Podcasts are entering a golden age in my humble opinion - which is kind of funny because podcasts rely on the most fundamental of radio techniques and formats - interviews and serials. When I first started listening to podcasts they were mostly interview style (and there are more than a few on the below list) but now there are so many incredible serialised podcasts - from the investigative journalism of Serial to the more comedic style of Welcome to Nightvale to the actually scary The Black Tapes.There's something so beautifully full circle about enjoying (albeit digitally) something that my grandparents also enjoyed.
At a certain point I realised my love of podcasts had gone from casual interest to actual hobby (if I meet you IRL and haven’t told you about a podcast I’m currently obsessed with in the first hour, something must be seriously wrong).
These podcasts fall into three categories; podcasts that you can pick and mix - listening to the episodes that interest you in no particular order, podcasts that you have to listen to in order and short series podcasts (like a mini series but for podcasts).
Never listened to a podcast before? Here is a guide to get started from the good folks at Serial.
Pre P.S. I’ve also added where you can support each podcast if you so choose. Whether it’s buying merch or supporting their Patreon, it’s a great way to support these creators directly.
Pre. P.P.S I myself use Stitcher for all of my podcasts. It’s available as a free app, you can easily subscribe and save episodes for future listening. I know most Apple users prefer iTunes - but for all you Androiders out there I think Stitcher is the best choice. I’ve also included Sptofiy locations as well where available.
Pre P.P.P.S. My personal taste in podcast skews to scripted dramas with supernatural elements, true crime, a smattering of comedy and a touch of educational. So if you’re not into any of the above this list probably isn’t for you.
Listen in order
Welcome to Nightvale:is a "twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events."
Serial: "is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, and is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story - a true story - over the course of an entire season. Each season, we'll follow a plot and characters wherever they take us." The first season about Adnan Syed kept me on the edge of my seat over many train rides in Europe and my husband had to deal with me dissecting the case over dinner every night. The second season was just as fascinating - looking at Beau Bergdahl who abandoned his post in Afghanistan and then was held by the Taliban for five years. They’ve recently started season 3 about the American justice system overall. This podcast is the OG, and the one that truly pushed podcasts into the cultural lexicon.
Limetown: In 2005 over 300 men, women and children disappeared without a trace from Limetown in rural Tennessee. Now Lia Haddock is investigating what exactly happened, what Limetown was, and possibly, what it STILL is. After a 3 year gap (the first season aired in 2015) they are finally back with season 2.
The Black Tapes: The Black Tapes is X -Files with cheeky nods to Supernatural. It has done a really good job of playing with the idea of “is this real?'“ by hiding the identity of any actors involved in the recording. It initially ended after season 3 (which to be honest was very disappointing) but has recently announced it will be returning for a fourth season. Do not listen at home alone at night.
itunes | Stitcher | Spotify
Tanis: Tanis podcast is brought to you by PNSW - the team behind The Black Tapes podcast. But what exactly is Tanis? Is it a place, a person or a conspiracy? Is it all three? Only by listening along do you have a chance of knowing.
itunes | Stitcher | Spotify
Support Tanis | Shop Tanis
Zombies, Run!: Okay so technically this isn't a podcast - it's a running app - but the story is so intriguing - you can't help but get sucked in. Set in the standard post apocalyptic zombie wasteland you are Runner 5 - sent to help Abel Township with...well you'll have to download the app to find out! There is a free version that gives you full access to the runs (but you have to wait a few days between each run to "unlock" it) and a paid version which gives you instant access to all of them. I know a lot people aren't runners but I think you could listen to this on a walk as well.
Buffering the Vampire Slayer: This podcast is a recap of all the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in order by two wonderful ladies. It's really interesting and dives pretty deep into the characters and the themes of the show, along with Fashion Watch, a weekly Sexual Tension award and a song at the end of each episode about the episode they’ve just watched. And it's also completely hilarious, of the I laughed so hard I started to cry and then I was just crying and I didn’t know what was going on, variety.
