Up and Vanished is another true crime podcast I recently discovered and I’m binging on it big time. I’d argue that it’s even better than Serial. My recommendation is to listen from the beginning and refrain from doing any internet search on the case, as there are major developments that deviate from the initial path the podcast takes. The subject focuses on the story of Georgia beauty queen and teacher, Tara Grinstead’s mysterious disappearance in October 2005. She was last seen at a barbecue to watch the Georgia/Auburn game. Frankly, I looked her up because I wanted to put the face to the name and that did expose me to the trajectory the podcast takes after several episodes and arguably the resolution of her case (I don’t know definitively as I’m still actively listening). It hasn’t ruined the podcast for me by any means, because it’s very well done and extremely fascinating, but if you prefer to be surprised, my advice would to avoid doing any prior research.

Interestingly, Payne Lindsey, the host and executive producer, was inspired by Serial to create a podcast based on an investigation of a cold case. Payne hails from Georgia, so he purposely selected a case from his home state. Tara Grinstead’s case file was the largest file at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, referred to as the GBI. After making some initial calls, he hooked up with forensic detective, Dr. Maurice Godwin, who had been actively investigating the case for 10+ years, having initially been approached by Tara’s sister, Anita.

Initially, we’re brought into Tara’s world in the small town of Ocilla, based in southern Georgia, where major crimes like this didn’t really happen. Bright, beautiful, and driven, Tara was undoubtedly a head turner and speculation fell quickly upon Tara’s ex-boyfriend and rumored lovers. Much speculation is also put on a possible police coverup in order to protect persons of interest.

In addition to the primary, plot forwarding episodes, the series peppers in bonus content including “Case Evidence”, “Q&A with Dr. Marcus Godwin”, “Q&A with Phillip Holloway“, and recorded live shows where audience members can participate in discussions about the case with Payne. There is a variety of other revealing interviews with people who knew Tara or the persons of interests, journalists, private investigators, and even Nancy Grace, herself a Georgia native that was involved in interviewing Anita and other analysts regarding Tara’s case. Side note: I know she’s a polarizing figure and certainly not my favorite, but you will actually learn some interesting facts about her that made her more humanized to me.

Payne being interviewed about developments of the Tara Grinstead case (ABC spelled his last name wrong)!

Even though major developments in the case are very surprising and unexpected, there are many fascinating and logical theories put forth by listeners and persons surrounding or actively involved in the case. This podcast offers a lot of education and insight regarding legislation both within and outside of the state of Georgia, criminal investigation, journalistic ethics, the dangers of speculation, motive, confession, and the human psyche. None of it is dry, though; the tone of the podcast is still very entertaining.

While the last episode of Up and Vanished aired in November of 2017, I promise there is a lot of content to keep you engaged for a while, even if you binge it like me. One thing I love about this podcast is that like S-Town, many of the featured speakers have southern accents (duh, it’s a Georgian true crime story). For some reason, I just love listening to southern accents so much! Additionally, the theme and background music is very atmospheric and definitely enhances the listening experience.

All in all, there’s been more than a few moments that have induced that treasured eye widening, hand to the chest, gasping, “oh my god!”, reaction that makes it worth listening! I truly recommend this podcast and may put it at the top of my list of favorite podcasts, just under Last Podcast on the Left, which forever reigns my heart. One other thing; Up and Vanished proves that a podcast can change the course of an investigation and be a catalyst for a tipster to speak out. It’s an incredible phenomenon and absolutely should be supported. Maybe in my next life, I can produce my own!

So if you listen to it, please let me know what you think!

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