By Katherine Coble || News Editor
It’s almost Spooky Season, which means you may be pulling out the Halloween decor and scanning horror movies on Netflix. But if all those typical festivities have been accomplished and you still want to get into the spooky spirit, try checking out these three true crime podcasts. Some of them may have flown under your radar before – but you’re sure to find at least one podcast on this list that will send chills down your spine.
Criminal comes from the studios of WUNC North Carolina Public Radio in Durham, North Carolina. It’s one of the oldest true crime podcasts in the game, as well as one of the best produced. Host Phoebe Judge always provides soothing narration and sound engineering by NPR’s Rob Byers completes the vibe. Criminal describes its content as “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” It’s not a cut-and-dry murder show – instead, it explores the fringes of morality and the kookiness which can emerge. Prior subjects have included stowaways, hijackers, thieves, sex workers, and criminal investigators.
Every episode of Criminal is a standalone story, so feel free to jump around and listen to what interests you most. Good places to start? “Money Tree” (about identity theft with a twist), and “Vanish” (about how to fake your own death), are sure to please. But my personal favorite is Criminal’s first-ever episode, “Animal Insticts” which dares to ask the question – was a man put away for the murder of his wife by an owl?
2. True Crime Bullsh**
True Crime Bullsh** is, perhaps, one of the most underrated podcasts of all time. Hosted and researched by Josh Hallmark, this “serialized story of Israel Keyes” will leave you constantly checking behind your back. Israel Keyes is one of THE scariest true-crime figures out there: a serial killer responsible for an unknown number of murders, whose M.O. was truly to make people disappear. He died by suicide in 2012 while awaiting trial, but Josh Hallmark is on a noble mission to discover the true extent of his crimes.
True Crime Bullsh** stands out because of Hallmark’s impeccable and detailed research and record-hunting. He lines up Keyes’ travel records, cell phone pings, diaries, and FBI interviews to piece together what he can – and investigate what he can’t. If you want to sit with uncomfortable details and end up down a million rabbit holes, True Crime Bullsh** is the podcast for you. Just be warned: you’ll never look at true crime the same.
3. Bear Brook
Bear Brook, the brainchild of New Hampshire Public Radio, tackles one of the creepiest true crime cases of all time. It begins in the isolated woods of New Hampshire and four bodies – three children and one adult woman – found inside barrels at Bear Brook State Park. The creepy part? They went unidentified for decades. In fact, when the podcast opens, they are still unidentified. Bear Brook masterfully uses eyewitness testimony, scientific expertise, and existing police work to investigate what happened to these four Jane Does.
In most true crime podcasts, particularly those centered upon unsolved crimes or unidentified victims, closure is impossible. Bear Brook is special because it is different. Police have a strong suspect for the murders and in 2019 three of the victims were identified. Bear Brook is thus an interesting case of narrative media that collides with its real-world subject at exactly the right time. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Katherine Coble is the News Editor. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.