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Ridiculous History

503 EpisodesProduced by iHeartPodcastsWebsite

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.

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Ridiculous History: Trailer

October 18th, 2017

1:10

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 …

Ridiculous History: Episode Zero

October 20th, 2017

9:23

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 …

Why do British lawyers wear wigs?

October 24th, 2017

29:47

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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The Wild Hippos of Pablo Escobar

October 24th, 2017

30:00

When notorious drug kingpin Pable Escobar died, he left behind a legacy of brutal crime, opulent living and, oddly enough, four hippos. Fast forward …

Wharram Percy Versus The Undead

October 31st, 2017

27:00

Humanity has always had a fascination with -- and fear of -- the dead. And when the small medieval village of Wharram Percy felt they might become victims of the undead, they took drastic, grisly action, committing an …

Butter: Protestantism's Secret Ingredient?

November 2nd, 2017

34:00

The Protestant Reformation remains one of the most significant cultural events in the Western world. Martin Luther's 95 Theses addressed numerous …

How White America Tried to Destroy Chinese Restaurants

November 7th, 2017

34:11

Today Chinese restaurants serve some of the most popular cuisine in the United States, with more than 41,000 restaurants scattered around the …

Who solves murders in Antarctica?

November 9th, 2017

26:02

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 …

X-Rays, Songs and Soviets: The Stilyagi Story

November 14th, 2017

30:20

Caught between the conflicting ideologies of the Cold War, Soviet teens were banned from collecting Western music -- smuggled records could be both …

Did a real-life rainmaker almost drown San Diego?

November 16th, 2017

27:20

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: …

Does the US Confederacy still exist in Americana, Brazil?

November 21st, 2017

32:13

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 …

When (and why) did the US start calling its citizens consumers?

November 23rd, 2017

39:17

Today, the terms "citizen" and "consumer" are often used interchangeably by authors, journalists and politicians. To some experts, this shift has …

Nazis, Churchill and Chocolate

November 28th, 2017

26:22

When Lord Victor Rothschild first heard the news, he was incredulous -- surely Nazi Germany wasn't seriously planning to assassinate Winston …

When People Thought They Were Made of Glass

November 30th, 2017

26:51

In 1422, King Charles VI died after ruling France for more than 40 years. He was also remembered as Charles the Mad, in part because he was convinced …

When Scientists Hid Under Beds To Spy On Kids

December 5th, 2017

35:53

Let's say you're a scientist -- how far would you go to carry out a study? Back in the 1930s, two intrepid researchers went into full spy mode, …

Conquest via Bird Poop: One Island at a Time

December 7th, 2017

30:40

If you land on a deserted island, you might be tempted to search for the basic stuff first -- food, water, shelter, and so on -- but don't forget to keep an eye out for guano! Why, you ask? Well, due to a relatively …

What's the deal with smashing cake at weddings?

December 12th, 2017

27:24

Weddings are an ancient tradition, and over the millenia the various rituals associated with (theoretically) life-long partnership have evolved and …

Baguettes and Vacation: France versus Bakers

December 14th, 2017

24:09

You've probably heard that France takes its bread seriously -- but did you know France had specific laws governing the lives of bakers? For centuries …

When the Puritans Canceled Christmas

December 19th, 2017

27:09

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 …

The Strange History of Antarctic Fruitcake

December 21st, 2017

27:18

Nowadays fruitcake is considered a stereotypical, often comical holiday punchline, but even in the modern day people across the planet can agree on …

Ben Franklin Tried To Reinvent the Alphabet

December 26th, 2017

28:11

For such a popular, well-known language, English is full of strange, seemingly arbitrary rules. Most people just accept these various …

Waging War With Hallucinogenic Honey

December 28th, 2017

22:38

Honey is popular around the world, and for good reason. This addictively sweet substance is a common ingredient in hundreds of recipes, and people …

The Atomic Whoops: When the US Air Force Bombed South Carolina

January 2nd, 2018

29:36

During the height of the Cold War, both the US and the USSR constantly ran drills in anticipation of a possible nuclear conflict. While the Gregg …

Presidents Love Their Ridiculous Pets

January 4th, 2018

31:32

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 …

Digging Up James K Polk (For the Third Time)

January 9th, 2018

33:09

The average American may not hear much about James K Polk in school today, but during his time in office the 11th U.S. President was responsible for …

Why does the Guinness Beer Company Track World Records?

