6 Podcasts About Unsolved Mysteries

Real-life mysteries are the bread-and-butter of modern podcasting. Seven years ago, “Serial” pushed the format into the mainstream with its gripping reinvestigation of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a Baltimore high school student, and the questionable conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. The feverish response to “Serial” was fueled by the seemingly endless ambiguities and questions surrounding the case, many of which remain unanswered to this day.

Unsolved mysteries can be frustrating, but they also leave more room for speculation and armchair sleuthing than the ones with tidy endings. In the years since “Serial,” there’s been an explosion of shows trying to recreate its appeal by delving into cold cases, disappearances and mysterious events. These are six of the best, offering everything from compelling true-crime journalism to a quirky Hollywood mystery with Tom Hanks at its center.

‘Missing on 9/11’

On the evening of Sep. 10, 2001, a security camera in downtown Manhattan recorded Sneha Anne Philip shopping at Century 21. It was the last time she was ever seen alive. After the 9/11 attacks the following morning, Philip, who was 31, became one of thousands reported missing. Since she was a doctor, her relatives assumed that she had died helping victims at the towers, but this gripping iHeartRadio series reveals a much more complicated picture of her still-unsolved disappearance. Solid information is scarce, but “Missing on 9/11” rarely feels like it’s treading water — in one especially compelling chapter, the host, Jon Walczak, enlists an expert on the art of “psuedocide,” a.k.a. faking your own death. The podcast ends abruptly after 10 episodes, and it’s unclear whether more are coming. But if you’re craving more, the same team previously produced “Missing in Alaska,” an equally intriguing show about the vanishing of two congressmen in 1972.

Starter episode: “9/10”

‘Dead Eyes’

This delightfully low stakes yet emotionally engaging Hollywood mystery is hosted by the actor-comedian Connor Ratliff, whom you may recognize from bit parts in shows like “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Two decades ago, fresh out of drama school, Ratliff landed a small role in the HBO mini-series “Band of Brothers” alongside Tom Hanks, only to be unceremoniously fired on the eve of shooting. The reason? According to a tactless assistant, it was because Hanks himself watched Ratliff’s audition tape and was put off by his “dead eyes.” Still haunted by this devastatingly specific critique, Ratliff embarks on an audio quest to figure out if America’s most-beloved actor really hates his eyes, aided by a few famous friends including Jon Hamm, Damon Lindelof and even a few “Band of Brothers” alums. Now in its third season, “Dead Eyes” has evolved beyond its core mystery to become a broader window into the humiliations of Hollywood, which Ratliff plumbs with such affable warmth that you’ll be rooting for him to finally get the answers he craves.

Starter episode: “He’s Having Second Thoughts”


This coproduction from Wondery and Campside Media centers on the unsolved 2008 murder of Arpana Jinaga, a 24-year-old software engineer who was found dead the morning after a raucous Halloween party at her apartment complex near Seattle. That gathering provides a wide array of suspects, all of whom are investigated in this absorbing, emotional ten-episode series. Ultimately, the police do home in on one chief suspect, but that conviction proves to be deeply flawed. “Suspect” uses its central case to explore the dizzyingly rapid evolution of DNA technology, as well as racial bias in the justice system.

Starter episode: “The Halloween Party”


Instead of dedicating several episodes to a single case, “Unexplained” tackles a new logic-defying event every week. Leaning more toward the paranormal than criminal, this British series makes for reliably spooky listening, in part because Richard MacLean Smith, the host and creator, resists the urge to ham it up. Over the course of six seasons, Smith has delivered episodes on the true story behind the “Exorcist,” the fate of a ghost ship in the Dutch East Indies, an apparent alien abduction in the north of England, a family being terrorized by a poltergeist and the chilling ongoing saga of the “Havana syndrome,” which has seen numerous C.I.A. employees in Cuba fall sick with debilitating neurological symptoms in recent years.

Starter episode: “Valleys of the Uncanny”

‘Someone Knows Something’

The sheer volume of murder mystery podcasts out there can feel overwhelming, but this anthology series from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a consistently rigorous, intelligent gem. The host, David Ridgen, was a filmmaker and documentarian before he created “Someone Knows Something,” and his flair for character-driven storytelling is evident, as is his ambivalence about “true crime” as a genre (the series begins with a prologue in which Ridgen admits to being wary about making it at all). Each season chronicles a different cold case, beginning with the 1972 disappearance of 5-year old Adrien McNaughton. The third season focuses on the devastating story of Charles Moore and Henry Dee, two Black men whose murders in 1964 by Ku Klux Klan members resulted in no convictions for more than 40 years. The fourth follows a family’s search for answers after a man is murdered by a mail bomb sent to his house. Whichever season you choose to begin with, you’ll likely be hooked.

Starter episode: “The Wrong Body”

‘Unsolved Mysteries’

It’s been more than 30 years since the first iteration of the docuseries “Unsolved Mysteries” first aired on television, offering up re-enactments of cold cases, conspiracy theories and paranormal encounters. The formula has remained largely unchained through multiple reboots — on Lifetime, more recently on Netflix, and now in an equally addictive podcast format. Though it’s narrated by Steve French instead of Robert Stack, who was the longstanding host of “Unsolved Mysteries,” the show is an otherwise faithful audio rendering of the franchise, featuring weekly half-hour mysteries full of ghost stories, disappearances, demonic possessions and more.

Starter episode: “Where’s Alicia?”

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