Ridiculous History

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Category: History

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Subscribers: 6092
Reviews: 18

Arthur Embleton
 Mar 24, 2022
So many adverts! I can't listen to this, just as you're getting into a story - bam here's three adverts for irrelevant podcasts. Madness


 Mar 24, 2022

matt
 Aug 22, 2021
very entertaining

Allie
 Mar 7, 2021
I wish they would stop interrupting and cutting off their own content with ads. I've missed a lot because of this


 Dec 11, 2020

Description

History is beautiful, brutal and, often, ridiculous. Join Ben Bowlin and Noel Brown as they dive into some of the weirdest stories from across the span of human civilization in Ridiculous History, a podcast by iHeartRadio.

Episode Date
How A Massive Turkey Screw-up Created TV Dinners
3206

Hey, it's us, your pals Ben, Noel and Max from Ridiculous History. We figured the holidays can be stressful for everyone, and we're pretty sure you've heard the history of Thanksgiving countless times. So instead of telling you that story, we decided to celebrate by exploring the weird history of TV dinners and microwave meals -- none of which would exist if the food company Swanson hadn't accidentally found itself with 260 tons of leftover turkeys after Thanksgiving in 1953. So tune in; we hope it gives you a chuckle.

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Nov 24, 2022
J. Paul Getty, Part Two: A Kidnapping Discount
1981

For members of the mob, the plot to kidnap J. Paul Getty's grandson was a home run -- after all, what's a few million to a literal billionaire? Yet, as it turns out... the mob didn't know who they were messing with. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore a series of terrifying events that led to one of most ridiculous examples of miserliness in human history.

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Nov 22, 2022
J. Paul Getty, Part One: Money Doesn't Make You Happy
2132

It's often said that money doesn't buy happiness -- and, in the tragic case of the Getty family, it seems that saying holds true. In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Getty's origin story, his infamously... let's say... 'thrifty' nature, and how he earned a reputation of one of the coldest businessmen in modern history.

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Nov 17, 2022
Introducing: Jordan Klepper Fingers The Conspiracy
109

On his adventures into MAGA country, Jordan Klepper encounters some of the more imaginative, conspiratorial minds America has to offer. In “Jordan Klepper Fingers the Conspiracy,” a new, six-episode limited podcast series, Jordan steps off the trail to dig deep into some of the wildest theories he’s heard, and trace their origins with journalists, experts, and anyone who might have a lead on when JFK Jr. is coming back. The podcast offers an opportunity to better understand some of the most extravagant stories Americans tell themselves. Listen to Jordan Klepper Fingers The Conspiracy on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-klepper-30873042/

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Nov 16, 2022
Have you heard of Andorra?
1861

While it may be unfamiliar to many folks outside the region, the 6th-smallest country in Europe has a fascinating history all its own. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the strange origin story of Andorra, from its ancient past to the modern day.

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Nov 15, 2022
How Smart Was Alex the Grey Parrot?
2432

Picked at random from a pet store, a humble grey parrot named Alex went on to fundamentally alter the way humans think about animal cognition. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore how animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg and her parrot pal Alex spent three decades proving it's actually pretty impressive to be 'bird brained.'

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Nov 10, 2022
Surprising Former Careers, Part 2: Truman Can't Sell Hats
2443

Years before he became a world-famous actor, Christopher Lee did wetwork with elite special forces during World War II. Before entering public office, Harry Truman almost ruined his life by starting a haberdashery. In part two of this continuing series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the ins and outs of more surprising former careers.

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Nov 08, 2022
The Ancient -- and Surprisingly Divisive! -- Story of Ketchup
3384

Ketchup is in almost 97% of US homes today -- and, while this statistic may sound surprising, it turns out there's a long story behind this humble condiment. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max trace the origin of ketchup from its ancient predecessors in Southern China and the Mediterranean to the introduction of the tomato all the way to the modern day. Tune in for the first episode in our continuing series on the history of condiments (and tell us which condiments you'd like us to explore next).

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Nov 03, 2022
The Bizarrely Xenophobic Origins of Scotch Tape
2960

There's no two ways about it: tape is a pretty handy, amazing thing -- and one we often take for granted. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive deep into the origin story of Scotch tape, uncovering the weird prejudice behind the name, as well as the journey of the young man who changed the world with his... well, let's call it stick-to-it-iveness. 

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Nov 01, 2022
Lost Media, Part Two: We Didn't Start The Fire
1818

Silent films took the world by storm, but the material they were manufactured from was notoriously -- cartoonishly -- flammable. Soon multiple studio buildings were burning to the ground. There wasn't always a spark involved, either: sometimes this stuff just spontaneously combusted. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore how silent films became so endangered in the modern day. 

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Oct 27, 2022
Lost Media, Part One: What Happened to All Those Silent Films?
2297

For a relatively brief period of time, silent films rocked the world of entertainment. However, these nitrate- and acetate-based films proved both fragile -- and downright dangerous. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the strange story of how so many silent films ended up lost forever.

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Oct 26, 2022
A Ridiculous History of Hot Tubs
2705

While hot tubs may not always have the... best reputation in some circles, there's no denying people across the world love a good, hot soak after a long day. And we've loved this since antiquity, all the way back to the first time humans found natural hot springs. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the strange origin of hot tubs, from millennia past all the way to the modern day. 

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Oct 20, 2022
Eugene V Debs, Part Two: A Prisoner Runs For President
3803

As a known agitator, Eugene V. Debs soon caught the attention of the US power structure -- and his outspoken nature led to him to court. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore how the Espionage Act resulted in Eugene's incarceration... and how he ran for the office of President while literally imprisoned. 

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Oct 18, 2022
Eugene V Debs, Part One: Railroad Workers Fight The Power
2089

You may not have heard of Eugene V. Debs before this podcast -- but in his day this political activist was one of the most prominent (and at-times controversial) figures in the United States. In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Gene's origin story, from his early career in the railroad industry to his growing status as a trade unionist and agitator of the status quo.

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Oct 13, 2022
The Michelin Man was an Unhinged Lunatic
3125

Virtually every foodie is aware of the Michelin Guide -- the last word in high-end restaurant ratings -- but originally came about as a way to sell more cars (and, ultimately, tires). In today's episode with research associate Geoff Bartlett, Ben, Noel and Max dive deep into the origins of the Michelin guide, as well as Michelin's iconic mascot Bibendum, the Michelin Man. Spoiler: the Michelin Man was originally the absolute worst mascot for anything related to driving. Tune in to learn why.

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Oct 11, 2022
The Yukio Mishima Story, Part Two: Mishima's End
3003

In his heyday, Japanese author Yukio Mishima was one of the most well-known writers in the world. But where did he come from -- and what on Earth led to his strange demise? In part two of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome research associate Zach Williams in his first on-air appearance. 

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Oct 06, 2022
The Yukio Mishima Story, Part One: Confessions of a Mask
2764

In his heyday, Japanese author Yukio Mishima was one of the most well-known writers in the world. But where did he come from -- and what on Earth led to his strange demise? In part one of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome research associate Zach Williams in his first on-air appearance. 

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Oct 05, 2022
Wait, How Do I Know It's Funny? A Rollicking History of Laugh Tracks
2858

We've all heard them. You're watching or hearing a show, a character says something, and -- boom! -- an invisible choir of audience members loses their minds in riotous laughter, awws, or applause. But how did where does this come from? In today's episode, we're learning how this came to be, and how it eventually became its own worst enemy. Ben here: I'd like to give a special thanks to Max for some stellar sound design.

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Sep 29, 2022
Who, exactly, were the Luddites?
2563

Today you'll hear people described as 'Luddites' if they don't care for -- or don't understand -- some newer piece of technology, but where did this phrase come from? In today's episode, Ben, Noel and guest producer Tari trace the term back to its surprising origin story ... a violent labor uprising that, these days, remains largely forgotten.

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Sep 27, 2022
Instant Noodles Changed The World, Part Two: Going Global
2010

As Momofuku Ando's instant noodles take Japan by storm, he sets his sights on the global horizon. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the expansion of instant noodles into the United States, the rest of the planet -- and, eventually, space.

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Sep 22, 2022
Instant Noodles Changed The World, Part One: An Origin Story
1875

Today, instant noodles are ubiquitous. You can find them in almost every grocery store, in any number of flavors sold by any number of brands -- but where did they come from? In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the story of Momofuku Ando, and how a sudden realization in post-WWII Japan inspired an idea that would go on to change the world.

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Sep 20, 2022
The Accidental Invention of Holding Music
1862

We've all been there -- you're calling a bank, a loan company, you name it, and boom: you're put on hold. But where does that music come from? In today's episode, Ben and Noel dive into the strange origin story of telephone holding music. 

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Sep 15, 2022
Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions: Flyin' or Dyin', Part Two
2396

How far would you go to fly? It's a question many inventors have asked themselves over the ages and, tragically, for every successful breakthrough it seems there were also dozens of failures, flops and -- sometimes -- fatal crashes. In part two of Flyin' or Dyin', Ben, Noel and Max explore modern inventors who died as a result of their flying contraptions. 

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Sep 13, 2022
Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions: Flyin' or Dyin', Part One
1890

Humans can swim, though not as well as a fish. Humans can run, though not as swift as a cheetah. From ancient civilization to the modern day, no human being can fly unaided. In this first of a long-running series, Ben, Noel and Max explore inventors across history who died while trying to fly. 

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Sep 08, 2022
Wilhelm Reich and Orgone, Part 2: Willy vs. The Feds
3031

If Reich's concept of orgone was simple pseudoscience, why did the US government ban -- and burn -- his books? In part two of this two-part episode on Wilhelm Reich and orgonomic vibes, Ben, Noel and Max explore Reich's activities in the US, as well as the oft-ignored legacy of Reich's studies in the modern day.

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Sep 07, 2022
Wilhelm Reich and Orgone, Part 1: Sexy Psychoanalysis
2871

Born in 1897, Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian doctor of medicine and a psychoanalyst, as well as -- for a time -- a follower of Sigmund Freud. Today, he's most often associated with his life's work: the study of a strange, pervasive energy he called "orgone." In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Reich's origin story, from his early days to the experiences that persuaded him sexual vibes could, literally, save the world.

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Sep 01, 2022
The History of Pringles: Once You Pop...
3334

Pretty much everyone recognizes Pringles -- these tasty, not-quite potato chips come in tons of at-times bizarre flavors, all neatly packed in a nifty tube. But where did Pringles come from? In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Matt dive deep into the hidden history of this snack, the astonishing science behind it and the incredibly weird funeral demands of the Pringles creator.

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Aug 30, 2022
Lincoln Loved Cats, and Other Presidential Pets
2712

Are you a cat person, a dog person, or somewhere in between? It turns out that famous trash-talking wrestler -- and former President -- Abraham Lincoln was also a huge fan of cats. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the lives of Presidential pets, from eagles to goats, dogs and more. 

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Aug 25, 2022
CLASSIC - Presidents Love Their Ridiculous Pets
1947

In today's episode, we venture into the podcast vault to talk about some snuggly friends, many of the ridiculous variety. It's no secret that, until very recently, US Presidents were known as huge fans of pets -- and they didn't limit themselves to cats and dogs! Join Ben and Noel as they explore some of the strangest pets in presidential history, from warhorses and cows to bears, raccoons and much, much more.

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Aug 23, 2022
What Happened to Ronald McDonald? Part Two: Supersizing A Mystery
3575

In a world where the iconic McDonald's arches became as recognizable as the Pope or Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald himself became synonymous with not just fast food -- but the United States, western imperialism and capitalism overall. In the second part of this episode, Ben, Max and returning special guest, the (ostensibly) reformed Jonathan Strickland, aka the Quizster, take a case-by-case look at the alleged causes of Ronald's demise, from anti-obesity activists to changing cultural tastes, a real-life clown terror craze, and more.

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Aug 18, 2022
What Happened to Ronald McDonald? Part One: Everybody Loves A Clown
3350

Today, billions of people across the world recognize McDonald's — it's one of the planet's most well-known brands. Yet, in recent years, McDonald's has also become home to an enduring mystery: What exactly happened to Ronald McDonald? In part one of this two-part series, Ben and Max welcome special guest Jonathan Strickland for an in-depth exploration of Ronald's meteoric rise and fall.

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Aug 16, 2022
The 1904 St. Louis Marathon Was Absolutely Bonkers
3564

It's no secret that the Olympics have evolved over time, and met with their fair share of controversy over the years -- but the 1904 Olympic marathon remains a tale of ridiculousness for the ages. In today's episode, Ben and Max dive into a madcap series of bizarre events, brazen cheating, and more in the humid heart of brutal St. Louis weather. Taking a cue from their pals at Ridiculous Crime, the guys want you to know everyone in this episode makes it out... OK. 

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Aug 11, 2022
Andrew Jackson Beat the Snot Out of His Would-be Assassin
3464

Known as Old Hickory to his fans, and King Andrew to his critics, Andrew Jackson was an outspoken, deeply divisive figure. When he was attacked by an assassin while leaving a funeral, the killer's gun miraculously misfired not once, but twice, and despite his old age Jackson retaliated by absolutely wailing on the guy, beating within an inch of his life. And, as it turns out, Andrew Jackson isn't the only president to survive an assassination attempt. Tune for more as Ben and Max explore the strange stories of Jackson, Taft and Roosevelt.

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Aug 09, 2022
CLASSIC: When (and why) did the US start calling its citizens consumers?
2537

Today, the terms "citizen" and "consumer" are often used interchangeably by authors, journalists and politicians. To some experts, this shift has disturbing implications. But how important is a word? How did this switch occur, and why? In today's classic episode, Ben and Noel explore the implications of this strange, often unexamined, evolution.

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Aug 04, 2022
A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part Two: Reality Goes Global
2452

As reality TV continued to grow across networks and genres, it also spread across the planet. In the second part of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to break down the evolution of massive hits like The Bachelor, The Real Housewives empire, and more.

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Aug 02, 2022
A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part One: An Origin Story
2495

However you define it, reality TV is a giant in the world of entertainment. From soap operas to game shows and the hazards of dating, it seems almost any genre can find a home in reality television. But how did we get here? How did this global phenomenon begin? In part one of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to explore the evolution of unscripted programming -- and what it teaches us about humanity. 

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Jul 28, 2022
Surprising Former Careers of the Famous
2893

Did you know Abraham Lincoln was an infamous, trash-talking wrestler? Ronald Reagan spent his younger years saving people from drowning (and throwing rocks at them) as a lifeguard. And before Norma Jean became the iconic Marilyn Monroe, she built drones during World War II. In today's episode, the guys explore the little-known, surprising careers of some of America's most notable historical figures.

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Jul 26, 2022
A Humorous History of Genetics
2972

What makes you... well, you? It's a question humanity has wrestled with since the dawn of recorded history all the way to the modern day. In today's special episode in partnership with 23andMe, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the history of genetic research from its ancient predecessors to great breakthroughs of the recent past, as well as learning a bit about their own genetic history along the way.

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Jul 21, 2022
Tsutomu Yamaguchi: The World's Only (Recognized) Double Atomic Bomb Victim
2211

On August 6th, 1945, Mitsubishi engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi was finally heading home from a three month assignment in Hiroshima... until the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the city. Miraculously, he survived the bombing and made his way home to Nagasaki -- where he once again witnessed, and survived, an atomic bomb. Tune in to learn more about Tsutomu Yamaguchi's harrowing journey, as well as his life after surviving not one, but two separate atomic bombs.

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Jul 19, 2022
Gods of Deception, Part II: Art, History, Fiction and War
1808

As Ben and Noel continue their conversation with novelist and art historian David Adams Cleveland, the group finds themselves going far beyond the world of Alger Hiss. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys learn more about David's award-winning work as an art historian, the ways in which history, research and fiction converge -- and a little about the oft-ignored effects of history on geopolitics.

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Jul 14, 2022
Gods of Deception, Part I: Alger Hiss in the Halls of Power
1919

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Alger Hiss was a mover and shaker in the political sphere. Highly educated and deeply connected, Hiss worked as a lawyer involved in everything from the Justice Department to the United Nations. Until, that is, he was accused of being a spy -- a prime character in a vast conspiracy stretching from DC to the Soviet Union. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel join special guest, novelist and art historian David Adams Cleveland, to learn more about how these events informed David's newest novel, God of Deception.

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Jul 12, 2022
Operation LAC: That Time Uncle Sam Sprayed Poison Across St. Louis
2381

As the US government became increasingly concerned about the possibility of large-scale biological weapons, they decided something must be done: they needed to test— in secret. In today’s episode, the guys explore how the US Army conspired to spray an entire impoverished part of St. Louis with potentially dangerous chemicals… basically, to see what happened.

