Podcasts I love

It was the Fall of 2016 and I was searching online for a new horror-themed audio book.  I had a long commute and needed something to fill the time; music wasn’t enough to keep me entertained.

I had started listening to audio books only a few years earlier on a whim during a road trip to visit a friend, and I enjoyed it so much I almost couldn’t wait for my 7 hour drive home to finish the book! (It was Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes, in case anyone is curious.)

I started using audio books to fill my commute, but if I found a good one I would listen to it all the time and not just while driving. As a result I burned though books quickly and was in a constant search for new ones.

So there I was, perusing a list on a website Google had coughed in response to my vague search for "horror audio books" , when a suggested article at the bottom of the list caught my eye. “The Best Scary Podcasts for Halloween Season”, it was titled, or something like that.  The word “podcast” rang a faint bell of recognition from the app on my phone I never used, so I clicked on the article.

The first podcast listed was Lore, and although I don’t remember the exact words the website used to describe it, I remember the a mentioning of “true scary stories” and “folklore and urban myths.”  I Googled the podcast and saw that Aaron Mahnke, the creator, writer, and narrator of the podcast was already receiving plenty of acclaim and accolades, with websites hailing his podcast as creepy and informative.  That was more than enough to convince me.

I opened the podcast app, something I’m now ashamed to admit I never did before that moment, searched for Lore and downloaded the first few episodes.

I distinctly remember listening to “They Made a Tonic”, Lore’s first episode about true events that may have inspired the legends behind vampires, and thinking to myself that no one on this earth must understand what I like to hear stories about more than this man. 

At the time I found Lore it had around 30 or so episodes and I listened to every single one in a span of two days. I listened to it while getting ready in the morning, while showering, on my way to work, at work, on my way home, while making dinner, while doing dishes, before going to bed, it was non-stop. 

Soon I was anxiously waiting every other week for the new episodes and feverishly searching for other podcasts I might like.  I enjoyed the feeling that someone was talking directly to me on a podcast, like it was a radio show with only my interests in mind.  Audiobooks are something I still love very much and often listen to, but I’ve never felt the personal connection to the narrators of audio books that I feel toward the creators and hosts (most often the two are the same) of podcasts.

The sheer amount of podcasts to choose from is overwhelming, and I know there are some incredible ones that I simply don’t listen to or haven’t gotten to yet.  So by no means is this an inclusive list. But these are the ones that make me laugh and make me think, that inspire me to do my own research about the subjects and draw my own theories and conclusions. I found all of these thanks to a simple Google search for scary books, an unexpected hit on Lore, and an extremely accurate Podcast recommendation feature.

Ranked in no particular order

1) Lore - Aaron Mahnke

I just wrote a book on Lore above, so I won’t go too far into it.  I just need to rave about the brilliance of this Podcast and its creator. Aaron Mahnke started his career as an author and its obvious in his meticulous research for every episode..  His voice is cool and calm, but his lilting manner of speaking keeps your attention and is pleasant to listen to even as his subjects are monstrous creatures, murders, unexplained events, and the paranormal.  I love the ambiguous names he gives the episodes, and since I have a casual knowledge of many old myths and legends sometimes I like to guess what the episode is going to be about while Aaron is still on the intro. I’ve been right, or partially right, a few times.

The way Aaron tells the story keeps you guessing where it’s going to go, and almost all episodes has a twist in the end. Sometimes he drops a bombshell, but often just a little something to keep you thinking. He deserves all the praise and all the hype given to him.

Don’t Miss These Episodes
Episode 6 – “Echos”
Episode 8 – “The Castle”
Episode 9 – “A Devil on the Roof”
Episode 10 – “Steam and Gas”
Episode 15- “Unboxed”
Episode 22 – “Over the Top”
Episode 34 – “All the Lovely Ladies”
Episode 43- “Supply and Demand”
Episode 77– “Wuthering Heights”
Episode 79 – “Locked Away"

Learn more about Lore at https://www.lorepodcast.com/

2) My Favorite Murder

My love of horror and the macabre also evolved into a love for all things true crime, and thanks to Lore I was starting to get suggestions for other podcasts. My Favorite Murder was climbing the charts for and listed at the #1 spot for comedy podcasts (and frequently still is two years later. It rarely falls below the #3 spot).  I started listening to Karen and Georgia (Hosts and creators Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark) about a year into their podcast when they were just starting to get real recognition and success. They hooked me from the first episode with their frank discussions and downright hysterical commentary.  I related to them right from the beginning, especially as they told the story of how they first met.

