These are A&E’s top 10 crime-related podcasts:
This seven-episode podcast from producers of Serial and This American Life is about murder, cover-ups, a surprising death, and a clandestine treasure hunt in a small Southern town. Its killer secret weapon is the twangy and somewhat unhinged voice of John B. McLemore, the eccentric genius, horologist, maze-maker, tattooed-man-who-hates-ink, and “unbanked” local who invited host Brian Reed down to investigate his conspiracy theories. The story behind the title: Sh**-Town is the nickname McLemore gave his despised hometown of Woodstock, Alabama.
Thanks to this series, we have developed a fear that a Great Horned owl will swoop down and cause our death (listen to Episode One if you too, would like to acquire that particular phobia). Host and co-creator Phoebe Judge touches on quirky and wide-ranging topics such as the life and work of a K-9 cop whose dog retires or how and why people fake their deaths. A recent episode documented the 420 mile markers in Colorado, which were stolen so often the highway department replaced them with signs reading 419.99.
You Must Remember This
Host Karina Longworth seems to positively relish every word of the sometimes (often) sordid tales of Old Hollywood she dishes up in this riveting show. Her fascinating ongoing “Dead Blondes” series (think: Marilyn, Jayne, Veronica Lake, Jean Harlow…) is full of death and misadventure, if not necessarily crime. Bonus points for a website chock-full of great photos of her famous subjects and interesting dives into source material.
This original 12-part series delves into the terrifying series of murders that electrified Boston in the early 1960s. Chillingly, the killer’s usual signature was strangling his victims (13 of them) in their own homes with an item of their clothing and leaving it tied in a bow. No one and nowhere seemed safe. Melodious-voiced host Portland Helmich parses the various theories and suspects with the assistance of grizzled-sounding investigators and family members of victims. Were all the murders really committed by handyman Albert DeSalvo, who confessed to the crimes but was never tried?
In the Dark
Over the first season’s eight episodes, reporter Madeleine Baran examines law enforcement’s various misfires and missteps in investigating the Jacob Wetterling case. The boy’s 1989 abduction haunted the state of Minnesota. While Baran was working on the series, there was a surprising revelation in the case, which was then closed. The American Public Media team is at work on a second season, subject not yet announced.
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This has quickly become the gold standard of crime podcasts. The first season examines the case of murdered Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee. Lee’s ex-boyfriend and classmate Adnan Syed was convicted of her murder. Host Sarah Koenig tirelessly tugs on every investigative thread in the case — tracking down witnesses who were not called by Syed’s lawyer (one of them gave him an alibi). Season Two follows Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked off his base in Afghanistan and was held for years by the Taliban. On his return (he was exchanged for Gitmo prisoners), he was accused of desertion. A third season is expected in mid-2017.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories
Co-hosts Wenndy Mackenzie and Carter Roy have an easygoing chemistry over dozens of episodes as, with the help of an ensemble cast, they explore the plot twists and turns of cold cases and murders recent and way past. High points include an examination of the Zodiac Killer, the murder of Mary Rogers in 1841, and the story of famously axe-wielding parent-killer Lizzie Borden.
Crime Writers On…
It started out with a group of, yes, crime writers getting together to discuss Serial. Since then, it has developed into a group meditation on writing, true crime, and pop culture. Four hosts (two of them married to each other) have an easy back-and-forth.
My Favorite Murder
The tag-line “Stay sexy. Don’t get murdered,” sets the tone for this podcast hosted by comedian/writer Karen Kilgariff and food TV host Georgia Hardstarck. If you think dark humor, drinking games, and a cat named Elvis don’t go with the sinister side of life (and death), then this is not for you. Bonus points for their chats recommending must-watch true crime TV and films.
Up and Vanished
A novelistic investigative look into the disappearance of a Georgia beauty queen and high school teacher. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent credited the media’s involvement with helping to lead to an arrest in the case — after 12 years.
A&E’s True Crime gets closer to the people and the stories behind the crime headlines.
(Image: Aaron Favila/AP Images)