Criminal launched its podcast back in 2014, and since then has told crime stories of all types, looking into complex cases to tell concise, compassionate narratives. In 2016, when Criminal reached episode 50, we shared creators Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer’s favorite episodes.
Today, they celebrate episode 100, a huge milestone in the relatively new podcasting space. We spoke to the team about their creative process, the numbers and stats that go into each episode of Criminal, and their favorite recent episodes. To read about Phoebe’s all-time favorites, scroll down to the bottom.
Lauren Spohrer’s favorite episodes, 50-100
Episode 85: The Manual
In 1993, a family was found murdered in their home. A Maryland police spokesperson described the homicide investigation as the most “exhaustive and labor intensive” in the department’s history. And then homicide investigators found a strange manual, and the case became national news.
Episode 59: In Plain Sight
In 1849, abolitionist and attorney Wendell Phillips wrote: “We should look in vain through the most trying times of our revolutionary history for an incident of courage and noble daring to equal that of the escape of William and Ellen Craft; and future historians and poets would tell this story as one of the most thrilling in the nation’s annals, and millions would read it, with admiration of the hero and heroine of the story.” Unfortunately, almost 170 years later, William and Ellen Craft aren’t well known anymore. This episode tells the story of this couple’s incredible escape.
Episode 82: The Choir
As a child, Lawrence Lessig was a gifted singer. He sang at Carnegie Hall and toured the world. But it was what happened behind the scenes that would change his life forever.
Nadia Wilson’s favorite episodes, 50-100
Episode 68: All the Time in the World
The “body farm” at Texas State University is a place almost no one except researchers and law enforcement are able to see, because it’s one of very few places in the world that deliberately puts out human bodies to decompose in nature. The criminal team asked if they could visit, and the body farm agreed.
Episode 64: 420
The Colorado Department of Transportation says the 420 mile markers on the state’s highways were stolen so often, they had to replace them with 419.99 mile markers. Many people know that “420” represents marijuana but very few know why. It’s not a police code, it’s not the number of chemical compounds in cannabis, and it’s certainly not Bob Marley’s birthday. On this episode, they try for the real story.
Episode 93: Lavender Scare
Helen James grew up in a military family — her great great grandfather fought in the Civil War, her father in WWI, and her uncles in WWII. So when she enlisted in 1952, she felt like she belonged. Shortly after, she realized something was wrong.
Engineer Rob Byers’ favorite episodes, 50-100
Episode 71: A Bump in the Night
Amber Dawn was 20 when she moved into a one-bedroom apartment in Enumclaw, Washington. On her very first night, she began to notice strange sounds. And they didn’t stop.
Episode 75: The Gatekeeper
The Criminal team speaks with Marilyn Stasio, author of the prestigious “Crime Column” in the New York Times Book Review, about crime as entertainment — and why people are so addicted to the genre that she can’t stay away from: “My fingers just itch when I see something that’s says ‘murder.’”
Phoebe Judge’s favorite episodes, 50-100
Episode 77: The Escape
In 1962, two men managed to escape the one prison in America that was supposed to be inescapable. They were never found. More than 50 years later, their 82-year-old sister is still waiting for them to come home…and one U.S. Marshal is still on the case.
Episode 97: Palace of Justice
When Benjamin Ferencz was 27 years old, he prosecuted his very first trial. There were 22 defendants, each of them high-ranking members of Nazi Germany’s death squad. The entire world was watching.
Episode 60: Finding Sarah and Philip
In 2005, Teri Knight drove 650 miles on midwestern roads through Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois, pleading with the public to help her do what law enforcement and the FBI had not been able to: find the remains of her children Sarah and Philip Gehring. An Ohio woman read about Teri Knight’s search in her local paper, and decided she would try to help.
Phoebe’s all-time favorite episodes
Episode 27: No Place Like Home
In the early 90s, a wealthy magazine publisher was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 18 months in a minimum security prison in Louisiana. But white collar criminals weren’t the only people living there, and the other people inside had basically been forgotten about by the outside world, some of them for decades.
From Phoebe: I really had no idea what to expect when I drove on a road winding alongside the Mississippi River to Carville, Louisiana. When I entered through the gates and met Mr. Pete, I was pretty sure that it would be one of my favorite episodes. We just found out that Mr. Pete died a few months ago.
Episode 23: Triassic Park
The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has the largest collection of petrified wood in the world. The beautiful wood is more than 200 million years old, and visitors to the park often take a little piece home with them as a souvenir. But stealing the wood has serious consequences, both legal and, some say, supernatural.
From Phoebe: My favorite character in this episode is the woman park ranger who talks about people hiding petrified wood in their bras. She didn’t even want to be interviewed at first. We spoke to her on a whim at the last minute. I am so happy we did.
Episode 18: 695BGK
Police officer John Edwards was patrolling a quiet neighborhood in Bellaire, Texas when he saw an SUV driven by two young African-American men. It was just before 2am on December 31, 2008. Edwards followed the SUV and ran the license plate number. When his computer indicated that the SUV was stolen, Edwards drew his gun and told the two men to get down on the ground. It wasn’t until later that he realized he’d typed the wrong license plate number into his computer. He was off by one digit. By the time he realized his mistake, one of the men had already been shot in the chest at close range.
From Phoebe: When Lauren first mentioned covering the story of Robbie Tolan for Criminal, I had no idea how complex a story it was, or how complex a process it would be to figure out a way to tell both sides of the story accurately. It was one of our first reporting trips for Criminal and one of the first times I remember thinking about how lucky we were to be able to make this show.