True-crime podcast that’ll keep you awake

Renee Hanneken

“Sword and Scale” is a true-crime podcast which keeps listeners on the edge of their seat as narrators unravel unfathomable horrors from all over the globe. The podcast has six seasons and 140 episodes to indulge in. It features real interviews, trial audio, testimonies, interrogation tapes and even first-hand accounts from the victims.

The podcast truly allows listeners to understand the full picture behind many crimes all the while reminding us of the real-life terror that envelops our world. The podcast does its due diligence to remind listeners that the stories behind the podcast are all very real.

The show puts a reader into the mind of a victim as well as a killer. Interviews with psychologists and historians open evidence as to what prods a killer and why victims react in certain ways. The show gives the most accurate and well-rounded story possible as to how such atrocities could have occurred.

The dialogue is well-versed and eerie. Narrators have calm and neutral voices that add to the attitude of the podcast, cold-blooded crime stories. The voices creep into a listener’s mind. Whether falling asleep or driving while listening, this podcast reinforces the idea that “the worst monsters are real.”

“In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote

Scout Ehrler

Truman Capote’s 1965 true crime novel is the most well-constructed piece of literary journalism to date. The story follows the mass murder of the Clutter family — Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon. The latter two were high school-aged kids, the former their parents. The crime was money-driven and largely without motive.

The story chronicles every detail of the crime, following numerous points of view. We meet the family and learn to care for them within 20 pages of their murder. The fallout of the crime makes up for the vast majority of the book, taking us on twists and turns as detectives Alvin Dewey, Roy Church and Harold Nye attempt to track down the killers, despite the audience having insight into the killers’ minds along the ride.

Readers experience the journeys of the detectives as well as the culprits — Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. The investigation and fleeing of the murderers intertwined with one another, taking the audience on the detectives’ wild goose chase for the criminals, then placing readers in the minds of Hickock and Smith as they scheme and plan their next move. The audience is privy to every detail and conversation leading up to the murderers’ arrest.

Capote’s use of language paints the landscape of Holcomb, Kansas with ease while maintaining multiple interconnected storylines. Although based on a true crime, after its publication, “In Cold Blood” was criticised for inaccuracies. Those featured in the book came forward to claim dialogue and details were fabricated, despite Capote claiming it was a 100% accurate account of the case.

Despite its rocky reception and gruesome material, “In Cold Blood” is one of my favorite books and hands down my favorite of the season. As a tale more so than an accurate account of the investigation, “In Cold Blood” holds up.

Something you should know

Shannon Swain

Podcasts are a tricky thing, because sometimes you want to listen to a big elaborate story, sometimes you want an update on current events and the political state of the country and other times you want a quick 20-minute short story. I have found over the years that all these kinds of podcasts are great, but nothing comes close in comparison to “Stuff You Should Know.”

“Stuff You Should Know” is a podcast I’ve been listening to for a little over a year. I really enjoy trivial knowledge and random tidbits about the world around me, and “Stuff You Should Know” provides just that. In segments that range from about 30 minutes to an hour (aside from the “Short Stuff” segments), the hosts discuss a singular topic pretty in depth. For example, there’s a segment entirely about pinball, and it doesn’t just talk about how to play the game. They talk about the history, the inner workings of the game, and pretty much everything there is to know about pinball.

To give a better idea of how many topics this podcast covers, here are just a few of the episode titles: “How Hang Gliding Works,” “What is the Civil Air Patrol?,” “How Barcodes Work,” “How Acne Works,” “What Were Human Zoos?,” and “How Easy Bake Ovens Work.” Basically, there’s something for everyone. If you’re interested in any particular topic and want to learn more, “Stuff You Should Know” probably has a segment about it.

This podcast covers topics in-depth, the hosts are well-researched and they play really well off of each other. The tangents and actual chunks of information keep me listening, especially when they are covering a topic I’m interested in learning more about.

Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”

Ashley Lohmann

Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist” is a story of adventure and wisdom, telling the tale of a young shepherd’s quest to achieving his personal destiny of finding treasure. This novel brought me personal and worldly awareness with every page as I was learning the lessons the shepherd boy was learning throughout his quest. “The Alchemist” is an exceptional summer read as it forces one to take on different perspectives while navigating the world around them.

I chose to read “The Alchemist” this summer. Prior to reading it, it was my understanding that the book would feature lessons on human relationships with nature and how to live well. I figured that since I spend much more time outside during the summertime, I would be able to experience the book more wholly.

As with nearly every other book, I felt that “The Alchemist” took a while to engage with. The reading process was slow to start, but it didn’t take long for the plot to pick up. The first scenes of the book took me about a week to get through as I was busy and not thrust deep into the story yet. Once the story picked up, the book took me two days to finish. I was immersed deeply and felt connected to the shepherd protagonist. As the reader, I felt as though I was accompanying him on his spiritual quest and taking to heart the lessons he learned about the world and himself as well.

At the beginning of the book, the shepherd boy has a recurring dream that a child leads him to a treasure near the Egyptian Pyramids. When a gypsy tells him that the treasure from his dream is real, the boy sets out on a journey to find it, leaving behind his flock and his life in Spain. Throughout the book, the boy meets a gypsy, a king, a thief, a crystal shop owner, an Englishman, a caravan leader, a woman he falls in love with and an alchemist. All of these people show the boy something new about the world and something new about himself. He carries the lessons he learns from each of them with him throughout his adventure, achieving enough wisdom to do great things and realize his personal destiny.

