7 True-Crime Podcasts That’ll Deeply Disturb You

Listen… if you dare

Shannon Willoby
Nov 6, 2018 · 6 min read
Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

What’s the most unexpected benefit of listening to disturbing podcasts? They help me clean my apartment.

I press play and, magically, I’m able to mop without moping.

Even the things I hate the most — like laundry and organizing bathroom cupboards — are easily completed with a little help from my podcast friends.

And if it takes a good old-fashioned murder tale for me to be productive, so be it!

P.S. My recommendations are the real deal. I’ve personally listened to (and been disturbed by) all seven of the podcasts below.

And if true crime has taught you nothing so far, then you should be totally cool with trusting a stranger on the internet.

In fact, I broke my arm and could really use some help getting groceries into the back of my van if you wouldn’t mind?

1. Sword and Scale

As the official description of Sword and Scale states, this podcast covers the “worst of the worst” in true crime. They’re not exaggerating either.

In fact, I got so freaked out by episode 116 that I started googling home-security systems in the middle of the night. (BTW — if any murderers are reading this, my home is now heavily alarmed, so keep it moving.)

Overall, this podcast was too much for me. From the horrifying 911 calls to the court testimony from the victims’ family — I had to stop listening. But maybe you can handle it?

: Off the goddamn charts.

2. Happy Face

Imagine finding out your dad is a serial killer.

That’s what happened to Melissa Moore in the summer of 1995, when she learned her father, Keith Hunter Jesperson, was the Happy Face Killer. (He murdered at least eight women in the early 90s.)

This podcast features Melissa’s story — in her own words — as she recounts her childhood and the disturbing signs that her dad wasn’t quite who she thought he was.

It’s an especially interesting podcast to me because it explores a side to serial-killer aftermath we don’t often get to hear — the intimate stories of Jesperson as a father and husband, before and after he became a killer. And, more importantly, how the family he left behind refuses to be his lifelong victims.

Won’t give you nightmares, but will make you wonder what your dad does in his free time.

3. Dirty John

Love is dangerous. And that’s just one of the most disturbing lessons you’ll take away from Dirty John.

Debra Newell, a successful interior designer, meets a guy online who seems too good to be true. He’s a handsome, wealthy doctor whom her family despises — for reasons she can’t fathom.

This podcast explores the dark side of internet dating — and how some of us are so happy to find love — and so desperate not to lose it — that we’re willing to ignore even the deadliest of warning signs.

: This one’s a slow burn. It’s suspenseful throughout until WHAM, sheer terror.

4. My Favorite Murder

If you like your true-crime stories with a side of comic relief, My Favorite Murder just became your new go-to podcast.

Hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark tell each other terrifying tales of murder each episode, from well-known cases like The Black Dahlia to unknown hometown stories of cannibalistic aunts and poisoned milkshakes.

It’s disturbing stuff, but they’ll make you laugh with witty commentary and funny catchphrases, like “Here’s the thing: f*ck everyone” and “Get a job. Buy your own shit. Stay out of the forest.” Solid advice.

I haven’t found a podcast I like listening to on a regular basis more than this one. Many have tried to emulate it; all have failed.

: This podcast has a cumulative effect… the more you listen, the scarier it gets. You’ll be stockpiling pepper spray and tasers before you know it.

5. Last Podcast on the Left

From old-timey gore like Jack the Ripper to hip-hop horror à la Biggie and Tupac, Last Podcast on the Left leaves no true-crime story uncovered.

The hosts, Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zebrowski offer a raunchy take on the stories they tell— which means they might make you dry heave as often as they make you laugh.

Henry’s impressions are always hilarious — like when he does the voice of Ed Gein’s mom in episode 172 or tries out an Australian accent in episode 329.

They also dabble in non true-crime topics, like aliens, demonic possession, and sexy ghosts. (It’s a thing I guess.)

: You won’t have to sleep with your light on, but you will be disturbed by both the stories and the hosts. But in a good way. Mostly.

6. Dr. Death

You’ll feel sick listening to this one. Screws left in muscle tissue. Severed nerves. Bone fragments. Paralyzation. Death.

33 Patients went to Doctor Death thinking he would fix their pain — but as you’ll learn — it was just the beginning. And in some cases, it was the end.

Thankfully, the host, Laura Beil, has a soothing voice, which is a mild painkiller when you’re listening to the story of a scalpel-wielding madman.

: Absolutely terrifying but probably won’t give you nightmares. Unless you have a doctor visit coming up. Or a fear of doctors in general. Or a fear of anesthesia. Or a fear of being paralyzed. Or a fear of dying. OK, it’s disturbing as f*ck.

7. Someone Knows Something

This one is pretty brutal. The stories covered in this podcast are unsolved cases that feature interviews with family members and friends of the missing or murdered.

The host, David Ridgen, even speaks to suspects as he digs to uncover the truth.

Be prepared to follow David down some pretty deep rabbit holes and to cry the whole way there.

: You’ll probably feel more sorrow than fear, although the stories are terrifying. And, as with most cases, someone truly has to know something — and the fact that so few ever come forward is deeply disturbing all in itself.

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