This week I was lucky enough to interview Suruthi Bala and Hannah Maguire, the infamous spooky hosts of Redhanded, the true crime podcast. The podcast, which is a personal favourite of mine, has been running since 2017 and covers all sorts of creepy horrors; from infamous serial killers, hauntings, and mysteries to modern day issues in their ‘under the duvet’ segments. These girls truly fulfil your true crime fix. To Leeds students I don’t advise listening to it when walking through Hyde Park… or as I found out with a hot cuppa, it really will make you jump. But who doesn’t want a little ghoulish excitement during this lockdown?
Q: How would you each describe the podcast in three words?
Suruthi – “I would describe it as hopefully terrifying, interestingly political for a true crime and inclusive, I want you to feel like you’re part of our gang!”
Hannah -“Politics into the petrifying”
Q: How do you know each other and why did you want to start the podcast?
Suruthi – “We didn’t know each other four years ago, and we started the podcast three and a half years ago, so it was a quick turnaround. Hannah and I have a mutual friend who was sleeping on Hannah’s sofa, and I’d just came back from a year of travelling and I wanted to reconnect with some real-life people (instead of people who live in harem pants and don’t wash their hair). My friend invited me to this thanksgiving party at Hannah’s flat in London. I turn up, bottle of wine in hand, thanked Hannah for having me and then we got very, very drunk and just started talking about… murders. The more drunk we got we thought we should be best friends and start this true crime podcast. About four years ago not many people in England were listening to podcasts, and true crime was very male dominated; while we respect the work they’re doing, we thought we could bring something different to it, being two young women, our analysis of true crime, even our view of the same case would be so different. Then six months later we had a £10 microphone, laptops, and locked ourselves in a cupboard under Hannah’s stairs and started recording.”
So, like meeting on a blind date?
Hannah – “It’s literally how you’d want to meet the love of your life…but I met a girl who I wanted to start a true crime podcast with.”
Q: For student listeners what episode would you recommend listening to first?
Hannah – “I’d say episode 180, Lori Vallow: Doomsday, all the end of the world theories are really interesting, specifically because it’s not that far away from what a lot of religions teach anyway. Is it really that weird that people think the world is going to end when you’re told every Sunday?”
Suruthi – “I’d go with the case of Otto Warmbier [episode 84] because he was an American student at the time who had a gap year trip to North Korea, they accused him of stealing a poster off the wall and arrested him and put him into a labour camp and sent him back to America a year later in a coma and then he died. Nobody knows what happened to him. This is one of the cases we like to do on RedHanded which is to step outside the box and include political views too. We love to change people’s mind during the podcast.”
Q: How do you pick your stories and filter credible sources?
Hannah – “We will always do our best to get it right, but we’re human, and we turn out a podcast once a week, so we will make mistakes, not often but it happens! One of the benefits of podcasting is you can go back and update the audience. If we’re doing a case which happened in a different country, we do try and get someone from there to confirm it. We try and read everything that we can get our hands on, which can be overwhelming. As you go on you just get better at filtering out the good stuff.”
Suruthi – “We’re not investigative journalists, we’re repurposing information that’s already there and presenting it, if we can’t verify it or there’s not multiple sources saying the same, we tell you. We’re storytellers not barristers!”
Q: For Leeds students wanting to be successful podcasters what would your advice be?
Hannah – “If I could go back and do anything differently, I would believe in it a little more from the beginning. Obviously, we didn’t know what was going to happen, but I wish we bought a proper mic because the first three episodes we ended up taking down, people would listen to the first five minutes of the first ones and not come back. The biggest piece of advice is to just start because you can learn as you go.”
Suruthi – “You have nothing to lose, the entry barriers for this are really low and it costs very little to start, so just do it! Your audience will tell you what they like and how to improve. Pick a topic you’re serious about, because if it becomes successful it’s going to be so much work. We spend all of our day immersed in true crime now. Pick someone you can work well with because you’ll rely a lot on that other person. Release consistently and focus on content, other things will come in time, don’t run before you can walk.”
Q: How have you made this into a job?
Hannah – “We use to record on a Sunday and on a Monday, in my lunch break I’d lock myself in a shower cubicle to edit. We never wanted the quality to drop but the first year was so stressful…The moment for me when I realised the day job had to go was when we got a tweet in the middle of the night from someone who’d been to Dan Harmon’s live show (Harmontown LA) saying he’d fly us out first class to be guests on the show. It was agonising because they record on a Monday, but the episodes aren’t released till a Wednesday, so we had two whole days of not knowing what’d been said. He said RedHanded was the best true crime podcast he’d heard, and he’d fly them out to be on the show. So, I stormed into my job the next day being like I’m out B******! From that moment we knew it had to be us.”
Suruthi – “It was a pivotal point for us, we couldn’t step away from it because it became too big, but we were so tired doing our day jobs too. I was scripting on my way to work and there was about two years where we didn’t have a weekend. Our audience became so passionate that we couldn’t let them down. After Harmontown we started to think about it like a business, we had to think about how we could make enough money to sustain us both going full time. Patreon, Icon and our merch helped us do that but that’s all fairly recent.”
Q: Is there any other podcast’s you’d like to work with?
Hannah – “I’m really into ‘Your Wrong About’ at the moment.”
Suruthi – “I like ‘Reply All’ and the ‘Blind Boy Podcast’ we have a big Irish following so we’d love to collab with him.”
Put your headphones in and enter this paranormal podcast, its spine-chilling stories and nail-biting discoveries will get you over this lockdown faster than running through a haunted house.
Header image credit: RedHanded