According to the Pew Research Center, true crime podcasts make up nearly half of the content on Apple Podcasts. In correlation, societal interest in true crime is continuously rising as new documentaries and podcasts are produced weekly.

“In my Introduction to Criminal Justice course, we discuss crime in the news just about every day,” said Dr. Kevin Gray, the Department Chair of Psychology for the University of Evansville (UE). “I think some students have a natural curiosity about these things.”

The recent surge in true crime content reflects UE student Abbigail Lenk’s fascination with aspects of human nature, as she said they take a deep dive into the complexity of criminal minds and motives with each new story. Lenk attributed her interest in true crime to the sense of anticipation the genre brings.  

“I listen to the Unexplained Encounters podcasts pretty regularly, sometimes as background noise and sometimes for fun,” Lenk said. “It adds a little bit of thrill to my day.”  

Dr. Gray said, “I think that people have always been fascinated with the dark side of human nature, and [true crime] content presents information in a compelling way that draws people in and keeps them listening.”  

One of the driving forces behind the popularity of true crime content is its ability to provide a unique perspective on criminal investigations.   

The medium of podcasts specifically takes listeners behind the scenes, beyond the yellow tape, and into the processes of solving crimes. This method of immersion and forensic analysis fosters a connection between the audience and the subject matter.  

Creator and host of River City Mystery Podcast, Matt Deig, turned his young interest for unsolved mysteries into a one-man production roughly five years ago. His show includes unsolved crimes, murders, and disappearances, as well as hauntings and other mysterious events that happen in the states of Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois.  

“I prefer podcasting as a medium because of the intimacy it creates between the host and the listener,” Deig said. “I think that’s why a lot of people have a special connection to their favorite podcasts, because it’s a connection that is unique to them.”  

Deig also said that true crime content serves as a platform for victims and their stories, shedding light on cold cases and bringing attention to lives affected by crime. “I have been contacted by many people who have had a paranormal encounter, or who would like me to look into an unsolved case,” Deig said.  

 By humanizing the victims and telling these stories, Dr. Grey said that true crime transcends mere entertainment and becomes a catalyst for societal change.  

“Studying true crime in classes can turn [students] into advocates for reform, and they can be more knowledgeable about the justice system,” said Dr. Gray.   

However, the increased interest in true crime’s popularity also raises ethical considerations relating to the fine line between what is entertaining and what is disturbing.    

“The Jeffry Dahmer documentary on Netflix was more unsettling than the stories I usually listen to,” said Lenk. “I think the fact that you had to listen to what happened and look at all the actual footage made it seem so much more real.”  

The growth of true crime content reflects a focal point in societal interests. Deig said, “[I] think the genre is popular because most people live relatively uneventful lives. People probably listen to true crime podcasts for the same reason they pay to ride a rollercoaster… to be frightened within a safe environment.”  

As platforms continue to release new true crime content, the mysteries behind the tape become increasingly popular. Browsers, thrill-seekers, and mystery connoisseurs alike may find these types of stories both entertaining and educational.


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