We’re a week out from the best holiday of the year and sometimes my only reason for living, Halloween. You know what that means—it’s time to
condemn dumb white college students for donning blackface get spoopy. Between all the costume sales and the weather getting colder, it’s obviously the season for wrapping yourself up in a blanket and indulging in some scary things. Now, as much as I love my Freddie Kreugers and Jason Voorheeses and Leatherheads and Pokeyfaces and Ann Coulter, sometimes actual horror movies are are too scary and stressful for my delicate constitution.
I prefer to get my kicks from true crime, because I like my horror IRL and honestly, what bigger frightfest is there than an often insufficient criminal justice system? So we’ve compiled a list of the best true and often violent crime podcasts out there, because let’s be real, if you watch Saw on the subway, people may think you’re insane. Listen to a podcast about H.H. Holmes, the actual serial killer that loosely inspired the Saw movies on the subway, no one will suspect a thing. Unless you start squealing out of discomfort, like I do. Whatever, you’re educating yourself!
“Criminal” is one of the best true crime podcasts out there. Hosted by accomplished journalist Phoebe Judge, the podcast uses great original reporting and features interviews with criminals, victims, bystanders, and family members to delve into the motivations behind why people engage in criminal behavior. Individual episodes cover everything from family vengeance to racist police brutality to old-timey conmen. (Episodes range from 20-30 min)
“Casefile” is your standard grisly and creepy true crime podcast: detailed accounts of horrific events, with the added bonus of some fantastic soundtracking and SFX. Given that it’s narrated by an anonymous man with an Australian accent, it’s no surprise that a lot of the episodes cover murders and crimes in Australia, though it does take a look at international crimes. (20-75 min)
Part true crime podcast and part radio drama, “Unsolved Murders” is an immersive experience, complete with a cast of voice actors and a snazzy soundtrack. It’s a little cheesier than your standard straightforward murder podcast, given that it includes reenactments, but each episode constructs an entire world, making this podcast a more multidimensional adventure. (20-50 min)
This is one of those true crime podcasts that can get so intense that some of the episodes are actually a little painful to listen to, which makes sense, seeing as “Sword and Scale” sets out to prove that “the worst monsters are very real.” Part psychological exploration, part analysis of the criminal justice system, these horrific murders and violent crimes will definitely linger with you, long after the episode is over. (50-90 min)
If you’re looking for a more lighthearted true crime podcast that’s a little bit more liberal as far as accuracy and facts go, this is the podcast for you. Hosted by comedians Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff, the show feels like that part of the slumber party where you tell ghost stories and try to freak each other out, but the stories are real and horrifying. Another comedy-meets-horror podcast is “Last Podcast on the Left,” which covers all sorts of strange and scary shit, “both imagined and real.” While they tend to be more factually accurate and in-depth, the humor is more, um, crass and Seth MacFarlane-y. (30-90 min)
For the most part, the podcasts we’ve listed so far tend to take a “monster-of-the-week” approach, covering a different case every week (although sometimes there are two or three-parters). But of course there are plenty of podcasts that take a more long-term approach, like Serial, which covered one case over the span of 12 episodes. So if you’re looking for a slow burner, check out “Finding Tammy Jo,” a podcast about an unsolved case from 1979, in which a 16-year-old girl was murdered. (10-50 min)
This podcast isn’t really a true crime podcast, but it is a creepy thing rooted in some truth. The show delves into the mythologies humans have created throughout history to “explain the unexplainable,” exploring the history of myths and superstitions like vampires, ghost hauntings, werewolves. Looking for something similar but with a British accent? Check out “Unexplained.” (18-27 min)