As a dark tourist I am a big fan of dark history podcasts. But, I really struggle to find quality podcasts around dark topics that aren’t about true crime and serial killers. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of true crime podcasts. But sometimes I just want to learn more about another macabre aspect of history.
I love podcasts. I’ve listened to them for YEARS, and when they finally started to become a thing, I was thrilled to have what seems like an endless supply. Gone are the days when I would constantly be up to date with podcasts, eagerly awaiting the next episode to drop.
However, it turns out I am super picky. I find I can’t get through 5-10 minutes of most podcasts, including some of the more popular ones out there. But, here are all my top recommended dark history podcasts for my fellow dark tourists and, really, anyone interested in history or the macabre.
There is a decent mix on here, including the comedic, the academic, and a few with supernatural elements/episodes (not the focus, though – these are all predominantly fact-based). Some I definitely enjoy more than others, but if you’re a lover of dark histories, you’ll definitely find something here that works for you!
Also, if you have more recommendations – especially those hosted by people of colour and/or from the LGBT+ community, please let me know! I’m always on the lookout for new podcasts, but I do feel like this particular genre of podcast, at least from what I can find, doesn’t tend to be as diverse.
Just FYI: I’ve linked to the podcast website where possible. For those that don’t have their own websites, I’ve just picked a platform (probably iTunes as it’s what I use). But many of these podcasts can be found across multiple platforms, so if you have a different podcast platform that you use, definitely check it out. Phew, that was a lot of ‘platforms.’
You can’t have a list of dark history podcasts for dark tourists without including something about the Holocaust. There are several podcasts that focus on the stories of those who survived – and those who did not. However, I have chosen First Person because not only is it excellent, but it has the most episodes.
What I particularly like about First Person is that they interview survivors from all across Europe. There are, of course, stories from Auschwitz-Birkenau and across Poland, but also from the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Romania, Lithuania and more.
First Person is produced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. They have several other podcasts, most notably 12 Years That Shook the World or Voices on Antisemitism. Most of the others are difficult to find on their website, but you can get them all here.
Behind the Bastards
I think this is one of the best dark history podcasts for dark tourists – or anyone interested in the macabre side of history – currently out there. And maybe I just don’t have enough podcast-loving friends, but I don’t hear anyone ever talk about it, even though it’s actually super popular.
Behind the Bastards explores the unknown histories behind, well, the bastards. This podcast is all about your favourite dictators, cult leaders, slave traders and evildoers that you’ve never heard of. Each episode covers a sort of general history about its subject while also revealing bizarre and unknown stories not typically covered.
You’ll learn about everything from Saddam Hussain’s erotic novels to why Flat Earth is a Nazi conspiracy to life as a dictator’s child. It’s outrageous, it’s bizarre and it’s full of incredibly dark history.
Behind the Bastards is hosted by Robert Evans, a former editor of cracked.com, so there’s plenty of humour thrown in, but it never feels like it crosses a line given the subject matter.
Criminal Broads is another one of my absolute favourite dark history podcasts, which I’ve listened to since almost the beginning. Sadly the podcast is currently on an indefinite hiatus, but there are over 30 brilliant episodes to keep you satiated for a little while.
Hosted by author Tori Telfer, Criminal Broads tells the stories of “wild women on the wrong side of the law.” Although many of the episodes certainly fall into the true crime category (and it is listed as a true crime podcast), it is also a history podcast. Many of these criminal broads are not modern day women; there are sea pirates from the 1800s and gangsters from the 1920s. Some are also certainly more in the dark tourism realm, such as Irma Grese, an SS officer, and Beatrice Munyenyezi, one of the perpetrators during the Rwandan genocide.
I also love the segment that Tori started called ‘Crime-Fighting Broads’ which digs into unknown women throughout history on the right side of the law.
If you fall in love with Criminal Broads and absolutely need more content from Tori, you can check out her book Lady Killers.
Yeah, I won’t lie to you, this is definitely more of a true crime podcast, but I just don’t care because it’s too interesting not to include it. And, to be fair, it’s not your average true crime podcast. While most people associate true crime with serial killers, mobsters or other more horrific crimes… white collar crime is often overlooked. Swindled looks to correct that.
