Need a distraction? Here are some of the best true crime podcasts to listen to

By Campbell Parish, Assistant Living Arts Editor

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains disturbing language and mentions of homicide

Podcasts have been my go-to outlet to distract me from what’s going on in the world around me. Especially with a pandemic that leaves me with so much free time, true crime podcasts are a great distraction from my own head. 

The topic of true crime, highlighting murder cases and unsolved mysteries, has gone mainstream over the past five years. In the past year of my podcast consumption, I have gathered a plethora of true crime-related knowledge. Here are some of my favorite true crime podcasts to pass the time while the country is on lockdown: 

Crime Junkies

“Crime Junkies” is one of the only true crime podcasts I’ve found that doesn’t include unnecessary tangents. These episodes are straight to the point, using reliable sources for their research and if possible, reaching out to local law enforcement for an official statement. “Crime Junkies’ also brings awareness to non-profits like Crime Stoppers, an organization that builds a network across the United States to prevent and solve crimes. Indiana-based hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat do not have a true crime-specific background, but they apply Flowers’s biomedical research and Prawat’s private investigation skills to each case.

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Their unique backgrounds bring a fascinating point of view to the stories they tell. One of their most recent episodes, Operation Fireball, discusses a story that encourages people to trust their gut, and if you see something you know is wrong, to intervene and to speak up.

They follow up on a previous episode titled: Operation Fireball. Operation Fireball is a story about a 20-year-old woman who goes on a date with a guy she met on a dating website. The woman is new to Colorado and wants to experience new things and meet new people. The woman is waiting for her date to show up at a bar, and he texts her to order two Fireball shots for when he arrives. The date never shows up. The bartender notices this event happening multiple times before and tells the woman and tells her the same man always sits next to the girls who end up getting stood up, and he ends up drinking the Fireball shots with them. He takes them to dinner, ending the night more intoxicated than what makes sense to the bartender. They never see them again in that bar, but the same man does this same order of actions to many women in this bar. The podcast follows this event and shares the possible human trafficking motive behind the strange actions.

In addition to the more recent cases discussed on “Crime Junkies,” Prawat and Flowers discuss cold cases. A recent case discussed by Flowers and Prawat in an episode titled “Mysterious death of: Holly Bartlett”,is a story of a murder from 2013 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The story starts with a description of the disturbing scene of 31-year-old Holly Bartlett and how she was found unconscious under a bridge. 

 “Crime Junkies” is available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other common podcast platforms. Crime Junkies also has a Youtube channel where they post ASL versions of their podcast. Crime Junkies comes out with a new podcast every Monday. 

My Favorite Murder 

“My Favorite Murder” brings light to a grim conversation about death by showing empathy and simultaneously making fun of the bad guys. The podcast recently marked its fifth anniversary and celebrated 35 million monthly downloads. 

Host Karen Kilgariff has a history in the television industry as a screenwriter and comedian, while her co-host Georgia Hardstark has worked on other podcasts and TV shows.  

My Favorite Murder mixes the world of true crime and comedy while reminding listeners to stay safe and practice self defence. They emphasize their message of “fuck politeness” and trusting your intuition. They cover current cases as well as cold cases, bringing awareness to how poorly they feel some are handled, like the Black Dahlia, the Zodiac Killer, and JonBenét Ramsey. These episodes are filled with lots of tangents, so you may want to start 30 minutes in if you would rather skip the random commentary. 

Both hosts tell one story per episode, each telling captivating tales while sharing their own thoughts. Their personalities shine through the stories they tell and the empathy they show. 

Kilgariff and Hardstark openly discuss their mental health struggles to fight the stigma that comes with it. At the beginning of each episode, both hosts share how their past week has been and how they are mentally holding up. They create a relatable, open flow of discussion about mental health.” Overall, this podcast is fantastic at sharing captivating crime stories while pushing a positive message. 

My Favorite Murder’s uploading schedule is more sporadic, but they typically upload one episode a week. 

Scared To Death 

I feel like this one is cheating a little because it’s not entirely a true-crime-based podcast. “Scared To Death” is a folklore-style podcast, the perfect podcast to listen to if you are around a campfire.

The podcast follows a husband and wife team, Dan and Lynze Cummins. The premise of “Scared to Death” is Dan attempting to scare his wife. Each episode is a different creepy story, Dan shares two possessions, hauntings or supernatural stories each episode, and sometimes, it’s true-crime. With Dan’s background as a stand-up comedian, he brings uncensored humor to the creepy stories. 

These are the most random stories that seem so mundane but end up scaring the crap out of you, while also managing to get some laughs in between the terror. Lynze then follows Dan’s tales with fan-submitted stories. The hour long podcast includes a decent amount of tangents but they enhance the whole experience with comedy. “Scared To Death” is a hilarious and blunt podcast that I frequently talk to my friends about. It’s a podcast I count down the days to listen to. 

“Scared To Death” is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and other common platforms where podcasts are located. They also have a Youtube channel where they share videos of the episodes. They release new episodes every Wednesday. 

When we all have to be distant from one another, podcasts are an unconventional way to be together while staying distant. My friends and I will listen to the same podcast while being a hundred miles away from each other and immediately get on the phone to talk about the episode we just listened to. It’s a great way to connect with others while staying COVID safe.

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