Kylie Low ’12 is the creator and manager of Dark Downeast, a Maine and New England-focused true crime podcast. Writer Katie Lattari, author of the thriller Dark Things I Adore, shares Low’s affinity for true crime podcasts and storytelling, and describes Low’s journey from UMaine student to popular podcaster.
IT’S NOVEMBER 2022 and I’m doing something I’ve done a thousand times before. Waking up my phone, opening one of the myriad listening apps I seem to continually accrue, and scrolling through the list of true crime podcasts to which I’m subscribed. There’s My Favorite Murder, Serial, Last Podcast on the Left, Criminal, a few others. As a thriller novelist, keeping such digital company is both a hobby and an occupational hazard. I soon find the particular one I’m looking for, a show consistently in the Top 20 of the True Crime category in Apple podcasts and the newest addition to my downloads: Dark Downeast.
Earbuds in place, I start with episode one, released back on November 2, 2020, during the first dark autumn of the COVID pandemic. The episode title alone strikes into the heart of me: “The New Sweden, Maine Church Poisonings.” Broad strokes of the story come in flashes and wisps of memory. Arsenic slipped into a Sunday coffee pot, a simple but sinister act that shook not only a small, close-knit town in The County, but the entire state of Maine.
Already, the hometown connectivity and clear-eyed point of view of Dark Downeast’s creator and host, Kylie Keene Low ’12, is apparent, and I haven’t even pressed play. When I do begin the 30-minute episode, incredibly listenable, pointedly factual, and well-produced even from its earliest inception, I quickly come to find that her work is what storytelling can be at its best. A conjuring.
SO HOW did Kylie Low go from Black Bear to conjurer in chief for one of the podcasting world’s most successful shows in just about ten years? Low has always had a knack for manifesting her own path, and this ability revealed itself early in her University of Maine student career. As Low put it when she spoke with MAINE Alumni Magazine: “My education at UMaine allowed me to ‘choose my own adventure.’” Ten years out from graduation, that spirit of adventure exudes from the new mother and podcasting maven more strongly than ever.
Having entered UMaine as a theatre major, Low quickly realized that “the core of what [she] loved about it was the storytelling element.” She loved “to ask questions and dig” into the stories that surrounded her. So, during her first year, she put a question to herself: what major would allow her to dig deeply into a broad range of topics, ask important questions, and tell the stories that needed to be told?
“That’s when I found journalism.”
With this revelation in hand, Low did what she does best: she dove right in, taking broadcast and print media courses over the next three years. In her senior year, she began writing for the Maine Campus and leveraging an internship with the Bangor affiliate of Fox, WFVX, to get some real-world experience.
UPON GRADUATING in 2012, Low began a career path that would build to her current position as creator and host of the Dark Downeast podcast. She spent just over a year as a spokesperson for a statewide financial institution before becoming the touring content creator for the musical group One Direction (yes, that One Direction) in partnership with Nabisco, maker of Oreo, Ritz, and Trident. From there she became the director of digital media for a financial services company, then a morning drivetime radio personality in Portland, Maine, then a Country music DJ at NASH FM 94.7, New York City’s only country music station. Low and her colleagues would broadcast live from the NASH studio 17 floors above Madison Square Garden.
“It was a dream come true,” Low remarked.
After years writing, creating content, doing voice work, and hosting radio, it would be typical metropolitan commuter humdrum that would deliver to Low her interest in her next and most successful form of storytelling: podcasting.
“With all that time spent on the subway, I constantly had a podcast in my ears,” Low told MAINE Alumni Magazine. “I loved the accessible format and the million different ways it could be used to inform, entertain, educate, and inspire. I applied for a position as the producer for the #1 marketing podcast in the country, The Goal Digger Podcast, and four days later I was taking over the role and diving headfirst into the industry that I now know is perfect for everything I’ve studied, pursued, and honed since my days at the University of Maine.”
If it was a quintessentially New York experience that brought podcasting into her world generally, it was a quintessentially global experience that brought Dark Downeast to Low specifically.
In March 2020, Low, granddaughter of a lobster fisherman, and her husband were back in Maine visiting for a long weekend. They never left. The COVID-19 global pandemic had struck, and Low found herself going from weekender to lockdown visitor to full-time resident once again.
“The time back in my home state gave me the inspiration and motivation to take action on an idea for a Maine and New England-focused true crime podcast that had been floating around in my brain since early 2019,” Low said from her now-permanent residence in southern Maine. “The show combines my journalism roots with my passion for storytelling and heart for advocacy. Dark Downeast has since grown from a little side project started in my bedroom closet to a top 20 true crime podcast reaching hundreds of thousands of listeners across the world.”
In each weekly well-paced show, Low presents the known facts and introduces listeners to the questions and uncertainties of the case. Spare, subtle sound effects enhance her storytelling, and for those who want to learn more, Low lists the sources that are cited on her website.
With over 2 million downloads, 40,000 monthly listeners, and nearly 30,000 monthly website visits, it’s fair to say that Low’s “little side project” is resonating with listeners.
WHAT’S MOST important to Low, however, much more than the metric success of the show itself, is that Dark Downeast is a medium she’s been able to lend to “dozens of Maine and New England families who deserve justice and answers in their loved one’s unsolved homicide and missing persons cases.” Besides shining a light on often unsolved cases, the Dark Downeast website features a section devoted to concrete actions listeners can take to forward cases via research, donations, petitions, and more, as well as a section dedicated to sharing active missing persons cases in New England. Low strives for her endeavor to be “more than a podcast” by creating a “community of caring listeners.”
“When I encounter something I don’t understand,” said Low, “I dive head-first into a rabbit hole of research and can’t resist sharing what I learn with any form of audience who will listen.”
You’ve got our ears, Kylie. And we’re listening.
Check out online-exclusive content below, a sampling of Dark Downeast! For more, visit: darkdowneast.com.