13 True-Crime Podcasts That’ll Deeply Disturb You

Listen… if you dare

Shannon Willoby
10 min readNov 6, 2018
Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

What’s the most unexpected benefit of listening to disturbing podcasts? They help you get stuff done. Like the dishes. Laundry. Even exercise!

And if it takes a good old-fashioned murder tale for you to be productive, so be it!

P.S. These recommendations are the real deal. I’ve personally listened to (and been disturbed by) all 13 of the podcasts below. And if true crime has taught you nothing so far, then you should be totally cool with trusting a stranger on the internet.

In fact, I broke my arm and could really use some help getting groceries into the back of my van, if you wouldn’t mind?

This blog post is reader-supported. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases via links in this post.

How to Listen to Podcasts

While there are plenty of disturbing podcasts across platforms, we all have our preferences.

Personally, I listen to podcasts on either Apple Podcasts or Audible, but the latter requires a subscription.

If you listen to a lot of audiobooks, however, Audible is worth it, in my opinion, since they have a killer (pun intended) selection of books, from horror and suspense to true crime, and you can listen to podcasts, too. (Leave a comment if you want me to recommend some great true crime audiobooks!)

Plus, listening to podcasts on Audible means you won’t have to suffer through ads (if I have to hear another podcast host promote another mattress…).

However, you can choose from any of the platforms below, from paid to free, to listen to podcasts:

Now, let’s get into the most disturbing podcasts for your listening pleasure!

1. The Clown and the Candyman

Everyone’s heard of John Wayne Gacy, the killer clown who raped and murdered at least 33 boys and men in the ’70s — but what about the Candyman, Dean Corll, who raped, tortured, and murdered at least 28 boys and men in the ‘70’s as well?

The Clown and the Candyman podcast sheds light on the many predators, both well-known and obscure, who have hunted young boys throughout the years—and how they’re connected to a much larger ring of pedophiles than you ever could have imagined.

Disturb-O-Meter: Extreme. You’ll feel all the emotions listening to this one: horror, fear, disgust, sadness, and anger. And you’ll most certainly learn what to do if someone ever tries to pull the “handcuff trick” on you: RUN.

2. Sword and Scale

As the official description of Sword and Scale states, this podcast covers the “worst of the worst” in true crime. They’re not exaggerating, either.

In fact, I got so freaked out by episode 116 that I started googling home-security systems in the middle of the night. (BTW — if any murderers are reading this, my home is now heavily alarmed, so keep it moving.)

Overall, this podcast was too much for me. From the horrifying 911 calls to the court testimony from the victims’ families — I had to stop listening. But maybe you can handle it?

Disturb-O-Meter: Off the goddamn charts.

3. Happy Face Season 1

Imagine finding out your dad is a serial killer.

That’s what happened to Melissa Moore in the summer of 1995, when she learned her father, Keith Hunter Jesperson, was the Happy Face Killer. (He murdered at least eight women in the early 90s.)

This podcast features Melissa’s story — in her own words — as she recounts her childhood and the disturbing signs that her dad wasn’t quite who she thought he was.

It’s an especially interesting podcast to me because it explores a side to serial-killer aftermath we don’t often get to hear — the intimate stories of Jesperson as a father and husband, before and after he became a killer. And, more importantly, how the family he left behind refuses to be his lifelong victims.

Disturb-O-Meter: Won’t give you nightmares, but will make you wonder what your dad does in his free time.

4. Heart Starts Pounding

While this podcast doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some of the others (sound effects, interviews, 911 calls), what it does have are cases you haven’t heard elsewhere.

So if you’re looking for true crime stories that haven’t already been covered on all the top podcasts, Heart Starts Pounding just became your new enthralling fave. (This one is currently my 2023 podcast go-to — every episode is interesting, a little disturbing, and short, which means I can finish it on a commute or while cleaning the kitchen.)

Host Kaelyn Moore covers everything from horrifying human experiments conducted by the U.S. government to an overseas murder case that uncovered the horrifying deeds of a Nazi war criminal.

Kaelyn also covers spooky lores and legends and the occasional haunting to round out this podcast.

Disturb-O-Meter: Might not make you sleep with the lights on but will slowly erode your faith in humanity.

5. Morbid

Shouldn’t all true crime podcasts be hosted by an autopsy technician? Yes, Morbid is hosted by Alaina Urquhart, who just happens to be an autopsy tech) and Ash Kelley, who is a hairdresser, making for a disturbingly delightful combo.

While the hosts always tell terrifying tales, they do so with humor (they’ll make you laugh out loud), but they’re respectful of the cases, victims, and families.

Each story is heavily researched, and topics range from Sweden’s “witch” trials and highjacked airplanes to little-known true crime murders that will have you looking over your shoulder in every parking lot for the rest of time.

Disturb-O-Meter: This one varies — you might be totally fine, or you might never fly on an airplane or go hiking ever again. TBD!

6. Hunting Warhead

This podcast is the most disturbing on this list, and that’s saying a lot. I repeatedly paused it while listening because the content is that heavy.

