Netflix movie Lost Girls has landed on the service starring Amy Ryan as Mari Gilbert, the mother of a missing woman who battles with police to get her daughter’s case taken seriously and in doing so leads to the discovery of the bodies of several murdered women, and evidence of a serial killer. It’s a true crime story, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.
In May 2010 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert went missing in the Oak Beach area of the Southern shore of Long Island, New York. She’d made a panicked call to police saying she feared for her life but for various reasons dispatchers weren’t sent for almost an hour and Shannan disappeared into the night. Shannan was a sex worker and her last engagement had been with a client, Joseph Brewer, who said she’d started freaking out and when her driver Michael Pak arrived to pick her up she ran from him too.
Some months later a police officer and his cadaver dog came across the bodies of four women wrapped in burlap sacks near where Shannan vanished. They were identified as four sex workers who had gone missing between 2007 and 2010 – none were Shannan, though police realized they had a serial killer on their hands.
In Spring 2011 six more sets of remains and partial remains were found which comprised four women, a man, and a toddler who was the child of one of the women. Then in December 2011 Shannan’s remains were finally discovered, about half a mile from where she went missing, though police ruled her death “misadventure” and said it was unrelated to the other murders despite the fact that she shared similarities to the “Gilgo Beach Four.”
No one has ever been arrested. Did the suspicious doctor do it? Or maybe Shannan’s final client? Or is this the work of multiple serial killers? Want to read about what Lost Girls didn’t tell you about case? Here’s our guide to the true story of The Long Island Serial Killer.
Now, here are the best podcasts covering the case of the Long Island Serial Killer…
Episode: “The Craigslist Ripper” – The Long Island Serial Killer
From podcast network Parcast comes this very slick scripted show focusing on well known true crime cases. Production values are very high and the audio crystal clear. Our two narrators are Greg Polcyn and Vanessa Richardson who absolutely sound like radio professionals so if you’re after a sort of “all killer, no filler” explanation of the case, this gives a thorough run through of the main players and theories over two episodes, with the first running at 53 minutes and the second at 44 minutes. It’s well researched and incredibly polished with quotes from various sources brought in. There’s a good level of focus on the deceased and this podcast brings in other possibly related deaths outside the main ten that could have been victims of the Long Island Serial Killer. If you’re after as much information as possible, clearly presented, with no banter or chat then this is the one for you.
Episode: Three main episodes plus trailers
Narrated by two women who grew up in Long Island this is the most thorough exploration of the case we could find – or rather it would have been if there were more than just the three episodes. It’s an independent podcast so not quite as slick as some, but it’s still professionally done and hosts Hannah and Quinn are warm and charismatic. Crime Coast brings a great sense of place to the story because of the hosts’ connections – great for anyone who’s never been there and struggles to quite imagine what that community is like.
This podcast relies heavily on info from Robert Kolker’s book Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, which the Netflix movie is also based on. Unlike Lost Girls, Crime Coast puts a decent amount of emphasis on the four sex workers found in burlap sacks – from who they were to the circumstances of their disappearances – as well as talking about Shannan Gilbert. The last episode was published on October 14th and we’re not sure why there haven’t been further installments yet. Episode 3 delves into the backgrounds of a couple of the main suspects including the mysterious Doctor Hackett and the burlap magnate James Bissett. We just hope more episodes are on the way.
Episode: Serial Killer: LISK
This popular anthology podcast presented by Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat is professional, upbeat and chatty, focusing on a different case each week. The Long Island Serial Killer episode is as well researched and slick as always with the hosts talking through all the different theories of who the Long Island Serial Killer – or indeed killers – might be. It’s a clear and fairly succinct overview of the case with speculation and discussion of the various theories out there, including the hosts’ conclusions about the “Torso Killer” and “Trophy Killer” idea. They also lean into speculation about connections to the “Eastbound Strangler” murders where the bodies of four sex workers were found in a drainage ditch in Atlantic City.
Episode: Episode 170 – Long Island Serial Killer
Thinking Sideways is an anthology series focused on unsolved mysteries, hosted by Steve, Joe, and Devin. The Long Island Serial Killer episode is from 2016 and our changing times (or perhaps just the style of this show) mean bits of this podcast are slightly uncomfortable to listen to, leaning a bit close to victim blaming when Shannan Gilbert is discussed. Due to an audio snafu Devin is slightly quieter than the two men, though that’s not massively off putting. Arranged into “chapters” to break up different elements of the case, it’s quite a neat way to explain a complex situation, especially with three hosts who have a slight tendency to interrupt each other.
The episode itself is quite long at 1 hour 36 minutes but it affords the hosts space to engage in banter about what they’d do if they were serial killers. It’s energetic and picks up in the second half, though you might wish you could argue back when they’re getting into the theories. Thinking Sideways is no longer being produced but it ran to more than 260 episodes in total so there’s a large back catalog if you like it.
My Passion Case
Episode: Maggie Freleng – The Long Island Serial Killer
This is episode two of a fairly new podcast which launched this January. It’s the most recent and up-to-date of the podcasts on our list so it includes info about a press conference revealing the existence of a belt which police think belongs to, or was handled by, the Long Island Serial Killer. It’s hosted by Bill Huffman who’s joined each episode by a guest of significance in the true crime and podcast world – each guest picks a case to delve into that they’re particularly fascinated by.
Producer, reporter and true crime aficionado Maggie Freleng chooses the LISK case for this two-parter. The format works well, with Huffman interviewing his guests about the cases they’ve become obsessed with. It’s slick, well produced, and an easy listen. Freleng is a confident and natural public speaker and brings the case to life so this double episode is a good starting point for anyone seeking out more info about the real case, though it’s slightly frustrating that Freleng at times sounds a bit unsure about some of the details. Part two ends with a recording of the recent press conference which announced the creation of a new website, gilgonews.com (which appears not to be operational as of this writing), to gather tips and share developments indicating the case is very much not cold – worth a listen for that alone.
The Serial Killer Podcast
Episode: 87. The Long Island Serial Killer – A Summer Special
This podcast has been going since 2016 so if you’re a true crime fan fascinated with serial killers there’s a lot to choose from here. Many are multi-part but this special on the Long Island Serial Killer is a standalone that runs at around 43 minutes. A single narrator makes this feel formal rather than conversational and gives this a different flavor to female duo shows like Crime Junkie. Like many of the podcasts on this subject, The Serial Killer Podcast refers to Kolker’s book and uses it as a source, with Shannan’s disappearance and the strange circumstances around it the focus. There’s not a great deal of speculation here and not much new if you know the case already. However, Norwegian producer and host Thomas Wiborg-Thune has a deep, authoritative, and very appealing voice and the manner of an old school horror host, so listening is rather like being told a horrible bedtime story.
Voices From Gilgo
An independent podcast told over six short episodes which starts quite well despite some problems with sound levels but grows more incoherent as it goes on. The podcast is hosted by Long Island resident Robert Ottone and it was created for a noble purpose, namely to keep the case alive. Episodes begin at around 10 – 17 minutes but the final two are just seven minutes long in total each. As a piece of reporting, or indeed as a podcast, it’s not great but it could be worth a listen for the bizarre ending where Ottone posits his own theory using euphemistic nicknames “the purse,” “the face,” and “the gentleman” offering no explanation at all for why he’s come to his conclusion.