True crime is a genre that seems to be ever-expanding. With a growing true crime audience comes an increasing selection of true crime media to enjoy. While there are countless riveting true crime podcasts to choose from, this list narrows it down to my seven best recommendations. Each podcast recommended here is available on iTunes.
There is simply no world in which I could create a list of podcasts to recommend without listing Serial as number one. Serial is the first podcast I ever got into and let me tell you; I really got into it. I binged the entire first season in a matter of 72 hours. Serial won a Peabody award in 2015 and is widely regarded as an audio-game changer & cultural phenomenon. Sarah Koenig is a brilliant host with an undeniable gift for utterly captivating storytelling.
Season one of Serial investigates:
- The murder of high school student Hae Min Lee
- The arrest of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed who maintains his innocence to this day
- Whether or not the evidence leading to his conviction was sufficient.
Season two details the harrowing story of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier held captive by the Taliban for five years and charged with desertion.
Lastly, season three differs in format and is intended to analyze the ordinary, everyday operations within the American criminal justice system. Each episode of season three features different cases within the greater Cleveland area.
2. Up and Vanished
Up and Vanished is undoubtedly on par with Serial as far as podcasts I’m passionate about. I became obsessed with Up and Vanished immediately upon hearing the first episode and recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest in true crime.
Season one of Up and Vanished delves into of the tragic disappearance of high school history teacher and former beauty queen, Tara Grinstead. The podcast has been credited with sparking renewed public interest and investigation into the Grinstead case after it had gone cold for over a decade. Season two explores the tragic disappearance of mother of one and beloved friend, Kristal Reisinger.
Each season of Up and Vanished is beyond compelling and includes fascinating eyewitness testimony, as well as moving interviews from individuals close to Tara and Kristal. It’s difficult to believe that Up and Vanished is the first podcast that filmmaker Payne Lindsay has created. Thanks to the masterful storytelling and overall production quality, this podcast surpasses all expectations. Once you start listening to Up and Vanished, you’re never going to want to stop.
If you enjoyed Philip Holloway’s contributions to Up and Vanished (and who didn’t?), you’re most definitely going to enjoy Sworn. Holloway’s unique perspective as a defense attorney and former prosecutor with a background in law enforcement to boot is arguably the most intriguing aspect of this podcast. Holloway is undeniably talented when it comes to asking the tough questions in interviews and explaining legal facets of cases in terms that listeners can easily follow.
Sworn covers some incredibly paramount cases such as the death of Cooper Harris, also known as the “hot car death,” the Las Vegas Massacre, the disappearance of Tiffany Whitton, and beyond. The only downside of the Sworn podcast, in my opinion at least, is the fact that new episodes are no longer being made available on iTunes. Listeners can currently access 16 episodes from the archives on iTunes which are updated and added to from time to time.
Of these 16, I suggest starting with ‘The Lake Oconee Murders: Part 1’. This episode is the series premiere and covers the perplexing unsolved murders of Russell and Shirley Dermond.
Culpable tells the story of a young man named Christian Andreacchio who was found dead in his apartment at the age of 21.
I’ve never felt an emotional connection to a podcast as instantly as I did with Culpable. Within the first ten minutes of the very first episode, listening to the Andreacchio family members (especially Christian’s mother), I found myself with tears in my eyes. Christian’s death was ruled a suicide after a shockingly brief, 45-minute investigation by local law enforcement and despite a plethora of evidence that points to premeditated homicide. The Andreacchio family never believed or even considered that Christian ended his own life, however. Despite their best efforts to communicate cooperatively with law enforcement as well as the media, the Andreacchio family has never felt that they were given due diligence.
For the past several years, the family has fought to keep the memory of Christian alive in the media with the ultimate goal of receiving a more thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. Culpable explores this enthralling story of a suspicious death and a loving family’s fight for justice.
5. Atlanta Monster
Atlanta Monster takes a look at what was arguably the most frightening period in Atlanta history. It has even been referred to as the city’s darkest secret. Another gripping podcast hosted by Payne Lindsey, Atlanta Monster aims to reexamine the Atlanta child murders of 1979-1981 with brand new eyes. This was a time when Atlanta was booming, known as the hub of the New South. Then, in the summer of 1979, children started to go missing. Some were never seen again. Others were found later having been murdered; their bodies disposed of in remote areas. Parents and Atlanta citizens were terrified, and it seemed city officials were desperate to make it all go away. Atlanta was a growing metropolis, and there’s no denying that kidnapping & murder are bad for business.
The pressure was on.
As the list of missing and murdered grew to upwards of 25, Wayne Williams was arrested and convicted of murdering two adults. Although Williams was only found guilty of two adult murders, law enforcement closed the majority of the child-killing cases, claiming Williams was responsible. Williams argues his innocence to this day and listeners will witness this firsthand in Atlanta Monster.
6. Root of Evil
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a true crime enthusiast, you've likely heard of The Black Dahlia murder. The brutal killing and dismemberment of Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia, is widely considered to be the most infamous unsolved murder in American history. While the circumstances surrounding this heinous crime have been heavily publicized in nearly every medium, Root of Evil brings an entirely new perspective to the table.
What makes this podcast so unique and captivating is the personal nature of its investigation.
In Root of Evil, Yvette Gentile and Rasha Pecoraro (great-granddaughters of George Hodel himself) embark on a mission to explore the entirety of their family’s history, no matter how dark.
While many believe that their grandfather, Dr. George Hodel, was responsible for The Black Dahlia murder, that is only the beginning of a long list of shocking secrets spanning the history of the Hodel family.
This story has been in the making for over 70 years, and listeners can be assured, Yvette and Rasha leave no stone unturned.
7. To Live and Die in LA
To Live and Die in LA was met with quite the enthusiasm from listeners upon its release and quickly climbed the podcast charts, boasting over 15 million downloads for the premiere season. Hosted by ten-time New York Times best-selling author Neil Strauss, To Live and Die in LA investigates the disappearance and death of Adea Shabani.
A Macedonia native, Adea moved to Los Angeles with the dream of becoming a Hollywood star. At the time of her disappearance, she was only 25 years old and working as an aspiring actress & model. Last seen in February 2018, Adea vanished from her apartment complex very near the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Host Neil Strauss became involved in the investigation into Adea’s disappearance at the request of Jayden Brant, a private investigator hired by Shabani’s family.
The podcast unfolds in real-time as Strauss and Brant put together the pieces of what really happened to Adea. Listen to understand their take on how her suspect boyfriend, now deceased Chris Spotz, was involved.
If you have an interest in true crime, I think you will appreciate each of these podcasts for their own reasons. Every podcast recommended is as captivating as it is unique. I hope you found something here to enjoy.