My Dad Wrote a Porno: What would you do if you found out your dad (inspired by 50 Shades of Gray) decided to start writing erotica to supplement his retirement? Throw up? Pretend you never found out? Jamie Morton decided to start a podcast with his two best friends Alice Levine and James Cooper and read it to the world. Turns out there isn’t much that’s erotic about his dad’s writing, his knowledge of female anatomy is limited (to say the very least) and he doesn’t really have a strong grasp on plot structure. My husband has found me doubled over with laughter on multiple occasions. Also Emma Thompson listens and if that isn’t enough of an incitement to listen I don’t know what is.
In The Dark: Each season of In The Dark follows a different case in the American justice season. The first season covered the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling, and during the course of the first season a man was arrested and charged with his murder. The second season is about Curtis Flowers, a man on death row who has been tried and convicted seven times for the same crime. They focus not just on the case itself, but on the American justice system as a whole, how it works, and how it’s broken. It’s compelling and also important work.
Up and Vanished: Up and Vanished shares some similarities with In The Dark. Each season focuses on a different case, and they also had an arrest in their first season. Up and Vanished focuses specifically on people who have disappeared, and (so far anyway) are presumed dead.
Someone Knows Something: Already up to season five, Someone Knows Something focuses on cold cases (generally murders or disappearances), mostly in Canada. As the title of the podcast suggests, their focus is on the fact that someone knows something about these cases, and just hasn’t said anything. Yet.
Accused: I got so excited when I realised Accused had released a second season because the first season had been so compelling. What happens when someone is wrongly accused of murder? How does it impact the investigation when their innocence is proved?
Unobscured: Unobscured looks at important events in history, and untangles what is true from what we think we know. The first season looks at the Salem witch trials, and I can honestly say I have realised I knew almost nothing about what “really happened”.
Missing and Murdered: The two seasons on Missing and Murdered are very different, but their common through line is they are about two Canadian First Nations women. In the first season host Connie attempts to discover who murdered Alberta Williams three decades ago. In the second season, Connie searches for Cleo, a young girl adopted by an American couple, who was allegedly killed whilst hitchhiking, or was she?
Hell and Gone: Unlike a lot of podcasts aimed at solving a murder, Hell and Gone is personal. Catherine Townsend grew up in the town where Rebekah Gould was murdered, and was actually friends with her. Now Catherine is a badass private investigator, taking her listeners along for the ride as she tries to solve her friend’s murder. They recently started a second season about a different death of another girl. Apparently she fell off a patio at a party and hit her head and died. But the patio was barely off the ground… and she seemed to have been washed before she was taken to the hospital. So what really happened?
Monster: There are currently two seasons of the Monster podcast: Atlanta Monster and Monster: Zodiac Killer. Although the Atlanta child killings are more well known now (in part because of this podcast and also due to Netflix series Mindhunter) when I first listened to the podcast I had never heard of these murders before, and in listening you do come to understand some of the reasons why you also might have never heard of the murder of over 20 African American children in the 70’s and 80’s. The second season deals with one of the most famous serial killers in the world, the Zodiac. It’s a wild and interesting ride, and… well let’s just say the final episode really changed what my theory about the Zodiac is.
To Live And Die In LA: In February 2018 Adea Shabani, an aspiring actress, disappeared from her apartment. Neil Strauss, a journalist was asked by the family to assist in finding out what happened to her (after they heard of some work he had done on another missing persons case). I don’t want to say anything else, because the podcast unfolds in real time (instead of being about a historical case).
The Message: A message was discovered over 70 years ago and has only just been declassified. It almost definitely comes from an alien race. What are they trying to say? And to whom? And - is the message cursed?
LifeAfter: Ross lost his wife Charlie a year ago and comforts himself by listening to recordings she made on an audio social media platform. Except one day she starts to talk to him from within the platform. So is there digital life, after?
Stranglers: Stranglers examines the case of the Boston Strangler, or should it be Stranglers? Even after a confession, no one is really sure who was guilty of the murders of 13 women over fifty years ago.
