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Most Notorious! A True Crime History Podcast
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Most Notorious! A True Crime History Podcast

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Serial killers. Gangsters. Gunslingers. Victorian-era murderers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Each week, the Most Notorious podcast features true-life tales of crime, criminals, tragedies and disasters throughout history. Host Erik Rivenes interviews authors and historians who have studied their subjects for years, and the stories are offered with unique insight, detail, and historical accuracy.

148 Episodes
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In this episode, we examine the most notorious witch hunt in American history, in Salem, Massachusetts. Hundreds of women and men were accused of witchcraft by young, "afflicted" girls, and many were executed.  My guest is Mary Beth Norton, award-winning historian and professor of American history at Cornell University. She joins me to talk about her book, "In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692". Besides explaining the details on how the crisis unfolded, she dispels some of the common myths surrounding this infamous historical event.  Thanks, The RealReal! Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In early 1946, a serial killer nicknamed "The Phantom Killer" (aka the "Moonlight Killer") terrorized the citizens of Texarkana (Arkansas and Texas). It was most sensational series of murders in post-war America.  Dr. James Presley is my guest, and the author of "The Phantom Killer - Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town In Terror". He walks us through the terrible slayings and builds a case for who he thinks the real killer was. He also tells the story of meeting the likely murderer under unusual circumstances. Thanks, The RealReal! Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Most of us are probably familiar with the Kingston Trio song, "Tom Dooley", but fewer may realize that it was based on the true life murder of Laura Foster in 1866 North Carolina.  Charlotte Corbin Barnes is an unapologetic supporter of Tom Dooley's innocence, and explains the crime, the complications of the trial due to the intense political climate in North Carolina in the era of Reconstruction, and her suspicions on what might have really happened. Her book is called "The Tom Dooley Files: My Search for the Truth Behind the Legend".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In October 1922, a sensational murder gripped the city of London. While on a walk home after a show, Percy Thompson was stabbed by Freddy Bywaters, the lover of his wife, Edith. Passionate love letters written by her, including mentions of the desire to murder Percy, helped send not only Bywaters to the gallows, but her as well. My guest is bestselling author Laura Thompson, and she joins Most Notorious to talk about her book, "A Tale of Two Murders: Guilt, Innocence and the Execution of Edith Thompson".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In March of 1892, a private detective named Charles Gardner was hired by the Reverend Doctor Charles Parkhurst, moral crusader and social reformer, as an escort through the seediest, vilest slums in New York City. The purpose of this slumming tour was so that Dr. Parkhurst could gather evidence to present to a grand jury to aid in their investigation of municipal corruption and neglect. Included here are allegedly truthful, highly colorful, and likely embellished excerpts from Gardner's 1894 book "The Doctor and the Devil, or the Midnight Adventures of Dr. Parkhust". I narrate chapters 4 and 5 of in this episode (which were the first two nights they hit the town together). Midnight Potboiler is my third and final possible new addition to the Most Notorious lineup, a narration of a true-crime related historical fiction and non-fiction, all in the public domain Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
True Crime Tripper is the second of three new shows I'm trying out on Most Notorious. If launched in 2020, it would be a travel show that focused on historic sites, hotels, restaurants and museums related to true crime history. In this first pilot episode I chat with Sue Vickery, tour guide at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts. She talks about the history of the house, gives a refresher on the murders, and offers details on how someone can stay in the very same room where Lizzie's step-mother met her unfortunate end. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this first trial episode of "Aghast at the Past", a possible new weekly addition to Most Notorious, I narrate true crime stories I've culled from North American newspapers dated December 17th, 1901. They include the murder of a young woman by a burglar in Pittsburgh, a bar fight gone wrong in Sioux City, Iowa, and a mysterious man nicknamed "Jack the Squeezer" who terrorized unsuspecting women with hugs and kisses in Vancouver, Canada. If you would like to hear more Aghast at the Past episodes in the future, email me at erivenes@yahoo.com or leave me a message or comment at facebook.com/mostnotorious1 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On the evening of November 17th, 1973, five teenagers, enjoying a campfire at the Gitchie-Manitou State Park in Iowa, were terrorized by three sociopathic brothers, who would end up murdering the four boys in brutal fashion. The lone survivor, Sandra Cheskey, was raped and released, and not surprisingly deeply traumatized by what she'd witnessed and experienced. She would become known from that point on as the "Gitchie Girl", and shunned by classmates and her community. Ultimately she would help catch the brothers, take the witness stand and even confront one of them in prison later in her life. My guest is Phil Hammon, who along with his wife Sandy authored the fascinating national best seller, "Gitchie Girl". Phil was also best friends with one of the murder victims, Michael Hadrath, and retells the notorious events in a compelling, personal fashion. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
While much is written about Prohibition-era gangsters and bootlegging, the focus is typically in places like Chicago, Kansas City and New York City. Far less known, but very compelling, is the history of the Mexican-American border in the Southwest in the 1920s, and the battles between Old West-era lawmen and the dangerous gangsters who were intent on smuggling booze into the United States.  Samuel Dolan, author of "Cowboys and Gangsters: Stories of an Untamed Southwest" joins me to tell to explain the importance of this regional history, and some of the colorful characters who took participated in it. He also shares his experiences as an actor in the 1993 film, Tombstone.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