Swindled uncovers some of the most tragically overlooked crimes throughout history (well, the 20th century and after, at least). Some of the darker topics covered include the Crandall Canyon Mine cave in, the Flint Michigan water crisis and the Bhopal Gas Disaster. But there’s so much more, like deceptive psychics and socialites!
A fair warning: Swindled will make you incredibly angry. But it will also educate you on some of the biggest fuck-ups in history; ones often covered up, or wilfully overlooked by politicians and the very people meant to protect us.
This Podcast Will Kill You
This Podcast Will Kill You is hosted by ‘the Erins’ – two grad students who study disease ecology, so you know they know their shit.
Erin and Erin start every podcast episode off with a themed cocktail (such as Smallpox on the Rocks or Throwing Deadly Nightshade) which they tell you how to make in case you want to join in. Alcohol-free versions are also available if needed. Then they dive into the dark and fascinating history of whatever disease they’re featuring that episode.
There’s a podcast named Sawbones which is also about medical history. It’s alright, but I don’t get on with the comedy as much. But if this is your jam, it’s worth checking out.
We’re All Mad Here
Yes, I was drawn in by the brilliant title. But I’m so glad I was because this has become one of my favourite dark history podcasts.
If you’re interested in the history of mental illness, there really isn’t a better podcast out there (that I’ve found). Our host, Rachel, manages to pack an incredible amount of facts and storytelling into pretty short episodes (almost all of them are 20 minutes long or less).
We’re All Mad Here has covered an incredible range of topics including feral children, the halo effect, gaslighting and even PTSD with a focus on Jimmy Stewart. The (mis)treatment of mental health has always been – and continues to be – a rather dark chapter in our history. If you’re interested in learning more, tune in to this podcast; as the tagline says, “the history of mental illness is insane!”
The Dark Histories Podcast
Welcome to The Dark Histories Podcast, where the facts are worse than fiction. This podcast is hosted by Ben, someone I’m quite certain I’d be good friends with based on our shared interests in TV shows like The Twilight Zone and bizarre, macabre histories.
Dark Histories explores all facets of dark history, but definitely leans into the supernatural and the mysterious. That isn’t to say this is a supernatural podcast, but it often focuses on topics like witches, chimeras and voodoo, things considered supernatural even if in reality they’re not. There’s also a good deal of urban legends, such as Krampus, thrown into the mix.
My favourite episodes to date have explored the mystery behind the Dyatlov Pass Incident and the Wreck of the Medusa.
Wind of Change
Following a show at the Moscow Music Peace Festival, the German band, Scorpions, were moved to write the power ballad Wind of Change. Their visit coincided with the political movement of perestroika and glasnost (a period of openness and transparency from the USSR government), and was meant to celebrate this new direction of the USSR. It became an anti-war, anti-hate anthem throughout the USA and Europe.
But what if they didn’t actually write it? What if … the CIA did?
The Wind of Change podcast is hosted by investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe, who is most well known for his writing on The Troubles (check out his brilliant book Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland). It’s hosted on the Crooked Network, which you should check out as they have several other excellent podcasts about modern issues available. Most of them focus on America, but there are several that do not, as well.
Although it is a little less history based and a little more current events, the conversations Code Switch is having are important, relevant and rooted in over a hundred years of history and oppression for people of colour. So as far as I’m concerned, it counts as a macabre history podcast. It is essential listening for every American, and really everyone.
You’ll find everything here from discussions on how voting and school district lines disproportionate affect people of colour, why Colin Kaepernick’s kneel matters and what it means, the history of blackface, and why indigenous languages matter.
Hosted by Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby, Code Switch tackles issues around racial coding in everyday life that you’ve probably never even considered, and forces anyone who isn’t a BIPOC to confront their own white privilege.
Another, brand new podcast which is similar to Code Switch is Black History Year. It is produced by Push Black, one of the largest online communities for Black Americans. If you want to read inspiring stories, get involved or make a donation, you can visit their website.
