True crime is having a bit of a *moment* right now. From record-breaking Netflix shows to case-cracking podcast series’ to riveting documentaries, true-crime seems to grip our collective attention. Women, specifically, make up the majority of true crime “fans,” forming a kind of morbidly cathartic community where all of our daily worst fears are validated. After all, the victims featured in a lot of true crime stories are women, and they’re almost always murdered or attacked by male perpetrators.
Every single day, women go through micro-moments of fear–a car slows down next to you while you’re walking alone at night, a man on the bus latches his sticky gaze on the skin peeking out where your shirt meets your pants, or a male customer at work seems to be getting a little too comfortable with you, but you can’t predict if he’d react violently to rejection, escalating an uncomfortable situation into a dangerous one. It's no wonder we'd find some solace in experiencing that same fear in a controlled environment like our headphones. Consuming true crime kind of feels like studying the predator, and knowledge of the enemy creates a sense–albeit false–of safety. This might be somewhat of an explanation for our fascination with this kind of content. It’s also just plain interesting, and there’s a lot of sociological and psychological elements at play in what makes a murderer tick.
If you, like so many others, are interested in true crime and podcasts, we suggest checking out the following, all hosted by women:
Morbid is hosted by autopsy technician, Alaina Urquhart, and hairstylist, Ash Kelley. Alaina is actually Ash’s aunt, though the two have a much more sister-turned-bestie bond because Ash grew up living with her grandparents–Alaina’s parents–for part of her childhood. They released the first episode of their podcast in 2018, and have found great success since. Because of Alaina’s profession, she’s able to explain some of the human biology and autopsy practices involved in the cases they talk about, giving listeners a more in-depth and unique perspective on the details of a case. Ash brings a seemingly endless supply of positivity to the podcast that is refreshing, and her ability to make everyone listening feel like they are her real-life best friend is a hairstylist superpower. Combined with Alaina, they’re the perfect pair, and they do a fantastic job balancing the heavy and sometimes grisly subject matter with a mix of lighter content.
Morbid isn’t just for the murder-obsessed true crime fans, but also explores the spooky paranormal, weird folklore, and absolutely bonkers “listener tales” about real experiences with all of the above! This creates some nice breathers between the heavier episodes, for those that need it, and keeps the podcast interesting. The space they hold within their episodes for both themselves and the audience to experience emotions that come with listening to the gruesome cases they cover is another commendable trait of the pod. The banter between the hosts is always hilarious, and no one knows how to roast a serial killer quite like Ash and Alaina. Check Morbid out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
True crime has a notorious obsession with the white, female victim. Crime Noir is here to help shift the narrative and share true crime stories with Black victims that are underreported on. Created and hosted by Candice Gaines, who studied forensic science in college, Crime Noir focuses on cases that are not widely known, including missing persons cases and murders. The podcast has covered The Freeway Phantom, a serial killer who preyed on young Black girls in DC in the 1970s and is still unidentified to this day, the disappearance of Tremaine Peek, the murder of Latisha Frazier, and many other cases. Crime Noir also did a few episodes in honor of Black History Month and covered the murder of revolutionary Fred Hampton as well as the topic of lynching and the atrocities committed against Black Americans after the abolishment of slavery.
Candice approaches each story with tangible empathy and often directs listeners to tip hotlines and ways to support the families of victims in the stories she tells. Her mission of bringing justice and awareness to cases affecting Black victims and communities shines in each episode. Crime Noir is a vitally important addition to the true-crime podcast community. You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Soundcloud!
Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and The Black Dahlia
Root of Evil covers just one instantly recognizable and infamously unsolved murder case: the Black Dahlia. Hosted by the great-granddaughters of one of the case’s biggest suspects, George Hodel, Root of Evil dissects the brutal 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short. The hosts are sisters Rasha Pecoraro and Yvette Gentile, and they sit down with relatives as they discuss the darkest of family secrets. George Hodel is thought to be one of the most plausible suspects in the Black Dahlia murder, especially after his own son, Steve Hodel, famously investigated his father’s involvement with the crime.
The podcast features conversations with family members as well as exclusive interviews with witnesses and others close to the case and examines not just the case itself, but the way trauma cycles through generations within a family. If you’re looking for a more intimate and personal perspective on a case that unfolds over several episodes, this is the podcast for you. You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Audacy, and anywhere else you prefer to get your podcasts.
Crime Junkie is for the true crime listener who needs all the nitty gritty details. This could be because of co-host Brit Prawat’s past as a P.I. or Ashley Flowers’ educational background in Biological Services, but either way, the cases they talk about are heavily researched and clearly reported. A lot of the cases Crime Junkie covers are unsolved, and they share them with the hopes someone listening might be able to help investigators bring justice to the victims and their families. Ashley usually leads the podcast while Brit pops in to ask the questions that everyone else listening is wondering, too. The two have a great dynamic and top-tier podcast voices.
