Podcast ‘Casefile’ turns true crime into absorbing narrative

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“Fact is scarier than fiction,” reads the tagline of true crime podcast “Casefile.” For anyone spooked by scary stories, this sentiment likely rings true. With an anonymous host who keeps emotion out of his narration and minute details of the story at the forefront, “Casefile” pulls listeners into the precise details of the crimes.

“Casefile” has been around since January 2016, when its first-ever episode covered the Wanda Beach Murders in Sydney, Australia in 1965. Since then, “Casefile” has put out episodes almost weekly, most of which cover a different crime — some well-known but many only previously covered locally. For some of the longer-spanning crimes, “Casefile” dedicates multiple episodes to one story, such as the extremely in-depth and extensive five-part episode on the East Area Rapist.

The first episode of the year premiered Jan. 26, after a short break over the holidays. “Case 105: Louise Bell” covers the disappearance of 10-year-old Louise Bell in Adelaide, Australia in 1982. This episode embodies all that works well within “Casefile” and showcases the podcast’s ability to consistently tell compelling stories of true crime.

“Case 105” opens with the host describing an introverted young girl who prefers to stick by her teacher’s side at recess rather than play with the other kids.

The host tells us how one night, before bed, Louise put on a new pajama set — “a pale yellow sleeveless cotton top dotted with small yellow flowers.” Louise and her sister, Rachel, went to bed in their shared room, and their parents, Colin and Diane, went to their own bedroom just next door. When Diane got up later in the night to check on her children, Louise was gone from her bed, and the window of the kids’ bedroom was open. Colin went out searching for her, only to return home after not being able to find Louise. He came back into the house and said to his wife, “Something is terribly wrong.”

This night is merely the foundation of the story to follow, which plays out over decades and evolves to become increasingly centered around the police search for Louise. But the narrative remains detail-oriented throughout the episode, as listeners are taken through the arc of what begins as looking for this young girl and evolves into searching for who killed her.

Well into the story, it becomes evident that the pajama set description is not just a detail for imagery, but actually a piece of evidence in the case. When that is made known, listeners instantly recognize the pajama top because of the episode’s methodical and intricate storytelling. The listener has not physically seen this pajama set but still feels the moment of recognition when it becomes a part of the police case. This is just one of the ways that “Casefile” pulls listeners in, allowing them to experience the crime story looking outward instead of inward.

The narrative plays out slowly, requiring patience as the drawn-out pacing allows each part of the story to play out. All of the pieces set up at the beginning come together eventually, through many moments of misdirects or close calls. The long span of time it takes to finally solve this case — approximately three decades — is emphasized by checking back in with the family and recounting how evolving technology affected the ongoing case. By the end of the hour-long episode, with the killer caught and the case closed, listeners have experienced one particular thread that ran through decades of true crime.

True crime, in real time, can be hard to keep up with. This case alone spanned many years, and even those who were following the case initially likely weren’t able to keep close tabs on it. “Casefile” is driven by intense research, all of which is written into a smooth and compelling narrative and delivered in a subtle yet striking way. True crime can be hard to stomach, but for those who can, “Casefile” is the route to take.

Nikki Munoz covers podcasts. Contact her at [email protected].