By basic human nature, we are interested in what is a bit eerie, a bit mysterious, and what has just a bit of danger. We also love to hear stories. With that in mind, I consulted Amazon and my true-crime loving friend Abby, and I've compiled a list of a good collection of sources and examples of the best true crime podcasts, shows, and books. I've included links to everything that isn't a Netflix show.
Also keep in mind that I've tried to bring in as many recent examples as possible, though I may have to put in one or two of my personal favorites from a few years back.
Here we go....
1. The Staircase- Netflix
If you have a Netflix subscription, odds are you have heard of this show by now. But, in case you haven't, here's a quick, mini-synopsis that won't give much away. Michael Peterson, an author and father of four, is accused of killing his wife after he calls 911 saying she fell down the stairs. The show mostly centers around him and his family as well as his legal team, and if you're not one for a very scripted looking documentary, this may not be for you.
That being said, I am obsessed. There were 8 episodes, and now there are 13 (and I think that's the end of it, but I'm only on episode 11). I don't know if he did it. I don't know anything anymore.
2. I'll Be Here in the Dark
This book can be found on Amazon.
Admittedly, I have not read this yet, but if Abby's gushing at work has told me anything, it's that this book is MONUMENTAL in the crime world. Michelle Macnamara spent practically her entire career searching for the Golden State Killer (who, we know by the news, has only recently been apprehended). This book details the search up until her death and has since been updated with details from the rest of the case.
The Golden State Killer was elusive during the 1970s and 80s, and this investigation, for a long while, was one of the longest, most expensive investigations this country has ever seen (or so I hear), and hearing the story of how journalism met police work will be incredibly interesting.
3. My Friend Dahmer
The first attention this movie got from me was not because it was about Jeffrey Dahmer, but more so because Ross Lynch, formerly of Disney Channel, was going to be playing a serial killer. I would normally be a little bit alarmed about that, but this seemed like a mature role for him.
The movie tells the teenage years of Dahmer and his slow spiral into what would later make him a serial killer. Without giving too much away, those of you who know the signs of psychopathic tendencies, as well as those of you who just know what is right and wrong will have your spine tingling most of the movie. It's CREEPY, and not just because it puts a lot into perspective.
The movie recently came out, so attaining it might not be the easiest feat, though if you're really eager for the story, the 2012 graphic novel of the same name is available on Amazon and was written by Dahmer's high school friend.
4. The Devil in the White City
This novel has a little bit of everything- history, mystery, and of course, murder. For the most part, this book centers around the later murders of H.H. Holmes, who the world has regarded as the original serial killer. Case reports have written that Holmes did a lot of his work during the World's Fair, where many flocked to see the new inventions of the 20th century.
Along with a supporting cast of inventors and historical figures like Einstein, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and Susan B. Anthony, this novel pulls together the tale of the fair that changed America and the murderer who ran rampant.
(PS. This novel is available from Amazon, but I'll be stealing it from Abby's desk when she is done with it.)
5. Serial Killers
I did not think I was much of a podcast person, but this one has pretty much changed my perspective. Partially because it feels more real than someone just telling a story, and partially because its scripted format makes me feel like I'm in a murder mystery for my ears only, Serial Killers tells the stories of many (and I think they're up to 35 or so killers with 2 episodes per killer) of the sickest minds with the most strange stories. From H.H Holmes to Aileen Wuornos to many killers I hadn't heard of (like the Werewolf of Wysteria and the Giggling Granny), hosts Greg and Vanessa take a psychological approach to talk about what happened in killings going back as far as the 18th century and as far forward (at least where I've gotten to) as 2009.
I will admit that the advertisements in the middle of the podcast are a bit annoying, but you are able to skip forward 15 seconds on Spotify, where I listen to the podcast, and it is mainly available through their website, Parcast, though it is available through most podcast directories.
6. The Confession Tapes
For anyone wondering how people can admit to things they did not do, this show is for you. The Netflix show goes into detail about 7 cases (and there are more seasons coming) of people confessing to crimes they did not commit. It's terrifying to watch sometimes because some of the cases have no evidence that the suspect has committed the crime except their confession, yet they are imprisoned. TERRIFYING. I had to watch all of it in two sittings, so maybe it wasn't a complete Netflix binge, but even so, this show is insane.
7. Hunt a Killer
Okay, so this is the only thing on the list that isn't something you can just get immediately. This is kind of like if a serial killer was delivering a box on your doorstep every month. That is, it has clues and case files on a fictional case that you get to solve. There are even forums and chats and exclusive, secret videos made for the people who are working on the case- everyone gets the same clues every month, so you're able to communicate with people around the world about it.
It is a paid service, as most "delivered to your door every month" services are, and it is exclusive. They only let about 300 new people subscribe per month.
The website is here, in case you want more info.
8. My Favorite Murder
This podcast is not for the light of heart....or the light to laugh. The hosts couple talking about important murder cases (not just serial killers) with the enthusiasm of two high school girls gossiping at a sleepover. it's funny sometimes, serious others, and their advertisements are short and at the beginning, so you don't miss a second of the action. I've found that when things start getting more intense, they bring their cat over and start talking about her.
If you want a complete story told smoothly, probably not the podcast for you, but even so, this is a good one to at least listen to the first episode to get a feel for it.
I listen to My Favorite Murder on Spotify, but it is available on most other podcast directories and here for a more direct link.
9. The Stranger Beside Me
This is another intriguing way of looking at the Ted Bundy case, besides the traditional biographies and case reports, and yes, the episodes of Serial Killers devoted to him. This story is told by Ann Rule, a friend of Bundy's who worked with him on a suicide hotline. It is interesting to read an account of Bundy from someone who really was not involved in the case, and who knew Ted outside of his murder spree. Many people would recall that Bundy was attractive, intelligent, and kind. The judge ruling over his case even said that it was a "waste" that he had turned his talents to murder instead of being a lawyer or a doctor. He had the world at his feet, and Ann Rule knew it.
I've only started reading this book, but even within the first 20 pages, it is riveting, and it can be found on Amazon.
Another interesting perspective comes from this Netflix show, which goes inside the heads of FBI investigators as they interview serial killers to start building a profile of what makes a killer. It's creepy, but even more than that, it really does start to look like the investigators are going to use their information to catch someone we only see snippets of at the beginning of each episode. I won't say who it is, but for those who know a bit about criminal history, this is HUGE.
I mainly started watching because one of my favorite actors, Jonathon Groff, is in it, but once I started watching, I watched all ten episodes in one sitting.