Written by Katie Waldron
So, it’s been twelve hours. Wrapped up in a cocoon of weighted blankets and empty Postmates containers, you have just finished the latest season of Mindhunter in its entirety. You feel that emptiness in your heart that only the completion of a favorite TV show can bring. What do you do now? Where do you go from here?
I’ll tell you, my dear friends. Let me lead you to the true mecca for true crime enthusiasts across the world. David Fincher and Quentin Tarantino owe their livelihoods to the unsung heroes like Karina Longworth and Payne Lindsay, who already covered the true crime cases their latest projects are based on in an easily consumable and expertly researched format – podcasts.
1. You Must Remember Manson
Karina Longworth writes, produces, and narrates this series on Charles Manson and his “Family” (read: cult) as a part of her larger podcast series called You Must Remember This, which focuses on the myths and legends of 20th century Hollywood. In this twelve-part series that spans everything from Charles Manson’s troubled childhood, to his failed music career, to his transformation to a guru-trying-to-incite-a-race-war, Longworth proves that she has done her research, and gives a nostalgic and comprehensive image of the summer of 1969. Didn’t understand the ending of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood? This is the podcast for you.
2. Atlanta Monster
When this podcast first came out, I, like most white folks, was completely unaware that there was a wave of child murders in Atlanta in the mid-80s that were ignored by the mainstream media. This case was largely overlooked by federal and local investigators, because of the community affected by the crimes. Atlanta Monster’s Payne Lindsey is ambitious. When it was originally airing, the investigation that Lindsay was spearheading was progressing live, so a new episode would come out every week, regardless of whether a breakthrough happened in the story or not. Because of this, the ending of the podcast, like the case itself, is less conclusive than one might expect. Overall, however, the podcast gives a great scope of how frustratingly mishandled the case was because of the biases facing the field of forensic investigation at the time.
3. My Favorite Murder
Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff are my best friends whom I have never met. MFM is actually a true crime comedy podcast. With their cans of wine on hand, and a loud Siamese cat named Elvis yowling to close out each episode, Karen and Georgia like to “sit crooked and talk straight” more than produce dry investigative journalism. Their rallying cry of “fuck politeness” hits home for every woman whose initial instinct is to run away from a strange man asking for directions or knocking at the front door. Besides being some hilariously dark ladies, Karen and Georgia are great because they are victims’ advocates, and loud and proud about their experiences dealing with substance abuse, eating disorders, and mental health issues. If you’re looking for specifics, here are a few: Episode 89 covers Dean Corll aka The Candyman, and episode 39 covers Ed Kemper aka The Co-Ed Killer, played by Cameron Britton in both seasons of Mindhunter.
4. The Last Podcast on the Left
Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, and Henry Zebrowski are like the three human manifestations of r/creepypasta. Between somewhat bro-ey comedy bits, these guys prove they’re highly knowledgeable about every fringe issue, from murder, to Rasputin, to the lost continent of Lemuria. They have a two-parter on both Jerry Brudos and B.T.K, who are featured in season one and two of Mindhunter. In addition to covering a number of serial killer cases, they also talk about hot topics such as a four-part investigation into the life of L. Ron Hubbard, psychic vampires, the cannibalistic Donner Party, and the aliens of Roswell, New Mexico. What’s not to love?
If you like your true crime crisply structured, cleanly presented, and diligently researched, Casefile is the podcast for you. It is hosted and created by an anonymous man “from a spare room in his house,” and to this day, his identity has remained a secret. Casefile has covered a number of lesser-known cases, including many British and Australian crimes. The episodes covering the East Area Rapist/Original Nightstalker, who was briefly mentioned in Mindhunter, are popular amongst fans. If you are Type A, and you don’t know where to start, one fan put together a comprehensive spreadsheet categorizing and ranking all the episodes that can be found here. As an added bonus, the host has an Australian accent.
(Because podcasts are just short audiobooks and books are just audiobooks you consume with your eyes).
6. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Written by Michelle McNamara, a self-proclaimed true crime obsessive, this book is written like a mystery novel, and takes the reader through the case of the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker, who, despite being responsible for the deaths of at least thirteen people, and the rapes of fifty people, was relatively lost to history. Tragically, Michelle died before she could see her wonderful book finished fully, but researcher Paul Haynes, crime journalist Billy Jensen, and Michelle’s husband, Patton Oswalt, compiled her remaining notes to have the book published. Michelle is credited with coming up with the moniker, The Golden State Killer, which, along with her book, brought renewed attention to the cold case (because even serial killers need good marketing). The book is made even more satisfying by the fact that the Golden State Killer was caught in April 2018 using DNA profiling.
7. The Stranger Beside Me by Anne Rule
Forget the Zac Efron movie – Anne Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me is the ultimate tome on Ted Bundy, because she gets the perspective right. Anne Rule worked in the crisis call center that Bundy did -- yes, Ted Bundy worked at a suicide hotline – and she had to come to terms with who he really was. Bundy and Rule were not romantically involved, but as coworkers, they shared meals together daily, and she even said she would trust him with her young children. Rule’s book captures the reluctance she felt to accept the fact that her perfectly polite and kind friend was a murdering psychopath. Rule is an engaging and empathetic writer, and she takes a good amount of time to acknowledge the individual personalities and lives of Bundy’s almost thirty victims, as well as writing crisp investigative reports of the crimes.
What To Binge Next:
When They See Us
Tragic, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant, director and creator Ava Duvernay gives a voice to the boys who were known simply as the Central Park Five. In 1989, a woman named Trisha Meili was raped in Central Park, and the city of New York was quick to arrest five boys between the ages of 14 and 16, who were then coerced into a false confession that ultimately cost them their childhoods. When They See Us is unlike any true crime series I’ve seen. It’s not about a murder – it’s more like a horror series about what can happen when you’re the wrong race, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Years later, after being released from their wrongful conviction, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, and Kevin Richardson are known as the Exonerated Five. The series is only four episodes, and although it’s not easy to watch, it’s intensely engrossing because of the fantastic performances from the cast and the quality of the filmmaking.