One of my favorite things to do while people-watching is try to guess what people are listening to in their headphones. And if I had to make a guess based on my own tastes, the answer would lie between Justin Bieber and murder mystery podcasts. OK, the Biebs needs no explaining — I think if there's anything we've all learned in the last year is that while we might not be able to agree on a politician or a policy, we can all agree on that Bieber is fire. But the murder mystery podcast might be more of an acquired taste.
For me, it started out with Serial. I got so hooked on that show that I looked forward to it all week — with even more enthusiasm than when I used to wait for new episodes of The O.C. in high school. There's something about the audio-only aspect of this type of story telling that really lets your mind wander and your imagination to flare up. We're so used to horror stories — we read the books, we watch the movies, we tell the campfire stories. But the experience of listening to a story without any visual cues is totally new for most of us. It encourages our minds to create our own visuals, which can be both freeing and terrifying — two things that are apparently really fun. If you love a good anxiety-inducing spook, you'll probably love these podcasts, too.
Hosts Dahlia Beta and Ben Hamm explore anonymously submitted secrets from listeners that tend to be a little bit more meaty than the kinds of things you find on the Whisper app. And by "meaty", I mean "bloody". These secrets are the kind that make your jaw drop and make you really paranoid about your neighbors.
Just like Serial, Criminal explores real life crime stories — however, each episode features a new case that has a resolution. The episodes are shorter than Serial, clocking in at under 20 minutes so you can get through quite a few in a day, if you have the endurance. They're creepy, freaky, exhilarating and a pretty wild way to spend a subway ride if you ask me.
This unusual podcast clears the cobwebs from the darkest corners of minds. It delves into our deepest anxieties, and the demons that plague us. It's the kind of storytelling that will get your heart racing and make you wonder if you know yourself as well as you think you do. It's a perfect mix of psychological study and horror story.
Welcome to Vinci
This series explores the real life stories that inspired the writer of HBO’s True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto. Each episode takes you behind the scenes of the locations visited in True Detective and gives you hints about what's coming up on the TV show — though you don't need to be a fan of the show to get your spooks-worth.
Each week, host Dan Zupansky interviews authors who have written about real murders. It's gory, it's juicy, it's true. Not for the feint of heart, so maybe don't listen to this when you're home alone — unless that's your jam.