Ever since Serial premiered in 2014, the popularity of true crime podcasts has skyrocketed. The first season, which focused on the murder of Hae Minn Lee and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, sparked countless knock-offs, has been parodied on SNL and Portlandia, and has even led to major developments in the real-life murder case.
While the show has veered away from the format that originally made it popular—season 3 focuses on multiple stories within the Cleveland criminal justice system rather than one mystery—there are a variety of available podcasts in the same vein as the first season.
With the endless amount of true crime podcasts to choose from, it can be hard to decide which compelling mystery to dedicate your time to. In honor of International Podcast Day on September 30th, Dread Central is breaking down some of the best serialized podcasts you need to listen to right now.
Listen closely—you might just be able to help solve a murder.
On December 28, 1978, Elizabeth Andes, a 23-year-old Ohio State student, was found slain in her apartment. Her boyfriend, Bob Young, found her body and fled to a neighbor’s to call for help. Fifteen hours later he confessed to her murder.
Season one of the Accused podcast, presented by the Cincinnati Enquirer, provides listeners with a closer look at the case and questions whether or not the wrong person was investigated, and if someone else was responsible for the crime. A jury didn’t believe Young murdered Andes and they acquitted him. Five years later, he had court documents sealed, and police never investigated the case further, despite having other possible suspects.
However, Young waived the seal, granting host Amber Hunt complete access to court documents that could break the case open.
The 9-part series takes listeners back to the scene of the crime, features interviews with Young and friends of Andes, and carries out the investigation that police failed to finish.
From the creators of the Up and Vanished podcast—which is credited by detectives for helping them make an arrest in the 2005 murder of Tara Grinstead—comes Atlanta Monster, an examination of the brutal murders of 28 black children across Atlanta between 1979-1981.
The murders were connected to a then 23-year-old man named Wayne Williams after he was arrested and convicted for the murders of two adult men. However, some believe Williams never committed the child murders, including members of some of the victims’ families.
Over the course of 10 episodes, host Payne Lindsey—who has stated his belief that Williams did kill some of the boys— recounts each case, speaking with detectives, local residents, friends and family of victims. He even interviews convicted killer, Williams, who comes off as a rambling lunatic just trying to jump-start his cellmate’s rap career.
Filled with interesting real-life characters—like the straight-talking Detective Popcorn— and compelling soundbites from newscasts from the time, Atlanta Monster will make you question how the city of Atlanta handled the disappearances and murders of poor minorities, and ask yourself why you likely never heard of the horrendous murders that were headline news over 40 years ago.
Fun fact: The second season of Netflix’s Mindhunter will cover the murders. Profiler John E. Douglas (the inspiration for Mindhunter) was consulted for the case while the killer was still at large.
A Killing on the Cape
An investigative podcast presented by 20/20 and ABC Radio, A Killing on the Cape re-examines the brutal 2002 murder of Christa Worthington in a quaint Cape Cod town.
The first homicide victim in the town in 30 years, Worthington was found stabbed to death inside of her home, with her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter sitting by her side. It took three years for investigators to convict a local garbage man, 45-year-old Christopher McCowen, for the crime.
The 6-part series examines whether racial prejudice was at play when McCowen, a poor black man, was arrested for the murder. McCowen told authorities he had a consensual sexual relationship with the victim; however, prosecutors argued that an affluent, glamorous white woman would not choose to have a romantic relationship with a poor, black garbage man.
McCowen’s defense team believed the suspect’s race made it impossible for the jury to believe his relationship with the victim was consensual. During closing arguments of the case, the defense stated, “It’s based on an assumption —a false assumption—that a Vassar-educated, 46-year-old world-traveling wealthy heiress could not possibly have had consensual sex with a black, uneducated, troubled, garbage man.”
Along with racial and socioeconomic issues, the podcast delves deep into the drama that surrounded Worthington’s love life —including an affair with a married man that resulted in the birth of her daughter.
In the Dark
Presented by American Public Media, the Peabody Award-winning 10-episode first season of Into the Dark investigates the notorious kidnapping of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, and how police royally mishandled the case.
Wetterling was taken by an armed masked man while riding home from the video store with his younger brother and a friend on October 22, 1989. The case would go unsolved for 27 years before police arrested Danny James Heinrich after he confessed to killing the boy the same night he abducted him.
Rather than focus on uncovering the kidnapper’s identity, Into the Dark explores the police investigation and why it took so long to solve the case. Over the course of the series, listeners will learn that investigators failed to follow up on leads and thoroughly search Jacob Wetterling’s neighborhood, and neglected to further investigate Heinrich, despite multiple pieces of information that indicated his involvement in the crime.
Host Madeleine Baran expressed frustrations over the lack of attention placed on police investigation, telling The Guardian, “A lot of attention is paid to the criminal, but we should also pay attention to law enforcement … It’s the job of law enforcement to solve that case. I hope that this podcast generates interest to people across the country to start asking some tough questions about, ‘What are the big cases in my area that are not solved and what did law enforcement do in those cases?’”
Stearns County Sheriff Don Gudmundson finally responded to the botched investigation during a 90-minute press conference on September 20, 2018, detailing how the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office failed, and admitted that the investigation “went of the rails.”
Imagine a scenario where you’re in desperate need of back surgery and your childhood friend is an award-winning neurosurgeon. Because he’s your friend, you trust that you are in good hands. But then you go under the knife and he completely butchers your spine, nearly decapitating you and making you a quadriplegic. And he did it on purpose.
It sounds too crazy to be true, but that’s exactly what happened to Jeremy Summers after he was operated on by Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a.k.a Dr. Death. Other victims had metal screws inserted into their spinal cavity, had their esophagus severed, a sponge knowingly left inside their throat, and so much more.
Duntsch intentionally maimed 33 patients—and killed two— in the Dallas area over the course 18 months—and the healthcare system did absolutely nothing to stop him. In fact, the hospitals he worked for covered up his crimes to avoid legal trouble. Nothing would change until another neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert Henderson, uncovered the truth behind Duntsch’s surgeries and made it his mission to end Duntsch’s crime spree.
This is the harrowing true story behind Dr. Death, the 6-part series from Wondery—the same team behind Dr. John. Host Laura Beil takes listeners behind several of Duntsch’s surgeries, explaining each one in excruciating detail. Warning: the accounts of the victims is so disturbing, you might not be able to set foot inside a hospital again.