January 11th, 2018

29:04

Odds are you've heard about the Guinness Book of World Records, the famous, often inaccurate compilation of various impressive, important, and …

When did ALL-CAPS type become YELLING?

January 16th, 2018

34:32

You've seen them before, whether in a forwarded spam email, a strangely passionate Facebook post or a weirdly emphatic comment on your favorite website: THE DREADED ALL-CAPS TYPER. But where does this practice come …

Roald Dahl: Children's Author and Secret Agent

January 18th, 2018

36:43

Today author Roald Dahl is best-known for his prolific writing career -- but, as it turns out, he lived an entirely different life before he ever put …

London Made a Train for the Dead

January 23rd, 2018

31:13

When London was in the grips of a cholera epidemic, the already-overfilled cemetaries couldn't handle the extra bodies. So when there's literally no …

The Weird World of Meat Jell-O (Gelatin Origin Story)

January 25th, 2018

35:08

Today Jell-O and other gelatin foodstuffs are generally relegated to world of desserts, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, gelatin took a long, strange path from ancient history to modern-day grocery shelves -- …

The Rotten, Sausagey Secret Origin of Botox

January 30th, 2018

30:00

Today botox is one of the world's most well-known wrinkle treatments, as well as a go-to joke in the realm of pop culture. But where did this …

Vitamin Donuts Were A Real Thing

February 1st, 2018

29:26

Donuts: they're sweet, delectable and dangerous. Nowadays they're best known as a sugary snack or a nice accompaniment to a cup of coffee, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, for a few years manufacturers tried to …

How A Grudge Match Launched the Ford GT40

February 6th, 2018

45:48

Today the Ford GT40 is one of the world's most iconic vehicles -- but this award winning automotive beast is, it turns out, the result of a serious …

The Wild West Was Actually Pretty Chill

February 8th, 2018

31:49

If you're like most people, the phrase ''Wild West'' conjures images of brutal gunfights in dusty, tumbleweed-ridden streets, visions of criminals slinking into the shadows of dimly-lit saloons and the vast stretch of …

When People Waged War Over Eggs

February 13th, 2018

37:54

How much would you pay for an egg? Would you kill for one? Join the guys as they explore the strange story of the Gold Rush, the Common Murre and …

The Strange Story of Canadian Margarine Bootleggers

February 15th, 2018

39:01

Today, most grocery stores carry a variety of margarine and butter brands -- but this wasn't always the case. In fact, both Canada and the United States once had bizarre laws banning the production or importation of …

How Farmers Built A Barbed Wire Phone Network

February 21st, 2018

31:44

Nowadays smartphones are an ubiquitous part of many civilizations, but not so long ago telephones of any sort were a rare commodity -- and the infrastructure was enormously expensive. When telephones hit the mass …

What was the 'Great Stink' of London?

February 22nd, 2018

38:35

Every city has its drawbacks -- parking, for example, or crime, or the price of a decent pizza slice -- but in the 1800s London faced a particularly …

How MLK influenced Star Trek

February 27th, 2018

29:29

Star Trek is one of the world's most well-known sci-fi franchises, spanning decades in film, TV, books, games and more. While it's had its fair share of lighthearted moments (hello, Tribbles!), its vision of a more …

Step Aside, James Bond: The Strange Stories of Espionage Animals

March 1st, 2018

53:09

It's no secret that espionage and spycraft are common tools in the murky realm of geopolitics -- but not every spy is some sort of James Bond type …

