Criminal Records Podcast is a true crime show about history’s weirdest criminal cases. Co-hosts Isaac Meyer and Demetria Spinrad profile criminal cases throughout history. Our philosophy behind the show is that students of history can learn a lot about a society by what it chooses to criminalize, and studying criminal records as primary sources can reveal crucial information about the lives of people who might otherwise have been left out of the historical record entirely. Many of the criminals in our episodes weren’t bad people–in fact, some deserve to be remembered as heroes for their courage in breaking unjust laws.

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Who We Are

Isaac Meyer is a historian, high school teacher, and podcaster. He started The History of Japan Podcast in 2013. Isaac believes that history should be accessible for everyone, both because it is important for us to know our common past and because really, who doesn’t love a good story?

Demetria Spinrad is an author and digital marketing professional. As a storyteller and a true crime fanatic, Demetria likes to use criminal records to help show you the humanity behind the history.

Isaac Meyer

Historian and teacher

Episodes Listen in your web browser

Recent Episodes Find out more about these historic figures in our show notes

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Willem Arondeus (re-record)

Meet the man who used his artistic talents to resist Nazi occupation, then planned an elaborate scheme to destroy a public records building by posing as a German official. In the occupied Netherlands, a group of artists fought the law with typography and tailoring. Why did Willem Arondeus go from a little-known WII resistance fighter to a hit with Tumblr teens, and what can his story teach us about resisting fascism today?

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Jiang Qing and the Gang of Four

Was Mao Zedong’s fourth wife one of history’s most brutal criminals, or was she a scapegoat for a country that needed to preserve the image of its founding father? The answer is complicated, tragic, and involves a surprising amount of high-stakes theater criticism.

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Puyi, the Xuantong Emperor

China’s last emperor ended up becoming one of history’s strangest political pawns, and ended his life as an avowed communist. How did a man born into unimaginable wealth end up penning a memoir about the evils of the landlord class? And was his disavowal of his privileged upbringing genuine, or was he the victim of a justice system that perfected the art of brainwashing prisoners?

Harry Allen featured

Harry Allen

Meet Harry Allen, the sporty gentleman who scandalized Seattle by wooing ladies, biting cops, and making sure to give his side of the story to the press. Harry left an extraordinary legacy in the public record: He was a transgender man who talked directly to newspapers about his gender identity. But was he really the incorrigible hoodlum the papers made him out to be, or was he forced to the margins of society by police harassment?

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Okamoto Kōzō

This week, we explore a hapless revolutionary group’s failed attempts to start the Communist revolution with pachinko ball bombs, a one-way flight to North Korea, and random attacks on civilians. Why did a group of Japanese students end up deciding that the best way to kick-start the revolution was getting involved in a war in the middle east? And how does an idealistic young student end up believing that mass murder is morally justified?

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