The Internet can be a beautiful thing. For instance, did you have any idea that actual cold case crimes have been solved by “arm-chair detectives” who haunt missing persons message boards and Reddit.com for the stress relief others acquire by scrolling through Facebook? It’s true. I’d like to count myself among these internet sleuths, but the truth is I’m nothing more than a fan.
My true crime obsession began watching programs like Dateline, 20/20, and Killer Women… Basically, anything on TLC. At some point, the monotone reporter voice and cliché “if it bleeds it leads” plot lines get old, and you find yourself lusting for fresher casefile material. Now before you start thinking I’m some kind of fashionista murder freak, let me set the record straight. It’s not the gore that does it for me, in fact, I find I prefer disappearance cases in which it’s unclear whether the victim left voluntary or met a different end. In true optimist/conspiracy theorist fashion, I almost always theorize on the “severed ties and started a new life” side of things.
Anyway, I attribute my obsession to a need to unsnarl tangled ends, to find the truth, and to in some small way, have a hand in seeing justice served. For all of these reasons, plus one Instagram comment referencing a specific podcast which happened to coincide with the time I began working from home; my true podcast obsession began. Kinda like when all the elements of a case finally come together to…. Okay I’m totally geeking out.
I couldn’t possibly list all of the podcasts I listen to regularly, but here I’ll highlight my favorites-especially featuring female podcasters, whose numbers are happily growing. The wonderful thing with podcasts is that, like Netflix, you hold all the power as far as what you listen to and when. Your app will notify you when new episodes are posted, but I quite enjoy starting way back at the beginning of a podcast and listening all the way through to current, although this does induce a wee bit of separation anxiety from memorable hosts, in my experience. Soooo, without further ado…
1. Missing Maura Murray
This is the one that started it all for me. Browsing around true crime accounts on IG, Maura’s case and this podcast were thrust into my mind and haven’t left since. Maura was an intelligent young nursing student at U Mass and former high school track star, who disappeared leaving behind her car in the middle of a rural highway on a cold New Hampshire evening. The case twists even further when we learn she had told her professors there had been a family death (there hadn’t) and packed what seemed like an overnight bag after calling ski resorts in Vermont. Maura disappeared along whatever journey she was making in Haverhill, NH and hasn’t been officially spotted since that night, 12 years ago. There are so many more “rabbit holes” to go down in this case and the Internet has gone into overdrive arguing over theories and wondering if Maura met with foul play or is living in Canada under an assumed name.
Hosts Lance Reenstierna and Tim Pilleri do a stellar job of balancing speculation with the facts and are in production currently for their documentary on the case and the obsession. Find out more at http://MauraMurrayDoc.com .
2. The Vanished Podcast
When my brain had finished running circles around the MM case, I developed more of an interest into less popular unsolved missing persons cases. There are so many families out there searching for someone they love but often, thanks to the media and “Missing White Girl Syndrome”, we often only hear about a select number of cases. In this thoughtful podcast produced and hosted by Marissa Jones, take a look at a few lesser known and perplexing cases. I appreciate Marissa’s honesty and integrity to the facts as well as her unique perspective as a mother. Her first episode highlighting the curious disappearance of Brandon Lawson hooked me from the first few minutes and brings to light some important questions about how police and we as a society deal with missing persons who happen to have been drug users. The Facebook group which accompanies this podcast is also very active and has been a wonderful place to find other podcasts of interest, true crime and otherwise. Connect with other listeners here. Anyone can join, the group is just private so all your Facebook friends aren’t confused by your disappearance discussions.
If you’re an NPR listener, this is a wonderful pod to start with. Phoebe Judge’s soothing voice and well -woven story make this one incredibly easy to listen to. Each episode is entirely different than every other installment and each story is complete in its uniqueness. Memorable episodes that come to mind include one in which a former bank robber walks us through his crimes, humanizing the entire experience. That’s my favorite part about this fascination- those moments when you can see directly into someone, a criminal even, and understand why they did what they did, even if you would never have made the same choice. In another recent memorable episode, Judge interviews Melissa Anelli, founder of The Leaky Cauldron, a Harry Potter fan site I grew up visiting on my AOL Teens account. Anelli had been targeted for her Potter success and violently cyber stalked and threatened by a very deranged young woman on the other side of the world. No matter the subject, Judge and crew always deliver a moving human experience. http://ThisisCriminal.com
4. Sword & Scale
Another one of the early favorites for me, this narrative style podcast is always bolstered with large chunks of actual 911 calls or self-recorded audio by the suspect. Mike Boudet & his team deliver high quality work and make awesome music choices, I might add. With a wide range of cases and careful measured insight into each one, it’s no wonder they’ve been quite successful. Becoming a Patreon contributor for a few bucks a month provides you early access to regular episodes and special extra features. I binged on this for weeks and have been contemplating relistening because it’s just that good! http://SwordandScale.com
5. Already Gone
Hosted by Nina Innsted, Already Gone focuses on the unsolved, murdered, and missing in and around Michigan. Nina is a lifelong Detroiter and an excellent podcast host. She selects cases which are truly neglected and her sincerity shines through. These episodes are generally a bit shorter, often a perfect length for a short drive or project, like cleaning the kitchen. One AG episode which has stuck with me is Episode 5: Vincent Chin, who was savagely beaten by men who targeted him because of his race; actually blaming him personally for the decline of Detroit’s auto industry. Innsted doesn’t appear to be as into social media as most other podcasters I follow, but you can find her at her Twitter handle: @AlreadyGonePod .
6. The Generation Why
Oh boy, what can I even say about these guys?! I feel like Aaron & Justin are the cool older brothers I never had. Admittedly, it took me a while to get into the casual rhythm of the show and the way they bounce ideas off of one another but I was hooked pretty quickly. These guys are passionate and thorough and often provide a wonderful balance of perspectives. They are also prolific- at the time I’m posting, there are 196 episodes available. Jane Doe January was a particularly well done episode and their Jonbenét Ramsey account definitely changed my personal opinion on the case. I also have to give these guys cred for recommending The Vanished and Already Gone, noting the importance of a female perspective in the community. Check them out and give them a follow on Instagram, Facebook or listen on their site thegenerationwhypodcast.com.
Give any of these wonderful journalists a listen next time you need to give your brain a little exercise or escape. Who knows? Maybe you’re the person who knows something that could crack the case. I’ll leave you with the wonderfully scary, and true, tag line for Sword and Scale : “Remember, the worst monsters are real.”