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Jul 07, 2022
CLASSIC - Does the US Confederacy Still Exist in Americana, Brazil?
2096

The guys took a day off to celebrate the 4th of July -- and what better time to share a classic episode about another (very strange) form of patriotism? At the close the US Civil War, tens of thousands of former Confederate families fled the US for a small city in Brazil, where they sought to continue living as they had in the days before the war. Tune in to learn more about the strange history of Americana, Brazil.

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Jul 05, 2022
Millerism, Part II: The Great Disappointment (and the Aftermath)
2511

As the alleged End of the World drew ever closer, William Miller and the Millerism movement became a pop culture phenomenon. Thousands of people quit their jobs, sold their possessions, and prepared to ascend into the afterlife. Yet when the predicted day came -- and passed -- without the return of Jesus Christ, many of these believers were at a loss. What should they do now? 

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Jun 30, 2022
CLASSIC - Did a Real-Life Rainmaker Almost Drown San Diego?
1742

In today's episode we are revisiting a classic. Charles Mallory Hatfield considered himself a real-life rainmaker (or, as he preferred to describe himself, a 'moisture accelerator') and, when San Diego faced one of its most damaging droughts, Hatfield cracked a deal: He'd bring the water back to San Diego. City officials were skeptical, but desperate -- and, as ridiculous as it might sound -- they got more than they bargained for.

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Jun 28, 2022
Millerism: America’s First End Times Gospel
2798

You might not have heard of William Miller, but in his time he was a pretty big deal. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the origin of William Miller and Millerism, his spiritual movement predicated on the idea that, with some tricky math, you could indeed predict the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

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Jun 23, 2022
Ben Franklin Faked a Rival's Death to Promote His Almanac
1978

Benjamin Franklin was many things: an inventor, a Founding Father, a publisher... and, it turns out, a massive troll. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into a strange story of absolute pettiness and out-the-box PR stunts. You see, when Ben Franklin wanted to up the sales of his almanac, he decided to predict the death of his longtime publishing rival, Titan Leeds. One problem: when the prediction didn't come to pass, Titan, who was very much alive, responded in kind. 

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Jun 21, 2022
Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part II: A Pseudoscience (Sort of) Informs the Modern Day
3213

While the credibility of phrenology inevitably deteriorated over time, it was neither a completely original concept, nor, in some respects, a completely useless one. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the ancient precedents of judging inner qualities based on outer appearance, as well as what modern scientists have to say about how phrenology, as imperfect as it was, helped establish some concepts that stay with the world of research today.

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Jun 16, 2022
Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part I: The Rise of Dr. Finger
2721

Once upon a time, a young man named Franz Joseph Gall thought "That's weird... all my school chums with big eyes are good at memorizing things." Years later, he took this idea and ran with it, assuring people that bumps on their skulls held profound insights about both their flaws and their talents. Nowadays everyone agrees phrenology is bunk -- but in its heyday, folks across the US and Europe were convinced this quackery was the bleeding edge of scientific innovation. In part one of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the origins of cranioscopy and phrenology. (We also fell in love with a side character named Dr. Finger.)

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Jun 14, 2022
Nancy Wake, the White Mouse of the French Resistance
2629

Although Nancy Wake began her career as a journalist, her first-hand experience with Nazis compelled her to a new calling: the French Resistance. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the larger-than-life triumphs of the freedom fighter the Gestapo would come to call "the White Mouse," from her early days to her heroic (though, at times, murderous) work to save innocent lives during World War II.

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Jun 09, 2022
The US Boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and Puerto Rican Boxers Went Anyway
2500

In a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US, along with more than 60 other countries, boycotted the Olympics. Yet three Puerto Rican boxers refused to allow politics to stand in their way of their athletic ambitions. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome Bijan Stephen and Layne Gerbig, the creators of the Eclipsed podcast, to learn what led them to create this show -- and what the 1980 Olympics can teach us about the larger context of history.

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Jun 07, 2022
Disco Demolition Night: How Disco Died at a White Sox Game
3027

Cast your memory back to 1979. Tensions across the US are high, on multiple levels. Disco dominates the music scene, and, oh boy, rock fans are mad about it. Things come to a head at Comiskey Park, where White Sox owner Bill Veeck and a young anti-disco DJ named Steve Dahl decide to promote a doubleheader baseball event with a particular theme -- bring a disco record, and you get to watch it get blown up between games. Spoiler alert: things went wrong, almost immediately.

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Jun 02, 2022
Bolivia Fought -- And Lost -- A War For Bird Poop
1813

Most people associate think of bird poop as an annoyance -- it can gunk up sidewalks and windshields, and, occasionally, even splat on an unlucky person walking by. But in the late 1800s, guano was a hugely important resource. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max take a closer look at the 'white gold' of guano... and how it led to one of 19th-century South America's deadliest wars.

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May 31, 2022
Why You Can't Say "MacBeth" in a Theater
3231

As one of history's most well-known, highly-regarded writers, it's no secret that Shakespeare's life and work is full of strange stories -- but did you know one of his most famous plays is considered cursed? In today's episode, the guys are joined by special guest, award-winning playwright Will McFadden, as he breaks down to supposed origin of the curse, along with multiple disasters attributed to it. 

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May 26, 2022
Operation Mincemeat: Britain's Ghoulish Plan to Fool the Nazis
2668

As World War II raged on in 1943, both Allied and Axis forces knew they were riddled with spies. In a dizzying cavalcade of undercover, double, and even triple agents, both sides of the war sought to deceive their opponents -- and ethical concerns increasingly took a back seat in these pursuits. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the story of Operation Mincemeat, a macabre (and, ultimately, successful) plan to plant fake intel on a corpse. Inspired by Netflix's new film, Operation Mincemeat, the guys explore the facts behind the latest adaptation.

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May 24, 2022
Who the heck was Joseph Warren?
2507

When it's time to study the American Revolution in grade school, US kids tend to learn the same few names -- Betsy Ross, George Washington, Benjamin Banneker, Jefferson, Revere and so on. But, were it not for a single gunshot, physician and revolutionary Joseph Warren just may have become one of the first presidents. Tune in to learn more.

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May 19, 2022
Chocolate Syrup: From Medicine to Dessert
2573

Most people nowadays associate chocolate syrup with ice cream -- but back in the day, it was considered a legitimate medicine. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the origins of chocolate from ancient Mesoamerica to the modern day. Ben and Max also try to save their pal Noel from the unpleasant experience of 'Beverly.'

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May 17, 2022
Historical Hypocrisy: The Confederacy's Weird Stance on "Individual Rights"
2392

While the Confederacy often portrayed itself as a champion of certain individual rights-- not applied to enslaved people, of course-- it didn't always practice what it preached. In today's episode, the guys explore how factions of the Confederate government used the chaos of war to confiscate all sorts of property and then, through a web of corruption, made themselves wealthy in the process.

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May 12, 2022
Juana Maria: The Real-life Story Behind "Island of the Blue Dolphins"
1879

No one knew the real name of the woman living alone on San Nicolas Island, but when she returned to civilization after decades in solitude, she was a hit with the locals at the nearby mission. Known for her exuberance and friendliness, the religious authorities and townsfolk alike loved the woman they christened Juana Maria, but they knew next to nothing about her life -- because she spoke a language no one, from the missionaries to the native communities, could understand. Tune in to learn more.

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May 10, 2022
Curling: The Most Ridiculous Sport?
2612

The time has come! In this special episode, the one and only Super Producer Max Williams takes point on the research into one of his long-standing fascinations: the curious sport of curling. As Max schools the guys on everything from the basic rules to the surprisingly long history of this unique sport, they -- and you -- walk away with a deeper understanding of "The Spirit of Curling."

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May 05, 2022
Nobuo Fujita Bombed Brookings, Oregon -- and Then Became a Town Hero
1659

War is a brutal business, and it often leaves scars that last for generations. Two decades after he bombed Brookings, Oregon during World War II, former Imperial Japanese Navy pilot Nobuo Fujita returned to Brookings to give an official apology -- and the town essentially adopted him. Fujita would go on to visit Brookings multiple times, sponsoring student trips to Japan, and gifting the city his samurai sword, which had been in his family for more than 400 years.

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May 03, 2022
A Teetotaling Preacher Basically Invented Modern Tourism
1957

When's the last time you had a vacation, just for fun? Regardless of where you went, you probably want to tip your hat to Thomas Cook. As a traveling Baptist preacher, Thomas Cook walked thousands of miles on foot warning people about the danger of alcohol -- it was a rough, demanding life, and people often ignored his message. But he was nothing if not a forward thinker. In today's episode, the guys explore how one man's determination to -- originally, at least -- spread the good word of Temperance led to the birth of the modern tourist industry.

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Apr 28, 2022
Ira Aldridge: Actor, Activist and Record-breaker
2838

As an African-American actor in the 1800s, Ira Aldridge had the odds stacked against him. Yet despite systemic racism, as well as negative attitudes about Americans in general, Aldridge went on to become the darling of the London stage. In today's episode, the guys explore how Ira Aldridge used his tremendous fame as a way to advocate for equality, abolition and more -- and broke numerous records along the way.

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Apr 26, 2022
Lithuanian Book Smugglers Vs. The Russian Empire
2597

When people think of rebellion, they often think of guerilla warfare, rousing speeches and protests. But what about books? When the Russian Empire sought to "Russify" much of what is now Lithuania, the Tsar's forces waged a war against culture, forcing children to learn a Cyrillic alphabet -- and even banning the pre-existing Lithuanian alphabet from printing presses. Native Lithuanians from all walks of life responded by becoming knygnešiaĩ, or book carriers. Tune in to learn how this vast smuggling ring preserved the Lithuanian alphabet, and eventually won the war for a country's hearts and minds.

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Apr 21, 2022
The Yule Lads Terrified Children Across Iceland
2016

Many countries have their own, distinct Christmas traditions, but Iceland's Yule Lads are especially disturbing. Born of a monsterous giantess, these thirteen creatures each specialize in certain types of harassment or theft, leaving gifts for good children, and rotten potatoes for the rest. In today's episode, the guys explore the origin of this strange story -- and how, once upon a time, it was actually outlawed.

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Apr 19, 2022
The Infamous Aurora UFO Incident of 1897
2080

In April of 1897, something crashed from the sky, destroying a local windmill. As rumors and speculation grew, strange reports emerged -- could there have been a pilot? What was this craft, exactly, and why were some observers convinced it was from beyond this world? Tune in to learn more.

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Apr 14, 2022
How The Evil May Day of 1517 Became the Perfect Propaganda Opportunity
2805

London of the 1500s was a bustling center of commerce, finance and industry -- and it attracted a fair number of foreign-born professionals, who sought their fortune in the metropolis. However, as epidemics and economic downturns made life worse and worse for the average person, the native-born working class began to blame foreigners, whom they called 'strangers,' for their woes. In today's episode, the guys follow the escalating, xenophobic tensions that led to citywide riots -- and how the Crown leveraged this to further solidify state power.

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Apr 12, 2022
Day Drinkers (Sort of) Helped Stop Cholera in London
2307

Dr. Jon Snow -- no relation to the guy from A Song of Ice and Fire -- was in a pickle. Cholera was ravaging London, particularly in the Soho area, and no one knew how to stop it from spreading like poisonous wildfire. As the crisis raged on, Snow was able to use his medical knowledge and amateur detective skills to figure out where the contagion was coming from. His big breakthrough? Folks at the local brewery, who were known for day drinking, seemed to avoid the infection almost entirely. Tune in to learn how beer (kind of) saved London.

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Apr 07, 2022
The Much-Maligned Reign of Swedish Queen Maria Eleonora
2476

We often assume wealth can solve everything, but unfortunately that's not the case -- and there are few better examples of this than the life of Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, German princess and Queen of Sweden. In today's episode, the gang explores the Queen's turbulent struggles in the realms of geopolitics, parenting, the patriarchy and romance. 

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Apr 05, 2022
Weird Ways People Used to Communicate, Part II: Smoke Signals and Bottled Messages
2119

People these days are, for better or worse, increasingly accustomed to living in an area of constant communication. But how did people communicate over long distances before the rise of things like telegraphs, telephones and the internet? In the second part of this week's special two-part episode, guests Bill Whorley and Mark Kendall, the creators of the hit new podcast Ridiculous News, join the guys to talk about some of the weirdest ways people used to communicate in days of yore.

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Mar 31, 2022
Weird Ways People Used to Communicate, Part I: Only a Pigeon Away
1825

People these days are, for better or worse, increasingly accustomed to living in an area of constant communication. But how did people communicate over long distances before the rise of things like telegraphs, telephones and the internet? In this week's special two-part episode, guests Mark Kendall and Bill Whorley, the creators of the hit new podcast Ridiculous News, join the guys to talk about some of the weirdest ways people used to communicate in days of yore.

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Mar 29, 2022
That Time A Dead Guy Won an Olympic Medal
1718

In his heyday, the story goes, Arrhichion of Phigalia was a renowned pankration champion, a brutal sport of the ancient Olympics. But he was getting on in years, and his days at the top seem numbered. In today's episode, the guys explore the strange series of circumstances that led to Arrhichion's final, fatal match -- and how, after death, he was declared victorious one last time.

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Mar 24, 2022
Julia Barnett Rice Waged an Elitist War on Noise
2546

If you, like the majority of humans alive today, live in a city, you're more than familiar with noise -- sirens, construction, traffic and more. In today's episode, the guys explore how one woman's mission to silence the tugboats near her opulent Manhattan mansion led to a nation-wide, classist campaign against noise. Co-starring Ben's nemesis, the local leafblower (who somehow always knows when we're recording).

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Mar 23, 2022
Ridiculous History Presents: A History of "Adult" Toys, Part 2
3780

While it's a taboo subject in the modern day, it turns out people have been improvising ways to pleasure themselves since, well, the dawn of history. In the second part of this week's two-part takeover episode, Ben and Noel join Eli and Diana Banks, real-life spouses and creators of the hit podcast Ridiculous Romance, to discuss the strange, ridiculous (and at-times disturbing) history of sex toys across the planet. Heads-up, this one gets a little raunchy.

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Mar 17, 2022
Ridiculous History Presents: A History of "Adult" Toys, Part 1
3395

While it's a taboo subject in the modern day, it turns out people have been improvising ways to pleasure themselves since, well, the dawn of history. In this week's two-part takeover episode, Ben and Noel join Eli and Diana Banks, real-life spouses and creators of the hit podcast Ridiculous Romance, to discuss the strange, ridiculous (and at-times disturbing) history of sex toys across the planet. Heads-up, this one gets a little raunchy.

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Mar 15, 2022
The Cobra Effect, Part 2: Four Pests and a Disastrous Success
2476

The Cobra Effect - a particularly extreme form of unintended consequences - isn't limited to India and Vietnam. In China, the technically successful Four Pests eradication campaign led to tremendous ecological disaster, as the mass murder of sparrows led to a plague of ravenous locusts. In part two of this week's two part episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore what went wrong, how it affected later generations, and what the Cobra Effect can teach us about unforeseen consequences.

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Mar 10, 2022
The Cobra Effect, Part 1: Snakes, Rats, and Unintended Consequences
2504

Back in the days of the British Raj, colonial leaders had a problem: Delhi was overrun with snakes. And not just any snakes -- cobras. These dangerous death noodles slithered through every nook and cranny in town. The solution? Put a bounty on cobras, and allow any citizen to receive payment for every cobra skin they bring in. While this seemed like a good idea at first, it quickly led to even more snakes pouring into town. So what happened? In part one of this week's two-part episode, Ben and Noel explore the strange series of missteps so ridiculous that it inspired a new, powerful concept: The Cobra Effect.

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Mar 08, 2022
British Suffragettes Knew Jūjitsu
3128

As activists in the UK fought for the right to vote (and divorce, and inherit land), they ran into increasingly brutal actions on the part of police -- they were beaten, arrested, imprisoned, and even force fed when attempting hunger strikes. The police seemed confident that this abuse would silence the protestors... but that was before they were aware of Jūjitsu expert and dojo owner Edith Garrud. Edith didn't just conduct self-defense training for locals -- when she saw the increasing trend of violence against her fellow protestors, she trained an elite fighting force that went toe-to-toe with law enforcement, more than once, for the cause.

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Mar 04, 2022
A Tale of Two Hansons: Busting Myths About the 'First' US President
2347

It's no secret that people in the US often tend to mythologize the Founding Fathers -- so it shouldn't come as a surprise that people also, often, claim George Washington wasn't actually the first US president. What gives? Tune in to learn more.

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Mar 02, 2022
Did Soldiers in World War I Really Team Up to Fight Wolves?
2602

World War I was a bloody, terrifying conflict for everyone involved -- and not just humans. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max accidentally run into deep emotions, going one hundred percent Team Wolf as they explore the ecological consequences of massive human conflict. Ben remains resentful regarding the hot tub situation.

