It would be criminal to miss these true crime series and documentaries


Is there really anything more terrifying than the atrocities human beings sometimes perform on others in real life? True crime is a natural sub-genre of horror, and I am fascinated by the stories, so I am constantly looking for documentaries and movies inspired by it.

Netflix has a good selection of true crime available, and one of their newer offerings is Abducted in Plain Sight, the story of Jan Broberg’s kidnapping by a trusted family friend. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill kidnapping story, it’s the perfect example of the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction.”

In 1972, Mary Ann and Bob Broberg met Robert Berchtold at church, and “B” quickly became a close friend to the whole family. The Brobergs had three young daughters, but B was especially taken with outgoing, 12-year-old Jan, and began spending a lot of time with her.

Such was his manipulative nature that Jan’s parents did not suspect anything was amiss, and Jan paid the price. Ultimately, B ended up kidnapping and brainwashing Jan, and her parents were so convinced he would do nothing to harm her, that they ended up not contacting the police for several days.

Among the awful things B did to Jan was to play audio recordings of “aliens” in the middle of the night. Jan would awaken to strange voices telling her that in order to save the planet, she would have to have sex with B, and give birth to his child. Not only did she buy this, she truly believed that she and B were in love.

True Crime – Abducted in Plain Sight – Courtesy Netflix

And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, folks, this documentary has to be seen to be believed. Though it would be easy to completely hate Jan’s clueless parents, their filmed interviews expose them as real people, who loved their child and couldn’t believe that someone they liked and trusted could be a predator.

Another true story of manipulation is that of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard, as told in Hulu’s docudrama The Act. Patricia Arquette gives a standout performance as Dee Dee, who presents her daughter Gypsy (played perfectly by Joey King) as being plagued with multiple illnesses.

Gypsy, who is very childish, is confined to a wheelchair, is fed through a stomach tube, has had multiple surgeries, wears thick glasses and has a shaved head. Leaving Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, Dee Dee and Gypsy relocate to a small town in Missouri, which welcomes them with open arms. They are gifted with a house and showered with monetary and media attention.

True Crime – The Act – Courtesy Hulu

Seven years later, Dee Dee was murdered in her house, and Gypsy was missing. As it turns out, Dee Dee had been deceiving everyone since Gypsy was a very young child. Not only was Gypsy able to walk, she was older than Dee Dee said, and was a victim of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Most shocking of all, she had planned the murder, and her boyfriend had committed it.

If you are also interested in watching a true documentary of the Gypsy Rose story, check out Mommy Dead and Dearest on HBO. When you see the real-life interviews with Gypsy, you will be even more impressed with the job Joey King does portraying her on The Act.

Finally, I want to talk about a harrowing, often heart wrenching documentary series on Lifetime. I Survived gives us stories of kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, animal attacks, plan crashes, people lost in the wilderness/at sea – all told by the actual people who survived them.

True Crime – I Survived – Courtesy Lifetime

Each episode tells three different stories, alternating between story-tellers. The true crime stories are the most fascinating for me, I was amazed to discover the atrocities the human body can take and actually live through.

The stories that stuck most in my mind are those of Mary Vincent and Jennifer Holliday. Vincent was a 15-year-old runaway hitch-hiker who was sexually assaulted, then had both of her arms cut off at the elbows and was thrown off a 30-foot cliff. She stuck her amputated limbs in mud to slow the bleeding, crawled up the cliff to the road, and walked until a newlywed couple pulled over in their truck.

Holliday was driving in a car with her cousin, when a passing driver shot her in the arm. The shooter followed her, shot and killed her cousin, then kidnapped Holliday, taking her to his house. After he raped her, she managed to convince him to call 911 so she wouldn’t bleed to death, and HE GAVE THEM DIRECTIONS TO GET TO HIS HOUSE!! Amazing.

This is just a taste of the crazy, yet inspiring tales you will hear on I Survived. Many of the survivors have gone on to work as victims’ advocates, or in law enforcement, and I can’t even imagine the courage it takes to speak those awful stories out loud.

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I am not sure if the show still runs on Lifetime, but I was able to watch all of the episodes on the Lifetime app, and some are also available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. Be warned, the details are often gruesome, and you may have nightmares.

As a true crime buff, I am always looking for new books, movies, documentaries, series and podcasts, what do you recommend? Tell me your favorites in the comments section.