Hot girl / boy / person summer? More like cold case summer! For the next three months, take your ears off a virtual crime-themed vacation (though if you can swing the right thing, can I recommend CrimeCruise?) From France to Indonesia, from Ireland’s rocky cliffs to a former pirate paradise in southern Mexico and the not-so-sleepy suburbs of NYC as you prepare for chilling, bingeable adventures.
Chameleon (Campside Media) – Season 2 premiered on June 15th
I will be the first to admit it. I was a little late for the Chameleon party. Season 1 (Hollywood Con Queen) premiered in October 2020. I first started listening to this offer from Campside Media after Season 2 (High Rollers) premiered, but boy was I hooked. I talk binge-level, fall asleep-with-your-headphones in hooked.
Chameleon is not your usual real criminal podcast. First, there is no yellow tape or dead bodies (as far as we know). Instead, the terrain of these criminals is a little more hazy: the squishy space where the psyche and cyberspace meet.
I was trying to explain Hollywood Con Queen’s premise to my partner, and needless to say, he was one little confused. So here goes:
You are an aspiring actor / make-up artist / personal trainer / insert-freelance-creative-professional here. Maybe you’ve had some success – a movie credit here, a celebrity client there – but you have not yet landed your Big Break. Then, that phone calls (or email) are coming. A female producer with big name wants you to work on her new movie. The catch? Production takes place in Indonesia and you have to hop on a plane immediately.
However, once you arrive in Indonesia, it becomes clear that there is none film that the “producer” you spoke to is not who she says she is.
If this sounds like a stretch (I mean, one False film), it is not: this scam has run in years, and people who have fallen victim to it are thousands.
Get ready to fall down a long, winding rabbit hole that takes us across the globe from Jakarta to New Jersey to London to Los Angeles.
If you’ve already listened to season 1 (or you’re more of a Vegas enthusiast than a Tinseltown pro), slip into season 2. “High Rollers” lands us in Sin City, where a diet clinic owner involved in a love triangle is in the middle of a two-year undercover FBI sting operation.
It’s a wild tale about strippers, triangles and cannonballs – and a shock full of secret footage from the FBI investigation.
Murder in Illinois (iHeartRadio Podcasts) – Premiere July 8th
From author and veteran genuine criminal pod host / producer Lauren Bright (Happy Face, Murder in Oregonand The murders at the White House Farm) comes a twisted, heartbreaking tale of family, potentially unjust conviction, and cold-blooded murder.
In 2007, while attending the funeral of his recently killed wife and three children, Chris Vaughn was arrested for the same murders.
But did the 32-year-old really fool his family into thinking he was taking them on a surprise trip to a water park, only to shoot them one by one and abandon their bodies in an SUV on the highway?
The supposed motive (that Vaughn wanted to act in his suburban father’s life for a solo survivor in Canada’s Yukon Territory) plus certain elements of the case (thousands of dollars spent on strippers; Vaughn’s interest in druidism) certainly gave a juicy tabloid narrative, but was it one-time family man really guilty?
Fourteen years after the murders, Vaughn insists he cannot remember the events that led to him serving four consecutive life terms in an Illinois prison. Could forensic evidence prove his innocence? And more importantly, if Vaughn did not kill his family, then who did? With never before heard first-hand interviews with Vaughn, his parents, his siblings and extended family, Murder in Illinois dives deep into a case that is anything but open and closed.
International infamy with Ashley Flowers – Parcast / Spotify Original – Premiere June 15th
Covid-19 travel restrictions may still apply in a number of places, but that does not mean you can not scratch your itch about summer hiking. Better yet, why not throw a little real crime into the mix?
IN International infamy, true crime AND Ashley Flowers (I could list them Crime Junkie co-host bonafides, but I will take it as a premise that if you are that far into the round, you probably already know who she is) crossing the globe in search of the most compelling, high-profile cases. Have your (virtual) passport ready because the audiochuck belly is taking you to France, Mexico, Iceland and so many more. Over the course of fifteen episodes, each located in a different location, flowers dig into cases from all corners of the planet, exploring the particular cultural conditions unique to each crime.
The devil inside (Cavalry Audio / Wondery) – Premiere May 24th
It is the details of this case – especially the age of the perpetrator – that gripped me. Let me set the scene first. It’s a Saturday in early January 1988. Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional” is the number one song in the country. Three men and a baby is about to break cash office records. In a sleepy suburb of New Jersey about 50 miles west of New York City, a 14-year-old boy murders his mother, sets fire to the family home, and then commits suicide with the same knife he used to kill his mother. What happened? Could Thomas Sullivan, Jr.’s growing interest in the occult – as evidenced by the note he left behind – have been the motivation? The devil inside seeking new answers in this troubling 33-year-old case.