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Feb 25, 2022
Slum Tourists: When Wealthy People Toured Chinatown ‘For Fun’
2698

It’s true — back in the day, wealthy residents of cities from London to Chicago would pay for tours of disadvantaged communities, the same way that you might take your friends to a zoo today. The communities responded, staging events meant to give the upper class an ersatz sense of authenticity. Spoiler, it was terrible.

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Feb 23, 2022
That Time Victorians Treated Seaweed like Pokemon
3071

Europe's Victorian Era was, in many ways, a study in contradiction. While society in general championed independent scientific research, institutions of the day rejected women as members. Seaweed collections became a way for these scientists to circumvent the dumb ideas of their day.

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Feb 18, 2022
Valentine's Day Is So Much Weirder Than We Thought
4589

Valentine's Day is a pretty normal holiday in the US and several other countries, and other parts of the world have similar holidays, focused on appreciating our loved ones. But as Ben, Noel and Max learn in today's special episode, a lot of the history behind Valentine's Day is just... incredibly weird. The boys join forces with returning special guests Eli and Diana Banks, the creators of the hit podcast Ridiculous Romance, to dive into some of the most bizarre -- dare we say ridiculous -- aspects of Valentine's Day throughout history.

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Feb 15, 2022
Weirdest Celebrity Busts, Part II: Mr. David Lee Roth and a Drunken John Wayne
3681

What can Mr. David Lee Roth's run-ins with the law teach us about wholesomeness? Why did John Wayne have public, drunken beef with Harvard? In part two of this week's special two-part series, guests Zaron Burnett and Elizabeth Dutton, the creators and hosts of Ridiculous Crime, join the guys to explore some of history's strangest celebrity busts.

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Feb 10, 2022
Weirdest Celebrity Busts, Part I: Nixon Smuggled Weed, Arbuckle Was Innocent
4344

Did Richard Nixon smuggle weed? What can the Fatty Arbuckle scandal tell us about American society? In this week's special two-part series, guests Zaron Burnett and Elizabeth Dutton, the creators and hosts of Ridiculous Crime, join the guys to explore some of history's strangest celebrity busts.

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Feb 09, 2022
CLASSIC: X-Rays, Songs and Soviets: The Stilyagi Story
2128

Caught between the conflicting ideologies of the Cold War, Soviet teens were banned from collecting Western music -- smuggled records could be both rare and expensive. The solution? Discarded X-rays, also known as 'bone recordings'. Join the guys as they explore the strange story of the Stilyagi in this classic episode.

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Feb 03, 2022
Tossed Popcorn, Part 2: Chaplin was a Jerk, Brando was Insane
4049

Don’t let the charming slapstick fool you — Charlie Chaplin was a monster to his lovers, coworkers and family. His former collaborator, Marlon Brando was even weirder and could be just as cruel. In the second part of this two-part episode, the hosts of Tossed Popcorn return to explore more bizarre stories behind the scenes of cinema.

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Feb 02, 2022
Tossed Popcorn, Part 1: The Wizard of Oz and the Titanic
3540

It's no secret that Hollywood has been home to numerous lurid, disturbing -- and, sometimes, ridiculous -- tales over the decades. In the first part of this two-part series, the guys are joined with Lianna and Sienna, the creators of Tossed Popcorn, for an exploration of bizarre behind-the-scenes stories from some of film's most iconic movies, celebrities and eras.

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Jan 28, 2022
Peter Freuchen: Explorer, Raconteur, Movie Star and War Hero
2994

You may not have heard of Peter Freuchen, but in his day he was one of the world's most well-known polar explorers. He also wrote prolifically about his adventures, including his numerous brushes with death. And that's just the beginning of his story -- he later went to Hollywood, fought against the Nazis in Europe, had some brushes with celebrity scandal and more. Tune in to learn more about the amazing (and occasionally gruesome) adventures of Peter Freuchen.

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Jan 25, 2022
Did Honduras and El Salvador Really Go to War over Soccer?
2551

If you read the international headlines in 1969, you'd think the Central American countries of Honduras and El Salvador loved football (soccer, for the US folks in the crowd) so much that they actually went to war over it. But does this story actually hold up? That's the question for today's episode, as the guys dive into the true events leading to the infamous, short-lived 'Football War.'

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Jan 20, 2022
The US Literally Had Nazi Summer Camps
2462

For many adults, the idea of 'summer camp' conjures up fond, nostalgic memories of childhood. And most folks see these outfits as great opportunities for children to learn, play and connect with their peers. Yet as the Nazi party rose to power in Germany, multiple communities in the US created their own kinds of summer camp -- camps dedicated entirely to indoctrinating children with Nazi propaganda, all under the guise of popularizing 'German virtues.' Tune in to learn more. 

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Jan 19, 2022
The Emperor of the United States
3115

When San Franciscan businessman Joshua Norton lost his fortune in a Peruvian rice deal gone sour, he temporarily disappeared from the public eye. Not long after, he reemerged as Norton I, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States (and, later, Protector of Mexico). In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore the life and times of Norton, and the surprising legacy he left behind.

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Jan 13, 2022
The Trans-Saharan Ostrich Expedition of 1911
3052

Most people haven't met an ostrich in person, but everyone knows what they are: the large, flightless birds have been around since before the rise of humanity, and throughout history people have admired their long, luxurious feathers. Back in the day, any self-respecting socialite absolutely had to have ostrich feathers festooning their hats, creating an international trade market that led a small army of South Africans to launch a harrowing, dangerous heist to steal the legendary Barbary ostrich. Tune in to learn more about one of the strangest heists in history.

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Jan 12, 2022
That Time Everyone Tried To Outlaw War
2789

War is ugly, horrific and, according to some, a necessary part of human civilization. Yet in the 1920s, world powers recovering from World War I sought to make the planet a safer (or, at least, less unsafe) place. Their solution? The Paris Peace Pact, which aimed to, through an international agreement, outlaw war. Spoiler: it didn't work.

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Jan 07, 2022
CLASSIC: Who Solves Murders in Antarctica?
1884

Antarctica is home to one of the most brutal climates on the planet, and the few humans living on this continent face profound isolation and cramped quarters. Often, tension rises as the months between supply runs pile up -- so what happens when something goes wrong?

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Jan 04, 2022
The Lil Ice Age Was Way Less Cute Than It Sounds
2199

You've probably heard of the Ice Ages -- long periods of reduction in Earth's temperature, triggering massive expansion of glaciers and so on -- but you may not have heard of the "Little Ice Age," a time of regional cooling that, from the 14th to the 19th centuries, dramatically affected weather and society across Europe and abroad. Tune in to learn more.

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Dec 30, 2021
Nub City: Florida's Infamous Amputation Scam
2665

As towns go, Vernon, Florida is pretty tiny -- it has a small population, has struggled with economic depression, and doesn't get a ton of tourists. But that all changed several decades ago, when Vernon became a subject of national interest as insurance investigators discovered a grisly scam. You may not have heard of Vernon, but you may know it by its other, unofficial name: Nub City.

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Dec 28, 2021
London's Tiger King, Part Two: Charles Jamrach Becomes a Problematic Hero
1916

By 1857, London's exotic animal trade was in full swing. Animals arrived at the city from across the world (often not surviving the journey), and Charles Jamrach was one of the most prominent animal dealers on the planet. At the height of his fame, he gained public attention by saving a child from a tiger. One problem: it was Jamrach's fault the tiger was in London in the first place. Learn more about London's exotic animal trade in part two of this two-part episode.

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Dec 23, 2021
London's Tiger King, Part One: When Exotic Animal's Were The Hottest Flex
2000

Walking through London today, you'll doubtlessly hear cacophonous traffic, sirens, construction, countless languages -- all the noises familiar to big cities... but, not too long ago, it would also have been normal to hear the roars of large animals in certain neighborhoods. In the first part of this two-part series, the guys explore the factors that led London to become a world-class hub for the exotic animal trade, often to the detriment of the animals (and the occasional spectator).

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Dec 21, 2021
The Atlantropa Project, Part Two: What Happened to the Supercontinent?
1775

While the idea of draining (most of) the Mediterranean sounds... ambitious, to say the least, Herman Sörgel's vision met with a surprising amount of popular support. In the second part of this two-part episode, the gang explores the dark side of Atlantropa, from its roots in colonialism to the potentially disastrous ecological and social consequences involved.

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Dec 16, 2021
The Atlantropa Project, Part One: Saving Europe via Supercontinent
1784

Like everyone in post-World War I Europe, Herman Sörgel was horrified by the devastation of a continent-wide conflict. He saw raging poverty, crippling unemployment, overpopulation and burgeoning geopolitical tensions, all of which led him to believe new conflicts were on the horizon. His solution? To drain the Mediterranean and create a new supercontinent. Tune in to learn more in the first part of this two-part episode.

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Dec 14, 2021
People Used Bed Bugs as Medicine for Thousands of Years
2070

When you think of bed bugs, you probably think of dirty mattresses, irritating rashes and bites, and the dubious joy of calling an exterminator. However, in millennia past, people were convinced bed bugs, properly prepared, could cure everything from cataracts to the common cold. Tune in to learn more.

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Dec 10, 2021
The US Literally Threw Pianos From Planes During World War II
1787

As musical instruments go, pianos are pretty amazing -- they're also not particularly easy to move. Clunkiness aside, pianos provide endless hours of entertainment, lightening the mood in even the darkest of times. In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore how the US government and the Steinway company sought to boost wartime morale by literally dropping pianos into the front lines (along with, thankfully, instructions on how to tune them).

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Dec 07, 2021
The Sinister Side of Little Orphan Annie, Part Two: Drink Your Ovaltine
2211

Once the Little Orphan Annie comic strip was adapted to a radio program, it wasn't just a hit show -- it was a marketing coup for the good folks at Ovaltine. The company underwrote the program, riddled it with advertising, and worked like mad to convince every child in the US that they must drink as much Ovaltine as possible. Tune in and learn more in the second part of this two-part series.

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Dec 02, 2021
The Sinister Side of Little Orphan Annie, Part One: Parents Were Terrified
2490

These days, most folks think of Little Orphan Annie as a folksy, wholesome slice of nostalgia -- but during its heyday as a radio program, parents across the US became increasingly concerned. The show, they thought, had a deep, dangerous hold on the minds of children. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel dive into the surprising controversy surrounding Little Orphan Annie.

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Dec 01, 2021
CLASSIC: How White America Tried To Destroy Chinese Restaurants
2179

Today Chinese restaurants serve some of the most popular cuisine in the United States, with more than 41,000 restaurants scattered around the country. Yet in the 1900s these restaurants were so controversial that labor unions, hate groups and even politicians joined forces in an attempt to wipe the businesses out. Tune in to hear the whole story (which, luckily, has a delicious and happy ending).

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Nov 25, 2021
Russia’s Real-life Ice Queen, Part 2: Weird, Brutal Flexes
1967

As rulers go, Anna of Russia was considered pretty bad news. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys explore how Anna (aka Anna the Terrible)'s traumatic life experience may have contributed to her later, profoundly cruel punishments -- things like forcing a disgraced prince to behave like a chicken, or die in the halls of a real-life 'ice palace.'

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Nov 24, 2021
Russia’s Real-life Ice Queen, Part 1: The Tsar is a Jerk
1541

“Despite being born into royalty, Anna Ioannovna didn’t have the easiest life. Her uncle publicly ridiculed her marriage, and the cruelty she experienced growing up may have had lasting emotional damage, leading her to eventually build an actual ice palace.”

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Nov 18, 2021
That Time a Baboon Worked for the Railroad
1981

When a horrific accident left railroad signalman James Wide without the use of his legs, he was desperate to maintain his livelihood -- an effort that may well have been futile were it not for a chance encounter with a highly intelligent baboon named Jack. Jack began by assisting James with simple tasks, and gradually became competent enough do James Wide's job for him. In today's episode, the guys explore the strange circumstances that led to Signalman Jack becoming an actual railroad employee.

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Nov 16, 2021
Austin and the Texas Archives War
2269

After its formation in 1836, the new Republic of Texas had some problems -- multiple people wanted the capital in different places. The Republic's archives were seen as a stamp of legitimacy to any city's claim, and by 1842, this led to what what we now call the Texas Archives War. Tune in to learn more.

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Nov 11, 2021
King for a Week: The Strange Story of Otto I
2291

For most people, the old saying "it's good to be king" is just a cool phrase -- but for magician and noted spinner of tall tales Otto Witte, this sounded like an idea to take literally. In today's episode, the guys explore how one man (maybe) managed to con the entire nation of Albania into believing he was their king... and got away with it for a week. If, in fact, it actually happened.

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Nov 10, 2021
The Bloody Tale of the Sausage War
2430

The Battle of Varolampi Pond has another, less formal name: the Sausage War. Don't let the funny moniker fool you -- the 1939 conflict between Finland and Russia remains one of the most brutal moments of the Winter War. Tune in to learn how horrific conditions and the threat of starvation led the outnumbered Finnish forces to a temporary victory against the massive Red Army.

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Nov 04, 2021
Modern Thanksgiving, Part Two: Sarah Josepha Hale Finally Gets Her Wish
2293

As the Civil War broke out, Sarah Josepha Hale found politicians were, understandably, more occupied with country-wide chaos than the creation of a national, unified Thanksgiving. After the close of the war, Thanksgiving became, to Northern politicians, a way to bring the once-divided population together -- and, still, some Southerners disagreed. Tune in to learn more in part two of this two-part series.

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Nov 02, 2021
Modern Thanksgiving, Part One: A Culture War
2026

Today Thanksgiving is considered a largely innocuous holiday, centered on food and family. In the US, people across the country get together on the same Thursday in November every year, breaking bread, practicing thankfulness -- and, sometimes, suffering through awkward conversations with family. But this wasn't always the case. In part one of this two-part series, Ben and Noel explore how the modern Thanksgiving came to be, and why some in the south genuinely believed it was a foray in a larger culture war.

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Oct 28, 2021
How Haunted Houses Became A Thing
2784

Haunted houses are a big deal in the United States -- like Spirit stores, they seem to spring up every October -- but whence did they originate? When did people start paying to be scared?

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Oct 27, 2021
New England versus Vampires, Part Two: Desperation and Desecration
2117

In part two of this two-part series, Ben is joined once again with guest host Alex Williams to explore the harrowing tale of the New England Vampire Panic, tracing how increasingly desperate communities resorted to ritualistic desecration of graves to combat the horrors of what some believed to be a supernatural affliction. (And how the rest of the world branded it a 'vampire panic' when the locals probably didn't use that word.)

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Oct 21, 2021
New England versus Vampires, Part One: The Brutal, Terrifying Life of Early Colonists
2241

While historians continue to explore the details of the infamous Salem witch trials, another, earlier panic swept through New England -- something modern historians often refer to as the "Vampire Panic." In part one of this two-part series, Ben is joined again with guest host Alex Williams, creator of the Ephemeral podcast, to explore the brutal realities of daily life in New England, and how the everpresent threat of disease led some communities to take increasingly desperate (and gruesome) actions to save themselves.

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Oct 20, 2021
Ada Lovelace, Part Two: The Analytical Engine
2362

After marrying and having three children, Ada dove back into the world of poetical science, continuing her correspondence with Charles Babbage as he tried to garner support for his ambitious, expensive analytical engine. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys explore how Ada's work -- and prescience -- created a profound legacy that remains with us in the modern day.

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Oct 15, 2021
Ada Lovelace, Part One: How Lord Byron’s Daughter Became a Tech Visionary
2066

Today Ada Lovelace is hailed as one of the most important figures in the early history of computing -- but, during her childhood, her mother was worried she might take after her father, the famous poet (and infamous philanderer) Lord Byron. Learn more about Ada's childhood in part one of this two-part series.

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Oct 12, 2021
The King of Scotland Got Real Weird with Language Experiments
3001

Scottish King James IV was, by all accounts, a learned man. As a polyglot, he was especially interested in the origin of language -- so much so, in fact, that he allegedly conducted an experiment that would scandalize modern scientists: James had two children spirited off to the remote island of Inchkeith, where they were raised without language by a mute caretaker. While historians still debate whether this actually occurred, James wasn't the first guy to try it out. He, like his predecessors, wanted to see whether the kids would speak a 'natural' or 'original' language on their own.

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Oct 07, 2021
The Rum Riot of Portland, Maine
2542

On June 2nd, 1855, the good people of Portland Maine had reached a breaking point. The Mayor, an infamous hardline teetotaler, had just been caught approving the purchase of alcohol after making it illegal throughout town. In today's episode, the guys explore what led to the riot, what happened after, and how this strange episode in Portland influence the later Prohibition movement.

