It isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that no other era has seen a surge in content pertaining to the true-crime genre like today. After series and documentaries on serial killers flooding our favourite streaming platforms, true-crime podcasts are the new smash hit.
For a crime junkie, listening to an intriguing true-crime story, taking a plunge into the dark world of heinous crimes of some of the most dreaded and notorious serial killers and unravelling strange stories of real-world crimes are some of the most thrilling experiences. And, several brilliant true-crime podcasts cover all these aspects with outstanding narration and new episodes that probe deeper into such cold cases.
Whether you are piqued by a nerve-wracking case of investigative journalism or are curious to know about the horrifying details of a gruesome murder, true-crime podcasts are redefining the ways of storytelling and bringing alive a more immersive experience for fans of true-crime narratives.
Here are some of the best true-crime podcasts that you must stream right now
Dirty John (2017-2018)
Hosted by LA Times’ Christopher Goffard, Dirty John is a true-crime podcast that takes crime fans through the atrocious deeds of John Meehan.
Debra Newell, a successful interior designer, meets Meehan, who poses as a Navy doctor, via a dating app designed for people aged 50 and above. While he seems perfect to her, Newell’s family members don’t approve of him right from the beginning of their courtship. The series follows Newell as she finds herself getting increasingly entangled in a complicated web of love, deception, forgiveness, denial and ultimately, survival.
Goffard brings in his expertise and touch as a seasoned investigative journalist as Newell and her family share detailed accounts of their predicament and what happened at the end. The podcast provides psychological insight and has a steady pace which attracts the listener’s interest even more.
With just seven episodes and a brief introduction, Dirty John is a true-crime podcast that can keep you up all night. It has also been adapted into a TV series of the same name starring Connie Britton and Eric Bana.
Listen to Dirty John here.
When it was released in 2014, Serial saw the birth of a league of true-crime podcasts and the rise of true-crime fans who enjoyed such a format of storytelling. Considered the first major hit podcast of this genre, it broke several download records and created new ones. In fact, this format was so new that when Serial was previewed on This American Life, in 2014, Ira Glass had to explain that the episodes will be available on computers and ipads.
Season one opens circa 1999, Baltimore. Hae Min Lee is a high school student who suddenly goes missing one January afternoon after school. Six weeks later, police arrests her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed for allegedly murdering her.
Host Sarah Koenig questions Syed in jail, who has been given life imprisonment for the crime. Having gone through innumerable documents, police interviews and trial clips, Koenig aims at a potentially wrongful conviction of Syed and the flawed investigation. However, though Syed claims to be not guilty, he is unable to remember where he was that day. Although, one of their classmates claims to have information about his whereabouts, he is nowhere to be found.
There are two more seasons in this podcast and each delves deep into a case and examines every detail with utmost scrutiny. The second season tracks down an American soldier held captive by the Taliban and the third examines cases which are tried at a particular courthouse.
For those who enjoy long-form content and detailed crime podcasts, Serial should definitely be on your list.
Listen to Serial here.
Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad (2019-2022)
Do you wish to delve into the true crime world by donning a detective’s hat? If yes, this podcast series is just the one for you. With this, investigative journalist Billy Jensen and former cold case investigator Paul Holes indeed gave rise to one of the best true-crime podcasts in recent times.
They garnered attention after solving the ‘Golden State Killer’ case. The two also helped finish Michelle McNamara’s book I’ll be Gone in the Dark in 2018, which is based on the same case and inspired a Netflix documentary. After appearing in the popular podcast My Favorite Murder produced by podcast house Exactly Right, the two started this true-crime podcast series under the same banner which was discontinued on 1 August 2022. It ran successfully for three seasons and took listeners on a thrilling journey with them.
What sets it apart from other crime podcasts is the in-depth analysis and insight by the hosts and the fact that the podcast actually helped crack a 40-year-old mystery.
Listen to Jensen & Holes: The Murder Squad here.
Park Predators (2020)
If you enjoy taking long strolls in the woods and visiting national parks, this true-crime podcast series can send shivers down your spine the next time you are on a hike.
Its tagline, “Sometimes the most beautiful places hide the darkest secrets,” is eerie enough to set the mood. Released in 2020, the hit podcast already has three seasons which explore some of the most horrifying cases of serial killings, murders and other heinous crimes that have occurred in the state and national parks of the US and Canada. Right from the first to the third season, every episode is a gripping account of true-crime encounters, serial killers and shocking discoveries that have rattled the police.
Hosted by investigative reporter Delia D’Ambra, Park Predators has made a strong fan base due to its unique theme and the type of cold cases from popular natural parks. Who needs ghost stories when you’ve got a podcast like this?
Listen to Park Predators here.
Root of Evil (2019)
This eight-part podcast series takes a deep dive into one of America’s most gruesome murder cases of all time — The Black Dahlia murder case.
Elizbeth Short, also known as Black Dahlia, was killed in 1947, and a person named Dr. George Holden was considered as the culprit after an investigation led by Holden’s son himself. But a deeper dive shows that there’s more to the Holden family history than just the murder. In a tell-all format, Holden’s great-granddaughters Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile reveal what impact it had on the family and the intergenerational trauma that trickled down.