Everyday Black History: Afro Appreciation
Not everything on Everyday Black History is necessarily dark and macabre, but like Code Switch, it’s the context here that matters. For too long, Black voices and achievements have been ignored and pushed aside. We don’t learn about Black history at school (at least I certainly did not in the USA), despite the countless contributions of Black people to both American history, and world history.
Which is why I love Everyday Black History. Almost episode is dedicated to an amazing Black person in history and I have learned so freaking much. There are also episodes about Black owned businesses in the USA, particularly noteworthy is a series on banks. I’ve learned about people like Henry Cecil McBay, a chemist who helped created an inexpensive way to make peroxide and Bass Reeves, the first Black Deputy US Marshall in history!
If you desperately need to brush up on your Black history and Black history figures, check this out! FYI: This doesn’t actually publish everyday, it’s about celebrating Black people everyday.
If you’re interested in learning about the dark history of the African diaspora, I also recommend The Black History Podcast. The only issue with this one is that when I went to double check it was still available for download (hasn’t been on air since 2017), it wasn’t working because of some bandwidth issue. It did work the next day, though. To be safe, if you manage to get them, download them and keep them forever!
BBC: Witness History
Like most of the BBC’s multi-hosted podcasts (looking at you, Documentary), some of Witness History is truly mind-blowing… and some of it is awful. It’s really hit or miss.
But what I like about it is the breadth of what’s available. You can listen to everything from virus outbreaks to China under communism to WWII. If you’re interested in dark history – or really just history in general – you’ll be able to find something in the Witness History archives that suits you.
In general, the BBC have some amazing podcasts – so long as you can get over the incredibly annoying intonations of some of the presenters. Some like Witness History and Documentary have various one-off hosts and segments, but many of their podcasts are also multi-part stories with the same host(s) throughout.
There are so many, I haven’t listened to them all! However, for those seeking out new and intriguing dark history podcasts, I also recommend: Witch Hunt for some Scottish witch history, The Assassination about Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, End of Days to learn about the Waco siege and The Bomb for a re-education on Hiroshima.
If you can think of a cult, chances are that Cults has covered it. If not, you can bet that they plan to. This podcast examines the history and rise of cults I’ve never even heard of, from all over the world. And you might be terrified to find out just how many there are …
Almost every cult is covered over two episodes, so they go quite in-depth. The first few episodes cover your classics (Manson Family, Heaven’s Gate, The Ant Hill Kids), but there are plenty of other cults in the catalogue if you want to skip over those and still be educated for days.
Cults is part of the Parcast Network, which hosts a whole array of podcasts, most of which are dark history focused in some capacity. I’ve listened to a few, and so far Cults is my favourite, but it’s worth checking out the others if you enjoy this one. I’m also a big fan of their Survival podcast, since I absolutely love true stories of survival.
RELATED: Addictive TV Shows About Cults
Everything is Spooky in the Dark
Everything is Spooky in the Dark is run by our fellow dark tourist, Wandering Crystal. As the name suggests, it does lean more towards the spooky and haunted, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t based on real dark history stories.
There are episodes on Edinburgh’s plague street and Deacon Brodie (aka the real Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), or you can learn the reasons behind why so many people believe in ghosts.
All of the episodes in Everything is Spooky in the Dark run less than 30 minutes (most are below 15). So if you have a short attention span or not a lot of time, this is the perfect dark history podcast for you!
Arab Tyrant Manual.
If you want to brush up on your Middle Eastern and Arab history and politics, Arab Tyrant Manual is the podcast for you. While it definitely leans heavier on the politics than the history, I still highly recommend it as it normally discusses the history behind the politics.
Arab Tyrant Manual is all about authoritarian governments, their laws, how they came to power and how they are overthrown. When you run out of podcast episodes, you can also check out the rest of the website. There are plenty of articles related to the same topic, and even a cartoon (khartoon)! Sadly neither the website nor the podcast have been updated since 2019, but there’s plenty of material to keep you busy for a while.
