true crime podcasts

This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: The Mummified Cult Leader

Photo-Illustration: Vulture

The true-crime-podcast universe is ever expanding. We’re here to make it a bit smaller and a bit more manageable. There are a lot of great shows, and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the noteworthy and the exceptional. Each week, our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists will pick their favorites.

Camp Hell: Anneewakee, “Doc”

A quick Google search for the phrase “wilderness therapy” turns up all sorts of ads for programs dedicated to turning your disgruntled teen into an upstanding young adult through the rigors of the great outdoors. Search “Wilderness therapy abuse,” and it’s a whole different ball game. Camp Hell is about one such program, the Anneewakee Treatment Center for Emotionally Disturbed Youth, which was founded in 1962 by Louis “Doc” Poetter, a self-styled shrink whose horrific sexual abuse of his charges led to a stint in jail and a “malpractice scandal.”

Camp Hell isn’t an easy listen — our entry into the story is an abused donkey who was rescued from Anneewakee, where he was physically and sexually abused by Anneewakee attendees — but it’s important to shine a light on these abuses. And, as Camp Hell hints, the corruption goes far beyond Poetter and one or two bad eggs; after all, Anneewakee was an expensive camp with multiple locations that served countless teens over the years. Right now, there’s scant info available on Anneewakee, other than a homemade website dedicated to survivors’ experiences; even the newspaper articles by Albert Oetgen, who is interviewed at length in the podcast, are impossible to find.

Here’s hoping this podcast brings more to light and offers some comfort to folks who were abused during their time at the camp while it was operating as Anneewakee. Comments on the iHeartRadio website indicate there are still a lot of them out there. —Jenni Miller

Ghost Town, “The Delphi Murders”

This podcast has serious OG Unsolved Mysteries vibes. It covers head-scratching mysteries, ranging from allegedly paranormal events to shocking unsolved crimes. Though hosted by comedians Jason Horton and Rebecca Leib, Ghost Town doesn’t crack wise about its cases. In a conversational but solemn tone, this team thoughtfully recaps reported details in efficient episodes that often range from ten to 30 minutes in length. In this ep, they usher us back to February 13, 2017, when two middle-schoolers, 13-year-old Abigail J. “Abby” Williams and 14-year-old Liberty Rose Lynn “Libby” German, were murdered while hiking in Delphi, Indiana. Even though the girls may have caught their killer on tape, no arrests have yet been made. With new developments on the story emerging this week, Ghost Town’s recounting is essential listening, especially if you want to help solve a mystery. —Kristy Puchko

Last Podcast on the Left, “Relaxed Fit: Love Has Won”

If you’ve caught a glimpse of those headlines circulating about the mummified corpse of a cult leader found wrapped in Christmas lights in Colorado, but haven’t had the time (or inclination) to investigate what the hell that’s all about, the boys of Last Podcast on the Left have you covered in a timely episode that includes tangents into Michael Jackson, Dr. Phil, and colloidal silver, naturally. The leader in question is 45-year-old Amy Carlson, referred to by true believers as “Mother God,” who started the Love Has Won “organization” some ten to 15 years ago. Proclaiming she was both Jesus Christ and Marilyn Monroe in past lives, Carlson used the internet to further her message of a great awakening and recruit new members. And while the full picture of her life is difficult to bring into sharp focus (it seems she may have gone off the grid for a while) the bits that rise to the surface are rather dark and depressing — even verging on dangerous. With Carlson’s death, it seems Love Has Won may have been dealt its final loss. —Amy Wilkinson

Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad, “Missing: Kristen Smart and Amber Wilde”

In 1996, Cal Poly student Kristin Smart disappeared in the town of San Luis Obispo. Chris Lambert grew up seeing the billboards with her picture on them as the case steadily became colder, and in 2019, he started his own investigative podcast about Kristin’s case, Your Own Backyard. In the first segment of the latest Murder Squad, Billy Jensen and Paul Holes interview Lambert about the latest developments in the case, including an arrest that took place very recently, as well as his proximity to the prime suspect, and what still needs to happen in order for him to feel like any kind of justice has really been achieved. In the second half, Billy and Paul examine another unsolved case — the 1998 disappearance of 19-year-old Amber Wilde in Green Bay, Wisconsin. There are theories abound in regard to where Amber could be, as well as conflicting narratives as to who saw her when, whose alibi actually seems legitimate, and the matter of her car, found one week after she went missing — with 900 unaccounted for miles on it. —Chanel Dubofsky

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This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: The Mummified Cult Leader