The two sisters turn into hosts and share the true story of what had happened as well as the present scenario. Featuring interviews and authentic audio footage, Root of Evil is also the companion podcast to TNT’s limited series I am The Night which stars Chris Pine and is helmed by Patty Jenkins.
After over seven decades, it remains one of the most spine-chilling cold cases and has influenced a Ryan Murphy show, a 2006 movie starring Scarlett Johansson, named The Black Dahlia and a video game.
Listen to Root of Evil here.
Missing and Murdered (2016-)
This podcast series is hosted by journalist Connie Walker who has over a decade’s experience in tracking and solving cases of missing and murdered indigenous women in the US.
The first season of the Missing and Murdered podcast franchise from CBC and Gimlet, was released in 2016 and focused on the unsolved murder case of an indigenous woman in 1989, British Columbia.
The second season, Finding Cleo, revolves around the missing case of a young Cree girl named Cleo. She was taken up by the child welfare workers in the 1970s and adopted in the US. However, her family believes that she was raped and murdered while she was hiking back to her home in Saskatchewan.
As an indigenous woman herself, Walker walks the extra mile to reach the bottom of every such unsolved case. For the latest upcoming season, which was shifted to Gimlet in 2021, the podcast takes one through the 2018 missing case of a young mother.
Listen to Murder and Missing here.
Dr. Death (2018-)
If you enjoy this thrilling genre, podcast production house Wondery, who is also behind Dirty John, has one of the best to offer. This true-crime podcast series raises the question — when those who are there to save lives end up being the killer, who is to be blamed?
The first season is about the macabre deeds of Dallas surgeon Dr. Christopher Duntsch. Over his long horrifying career, Duntsch carried out a series of catastrophic surgeries which left over 30 patients paralysed and maimed, while some of them were even killed. What is more gruesome is the failure of the American medical and justice system which let an unstable sociopath like him continue for so long before finally imprisoning him in 2017.
The second season gives an in-depth look into the scam involving a haematologist-oncologist from Detroit, Dr. Frida Fata, who meted out unnecessary cancer treatments on people who didn’t require it, only to make money.
The third season is about Italian surgeon Dr. Paolo Macchiarini and his deplorable experimental surgeries, which is just one part of his chain of lies.
With gory descriptions and depiction of bloody scenes, this podcast, hosted by Laura Beil, is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Listen to Dr. Death here.
The Shrink Next Door (2019)
Another true-crime podcast from Wondery, The Shrink Next Door is created by Bloomberg and tells the tale of confiding in the wrong person and power control that went wrong.
Bloomberg’s veteran journalist Joe Nocera’s neighbour in the Hamptons was a well-known psychotherapist named Isaac ‘Ike’ Herschkopf. He often had elite clients and even hosted lavish cocktail parties at his vacation house. The podcast primarily revolves around the relationship between Ike and one of his clients named Marty Markowitz.
Nocera, then with The New York Times, came across the story in 2010 but it took him nearly nine years to actually launch it in audio form. Over the first eight episodes, the journalist carefully lays out several allegations that Markowitz has against Herschkopf.
According to Markowitz, Herschkopf crossed the limits of being just a therapist and went on to assert himself in every sphere of his patient’s life. Such was the extent that he indulged in gaslighting and made Markowitz tear ties with his friends and family as well as give up the master bedroom in his country home.
One of the best crime podcasts, this production has also influenced an Apple TV production of the same name in 2021.
Listen to The Shrink Next Door here.
The Teacher’s Pet (2018)
Sometimes behind the facade of a seemingly happy marriage lies a sordid history of dark secrets of the family. Australian journalist Hedley Thomas attempts to unravel the cold case of the 1982 disappearance of Lynette Dawson from her family home, situated around Sydney’s Long Beaches.
A devoted wife and sincere mother, she is married to star Rugby player and high school teacher Chris Dawson. While most ardent true-crime podcast followers would think that the crime is the husband’s doing, you might want to hold that thought.
Over the course of the 14-part series, Thomas takes a plunge into the case that remained unsolved for 36 years. Featuring interviews of Lynette’s family and new evidence being unearthed, update episodes were added after the podcast rolled out in 2018.
Listen to The Teacher’s Pet here.
The Clearing (2019)
A heart-wrenching podcast based on a true crime, The Clearing is a disturbing story of a family that makes you wonder about the things you see around and doubt your instincts.
Hosted by Josh Dean, the podcast takes listeners on a journey to April Balascio’s childhood as she recounts what it means to have a serial killer father. It all happened when a 40-year-old Balascio’s nightmares turned real as she found that her father Edward Wayne Edwards was a murderer. It was in 2009 when she called a detective and shared her suspicions, which finally led to her dad’s arrest and eventual imprisonment for multiple murders.
The young woman’s emotional journey over the years makes one sympathise with her. It also gives glimpses of the deteriorating mental health of the accused who himself shared details of his crimes as well.
Listen to The Clearing here.
(Main image: Markus Winkler/ Unsplash; Featured image: Jaanus Jagomagi/ Unsplash)