Q drops, deep state campaigns, 9/11 intelligence failures, mysterious internet videos, and stories from the fringe: To be American is to constantly be bombarded by the new conspiracy theories. Which ones are dangerous? which ones are worth giving a second thought? Which ones are just bizarre?
These 10 podcasts climb down into the conspiratorial muck to tell the stories they don’t want us to know about.
American Hysteria explores how fantastical thinking has shaped US culture. Think: moral panics, urban legends, hoaxes, crazes, fringe beliefs, and national misunderstandings. Host Chelsey Weber-Smith retells the strangest stories from American history with a strong sense of humour, and examines the forces that create the reality we share, and sometimes, the reality we don’t. Chelsey just started a very cool segment called the Urban Legends Hotline that allows people (like you!) call in and share local urban legends. If you’re lucky, Chelsey will visit in real life to investigate them. (Call the Urban Legends Hotline here.)
Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know
Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know sheds the light of research and sober analysis on the world of conspiracy theories. It’s the perfect show for people with a curiosity for hidden knowledge and a curiosity about tinfoil hat perspectives. Ben Bowlin, Matt Frederick, and Noel Brown are engaging storytellers, diving deep into government secrets, paranormal phenomena, hidden history, and unexplained events, backing them up or debunking them via verifiable facts, historical records, and credible sources. Some episodes feel super timely (a recent interview with Gilbert King of the ground-breaking true-crime series Bone Valley) and some are more evergreen, because conspiracy theories never really go away. Ben, Matt, and Noel have been at it since 2013 and have built a huge community of people who are dying to know what they shouldn’t.
Dan Friesen and Jordan Holmes keep close tabs on Alex Jones so you don’t have to. Each week on Knowledge Fight they review recent clips from Jones’ Infowars programming and try to make sense of it all. They go deep, and some of the content is dark, but Dan and Jordan are funny enough to make it both a wild ride and an enjoyable listen. There’s no better way to learn about conspiracy theories than to study the people steeped in them, and this show is like Cliff’s Notes for the source of many of the wildest theories taking hold of America.
Sometimes conspiracy theories are dangerous and terrifying. Sometimes they are just hilarious. Comedian Katelyn Hempstead’s Lizard People is all about the latter. The show brings on funny people and allows them to air their obsessions with the wackiest conspiracy theories you’ve never heard. Is New Zealand fake? Is Rivers Cuomo really Kurt Cobain? Are octopuses aliens? Is The Walking Dead a documentary? The answer to all of the above: Probably not, but isn’t it fun to think about? On each episode, a guest presents their nutty belief and Katelyn tries to debunk it. At the end, she passes judgement: how convinced is she that the conspiracy theory is true? And how much does she want to believe it is?
QAnon has been creeping into the mainstream and attracting more and more followers (including some sitting members of congress) who believe in the Deep State Theory, which posits that a global cabal of democrats and celebrities is sexually abusing children and practicing cannibalism. All of this info is delivered to those in the know via “drops” by the anonymous “Q.” It’s hard to keep up with this ever-evolving web of disinformation, but on QAnon Anonymous, Julian Feeld, Travis View, and Jake Rockatansky serve as your QAnon correspondents, explaining all the key tenants of the conspiracy: the Storm, the Great Awakening, and every drop of incredulous ideology in between. It’s not so much that the theories themselves are terrifying (though they are certainly unsettling); it’s that so many people apparently believe them.
My Momma Told Me
On My Momma Told Me, comedians Langston Kerman and David Gborie take a deep dive into the funniest (and, often, most problematic) Black conspiracy theories. Guests come on to talk about what the stories their momma told them, kicking off a conversation about the validity and/or nonsense involved. Should you burn your own hair so people don’t cast a spell on you? Is Churches Chicken owned by the KKK and trying to sterilise Black men through their food? Does everything kill your sperm count? Langston and David don’t know, but they’re down to entertain each notion for a little while.
Fall down the rabbit hole with Ali Segel and Melissa Stetten, hosts of Web Crawlers, the show about unsolved mysteries, creepy cults, scammers, and unsettling conspiracies gathered from around the web. Alie and Melissa tell wild histories, share “bimbo” news updates, and open up the mailbag, where their devoted listeners write in with their own strange findings online. It’s a podcast about creepy stuff, but also about friendship; the hosts’ chemistry can make you smile along with stories about cancer scams, authors who fake their own deaths and kill their husbands, Wendy the Snapple lady’s cocaine habit, and more. These women are falling down the rabbit hole, laughing all the way.
Last Podcast on the Left
On Last Podcast on the Left, Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks and Henry Zebrowski deliver over-the-top retellings of the crazy things people actually believe. The research that goes into each episode (about topics as varied as UFO crashes, intelligence failures around 9/11, Jeffrey Epstein, and smaller news stories in between) is intense, and the stories themselves are so crazy, you’ll be left hoping the show is just making it all up. (Sadly, no.) Even if you’ve heard the same tale on 20 other podcasts, you’re missing out if you don’t hear the Last Podcast on the Left’s take.
Red Web tells tales of the internet’s most intriguing mysteries, conspiracies, and supernatural events. Trevor Collins and co-host Alfredo Diaz consider the stories that leave us with more questions than answers, and do their best to fill in the gaps. Trevor comes with the facts and Alfredo with the comic relief. Together they offer an entertaining mix of reporting and comedy, covering the creepiest video on the internet, ooze falling from the sky, the world’s most mysterious phone number, a literal box of crazy, and so much more.
Jordan Klepper Fingers the Conspiracy
Jordan Klepper rolls around in the muddy world of pizzagate, Hunter Biden’s laptop, and the Italian satellites that won the Biden election on Jordan Klepper Fingers the Conspiracy, a six-episode podcast that puts his boots on MAGA ground as he wades through the conspiracy theories that have shaped modern American politics and culture. On The Daily Show, Jordan’s interviews and commentary were crucial in understanding the extreme right, and for six little episodes we get him back. Join him in stepping away from the desk and into the unknown. You’ll binge them fast and wish for more.