Podcasts provide a wonderful method for balancing the dreary routines of everyday life with a touch of something more interesting. I walk to work on most mornings, and use the time to listen to the latest episodes of my favorite podcasts. If the podcast is especially informative, a ten-minute commute can quickly be turned into a ten-minute educational session; you’ll be wiser when you arrive at your destination than you were when you left.
Having listened to true crime / mystery podcasts since around 2007, I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s worth listening to out there.
Here’s my top 5.
- THINKING SIDEWAYS
This cast hits the perfect balance between funny and informative. The hosts are entertaining to listen to, and it’s clear the group do their research before pressing Play on the recorder. The trio have a great chemistry, and the exchange of thoughts and theories is effortless, making it a joy to listen to. This podcast also earns a “+” for featuring some relatively unknown cases along with the usual, famous ones; I have discovered plenty of entirely new material through Thinking Sideways, despite my years-long immersion in these topics.
The show has a commendable realistic attitude toward its topics. Rather than searching for the weirdest explanation to add to the quirkiness and entertainment value of their show, the hosts will readily apply Occam’s Razor and go with the simplest, most logical explanation. Someone got lost at sea? Maybe it wasn’t alien abduction after all – perhaps the guy just drowned…
2. THE PARACAST (pre-2011)
This was one of my most beloved discoveries in the Internet. I first came across this podcast while desperately looking for something to listen to at a boring summer job. Discovering the musings of Gene Steinberg and David Biedny was like coming across a casket full of treasures. I still have fond memories of placing my earphones in my ears at the start of a working day, and letting my body go about the mechanical work while my mind was transported from one dazzling idea to the next.
Sadly, I can’t fully recommend the show after the departure of co-host David Biedny at around 2011. Biedny (a Yale faculty member and photo imaging expert) brought a critical attitude to the guests’ stories, which added to the believability and, thus, enjoyment of the show. Biedny would genuinely challenge the guests, thus pulling out aspects of their stories and cases that other hosts would never even think about discussing with their guests.
Luckily, the show’s archives are still available to listen to, which means it’s not too late to discover the days when Paracast truly was (as their tagline says) “The Gold Standard of Paranormal Radio”.
3. MISSING MAURA MURRAY
Most podcasts will feature one case per episode, which can serve to create an interesting array of topics and a wide variety of phenomena covered. However, the flipside of that is that, sometimes, you only get a very superficial taste of a case, lacking an understanding of the intricacies that go into the creation of a mystery.
Missing Maura Murray is a refreshing exception. The entire podcast is dedicated to exploring the various facets of the disappearance of Maura Murray in 2004.
If there is one disappearance that justifies such deep digging, it’s this one. Murray’s disappearance is incredibly bizarre, and it seems that each answer you find just leads to a hundred new questions.
Adding to the quality of this podcast is the fact that, rather than just discussing the aspects of Murray’s disappearance among themselves with a recorder on, the hosts seek out experts and witnesses and interview them in person. This gives the show a lived feeling, a sense that there is a real human being missing, not just a face in old photos.
4. THE LAST PODCAST ON THE LEFT
Of all the entries on this list, this one is probably the most well known. And for a good reason – the hosts of this show bring a much-needed comic relief to the world of dark mysteries and unsolved crimes.
Topics vary from Jack the Ripper to more obscure cases of disappearances and UFO mysteries, et cetera. Research on the show rarely goes beyond a Wikipedia article, but that’s not the point: this is a show that aims to entertain mystery buffs and provide laughs; TLPOTL does not attempt to solve the cases it features, or even go much deeper than the average TV show.
The absolute best episode so far features the Amityville horror case, and the DeFeo murders preceding it. Charlatans and psychopaths get what they deserve from this funny trio, and co-host Henry Zebrowski, a professional comedian, is at the top of his game in lampooning the various money-grabbing leeches that have attached themselves to the Amityville mystery over the years.
5. PERTTU HÄKKINEN (Finnish radio show/podcast)
Each week Häkkinen does Finland a huge favor by preserving its esoteric history (and present) onto audio files and broadcasting them for the nation to hear. His show airs on YLE Puhe Tuesdays at 13.00 o’clock.
Guests feature researchers, experiencers, authors, philosophers, and various types of people relegated to the margins of Finnish society due to their beliefs or experiences. The discussion is respectful, and Häkkinen takes his guests seriously, rather than inviting them on to lampoon them (like many Finnish television shows with idiot hosts do).
Häkkinen has also authored an excellent book on the history of Finnish esoterica, entitled Valonkantajat (2015).