The Rise of Harvey Wiley's Poison Squad

March 6th, 2018

33:19

Nowadays U.S. grocery shoppers can be reasonably certain that the foods they purchase are safe (if not healthy). But this wasn't always the case. In fact, if it wasn't for one extremely driven, imperfect man on a …

When Ancient India Beat Machiavelli to the Punch

March 8th, 2018

27:54

Commonly regarded as one of humanity's premiere works on the art of pursuing and securing power, Niccolò Machiavelli's book ''The Prince'' has become …

The Killer Marketing Campaign Behind Guy Fawkes

March 13th, 2018

44:24

Nowadays people across the planet are familiar with the story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. People even celebrate the anniversary of the event, often interpreting it as a protest against overarching government …

Arsenic: The Assassin's Dream Weapon

March 15th, 2018

36:59

For centuries people from all walks of life sought to eliminate friends, strangers and enemies using the devious, subtle poison known as arsenic. Arsenic poisoning became such a well-known method of murder that people …

When Germany Sacrificed Sausage For War

March 20th, 2018

26:28

World War I was a devastating catastrophe, the likes of which the world had never before encountered. The chaos swept across Europe, and whether on the battlefield or at home no one was left untouched. Yet the war had …

Lyndon Johnson Chatted on the Phone More than a Teenager

March 22nd, 2018

26:26

The 36th President of the United States is often recalled as a complex, flawed individual responsible for profoundly important legislation. However, he was also a notorious telephone fanatic, installing loads of phones …

What was the West Point Eggnog Riot?

March 27th, 2018

41:53

Today the United States Military Academy at West Point is known as one the country's top-notch training institutions, but back in 1826 it was home to a night of pure egg-nog-fueled pandemonium. Join Ben and Noel as they …

Weird People Who Built Weird Things

March 29th, 2018

34:39

Simeon Ellerton spent years building a house out of stones he found and carried home, one by one. Rejected by his one true love, Edward Leeskalnin spent decades erecting a bizarre monument for her, built of giant coral …

Yes, Those Are Corpses in the Diorama

April 3rd, 2018

37:03

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is one of the most storied institutions of its kind in the United States, and it's chockful of priceless …

That Time the US Built a Flying Aircraft Carrier

April 5th, 2018

31:20

Nowadays airships are seen as historical relics or novelties meant to fly overhead during sports games. However, not so long ago, the US military thought airships might be the future of warfare. Today the guys delve …

Japan, Baseball and the Curse of the Colonel

April 10th, 2018

35:40

First things first: You may think Kentucky Fried Chicken is popular in the States, but we've got nothing on Japan. Join the guys as they delve into a …

The Poetic Justice of Death by Molten Gold

April 12th, 2018

31:11

It's a grisly death familiar to many fans of fiction and fantasy -- a hapless, greedy villain meets their end by having molten metal, often lead or …

That Time We Erased a (HUGE) Waterfall

April 17th, 2018

27:03

It's often been said that "the art of losing isn't hard to master", and humanity overall seems to have a knack for losing everything from car keys to entire civilizations. Join Ben and Noel as they travel (vicariously) …

3 Times Society Refused to Accept New Books on Science

April 19th, 2018

49:49

Progress versus preservation: It's one of the eternal dilemmas found throughout every instance of human civilization. Should we embrace disruptive …

Did Richard Nixon Unwittingly Smuggle Drugs for Louis Armstrong?

April 24th, 2018

36:28

It's become one of the strangest anecdotes in modern American history -- numerous sources will swear to you that, in a last-minute panic before reaching customs, legendary musician Louis Armstrong had Richard Nixon's …

How James Bond Created a Mexican Dia de los Muertos Tradition

April 26th, 2018

25:40

The Day of the Dead is a longstanding traditional celebration in Mexico, and currently hundreds of thousands of people associate it with a gigantic parade -- you know, like the one they saw in the James Bond film …

What's the deal with two-dollar bills?

