10 of the Most Underrated True-Crime Podcasts You Need to Listen to
Editor's note: This article discusses sensitive topics such as murder, suicide, and eating disorders. It may not be suitable for all readers.
As someone who's interested in true crime, I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts. But as any true-crime fan knows, not all podcasts are created equal in terms of quality. I prioritize series with responsible storytelling (i.e., reporting the facts rather than sensationalizing the story and relying on gory details), ability to engage listeners, and sensitivity to serious topics. With these criteria in mind, here are 10 underrated podcasts to listen to after you've breezed through the big ones like Serial, Crime Junkie, or My Favorite Murder.
The Strange Death of Innes Ewart
In 2001, a man died after plummeting from a mall parking lot near London. The host of the podcast, Mick Morton, tries to make sense of Ewart's death, and questions the police's hurried reaction to label the death a suicide. Morton interviews Ewart's family, bringing a human perspective to a case that isn't as cut and dried as it appears on the surface. The case is frustrating and heartbreaking as Ewart's parents tell their side of the story about how the police handled the investigation into their son's death. This podcast may be triggering to some listeners as it discusses suicide.
The Shrink Next Door
The Shrink Next Door from Wondery is a bit different from stereotypical true-crime podcasts. For one, the victims are still alive. Host Joe Nocera was a former neighbor of the podcast's subject, a psychologist named Ike. Ike is charming and seems to have famous friends. But one of Ike's closest friends is an old man who Nocera assumes is the maintenance guy for Ike's property. Ike throws parties at his house in the Hamptons, inviting former clients and celebrities.
As Nocera digs deeper, he realizes that there is more to the story than Ike lets on. The Shrink Next Door begs the question of where the line between therapist-client relationship, friendship, and parasitic relationship can be drawn. At its heart, it's a story about master manipulation and the victim coming to terms with the reality of a toxic relationship. I recommend this podcast to anyone interested in the psychology and ethics of manipulation.
The Thing About Pam
Strap in for a wild ride, because this podcast has its fair share of twists and turns. The story chronicles the murder of Betsy Faria, a middle-aged woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Betsy Faria's friend, Pam Hupp, was one of the last people to see Betsy alive and is the first to point fingers at Betsy's husband, Russell. Hupp claimed that Russell abused her friend, but as the podcast digs deeper, we find that Pam Hupp herself has dark secrets. What makes The Thing About Pam unique is that it starts to catch up to its host, Keith Morrison, as one of the suspects gets too close for comfort.
Missing Maura Murray
This podcast covers one of the most infamous and baffling missing-person cases to date. Hosts Tim Pilleri and Lance Reenstierna dedicate years to figuring out what happened to UMass Amherst student Maura Murray after she went missing on Feb. 9, 2004. Maura Murray seemingly vanished from the scene of a one-car accident. While a few posters back in her dorm were packed up, most of her belongings were left in place. Pilleri and Reenstierna follow every lead and use every tool available, interviewing psychologists, criminologists, family friends, armchair detectives, and even psychics. This podcast discusses eating disorders and suicide, so listen with caution.
Christian Andreacchio, 21, was found dead in February 2014. Dennis Cooper, Culpable's host, tells the story with sensitivity and respect for the Andreacchio family. While the police quickly rule Andreacchio's death a suicide, his parents argue that he had a lot to live for. The only problem in his life seemed to be that he was having relationship issues with his on-again off-again girlfriend. This leads his parents to wonder if she could have killed him. Cooper explores all of these possibilities, trying to interview everyone involved. The story is heartbreaking, mysterious, and deeply human as it details a young man's life and death. Like The Strange Death of Innes Ewart, listeners should be cautious, because this podcast contains discussions of suicide.
Unlike all of the aforementioned podcasts, Mile Higher doesn't just follow one case. Hosted by YouTuber Kendall Rae and her husband Josh, it delves into different topics each week. Kendall and Josh have covered UFO sightings, conspiracy theories, medical mysteries, and true-crime cases. I love how open minded they are to topics like the paranormal, while still managing to stick to the facts. My favorite episodes are the ones where Kendall and Josh discuss unexplained phenomena.
Smoke Screen: Fake Priest
Ever since I watched the Netflix docuseries The Keepers about a nun who was murdered in Baltimore, I've been fascinated with corrupt clergy. Smoke Screen: Fake Priest, like the title suggests, is a podcast about a man who pretends to be a Catholic priest. Father Ryan uses the life savings of nuns who've made a vow of poverty to buy artifacts and a pack of llamas(!) for his monastery. He seems to always be on the run from cops, but the members of his monastery believe that Father Ryan is the victim of an attack on religious freedom. Host Alex Schuman tracks down nuns who were a part of Father Ryan's monastery, as well as Ryan's own son, to piece together the truth of this story. At times, I felt as if I was listening to a fictional podcast because of how unbelievable it seemed, but it is, in fact, a true story.
Framed: An Investigative Story
Another podcast produced by Wondery, Framed chronicles the disappearance and suspected murder of Brian Carrick, a 17-year-old grocery store worker from Johnsburg, IL. One day Carrick stopped at the grocery store and never came out. The only evidence left behind was a small pool of blood mixed with water in the grocery-store cooler. Since Carrick vanished in late 2002, his coworkers have implicated one another in his death, thwarting suspicions off of themselves by pointing to their former coworkers. Framed attempts to uncover the truth beneath the gossip and deception that have permeated this case.
Guru: The Dark Side of Enlightenment
Guru explores the underbelly of the self-help industry, focusing on one man in particular: James Arthur Ray. Ray was a figure larger than life, who Oprah even endorsed, before three people died while on his retreat. The mother of one of the victims comes on the podcast to describe how her late daughter, Kirby Brown, was lured in by Ray's promise to help her find purpose in life. Ginny Brown, Kirby's mother, tells how Ray started off slowly to gain followers' trust and eventually got them to perform dangerous tasks. The podcast leaves the listener with a question: what qualifies someone as a self-help guru? And are these gurus responsible for what happens to their followers?
I'd never heard of the Jeffrey MacDonald case before I listened to Morally Indefensible. Although this podcast does discuss the MacDonald family murders, it focuses more on Jeffrey MacDonald's relationship with journalist Joe McGinniss. McGinniss and Macdonald wrote each other letters and called one another while MacDonald was in prison. McGinniss posed as MacDonald's friend and confidante, telling MacDonald that he would write a book telling the truth about the murders. After McGinniss's book was released, it became clear that the writer took advantage of MacDonald's trust to write a scathing expose. This leads the audience to ask: is it ethical for journalists to befriend their subjects to advance their own careers?