Dirty John: Debra Newell meets John Meehan; a handsome doctor who seems perfect. But her family never really warms to him, and seem to think all is not as it seems… I definitely recommend you don’t research this story before listening, as it is meant to be a mystery (due to the fact the story never made major headlines).
Sandra: Helen lands a job working for Sandra, the world’s favourite AI assistant, but everything is not as it seems - Sandra isn’t as artificial as everyone thinks, and Helen is running away from more than the small town she grew up in.
Homecoming: One of the first things I thought when listening to Homecoming was “holy shit is that David Schwimmer?”. Turns out it is. Homecoming follows a case worker in a mysterious medical facility, a soldier just wanting to return to regular life, and a variety of shadowy government figures with their own agendas.
Death In Ice Valley: In November 1970, the charred remains of a young woman were found in the Isdal Valley near Bergen, Norway. Her identity has never been discovered, and everything we know about her suggests she led an unusual life. In a time when young women seldom travelled alone, she traversed the length of Norway’s west coast, leaving a trail of mystery behind her. Death in Ice Valley looks at the mystery of the Isdal woman to try to determine who she was, and why she was poisoned, and then set on fire.
The Teacher’s Pet: If America had season one of Serial, Australia has The Teacher’s Pet. In the early 80’s Lyn Dawson disappeared from the house she shared with her husband Chris and was never seen again. I don’t want to say anymore, because it is a wild ride of teenage lovers, weird twins and probably murder. You possibly have read about it in the media, as there have been developments on the case, so listen while you can, because there is a chance it will get taken down to prevent the perversion of justice…
Dr. Death: This is a dead serious warning, do NOT listen to this if you have ANY issues, concerns or possible triggers about medical procedures. I’m very chill about medical procedures and trust doctors pretty much implicitly, but even I came away feeling a little faint about it. That said, it’s an amazing podcast about who the medical industry in America actually protects.
Happy Face: What do you do if you find out that your father is a serial killer? Especially if people have spent their life telling you how much you look and act like him? Does that make you evil? This chronicles the journey Melissa Moore has taken since she discovered in 1995 that her father was the Happy Face Killer. It’s beautiful, at times harrowing, and really dives into what identity even is.
Bear Brook: In 1985 a barrel was found in Bear Brook National Park, containing the bodies of a woman and a young girl. Decades later in 2000, another barrel was found containing two more children. I don’t really want to give much more away, but the journey to identify the bodies, and find the person who killed them, completely changed how crimes are solved FOREVER.
Thunder Bay: Thunder Bay has the highest homicide rate in Canada; but it’s a tiny place. The podcast examines the different factors that influence how this could happen, and let me tell you, it’s a crazy story.
Simple Pleasures: To coincide with the release of his new book; Simple, Yotam Ottelenghi launched a podcast. He invites people into his house, cooks for them and discuss “food, culture, travel and the simple pleasures in life”. So far his guests have include Nigella Lawson, Michael Palin and Lin Manuel Miranda.
13 Minutes to the Moon: This year has been FIFTY YEARS since we went to the moon for the first time! There’s a ton of podcasts memorialising this, but I love this one from the BBC World Service. It goes deep into how NASA pulled off this incredible feat in the sixties. It’s a love letter to what can be achieved if no isn’t an option.
The Dropout: I assume you’ve heard of Elizabeth Holmes; who created Theranos with the aim of making drawing blood as easy as one pin prick to your finger. And I also assume you’ve heard that this did not go at all according to plan. The Drop Out examines the frankly wild story of how someone can create a company with an idea that never even worked.
Man in the Window: In April 2018 Joseph DiAngelo was officially named by police as the prime suspect in the burglaries, rapes and murders committed by the Visalia Ransacker, East Area Rapists and Original Night Stalker AKA the Golden State Killer. Man in the Window looks at this from the perspective of his many victims; including someone who didn’t even know she was a victim, his former fiance Bonnie. It’s an interesting and occasionally infuriating look at how rape was treated in the 70’s and 80’s, and the impact of such violent crimes on their survivors.
