Sometimes truth is scarier than fiction

Cole Tompkins | Multimedia Editor

By Madalyn Watson | Print Managing Editor

Did your grade school history teacher sound a bit like white noise or the adults in Charlie Brown’s world? Or are you perhaps studying some extremely specific era of history?

Whichever part of the spectrum you fall on, these four history podcasts will give you a unique perspective on some prominent historical events and figures in history.

From history podcasts that evoke a world you have only viewed through a television screen to others that make you laugh so hard you will forget you are scared, these podcasts will keep your mind stimulated.

“Behind the Bastards”

With his experience as a war zone reporter, the author of “A (Brief) History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization” and an editor for the online comedy website Cracked, Robert Evans has become a detailed and talented storyteller. So it was no surprise when Evans moved on to podcasts as a new storytelling medium.

Working with Stuff Media (“HowStuffWorks”), one of the world’s leading for-profit publisher of podcasts, Evans created “Behind the Bastards” early in 2018. Each episode, Evans shines light on the dirty details of the lives of the most evil people in history, alongside some regular guest stars ranging from comedians to other podcasters.

“Behind the Bastards” covers some of the most well-known villains featured in textbooks, while other episodes focus on lesser-known figures in history, like Georgia Tann in “The Woman Who Invented Adoption (By Stealing Thousands of Babies).” On the other hand, some episodes discuss more modern terrors from YouTube to free speech grifters.

If Saddam Hussein’s career as an erotic novelist, the young adult novels that inspired Adolf Hitler and the contents of a hard drive recovered from Osama Bin Laden all sound interesting, you should slip your earbuds in and get lost with Evans’ voice in “Behind the Bastards.”

“You Must Remember This”

“Welcome to another episode of ‘You Must Remember This‘ — the history podcast dedicated to exploring the secret and/or forgotten stories of Hollywood’s forgotten century,” Karina Longworth says at the start of each episode in a sultry and alluring voice reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe.

The intriguing subject matter as well as Longworth’s voice will give you goosebumps and keep you on the edge of your seat between clips from her haunting soundtrack.

All of these elements together created one of the top film podcasts to date, with praise from Entertainment Weekly, New York Times and Elle Magazine. Celebrities like Chloë Sevigny and Gillian Jacobs have even shared their love for this old Hollywood podcast.

A former LA Weekly film writer, Longworth started “You Must Remember This” in April 2014 because she wanted to learn more about the hidden stories of Hollywood exactly the way she wanted to, without having to answer to anyone else.

As an audiophile herself, Longworth also wanted to create a podcast so there would be more options for her fellow podcast fans, according to an interview she had with Scott Porch. Episodes narrate the mysterious stories of celebs from Judy Garland, Frances Farmer and Marlon Brando and feature guest stars like comedian John Mulaney and actor Fred Savage.

Longworth considers the first episode, “The Hard Hollywood Life of Kim Novak,” lost on the Internet because she used a lot of copyrighted music, and the original audio file was corrupted. However, dedicated fans can find the forgotten episode somewhere, tucked away on the Internet.

After binging the entire library of this particular side of history behind the spotlight, audiences can read Longworth’s book, “Seduction: Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood” or listen to her 12-episode series, “You Must Remember Manson.


As the winner of the iTunes “Best of 2015” and “Best of 2016” and winner of “Best History Podcast 2016” by the Academy of Podcasters, “Lore” must be included on this list. The podcast examines a different historical tale that allows viewers a peek of the darker, more twisted side of history in each episode.

Each episode title and description are enticingly vague, making listeners begin the story without a sense of what they are going to hear. By adding this extra element of mystery, fans are unable to cherry pick episodes that stand out to them, making the thrill of not knowing what is behind the door they choose even more delightful.

(However, I will advise interested parties to check out some of my favorite episodes, “Episode 107: Sight Unseen” and “Episode 93: A Place to Lay Your Head.”)

The man who does everything behind the award-winning history podcast, Aaron Mahnke, has also created two other podcasts: “Unobscured” and “Cabinet of Curiosities.” The podcasts’ immense success also led to the creation of the American horror anthology television series of the same name.

Narrated and developed by Mahnke, alongside executive producers from both “The Walking Dead” and “The X-Files,” the TV show has two seasons that fans can only access through Amazon Prime.

Whatever medium audiences choose to enjoy first, they are sure to become enveloped in the dark, shocking world of “Lore.” Like the tagline of the show says, “Sometimes truth is more frightening than fiction.”


To finish this list up on a lighter note, let’s turn to comedian and creator of the history podcast “Timesuck,” Dan Cummins, for a few bursts of hysterical laughter.

As a stand-up comedian, Cummins’s personal anecdotes and commentary on the idiots that unfortunately populate Earth landed him spotlight appearances on “Conan” and “The Late, Late Show.” He also worked in reality TV and was a producer for several television shows before devising the concept for “Timesuck.”

His comedic, nonfiction podcast delves into the kind of subjects that he would get lost in on the Internet or that would suck him in and waste all his time. From historical events and mysteries to conspiracy theories and paranormal encounters, Cummins will talk about absolutely anything on his podcast, as long as it interests his fans.

Speaking of his fans, they call themselves the cult of the curious and his subscribers are called space lizards, a reference to one of the earliest episodes.

The entire podcast is filled to the brim with inside jokes and a cast of quirky characters, all played by Cummins, that help lighten the mood of episodes that explore some of the darker aspects of life. These characters include his own interpretation of the real Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, the Butcher of Rostov, who pops into other episodes unannounced trying to change parts of history or revealing that he is the real mastermind behind certain events. If fans are worried they’ll forget some of the characters, he has character bios for each one on his website.

What are you doing still reading this? Go join the cult of the curious and check out all of these other fantastic history podcasts. Maybe you’ll even learn something while you have fun.