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"I started listening to crime podcasts, and now I'm petrified when the sun goes down."

I am PRETTTYYYY pretty brave.

When planes hit turbulence, I don’t look at the cabin crew for reassurance. I’m an advocate for the catch-and-release of hand-sized huntsman spiders. And I regularly eat avocado in spite of its high fat content.

via GIPHY

I’m a bit of a badass, really… that’s what people* have said in the past.

(*It’s me. I am people. I said that in the past.)

On an entirely unrelated note, I’m now gripped by fear each night when the sun goes down.

I’m not a toddler. Or a werewolf. I haven’t had traumatic experiences and this isn’t an irrational phobia I’ve carried all my life.

My newfound fear of the dark is COMPLETELY RATIONAL. And it started four days ago.

Why do I always get surprised by the sun going down...

This is the part where I should be telling you I'm a young woman who felt vulnerable four days ago because I was walking past drunken men on a dimly lit city street at 2am and they tried to grab me and no one saw.

should be telling you that. Because that would make sense. The would be a legitimate experience kick-starting a fear of darkness.

But I'm not telling you that. Instead I'm telling you I'm male. I'm 19. And I'm not scared of the dark because I was grabbed or abducted or leered at.

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I'm scared because I've started listening to crime podcasts and there are bad people out there and when it's dark I can't see them.

Meshel Laurie speaks with Emily Webb about her research into Australia's chilling dark past: from missing persons and strange deaths, to the woman who cooked her husbands head in a pot. Post continues after audio...

My poddy poison of choice?

Primarily, there's Felon True Crime Podcast: short (30-40 minutes), sharp narrated recounts of crimes ranging from the 1950s to the present day. Each episode follows a new crime... new victims, new clues, new mysteries: there are the affairs gone wrong; the serial killers who dispose of their victims in barrels; the buff man found dead on an Adelaide beach with no wounds and nothing but a scrawled phone number in his pocket.

As well as Felon, there's also Casefile True Crimewhich follows an almost identical structure, but throws a few longer episodes into the mix.

Both are woefully simple - basic narration, interspersed with the occasional sound effect and court recording - but that's where the greatness lies. Both podcasts simply recount facts. Both refuse to speculate or offer opinion. Because "fact is scarier than fiction", according to the Casefile True Crime iTunes description:

"Fact is scarier than fiction... Each episode explores a new case. We cover the shocking, the terrifying, the strange, and the unsolved."

What the description doesn't mention is that crime podcasts are more addictive than heroin.

'Addiction' is an understatement, really. Like if you were to describe kale as 'displeasing'. Or sausage dogs as 'cool'.

HEY FREN. via iStock.
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Most of my waking hours are spent listening to these twisted mysteries. It's sickening. But there's nothing like hearing a random character being introduced to the story... AND KNOWIN' ALREADY HE GUNNA DO IT. I'm at that stage. I can tell who's going to commit the murder before it's been committed. If I saw a crime scene on the street I'd feel completely obliged to offer my assistance to the detectives. I've listened to more podcasts than they have. I CAN HALP.

Everything's cool during the day. Easy breezy: the end of an episode approaches; withdrawal anxiety mounts; I open my podcast app and wait for the theme music to signify the episode is finished; and I tap the next episode. Simples. It's bright and sunny and I can see there are no serial killers in my garden.

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I can SEE none of my co-workers are hiding kitchen knives. I can SEEEE no one's clenching a wrench at the coffee shop. And (thank the lord) I can SEEEE the bloke on the street corner is holding an iPhone rather than a taser.

But then the sun goes down and the bloke's definitely holding a taser and is probably also Edward Scissorhands.

Me when darkness. via GIPHY.

Here's how my last two nights - home alone with my two dogs - have unfolded...

Night One

5:12 pm: Home from work. Much sun in sky. Call out "HELLO IS ANYONE THERE" to make sure no serial killers. No response. Satisfied house is clear. Because if felons were hiding they'd obviously be like, "UH YEAH JUST WAITIN' UPSTAIRS FOR YOU TO FALL ASLEEP."

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5:18 pm: Cook dinner. Lamb and sweet potatoes. Casefile True Crime as cooking soundtrack. Particularly good episode about Kathy Knight - bat-shit crazy Aussie who chopped off her husband's head and cooked it in a pot. Served it to their kids. Mentally note never to marry a woman with a knife collection.

6:02pm: Check garden for sneaky murderers. All clear.

6:40pm: Light fading. Feed dogs. Lock doors.

7:14pm: Last shoutout to any murderers hiding upstairs before light fades. None shout back.

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8:00pm: It's dark and the floor upstairs keeps creaking as if someone's walking up there. Too scared to shout out to check if a person's up there because I'm sure there is.

8:31pm: Making tea. In kitchen. Locked door out to garden BANGS, as if someone's tried to push it open without realising it's locked. PITCH BLACK OUTSIDE. Heart stops beating, crawls up throat, lops on floor. Can't see if there's someone out there BUT THERE DEFINITELY IS.

Me when my house makes noises. via iStock.

8:32pm: Abandon tea. Leave kitchen. Lock self in room with dogs. Lights are on in rest of house but I can't go to turn them out because there's obviously someone waiting for me. Close curtains. Watch Netflix documentaries until sleep comes.

11:40pm: Jolt awake. Sweating. Need to pee but definitely a man waiting for me in bathroom. Hold in until no longer possible and make mad dash to bathroom. Mad dash back. Dogs confused ('Wtf is with this guy...?').

Night two

5:02pm: Finish up fourth crime podcast of day. That was silly last night, hey? These crime stories are one in a million and just because they happened doesn't mean they will happen to me.

8:41pm: My dog fucking barked at something please don't kill me I have no money here's my Opal card there's $11.50 on it.

Have you developed any fears later in life? How did they come about?