They were both at a Halloween party and Karen mentioned how she saw a car purposely plow into a huge crowd of people at SXSW (South by Southwest, music festival in Austin). She said that everyone she was speaking to kind of drew away in horror, but Georgia leaned in closer and wanted to know more. That’s exactly what I would have done had if I heard a story like that at a party, so I instantly knew I would connect with these women.

My Favorite Murder is much more than a true crime podcast, these two incredible ladies speak openly about their struggles with mental health, addictions, and relationships with families and significant others, and they are completely unembarrassed and open about their lives.  I know it’s helped me and so many of their listeners. They also speak a lot about their support of feminism and the rights and lives of sex workers and the LGBT, the communities of which are unfortunately often targeted by violence and murder.

Don’t Miss These Episodes
Episode 1: “My Firstest Murder “
Episode 4: “Go Forth and Murder
Episode 11: “What the Helleven”
Episode 32: “Just the 32 of Us”
Episode 51:  ”A Bit of Oblivion”
Episode 52: “ Bonjour Internet”
Episode 79: “The Sharpest Needle in the Tack”
Episode 100: “The 100th Episode”
Episode 105: “Proclensity”
Episode 130: “Mike is Right”

Learn more about My Favorite Murder at https://www.myfavoritemurder.com/ 

3) Sword and Scale

Sword and Scale can be brutal. It can be raw, graphic, and the stories can make you sit still as a stone, listening with your mouth open. The podcast is definitely out to show the listener, that, to quote its tagline “The worst monsters, are real.”  This podcast, created and narrated by Mike Boudet, uses a variety of mediums to tell the stories. 911 calls, interviews, police interrogations and sound effects are just a few of the things that make each episode so immersive.

Some of the stories are well known, famous cases, but just as many are terrible crimes that I couldn’t believe aren’t talked about more.  Kudos to Mike for bringing attention to victims whose stories may not have been as well known if it weren’t for him.  Some of the material is graphic, however, so listen with caution if you’re the type of person who’s bothered by descriptions of violence.

Don’t Miss These Episodes
Episodes 5 & 6: Johnny Gosch
Episodes 11 & 12: Morgan Ingram
Episode 20: Ronald William Brown
Episodes 33 & 34: Luka Magnotta
Episode 93 & 94: Randy Stair
Episode 118: Leon Jacob

Learn more about Sword and Scale at http://swordandscale.com/

4) Generation Why

This podcast has been on since 2012 and the oldest episode still available on the podcast app or Spotify is starting with episode 85, just as a side note.

The hosts of Generation Why, Aaron and Justin, break down true crime stories, disappearances, conspiracies and well known controversies.

Similar with My Favorite Murder, I like that there are two guests there to bounce ideas of each other. However, unlike My Favorite Murder, Aaron and Justine have a more structured conversation and tend to stay more on-topic.  That does wonders for the attention span of the audience and keeps the episodes to acceptable lengths. (The My Favorite Murder ladies are constantly off topic, but they know it and their listeners accept it.  Sometimes it can be distracting though.) They also use various media to tell their cases' stories, like interviews or 911 calls.

I like the variety of subjects covered and the camaraderie between the hosts, and their episodes are always well thought out and discussed.

Don’t Miss These Episodes
Episode 113: Madeleine McCann
Episode 129: JonBenet Ramsey
Episode 157: The Lululemon Murder
Episode 165: Scott Peterson
Episode 216: Lester Bower

Learn more about Generation Why at https://genwhypod.com/

5) The Last Podcast on the Left

I discovered this podcast through listening to My Favorite Murder. Karen and Georgia frequently reference episodes or the hosts of this podcast during many of their own episodes.

Marcus, Henry, and Ben are comedians and their commentary frequently reduces me to fits of giggles or tears of laughter.  The hosts cover a wide catalog of the unexplained; this is probably the most diverse in terms of subject matter of all the podcasts I listen to.  As an example, they’ve covered the  9/11 attacks, Bigfoot, the Men in Black, JonBenet Ramsey, various serial killers, Cults, Spontaneous Human Combustion, Cannibalism, Casey Anthony and many more.

