Podcasts may have been around for the best part of a decade, but it’s only been in the last couple of years they’ve really started to take off. As our smartphones become the focus of our entire world, podcasts have provided an easy alternative to scrolling through endless social media feeds while we’re standing between sweaty men on the Central Line. They provide an easy way to switch off, close your eyes and just listen – or in my case, get my work out on while listening to something that distracts me from the fact my legs are knackered from the cross-trainer. Undoubtedly one of the biggest genres, True Crime podcasts have really revolutionised the interest in this media form; audio story telling has not only raised awareness of age-old cases and helped to kick-start legal processes for those deemed to have been convicted unfairly, but actually helped to solve crimes and put criminals away too.
I’ve always been fascinated by murders, serial killers and unsolved cases, so podcasts have just given me another way to digest information and spark my imagination. If, like me, you love True Crime but have exhausted all the usual suspects (Serial, S-Town, Criminal, My Favourite Murder…) then what other shows will leave you wanting more? I’ve listened to so many, but these are the alternative true crime podcasts that I always recommend. So if you want to get to the best of the bunch without wasting time, here are nine of the most amazing true crime podcasts that you need to listen to ASAP…
Up & Vanished
What starts as just another podcast looking into the disappearance of a local girl over a decade earlier, soon evolves into something else entirely. Tara Grinstead seemingly ‘up and vanished’ in 2005 without leaving a trace behind, so the host Payne starts to investigate what might have happened. He talks to local residents, the police who investigated, journalists who covered her apparent disappearance and those who had close relationships with Tara – but soon he starts to uncover so much more. What’s so unique and fascinating about this is that about half way through the crime starts to be solved in real time, with an arrest being made when episodes are still being aired; it’s a unique opportunity to hear a case unfold and to understand the impact coverage like this can really have.
A weekly discussion of some of the most messed up, gory and unexpected cases there ever were, Red Handed is hosted by the hilarious (and very sweary) storytellers Suruthi and Hannah. What I love about Red Handed is not only the cases they cover (this genre can become a bit repetitive, but they seem to uncover cases you’ll never have heard of) but the way they tell the stories; it feels like a mate sitting you down with a cuppa, complete with the kind of commentary you’d give if someone was telling you the story in your living room. I binge this so often and it’s become my go-to when I’m driving long distances.
I’m about midway through this podcast, but it’s fascinating (and horrifying) to hear of a surgeon who purposefully maimed and killed his patients – and the hospitals who covered it up to stop any legal action being taken against them. Christopher Duntsch created the persona of a top-of-his-game surgeon, in order to conduct operations on over 30 people without any qualifications to do so; he left screws purposefully in spines, sliced through an esophagus, cut out nerves and left holes in vertebrae just for the lols. His arrogance is outstanding, but what’s more unfathomable is the fact he kept getting away with it. Listen with an open mouth!
Completely unique in its approach, the two Talking Crime hosts discuss hot documentaries as they watch them to give you a running commentary of their thoughts and opinions. They cover shows including the recent Jonbenet Ramsey investigation, The Staircase and Jonestown, discussing what they think happened and ‘whodunnit’ as the evidence is presented. You don’t have to watch the shows yourself as they include clips throughout, but if you do this is a refreshing way to listen to True Crime.
Beyond Reasonable Doubt
You may have seen The Staircase on Netflix, but this was the podcast that preceded the new episodes and followed the case of Michael Peterson as he was finally released from prison after being convicted of his wife Kathleen’s murder. A BBC Radio 5 production, this discusses every side of the case well and interviews practically everybody involved – including Kathleen’s sister and later Michael himself. It’s a unique look at one of the cases that still baffles me, including first hand accounts and audio from some of the court proceedings. Well worth a listen, even if you’ve not watched the documentary.
If you loved the first series of Serial, then Undisclosed is a must-listen. It delves so much deeper into the Hae Min Lee / Adnan Syed case and re-visits a lot of insight to provide a different perspective; it’s a tougher listen and presents a huge amount of legal and technical jargon, but if you can stick with it you’ll wonder how on earth Adnan was ever convicted. Much of the evidence and testimony is disputed with the help of not only experts, but listeners too – and it’s still going strong, hoping to get the conviction overturned.
Someone Knows Something
Although I wasn’t a fan of season one or three, season two is utterly fascinating. It follows the case of Sheryl Sheppard who disappeared soon after becoming engaged during televised NYE celebrations, interviewing family and friends to try and get to the bottom of what may have happened to her. Sheryl’s mother is heavily involved, giving the host incredible access and allowing him to investigate new leads – so much so that by the end it’s incredibly obvious what happened and who did it.
This stayed with me for a long time after listening to it, so it’s not one to listen to when you’re home alone of a dark winters eve! Black Hands tells the story of a New Zealand family who were slaughtered in their home, leaving only one survivor: the son David. The question is did David slaughter his family, did one of the other members commit the crime and kill themselves to cover it up, or was it an outsider entirely? What appears on the surface to be a relatively straightforward murder case soon becomes very dark and twisted, featuring psychosis and incest among many other things. I’m still not entirely decided on what I think happened, and definitely one of those cases you’ll want to research further after you’ve finished listening.
The newest addition to my list, this podcast rather uniquely tells the story of a young woman who has to live with the fact her father is a serial killer. A completely different perspective that’s not been covered before, Happy Face follows the story of Melissa – who found out at the age of 15 that her father was in prison for killing eight women (and possibly many more.) We rarely get insight into the devastating effects a murderer leaves within their own family, but this is a truly heart-wrenching account of just that. The way she reflects on her memories, knowing the timeline of events that lead to some horrendous crimes, is powerfully upsetting but great listening.
Have you listened to any of these podcasts? Have you loved any others you think I’d enjoy?
(Check out my post that includes everything you need to know about listening to podcasts if this is all new to you!)