Last Seen: A lot of true crime podcasts are really upsetting - dealing with some of the most horrific things that can happen to people. I’m not saying that Last Seen doesn’t have victims, but a daring art heist (the largest in the US!) that happened 28 years ago still hasn’t been solved, and involves (allegedly) the Boston mafia, is a lot more of a zesty romp that many others.
Root of Evil: If you have even the most basic interest in true crime, you’ve heard of the Black Dahlia murder. 1947 Elizabeth Short was found brutally murdered in LA. The nature of her death was sensational to say the least, and to this day her murder is unsolved. Recently a mini series called I Am The Night presents one theory, that she was murdered by prominent social figure George Hodel. Obviously the series is fictional, but behind it is the truly bonkers story of the Hodel family. If you think your family has skeletons, it has nothing on this family. It’s a beautiful story of how later generations grapple with the struggles of their parents and grandparents, and the work they do to find peace and move forward.
The Chernobyl Podcast: The HBO series Chernobyl has become a real hit this year, and although I haven’t seen it yet, I have listened to the accompanying podcast. I would recommend it whether you’re planning to see the series or not, but it will be enhanced by being able to see some of the scenes they talk about. It’s a really interesting discussion of how you adapt a true story to the screen, as well as telling a complex story like what happened at Chernobyl.
Pick and Mix
Elise Gets Crafty: Elise Cripe interviews people about her favourite things, "blogging, business, creativity, inspiration and motivation". It's always a really interesting conversation to listen to - Elise feels a lot like a kindred spirit to me so it always feels like she asks the right questions
itunes | Stitcher
The Good Life Project: This started as a web TV series and has now morphed into a podcast hosted by Jonathan Fields. I really love his interview style and the range of guests. He also does "riffs" on things he thinks are important which are also incredibly enjoyable.
iTunes | Stitcher | Spotify
Happier with Gretchen Rubin: I love Gretchen Rubin's books Happier at Home and the Happiness Project and now she has a podcast with her sister Elizabeth Craft where she discusses tips and tricks to live a happier life. It's very light hearted and it's fun to hear these two bounce of each other.
itunes | Spotify| Stitcher
Lore podcast: So the Black Tapes and Tanis are fictional but inspired by real legends and tales. Lore podcast looks at those tales and walks you through the history of the lore behind vampires, or witches, or werewolves. Lore doesn't try and necessarily unravel and "solve" the mystery. Instead it tells the true story behind these myths and looks at the human emotions that can sometimes help to feed these myths. It is occasionally super creepy because it is true.
itunes | Stitcher | Spotify
Book Versus Movie: This podcast is pretty self explanatory - the two Margo's compare and contrast various books and their movie counterparts. It's equal parts fascinating and funny. I will warn you though - the sound quality isn't always the best on earlier episodes (they’ve done a few retakes on older episodes) but the content is absolutely worth it.
Casefile True Crime: The name of this podcast says it all; it examines true crime stories (both solved and unsolved). It is a really well researched and as an Australian it's really interesting to hear about Australian cases (though they cover cases from all over the world). I think it is really important to note that this podcast does not gloss over details and some episodes might be disturbing. There were several that I didn't listen to because I found them too distressing; most notably my own hometown murder of Snowtown (AKA the bodies in the barrels).
itunes | Stitcher | Spotify
Support Casefile True Crime | Shop Casefile
Star Talk Radio with Neil DeGrasse Tyson: If you have seen the most recent version of Cosmos then you know how entertaining Neil DeGrasse Tyson is, and how interesting he makes science. Star Talk Radio features Neil, a comedic guest (or two) and often an expert in another field of science (or pop culture, or any number of other topics) all with a focus on bringing science, pop culture and comedy together.
itunes | Stitcher
How Did This Get Made: Ever watch a terrible film and think - how did this get made? Well Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas have made it their quest to watch and discuss every bad movie ever made. Ranging from amazing terrible (Miami Connection) to just regular terrible (Garbage Pail Kids). It’s sent me into hysterical laughter on multiple occasions. Important: They only have 50 episodes free (they rotate every month) with the rest behind a paywall on Stitcher Premium but hot tip - you get your first month of Stitcher Premium free so you can always sign up, binge on all the episodes and then not pay. If you’re like me you’ll still look forward to the new rotation of ones that are free because you will want to relisten to them over and over again.
