We live in a society that, for better or for worse, finds true crime fascinating.
You might be listening to a podcast detailing a notoriously cold-blooded, decades-old murder while smiling at a stranger on your daily walk in the park.
It sounds spooky, but experts have said this fascination with true crime is complex. The atrocities are so bad we can’t look away, according to Scott Bonn, author of “Why We Love Serial Killers.” True crime also can cause euphoria, triggering “the most basic and powerful emotion in all of us — fear,” Bonn wrote in a 2016 TIME essay. And thanks to the advent of podcasts and streaming services, we’re able to experience that emotion “in a controlled environment where the threat is exciting but not real,” he wrote.
The intrigue can be educational, too.
“By learning about murders — who is more likely to be a murderer, how do these crimes happen, who are the victims, etc. — people are also learning about ways to prevent becoming a victim themselves,” Amanda Vicary, a professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, previously told Huffington Post.
Retro Indy:Heinous crimes of serial killers in Indiana
Hoosier history has its fair share of gory crimes and nefarious criminals and they’re all well-documented by various forms of media.
Here’s where you can get your fix of true crime podcasts, set a little closer to home:
On this podcast hosted by psychotherapist Michael Drane, a 2020 episode takes a look back at the serial killer responsible for burying the bodies of his victims on his 18-acre Westfield property, Fox Hollow Farm.
Though Herbert Baumeister appeared to live a quaint, suburban life as a husband and father, the world eventually learned that was not the case. In 1996, investigators found more than 5,000 human bone fragments buried on his property, leading them to believe he was responsible for as many as 16 deaths. Along with bodies found in Westfield, investigators believe he was responsible for several other deaths between 1980 and 1990 after bodies were discovered in shallow streams along I-70 across Central Indiana and western Ohio.
Baumeister’s victims were teenage boys and men, believed to have been picked up from bars.
The “Unpopular Culture” podcast episode dives into the killer’s psychological profile and shares the story of a man who escaped a murder attempt by Baumeister.
Listen to the podcast: upcpodcast.com/archive1/Fox2
Cold Case Chronicles
This Indiana-based podcast features four women who research and investigate cold cases, with many early episodes set in their home state. From the 1987 kidnapping and murder of “Little Linda Weldy” of La Porte, Indiana, to the story of Darlene Hulse, an Argos, Indiana woman who was killed in front of her children, the group “reopens” cases many have long forgotten.
They look into missing children cases too, with a February episode discussing 13-year-old Ricky Lane Thomas Jr., a southern Indiana boy who vanished in 1997 and was never found.
Listen to the podcast: coldcasechronicles.com
What Did You Do?!
This true crime podcast is one that offers gory details of terrible crimes, “from a social work and mental health perspective.” On episode 25, “Gertrude Baniszewski, Rent is Due,” they share the horrific story of an Indianapolis caregiver who not only tortured and murdered a teenage girl, but also recruited other children to take part in the abuse.
Baniszewski, a divorced mother of seven, began taking care of 16-year-old Sylvia Likens while her carnival-worker parents went away for their jobs. She watched Sylvia and younger sister Jenny for $20 per week, but the day a money order did not arrive on time, a cruel — and ultimately fatal — violent streak unfolded.
Over several months in 1965, Likens was beaten, burned, sexually abused, imprisoned and starved at the hands of Baniszewski, her own children and several neighborhood children.
Documented crime:The 1965 torture and murder of Sylvia Likens
“What Did You Do?!” discusses the tragic death of Likens along with the factors that may have turned Baniszewski into a torturer, from relationship abuse and miscarriages to repressed rage. The episode also touches on themes such as single parenting and the foster care system.
Likens’ tragic story is also portrayed in the 2007 film “An American Crime,” with Elliot Page starring as Likens.
Listen to the podcast: whatdidyoudopodcast.com
The Indianapolis-based podcast brings true crime stories to life with Ashley Flowers, who is on the board of directors for Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana. Her partner-in-crime on the show, Brit Prawat, used to be a private investigator. Since 2017, they’ve shared notorious and obscure true crime cases, from across the country and their home state.