The story teaches that one can learn something from everyone they meet, that there is an unspoken language that everyone understands regardless of language, that everyone is obligated to follow their dreams, that achieving goals can be a long, twisted process, that one must work to understand their own hear, that there’s no sense in worrying about the future since it’s already written and that every person has a place in history. These lessons are stitched together seamlessly throughout the plot, and Coelho’s involvement of the boy’s contemplating what he has learned very openly, allows the reader to use his contemplations as a jumping off point for their own on these subjects.

The boy learns that communicating one’s strength with their eyes is part of communicating the universal language, one of the many applicable lessons throughout “The Alchemist.” Overall, reading “The Alchemist” left me fulfilled and more mindful about my relationship with myself and the world.

Will Joe Rogan be your guide?

Bailey Helton

Over the years I have listened to my fair share of podcasts and have even produced a handful. However, I must admit my favorite podcast comes from someone who I spent my childhood watching on “Fear Factor.” Since it launched in 2009, the “Joe Rogan Experience” has taken over the world as one of the most listened to podcasts.

Rogan has guests who range from Bob Lazar to Ms. Pat to Steven Tyler to UFC fighter TJ Dillishaw. No matter the guest, there is something to be learned. I think that’s what makes this podcast so good — every episode is a learning experience.

The guests who come in to chat with Rogan are experts in their respected fields and they share their knowledge. This allows you to learn about roughly five new topics a week and, let me be honest, some of these podcasts are funny as hell.

I think what makes this podcast different from any other one out there is that there’s been every type of person on the show. There’s been controversial people like Alex Jones and insightful people like the CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk — all of which have been placed on the show to spark a conversation.

It’s very rare where two people can stand in the same room, let alone have a conversation in the same room with different views and leave that conversation learning something new. That’s what Rogan does. He creates a space where you can listen in on or simply watch a conversation and leave that experience with insight.

Cassandra Clare creates a breath of fresh air

What started as a small fictional story, became a beloved series with iconic characters. Cassandra Clare published “The City of Bones” in 2007. This was the first book in a series that would grow to include six books, a movie and a TV show. Although I’m a little behind this trend, I swear to make up for it by reading the next five books as fast as I can.

The “City of Bones” brings a fresh approach to how we think of supernatural creatures. Clare has created an entirely new being of human crossbreeds that prove to be more powerful than any demon or fairy. Her spin on the typical characters we all know too well is a refreshing change in today’s overuse of vampires and werewolves. Clare’s unique writing styles and unusual developments made it practically impossible to put the book down.

It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the storylines, the plot twists and most definitively, Jace, Alec and Simon. Although, each character brought something to love. Jace was strong and adventurous, Alec was caring, Simon was goofy in a cute way, Clary was relatable, Isabelle was independent, Magnus was fun and extravagant, even Valentine was charming in his own way. The characters’ relationships with one another, and their developments as individuals made for an easy read. Every page left me wanting more.

The innovative ideas written in this book kept me intrigued throughout its entirety, and I have no doubt it will do the same for you. I can’t wait to get started on the next one.

Under the knife

Brady Wheeler

Christopher Duntsch operated in plain sight for nearly two years, maiming, and in some cases, killing his victims before he was noticed. The details of his brutal string of crime that affected 38 victims in the Dallas area are bone-chilling, and at times difficult to listen to — particularly the bit about him drilling screws into the soft tissue of an elderly woman’s back.

One could easily surmise that Dr. Christopher Duntsch is a cold-blooded killer, but the story of Duntsch is more complex. Duntsch carried out his crimes in operating rooms as a licensed back surgeon, botching his surgeries in an inexplicably incompetent fashion. Even more perplexing is how Duntsch was able to leave 35 patients paralyzed or dead before losing his license.

My favorite installment of Wondery’s series of noir journalism podcasts, “Dr. Death” is the result of months of extensive research on the unprecedent story of Duntsch. The research is compiled by host Lara Beil into a nine-part, five-hour thriller. The story is as gripping as it is unfathomable and will leave listeners weary of ever going under the knife again.

What makes this account most disturbing is that these gruesome miscalculations do not appear to be an accident. Drawing from victim testimonies, medical records, and witness accounts, Beil wrestles with this intuition, resulting in an invigorating true-crime mystery unlike any other.

Dark and Light

Bella Valenzuela

I have a sick fascination with the mysterious and macabre. I seek knowledge for all things spooky and weird, but after a while I feel negative energy build inside me and I take a break from my obsession.

Nearly two years ago, my boyfriend introduced me to a podcast he enjoyed — “Last Podcast on the Left.” I am always reluctant to introduce new entertainment mediums into my routine, but because he knows me better than I know myself, he knew I had to listen.

I am a fan of comedy, typically goofy acts such as Bo Burnham. Filling my horror hiatus with comedy began to run dry, but the combination of those things theoretically should keep my sanity — and it does.

“Last Podcast on the Left” is a show hosted by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski. Ben hosts, while Marcus and Henry produce and research topics. Such topics include cults, serial killers, the paranormal, UFO-sightings, alien abductions, conspiracy theories and the occasional Creepypasta reading. One would think these topics are taboo or mood-dappening, but with Henry and Ben’s comedic backgrounds, the content is easily digested.

Starting in 2011, the podcast has only grown to be among the most popular and achieving a 4.5 out of 5 stars on Apple Podcast.

Personally, I believe the content is creepily appealing while the delivery is funny, yet respectful.