One of the world's most preeminent Ripperologists, Tom Wescott, author of "The Bank Holiday Murders" and "Ripper Confidential" is my guest on this week's episode of Most Notorious. His extensive research into Jack the Ripper/Whitechapel murders give his a unique perspective into this truly iconic true crime cold case. Focusing on some of the more intriguing peripheral players in the events, including a suspicious prostitute named "Pearly Poll", he offers a fresh take and new theories on who might have murdered the "Canonical Five" (and likely more) in Victorian-era London. This episode sponsored by Best Fiends, available in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In 1919, eight players on the Chicago White Sox baseball team, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, were implicated in what would go down in infamy as the Black Sox scandal. In exchange for money, members of the team agreed to intentionally throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. New York underworld gangster Arnold Rothstein is widely suspected of being the primary fixer in the sensational crime.  My guest is Charles Fountain, journalist, professor, baseball historian and author of "The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball." He gives his expert perspective into what is recognized as the greatest scandal in the history of American sports.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
When many of us think about Old West gunfighters, our minds turn to men like Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, and Billy the Kid. But there were others equally as compelling, including the two that are the subject of my guest G.R. Williamson's recent book, called "Texas Pistoleers: The True Story of Ben Thompson and King Fisher". Thompson and Fisher each had their own unique and violent lives, but happened to be together when they were shot to death at the infamous Vaudeville Theater Ambush in San Antonio, Texas. That story is told, along with tales of their gunfights and their fascinating encounters with famous western figures (and killers) like Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickock, Bat Masterson and John Wesley Hardin.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Emma Barrett Molloy was a well-known Evangelical Christian, temperance and women's rights activist in the 1870s and 1880s. But in 1885 she found herself embroiled in a lurid scandal involving a con-artist named George Graham. Graham married Emma's foster daughter, Cora Lee, but without divorcing his first wife, Sarah. When Sarah eventually found and confronted him, Graham murdered her and attempted to cover up the crime. Emma, of course, would be caught up in the drama, front-line fodder for a scandal-hungry press.  My guest is Larry Wood, author of "Bigamy & Bloodshed: The Scandal of Emma Molloy and the Murder of Sarah Graham". He gets into the nitty-gritty of this shocking story on this week's episode of Most Notorious.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
My conversation continues with Ellen Poulsen, co-author (with Lori Hyde) of "Chasing Dillinger: Police Captain Matt Leach, J. Edgar Hoover and the Rivalry to Capture Public Enemy No. 1". In this second part of the interview, Ellen explains the struggles Matt Leach continued to face as he tried to prove East Chicago cops were in on the death of Dillinger, J Edgar Hoover's personal crusade to ruin Leach professionally, and the details of Leach's tragic death. She also talks about her feelings on the "Lady in Red", Anna Sage, Dillinger's position in the Babyface Nelson gang, and her thoughts on the recent attempts to exhume Dillinger's body.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Ellen Poulsen is back, this time to discuss her new book (co-written with Lori Hyde), "Chasing Dillinger: Police Captain Matt Leach, J. Edgar Hoover and the Rivalry to Capture Public Enemy No. 1."  She walks us through John Dillinger's rise in 1933 and 34 to gangster infamy, including his Crown Point prison escape, and his intense rivalry with Matt Leach of the Indiana State Police, who was singularly focused on bringing Dillinger down.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Just in time for the Halloween season! This episode explores the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, a 15th century warrior-ruler infamous for his extreme brutality and cruelty. My guest Leif Pettersen, a former travel writer with Lonely Planet, has spent considerable time in Romania, and through his writing, research and wanderings, developed a special attachment to the real life Dracula.  His book on the subject is part memoir, part travelogue and part history, and called:  "Backpacking with Dracula: On the Trail of Vlad ‘“the Impaler” Dracula and the Vampire He Inspired".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Bestselling author Eric Jay Dolin joins me to talk about his book, "Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates".  He discusses the Golden Age of Piracy in 17th and 18th century America, explains why pirates were so prolific during this time, dispels some prevailing pirate myths, and tells stories about some of most infamous (like Blackbeard) and the most murderous (like Ned Low).  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In May of 1980, a brazen group of four heavily armed men, in an attempt to rob the Security Pacific Bank in Norco, California, ended up responsible for one of the most violent criminal events in American history. It would be a massive shootout against an underarmed police department, and would fundamentally change how law enforcement departments across the country dealt with crime.  My guest, author Peter Houlahan, summarizes the events detailed in his book, "Norco '80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History". His research includes insightful, first hand interviews from people on both sides of the shootout, and fascinating tales of the trial that followed.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the aftermath of the American Civil War there was a sharp rise of interest from Americans interested in communicating with the dead, and the Spiritualism movement grew increasingly popular. This, combined with the new technology of photography, gave rise to a scam called "spirit photography". The main perpetrator of the fraud was William H. Mumler, who convinced many that he could capture images of lost love ones alongside the living in portrait photographs.  Eventually he would face a sensational trial, with even P.T. Barnum testifying against him.  My guest is Peter Manseau, writer and curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian Institution. His book is called "The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln's Ghost", and he tells the this tale of deception in this latest episode of Most Notorious.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In October of 1900, four men accompanied a young woman named Jennie Bosschieter to a saloon, where one of them slipped a large amount of chloral hydrate into her drink. She was then taken on a ride to a remote place, sexually assaulted, and eventually died from the overdose. My guest is Kimberly Tilley, author of "The Poisoned Glass", and she tells the disturbing story of the murder, the investigation, the trial and its aftermath.   Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (41)

