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10 Must-Listen True Crime Podcasts

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True crime has been a compelling feature of television for decades (Forensic Files and Dateline, anyone?), and now, it's hard to remember a time when true crime podcasts weren't all the rage. The trend can largely be traced back to Serial, which debuted in 2014. The podcast examined the case of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murdering his girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 2000, when he was 18; Syed, who is serving life plus 20 years for the crime, never confessed and proclaims his innocence to this day. Serial was a sensation, becoming the fastest podcast ever to reach 5 million downloads, and reaction to the podcast infused new hope into Syed's defense. (He was recently granted a new trial.)

After Serial's incredible success, it wasn't long before other true crime podcasts were being created and downloaded in droves. These 10 podcasts cover ground both episodic and serial and combine great storytelling with expert theorizing—and they're all addicting.

1. SWORD AND SCALE

Sword and Scale, hosted by Mike Boudet, has been unraveling stories of lesser-known crimes since January 2014. In each episode, Boudet weaves together fact (expert commentary, witness statements) and drama (sound effects, eerie music) to create an extremely compelling way to deliver information—and you’ll get a lot of information, from detailed timelines to mental health diagnoses. One of the most riveting episodes is actually the very first: It follows the case of Bruce Blackman, a young schizophrenic man who murdered his family in Canada.

2. CRIMINAL

Created in 2013, Criminal stands out from a sea of true crime podcasts that seem to focus almost exclusively on murder. Criminal covers every kind of crime imaginable, some sad, some scary, some actually funny. They do so in very digestible doses, too: episodes are about 20 minutes long. The main mission of producers Lauren Spohrer and Eric Mennel and host Phoebe Judge is to find the personal angle in each story. Who did this crime affect; how and why? They’ve interviewed a mother-daughter coroner team and a man who broke up a Venus flytrap crime ring. Every episode is so different from the last, and yet all feel so fully fleshed out with commentary right from the people involved in the crime. For crime with a touch of humor, try their episode on the sought-after bourbon Pappy Van Winkle.

3. SNAPPED

Snapped is nothing new to Oxygen viewers. The TV show is on its 18th season. But just this past August, producers launched a podcast version of the episodes—and it doesn’t feel like anything’s missing not being able to watch the action on TV. Snapped features women who killed or attempted to kill—their life stories, circumstances surrounding their crimes, and the fallout of their actions. What’s unique about Snapped is that it often includes interviews with the women in question. Guided by host Sharon Martin, the suspects or convicted killers, family and friends, witnesses, police officers, and lawyers tell the tale. Start with episode one, in which Carol Kopenkoskey herself remembers the day she shot her husband.

4. ACCUSED

Accused will appeal to those still looking to fill the Serial void, since it is, in fact, a serial. Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossmann are two Cincinnati journalists who spent a year investigating the 1978 murder of Elizabeth Andes in her Oxford, Ohio apartment. Andes’s boyfriend, Bob Young, confessed, then recanted. Two juries—one criminal, one civil—acquitted Young, but police never looked into any other suspects. Hunt spends each episode taking listeners through the facts, Elizabeth and Bob’s relationship, evidence for and against Bob and other suspects, and where Elizabeth’s family stands on the case now. Every episode is brimming with the emotional accounts of Elizabeth’s friends, and Hunt and Rossman’s Serial-like experiment—driving from point A to point B in the police’s proposed timeline for Bob on the night of the murder—will leave you constantly questioning your own conclusions. Of course, you’ll have to start from the beginning with this one.

5. REAL CRIME PROFILE

Real Crime Profile is not only riveting, it’s incredibly satisfying. It features carefully explained theories from two expert hosts: Jim Clemente, former FBI criminal profiler and NYC prosecutor, and Laura Richards, former New Scotland Yard crime analyst. Guided by co-host Lisa Zambetti, Clemente and Richards unpack cases currently under the media spotlight and explain some of the most confusing elements of the crimes and trials. They invite questions from listeners so they can shed light on things like DNA evidence, motives, and prosecution loopholes. Fans of Making a Murderer might be most intrigued by the podcast’s first six episodes, which concentrate on Steven Avery’s arrest, Brendan Dassey’s confession and Jodi Stachowski’s Nancy Grace interview.

