The killer topic of true crime

Opinion on true crime podcasts, tv shows and documentaries: popular cases and statistics

Published by Madeline Bundy, Date: March 7, 2024

True crime generally refers to a genre of books, movies, TV shows and/or podcasts that cover real crimes that happened that involved real people. These stories can range from a single event like a kidnapping, or collective crimes like serial killers, thieves or cult leaders, to name a few.

Why might someone telling the a true crime story include the nitty-gritty facts about whatever case they may be covering?

This is because the readers or listeners want as much information as possible so they can to feel like they are there investigating. They want to try and figure out what happened and why the offender committed the crime.

We all know of some of the popular true crime stories/cases that have happened like the O.J. Simpson case. This case was about the murder of O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife and her boyfriend, both had been stabbed to death. The murder happened on June 12, 1994. Simpson was arrested on June 17, 1994. The trial spanned from Jan. 24, 1995 until Oct. 3, 1995.

Another case is the death of Caylee Anthony which occurred on June 16, 2008. This case is about the disappearance and murder of 2-year-old Caylee. She wasn’t reported missing until a month after she disappeared on July 15, 2008, but she was last seen in June of 2008. Her remains were then found December 11, 2008, near her grandmother’s house.

David Berkowitz is another case many people may know. He is also known as the “Son of Sam,” which was given to him by the media. He was active in New York from 1976 until 1977.

He committed a series of shootings, targeting young women and couples parked in cars. He killed six people and wounded seven others during his crime spree. He is currently serving his life sentence at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in New York.

The Richardson Family murders is another one that was committed by the 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine, and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy, on April 23, 2006. They stabbed the parents first and then they went upstairs and murdered the brother. All while they slept in the night.

Then Aileen Wuornos, also known as “Damsel of Death” by the news, murdered six men in Florida from 1989 to 1990. Once caught, she claimed the killings were self-defense. She was then convicted and sentenced to death; she was executed by lethal injection on Oct. 9, 2002.

But there are some other cases/stories that not a lot of people know about. Like Amber Hagerman, which spawned the creation of the Amber Alert system.

The disappearance took place January 13, 1996. She was riding her bike when she was abducted by a man in a truck. Her body was discovered 4 days later about 5 miles from where she was abducted. Her abduction and murder remain unsolved.

Another case is “Jack the Stripper” as called by the media, who was active during the 1960s in London. The exact number of victims varies, but at least 8 women are believed to have been murdered, most were prostitutes and worked in the area. It remains one of most infamous unsolved murder mysteries in British criminal history.

Bob Crane is another case, which happened on June 29, 1978. This is the unsolved murder of American actor and television personality Bob Crane. He was best known for his role as Colonel Robert E. Hogan in the television sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes.” His murder remains one of Hollywood’s most enduring unsolved mysteries.

Peter Ivers is another lesser-known case and person from Hollywood. His murder happened on March 3, 1983 when he was bludgeoned to death in his apartment on Skid Row. That’s not all that happened with his death though, he also slowly faded away in entertainment industry because he never had a chance to make it big in Hollywood.

A last lesser-known case is Suzanne Jovin which occurred on December 4, 1998. Suzanne Jovin was found stabbed to death in the East Rock neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. She had been stabbed multiple times in the head and neck. Jovin’s murder remains unsolved, with theories ranging from personal targeting to stumbling upon criminal activity, or even a random act of violence by a stranger.

Some statistics from a recent Pew Research Center study show that true crime stands out as the most common topic of top-ranked podcasts in the United States. When it comes down to Americans in general, about 34% who listen to podcasts listen to or consume true crime stories. If you ever wonder what the most popular way is to consume a true crime story, look no further.

When it comes to true crime in a TV show format, 52% of people prefer that method. Whereas, 39% would rather get their true crime from films. Those are the top two ways that people prefer their true crime.

But some other ways people get their true crime are online videos at 20%, podcasts at 17% and online articles/forums at 15%.

Those that watch/listen to true crime say it’s so they can learn to protect and defend themselves in case they are victims of a crime. 63% say that it helps people better understand the criminal justice system better. 62% say they believe it makes them more informed about the world. Lastly, 62% believe that consuming true crime makes people more empathetic.

Based on a surveyed SRU students, it was found that on average about 90% of students enjoy true crime.

Compared to the Pew Research Center study, most SRU students preferred TV shows or documentaries over podcasts as their way to get true crime content.

About 31% of students get their content from documentaries, about 52% get it from TV shows and only about 15% of students get it from podcasts.

The documentary’s students mentioned the most were the Ted Bundy documentaries and the Jeffery Dahmer documentaries. Along with other types of documentaries like “Conversations with a Killer” and “Making a Murderer.”

Some of the TV shows students watch are “48 hours,” “True Detective,” “Mindhunters” and “Law & Order: SVU.” But something that was also interesting to find out from the survey was that students listen to a lot of news type shows/podcasts like “Dateline” and “60 minutes.”

In general, some of the most popular cases that SRU students like and follow are John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer. About 14% of students who took the survey follow the Gacy case, about 11% of students follow the Bundy case, and about 8% follow the Dahmer case.

But a variety of other cases are followed by students like the Golden State Killer, Jeffery Epstein, The Night Stalker and many more.

When asked what they do and don’t like about true crime, most students had the response that true crime stories serve as a crucial platform for highlighting the functioning and necessity of the criminal justice system, shedding light on the harsh realities of crime and its impact on victims.

Some students who took the survey also expressed disinterest in true crime due to the difficulty of engaging with the full narrative of cases, while others find certain cases repetitive and lacking originality. For most of the students they like the fact that true crime offers a unique insight into criminal psychology and feel that it provides closure to the affected families.

Students also shared that despite its often grim subject matter, the genre’s realism provides an opportunity for learning about real-life criminal situations and legal processes; both terrifying and enlightening.

But understanding the motives behind crimes and empathizing with victims are motivating factors for some viewers, which highlights areas for improvement in law enforcement practices. The students also feel that the enjoyment of mystery and suspense, along with the potential for raising awareness about unresolved cases and achieving justice for victims, is what attracts many to the genre.

But students also feel that while true crime stories aim to spread awareness and provide factual representation, some adaptations for television may compromise the authenticity of the narrative.


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