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Oct 05, 2021
The Love of Candy Almost Drove a Cactus Extinct
1974

You might not associate cacti with candy -- on the surface, they seem to have very little in common, mainly because candy is sold in stores around the world, and cacti have a well-deserved, literally prickly reputation. Yet not too long ago the US was in the midst of a genuine cactus candy craze, one that almost drove the poor barrel cactus to extinction.

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Sep 30, 2021
The Australian Prison Break of 1876, Part 2
1894

In the second part of this two-part series, the guys return to the astonishing story of the Catalpa, exploring how the men prepared for and committed the actual jailbreak -- and how they got away. Listen in to learn more.

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Sep 28, 2021
The Australian Prison Break of 1876 Part 1
1909

It sounds like something straight out of a heist film: a motley crew bands together in an international conspiracy to rescue six Irishmen from a jail in western Australia -- via whaling ship. Tune in to learn more about the most infamous prison break in Australian history.

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Sep 23, 2021
37 Days of Peril, with Alex Williams
3463

Imagine you live in 1870, traipsing the wild frontier of North America with little more than an opera glass, a few friends and an arguably ill-informed sense of adventure. What happens when you get lost? This is the story of Truman Everts, a hapless tax assessor who found himself at the mercy of the wilderness, hopelessly lost for a full 37 days before, miraculously, returning to civilization. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max hold off on their heist phase to welcome Max's brother, returning guest and creator of Ephemeral, Alex Williams, for a discussion of his latest episode, "37 Days of Peril."

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Sep 21, 2021
Robert Smalls Stole A Confederate Ship and Sailed to Freedom, Part Two: From Slavery to Congress
1599

In the second part of this series, the guys continue the story of Robert Smalls, from his daring Confederate steamer heist to his later, life-long activism and Congressional career. Listen in to learn more.

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Sep 16, 2021
Robert Smalls Stole A Confederate Ship and Sailed to Freedom, Part One: Planning the Heist
1512

Born into slavery, Robert Smalls dreamed of freedom for not just himself and his family, but all oppressed people. As the US became consumed in the Civil War, he hatched a daredevil plan to make this dream a reality -- by stealing a Confederate ship and sailing straight past the southern authorities all the way to the Union. In part one of this episode, the guys explore the origin of Robert Smalls, the genesis of his plan, and the moment he knew there was no turning back.

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Sep 14, 2021
Sky Pilot: The Man Who Brought Religion to Lumberjacks
2894

Life was tough for lumberjacks in the 1800s. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, often in brutal living conditions, the men of Minnesota's logging camps often had little relief from the dangerous, daily grind of logging season. Frank Higgins spent decades traveling to these isolated camps, bringing sermons, hymns and inspiration. In today's episode, the guys dive into the story of the world's first sky pilot.

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Sep 09, 2021
CLASSIC: Butter: Protestantism's Secret Ingredient?
2113

The Protestant Reformation remains one of the most significant cultural events in the Western world. Martin Luther's 95 Theses addressed numerous concerns with the Catholic church, including corruption and the practice of granting dispensations -- allowing people to, essentially, pay their way out of sin. So what was it about butter that spurred Martin Luther into action? The story might surprise you.

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Sep 07, 2021
Ridiculous Live: The Humor and the Heavy
3435

Recently, Ben and Noel traveled to Podcast Movement to explore a fascinating, at-times difficult subject: How do you explore a heavy story in an approachable way, while still being honest, accurate and human? They're joined once again with Eli and Diana Banks, the hosts of Ridiculous Romance, as well as their favorite moderator and longtime friend, Lauren Vogelbaum.

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Sep 02, 2021
Flu Julia: The Con Artist Nurse That Made Bank Off Of Misery
2641

During the flu pandemic of 1918, Julia Lyons saw opportunity amid chaos. Posing a visiting nurse in Chicago, she successfully swindled numerous desperate people through a variety of cons, always seeming to escape the long arm of the law. In today's episode, the guys explore the ins and outs of Julia's criminal career -- including how it compares to the current pandemic.

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Aug 31, 2021
History's Dumbest Criminals, Part 2
3743

In the second part of this series, the guys are joined once again by Pod Yourself A Gun's Vince Mancini and Matt Lieb to explore the startling story behind the infamous 1976 Chowchilla kidnapping, where a trio of young men planned to get rich by kidnapping a school bus full of children (spoiler: it didn't work out). Tune in to learn more.

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Aug 27, 2021
History's Dumbest Criminals, Part 1
3756

Mobsters are often romanticized in film and fiction -- but that doesn't mean they're always geniuses. In the first part of this series, Ben and Noel are joined by Matt Lieb and Vince Mancini, the hosts of Pod Yourself A Gun, to explore some of history's dumbest mobsters.

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Aug 24, 2021
That Time People Were Terrified of Libraries
2286

Today, libraries across the US and the rest of the world are seen as centers of free learning, presenting enormous opportunities for children and adults alike. However, not too long ago, people in the US and the UK were absolutely terrified by the idea that libraries were dens of disease. In today's episode, the guys explore how fears of tuberculosis, scarlet fever and more led to public hysteria over sharing books -- and how this panic put the concept of libraries as we know them in serious danger.

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Aug 19, 2021
Ostracism: How Ancient Greeks Handled Uncool Politicians
2202

What if you could put troublesome citizens into time out for a decade? That's what ancient Athenians did through the practice of ostracism. This vote, which wasn't the same thing as a trial, resulted in a surprisingly progressive ten-year exile for the ostracized. In today's episode, the guys take a closer look at the system, and wonder whether something like it could work in the modern day.

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Aug 17, 2021
Military Cats, Part 2: Simon Saves the British
1843

When 17-year old British seaman George Hickenbottom saw an undernourished, ailing stray wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong, his heart melted. He smuggled the cat about the HMS Amethyst and named him Simon. Simon soon won over the captain and crew, partially due to his winning personality, but mainly due to his astonishing prowess as a rat-catcher. And when disaster struck the Amethyst, the gravely-wounded Simon soldiered on, protecting food stores as the crew struggled to escape enemy forces. Learn more about Simon's adventures at sea in the second part of this two-part series on military cats.

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Aug 12, 2021
Military Cats, Part 1: Spies and Mascots
2387

When you think of military animals, you might imagine horses, dogs and elephants — but what about cats? As it turns out, humanity’s feline friends have walked side by side with soldiers since the days of ancient empires. In part one of this special two-part episode, the guys explore some of history’s most memorable military cats.

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Aug 10, 2021
That Time People Rioted Over a Hot Air Balloon
2040

These days hot air balloons are often thought of as anachronistic novelties -- but in the early days of aeronautics, they were considered fascinating, dangerous and deadly. In today's episode, the guys explore a strange story about a genuine riot during the dawn of ballooning, when an angry crowd protested the balloon they came to see... by literally tearing the balloon apart.

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Aug 05, 2021
An Alabama Town Built a Statue Honoring the Insect that Almost Destroyed It
2094

Enterprise, Alabama is home to a fascinating statue honoring the boll weevil, a tiny creature that once wreaked havoc across cotton country. So what inspired the good people of Enterprise to erect a statue honoring the insect that almost destroyed their town? Learn more in today's episode.

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Aug 03, 2021
A Prince and His Poodle: The Supernatural Adventures of Rupert and Boy
2559

When the Earl of Rundel learned his acquaintance Prince Rupert was languishing in an Austrian prison during the Thirty Years' War, he gifted the prince a rare white hunting poodle as a companion. Rupert named his new pooch "Boy" and the two became inseparable. Boy accompanied Rupert into multiple conflicts and became a mascot of sorts -- and, in an odd twist, people across England started to believe Boy was no ordinary dog. Instead, they argued, both Boy and Rupert had occult, supernatural powers. In today's episode, the guys explore the story of a Prince, his pooch, and the effectiveness of propaganda.

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Jul 29, 2021
How One Guy Made Europe Fall In Love With Potatoes
3761

Today, the humble potato can be found in restaurants and dinner tables across the world -- but this wasn't always the case. In today's episode, Ben and Noel dive into the story of one spud-loving, potato-proselytizing man named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, and his ambitious life's mission to get an entire continent onboard with the idea of an obscure, Peruvian tuber that would go on to fundamentally change the world.

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Jul 27, 2021
Weird Courtship Rituals, Part Two
3118

What exactly is Bhutanese "Night Hunting," and how does it work? How do some rural Cambodian communities navigate the tricky world of dating while living in communal homes? It's often said the course of true love never did run smooth -- and it sure takes some odd turns on the path from courtship to marriage. In the second part of this special two-part series, Ben and Noel welcome special guests Eli and Diana banks, the hosts of Ridiculous Romance, to explore some of history's strangest courtship rituals.

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Jul 22, 2021
Weird Courtship Rituals, Part One
3620

Would you whisper sweet nothings to your sweeheart through a six-foot tube with your Puritan grandmother in the room? Would you force feed your children to make them more attractive for a potential groom? It's often said the course of true love never did run smooth -- and it sure takes some odd turns on the path from courtship to marriage. In part one of this special two-part series, Ben and Noel welcome special guests Eli and Diana banks, the hosts of Ridiculous Romance, to explore some of history's strangest courtship rituals.

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Jul 20, 2021
A Brief History of Underwear
3721

Underwear! Whether we're talking boxers, briefs, loincloths, brassieres or even lingerie, undergarments have a storied history in cultures across the planet. It's a tale touching on everything from shifting attitudes about morality to scientific innovations, fashion and more. In today's episode, Ben and Noel take a closer look at the ancient origins of underwear, tracing its evolution to the modern day.

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Jul 15, 2021
One Guy Was Certain Telepathic Snails Would Replace Telegraphs
1813

Since before the dawn of recorded history, human beings have been obsessed with talking to each other. This primal impulse inspired French occultist Jacques-Toussaint Benoît to propose a new, global communication system in the mid-1800s, a system he was certain would replace the telegraph: collections of snails. Benoît was certain snails, after mating, remained in constant, non-physical contact, meaning pushing one would affect the other, regardless of their physical locations. So, did it work? Tune in to learn more.

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Jul 13, 2021
The Duke of Portland Hated People and Loved Tunnels
2631

We've all had those days where we just need a little solitude, a quiet place away from the clamor and chatter of other people. However, William John Cavensidh-Scott-Bentinck, the 5th Duke of Portland, took this to an extreme. He spent the majority of his life minimizing the chance that he might have to run into other people, and eventually honeycombed his estate with an elaborate network of tunnels, including a secret passage to the nearby train station. Tune in to learn more.

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Jul 08, 2021
Where do Lemonade Stands Come From?
2478

Today, most Americans think of lemonade stands with nostalgia. In decades past, this could be an enterprising kid's first brush with the world of business as they set out to make a fortune, one cup at a time. But where did these stands come from, and how did they become so ingrained in American cultural identity? Tune in to learn more.

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Jul 07, 2021
Painless Parker and the Dental Circus
2903

Edgar Parker, later better known as "Painless Parker," wasn't your ordinary dentist. When his first practice was struggling in 1892, he began to think outside of the figurative box, combining dentistry, showbiz and public spectacle in a way that'd never been done before, including making dentistry part of an actual traveling circus.

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Jul 01, 2021
The Rise and Fall of Curative Plane Flights
2811

In the early 1920s, the still-new technology of powered aircraft amazed folks across the planet. People weren't quite sure what this technology could do, so when a plane flight appeared to restore Henry A. Renz, Jr's voice, experts and the public alike wondered whether plane flights might have medical benefits. In today's episode, the guys explore how this came about -- and whether any of these 'cures' were effective. 

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Jun 29, 2021
That Time People Paid Rent With Eels
2884

Nowadays, most people pay rent with the currency of their given nation — but for a time in England, your rent might have been paid with eels (yes, literal eels). In today’s episode, Ben, Max and returning guest host Matt Frederick explore the strange story of the Medieval eel economy, from the financial constraints that inspired it, to the religious beliefs that sustained it, to explain exactly how owning thousands of eels became a massive economic flex.

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Jun 28, 2021
The Miracle of the Gulls: A Cricket War
2324

In 1848, times were dire for the Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake Valley. Massive swarms of crickets laid waste to everything in their path, destroying crops and endangering the community's chances of survival. The threat of starvation loomed. According to the legend the community was saved by the miraculous arrival of gulls with a craving for crickets -- but how much of this story is fact, and how much fiction? Tune in to learn more.

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Jun 22, 2021
A History of Pregnancy Cravings, Part 2: Stereotypes, Superstitions and Science
2619

In earlier centuries, when science and spirituality were considered one and the same, the world was full of advice and warnings surrounding pregnancy cravings. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel explore how humans perceived these cravings: as superstition, stereotype and, eventually, science.

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Jun 17, 2021
A History of Pregnancy Cravings, Part 1: Pickles and Ice Cream
2472

Pregnancy is amazing — and scary, and beautiful, and a thousand other things. The modern world has stereotypes and tropes aplenty about pregnancy, especially including the phenomena known as pregnancy cravings. But how far back does this go? In the first part of this series, Ben and Noel explore the history of cravings, along with beliefs about how too much — or too little — of a given food was believed to affect children later in life.

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Jun 15, 2021
The Carrington Event, Part II: Attack of the Sun!
1378

Less than 18 hours after Richard Carrington noticed something screwy on the sun’s surface, chaos erupted. Telegraph operators found their machines literally aflame. The Northern Lights were visible from Cuba. People and plants across the globe became convinced it was daytime. Centuries later, Ben and Noel explore the consequences of the Carrington event and — perhaps most importantly — what this may mean for the future.

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Jun 10, 2021
The Carrington Event, Part I: The Sun is Acting Strange
1555

When amateur astronomer Richard Carrington gazed through his telescope on the morning of September 1st, 1859, he noticed something weird about the surface of the sun -- it seemed to have clusters of dark spots. Later historians would recognize this as the earliest observation of a solar flare -- and a little less than 18 hours later, the associated coronal mass ejection would wreak havoc on Earth, setting telegraphs aflame, lighting up the night sky and causing many to wonder whether it was the end of the world.

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Jun 08, 2021
Loveday: Henry VI's Well-intentioned, Terrible Attempt at Making Peace
3030

In an effort to prevent further conflicts in what would become known as the Wars of the Roses, King Henry VI called the warring parties to London, with a weird pitch -- they would resolve their disputes through diplomacy, culminating in a parade where these sworn enemies would have to literally walk around town holding hands. Tune in to see how it all played out.

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Jun 03, 2021
Classic: Why do British lawyers wear wigs?
1991

In today’s Classic episode, the guys travel back to their early days.


For centuries some lawyers and judges in the U.K. have worn distinctive wigs during court proceedings. But why? Join Ben and Noel as they explore the strange history of the peruke.

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Jun 01, 2021
That Time Al Capone Ran A Soup Kitchen
2013

Al Capone is rightly remembered as of the most notorious gangsters in US history -- but for a time residents of Chicago also thought of him as a benefactor. As people struggled to survive the Great Depression, Capone, in an apparent act of benevolence, founded a free, no-questions-asked soup kitchen to feed the hungry. In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore how the kitchen came to be, how it functioned -- and what Capone's true motivations might have been.

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May 27, 2021
The Phantom Barber of Pascagoula
2385

For a brief period in 1942, the town of Pascagoula, Mississippi was terrorized by a strange criminal -- he would sneak into people's houses as they slept and cut off locks of their hair. In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore this bizarre series of events (which may remain unsolved in the modern day).

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May 26, 2021
Joseph Bonaparte, Cryptid Hunter
3244

Napoleon’s lesser-known, older brother Joseph was, at times, the polar opposite of his conqueror sibling. Yet by merely being related to Napoleon, Joseph often found himself embroiled in geopolitical intrigue. In this episode, Ben and Noel explore Joseph’s rollercoaster of a life — along with his later obsession: Hunting down the infamous Jersey Devil.

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May 20, 2021
The Mystery of the Devonshire Colic
2753

For centuries, people around the world were baffled by a bizarre serious of symptoms that seemed to wax and wane in certain regions over time. Various researchers proposed any number of explanations for these regional afflictions, everything from the actions of an angry god to, true story, cider. Eventually, scientists found the answer: lead. Tune in to learn more.

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May 18, 2021
The Troubling, Hidden History of Turpentine
3625

Today turpentine is a substance with any number of industrial uses -- but most people don't know much about it, and even fewer people know its history in the early days of the US. In today's episode, Ben welcomes returning guest Yves Jeffcoat as they dive into the largely forgotten story of turpentine camps, from how they began to how they ended and, perhaps most importantly, how the effects of this industry have reprecussions in the modern day.