6. CASEFILE

“Fact is scarier than fiction.” That’s Casefile’s tagline, and from the ominous sound effects to the anonymous host's voice, this Australian podcast really lives up to it. Casefile covers crimes from all over the world, and whether it’s a mystery from the 1940s or a string of murders from the 1990s, every subject has the common thread of eeriness. The darkness of the stories is tempered by the redeeming accounts of rescuers, survivors, and witnesses. Casefile doesn’t rely on interviews, but is clearly impeccably researched—carefully told even when the mood does feel like a Halloween-appropriate ghost tale. For one such example of this balance, check out episode 31, about a killer couple that abducted girls from Perth in the 1980s.

7. GENERATION WHY

Generation Why is the podcast for you if you’re fascinated by the circumstances surrounding true crimes but not so into the gory details. Hosts Aaron and Justin don’t dwell on the dark or disturbing elements of murders and abductions, and never go for the scare or gross-out with their stories. While the mood is conversational (they’re real-life friends, after all), Generation Why takes a somewhat intellectual approach. Aaron and Justin spotlight both well-known and relatively unknown cases, and they play down the drama, choosing to concentrate on things like evidence supporting a wrongful conviction or events in a murderer’s life that might have caused him or her to break. Episode 196 features an unsettling case you might not know about: the Baton Rouge serial killer.

8. TRUE CRIME GARAGE

Nic and Captain, hosts of True Crime Garage, discuss cases over brews. (They pair every episode with a craft beer.) Their back-and-forth effortlessly guides what might otherwise be complicated tales of mysteries, trials, and controversies so you get all the facts in a very absorbable way, with a sprinkling to humor (which provides a sometimes necessary mood-lightener). Nic and Captain cover all bases, discussing legendary serial killers, oft-debated missing persons cases, and theories like whether Kurt Cobain’s death was indeed a suicide. Even if you think you know all there is to know about Ed Gein, sit back for the roller coaster that is Nic and Captain’s intricate retelling, episode 49.

9. TRUTH & JUSTICE WITH BOB RUFF

Michigan firefighter Bob Ruff was a Serial fan who started Truth & Justice to dissect theories about Syed's case. Researching that case led him to the vast number of other either wrongful or in-question convictions there are out there, inspiring him to retire early and commit to looking into these cases. His podcast, therefore, is more than just that—Ruff actively investigates the cases each season concentrates on. His second season focuses on Kenny Snow, serving a 40-year sentence in Tyler, Texas, for an aggravated robbery he may not have committed. Ruff is in constant contact with the sheriff’s department, as well as the town, obtaining and poring over any documents he can get his hands on, and he’s also traveled back and forth to Tyler. His podcast is a behind-the-scenes look at the work he’s doing with hypotheses about Snow’s possible innocence. Start from the beginning of the Snow story with episode 201.

10. THINKING SIDEWAYS

Thinking Sideways occupies a middle ground between true crime and mystery. Hosted by Joe, Steve, and Devin, the podcast takes the familiar but reliably appealing approach of a few friends talking crazy cases—and their light banter is a welcome breather from some of the heaviest moments. Thinking Sideways fixes its attention on the open questions in history and crime. They discuss the “Paul [McCartney] is dead” conspiracy and the disappearance of Amelia Earhart along with the 1907 theft of the Irish crown jewels, Jack the Ripper, the Monster with 21 Faces crime organization, and the Mad Axeman of New Orleans. There’s definitely a history lesson vibe among this eclectic range of episodes, but one that’s always exciting and never dry. For a lesser known case with lots of surprisingly well-known tie-ins, listen to their episode on the Wonderland murders.

