True crime is definitely having a moment. From cult documentaries like The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann and made-for-Netflix movies (see: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile) to a seemingly never-ending stream of new and noteworthy podcasts, we just can’t get enough of this spine-tingling genre. But while there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good fright or even being interested in the criminal forensics and psychology side of things, constant exposure to graphic and upsetting details can take a toll. If you’ve ever settled down to go to sleep with a true crime podcast teed up only to find yourself disturbed and wide-awake hours later (was that a door creaking open or just the wind?!) you’re not alone. Thankfully it is possible to get a true crime hit without scaring yourself silly. Ahead we’ve curated the bingeable true crime podcasts we listen to when we can’t also afford to spend 2 hours watching The Office afterward to take the edge off. Some cover murders but focus more on the investigation than the gory details, and some stray away from brutal cases completely. So whether you’re deeply into stories that pick apart the inner workings of modern-day cults or are fascinated by the people who plot and scheme to break out of prison, there’s something here for you. The best bit? You’ll still sleep soundly when you’re done.
Did you know more than 9 million people are locked up around the world? This podcast tells the stories of those who risk it all to make a break for it. Super-interesting, each ep tells the tale of an individual, delving into their backstory, reasons for imprisonment and why they chose to attempt escape. While it isn’t scary per se the producers really push the suspense using music so keep that in mind if you’re planning to listen while you wind down.
Here’s a thing you may not have thought about—being a missing person is not a crime. Because of this, police have a limited role when people disappear. Such was the situation when Adea Shabani walked out of her Hollywood apartment with her boyfriend last year never to be seen alive again. This podcast, hosted by Rolling Stone journalist Neil Strauss, is a gripping journey through the evidence as collected by a PI. It will give you CHILLS.
A little bit of a different listen, this one follows the story of August Ames, a 23-year-old adult performer who died by suicide after being bullied on Twitter. The host, Jon Ronson, of The Butterfly Effect, teams up with Ames’ husband Kevin Moore to look at what exactly went wrong. It’s as much an investigation into the rift between the gay and straight porn industries and the treatment of women as it is a look at cyber-bullying and its role in this case.
The bizarre story of NXIVM, a secretive alleged sex cult founded by Keith Raniere in New York, this investigative podcast looks at the case from the inside perspective of a former high-ranking member who just so happens to have been the host’s childhood friend. Much of what is uncovered is, to be frank, unbelievable, and verges on straight up crazy. (PS. If you want to sleep pls do yourself a favour and resist Googling the NXIUM brand marks.)
Coined as “the new Dirty John” (it’s produced by the same team), Over My Dead Body follows the mysterious murder of Dan Markel, a successful attorney. Dan and his wife Wendi break up and enter divorce and custody negotiations—and then things go really wrong. In a nutshell, Dan gets shot in the head and later dies in hospital. The police start to unravel what turns out to be quite a surprising tale involving unexpected co-conspirators.
Currently sitting at number one on the Top Charts, this podcast racked up one million downloads in just six weeks. (!) It focuses on the quest of a daughter to find her mother, Marion Barter, teacher and former wife of Australian soccer player Johnny Warren. Barter stepped onto a plane in 1997 and effectively vanished forever. Presented by investigative journalist Bryan Seymour, it’s almost as exciting to listen to as Serial was (season 1 obvi).