Sophie Nulph is a sophomore journalism major and writes “Open-Minded” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I bought the kinds of clothes she was said to wear in the books, and I always carried a notebook around with me to write down clues. I was Sophie, the third-grade detective.
Even as I grew out of my Nancy Drew phase, the curiosity of criminals always stuck with me. I could never figure out why these people did what they did. I became engulfed in the psychology of humans and how certain environments and circumstances make seemingly normal people into serial killers. After years of research and morbid curiosity, I can name nearly every podcast, documentary and series about serial killers.
And I'm not alone.
I had no idea 12 percent of the United States population was just like me — consuming true-crime content often — and more than half of the country are somewhat interested in the minds of these people.
With our society under quarantine and social distancing practices, now is a great time to dive into the fascinating world of true crime.
In the United States, nine percent of people are interested but have never indulged in a true-crime show. This could easily be because they don’t know where to start.
Here is a list of my seven favorite true crime shows, movies, content producers and podcasts for that nine percent who just don't know where to start.
1. “Encounters with Evil”
This 10-part show is a Netflix-owned British documentary, and each episode has a specific crime as the theme. For example, the first episode is labeled “Thrill Killers,” and the next is named “Psychopaths.” The show talks about criminals that have committed their crimes all over the world — not just in the United States — going in depth about events and famous criminals associated with the crime. The show is mostly informational, explaining stories and events that happened within the theme, but “Encounters with Evil” makes the episodes more personal by including interviews with survivors, their friends and families.
Imagine living in the time period when the Zodiac Killer was active. The fear that struck so many people fueled others to find the monster that was baffling law enforcement. “Zodiac” is a movie about a political cartoonist and a crime reporter pairing up with law enforcement to track down the infamous Zodiac Killer. This serial killer was never caught, but is believed to have stopped killing many years ago. In the late ’60s, the killer murdered couples across California. The name originated because of the cryptic messages the killer sent to local police forces. As one of the biggest cold cases in history, this movie is mostly accurate on the facts that have been released to the public. I recommend this movie to both beginners and experts in the true-crime world because it is educational and entertaining.
3. “Serial Killers”
This podcast kick-started my obsession with serial killers and their psychology. Produced by the Parcast Network, “Serial Killers” is one of many true-crime podcasts this publication creates. Every two weeks, the narrators tell the story of a serial killer in epic detail.
The podcast has two hour-long episodes dedicated to each murderer. The first episode is about the childhood of a criminal and events that led up to their first murder, speaking in great detail about the psychology of each criminal. The next week, episode two is published. This is all about the killings, the rituals and the psychology behind what the killers were thinking while conducting these acts. Episode two also includes how each criminal was caught — if they were— and the trial that took place afterward.
If you are looking for a podcast that has some comic relief, you want to listen to “Morbid.” This production has a way of explaining a story while making me chuckle, and the two hosts always make sure to mention how messed up these killers really are. This podcast does include crude language, so if you’re only OK with listening to cold-hearted murders without swear words, I would steer clear of this podcast. Much like “Serial Killers,” the podcast analyzes the events of the murders and the period of time after the criminals were caught. The hosts stray away from a lot of the background information and psychology of the killer and focus more on the crimes and victimology.
5. “The Catch and Kill”
This podcast focuses on a part of true crime that doesn’t involve killing in cold blood. Narrated by Ronan Farrow, an investigative journalist, the podcast focuses on Farrow’s time investigating the Harvey Weinstein case. The case began when The New York Times and The New Yorker released dozens of statements from women who claimed the Hollywood executive sexually assaulted them.
Weinstein did everything in his power to keep what he did under the radar — even if that meant threats, violence and financial ruin for those willing to speak up. “The Catch and Kill” is about those people who were threatened, including Farrow, who was followed by a private detective at the time. Farrow interviews and discusses with people who were affected by the case and walks through that period of time in their life. I recommend this podcast for people who are looking for a true-crime outlet but aren’t fascinated by the serial killer niche of the genre.
6. Kendall Rae
This YouTuber talks about several kinds of crime-related content from serial-killer stories to missing persons. Rae has an entire series on her channel dedicated to missing women and children called “Where is…,” and each episode donates its proceeds to Thorn, a company dedicated to ending sex trafficking. Rae does months of research before each video and focuses on the victimology overall. Victimology is the study of victims and the psychological effects from their experience. Rae tends to focus on the victim instead of the perpetrator, and by focusing on the victimology of the events, Rae is taking the spotlight off the perpetrator.
7. Danelle Hallan
Much like Rae, Danelle focuses on the victimology of true-crime stories and reports a number of true-crime genres, including serial killers, redemption murders and cults. Hallan tends to add less dramatic flair to her videos and makes sure they are raw and emotional. She also adds lots of photos, videos and news reports to legitimize her stories. Most videos are shorter than an hour, so if you don’t have the time to invest in a series or movie and are a visual person, YouTube is the best platform for you.
While some view fascination with serial killers and true crime disturbing, there is some good that comes out of publicizing tragic stories. By exposing ourselves to the threats of potential horror, society has a chance to learn from the past. Through my fascination with true crime, I have learned to have a health amount of paranoia. I never walk alone at night without talking to someone on the phone, and I am constantly aware of my surroundings.
Not only that, but publicity of these crimes also helps to get cold cases solved. Letting cases run cold isn’t easy for detectives or victims of the situation, and with the help of educational content like the ones I listed above, the public does not let a case slip through the cracks.
I hope if you are part of the nine percent of America that has never dove into a true-crime show that this list gives you a place to start. Learning about these cases and situations is not only fun, but informative and can help bring new leads to a case.
Contact Sophie with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.