Hunting Warhead reveals a child sexual abuse ring on the dark web and the investigation to find the monster who ran it. The awful interviews with one of the perpetrators will stick with you — fair warning, this podcast is hard to listen to and even harder to shake.

However, the journalistic team behind this podcast are doing amazing work to shine a light on the worst of the worst and hold them accountable. Each episode is incredibly well-produced.

Disturb-O-Meter: Oof. You’ll be horrified, disgusted, enraged, heartbroken — basically, all the emotions at once.

7. Dirty John

Love is dangerous. And that’s just one of the most disturbing lessons you’ll take away from Dirty John.

Debra Newell, a successful interior designer, meets a guy online who seems too good to be true. He’s a handsome, wealthy doctor whom her family despises — for reasons she can’t fathom.

This podcast explores the dark side of internet dating — and how some of us are so happy to find love — and so desperate not to lose it — that we’re willing to ignore even the deadliest of warning signs.

Disturb-O-Meter: This one’s a slow burn. It’s suspenseful throughout until WHAM, sheer terror.

8. Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia

What would you do if you uncovered evidence that connected your father to one of the most infamous (and unsolved) murder cases in the United States?

The Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short) murder case has captivated true crime fans for generations —but Root of Evil puts a fascinating twist on who might have done it and the horrifying secrets of his family.

Root of Evil is a deep dive into George Hodel, the man many believe to be the Black Dahlia’s killer, and the investigation led by his son, Steve. You’ll be blown away by the dark secrets in this family and the patriarch who just might have been behind one of the most notorious murders of all time.

Disturb-O-Meter: This one is more fascinating than disturbing (aside from the disgusting secret that will be revealed)—but you will be deeply disturbed thinking about how a murderer and rapist that dismembered, mutilated, washed, and posed a victim walked away scot-free.

9. My Favorite Murder

If you like your true-crime stories with a side of comic relief, My Favorite Murder is a classic option.

Hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark tell each other terrifying tales of murder each episode, from well-known cases like The Black Dahlia to unknown hometown stories of cannibalistic aunts and poisoned milkshakes.

It’s disturbing stuff, but they’ll make you laugh with witty commentary and funny catchphrases, like “Here’s the thing: f*ck everyone” and “Get a job. Buy your own shit. Stay out of the forest.” Solid advice.

Disturb-O-Meter: This podcast has a cumulative effect… the more you listen, the scarier it gets. You’ll be stockpiling pepper spray and tasers before you know it.

10. Man in the Window: The Golden State Killer

Even if you’ve watched the documentaries and read the book “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark,” this chilling podcast is definitely worth a listen.

It’s hosted by a Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative reporter who uncovered details about the Golden State Killer that will surprise you — (read: if you think you know all there is to know about this case, you’re wrong).

However, the main focus of the podcast is on the victims’ stories and those who knew the Golden State Killer personally before he was arrested, giving it a unique angle.

Disturb-O-Meter: This case is terrifying — and hearing the details of how he stalked and attacked his victims (including actual audio of the haunting voicemails the Golden State Killer left on victims’ machines) will have you boarding up your windows stat.

11. Last Podcast on the Left

From old-timey gore like Jack the Ripper to hip-hop horror à la Biggie and Tupac, Last Podcast on the Left leaves no true-crime story uncovered.

The hosts, Henry Zebrowski and Marcus Parks, offer a raunchy take on the stories they tell— which means they might make you dry heave as often as they make you laugh.

Henry’s impressions are always hilarious — like when he does the voice of Ed Gein’s mom in episode 172 or tries out an Australian accent in episode 329.

They also dabble in non-true-crime topics, like aliens, demonic possession, and sexy ghosts. (It’s a thing, I guess.)

Disturb-O-Meter: The comic relief keeps things light, but you will be disturbed by both the stories and the hosts. But in a good way. Mostly.

12. Dr. Death

You’ll feel sick listening to this one. Screws left in muscle tissue. Severed nerves. Bone fragments. Paralyzation. Death.

33 Patients went to Doctor Death thinking he would fix their pain — but as you’ll learn — it was just the beginning. And in some cases, it was the end.

Thankfully, the host, Laura Beil, has a soothing voice, which is a mild painkiller when you’re listening to the story of a scalpel-wielding madman.

Disturb-O-Meter: Absolutely terrifying but probably won’t give you nightmares. Unless you have a doctor visit coming up. Or a fear of doctors in general. Or a fear of anesthesia. Or a fear of being paralyzed. Or a fear of dying. OK, it’s disturbing as f*ck.

13. Someone Knows Something

This one is pretty brutal. The stories covered in this podcast are unsolved cases that feature interviews with family members and friends of the missing or murdered.

The host, David Ridgen, even speaks to suspects as he digs to uncover the truth.

Be prepared to follow David down some pretty deep rabbit holes and to cry the whole way there.

Disturb-O-Meter: You’ll probably feel more sorrow than fear, although the stories are terrifying. And, as with most cases, someone truly has to know something — and the fact that so few ever come forward is deeply disturbing all in itself.