Jordan Bonaparte’s first case was finding the owner of a 63-year old journal.
He found it in a pile of books on Joseph Howe Drive on his walk home from work one night this past summer. It was a black journal with the initials MSS in gold on the cover.
He posted a description of the mystery book to Reddit. The online community, along with a CBC producer who covered his story, jumped into action to track down the journal’s author.
Bonaparte says he was surprised by the online support he received from Reddit readers helping him find the book’s owner. The experience helped him realize there was an audience for mystery stories in the area.
He says true crime and stories of local mysteries have always fascinated him. He spends hours researching stories for his own interest and decided to turn his pastime into a podcast.
Bonaparte launched Night Time Podcast this past fall. Every week, he talks about local stories of crime, paranormal and mystery from across Atlantic Canada.
He says he’s overwhelmed with the response and support from listeners; he attributes the show’s quick growth to social media.
“Every day the amount of listens and feedback has been growing exponentially as the word spreads,” says Bonaparte. “Each social media share brings 50 new downloads.”
The podcast currently occupies the 124th position among top podcasts on iTunes Canada, higher than CBC Radio’s Spark (146) and NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell me (176th). The list ranks all podcasts downloaded across the country, including podcast giants This American Life, RadioLab and Serial,
Last week, Night Time Podcast held its highest position yet on the Canadian iTunes Chart, a site that tracks downloads on iTunes. Bonaparte sat at the 35th position for two days ? ahead of Canadaland.
The true crime episodes have helped Bonaparte make his mark.
The story of Victoria, B.C., woman Emma Fillipoff’s 2012 disappearance is the most downloaded Night Time Podcast episode to date. However, Bonaparte expects his recent episode on the 1989 disappearance of Halifax teen Kim McAndrew to soon surpass it.
Bonaparte says, although only nine episodes available, it’s clear true crime stories are popular and he understands the draw.
The case of the West Memphis Three was his introduction to true crime. The 1993 case of three murdered boys in Arkansas captured the attention of so many people because of gaps and missing information in the case — similar to NPR’s podcast Serial and Netflix’s sleeper hit Making a Murderer.
“After I saw (the 1996 video documentary) Paradise Lost, I read everything I could about the case,” says Bonaparte. “It’s a perfect example of how ‘armchair detectives’ made a huge difference.”
Michele Byers, a professor in the department of sociology and criminology at Saint Mary’s University, teaches a course in crime and media. She says true crime stories can be traced back before the invention of the printing press.
“The earliest stories – even religious stories – that captivate people’s attention are full of melodrama and crime,” says Byers. “Crime has always been central to the content of mass circulating media from the very beginning.”
As mass media has shifted over the years to online platforms – video and audio streaming – so has the growth and reach of the content.
Byers says a reason podcasts are so popular is their accessibility factor.
“Even though we’re all obsessed with visual text right now, it’s still the radio, or podcasting that we can multi-task with,” continues Byers. “So you can move around your house, you can walk down the street, or you can drive while listening.”
For now, Bonaparte is focused on building the momentum from the past few weeks. He’s working on a few more true crime stories and an episode about Oak Island, which will be released in the coming weeks.
About the author
Kathleen Napier is currently completing her Master of Journalism (Data and Investigative) at the University of King’s College in Halifax. Special...