It is hosted by Iyad El-Baghdadi and Ahmed Gatnash, who are also the co-founders of Kawaakibi, an organisation dedicated to promoting thinkers and doers working towards the liberty of all Muslim nations.
Conflicted is hosted by Aimen Dean, an ex-jihadist co-founder of Al-Qaeda turned MI6 informant, and Thomas Small, a former monk in training turned Middle East expert. Together, with their behind-the-scenes team, they’ve put together one of the most riveting dark history podcasts available today. And, honestly, if that doesn’t sell you, this probably isn’t the podcast for you.
The podcast delves into controversial and important topics surrounding the Middle East and beyond. While many topics from Season 1 affect an international audience, such as the first episode on 9/11, it still centres on the Middle East.
However, with Season 2, the focus shifts to ‘The New World Order’ and the topics become much further reaching. But many episodes still put emphasis on Muslim minority atrocities, such as the Chechens in Russia and Uighurs in China.
Yup, just to confuse you there are TWO dark history podcasts named Conflicted. But not to worry, they are very different and both very much worth your time.
Conflicted aims to dig into some of history’s most controversial topics. And so far host Zach Cornwell as covered topics are far reaching as the bombing of Dresden, China’s One-Child policy, who destroyed the Aztec Empire and more. Many of the episodes are quite long, some lasting as long as two hours. If you like short, bite sized info podcasts, Conflicted wont be for you, but if you enjoy deep dives on fascinating and often forgotten topics, this might just become your new favourite podcast.
Likely due to the extensive research that goes into each one, Cornwell is a bit inconsistent with Conflicted‘s episode releases, but that doesn’t stop me from eagerly awaiting every single one!
Want to learn all about the worst disasters throughout history? Curious about how people survive? Disaster Area will be everything you’ve hoped for and more.
Every episode, host Jennifer Matarese takes us on a different ride into one of history’s greatest disasters and examines what happened and why. You’ll find unknown catastrophes, such as the sinking of the MS Estonia ferry or the Balvano train disaster, as well as far more well-known tragedies such as the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
Unlike some of the others on this list, there’s a large archive for Disaster Area. So if you enjoy this dark history podcast, you’ll have more than enough here to keep you going! Especially as most of the episodes are over 45 minutes long (many are over an hour).
RELATED: Captivating Shipwreck Stories
Death in the Afternoon
This one is a bit of a stretch since it’s not necessarily history-based, but I love it too much not to include it.
Death in the Afternoon is, as their tagline says, about all things mortal. It is written, researched, and developed by Caitlin Doughty, Sarah Chavez, and Louise Hung, who are all members of The Order of the Good Death.
If you’re at all curious about funerary and cremation practices, the handling of the dead, or even zombies, you’ll get something from this macabre podcast. And for my fellow dark tourists out there, there’s even an episode focused on cults – in particular Jonestown – and what happens to the bodies of those who die as part of cult suicide pacts.
I think Floodlines might be a perfect podcast. Vann R. Newkirk II is a brilliant host and I loved every second of the roller coaster he took me on.
On August 29, 2005 the levees broke and Hurricane Katrina swallowed the city of New Orleans. Over 1,800 people died. But for those living through it, Katrina was only the beginning, and the aftermath became the real disaster. Floodlines examines how systemic racism exacerbated an already terrifying situation, making it nearly impossible for people of colour, particularly Black people, in New Orleans to rebuild their lives after the tragedy.
This is an 8-part podcast covering one topic, and runs in total around 4.5 hours.
The Town That Didn’t Stare
One of our favourite hidden gems in the UK is the town of East Grinstead. Despite its size and relative obscurity, East Grinstead has one of the most fascinating histories in the country. And this brand new podcast, The Town That Didn’t Stare, seeks to unearth and share this history of what it calls the ‘UK’s Twin Peaks.’
Now granted, not all of the city and the podcast are full of dark history. Still, there’s certainly more than enough there to keep those seeking out the weird and macabre on the edge of their seat.
I was definitely drawn to this podcast by the clever AF name. I’m a sucker for a good name. Luckily, the hosts Jessica and Bethany have created a fun dark history podcast worth your time. Granted, their macabre sense of humour wont be for everyone, but I can definitely relate.
