The 12 Most Enthralling & Disturbing True Crime Podcasts Of 2020
You can tell that your nights of partying are over, when you can’t think of anything better than settling in for the evening with a good true crime podcast. Just lean into it, podcasts are the actual best.
When podcast staples like Serial and In The Dark debuted, true crime podcasts were still relatively rare, but now there are literally hundreds of different shows popping up every week — and it can be daunting to decide which is worth investing your time in.
So, we’ve selected Australian and international true crime podcasts from this year that stood out above the rest and are just absolutely addictive listening.
The 12 Best True Crime Podcasts Of 2020:
1. Chasing Charlie
This seven-part podcast from private investigator Julia Robson follows her seven-year investigation into the elusive Charlie, a conman who preyed on vulnerable women and left a trail of shattered lives in his path. Robson is a former police officer, who tracked Charlie from New Zealand to Australia, the UK, and France, interviewing victims who succumbed to his charms.
2. The Dating Game Killer
From the makers of Dirty John and Dr. Death, this six-episode series recounts the 1978 case of Rodney Alcala, a man who won a date on game show The Dating Game and turned out to be a serial killer on the run. Alcala would eventually be linked to 130 women and childrens’ deaths and is now considered one of America’s most notorious serial killers.
An Australian story that is absolutely chilling. Journalist Paul Cochrane recounts the 2000 case of a deliberately lit fire in a remote Queensland town that killed 15 young backpackers. He interviews witnesses, survivors, and the victims’ families, as they try to pick up the pieces 20 years after one of our nation’s worst mass murders.
4. Thin Black Line
In 1993, 18-year-old traditional dancer and amateur boxer Daniel Yock was drinking with friends in Brisbane when a police van arrived. What happened next triggered a chain of events which lead to Yock dying in custody.
This podcast, presented by Indigenous journalist Allan Clarke, takes a deep dive into what took place that fateful day, including an interview from an eyewitness who is speaking publicly for the first time. In light of the year’s Black Lives Matter movement spreading awareness across the world about police brutality, this should be compulsory listening for every Australian.
5. Dead and Gone
If you love true crime, conspiracy theories, and the Grateful Dead, this podcast is everything you’ve been looking for. Hosted by true crime king of Up and Vanished fame Payne Lindsey, along with Disgraceland’s Jake Brennan, this podcast seeks to connect a string of mysterious deaths and disappearances of Grateful Dead fans over the past five decades.
6. The Night Driver
From The Teacher’s Pet’s Hedley Thomas, The Night Driver investigates the disappearance of Bathurst woman Janine Vaughan. She was last seen in 2001 jumping into a red four-door sedan at 4am, outside Bathurst’s Metro Tavern and she was never seen again. Speaking to Janine’s sister Kylie, the nine-part series digs through the evidence to try to discover who was driving that car.
7. The Orange Tree
I only recently discovered this podcast that came out midyear — and I listened to the whole series in one sitting. The case is equal parts disturbing and baffling, as two University of Texas students recount the grisly 2005 murder of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave.
After going missing following a night out, her body was eventually found at The Orange Tree, a condo complex near the university. The crime scene was absolute nightmare fuel and the story gets even more hectic from there. This podcast is perfect for a short road trip, if you can stomach hearing some rather disturbing stuff.
If you’re obsessed with cults and con artists (yes! me!), this podcast is everything you love combined. James Arthur Ray is a self-help guru, who starred in the movie The Secret and wrote popular books like The Science of Success. In 2009, he grew a following so big that he was able to entice 50 people to pay him $10,000 dollars each for his five-day ‘Spiritual Warrior’ seminar in Northern Arizona’s Red Rock Canyons.
This is where things went awry. During this cult-like event, participants were encouraged to go without food or water, some shaved their heads, and the seminar culminated in a sweat lodge session which saw 18 attendees go to hospital, with three dying as a result.
9. Dr. Death
If you were a fan of Dr. Death’s first season, you won’t be disappointed with the second installment which focuses on Dr. Fata: a Michigan oncologist, who prescribed and administered chemotherapy to hundreds of patients who didn’t have cancer. Through interviews with Fata’s patients, family members, along with the staff who worked beside him, this podcast investigates how he managed to evade the healthcare system for so many years. It is harrowing listening.
10. The Officer’s Wife
Told across seven episodes, The Officer’s Wife reexamines the 2016 death of Jessica Boynton, a woman found inside a locked closet with a gunshot wound to her head. Her husband Matthew was a police officer at the time and called for radio assistance after claiming to hear two gunshots coming from inside his home. But plot twist: officers at the crime scene found her husband’s service weapon underneath her body. This podcast gave me The Staircase vibes, and it’s well worth a listen.
11. Even The Rich: #FreeBritney
If murder and gruesome crimes aren’t your jam, then this podcast that explains Britney Spears’ conservatorship is perfect for you. Told across four enthralling episodes, hosts Brooke Siffrinn and Aricia Skidmore-Williams go through a timeline of what led to Spears being ruled as unable to take care of herself in 2008, and how her estranged father Jamie became the conservator of her finances, her estate, her health and, well, basically controlling her whole life.
This podcast is particularly poignant following Spears’ recent attempt to have her dad removed as a conservator, which was rejected by a US court. It’s the kind of addictive podcast that you wish would never end. I demand at least 20 more episodes.
12: The Renner Files
This isn’t quite a true crime podcast, as the show’s Spotify description reads: “The Renner Files is a new kind of true crime podcast… one that’s not about true crime at all. Instead it’s about Jeremy Renner’s ill-fated app.” That being said, it feels like a true crime podcast, because of the way hosts Caroline Goldfarb and Sarah Ramos approach Renner, digging up everything and anything they can find about the actor — and why his app crashed and burned so badly.
I can’t stress this enough: it’s the best thing I listened to all year.