Their first episode talks about Niqui McCown, a Richmond, Indiana woman who disappeared from a laundromat weeks before her wedding. McCown’s story is also featured on season 2 of the TV docuseries “Disappeared.”
An April 2018 episode of “Crime Junkie” — “Monster in Fort Wayne, Indiana” — discusses the tragic fate of April Tinsley, an 8-year-old who was abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered in 1988. Other episodes dive deeper, hosting Tinsley’s mother and a State Trooper, who spoke about the genealogy methods that finally led to the killer’s arrest, just three months after the podcast episode.
April Tinsley murder:Sick, twisted taunts haunted Fort Wayne until arrest was made
And in a truly gruesome 2020 episode, “Crime Junkie” talks about the notorious murder at downtown Indianapolis’ majestic Claypool Hotel, when a woman’s body was found in a dresser drawer in 1954. Dorothy Poore, believed to have been “lured” to the hotel for a job, was 18-years-old.
In 2019, “Crime Junkie” pulled several episodes off of it show after multiple accusations of plagiarism. The show did not respond to IndyStar’s request for comment at the time, but in an online statement they said they “make clear references to the use of other sources.”
Listen to the podcast: crimejunkiepodcast.com/wanted-monster-in-fort-wayne
The Trail Went Cold
Another Claypool Hotel murder, during WWII, set the stage for an episode of “The Trail Went Cold.” 32-year-old Cpl. Maoma Ridings, a 32-year-old physical therapist in the Women’s Army Corps, was supposed to have a date on the night she was brutally murdered. Her body was found half-nude, beaten and slashed in Room 729, with a broken whiskey bottle presumed to be the weapon. The 1943 murder remains unsolved.
The podcast’s host, Robin Warder, said he chose this case for his show because he was traveling to Indianapolis for the first CrimeCon in 2017.
Listen to the podcast: trailwentcold.com
My Favorite Murder
This podcast features true crime storytelling but with a comedic twist. In 2019, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark recorded episode 165 live in Indianapolis to discuss two deadly cases that left investigators perplexed: the 2012 Richmond Hill explosion and the 1970 murder of grocery heiress Marjorie Jackson.
Jackson, an eccentric millionaire and heiress to the Standard Grocery chain, was killed after a burglary attempt turned fatal.
The natural gas explosion at the Richmond Hill subdivision killed two people and was believed to be intentionally set to collect insurance money.
Listen to the podcast: myfavoritemurder.com
“Infamous Indy” is another true crime podcast, branding itself as “the darker side of Hoosier Hospitality.” In some episodes, it features family members of victims and law enforcement officials who are related to the cases.
One of the early episodes discusses the infamous “Delphi murders” of 2017, in which 13-year-old Abigail Williams and 14-year-old Libby German were found dead near the Delphi Historic Trails. Joe Melillo, the podcast’s host, speaks with Libby’s sister, Kelsi German in this episode. Other episodes talk about the 2014 murder-suicide that shook Carmel and Jim Jones, the diabolical cult leader who began preaching in Indianapolis.
“Infamous Indy” also includes guest appearances from other Indiana-based podcasts: “Cold Case Chronicles,” “3C Podcast” and “Hoosier Homicide.”
Melillo reaches an eerie conclusion about “Hoosier Hospitality” on his website — one that only true true crime aficionados can come to:
“I know what you’re thinking, I thought the same thing, ‘what ever happens in Indiana, it’s just a Midwest flyover state with people who are just too nice.’ The truth is, there are stories here that will keep you up at night and make you question everything you thought you knew.”
Listen to the podcast: infamousindy.com
Looking for something else? 5 Indiana podcasts you should be listening to
Natalia E. Contreras, Elizabeth DePompei, Justin L. Mack and Dawn Mitchell contributed to this report.