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May 13, 2021
A Race Across the World: From New York to Paris in 1908
3819

In February of 1908, racing teams from multiple nations assembled for an unusual and ambitious race -- they planned to drive from Times Square across the planet to France. These were the early days of the automobile, and success was anything but guaranteed. In today's special 3D episode, Ben and Noel trace the highs (and, mostly, lows) of the men who vied for what they saw as the ultimate prize: A 1,400-pound trophy and lifelong bragging rights.

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May 11, 2021
The Age of the Crakow, Part 2: A Fashion Arms Race, But For Your Feet
1918

In the second part of this episode, Ben and special guest Matt Frederick continue exploring the bizarre heyday of the poulaine. Tune in to learn more about the fickle, sometimes ridiculous, cycles of fashionable footware throughout history.

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May 06, 2021
The Age of the Crakow, Part 1: Medieval Europe Went Nuts For Pointy Shoes
2018

It appears many eras in history have their own version of sneakerheads. In 15th-century Europe, nobles and commoners alike went absolutely nuts for a type of pointy shoe called the Crakow -- and people desperately wanted the longest, pointiest shoes possible. In this episode, Ben and special guest Matt Frederick, co-creator of Stuff They Don't Want You To Know, explore the origin of the Crakow (and how, eventually, governments made laws dictating how long a given person's pointy shoes could be).

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May 04, 2021
How Pie in the Face Became a Comedy Classic, Part 2: The Fall (of the Pie)
1769


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Apr 29, 2021
How Pie in the Face Became a Comedy Classic, Part 1: Rise of the Pie
1498

Today the old pie-in-the-face gag is a well-worn comedy trope — but how did it become so famous? In part one of this two-part series, Ben and Noel explore the surprising history of pies, cinema and comedy.

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Apr 27, 2021
The Great Panjandrum: A Hilariously Terrible Idea
1722

As the British military brainstormed ways to break the German-built Atlantic Wall during World War II, desperation drove them to unorthodox ideas -- one of those, the Great Panjandrum, was a literal rocket-powered, rolling bomb. Tune in to learn how the Panjandrum came to be, what went wrong with it, and how amazing it is that no one actually died during testing.

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Apr 22, 2021
Dr. T. W. Stallings: One Man's Corvid-Hating Quest to Make Oklahoma Literally Eat Crow
2534

Times were tough during the Great Depression. Economic unrest, massive migration and falling crops left many people struggling to survive -- even the simple task of finding food from one day to the next became increasingly challenging. Amid this chaos Dr. T. W. Stallings saw an opportunity: If he could convince the good people of Oklahoma to start eating crows the way they ate other birds like ducks or chickens, he could save some lives (and, perhaps more importantly, finally have his revenge on crows).

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Apr 20, 2021
Pineapples In Europe, Part 2: People Literally Rented Pineapples to Impress their Friends
3129

As the pineapple craze swept through Europe's upper class, aristocrats worked tirelessly to grow their own pineapples. This was no small feat, since pineapples aren't suited to the European climate. Still, some clever inventors and gardeners figured it out -- and, along the way, non-aristocrats also got into the trend. Since most people couldn't afford a pineapple, they did the next best thing and rented them as a display of status for dinner parties and important gatherings. Tune in to learn more in the second part of this two-part series.

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Apr 15, 2021
Pineapples In Europe, Part 1: A Weird, Cartoonishly Expensive Flex
2774

Today, pineapples are a common (and delicious) produce item found in grocery stores and markets across the world -- but not too many centuries ago, a single pineapple could cost the equivalent of over $8,000. In the first part of this two-part episode, the guys delve into the bizarre story of Europe's pineapple mania, attempting to discover just what made this fruit so insanely popular... and why they're so insanely cheap today.

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Apr 14, 2021
The Mysterious Dark Day That Terrified New England
2025

As New Englanders woke on the morning of May 19th, 1780, they realized something was... off. The sunrise looked oddly colored and dim. As the day wore on, the sky grew increasingly dark. Soon, it appeared midnight had come early. Animals and humans alike panicked -- cows ran to their stalls, people flocked to churches and taverns, many certain the end of the world was upon them. Eventually, things returned to normal, but in the centuries that followed numerous researchers attempted to figure out exactly what happened. Tune in to learn more.

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Apr 08, 2021
The Windham Frog Fight of 1754
2531

As the French and Indian War escalated, the residents of Windham, Connecticut lived in constant fear of possible attacks, crop-ruining weather, disease and more. One late night in the summer of 1754, a loud, continual noise roused the entire town as people feared they may be under siege. It wasn't until near dawn that the noises died down, and a small scouting party discovered the culprits of the cacophony -- a massive population of desperate bullfrogs, screaming at each other for territory in the last dregs of a nearby dried-out pond. Although the townsfolk became the laughingstock of the area after the story came out, they leaned into the image -- and you can see traces of the story in the modern day.

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Apr 06, 2021
Ancient Mesopotamian Societies Sacrificed Substitute Kings to Eclipses
2126

Thousands of years before the current day, ancient civilizations accurately predicted both lunar and solar eclipses. They often believed these events were spiritual omens. When an eclipse came at an inauspicious time, multiple priestly classes scrambled to find a substitute king. In the interest of preserving society, these substitute kings would reign during an eclipse, only to be swiftly murdered afterward. Ben defends early humans, asking what we sacrifice today.

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Apr 02, 2021
The Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Part 2
2758

As the small town of Mattoon captured national attention during the reign of the Mad Gasser, the investigation took a turn. Authorities were baffled by the deluge of reports -- and their inability to find any physical evidence other than a soiled rag at a doorstep. As researchers and historians looked back on the events, they became increasingly convinced the was a different culprit behind the panic... and though the story was a gas, they were certain there had never been a real Mad Gasser in the first place. Learn more in the second part of this two part episode.

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Mar 30, 2021
The Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Part 1
1615

As wartime fears peaked across the US during World War II, people throughout the nation were overwhelmed with fears of invading Nazis, secret biological weapons and more. For the residents of Mattoon, Illinois, these fears took a brief back seat to a new neighborhood menace -- a Mad Gasser who would sneak beside people's windows and pipe in a paralytic gas for reasons no one could understand. But who was this Mad Gasser? What on earth did this criminal want? Tune in to learn more.

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Mar 25, 2021
A Currency for Colonies: The Strange Story of "Leprosy Money"
2225

For thousands of years people across the planet lived in fear of leprosy (now known as ‘Hansen's Disease). In many cases, people infected with the disease, or even just suspected of having it, were carted off to isolated colonies where they would be doomed to live the rest of their lives without any access to the outside world. These colonies became their own active communities -- there were blacksmiths, traders, cooks, merchants and more. And this meant the residents of these communities needed some sort of currency. However, they weren't allowed to use 'outside' cash for fear of contaminating it. This led to the rise of something known as "Leprosy Money." Tune in to learn how we got here, and what happened to this currency in the modern day.

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Mar 23, 2021
Wyoming Tales, Part 2: Absaroka, the State That Almost Was
2703

Back in the 1930s, the residents of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota felt the federal government— and the state legislatures— ignored them. They felt unheard, unheeded and, most importantly, moved to find solutions of their own. In this episode, Ben and Noel return to the story of Absaroka to ask: Was this meant to be the 49th state, or was it a publicity stunt?

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Mar 19, 2021
Wyoming Tales, Part 1: Walking in the Shoes of Big Nose George
2355

George Parrott was a career outlaw -- a known thief, murderer and would-be train robber. When justice finally caught up with him and his game, he was destined for the hangman's noose. Yet George's demise was only the beginning of a bizarre posthumous tale. Tune in to learn why it's technically possible, even today, to walk in Big Nose George's shoes (and not, perhaps, in the way you might assume).

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Mar 17, 2021
The Rise and Fall of the Flea Circus, Part 2
2714

In the second part of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and special guest Gabe Luzier drill down into the nuts and bolts of flea circuses -- how did they actually work? Is it true that some flea circuses did not, in fact, have fleas? Is there any way to see a real flea circus in the modern day? Tune in to learn more about one of history's strangest novelty performances.

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Mar 11, 2021
The Rise and Fall of the Flea Circus, Part 1
1898

Fleas -- they're one of the only animals Ben actually doesn't like! Yet, once upon a time, these bloodsucking nuisances were star performers in novelty acts across Europe and, later, North America. But what were they, exactly? Can you really train fleas to do tricks and play instruments? Who even came up with this weird idea? In this episode, the guys welcome special guest and researcher extraordinaire Gabe Luzier to dive into the origin of that bizarre novelty time largely forgot: the flea circus.

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Mar 09, 2021
History's Most Ridiculous (and Deadly) Beauty Trends
3396

It's a Ridiculous History takeover! In honor of International Women's Day, join the hosts of the podcast Stuff Mom Never Told You for this very special episode diving into the depths of history's most ridiculous beauty and fashion trends.

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Mar 08, 2021
Billy Cottrell, the Tyrant Mayor of Cedar Key, Florida
2704

The politically-connected, cartoonishly belligerent Billy Cottrell was a terrible Mayor, hated and feared by the locals of Cedar Key, Florida -- and no one was sure what to do. At least, that is, until the Federal government got word of the situation. Tune in to learn how the US President eventually pled with Congress to allow for military intervention.

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Mar 04, 2021
The US and the UK Almost Went to War over a Pig
3104

In 1859, a dispute between neighbors in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest led to the untimely death of a local (and very unlucky) pig. What could have been an easily resolved situation quickly ignited simmering tensions between the US and the UK, both of whom claimed the islands as their own territory. In the days and weeks after, soldiers from both nations traveled to the area... each waiting for the other side to make the first move in what almost became a full-on war. Tune in to learn more.

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Mar 02, 2021
The 1973 Michigan Pizza Funeral
2144

Illario 'Mario' Fabbrini was true American success story: An immigrant who built his own pizza empire just as this iconic food was becoming a normalized, nation-wide delicacy. When the business was brought low by allegations of tainted mushrooms, he did something few people would have been brave enough to consider -- he made the disposal of these so-called 'tainted' pizzas a public event, holding a mass burial for an estimated 30,000 frozen pizzas. The funeral was attended by numerous notable individuals, including the Governor of Michigan. Tune in to learn more about the inspiring, bittersweet story of one man in love with pizza, and how he learned to say goodbye.

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Feb 25, 2021
Elagabalus The Raunchy, Racy High Priest Who Became a Roman Emperor
3184

Born Varius Avitus Bassianus, the emperor now known as Elagabalus scandalized ancient Rome with his constant displays of extravagance, his numerous sexual escapades -- and his insistence that all people worship the sun god Elagabal (represented by a mysterious black stone he brought to town). Tune in to learn how everyday Romans reacted to this larger-than-life character, and how his over-the-top behaviors eventually led to his downfall.

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Feb 23, 2021
John Wilkins Started a 17th-century Astronaut Program, Part 2: Wilkins (Tries to) Start a Space Program
1490

As John Wilkins began to put more serious thought into the idea of sending people to the moon, he reached out to fellow intellectuals in hopes of exploring the problem. So: How did they go about planning this ambitious endeavor, and how far did they get? Tune in to learn more in the second chapter of this two-part episode.

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Feb 19, 2021
John Wilkins Started a 17th-century Astronaut Program, Part 1: Why not aim for the Moon?
2082


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Feb 17, 2021
Turtle Soup, Part 2: Rise of the Mock Turtle
1444

In the second part of this series, the guys dive deeper into the story of turtle soup -- and how it soon gave rise to the more affordable, equally delicious 'mock turtle' soup. But what exactly is a mock turtle? Tune in to learn more.

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Feb 12, 2021
Turtle Soup, Part 1: A Delicacy of Yesteryear
2262

Today it's uncommon to see turtle soup on most restaurant menus-- but, not too long ago, this was considered a top-notch delicacy, praised for its flavor, enjoyed by world leaders, and widely praised for its deep, unique flavor. In the first part of this series, the guys explore the heyday of turtle soup... and how it eventually led to the rise of mock turtle soup.

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Feb 09, 2021
Stab Yourself to Health and Happiness: The Bizarre Rise of the Lebensweker
2793

When a bug bit German inventor Carl Baunscheidt, he was struck with an epiphany of sorts -- could 'venting' the human body through the creation of artificial pores (today known as puncture wounds) allow a person to rid themselves of various diseases and medical infections? Tune in to learn more about the runaway success of Carl's handy, weirdly popular Lebensweker, or Life Awakener.

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Feb 04, 2021
The Hatpin Peril
2736

Nowadays, hatpins are a somewhat archaic fashion accessory--but at the turn of the century, they were often used as weapons to deter ne'er-do-wells and scoundrels. Tune in to learn how hatpins became a symbol of women's rights (and an international controversy).

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Feb 03, 2021
It's a Cat's World, Part 2: The Rise of the Cat Show
1650

In the second part of this series, the guys explore the story of Harrison Weir, "The Father of the Cat Fancy." Learn how Weir led the charge to save the reputation of felines in Europe and abroad through the creation of high-class cat shows--and how these otherwise wholesome displays of quality cats became increasingly classist.

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Jan 29, 2021
It's a Cat's World, Part 1: The Sacred and the Suspicious
2034

Whether you love them or hate them, there's no denying that cats hold a unique position in human society. They're (in)famous for making their own way -- "I tolerate you," the cat seems to say to its owner, "but I do not need you." While modern civilization is pretty pro-cat, this wasn't always the case. In the first part of this series, the guys explore the waxing and waning reputation of felines throughout history, from ancient Egypt to the Middle Ages and beyond.

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Jan 26, 2021
Dan Sickles, American Scoundrel, Part 2: The Civil War
1725

After literally getting away with murder, Dan Sickles joined the military, later leveraging the dubious events of his military career to reinvent himself as a war hero. Not everyone was convinced he was quite the paragon he purported to be. Learn more in the second part of this two-part series.

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Jan 22, 2021
Dan Sickles, American Scoundrel, Part 1: How to Get Away with Murder
2003

Daniel Sickles was a real pill. For a time, the wealthy New Yorker was famous for his philandering -- and then he became famous for not only murdering a man in broad daylight... but getting away with it by pleading temporary insanity. Learn more about this American scoundrel in part one of this two-part series.

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Jan 20, 2021
That Time New York Banned Spitting
3146

As tuberculosis spread throughout the US, New York City banned spitting. Learn how the Ladies’ Health Protective Association saved the Big Apple from a pandemic--and paved the way for the vote.

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Jan 14, 2021
Admiral Byrd and the Polar Dairy
1951

In 1933, on his second expedition to Antarctica, Richard E. Byrd took the unusual, highly-publicized step of bringing some non-human crew along: Klondike Gay Nira, Deerfoot Guernsey Maid and Foremost Southern Girl. These three cows--four, if you count the one born in the course of the journey--were darlings of the US press both during and after the journey. But why did Byrd bring them to Antarctica in the first place?

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Jan 12, 2021
Weird 21st Century Predictions from Ages Past, Part 2: Your Personal Plane, A World Without Disaster and Retiring on the Moon
3021


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Jan 07, 2021
Weird 21st Century Predictions from Ages Past, Part 1: Tesla, Square Tomatoes and Pseudosteak
2261

It's the first Ridiculous History episode of the New Year! Ben, Noel and Casey are ringing it in with some predictions--not their own predictions, mind you. Instead the guys are diving into the predictions of luminaries from ages past, exploring how much (or how little) these historical figures got right about the 21st century.

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Jan 05, 2021
The Old Rituals of New Years, Part 2: Neuroscience, Resolutions and the Rick Steves Fan Club
1817

What a year, right? If you're listening to today's episode, you have (almost) officially survived. I'm ringing in 2021 with Noel, Casey and the rest of our Ridiculous Historians in this, the second part of our exploration into the very old roots of very New Years.

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Dec 31, 2020
Holiday Classic: When the Puritans Canceled Christmas
1731

Nowadays Christmas is a globally-recognized holiday celebrated by millions of people, but in the past this wasn't the case. In fact, some groups of Christians detested the holiday, going so far as to ban it completely. So what led Puritans to ban one of the most prominent celebrations in the Christian faith? Join Ben and Noel as they take a closer look at the strange story of Puritans and Christmas in this classic episode.

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Dec 24, 2020
Holiday Classic: The Strange History of Antarctic Fruitcake
1764

Nowadays fruitcake is considered a stereotypical, often comical holiday punchline, but even in the modern day people across the planet can agree on at least one fruitcake fact: Those things are pretty darn durable! So how long could a fruitcake really last before it becomes inedible? Join Ben and Noel as they travel to Antarctica to find out in this classic episode.

