It’s Wednesday night and I settle into a plastic chair at the batting cages while my son and his teammates perfect their swing. Armed with just my earbuds and my iPhone, I shut out the noise around me and focus my eyes on the door as parents shuffle in and out.
A baseball dad walks by and asks, “Listening to music?” I nod yes. I’m not about to tell him that I’m actually listening to Sleuth, a true crime podcast about the gruesome murders of two college students in Orange County, California.
After all, I’m a totally normal human being. I’m a responsible mom with a degree in child development and a genuine fear of blood. I love people and animals and Hallmark Christmas movies, for crying out loud!
I just so happen to also love true crime.
And I’m not alone. So many good, upstanding, never-hurt-a-fly folks find themselves secretly devouring tales of murderous mayhem on the regular. Especially once October rolls around, and we’re all in the mood to get a little spooked.
Why? Because true crime stories are dark, salacious, terrifying, unbelievable, and worst (or best?) of all — totally TRUE. They’re riddled with dangerous questions and adrenaline-pumping quests for answers. As armchair detectives, we’re here for every sleepy town, unsuspecting neighbor, deconstructed timeline, and possible motive there is.
When a recent CBS News report claimed that women in particular are “fueling the popularity of true crime podcasts,” I wasn’t at all surprised. Us diehards are what have made way for popular chat podcasts like My Favorite Murder and Wine and Crime, which are both hosted by women and have predominantly female audiences.
If you’ve read this far, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re a little obsessed, too. But in case you have any lingering doubts, allow me to walk you through a few of the telltale signs …
1. You’re always searching for the next Serial.
You spent most of early 2016 hypnotized by the melodic voice of Sarah Koenig as she unraveled the head-scratching case of Adnan Syed. Did he murder his girlfriend Hae Min Lee? Or was it Jay? And what about that Nisha call? SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Since then, it’s been a slippery slope. You’ve gobbled up podcasts like Dr. Death and Dirty John, and binged everything from Making a Murderer to The Jinx — but nothing ever quite comes close to that first season of Serial, now does it?
2. Every story seems to hit close to home — sometimes, literally.
When I was in 3rd grade, serial killer Richard Ramirez (AKA “The Night Stalker”) terrorized the greater Los Angeles area (including my city) in a killing spree that lasted 14 months and claimed 14 victims. It forever changed the way I viewed safety in my community — and also left me forever fascinated by similar cases.
Fellow mom and true crime-lover Laura says her interest in the genre actually began in an even eerier way.
“My love of true crime started when I was 18 years old and a senior in high school,” she tells me. “I hung out with a guy at a party that ended up being on the news a few days later … for killing his mother.”
3. Your mom always loved a good mystery too and, well, that stuff is apparently genetic.
We get so many things from our mamas, so is it really any wonder we’d get this from them, too?
Susie, a grandma of six and another true crime addict, says that, “my mom used to love to read True Detective crime magazines. It must be in our blood …”
I believe it. My mom never met a police procedural or legal drama she didn’t love.
This comes as no surprise to Deborah, a writer and mom of two.
“I’m a true crime freak, but I also have an associates in criminology,” she says. “My mom was always into whodunits.”
(I guess it’s fair to say that all of mom’s over-protection now makes perfect sense!)
4. You were a wee bit Wednesday Adams when you were growing up.
Whether you reluctantly absorbed the most frightening tales of terror from the evening news, or actively sought out 20/20 and America’s Most Wanted while everyone else enjoyed some wholesome TGIF programming, true crime introduced you to the darkest side of the human character from a tender age. But hey, that’s part of your charm! (Right … ?)
5. Your true crime obsession absolutely freaks out your partner.
“What murdery thing are you listening to now?” my husband suspiciously asks whenever he sees me sporting earbuds. “Don’t get any ideas.”
I can’t say I totally blame him. Partners tend to get a little spooked when our DVR is chock full of Dateline episodes and we’re on our third murder podcast — of the week.
Married mother of three Corine knows that this is like. “I LIVE for a good marathon of Snapped,” she tells me, “which definitely makes my husband a little nervous.”
Calm down, loved ones; we binge in peace.
6. You swear you’re normal …
… not only because you feel like you might have to, but because you totally are! So what if you love Taylor Swift and investigative true crime programming? It’s perfectly normal to be curious about the psychology behind the darkness. I mean, who doesn’t like a good puzzle?
True crime enthusiast Missy feels me on this one.
“I’m interested in the person committing the crime and what caused them to do it,” she says. “Was it planned or not? How detailed were they? How was their life growing up? I’m more interested in the person committing the crime than the crime and the victims.”
YAAAS, let’s break this doooooooooooown, people!
7. You’re convinced you could totally solve a cold case if given the chance.
All that time spent with homicide detectives, district attorneys, criminal profilers, medical examiners, and forensic scientists wasn’t for nothing, my true crime colleague. You’ve seen and heard so much, you’re practically an expert now. Given the time, a giant white board, and some red string, you could surely crack a cold case wide open.
8. You feel some kind of way about Payne Lindsey.
If you’re a true crime podcast junkie like myself, you have some *opinions* about Payne Lindsey, host of the popular podcast Up and Vanished … because according to this heated Reddit thread, we apparently all do.
9. On the flip-side, Keith Morrison is your homeboy.
Seriously, if Payne Lindsey’s delivery bugs you in ways you can’t quite describe, then Keith Morrison’s is … well, whatever the opposite of that is. As the creepy, familiar bearer of bad news behind Dateline for what seems like forever now, he could probably read the phone book aloud and still freak us out!
10. You’re paranoid … but like, in a good way.
Thanks to true crime, you know better than to ever doubt that little voice inside of you. You’re done acting polite in uncomfortable situations when alarm bells sound. You stay out of the forest, pepper spray first and apologize later, and always lock your door (thanks, Karen and Georgia).
11. You somehow feel safer the more you creep yourself out.
You can’t invest all that fear and fascination into true crime without feeling as though you’ve tipped any odds of survival in your favor. True crime lover Dana speaks for most of us when she says, “I know this is magical thinking but I guess I feel like the more I know about murder, the less likely it is I’ll be murdered. You never see anyone on Dateline talking about how their murdered relative was obsessed with Dateline!”
Make sense to me.
12. True crime people are your people.
True crime lovers are among the warmest, funniest, savviest people out there — and if you don’t believe me, just do yourself a favor and start listening to the My Favorite Murder podcast ASAP. (You’re welcome.)