Living and Dying in LA: Season 2 (Tenderfoot TV) – Premiere May 29
Tenderfoot TV and Neil Strauss’ award-winning podcast To live and die in LA is back with a whole new case. This season investigates – and perhaps most importantly – seeks to humanize – 20-year-old Elaine Park, who disappeared from Kardashian’s hometown of Calabasas, California in 2017. Strauss’ interest in the case arose from its connections to his own backyard (not his literal backyard). of course, if you think about the recent developments in the Kristin Smart case): Elaine’s abandoned car was found in Strauss’ own neighborhood: Malibu. In a way, this case was the one that “started it all” for Strauss, a case that consumed him and got him started in that part of real-time real-time crime investigation. This season of To live and die in LA is a group effort: Strauss joins his wife, neighbors, Incubus guitarist Mike Einzinger and concert violinist Ann Marie Simpson to find out who Elaine was and what happened to her.
West Cork (Audible) – Premiere on Apple Podcasts March 29th
Another confession: West Cork is not Exactly a “new” podcast. In fact, it came out in 2018 as an audible original.
Back then, my French-major-slash-true-crime-fanatic even jumped on the bandwagon (and spoiled the necessary cash: back then, you had to pay to experience the podcast New Yorker called “a masterpiece.” Today, West Cork is available for free on Apple Podcasts.)
On December 23, 1996, the stylish French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found killed outside her cottage in West Cork. To the inhabitants of Schull (pop. 700), Sophie was a “blow-in”, a local term for outsiders who were drawn to this remote corner of south-west Ireland because of its isolation and rugged beauty of terrain.
Police have long suspected that Ian Bailey, a local freelance journalist with a history of home tax charges, is guilty of the murder. French authorities tried and convicted Bailey for the murder in 2019, but when the trial was completed in abstinence (not to mention the fact that Bailey has successfully fought all extradition charges), the now 64-year-old is unlikely to ever earn a day in jail.
Even if you have already had the pleasure of immersing yourself in this Serial-like thriller, stay tuned: co-hosts Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde released a brand new episode of West Cork May 14 In addition, their production company Yarn has two new projects underway (and their website seems to suggest that further new episodes of West Cork can be around the corner.)
It may also be a good idea to listen again (or listen for the first time) to West Cork before bingeing Sophie: A murder in West Cork, Netflix’s new three-part series about the murder.
LISK Podcast – Season 2: The Search for Answers (Mopac Audio) – Premiere July 14th
If you’ve had enough of the Long Island Serial Killer case (which, if you are like me, is impossible given the intrigue and police corruption associated with this case, not to mention the mysterious belt evidence that Suffolk County- authorities released in December 2020), you have my full permission to jump to the next podcast in the round.
If you are ready for more LISK, get ready for round two of this Mopac Audio original.
In Season 1, host Chris Mass visited the ten-year-old Gilgo case, revisited old evidence and tracked down new leads. In Season 2: The Season of Answers, Mass and his team are back with boots on the ground in Long Island. Over the course of seven episodes, you will hear first-hand interviews with the victims’ families and friends, law enforcement, DNA experts, criminologists and more. Mass and his team aim to separate fact from fiction in a case that has been unresolved for over a decade.
Why is the highest paid police department in the country out of order – or perhaps more chilling – reluctant—To crack this case? Could some of the victims’ high-profile clients (the trailer for season 2 show judges, lawyers, police officers and councilors among Amber Costello’s accompanying clients) have anything to do with it? Does the fact that former police chief James Burke (who turned federal time into an incident that may or may not be linked to the LISK murders) no longer have the power to make people with information about the LISK case finally come to light? What about Geraldine Hart’s sudden departure if the 2018 appointment to the role of police chief in Suffolk County seemed like a welcome addition to a department stuck in scandal and corruption? When it comes to the LISK case, is there coverage up? If so, who covers for whom? Hopefully LISK: The search for answers will fulfill the promise of the title.
Transportista (iHeartMedias My Cultura Network) – Premiere in July 2021
In this new weekly podcast in limited series, Transportista draws the curtain back on the underground world of drug trafficking and cartels.
This is a story told from within – of a federal prison in North Carolina. Using a smuggled cell phone, the man who once controlled the transportation of some of Latin America’s most dangerous drug sticks tells his story firsthand. The woman. The riches. Relations with powerful political actors. The man they call “El Transportista” had everything – until it all crashed. A podcast with two languages, Transportista will be available in both English and Spanish.