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Dec 22, 2020
Goodyear and the Mystery of the Ghost Blimp
2344

In 1942, a U.S. Navy airship flew out over the Pacific to search for Japanese submarines. It lost radio contact and, hours later, slowly crashed in the San Franciscan suburbs. Inside the gondola, everything seemed to be in order -- the parachutes were there, the instrumentation was functioning... but two-person crew was missing. To this day, no one knows exactly what happened aboard the L-8 Ghost Blimp.

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Dec 18, 2020
Benito Mussolini was Super into Wearable Milk
2473

Today Benito Mussolini is probably best known as the founder of Italy's National Fascist Party, but he was also very, very into milk. So much so, in fact, that he funneled tons of funding into a strange new process: the creation of wearable milk. Lanital, as it was known, was wool-like in appearance, and, for a time, quite successful! So where are all our milk skirts and milk trousers now? Listen in to learn more.

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Dec 15, 2020
Snowmen as Protest: The Miracle of 1511
1792

During the brutal winter of 1511, residents of Brussels built more than one hundred snowmen... and these sculptures weren't the type of snow sculpture you see in the modern day. Instead, the city was filled with satirical, often lewd displays critiquing the city's rulers, its poor and its working class alike. Tune in to learn more about that time snowmen became something like a citywide protest and widespread insult comedy.

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Dec 11, 2020
Why are Chimney Sweeps good luck at weddings?
2355

It seems odd, at first - the idea that a random chimney cleaner might pass by a wedding, then be brought into the party, shake sooty hands with the couple, and bless random people on the street. Yet the profession of cleaning chimneys carries generations of tradition, superstition and belief.

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Dec 09, 2020
People Have Been Convinced Robots Will Take Their Jobs For Centuries
2634

Nowadays automation is affecting almost every industry on the planet, and numerous experts are raising alarms: AI, robotics and automation, they say, may well spell doom for millions of jobs held by humans. This is a valid concern... but by no means a new one. Join Ben and Noel as they dive into humanity's strange, inspiring, disturbing and, of course, ridiculous relationship with robots.

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Dec 04, 2020
That Time the US was Terrified of Tomatoes
2386

Nowadays the tomato is an ubiquitous foodstuff in households across the planet - but in the US, this humble staple was once considered downright poisonous... and, later, it was touted as a miracle cure. In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore the origin of the tomato, its rocky rise to modern fame, and how a few small historical misunderstandings may have led people to believe this beautiful fruit was a symbol of everything from lycanthropy to witchcraft.

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Dec 02, 2020
How the Pandemic Helped (and Hurt) the Struggle for Women's Rights
1747

The 1918 epidemic played a massive, sometimes unacknowledged role in the struggle for women's rights. Tune in and learn more in today's episode.

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Nov 26, 2020
How a German Prince Built his own Artificial Volcano
2183

Like many nobles of his day, Leopold III Friedrich Franz traveled widely in his youth, taking in the ancient wonders of Europe. A stunning experience witnessing an eruption at Mount Vesuvius transformed the young prince's life. As he headed home to Germany, he vowed he would create a volcano of his own -- and, weirdly enough, he did just that.

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Nov 24, 2020
The Weird Origin of Pink Lemonade, Part 2: The Rise of Clown Pants
1648

As historians dove into the evolution of pink lemonade, one theory about its origin seemed particularly compelling (if gross): Pink lemonade, they argued, owes its existence to a circus, a washtub, and an unscrupulous carnie in a hurry.

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Nov 19, 2020
The Weird Origin of Pink Lemonade, Part 1: A Humble Citrus
1616

Nowadays, lemonade is a pretty popular drink -- and its counterpart, pink lemonade, occupies a space all its own. But where did this drink come from? Join the guys as they explore the surprisingly ancient origins of lemonade, as well as the dubious series of events that may have led to what we call pink lemonade today.

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Nov 18, 2020
An Elephant in the Vatican, Part 2: An Elephant in the Reformation
2516

As Pope Leo X's favorite pal, Hanno enjoyed a unique position in the Vatican -- he was the star of multiple gatherings and celebrations (which didn't always go as planned). Eventually, Hanno became a talking point for the Protestant Reformation. Join the guys as they explore the fate of Hanno and the gold enema that brought him to an untimely end in the second part of this two-part episode.

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Nov 13, 2020
An Elephant in the Vatican, Part 1: The Discovery of Hanno
1843

In February of 1962, HVAC workers discovered the remains of an elephant beneath the Cortile del Belvedere -- and a mystery was ahoof. The story begins in 1513, when Portugese king Manuel I sought to give Pope Leo X an extraordinary gift: Hanno, an elephant from distant shores.

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Nov 11, 2020
S T O V E G O B L I N
1794

Today's setting: Zaragoza, Spain. The time: September of 1934. The problem? A stove goblin. At least, that's what the hapless Palazón thought as they tried to solve the mystery of a strange, disembodied voice that appeared to mischievously trash talk people from somewhere near the stove of their apartment. The case garnered attention from the police and other investigators, and ultimately disappeared. And, even today, the official explanation leaves a lot to be desired.

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Nov 05, 2020
The US Didn't Always Have Secret Ballots
2935

Nowadays, voters in the US consider secret ballots a fundamental part of any election. Yet -- perhaps surprisingly -- this wasn't always the case. The road to secret ballots was long and fraught with absolutely ridiculous, and, at times, dangerous shenanigans. Tune in to learn more.

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Nov 03, 2020
The Case of the Greenbrier Ghost, Part 2: The Court
2309

When the defense called Mary Jane Heaster to the stand, they likely meant to discredit her. However, she maintained that her daughter, Elva, had visited her -- from beyond the grave -- with proof that she was murdered.

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Oct 29, 2020
Ridiculous History Presents: Criminalia
2321

If you like Ridiculous History, check out this iHeartRadio & Shondaland Audio podcast – Criminalia.

On Criminalia, hosts Holly Frey and Maria Trimarchi explroe the intersection of history and true crime. This season is all about lady poisoners. During the time that Chicago’s most visible criminal element was organized crime, Tillie Klimek was quietly becoming the city’s most prolific female serial killer. She allegedly killed between six and 20 people, all through arsenic poisoning.

We hoped you liked this episode of Criminalia. If you want to hear more, listen to Criminalia every Tuesday on the iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Oct 28, 2020
The Case of the Greenbrier Ghost, Part 1: An 'Everlasting Faint'
2269

When Elva Zona Heaster passed away, the town doctor attributed the death to a heart attack. Elva's mother disagreed. Convinced that her daughter visited her from beyond the grave, Mary Jane Heaster brought the case into court - and the jury would consider the second-hand testimony of a ghost.

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Oct 28, 2020
The Hand of Glory, Part 2: Recipes, Necropants and Toes
1079

Like any recipe, instructions for creating a Hand of Glory often varied - which one was considered legitimate? Also, the guys explore the odd, morbid magical item known as 'necropants,' and discuss the specifics of drinking beverages containing a severed human toe.

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Oct 22, 2020
The Hand of Glory, Part 1: A Thief's Theme
1951

If you were an enterprising thief in the days of yore, there were few legendary tools as valuable as the grisly Hand of Glory -- the severed hand of a criminal, magically treated to create a macabre, powerful talisman. Join the guys as they delve into the dubious origins of this strange creation in the first part of this two-part series.

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Oct 20, 2020
Brooms and Witchcraft, Part 2: Inquisitions and Iniquity
1694

Could the stereotype of witches on broomsticks actually be a drug reference? Join Ben, Noel and Casey as they continue digging through the history and folklore of witchcraft -- and how it affected pop culture in the modern day -- in the conclusion of this 2-part series.

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Oct 15, 2020
Brooms and Witchcraft, Part 1: A Killer in the Rye?
1736

Most people are familiar with the stereotypical image of a witch: a haggard, often older individual with a peaked hat, black robes, a demonic familiar and, oddly enough, a penchant for cruising around on broomsticks. But where did that last, weirdly specific, trope of flying on a broomstick actually come from? Join the guys as they explore the bizarre (and racy) theories behind the story in part one of this two-part episode.

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Oct 14, 2020
The Beast of Gévaudan, Part 2: The Birth of a Grisly Legend
1417

As the investigation into the Beast became a national obsession, the French monarchy stepped in, offering rewards (and threats) in their attempt to capture the murderous creature. In part two of this episode, Ben, Noel and Casey explore the end of the tale (tail? Nevermind.) and the mystery of the case that remains unsolved in the modern day.

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Oct 09, 2020
The Beast of Gévaudan, Part 1: Murders In France
2008

For three years, a monster terrified the backwater region of Gévaudan. From 1764 - 1767, people found the mutilated corpses, one by one, across the countryside. The press of the time, unable to cover political stories, brought the story of The Beast to France at large. A legend was born.

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Oct 07, 2020
The BBC Convinced People Spaghetti Grows on Trees
2742

On the first of April in 1957, cameraman Charles de Jaeger's childhood dream came true: Panorama, Britain's most popular news program, aired a segment describing the traditional method of harvesting spaghetti from trees.

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Oct 02, 2020
The US Waged War on Pinball for Decades
2803

Today, pinball is seen as a sort of retro novelty -- it's enjoyable, kitschy and wholesome. Yet for decades, political officials in cities across the United States worried pinball might lead to the downfall of the nation's children, become a driving force for organized crime, and dissolve the moral fabric of the US. So what led to this odd war on pinball -- and why aren't people worried about these games in the modern day?

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Sep 29, 2020
The Misadventures of Wade Boggs, Part 2
2023

Wade Boggs is a legendary, larger-than-life figure in the world of sports -- but one of his strangest achievements has nothing to do with baseball. Join the guys and special guest, Matthew Waxman, the creator of Trickeration, as they delve into the legend of Wade's 107 beer airplane flight... and walk through some very boozy math to discover whether the legend is true.

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Sep 25, 2020
The Misadventures of Wade Boggs, Part 1
2912

Wade Boggs has always been regarded as a legend, both on and off the ballfield. However, some of his strangest experiences have very little to do with baseball. Join Ben, Noel, and special guest Matthew Waxman, the creator of Trickeration, as they explore the bizarre story of the Wade Boggs sex scandal.

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Sep 22, 2020
The Tragic Tale of the 'Turnspit Dog'
2202

Before the rise of household automation, British elites struggled to find the perfect method for cooking meat. They preferred it roasted, slowly, turning continually on a spit to evenly distribute heat. Yet this backbreaking labor proved too difficult for even the most spry peasant child, and so they turned to an innovative (if cruel) alternative: Breeding dogs specifically to turn meat spits. These 'Turnspit Dogs' occupied one of the lowest rungs in the hierarchy of any noble kitchen, living brutal lives of endless toil on what were essentially hamster wheels. Listen in to learn the tragic tale of the 'Turnspit Dog.'

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Sep 17, 2020
Knocker-Uppers: The Human Alarm Clocks of the Industrial Age
1930

When adapting to life as factory employees, members of the British and Irish public confronted a new, unexpected obstacle -- how do you make sure you wake up in time for your shift? While predecessors of the alarm clock existed, they were unreliable (and incredibly expensive). And so enterprising people across the land started their own wake-up service, becoming the human alarm clocks affectionately known as 'Knocker-Uppers.'

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Sep 15, 2020
That Time New York City Rioted Over Shakespeare
2997

Don't let reality television and wrestling fool you -- celebrity rivalries are a tale as old as entertainment itself. In 1849, the rivalry between two Shakespearean actors culminated in a massive riot that would leave more than 20 people dead in the street. Listen in to learn more about the infamous Shakespeare riot... as well as the sociocultural tensions that actually drove the fray.

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Sep 10, 2020
Babies in Incubators were Once a Sideshow Attraction
2505

Nowadays, incubators are a common sight in hospitals across the US -- but, once upon a time, this life-saving technology was treated like a sideshow attraction. Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to 'Infantoriums' to marvel at how incubators were able to keep babies born prematurely both healthy and safe. And, the publicity generated by these side shows may be, in part, the reason this technology is in hospitals today.

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Sep 08, 2020
The Rise of the US Camel Corps
2590

In the years leading to the US Civil War, Uncle Sam searched for some way to safely traverse the desert. Horses, mules and humans alike often died of thirst in the unforgiving climate. Jefferson Davis, the the Secretary of War, proposed the military consider an ancient solution: Camels. Tune in to learn more about the rise (and fall) of the US Camel Corps.

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Sep 03, 2020
The United Kingdom Has A Weird Thing With Swans
2535

In the days before London found itself riddled with Rolodexes and Lamborghinis, the Crown controlled a now-obscure status symbol: the swan. Every single unmarked swan was the property of the Crown -- and woe betide those who touched a swan without express permission.

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Sep 02, 2020
The Nazi Super Horse Program, Part 2: A Horse-filled Heist
1690

As the tide of war turns toward the inevitable defeat of the Nazis, the staff of the secret horse farm fear the oncoming, starving Russian forces will consume their prized Lippizaner horses. In desperation, the farm turns to an unlikely source for help -- the US Army. Tune in as Ben and Noel explore the strange story of the Nazi super horse program.

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Aug 27, 2020
The Nazi Super Horse Program, Part 1: Equine Eugenics
1836

Adolf Hitler was inarguably a terrible person. He was also weirdly focused on resurrecting Germany's horse industry. Tune in as Ben and Noel explore the strange story of the Nazi super horse program.

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Aug 25, 2020
Railroad Tycoons Decided What Time It Is Now
2239

Nowadays the world is divided into a series of 'time zones.' Yet before the 1880s, towns across the United States ran on a sort of local time -- when you left one town, you often traveled slowly enough to adjust, without much hassle, to the new time in the next community. So, where did this concept of standardized time come from? Spoiler alert: Desperate railroad companies.

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Aug 21, 2020
Why do people 'christen' ships with champagne?
2410

We've all heard about the practice of smashing a champagne bottle against the hull of a ship before launching it -- but where does this practice come from? Join the guys as they delve into the surprisingly ancient practice of commemorating ship launches, from ancient Babylon to the modern day.

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Aug 19, 2020
The Hidden History of Jewish Pirates, Part 2: Famous Privateers
2400

During the age of European expansion, members of the Jewish diaspora traveled to Caribbean and the continents of North and South America, often escaping the intense persecution of the Inquisition. Some became merchants, others explorers -- and some became pirates. Join Ben and Noel as they explore the little-known stories of specific Jewish pirates and privateers that changed the course of history as we know it in the second part of this two-part series.

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Aug 14, 2020
The Hidden History of Jewish Pirates, Part 1: Escaping Europe
1260

During the age of European expansion, members of the Jewish diaspora traveled to Caribbean and the continents of North and South America, often escaping the intense persecution of the Inquisition. Some became merchants, others explorers -- and some became pirates. Join Ben and Noel as they explore the little-known stories of these pirates and privateers, and why Jamaica became known as a haven for those fleeing European persecution.

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Aug 11, 2020
Ridiculous "Remedies" of the Spanish Flu: The Rise of the Lemon
2626

Have you ever used a home remedy when under the weather? Some, like honey and lemon (and whiskey) for a sore throat, remain common today. In 2020, other treatments people once swore by seem -- I hesitate to say it -- ridiculous. In the early 20th century, people were desperate to find a cure or treatment for the flu. They tried any number of things that may seem bizarre today, and part of that panic led to the lemon becoming a household staple across the United States.

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Aug 07, 2020
That Time Rebellious Freemasons Starting Kissing Porcelain Pug Butts
2758

We've all heard about Freemasons -- but what about the Order of the Pug? Join the guys as they explore the strange series of events that led German Masons to create their own secret society, embodied by a porcelain sculpture of a pug.

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Aug 04, 2020
Clever Hans, Part 2: The Rise and Fall of Hans
1595

Unconvinced by claims of this horse's mathematical acumen, psychologist Oskar Pfungst conducted a series of experiments to determine whether Clever Hans was actually solving problems. Pfungst discovered there were serious issues with Hans's 'performance' ... but he also, in a roundabout way, ended up proving Hans was, in some ways, more clever than the average person. Ben also pitches a stunning conclusion to a (fake) movie about Hans's life post-fame.

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Jul 30, 2020
Clever Hans, Part 1: The Equine Mathematician
1856

Back in the early 20th century, retired teacher Wilhelm von Osten had a dream -- to exhibit the gifts of his brilliant horse, Clever Hans, to the world. Wilhelm believed Hans was capable of solving pretty advanced math problems, working out the sums in his head and communicating them to humans through a system of hooftaps. And Clever Hans took the German public by storm -- what could this mean? If animals like Hans were this intelligent, could they also have a consciousness or a soul? Some people were over the moon about Hans... and others remained unconvinced.

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Jul 28, 2020
Henry VIII and That English Sweat, Part 2: A Disease and a King
1525

While history often only remembers Henry VIII as a real pill, he was also a profound hypochondriac -- and, rightly terrified of contracting the English Sweats, Henry hightailed it to a series of safehouses as he sought to isolate himself from any possible infection. Join the guys as they continue exploring the long-term consequences of the mysterious English Sweats.