TED Radio Hour: I’m sure you’ve heard of TED Talks, and no doubt have watched at least one of their videos. TED Radio compiles clips from talks and new interviews exploring happiness, science, design and the human experience.
The Tip Off: The Tip Off takes you behind the scenes of investigative journalism, showing you how journalists go from a tip all the way through to a story. It’s a fascinating behind the scenes look at how these stories come together.
Revisionist History: In Revisionist History Malcolm Gladwell re-examines the past to see if we got the story, the person, the song, the idea right the first time. Aside from the fact the Gladwell has the most amazing voice, it also makes you really look at the nature of truth.
Clear and Vivid: I have been in love with Alan Alda since I was ten and saw him in M*A*S*H* (I mean - what a dream boat) so when I heard he had started a podcast about communication and connection I knew I had to listen. Needless to say I’m still in love with him.
My Favorite Murder: Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark met at a Halloween party when Karen was upsetting other party goers with her discussion of a horrific car accident she had witnessed. Georgia was the only person who wanted to hear more of the story, and they soon bonded over their shared love of true crime. In their podcast they tell each other their “favorite murder” for that week, all with a dash of dark humour.
Table Manners: Jessie Ware is a British singer and songwriter with fond memories of bringing her friends around to her mum’s house for meals. They would laugh, eat and talk until the wee hours. She loved it so much she decided to make a podcast based on this concept. Each week they cook a meal, invite a guest to one of their houses and have a chat and a laugh. Also by guest I mean people like Ed Sheeran, Cheryl Cole and London mayor, Sadiq Khan.
And That’s Why We Drink: Each week Em and Christine share one paranormal story (from Em) and one true crime story (from Christine). The world’s a scary place, and that’s why they drink!
All Aussie Mystery Hour: Guys, weird things happen in Australia (especially for some reason in Glenelg), and Mel and Josie are here to share these stories and their personal, unsubstantiated opinions about they think happened. Who took the Beaumont children? Who created the Maree man? Who was the Somerton Man? I can’t promise you’ll get answers, but you’ll definitely get a solid Aussie yarn.
No Such Thing As A Fish: For those who have never heard of or watched QI - it’s a British…. quiz show? Comedy show? Excuse for Stephen Fry to rinse Alan Davies? Basically a bunch of comedians/British actors answering extremely obscure questions, sharing facts and making each other laugh. It’s great. Researching such obscure facts requires an expert team; known as the QI elves, and they have their own podcast for all of the facts they couldn’t get into the show. It’s funny and educational and I listened to the whole archive in our recent move because there is something so soothing listening to British people be clever and also savage to each other.
The Murder Squad: So - if you’re not super into true crime, how and why The Murder Squad exists might seem a little mysterious, so let me give you a really quick summary. Michelle McNamara; true crime author tragically dies in in 2016 in the middle of writing her book I’ll Be Gone In The Dark; about the Golden State Killer (a moniker she coined for the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker). As part of her research into this garbage rapist and murderer, she meets Billy Jensen; a fellow true crime writer and pioneer of citizen sleuthing and Paul Holes; cold case investigator working on the Golden State Killer case. She always dreamed of having a team of people interested in true crime; all with different skills, who could help police solve crimes. Although this hasn’t been said out loud, the Murder Squad feels like an incarnation of what she dreamed. Each week Jensen and Holes (now retired) talk about a cold case or a case where the perpetrator is known, but not all victims are known. They discuss the case, and then they set a task for listeners, like viewing photos of potential victims to see if anyone can be recognised, or doing community outreach. I have no doubt it will end in crimes being solved.
P.S. If you’re into true crime, go read or listen to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara, Chase Darkness with Me by Billy Jensen and Evil Has A Name which is in part by Paul Holes.
Photo courtesy of: Death to the Stock Phot