These 10 True Crime Stories Will Make Your Skin Crawl

Hello, my name is Emily, and I’m a true crime addict.

I honestly can’t remember when my obsession began — probably when I started binging Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie books as a kid. At some point I realized that truth really is stranger than fiction, and that even the queen of mystery couldn’t craft as strange of a whodunit as life could.

Yes, I listen to the podcasts, and yes, I have a few stories that just stick with me, no matter what. Here are my top 10 true crime stories to satisfy your morbid fascinations before Halloween!

Note: It’s important to remember that with every true crime story, there is a victim. However you choose to engage with the story, please be respectful of the victim and their families.


1. Elisa Lam and the Cecil Hotel

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The Cecil Hotel is fascinating enough on its own. It’s rumored to be haunted by numerous spirits and has played temporary home to a number of known murderers, including Richard Ramirez (aka the Night Stalker).

Elisa Lam was a college student on a brief tour of the West Coast when her body was found in a water tank on top of the Cecil. Nobody knows how she got there or how she died. The most popular, widely accepted theory is that she was off her meds, climbed into the tank, and drowned. But that theory has several holes:

  • The water tank lid was heavy — how could she have lifted it off on her own?

  • The autopsy showed insufficient evidence that the cause of death was actually drowning.

  • The night she disappeared, Elisa was captured in strange elevator surveillance footage that body language experts suggest show signs of preening — meaning she may have been going to meet someone the night she died.

To learn more about this true crime story, I’d recommend the book Gone at Midnight and these podcast episodes. Netflix released a limited series on the hotel and Elisa’s mysterious death, but IMO, they didn’t give nearly a full enough picture of the strange circumstances.

2. Brandon Lawson

This case is so frustrating for one reason: an indecipherable 911 call made by Brandon shortly before his disappearance. Audio experts have spent hours enhancing the audio to try to figure out what he was saying, and there are several theories online, but none that have been universally agreed upon. If we knew the contents of the call, we would likely know what happened to Brandon — as it stands right now, he’s still missing, and no trace of him has ever been found.

You can learn more and participate in search efforts at the Facebook page dedicated to finding him, and you can listen to a podcast episode that tries to decipher the call here.

3. Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon

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This case will haunt me for ages. Kris and Lisanne were on vacation in Panama when they decided to go without a guide on a fairly popular hike. The hike is meant to be an up-and-back hike, but Lisanne and Kris didn’t hike down the right way — they took a route they thought would loop around to the starting point, but instead it took them further into the Panamanian jungle. 

The only evidence we have is one of the girls’ backpacks that washed up a while after the girls disappeared. It contained, among other things, a camera with photos on it that have enabled investigators to reconstruct some of the timeline after the girls disappeared. Remains were later found deep in the jungle.

When I first listened to this podcast talking about the girls’ disappearance, the whole time I was wondering — where’s the crime? It seems like they just took a wrong turn and died in the woods of natural causes, right? 

I won’t spoil it for you, but yes, there’s a twist ending to this true crime story. Do yourself a favor and listen to the pod. Like, now.

4. Mitrice Richardson

Mitrice Richardson disappeared in 2009 after being released from a Pacific Coast jail, where she’d been detained for not paying a bill at a restaurant. She’d also been acting strangely at the restaurant, and her mother had asked the deputies who detained her to keep Mitrice there until her mother could come get her in the morning. 

Instead, Mitrice was released that night and left without any of her belongings. She was later spotted by a homeowner in his backyard. Her body was discovered in a creek less than a year later, and though neighbors reported hearing screams, the death was not considered a homicide due to insufficient evidence of foul play.

You can learn more about Mitrice’s story in this podcast, which discusses her disappearance and mysterious death.

5. Missy Bevers

Missy Bevers was found murdered inside her Texas church, and surveillance footage even captured her murderer. Everything else is a mystery. We have no motive and can’t even tell the gender of Missy’s killer. 