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Jul 23, 2020
Henry VIII and That English Sweat, Part 1: A Pandemic
1995

Beginning in 1485, a mysterious disease swept in waves across England. No one was sure how it spread, no treatment existed, and the disease took the name of its most memorable symptom. The English sweating sickness seemed to have a taste for the wealthy, and the bulk of fatalities were English. The last widespread outbreak of sweating sickness was reported in 1551 -- after that, the disease vanished. Along the way, it made a king of Henry VIII.

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Jul 22, 2020
The Hobo King: Leon Ray Livingston, Chapter Two
2315

As the Great Depression devastates the nation, roughly 2 million people find themselves out of home and hope, migrating toward distant promises of jobs, distant family members -- some distant idea of a better life. The concept of the 'hobo' becomes a mainstream concern. Leon Ray Livingston warns about living a life "on the road."

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Jul 17, 2020
The Hobo King: Leon Ray Livingston, Chapter One
1992

Born in San Francisco, an 11-year-old ran away from home, living and writing about his travels. Hailed as a self-coronated 'Hobo King,' Livingston made his own mythology, creating tropes that survive in the modern day.

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Jul 15, 2020
The Vikings Made a Fortune in the 'Unicorn' Trade
2725

Nowadays, experts and equestrians alike largely agree: unicorns are creatures of myth. But, not too long ago, the wealthiest people in Europe would pay top dollar for everything from powdered 'unicorn' dust, to fragments or full specimens of 'unicorn' horn, convinced these supernatural relics had curative powers, capable of saving them from poison. So what was really going on here? Join the guys as they delve into the strange story of the unicorn trade, bust some Viking myths and shoutout the excellent, underrated film The Last Unicorn (Ben here: I swear it still holds up).

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Jul 09, 2020
Did People Really Throw Tar And Feathers On Each Other?
2323

It's true -- people used to throw tar on other people, then shake feathers on them as a specific form of legally-sanctioned punishment. Where did the concept of tarring and feathering a person actually come from, and how did it spread throughout the world?

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Jul 07, 2020
Kate Warne, the Pinkerton Detective Who Saved Abe Lincoln, Part 2: To Rescue A President
2373

While Kate Warne had numerous adventures (and brilliantly solved multiple high-profile cases), her most well-known work with pinkerton involved none other than Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. In the conclusion of special two-part series, the guys continue exploring Kate Warne's adventures with Jo Piazza, the award-winning author, journalist, and host of the new podcast, Fierce.

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Jul 02, 2020
Kate Warne, the Pinkerton Detective Who Saved Abe Lincoln, Part 1: The Origin Story
2059

Kate Warne wasn't just the first female private investigator in the US -- she was also one of the best Pinkerton detectives in the history of the agency. In this special two-part series, the guys join forces with award-winning author and journalist, Jo Piazza, the host of Fierce, to learn more about the mysterious origins of the one and only Kate Warne.

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Jul 01, 2020
What is Fudge, Part 2: The Rebellion
1522

The students of Vassar thrived despite a system of Victorian -- near Orwellian -- control. In a time when these college students were not allowed to have agency over their own diet, they rebelled, popularizing the confection known as fudge today. Other students at elite institutions joined in, and soon contemporaneous newspapers noted fudge as both a desert and a rebellion against prevailing social norms.

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Jun 25, 2020
What is Fudge, Part 1: The Science, The Curious Name
1568

Nowadays, most people in the global West associate fudge with the idea of a homemade, homely confection. Yet once upon a time, this dangerously delightful, sugar-laden snack was the domain of the elite. Learn more about the origin of fudge here -- and tune in for part two of our series: Fudge As Rebellion.

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Jun 23, 2020
The North Pole, Part 2: The Chase To The North
2634

The Mercator Projection continues to inform explorers, many of whom send their own appropriative versions of the Mythical North. Join Ben, Casey and Noel as they ask: Who actually discovered the North Pole?

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Jun 19, 2020
The North Pole, Part 1: Maps and Legends
1788

In 1569, Gerardus Mercator creates the first world map. It's the predecessor of the cartoonishly inaccurate Mercator projection, and this math guides people toward what they believe to be the North Pole.

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Jun 17, 2020
The Mysterious Origin of (and Disturbing Problems with) the "Wolf Whistle"
2142

It's one of those iconic 'you know it when you hear it' sounds - the two-note whistle made famous in old Tex Avery cartoons and multiple films of yesteryear. But what is the wolf whistle? Where did it actually come from, and how did it go from being such a popular trope to something (thankfully) so rare in the modern day?

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Jun 12, 2020
World War I and the Rise of the Peat Moss Bandage
2104

War often drives innovation — often out of desperation. In World War I, doctors were overwhelmed and dangerously short on supplies, especially bandages. With no end in sight for the cotton shortage, ingenious doctors found an unlikely (and superior) alternative: peat moss.

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Jun 10, 2020
Flashback: Unforeseen Consequences Throughout History: Part 2
1708

How did air conditioning fundamentally change the course of U.S. politics? What does the Y.M.C.A. have to do with cigarettes? Join Ben and Casey as they welcome special guest, Sean Braswell, to learn more about the strange stories of everything from air conditioning to kudzu in part two of this two-part series.

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Jun 05, 2020
Flashback: Unforeseen Consequences Throughout History: Part 1
2361

How did air conditioning fundamentally change the course of U.S. politics? What does the Y.M.C.A. have to do with cigarettes? Join Ben and Casey as they welcome special guest, Sean Braswell, to learn more about the strange stories of everything from air conditioning to kudzu in part one of this two-part series.

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Jun 03, 2020
Louis Wain, the Godfather of Cat Memes: Part 2
2649

Before the days of WiFi, Reddit, nyan cat and grumpy cat alike, one man set the art world on fire with his increasingly bizarre paintings and sketches of cats. Join Ben, Noel and Casey as they welcome special guest Gabe Luzier on air (finally!) to explore the strange story of Louis Wain in the conclusion of this special two-part series.

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May 29, 2020
Louis Wain, the Godfather of Cat Memes: Part 1
1888

If you're listening to this podcast, you definitely know about cat memes. At this point, they're almost like an internet currency all their own. But far before the days of WiFi, Reddit, nyan cat and grumpy cat alike, one man set the art world on fire with his increasingly bizarre paintings and sketches of cats. Join Ben, Noel and Casey as they welcome special guest Gabe Luzier on air (finally!) to explore the strange story of Louis Wain.

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May 27, 2020
Feedsack Fashion: How Thrifty Inventiveness Transformed America
2199

In the early 20th century, rural US residents were all-too-accustomed to scraping by, often by any means necessary. Families without the means to buy what they wanted invented ingenious ways of recycling or reusing as much as they possibly could -- you mended the tools you could not replace, you worked with what little food you had -- and, in this spirit, you made the clothes you couldn't afford to buy. Thus was the feedsack dress born. Bags of livestock feed and flour sacks were reused to create everything from undergarments to dresses and bedsheets. Join the guys as they explore how this reinventive strategy of using commercial packaging for clothing was first mocked, then lionized, then emulated by the nation overall.

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May 22, 2020
Emperor Tiberius Was Debauched, Deranged and Probably Not Fun At Parties
2599

When Emperor Tiberius first ascended to the throne in AD 14, he seemed to be a principled reformer set on cleaning up the empire -- checking excesses and abuses, erasing loopholes and banning astrologers. However, the death of his son seemed to push him into a severely unbalanced mental state. His paranoia and cruelty were extreme (even for an Emperor) and, eventually, he found he preferred to eschew politics altogether, reigning as Emperor in name alone from the isolated island of Capri, where he reputedly engaged in all manner of depraved, hedonistic sexual acts before returning, years later, to terrorize Rome.

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May 20, 2020
The Return of Historical Flexes, Part 2: Flexcessiveness
1661

History is riddled with bizarre stories of flexes — things people of the past thought were somehow impressive at time. The Ridiculous Historians are fascinated by these strange stories, as are their friends at The Daily Zeitgeist. Join Ben and Noel as they welcome returning guests Jack O'Brien and Miles Gray, hosts of The Daily Zeitgeist, to explore more of history's weirdest flexes, from Henry Ford's weird town in Brazil to Stalin's forced drinking parties.

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May 14, 2020
The Return of Historical Flexes, Part 1: 2 Flex 2 Furious
2516

History is riddled with bizarre stories of flexes — things people of the past thought were somehow impressive at time. The Ridiculous Historians are fascinated by these strange stories, as are their friends at The Daily Zeitgeist. Join Ben and Noel as they welcome returning guests Jack O'Brien and Miles Gray, hosts of The Daily Zeitgeist, to explore more of history's weirdest flexes, from predecessors of photoshop to one of the world's bloodiest revenge stories and more.

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May 12, 2020
The Authors Of Curious George Were On The Run From Nazis
1745

Today, Curious George is a world-famous star of children's books -- but back in the day, his name was Fifi, and his creators, the Rey couple, were desperate to flee France as Nazi forces pushed ever closer to Paris. Tune in to learn how Curious George saved his own creators not once, not twice, but three separate times.

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May 08, 2020
People Used To Straight Up Drink Gold
1881

For millennia various luminaries have claimed precious metals have special curative powers -- and, back in the day, people used to actually drink it. They were convinced the ingestion of gold would prevent them from aging, wrinkling and growing frail. So how did this would-be beauty secret actually affect people's bodies? Tune in to learn more about drinking gold.

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May 05, 2020
New Zealand's Tragic (And Pretty Hilarious) Exploding Pants Epidemic
1811

For a brief span of time, farmers in New Zealand were baffled by a bizarre phenomenon -- their pants were smoldering, catching fire, and sometimes exploding, seemingly at random. So what exactly happened? Join the guys as they delve (and solve) the mystery of New Zealand's exploding pants.

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May 01, 2020
That Time Trainwrecks Became a Spectator Sport
2018

Nowadays, most people use the term 'trainwreck' to describe a situation gone catastrophically wrong, but back in the glory days of the railroad, trainwrecks -- actual trainwrecks -- became PR stunts and spectator sports. Tune in to learn more about the Crash at Crush.

 

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Apr 28, 2020
Miguel de Cervantes and the Case of the Fake Don Quixote
2151

Nowadays, "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha" has no shortage of accolades. You'll hear it called the first modern novel, one of the greatest works in the Spanish canon and so on -- and it's always been a blockbuster, even when the first part of the novel initially published back in 1605. The 1605 volume ends with a tease of a sequel, one that Cervantes would later publish in 1615. But there's a twist -- in 1614, someone else published a sequel of their own. Cervantes was livid, broke, and thirsting for revenge. Tune in to learn more.

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Apr 23, 2020
The CIA Paid War Spies with Stuff From the Sears Catalog
1684

When CIA agent Jon Wiant began growing a spy operation in Vietnam, he ran into a pickle: the locals he wanted to hire lived in rural areas along the boarder with Laos, and they existed primarily in a barter economy -- they wanted some sort of payment, but they didn't want currency. What's a spymaster to do? Listen in to learn how Jon Wiant used the famous Sears catalog to create a barter system of his own.

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Apr 21, 2020
The Bottle Jumping Hoax (And Riot)
1950

In 1749 London, a mob of people gathered outside The Theatre Royal -- the city was abuzz with excitement over a recent advertisement promising an amazing performance: a magician was planning to perform a number of extraordinary feats -- he would name strangers, play music on walking sticks and more. Most impressively, he would, through the use of magic, climb into a normal-sized wine bottle. One problem: This was the result of a secret, cynical bet. And when the magician didn't deliver (or even show up), a riot ensued.

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Apr 17, 2020
The Bizarrely Disturbing History of People Jumping Out of Cake
2718

It's an old trope, and a familiar one: Four and twenty blackbirds flying from a pie, a scantily-clad woman emerging from a giant cake. Nowadays it's often thought of as a trope in folklore -- but where did it come from? Join Ben, Noel and Casey as they explore the weird, ridiculous history of living things jumping from baked goods.

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Apr 15, 2020
HL Hunley: The Mysterious Demise of a Civil War Submarine, with Rachel Lance
2596

On the evening of February 17th, 1864, the HL Hunley became the first submarine in history to successfully sink an enemy ship. Immediately after this attack, the HL Hunley disappeared. More than a century passed. Join the gang with Rachel Lance, author of In The Waves, as they dive into the mystery of the Hunley.

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Apr 10, 2020
Dromomania: The Wanderlust Disease
2104

In the 1890s, France found itself in the groups of a bizarre, troubling epidemic -- scores of men were, apparently, wandering off in a trance-like state, only to come to their senses days or weeks later, sometimes miles from home, or even in a different country. Physicians called it dromomania, or 'pathological tourism.' But what was the root cause of this seemingly contagious disorder? Join the guys as they dive into the mystery of seemingly inescapable wanderlust.

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Apr 08, 2020
Key West, Florida Declared a One-Minute War on the United States
2726

It's true -- once upon a time the isolated town of Key West, Florida not only seceded from the Union, but declared war on the United States (for about sixty seconds). Tune in to learn more about the short-lived Conch Republic.

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Apr 03, 2020
That Time the US Literally Banned Sliced Bread
3073

You've probably heard the old saying "the best thing since sliced bread" -- and back in the day, people in the US were genuinely over the moon about presliced bread, thanks to the work of Otto Rohwedder and his automatic bread slicer. Yet during World War II, panic over the country's food supply led to a brief ban on presliced bread... and that's when things got ugly. Tune in to learn more.

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Apr 01, 2020
Two Green Children Mystified Woolpit, England
2840

Imagine you're working in a field in the tiny community of 12th-century Woolpit, England, and encounter two green-skinned children with no knowledge of your language, a strangely specific diet, and a mystifying origin story. What would you do? Join the guys as they explore the strange story of the mysterious 'Green Children' of Woolpit, England, separating fact from folklore in an attempt to discern the truth at the heart of the myth.

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Mar 27, 2020
Pepsi Briefly Became the Sixth Largest Navy in the World
3195

At multiple, pivotal moments in the Cold War, Pepsi and Coke waged Cola wars all their own. The guys team up for the first episode of Ridiculous History: Quarantine.

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Mar 25, 2020
The Ponzi Scheme with Chelsea Ursin
2976

Nowadays most people are familiar with the term 'Ponzi scheme' -- but where does it come from? How did the scheme work, and why is it called a Ponzi scheme today? Chelsea Ursin, Boston native and creator of Dear Young Rocker, joins the guys to explore the fascinating, ridiculous story behind the Ponzi scheme.

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Mar 20, 2020
The History of MREs with Jacqueline Raposo
3115

It's often said that an army marches on its stomach, and for thousands of years the world's militaries tried to feed their forces on the march (often with mixed success). Join the guys and Jacqueline Raposo, creator of Service: Veteran Stories of Hunger and War, as they explore the strange story of army food, from its ancient origins to the modern day.

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Mar 17, 2020
Donald Crowhurst Faked a Race Around the World
2115

Sailing around the world is a dangerous proposition, even in the modern day — now imagine doing it by yourself in the 1960s! That's what underdog Donald Crowhurst claimed to do... except he made the whole thing up.

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Mar 13, 2020
Calvin Coolidge Skipped Town and Went Fishing for Three Months (While He was President)
2187

Widely known as a taciturn man who liked public gatherings even less than he liked people, Calvin Coolidge was often ridiculed by the press -- reporters regularly followed his movements in hopes of gathering new, ridiculous anecdotes about him. So it's no surprise that about 30 reporters followed him when he headed off for a fishing-themed vacation in the Black Hills of South Dakota... but what happens when the President decides his three-week vacation will last for three months?

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Mar 11, 2020
The Presidential Dinner That Scandalized America
1864

Breaking bread with your fellow humans has long been acknowledged as fantastic, wholesome way to bond with people outside of social conventions, economic status and so on -- but when Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to dinner at the White House, people across the the United States lost their collective minds. The idea that the activist and the president would dine together drove racists mad, and some activists in Booker's community accused him of being a sell-out. Tune in to learn how two guys grabbing some nosh scandalized America at the time -- but eventually pushed the nation in a better direction.

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Mar 05, 2020
Was the Lone Ranger Inspired by a Black U.S. Marshall?
2493

Bass Reeves was a larger than life figure -- a man who escaped slavery, taught himself multiple Native American languages, and eventually became one of the most well-known deputy US Marshalls in the entirety of the United States. Join the guys as they explore the thrilling story of Bass Reeves -- along with the speculation that he may have been the real life inspiration for the Lone Ranger.