Crime Junkie’s first episode came out in 2017 and since then the podcast has grown to be one of the most popular true crime podcasts to date. Ashley is now the CEO and founder of Audiochuck, a podcast and media production company that hosts tons of other true crime podcasts. She also started her own nonprofit called Season of Justice which donates money and assists in allocating resources to law enforcement to help solve cold cases. From the jump, Ashley and Brit wanted Crime Junkie to be a tool for change, and are committed to making true crime content that isn’t exploitative or sensationalized. You’ll often hear them end an episode by directing listeners to a petition they can sign, an organization they can donate to, or some other call to action that gets their listeners involved. And of course, they invented the iconic number one crime junkie life rule: Be weird, be rude, stay alive. You can find Crime Junkie on Spotify, Audiochuck, Apple Podcasts, and more.
In The Dark
Hosted by journalist and investigative reporter Madeleine Baran, In The Dark is a podcast that currently has two seasons each focusing on different cases. Season one covers the abduction of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in 1989 Minnesota–a case that was famously unsolved for over two decades when the podcast began recording. Wetterling’s abduction and murder led to the creation of the national sex-offender registry and sparked a new cultural fear of pedophiles and child abductions. Jacob Wetterling was snatched when out biking with a group of friends in rural Minnesota. Despite reports from other boys in the town about being sexually abused by a local man (one of the main suspects in these abuse cases, Danny Heinrich, eventually confessed in 2016 to the abduction, sexual assault, and murder of Wetterling), the investigation was full of police missteps and blatant oversights. In The Dark explores the mistakes made by the investigators and holds the system accountable for its errors. With some uncanny timing, Heinrich confessed to Wetterling’s assault and murder and led investigators to the child’s remains just one week before the first episode of the podcast aired, closing a case that had been open for almost twenty-seven years.
In The Dark’s producer, Samara Freemark is hesitant to call the podcast “true crime” and said in an interview with The New York Times that, “However anyone comes to the podcast, we’re glad they’re there…But how we would describe our work is investigative reporting on the criminal justice system.” The second season of In The Dark tackles the case of Curtis Flowers, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of four people. He maintains his innocence and has been tried six times for the same crime. In The Dark pokes holes in the prosecution’s theories, debunks evidence used in the trial, and shines a light on the racial biases and injustices woven throughout the case. If you’re looking for critical, hard-hitting investigative journalism that focuses on holding our justice system accountable, this is your kinda podcast. Find it on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and anywhere else you find podcasts.
My Favorite Murder
Since its creation in 2016, My Favorite Murder has grown to be one of the most popular podcasts ever. The hosts, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, met at a mutual friend’s Halloween party the year before and instantly bonded over their fascination with the particularly gruesome and morbid. Georgia was a receptionist and a Cooking Channel co-host at the time, and Karen was a standup comedian and television writer. Together, they made a jocular duo, and their true crime comedy podcast was born. Rather than feeling like a procedural walk-through of a case, or getting details that only hours of research could dig up, listening to My Favorite Murder feels like being privy to a private and hilarious conversation between two friends who are obsessed with true crime. This means listeners have gotten to know Karen and Georgia well over the years, as they’re very candid about their real-life struggles with mental health, addiction, and more.
That feeling of, “I’m afraid of being murdered so I must learn everything about every murder, ever,” is exactly what this podcast was born from, and you can feel that shared sense of anxiety between the hosts and listeners. The podcast has become like a metaphorical watering hole for its fans–a community where people can laugh about the simultaneous absurdity and validity of doing things like giving every security camera you come by a clear, frontal face-shot or plucking hairs out to leave in your Uber like a DNA breadcrumb. You can find the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and wherever else you like to listen to podcasts.
Now that you have a queue of women-hosted podcasts to check out, please remember there are some ethical gray areas when it comes to true crime, and it’s important to consume this kind of media responsibly. Always think critically about who is profiting from what. No one should be making money off the sensationalization of horrible crimes and murders, and while many podcasts are well-intentioned and focus on bringing awareness to cases that might not otherwise get it, it’s still important to remain vigilant. Also, copaganda–or propaganda intended to portray the police favorably to the public–is rampant in the true crime community. While there are many police officers and detectives that put their hearts into solving cases and protecting victims, they are doing it within a powerful branch of a system that is inherently oppressive, particularly to minorities and marginalized communities. It is important to keep this in mind when thinking about the police, their biases, and their influences when solving the cases you’re listening to, as well as what information was available to the public about the cases to begin with.
Top photo from Pexels by cottonbro studio
Zoë is a writer and journalist from Minnesota currently based in Chicago. In her free time she likes to watch TV but she usually lies and says her favorite hobby is reading. She is working towards a career that combines her passion for comedy and journalism to create a more informed and equitable world.