share cold hard facts in a chilling way. A refreshing deviation from this approach is the My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark podcast, which offers a comedic and irreverent approach to dark…and gruesome content. “Since its inception in early 2016, the show has broken download records and sparked an enthusiastic, interactive “Murderino” fan base. “A top 10 regular on iTunes’ comedy podcast chart, My Favorite Murder has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Atlantic, Nylon and Rolling Stone magazine.” Be sure to check out their cleverly named episodes like Murderous TENdencies, What the Helleven, Thirteen Going On Murdy and Twenty Six Six Six. While you may be able to trade in the heebie-jeebies for laughs, it’s still worth the listen!
If you’re looking for an engaging, short podcast series that’s easily bingeable, Dirty John is for you. We’ve all heard tales of romance gone terribly wrong, and this is exactly what this podcast focuses on. The podcast, which is reported and hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times, tells the story of Debra Newell, “a successful interior designer. She meets John Meehan, a handsome man who seems to check all the boxes: attentive, available, just back from a year in Iraq with Doctors Without Borders. But her family doesn’t like John, and they get entangled in an increasingly complex web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival.” Each episode will keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing how the the story will end. Check out the trailer for a preview of this podcast’s chilling storyline.
Aside from a clever name, Sword and Scale offers some terrifying accounts of true crime. As the creators pose, the podcast, “is an immersive audio experience covering the dark side of humanity and human nature. Our stories delve into the worst of the worst and include murder, rape, dismemberment and cannibalism. No crime is too brutal and no victim is too pure. The worst monsters are real.” Hosted by Mike Boudet and a part of the Wondery family of podcasts, Sword and Scale offers an array of true crime tales which include murder, torture, heists and other bizarre stories of the terrifying and unthinkable (yet terrifyingly true). Looking for a place to dive in? Check out their 5 Episodes of Sword and Scale That Will Keep You Up at Night including Episode 114,
Next in the lineup is the Dr. Death podcast, focused on the chilling stories of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a neurosurgeon who “radiated confidence”, yet wreaked havoc on the lives of so many people. Let’s be real. What’s more terrifying than a podcast dedicated to uncovering the gruesome evils behind someone we unquestioningly trust? The truth is, “we’re at our most vulnerable when we go to our doctors. We trust the person at the other end of that scalpel. We trust the hospital. We trust the system.” But as this podcast (also from Wondery) will show, sometimes our implicit trust will show we are wrong. Possibly even dead wrong. Literally. “While Dr. Death focuses on the story of one deranged individual, it also exposes the wider institutional problems of a system that has continuously failed its patients.“ Like many true-crime podcasts, Dr. Death sticks to the storytelling approach, so we suggest kicking things off from the beginning to follow the twisted trail. Make sure you check out the podcast trailer for a sneak peek at the show’s narrative, followed by the first episode Three Days in Dallas.
Resonate True Crime Tune-In’s | 6-10
The Somebody Somewhere podcast is hosted by David Payne and produced by Jody Gottleib, both formerly of CNN. “This episodic podcast follows efforts to uncover new information on the 2001 murder of Thomas Crane Wales, who was shot through his basement window 16 years ago. Wales was an attorney, community activist, and federal prosecutor in Seattle, Washington. The 49-year-old, recently-divorced father of two children was living at home alone, when someone snuck into his backyard and shot him multiple times before running away in the night.” The podcast offers listeners an intriguing look into the case through engaging sound design and thoughtful narration. “A former federal prosecutor himself, Payne re-examines the web of evidence, new leads, and theories developed by the FBI as they tried to identify and indict Wales’ killer…and [uncover] why they haven’t been brought to justice after all this time.“ The trailer episode was released earlier this year in addition to top-rated episodes like Corporate Politics, A Man Named Kimball, The Seattle Freeze and The Usual Suspects.
Yet another top-rated podcast from the Up and Vanished family is Sworn. Hosted by Philip Holloway, this podcast, “Pulls back the curtain on the criminal justice system exposing the untold stories and hard truths behind major cases, wrongful convictions, controversial legislation, and more. Host Philip Holloway, a defense attorney and former prosecutor with a background in law enforcement, not only digs into the legal aspects of these cases but the emotional consequences of their outcomes.” The trailer episode was released in 2017 and has been followed up with top-listened episodes like The Lake Oconee Murders, The Death of Cooper Harris, The Widemans and The Disappearance of Tiffany Whitton. It offers listeners an engaging look at the criminal justice system and brings to light areas of weakness that need to have some due consideration. You don’t want to miss out on this podcast!
Newer to the Resonate Recordings family is the award winning podcast The Minds of Madness. This Canadian-based podcast is part of the Wondery family of podcasts and champions multiple awards from The Canadian Podcast Awards 2018, including Outstanding Sound and Outstanding News Series. This podcast is, “An investigative discovery, uncovering the series of events, circumstances, and state of mind which cause ordinary people to do unthinkable things….” The podcast is hosted and produced by husband and wife duo Tyler and Bek and deep-dives into a different case each episode. Make sure you check out top episodes about Gary and Jody Plauche, Vincent Li, George Zinkhan and Dr. George Scott Samson. You won’t be sorry!
Also from the Tenderfoot TV crew in conjunction with HowStuffWorks comes the also popular Atlanta Monster podcast which shares the same investigative and documentary stylings of the Up and Vanished podcast. “This true crime podcast tells the story of one of the city’s darkest secrets, The Atlanta Child Murders. Nearly 40 years after these horrific crimes, many questions still remain. Host Payne Lindsey aims to find truth and provide closure, reexamining the disappearance and murder of over 25 African American children and young adults.” In this case, “25 children disappeared over three years. The city and the country were at a loss for answers. Four decades later, we still don’t know the whole story, but we aim to find out.” A serial stylized podcast we recommend you check out the trailer episode before digging in to Episode Zero: Missing Darron Glass.
Another investigative, true crime podcast is VANISHED: The Tara Calico Investigation. Hosted by Melinda Esquibel, this podcast is, “An investigative podcast that explores the unsolved disappearance of the University of New Mexico student, Tara Calico, a 29 year-old mystery that is hailed by Investigative Discovery Magazine as one of their top ten unsolved cases. Come along with host Melinda Esquibel, a former classmate to Tara Calico.” Be sure to kick things off with the preview episode before tuning it to top listened episodes like Episode 1: Vanished, Episode 2: Who are the two kids in this photo?, Episode 3: The four hunters and Episode 5: Ishmael Delarosa – Part 2.
And that about does it, the 20 best true crime podcasts! If you are looking for some of the best true crime or investigative podcasts out there with exciting jaw-dropping content, this is where we recommend you start. There are no doubt countless other worthwhile listens that are not on this list, but the hope is that this will give you a place to start tuning into, whatever it may be you’re looking for. The bottom line is that even though podcasting is a growing platform with new podcasts being added each day, there’s plenty to benefit from with what’s already available. Find something that grips you you and stick with it! If you’re looking to start a podcast yourself reach out to the Resonate team to learn more and see how we can help make podcasting easy!
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By: Jon Street
As the Production Manager at Resonate Recordings, Jon leads the production team and ensures that all our podcasters have everything needed to release consistent high-quality episodes. Jon and his family are from West Palm Beach, Florida and now live in Simpsonville, KY.