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Mar 04, 2020
Night Soil Men Were the Unsung Heroes of Urban Sanitation
2944

While city life has its charms, it's not without its problems -- and some of those problems are real stinkers. In the days before widespread sewage systems, urban centers across the world struggled to solve one filthy dilemma: what do you do with all the poop? Between all the waste matter from horses, livestock, or, of course, humans, many cities were in a crisis mode as streets, latrines and even docks became unusable. The solution? The unsung heroes of early city life known as the night soil men. Join Ben and his returning guest Jonathan Strickland as they explore the strange, oddly inspiring story of the night soil men (and invent the phrase 'poop heist').

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Feb 27, 2020
The Tiny Spanish Town That Went To War With France For 100 Years
2039

Located two hours' drive inland along a winding potholed road from Almeria on Spain's southeastern Mediterranean coast, the small town of Lijar, Spain is notoriously difficult to find. Yet the town's tiny population sought to make an international impact in 1883 when they officially declared war on France for offending the Spanish king (France either didn't notice or didn't care). Join Ben and his surprise guest as they explore the strange story of Lijar's century long, bloodless, ridiculous war with France.

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Feb 26, 2020
The Great Diamond Hoax - Part 2
1285

The California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s did more than just move hundreds of thousands of people across the continent -- it also convinced these people that they, too, could strike it rich. This optimism attracted con artists and scamsters like moths to the proverbial flame. Philip Arnold and John Slack were no different -- but when these two men started the diamond hoax, they had no idea just how far it would go. Tune in for part one of this special two-part episode.

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Feb 20, 2020
The Great Diamond Hoax - Part 1
2079

The California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s did more than just move hundreds of thousands of people across the continent -- it also convinced these people that they, too, could strike it rich. This optimism attracted con artists and scamsters like moths to the proverbial flame. Philip Arnold and John Slack were no different -- but when these two men started the diamond hoax, they had no idea just how far it would go. Tune in for part one of this special two-part episode.

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Feb 19, 2020
'Mad' Jack Churchill: The Bagpipe Playing Soldier Who Hunted Nazis with a Longbow - Part 2
2040

It sounds like something straight out of a Tarantino film -- a bloodthirsty, eccentric soldier welding a longbow and claymore against Nazis, then celebrating his exploits by wailing on some bagpipes. Oddly enough, this is a true story: John 'Mad Jack' Churchill was a real-life World War II soldier known for his love of anachronistic weapons and his near-suicidal attitude on the battlefield. Join the guys as they explore the strange story of Mad Jack in part two of this two-part episode.

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Feb 13, 2020
'Mad' Jack Churchill: The Bagpipe Playing Soldier Who Hunted Nazis with a Longbow - Part 1
1689

It sounds like something straight out of a Tarantino film -- a bloodthirsty, eccentric soldier welding a longbow and claymore against Nazis, then celebrating his exploits by wailing on some bagpipes. Oddly enough, this is a true story: John 'Mad Jack' Churchill was a real-life World War II soldier known for his love of anachronistic weapons and his near-suicidal attitude on the battlefield. Join the guys as they explore the strange story of Mad Jack in part one of this two-part episode.

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Feb 11, 2020
Erasto Mpemba: The High School Student Who Disproved Thermodynamics
2008

Let's say you put two containers of water in a freezer. Water in one container is at room temperature, while water in the other container is hot. Which one will freeze first? Many people would understandably assume the cooler water would be the first to freeze -- and that assumption, oddly, would prove to be incorrect. Join the guys as they delve into the story and struggle of young Erasto Mpemba, the student for whom the Mpemba effect is named, exploring his initial experiments all the way to the ongoing controversy over this strange phenomenon.

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Feb 06, 2020
The Straw Hat Riots of 1922
2410

The world of fashion has historically been a landmine of strange, seemingly arbitrary rules, from when to wear white around labor day to what constitutes appropriate dress for a given event. However, in the early 20th century, one particular rule about when to wear a straw or a felt hat came to a violent head in the United States, plunging the Big Apple into chaos. Join the guys as they explore the bizarre tale of the Straw Hat Riots of 1922.

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Feb 05, 2020
The Legend of Tarrare, the Insatiable Glutton Who Ate a Quarter of a Cow Daily
2493

What's the craziest thing you've ever eaten? Odds are you have nothing on the legendary Tarrare, the infamous Frenchman famous for eating everything from whole baskets of apples to rocks and — brace yourself — actual garbage. Join the guys as they dive into Tarrare's strange career, wondering how he was able to accomplish these dubious, troubling gastronomic feats.

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Jan 31, 2020
Why Genghis Khan's Great-Great Granddaughter Was Just as Badass
2134

Khutulun was the warrior daughter of Kaidu, and the great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan. While she was fearless in battle and an accomplished hand-to-hand fighter, tradition dictated that she be married off to cement political alliances. One problem: Khutulun didn't consider herself the marrying type. She agreed in principle to the marry someone, with one crucial caveat -- to win her hand in matrimony, her future husband would have to best her in the wrestling ring.

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Jan 29, 2020
That Time Ernest Hemingway's Younger Brother Started His Own Country
2788

Most people have heard of Ernest Hemingway, but what about his younger brother, Leicester? 16 years Ernest's junior, Leicester seemed set to live in his older brother's shadow -- until, that is, he came up with a plan to get in the headlines all on his own. Writing novels was all well and good, thought Leicester, but why don't I start my own country?

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Jan 24, 2020
The Ersatz Wild West Shootouts of Palisade, Nevada
2094

During the glory days of the railroad era, the public was gripped by mythic, larger-than-life tales of the Wild West -- people reveled in visions of train robberies, shootouts and attacks by vicious ne'er-do-wells. When one train conductor told a resident of Palisade, Nevada that his passengers were bummed to learn the real west wasn't all that wild, the members of the small town joined forces and began staging their own, entirely fake, train robberies and bandit attacks. What started as a prank became an institution, and over the next few years Palisade would become home to hundreds of theatrical train robberies.

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Jan 22, 2020
The Great Goldfish Gulping Craze That (For Some Reason) Swept America
2309

It's no secret that kids do all sorts of dumb things -- but have you ever swallowed a live goldfish? If so, you're not alone. In fact, it wasn't so long ago that hundreds of college students across the United States began gulping live goldfish by the dozens. Tune in to learn why.

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Jan 16, 2020
Pneumatic Tubes: The 'Futuristic' Transport System That's Over 150-Years-Old
2420

Did you ever use on of those neat little pneumatic tubes at the drive-through of your local bank? If so, you may be surprised to learn just how far the roots of this technology date back. Join the guys as they explore the bizarre evolution of pneumatic tubes, from transporting parcels to packages, cats and even, once upon a time, people.

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Jan 15, 2020
Violet Jessop, the Unsinkable Stewardess Who Survived Three Famous Shipwrecks
2094

Have you ever been on a cruise ship? Have your ship ever sank? This happened not once, not twice, but three times to cabin attendant Violet Jessop. Tune in to learn more about how the resourceful (and lucky) Ms. Jessop lived through three shipwrecks — including the sinking of the Titanic.

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Jan 09, 2020
Abandoned Ship: What Really Happened Aboard the "Mary Celeste"?
2482

Once upon a time the Mary Celeste was just a ship like any other, ferrying goods to and fro across the oceans -- at least, that is, until December 1872, when the Canadian brigantine Dei Gratia found the Mary Celeste adrift and abandoned. The ship showed no signs of a struggle. The cargo was intact. The lifeboat was missing, but the occupants of the Mary Celeste were never seen again. Learn how this story became one of the most enduring (and misunderstood) mysteries in maritime history.

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Jan 07, 2020
That Time America Fell In Love With Competitive Walking
2340

While people often call baseball the "national pastime" of the United States, there was once another contender for this crown -- the sport known as pedestrianism, or competitive walking. It was exactly what it sounds like -- groups of people walking, often in a circle, while spectators gambled on the results. And, for a time, this sport captured the entire nation's attention. Join the guys as they take a stroll (get it?) down the historic lane of one of the country's strangest sports. 

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Jan 02, 2020
The Weird Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols
2089

Christmas carols have a storied, strange history. Join the guys on the last day of 2019 as they crack open the eggnog and dive into the ridiculous histories of some of the season's most popular Christmas songs, from the story of 'Hopalong boots' to the weird tradition of wassailing.

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Dec 31, 2019
The Time Salvador Dali Partnered with Walt Disney - Part 2
1476

Salvador Dali and Walt Disney weren't just two of the greatest artistic innovators of their time — they were also close friends with a bromance for the ages. Learn more about Dali and Disney's friendship (and how they almost made one of the weirdest cartoons of all time) in part 2 of this 2-part episode.

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Dec 26, 2019
The Time Salvador Dali Partnered with Walt Disney - Part 1
1767

Salvador Dali and Walt Disney weren't just two of the greatest artistic innovators of their time — they were also close friends with a bromance for the ages. Learn more about Dali and Disney's friendship (and how they almost made one of the weirdest cartoons of all time) in part 1 of this 2-part episode.

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Dec 24, 2019
Colonel Blood and the Theft of the Crown Jewels
2826

The grifter, adventurer, thief and (probable) spy known as Thomas Blood spent much of his life as a widely-known rogue and all-around scoundrel -- but when and he his followers attempted to steal the Crown Jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671, he became a legend. Join the guys as they explore the strange story of this historical heist.

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Dec 19, 2019
The Starving Time: When Jamestown Colonists Turned Cannibal, Part 2
1308

While children are often taught a sanitized version of early American history, the reality of life in a European colony was brutal -- and, at times, fatal. During the winter of 1609 to 1610, the colonists of Jamestown struggled to survive siege, starvation and fractured leadership. As their stores of food ran low, the increasingly desperate colonists began to eat horses, pets, vermin, shoe leather and, eventually, one another. At least, that's the rumor. Join the guys as they separate the fact from fiction in the second part of this two-part episode.

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Dec 17, 2019
The Starving Time: When Jamestown Colonists Turned Cannibal, Part 1
1565

While children are often taught a sanitized version of early American history, the reality of life in a European colony was brutal -- and, at times, fatal. During the winter of 1609 to 1610, the colonists of Jamestown struggled to survive siege, starvation and fractured leadership. As their stores of food ran low, the increasingly desperate colonists began to eat horses, pets, vermin, shoe leather and, eventually, one another. At least, that's the rumor. Join the guys as they separate the fact from fiction in the first part of this two-part episode.

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Dec 12, 2019
The Strange Tradition that Forced Everyone in New York to Move House on the Same Day
2350

It's no secret that moving can be a hassle -- the packing, preparation, time and money spent relocating from one home to another can be a huge pain. Now imagine if everyone in your town had to move on the same day. For decades this was the case in New York City, where all residents (for some reason) had to move on May 1st. Join the guys as they delve into the strange tradition that forced every resident of New York City to move on the same chaotic day.

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Dec 10, 2019
French Waiters Once Had to Strike for Their Right to Wear Mustaches
2302

If you're going for controversial facial hair, there's not much that can top the hirsute hot take known as the mustache. While most people can generally do whatever they want with their facial today, this wasn't always the case. In fact, at the dawn of the 20th century, restaurant staff in France actually went on strike for their right to, among other things, rock a mustache.

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Dec 05, 2019
The Honey Trap: Sex in Espionage Throughout History
1782

Sure, love at first sight may be a real thing -- but, occasionally, there's an ulterior motive involved. Join the guys as they explore the bizarre practice known as the Honey Trap, and why spies throughout history have used this technique to extract secrets, kidnap and even assassinate targets.

Note: This episode contains mature content, and may not be suitable for all ages.

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Dec 03, 2019
The Weird, Weird History of Shipping: Part 2
1281

How far did the components of your phone travel to land in the palm of your hand? Nowadays, even the most mundane items can come from half a world away. This wasn't always the case -- join the guys as they explore the weird, weird world of shipping in this special two-part episode.

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Nov 28, 2019
The Weird, Weird History of Shipping: Part 1
1851

How far did the components of your phone travel to land in the palm of your hand? Nowadays, even the most mundane items can come from half a world away. This wasn't always the case -- join the guys as they explore the weird, weird world of shipping in this special two-part episode.

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Nov 26, 2019
Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Who Called Out the Hypocrisy of Slavery, Part 2
1989

As Benjamin Lay continued his one-man protest against the hypocrisy of slavery in the Quaker community, he inspired some folks and frustrated others (primarily the elders of his community) with his increasingly over-the-top tactics. After being kicked out of one community after another, he eventually became a hermit of sorts -- though, even then, his story wasn't done.

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Nov 21, 2019
Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Who Called Out the Hypocrisy of Slavery, Part 1
1938

Nowadays, people often look back on U.S. Quakers as staunch abolitionists, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, when the Quakers first arrived on the continent they, like many other colonists, owned slaves. It was up to Benjamin Lay to bravely call out their hypocrisy, pointing to the discrepancy between their religious views and their earthly practices.

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Nov 19, 2019
How Bertha Heyman Conned Her Way Into Show Business
2559

Bertha Heyman was a notorious con artist with a robust rap sheet and a penchant for bilking well-to-do, otherwise shrewd men. Listen in to learn how Bertha's life of crime led her, oddly enough, into showbiz.

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Nov 14, 2019
That Time Germany Got Obsessed With Polar Bear Photos
2577

When French photo collector Jean-Marie Donat stumbled upon his first vintage picture of a German dressed as a polar bear, he initially thought it was just an odd historical anomaly -- at least, that is, until he found a second one. And then a third. And on, and on. Eventually Donat realized he'd stumbled across a bizarre photo trend: For decades Germany was obsessed photographs of people dressed as polar bears. So how did this trend get started, and why did it disappear? Listen in to learn more.

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Nov 12, 2019
Rose Mackenberg: Houdini's Ghostbuster
2383

While the papers of the time relegated Rose Mackenberg to a sidekick role as the "girl detective" working with famed skeptic and escape artist Harry Houdini, this spiritualist-turned-spook-spy spent decades busting con artists purporting to be mediums. And, after Houdini's death in 1926, Rose Mackenberg continued her mission, exposing fraudulent ghost racketeers -- a genuine, real-life ghostbuster.

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Nov 07, 2019
Science and Spiritualism: Why were ghost stories so popular in the 1800s?
2580

Nowadays western historians tend to regard the scientific progress of the 19th century as a linear, indelible line from one breakthrough to the next. Yet these astonishing innovations in science occurred in step with a resurrection of paranormal belief. Why were ghost stories so prolific in this age?

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Nov 05, 2019
John of Bohemia, the Blind King Who Charged Into Battle
1869

We recount the epic tale of John of Bohemia, a 14th-century king who charged into the Battle of Crécy at age 50 - despite having been blind for the past ten years.

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Nov 01, 2019
Kakigōri: The Story of Japan's Famous Shaved Ice
1872

While this Japanese delicacy isn't the world's only icy dessert, it's certainly one of the most unique -- that iconic, delicate texture sets it apart. Kakigōri tastes like a treat fit for aristocrats and royalty, and that's no surprise: Back in the 11th century, that's exactly what Kakigōri was.

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Oct 30, 2019
John Edmonstone: The Man Who Trained Darwin
1942

Born into slavery in the 1700s, John Edmonstone gained his freedom in 1817 and moved to Edinburgh, where he stuffed birds for the Natural Museum and taught taxidermy to a young Charles Darwin. Tune in to learn more about the life and times of the man who not only taught Charles Darwin, but inspired him to explore the planet and, eventually, produce groundbreaking science that would forever change the way we think of the natural world.

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Oct 25, 2019
The Death of Luxury Air Travel
2486

Flying in an airplane is an enormous privilege, but nowadays it's often seen as an inconvenience more than anything else -- the crowding, the lines, the security check and so on can certainly take the magic out of a journey. Yet this wasn't always the case -- in decades past, air travel was the last word in mobile luxury. So what changed? Tune in to learn more.

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Oct 22, 2019
The Bizarre Capitulation of Stettin
1387

When French General Antoine Lasalle first arrived at the Prussian-held city of Stettin in 1806, his odds of successfully capturing the community seemed laughably low -- Prussian Lieutenant General Friedrich Romberg had over 5,000 heavily-armed troops at his command, while Lasalle had less than 800 French soldiers. So how exactly did Lasalle convinced Romberg to not only surrender, but also cede his troops, arms and the fortress of Stettin overnight?

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Oct 17, 2019
John Wilkes Booth's Brother Saved Abraham Lincoln's Son
1625

Sometime in 1864 or 1865, Robert Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln, had a close call with death in a subway station when he was saved at the last minute by an honest-to-God celebrity -- Edwin Booth, one of the most famous actors of the day. Neither man knew their fates would intersect in a much more tragic fashion shortly thereafter, when Edwin's brother, actor John Wilkes Booth, would assassinate Robert's father Abraham.

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Oct 16, 2019