In these trying times, you can do more on the internet than repeatedly refreshing Twitter for the latest updates or hand-washing memes about COVID-19. If you're going to mindlessly stare at a screen or, I dunno, deep clean your quarantine space, at least you can pop your earbuds in and listen to fun, informative podcasts while you're doing it. See recommendations covering true crime, history, culture, and more — including some local titles — below:
Unlike many true crime podcasts, Criminal isn't just about murder and other violent crimes. Host Phoebe Judge examines the many and varied facets of crime, including everything from faking your own death to dognapping. She also introduces colorful characters who have committed, investigated, or written about crime.
My Favorite Murder
Stay sexy and join the ranks of murderinos everywhere by giving this super popular true crime-comedy podcast a shot. Each week, co-hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark discuss two new cases, and get personal with candid, intimate chats about mental health, family drama, and other relatable topics.
Over My Dead Body and Joe Exotic
Wondery has the market cornered on some of true crime's strangest cases. Over My Dead Body shows how a picture-perfect marriage turned into a deadly divorce with an investigation full of unexpected twists and turns. Joe Exotic gives listeners a shocking tale about big cats and the escalating feud between an eccentric madman and an outspoken animal activist.
Cheats, scam artists, and con men get called out in each painstakingly researched episode of Swindled. It's the podcast that covered the McDonald's Monopoly scam and the schadenfreude-worthy Fyre Fest debacle before HBO and others made documentaries about them. While maddening, it sheds light on the various systemic loopholes, biases, and manipulation tactics its subjects use to screw people over and, many times, get away with it.
Uncover: Satanic Panic
As an older millennial, I have some recollection of Satanic Panic, that period from the 1980s up through the early-1990s when reports of evil cults victimizing or influencing children ran rampant throughout the U.S. Now, decades later, Uncover takes a deep dive into the cultural factors that turned a small Canadian town upside down and made it the epicenter of a mass hysteria that ruined innocent lives.
Power corrupts and, if history is any indication, it also kills. Host Dana Schwartz reveals the rise and (often bloody, often tragic) fall of history's kings, queens, and other nobility, ranging from the events leading up to Marie Antoinette's execution to the story of Wu Zetian, a 7th-century Chinese empress with a complicated legacy.
Search "Slow Burn" at Slate Podcasts
Recent history is far more complex than what's portrayed in the media, with details becoming increasingly clear in hindsight. With Slow Burn, you get all the angles of some of the 20th century's biggest cases, with seasons covering Watergate, the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, and the murders of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.
Stuff You Missed In History Class
Search "Stuff You Missed in History Class" on iHeartPodcast Network
You will always find something interesting to learn about when searching through the extensive archives of Stuff You Missed In History Class, a podcast that looks at the obscure events and people you won't find in any standard textbook.
Architecture and design are far more political and, therefore, far more interesting than any layman would expect. 99% Invisible looks at all the factors that influence the built world around us, often with surprising results (for example, listen to Episode 332: The Accidental Room, which covers how a group of artists managed to secretly live in a mall).
Have you ever wondered why technology works a certain way? Reply All tackles questions, both big and small, surrounding the quirks of living in a more connected world. It also features expert guests with insights on subjects like internet sleuthing, the wild, seemingly lawless world of YouTube, robocalls, and more.
You Must Remember This
Karina Longworth takes the glamorous sheen off of Hollywood by delving into some of the industry's biggest stars and scandals. In one season, Disney's supposedly squeaky-clean legacy crumbles under an investigation into its biggest cinematic shame, while the most recent season invites various contributors to explore the restrictive beauty standards pushed on female talent.
Pittsburgh podcasts to check outMarveling at Marvel's Marvels (Comic books/movies)
Neon Brainiacs ('80s horror movies)
Start the Beat with Sikes (Interview)
Rugged Angel (Interview/pop culture)
The Broadcast Podcast (Interview)
The Number One Movie in America (Film review)
Thrifty Podcast (Thrift shopping)
Queens of NC-17 (Horror films)
Werewolf Ambulance (Horror films)