Just a fan

Interesting. I always thought Sweeney was the best suspect. If he was the killer then he got away with it.

Jan 18th
Reply

Monique Hicks

this is great! I would love to have this become a series..

Jan 15th
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Heather McNamee Rensel

just bad journalism. instead of looking for the truth she went looking for proof that he was innocent

Jan 10th
Reply

Kris King

interesting!!

Nov 1st
Reply

Aetherflow

Great episode!

Oct 30th
Reply

Jean Volz Conant

very interesting I enjoyed it

Oct 25th
Reply (1)

Linda M Duncan

Not at all boring. Thank you.

Oct 12th
Reply

Mishi Michelle

i never thought anyone could make vlad sound so boring

Oct 7th
Reply (1)

Christina L Wertman

So much was left out of this story. Listen to crime junky, they give a much more detailed account. I was going to buy this guys book but with all the major details he left out of this pod...never mind.

Sep 26th
Reply

Sherrie Lucas

I really like this author. I like the way he thinks and how he uses his words.

Jun 21st
Reply

Robert Stanley

hard to follow if you're dumb , otherwise s good true story..

May 18th
Reply

Viva La Vida

This expert finishes each sentence with a question mark. So difficult to listen to.

May 16th
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Sharon Anderson

this is supposed to be 10 Most Notorous Historical Ghosts with Diane Student, but it the Jamws/Younger bank robbery podcast

Apr 23rd
Reply

Jaymes

love how she has to explain what a cricket bat is...for all those millions of Americans who, if it's not in America would have no idea what it is.

Apr 17th
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jakfuk

boring babbling bullahit

Apr 14th
Reply

Jaymes

interesting story but that author is hard to listen to , that upward inflection in his voice is super annoying

Apr 3rd
Reply

Ishmael

Leonsku was a weak coward. Glad he got put to death.

Feb 27th
Reply

Ashley McKerall

episode 6 btw... the Jesse POMerOY EpiSODE...

Feb 21st
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Ashley McKerall

I can't listen to thIS, because of the rISING, of every 4th wORD, that this guy SAYS, and it's very disTRACTING, and I just can't foLLOW...

Feb 21st
Reply

Ishmael

I can't wait to see "I am the Night" tomorrow!

Jan 28th
Reply
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