You can listen to this podcast episode to learn more, and you can view the surveillance footage here. If anything in the video stands out to you, please contact the Midlothian, TX police department, who are still confident this can be solved.

6. The Axeman of New Orleans

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One of several New Orleans murderers to make it into American Horror Story’s third series, “Coven,” details of the Axeman’s killing spree will haunt you indefinitely. 

He was active for over a year (May 1918-October 1919) and has never been identified. Among the stranger details of the Axeman’s killing spree are his motive (or, rather, lack thereof), and a strange letter stating that he would spare the occupants of homes playing jazz music. Deranged killer, crazed jazz enthusiast, maybe both?

The resources to learn about the famous Axeman are nearly endless, but I’d recommend American Horror Story: Coven’s episode “The Axeman Cometh,” this episode of true-crime-comedy podcast My Favorite Murder, and this episode of And That’s Why We Drink.

7. The Slenderman Murder

I know what you’re thinking — Slenderman? Isn’t that some urban legend? Well, yes and no.

The Slenderman story originated on Creepypasta, a website where users post, well, creepy stories. Fact or fiction? Could be either — it’s up to the reader to decide.

The Slenderman story quickly went viral because of its creepy believability. But even though it’s pretty obvious that it’s just that — a story — some people believe otherwise. And one young girl almost paid the price with her life.

You can read more about the attempted Slenderman murder on Wikipedia, or you can listen to this podcast from True Crime Garage or this one from And That’s Why We Drink.

8. The West Memphis Three

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In 1993, 3 boys were brutally assaulted and murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. But the “West Memphis 3” moniker doesn’t refer to them — it refers to the three teenage boys who were found guilty of their murders and sentenced to various lengths of jail time (all life or more).

Sounds pretty open-and-shut, right? Wrong. 

Turns out, the evidence against the West Memphis 3 wasn’t airtight; soon after they were convicted, the public began to rally support for the three to be released. The circumstances under which the boys disappeared and were murdered were pretty wild, and there was a mysterious man seen in town that nobody can account for. Add family drama into the mix, and this case remains a whodunit to this day.

For more information about this case, you can listen to this podcast or watch one of the many documentaries that have been made about the West Memphis 3.

9. Brian Shaffer

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Brian Shaffer was last seen with friends at the Ugly Tuna Saloona in Columbus, Ohio on the night of March 31, 2006. At some point in the night he separated from his friends, who waited for him outside after the bar closed, but he never met up with them. How does a grown man just…disappear?

As with any case with little to no evidence, the theories run wild with this one. Security cam footage has been the main source of confusion — Brian was seen entering the bar, but was never seen leaving. Did he leave out of a back entrance and try to make his way through the precarious building construction going on, meeting with an untimely end? Did he change his clothes and don a hat, making it harder to distinguish him leaving the bar in security cam footage? But why would he never meet up with his friends — why would he never reappear?

This case is still active and the police are still searching for leads that will lead to Brian’s whereabouts — many believe he’s still alive. Learn more about the case from this podcast, and if you may know something, contact the Columbus PD at 614-645-2358.

10. Brandon Swanson

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I feel like not many people know about this case, and maybe that’s because there’s not a lot to talk about — there’s really no evidence to boost any theories about Swanson’s disappearance, which range from accidental drowning to alien abduction. This case will leave you with more questions than answers, and there’s one detail about this true crime story that makes it particularly creepy to me: Brandon was on the phone with his father when he disappeared.

Brandon had been driving home one night when he ran his car into a ditch. He called his parents and told them his whereabouts (or what he thought were his whereabouts), and they were on their way to get him. Brandon started walking toward a light in the distance which he thought was a neighboring town. He remained on the phone with his father for 47 minutes — until his father heard Brandon say, “Oh, shit!” and then the call cut off. No trace of Brandon has been found.

To learn more about this case, check out this podcast.


Which true crime story is your favorite? Did we miss any? Share with us in the comments.

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