Each Body Count aims to discuss and analyse a different topic on death and destruction throughout the ages. If you like bite-sized dark history podcasts, this won’t be for you as the hosts go in-depth, share their own opinions and those of experts and compare the historical events to modern day ones.
Some of my favourite episodes have been the one on Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who survived two atomic bombs and the 1992 Guadalajara Sewer Explosions.
Coffincast covers everything to do with death in all its forms across past and present. Kristin, our host, picks some of the most interesting and varied topics for this dark history podcast. So far there have been episodes on everything from a behind the scenes look at the 1932 film Freaks, the sinister history behind the musical Ragtime and the Axe Man murderer of New Orleans!
Coffincast is sadly currently on hiatus, but there are still a few dozen episodes to go back and listen to. They range in length from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, so there will be one to distract you during almost any activity.
Okay, so this one is kind of cheating for the time being as it hasn’t actually started yet. Instead, there’s just a teaser trailer announcing it.
However, for anyone interested in learning more about the Srebrenica genocide, there’s no denying just how fantastic this podcast sounds. Plus it’s from Message Heard, which produce Conflicted, another one of my other favourite podcasts listed above.
A bit of background: In The Srebrenica Genocide started on July 11, 1995 and lasted 11 days. 8,372 Bosniaks were killed, and they are still finding bodies. Every year more names and graves are added to the memorial site. The vast majority of those killed were men and young boys, although women, girls and even babies were also massacred. Many women and girls were viciously raped. What happened in Srebrenica was the worst genocide to happen on European soil since WWII.
Unpopular opinion: I cannot stand Aaron Mahnke’s podcasting voice. I’m definitely in the minority here, though, so I’m including Unobscured as a bonus because his podcasts are good. Honestly, I wish I could because he has three podcasts I’d love to add to my lineup!
Unobscured is one of those series that focuses on a single story each season. Season 1 was dedicated to the Salem Witch Trials.
In case you weren’t forced to read Arthur Miller’s classic, but historically inaccurate, The Crucible for high school English class, the Salem Witch Trials took place between February 1692 and May 1693 in Massachusetts, USA. The trials were the persecution of over 200 people accused of witchcraft. In total, 30 people were convicted and at least 25 of them died (19 were hanged, one was pressed to death, and at least five known deaths occurred within the jail).
Although they are known as the Salem Witch Trials, the trials happened in various surrounding towns within Massachusetts.
Each episode does a deep dive into different aspects of and events throughout the trials, including discussions with experts in the field. There are also supplementary interviews and plenty of show notes with resources if you want to keep digging.
Season 2 is all about the bizarre rise of Spiritualism (and in case you think this isn’t the darkest topic, this is your reminder that there have been some not-so-great spiritual leaders … see Cults above).
If Mahnke’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he also hosts the podcast (and short-lived Amazon Prime TV show) Lore, as well as the podcast about all things weird, Cabinet of Curiosities. These and other podcasts that may be of interest can be found at his audio production company Grim and Mild.
Update: Grim and Mild has introduced a new podcast called The Hidden Djinn, which I’m currently in love with. Hosted by Rabia Chaudry who is featured on Serial (Season 1) and author of Adnan’s Story, The Hidden Djinn is a must for anyone who loves world myths!
Okay, okay, I can’t write an article about the best dark history podcasts and not include my own. But, since it feels like cheating, I’m putting it at the bottom.
Granted, it’s still very new; we’re finding our feet and due to some unforeseen circumstances that severely affected our ability to record (think: no internet followed by living below the cast of STOMP!), and a general lack of enthusiasm, we haven’t actually put out a new episode in a while, but I’m repping it anyway.
I host the Dark Travels podcast with Crystal (mentioned above), and occasionally Jeremy joins us. We talk about macabre history, unsettling myths and legends and dark tourism from around the world. We’re also a bit obsessed with the best vampire myth of all time.
What are your favourite dark history podcasts? Are there any you recommend that I’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!