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10 Hush-Hush Facts About L.A. Confidential
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On this day 20 years ago, a rising star director, a writer who thought he’d never get the gig, and a remarkable cast got together to make a film about the corrupt underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles, and the men and women who littered its landscape. This was L.A. Confidential, a film so complex that its creator (legendary crime writer James Ellroy) thought it was “unadaptable.” In the end, it was one of the most acclaimed movies of the 1990s, a film noir classic that made its leading actors into even bigger stars, and which remains an instantly watchable masterpiece to this day. Here are 10 facts about how it got made.

1. THE SCRIPTING PROCESS WAS TOUGH.

Writer-director Curtis Hanson had been a longtime James Ellroy fan when he finally read L.A. Confidential, and the characters in that particular Ellroy novel really spoke to him, so he began working on a script. Meanwhile, Brian Helgeland—originally contracted to write an unproduced Viking film for Warner Bros.—was also a huge Ellroy fan, and lobbied hard for the studio to give him the scripting job. When he learned that Hanson already had it, the two met, and bonded over their mutual admiration of Ellroy’s prose. Their passion for the material was clear, but it took two years to get the script done, with a number of obstacles.

"He would turn down other jobs; I would be doing drafts for free,” Helgeland said. “Whenever there was a day when I didn't want to get up anymore, Curtis tipped the bed and rolled me out on the floor."

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED AS A MINISERIES.

When executive producer David Wolper first read Ellroy’s novel, he saw the dense, complex story as the perfect fodder for a television miniseries, and was promptly turned down by all the major networks at the time.

3. JAMES ELLROY DIDN’T THINK THE BOOK COULD BE ADAPTED.

Though Wolper was intrigued by the idea of telling the story onscreen, Ellroy and his agent laughed at the thought. The author felt his massive book would never fit on any screen.

“It was big, it was bad, it was bereft of sympathetic characters,” Ellroy said. “It was unconstrainable, uncontainable, and unadaptable.”

4. CURTIS HANSON SOLD THE FILM WITH CLASSIC LOS ANGELES IMAGES.

To get the film made, Hanson had to convince New Regency Pictures head Arnon Milchan that it was worth producing. To do this, he essentially put together a collage of classic Los Angeles imagery, from memorable locations to movie stars, including the famous image of Robert Mitchum leaving jail after his arrest for using marijuana.

"Now you've seen the image of L.A. that was sold to get everybody to come here. Let's peel back the image and see where our characters live,” Hanson said.

Milchan was sold.

5. KEVIN SPACEY WAS ON HANSON’S WISH LIST FOR YEARS.

Though the other stars of the film were largely discoveries of the moment, Kevin Spacey was apparently someone Hanson wanted to work with for years. Spacey described Hanson as a director “who’d been trying for years and years and years to get me cast in films he made, and the studio always rejected me.” After Spacey won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects, Hanson called the actor and said, “I think I’ve got the role, and I think they’re not gonna say no this time.”

6. SPACEY’S CHARACTER IS BASED ON DEAN MARTIN.

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Though he cast relative unknowns in Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, Hanson wanted an American movie star for the role of Jack Vincennes, and decided on Kevin Spacey. In an effort to convince Spacey to take the role, Hanson invited him to dine at L.A.’s famous Formosa Cafe (where scenes in the film are actually set). While at the cafe, Spacey asked a vital question:

“If it was really 1952, and you were really making this movie, who would you cast as Jack Vincennes?” Hanson said “Dean Martin.”

At that point, Spacey looked up at the gallery of movie star photos which line the cafe, and realized Martin’s photo was right above him.

“To this day, I don’t know whether he sat us in that booth on purpose, but there was Dino looking down at me,” Spacey said.

After his meeting with Hanson, Spacey watched Martin’s performances in Some Came Running (1958) and Rio Bravo (1959), and realized that both films featured characters who mask vulnerability with a layer of cool. That was the genesis of Jack Vincennes.

