Podcasts are comfort food for my ears. When the house is too quiet and my brain is moving too fast, I put on a podcast to learn a little something and calm the anxiety while I cook, clean, or craft. I’ve listened to podcasts for a long time, but it was after the first season of Serial, in 2014, that a torrent of amazing audio content was unleashed. The folks at Serial have made two more seasons (I suggest listening to those, as well — especially the underrated season three, which brilliantly follows an Ohioan criminal justice system), but nothing has quite tickled my can’t-wait-’til-Sunday-when-that-new-episode-comes-out fancy like the first season. However, here are a few true crime podcasts that came close.
Your Own Backyard, by Chris Lambert. This seven-episode podcast tells the story of the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly first-year Kristin Smart. Podcast creator and Orcutt native Chris Lambert is on a mission to remind people that the investigation of Smart’s murder was brutally botched by law enforcement. Lambert tells the story in an easy-to-listen-to, well-thought-out way and provides tons of evidence that will make your jaw drop.
Death in Ice Valley, by the BBC and NRK (Norwegian Public Radio). In November 1970, a woman’s body was found in a remote valley near Bergen, Norway. She was partially burned; objects, including bottles and a watch, were laid around her; and there were no identifying labels on any of her clothing. She became known throughout Norway as “The Isdal Woman.” With haunting background music and great sound design, the podcast creators aim to solve this mystery through modern science as the clues become more and more bizarre.
Criminal, by Phoebe Judge. Each episode follows a different story involving a crime or the justice system. Phoebe Judge tells these stories with such compassion that her podcast both teaches us about the criminal justice system and evokes empathy for the people wrapped up in difficult situations. Sometimes the stories are small; sometimes they are sweeping and riddled with violence; sometimes they are about crimes that occurred 100 years ago; sometimes they are modern. Judge’s soothing voice and addictive storytelling quality will make you want to binge listen to all of them.
Monster: DC Sniper, by iHeartRadio & Tenderfoot TV. Monster is about serial killers. The third season focuses on the two men who terrorized the Washington, D.C., area in 2002 by randomly shooting and killing people who were going about their daily lives. Host Tony Harris does a fantastic job of orienting the listener into the time frame — just after 9/11, in an exceedingly normal suburb of Washington, D.C. He interviews law enforcement, family members, and eyewitnesses, putting together the strange and convoluted story of the two men who, for more than a month, committed murders, eluded law enforcement, and rooted the people of the greater D.C. area into a state of complete panic.
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