I like their comedy, I like their information, and they always keep me entertained. I think this podcast, much like My Favorite Murder, does a good job at breaking down delicate matters respectfully while also being funny. They never make fun of victims, but they do make fun of some absolutely idiotic criminals.

Don’t Miss These Episodes
Episode 34: Heaven’s Gate
Episodes 59 & 61:  BTK Killer
Episodes 105 & 106: John Wayne Gacy
Episode 108: Urban Legends
Episode 129: OJ Simpson
Episode 133: Waco
Episode 152: Dylatov Pass Incident
Episodes 175 & 176: The Amityville Horror: The Story and the Truth
Episode 189 - 191 : 9/11
Episodes 306 & 307 : Casey Anthony

Learn more about The Last Podcast on the Left at https://www.lastpodcastontheleft.com/

6) True Crime Obsessed

You might be asking yourself, does she only listen to true crime podcasts? Yeah, pretty much.

Not only that, I also watch a lot of true crime documentaries and that is why I adore this podcast. Jillian and Patrick watch and review true crime documentaries only, which is a different format than a lot of other true crime podcasts. I have found way more documentaries to add to my watch this because of this podcast! Patrick has the type of laugh that makes you laugh because of how funny it is, and their sarcasm, disdain and unfiltered sass directed to the criminals in these documentaries is on point. I particularly like this bell they call the “garbage bell” which they ring anytime they are talking about people who are, what else, utter garbage.

I also love their reenactments of the dialogue or scenes from documentaries, and they interject their episodes with the trailers and audio clips from the films. Listening to them is like hanging out with your good friend that LIVES to talk trash with you, and you love them for it.  I could listen to Patrick and Jillian go “Girl.” “Girl.” “Girl” back and forth all day.

Don’t Miss These Episodes
Episode 1: The Imposter
Episode 2: Catfish
Episode 5: Mommy Dead and Dearest
Episode 8: The Woman Who Wasn’t There
Episodes 10 & 11: Netflix’s Amanda Knox
Episode 19: There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane
Episode 21: TalHotBlond
Episode 27: The Price of Gold: Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding
Episode 41: Fantastic Lies
Episodes 49 & 50: Netflix’s Evil Genius

Learn more about True Crime Obsessed at https://www.truecrimeobsessed.com/

7) Wine and Crime

There’s something about these three girls and their purposely bad Minnesota accents that keep me coming back.  These women pair each of their episodes with a wine and are extremely serious about the pick, their reasoning behind it, and the background of the flavor or region the wine comes from.

However, as the episode goes on the girls drink more and more wine, they get funnier and funnier.  They also have a theme every week and have stuck with that platform for all 70+ episodes, which I find impressive. My Favorite Murder started with themes every week but they abandoned that quickly, I find it admirable how committed the ladies are. They also have some weird themes, I often think funding a crime based on whatever the week's theme is would be hard, but they’ve always pulled it off.

I love the variety and the banter between the ladies, especially as the level in the bottle goes down, and I have learned way more about wine than I would have expected from a true crime podcast; even one with the word “wine” in the title.

Don’t Miss These Episodes
Episode 6: Munchausen’s Syndrome
Episode 11: Psychotic Breaks
Episode 15: Catfishing Crimes
Episode 19: Stockholm Syndrome
Episode 36: Beyond Stupid: Petty BS
Episode 52: Road Rage Crimes
Episode 58: Beyond Stupid: Scams
Episode 63: Unbelievable Acquittals

Learn more about Wine and Crime at https://wineandcrimepodcast.com/ 

Honorable Mention

Dirty John

This is an AMAZING podcast, but it was only one season with 7 episodes and it tells a specific story, so this podcast has since ended and no longer has new episodes. It was partnered with the LA time  and the newspaper released each part of the story as the episodes came out. You can read the partner articles on the LA times website here.

This podcast takes you places you won’t believe and into the head and possible motives of one of the scariest people I have ever heard of. It’s truly a “this can happen to you” cautionary tale, and what happened to the family at the center of this story is terrifying. The mix of interviews and the narration of the journalist Christopher Goffard paints such a clear picture in your head that it feels like you’re watching a documentary rather than listening to a podcast.

Learn more about Dirty John at https://wondery.com/shows/dirty-john/