7. HANSON CHOSE MUCH OF THE MUSIC BEFORE FILMING.

To help set the tone for his period drama, Hanson began selecting music of the early 1950s even before filming began, so he could play it on set as the actors went to work. Among his most interesting choices: When Jack Vincennes sits in a bar, staring at the money he’s just been bribed with, Dean Martin’s “Powder Your Face With Sunshine (Smile! Smile! Smile!)” plays, a reference to both the character’s melancholy, and to Spacey and Hanson’s decision to base the character on Martin.

8. THE CINEMATOGRAPHY WAS INSPIRED BY ROBERT FRANK PHOTOGRAPHS.

To emphasize realism and period accuracy, cinematographer Dante Spinotti thought less about the moving image, and more about still photographs. In particular, he used photographer Robert Frank’s 1958 collection "The Americans" as a tool, and relied less on artificial light and more on environmental light sources like desk lamps.

"I tried to compose shots as if I were using a still camera,” Spinotti said. “I was constantly asking myself, 'Where would I be if I were holding a Leica?' This is one reason I suggested shooting in the Super 35 widescreen format; I wanted to use spherical lenses, which for me have a look and feel similar to still-photo work.”

9. THE FINAL STORY TWIST IS NOT IN THE BOOK.

Warner Bros.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the film, Jack Vincennes, Ed Exley, and Bud White are all chasing a mysterious crime lord known as “Rollo Tomasi,” who turns out to be their own LAPD colleague, Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). Though Vincennes, Exley, and White are all native to Ellroy’s novel, the Tomasi name is entirely an invention of the film.

10. ELLROY APPROVED OF THE MOVIE.

To adapt L.A. Confidential for the screen, Hanson and Helgeland condensed Ellroy’s original novel, boiling the story down to a three-person narrative and ditching other subplots so they could get to the heart of the three cops at the center of the movie. Ellroy, in the end, was pleased with their choices.

“They preserved the basic integrity of the book and its main theme, which is that everything in Los Angeles during this era of boosterism and yahooism was two-sided and two-faced and put out for cosmetic purposes,” Ellroy said. “The script is very much about the [characters'] evolution as men and their lives of duress. Brian and Curtis took a work of fiction that had eight plotlines, reduced those to three, and retained the dramatic force of three men working out their destiny. I've long held that hard-boiled crime fiction is the history of bad white men doing bad things in the name of authority. They stated that case plain.”

Additional Sources:
Inside the Actors Studio: Kevin Spacey (2000)

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The Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
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For a man who didn't wrestle much, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wound up becoming more famous than a lot of the men flexing in the squared circle. The onscreen manager of several notable grapplers, including André the Giant and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 73. His passing has led to several tributes recalling his memorable moments, from dressing up in a weasel suit to hosting a short-lived talk show on TNT.

While Heenan’s “heel” persona was considered great entertainment, there was a night back in 1975 when he did his job a little too well. As a result, an irate fan tried to assassinate him in the ring.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Heenan was appearing at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the now-defunct AWA wrestling promotion when his performance began to grate on the nerves of an unnamed attendee seated on the floor. Eyewitnesses described the man as friendly up until wrestlers Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel started their bout with Heenan at ringside in Bockwinkel’s corner.

“Get Heenan out of there,” the fan screamed, possibly concerned his character would interfere in a fair contest. Heenan, known as “Pretty Boy” at the time, began to distract the referee, awarding an advantage to his wrestler. When the official began waving his arms to signal Heenan to stop interrupting, the fan apparently took it as the match being over and awarded in Bockwinkel’s favor. He drew a gun and began firing.

The man got off two shots, hitting three bystanders with one bullet and two more with the other before running out of the arena. (No fatalities were reported.) Security swarmed the scene, getting medical attention for the injured and escorting both Heenan and the wrestlers to the back.

According to Heenan, the shooter was never identified by anyone, and he was brazen enough to continue attending wrestling cards at the arena. ("Chicago really took that 'no snitching' thing to heart back then," according to Uproxx.)

Heenan went on to spend another 30 years in the business getting yelled at and hit with chairs, but was never again forced to dodge a bullet.

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