8 Fascinating Podcasts on True Crime and Human Nature

Human beings and the curiousness of the situations they get themselves into has long intrigued many.  I can remember watching Unsolved Mysteries with my childhood babysitter while the other kids were in the playroom.  Short-term, this resulted in some weird dreams for little me but the long-term effects have taken over much more of my time. I just want to crack the case, solve the mystery, figure out why that person is the way they are.

Here’s a fresh selection of podcasts that you’ll hate me for getting you hooked on.  Lately I’ve been straying a bit from my crime buff roots to explore other human experiences.  It’s good to take a break from the morbid cases sometimes and none of these picks disappoint.

1. Once Upon A Crime by Esther Ludlow


This podcast was on the shortlist for my last true crime post, and honestly I don’t think I had realized yet just how well done OUAC was.  Esther Ludlow’s carefully crafted storytelling rolls off the tongue as easily as her elegant vintage-sounding name.  She’s an excellent host and I feel like I’ve just heard the benediction at the end of a good church service as she concludes each episode with her tag line “Be good to one another.”  Ludlow’s current series on the murders of famous musicians completely blew away my preconceived notions about each and every case, which pleasantly surprised me as someone who usually gets all the pop music questions during team trivia.  The Tupac/Biggie and Lennon episodes were particularly haunting, perhaps because they’re the kinds of tales you only hear in snippet summaries and synopses from older cousins or MTV; never so fully rounded an account as Ludlow lays bare.  I appreciate her all-facts, non-speculatory style- she’s proof that sometimes the straight up truth truly is more horrifying than fiction.

2. Twisted Philly


You know that feeling when you meet someone new and quickly discover y’all laugh at the same evil things?  Like a cool new transfer 7th grade student, this quirky podcast quickly captured me.  In true #girlboss fashion, the lovely Nina Innsted from Already Gone featured the Twisted Philly creator and host Deana during one of her True Crime Broadcast episodes.  I just love when creative women support and endorse one another!  Although based on her internet presence I assume Deana is hoping to maintain her anonymity, her irreverence, spunkiness and personal anecdotes make her feel like a cool older cousin you’ve known for years. Her varied episodes tell the often historical, hilariously creepy and mysterious tales of the city she loves.  My favorite episode to date involves a Victorian document which turns out to be a guide to whore houses around the city and their degree of safety and cleanliness. Twisted Philly is impressive, especially considering our host has only been at it a few months.  A big “WHADDUPP” of excitement from this Twister in anticipation of twisted tales to come.

3. Breakdown from The Atlanta Journal Constitution


Breakdown has a refreshingly different take on the true crime podcast setup, one that is quite honest and more true to the nature of what those on both sides of the system actually deal with – in real time.  I have listened backwards, starting with season 2. Each season of the podcast delves into an ongoing case in great detail, attending and recording all public proceedings from jury selection right up until the shocking verdict.  When I began listening to Breakdown, I had enough previous knowledge of the Justin Ross Harris case to have already formed a personal opinion the defense would have taken issue with.  I live in the south, relatively close to Atlanta and had seen reports about the horrifying “hot car death”of Harris’s toddler son, Cooper.  I had also, of course, heard the accompanying scandalous tales of his liaisons with prostitues and sexts during the hours his child was baked to death.  This one made my stomach churn, more than once, but it’s incredibly well done. I recommend Breakdown for mature and experienced listeners.

4. Reply All by Gimlet Media


Just so you know before you read this gush of a review, I am currently on a honeymoon of obsessive puppy love with this podcast at the moment.  Now that we have that out of the way, Reply All is a hilarious, captivating worm-hole filled podcast about that great microscope of human nature : the internet.  A massive shoutout is in order to Marissa of The Vanished Podcast for posting about a recent episode titled “The Boy in the Photo”.  I wish I could describe this or any episode for you but there’s no way I could do a stitch of justice.  Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are my choice for voice of my generation, in case anyone ever wonders.  These two make me laugh out loud while I’m loading the dishwasher and I find myself thinking about the complexities of the human experiences they relay hours after listening.  I’ve learnt more from this podcast than I did in several college courses and if you can’t get into this one, you either hate the internet or you need a sense of humor.  Yes Yes No is always a winning segment in which Alex and PJ explain some random facet of internet (usually a tweet) to their boss.  I’m dreading the day I can’t binge anymore on Reply All because I’ve run out of episodes… so get to listening so we can chat about them!

5. In Sight


Time to get back to my true crime & girl power roots and this podcast is a perfect combo of the two.  Charlie and Ali collaborate via Skype to deeply discuss and analyze the juiciest cases they can find from all over the world.  I’ve been a pretty longtime listener of these guys and actually had to check back to make sure I hadn’t already bragged on them.  Maybe it’s the fact that the show feels like true crime girl talk (which is really the only kind I have any interest in), but In Sight reminds me of a female Gen Why.  The honesty and (as much as folks don’t like it) the speculation make Ali and Charlie seem like your very intelligent girlfriends.  For the record, I love speculating.  And Charlie’s accent.  But seriously, the methodical and open-mindedness of the hosts make any conclusions to which they eventually arrive quite likely.

6. This is Actually Happening from The Permatemp Corporation


The equivalent of the “Feelin’ Lucky” button on Google, this podcast is a chocolate box of human experiences: you never know what you’re gonna get.  Each episode features a deeply personal first person account, every one vastly different from next.  Storytellers lay bare how mental illness, drugs and alcohol, and abuse changed the person they would become.  The first episode I listened to was “What if you were an alcoholic at age 9?”, one that certainly stayed with me.  Understanding the struggles of our brothers and sisters is imperative to compassion which our world desperately needs right now.  These episodes are painful progressions of survivors who came through the most perilous situations and emerged, still breathing, to tell their unique tales.

7. The Apex & The Abyss


This one-woman podcast was one of my early favorites and the creator is another member of a kick-ass group of female true crime podcasters who support and promote each other.  The lovely host (whose distinctive accent I adore) is also the writer, producer and editor of this little gem.  Her well-chosen title immediately drew me in – I’m a sucker for alliteration and who doesn’t enjoy a good use of the ampersand?! Okay, I’ll tuck the grammar nerd away 🤓.  Each episode provides a well-constructed look into a different case, many of which are obscure and new to me (which is hard to do at this point).  While I enjoy many professionally produced and perfectly polished podcasts (told ya I liked alliteration), The Apex & The Abyss feels like a roadside Mom & Pop type diner you feel exceedingly fortunate to have stumbled into.  The episodes are to the point and not over speculated, allowing the listener to come to their own conclusions.  Can’t wait to hear more from this female podcaster and her wonderful friends!

8. The Peripheral by Justin from Generation Why


When I get the notification for a new episode of Generation Why, housework with headphones immediately seems like a pressing matter.  Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t listen fast enough when I heard Justin had a side podcast of his own and he certainly doesn’t disappoint.  The Peripheral covers taboo and “shameful” accounts from all sorts of individuals from many walks of life.  “Nothing is taboo” here and Justin is a genuine host and sympathetic but not overly patronizing listener.  There is something to be gleaned from every single episode but the first one, “Smoking Crack with Nazis” is such a personal rabbit hole I couldn’t help but to continue to binge.  I found the Grief vs. Depression episode to be very enlightening, almost like my own vicarious therapy session.  There is such comfort in listening to another’s tale and remembering you’re not the first to deal with a seemingly insurmountable issue.

These are just a sampling of the many podcasts I enjoy, and there are truly thousands of excellent creators out there, pouring their hearts and souls into these projects.  Let me know what you think of these and which ones are your favorite!


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