Stop What You’re Doing and Listen to this Podcast

My very first introduction to podcasts was the now-famous Serial. I listened to a bunch of episodes on a long car ride with my husband until we caught up and were listening to the last few as they aired live. It was thrilling. I imagine that experience to have been something akin to crowding around a radio back in the 30s, hanging on every word of the latest show.

Since Serial, I’ve dabbled here and there with a few different podcasts on cooking/eating, parenting, budgeting/finance, and murder (an eclectic mix, I know). I tried really hard to stay committed to Crimetown, but after listening to almost 20 episodes, I feel like quitting. (I haven’t given it up for good yet, though.) People rave about My Favorite Murder, but the first episode lost me when they started talking a bit too much about child victims. Nope nope nope nope nope. Can’t do it.

On a scroll through Instagram, I saw someone mention how much they were enjoying Up and Vanished, the story of a Georgia woman who truly up and vanished in 2005 without leaving behind much physical evidence or many clues as to her whereabouts. She was a former beauty queen, a local teacher, and the stereotypical girl next door. What the heck happened, and how has her case remained unsolved for 12 years?

The first few episodes are a bit amateurish. Host Payne Lindsey admits to hunting around for a podcast topic after having been inspired by Serial’s first season. He’s new to this, but at least he’s upfront about it. There’s a hokey voice over that is jarring at first, but kudos to Lindsey for hanging on to it. He uses it better as the series progresses.

He’s missing the deep thought work that Sarah Koenig gives us in Serial. Frankly, most of the podcasts I listen to are missing that. But there’s something really charming about his newness to the medium, to this case, and the way that he owns it.

Lindsey is doing the research in real time as he records the podcast, so it lacks the polish of a story that has been researched ten times over and over-produced. I like that about it. It keeps it exciting. As listeners, we’re right there next to Lindsey as he gets tips, digs around in a creepy crawlspace looking for clues, and gets spooky phone calls from locals. By episode 4 I was so hooked, I was looking around the house for more to clean or dishes to wash so that I had an excuse to listen.

Serial may not be the end all be all of podcasts, and I get that. But it is mine. I can definitively say that I haven’t been hooked on a podcast since Serial the way that I’m hooked on Up and Vanished. Definitely give it a shot.

Warning: looking at the website for the podcast contains lots of spoilers, so read at your own risk!