May 1st, 2018

56:26

Despite being pretty rare in comparison to other denominations, the U.S. two-dollar bill is one of the most storied notes in American folklore. So …

Are all US Presidents actually related?

May 3rd, 2018

30:52

In 2012 a student in Salinas, California, startled genealogists when she claimed that all Presidents save one were actually related. Could it be …

The Capture of Guam Was Bloodless and Quick, All Due to a Misunderstanding

May 8th, 2018

38:13

Located about 1500 miles to the east of the Phillipines in Micronesia, Guam is a small US territory with a tiny population, beautiful beaches and an …

Vermont Was an Independent Republic

May 10th, 2018

43:20

Today Vermont is known for its progressive politics, beautiful forestry, Bernie Sanders and Ben and Jerry's. It's not a state you'll hear much about …

Ancient Mayan Ritual Alcohol Enemas

May 15th, 2018

48:16

Like many ancient cultures, the civilizations of Mesoamerica had a vast and rich history of unique cultural practices, spiritual beliefs and …

California Was Named for a Fictional Island Ruled by a Black Amazon Queen

May 17th, 2018

31:12

California was admitted to the United States as the 31st state in 1850, but it acquired its unique name much, much earlier. Join Ben and Noel as they trace the strange story behind California's name, from the fiction …

Napoleon Bonaparte Was Attacked by Bunnies -- And Lost

May 22nd, 2018

35:36

Born in Corsica, Napoleon Bonaparte rose from obscurity during the French Revolution, crowning himself Emperor of France in 1804. This brilliant, …

That Time Chewbacca Needed Bodyguards

May 24th, 2018

40:09

Inarguably the most well-known Wookie in the Star Wars universe, Chewbacca also bears a strong resemblance to another popular creature in American …

How Santa Anna Lost His Leg Twice, and Held a Funeral for It

May 29th, 2018

41:31

Often called "The Napoleon of the West", mainly by himself, Santa Anna was a legendary, larger-than-life politician, general and exile. While …

The Story of Max, South Africa's Famous, Crime-fighting Gorilla

May 31st, 2018

48:58

When confronted with a home invasion, Max the gorilla brought international fame to the Johannesburg Zoo and briefly became the city's most famous crime fighter. He received numerous endorsements, and a statue was …

Maryland’s State Song was a Diss Track

June 5th, 2018

38:21

On the first listen, Maryland's old state song sounds pretty innocuous. There's the usual lauding of the state, a refrain based on "O Tannenbaum" and …

Dock Ellis and the Legend of the LSD No-hitter

June 7th, 2018

36:10

Almost 48 years ago, Pirates pitcher and notorious party animal Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter while under the influence of LSD. How did this man accomplish one of the rarest feats in baseball history while, by his own …

The Presidential Reason Fido Became the Default Name for a Generic Dog

June 12th, 2018

37:56

If you're like most English speakers, the first thing you think of when you hear the name "Fido" is, of course, a dog. But why? Join Ben and Noel as …

The Earliest Recorded Mooning Killed Thousands

June 14th, 2018

35:28

You've heard of mooning -- the practice of bearing one's butt as an insult -- but where did it come from? Join Ben and Noel as they dive into the …

Why don't Americans use bidets?

June 19th, 2018

29:55

Whether you're royalty or a roaming vagrant, a President or a pauper, one thing's for sure: At some point, you'll have to use the restroom. While …

Kidnapping, Binge Drinking and Costumes: Voter Fraud in the 1800s

June 21st, 2018

32:33

Allegations of U.S. voter fraud have made the rounds in recent years -- but, once upon a time, these were much more than allegations. Join the guys as they explore the massive voting fraud operations that riddled U.S. …

The Time a Soviet Premier Was Banned From Disneyland

June 26th, 2018

42:47

At the height of the Cold War a series of debates in a model kitchen in Moscow (true story!) led Nikita Khrushchev to visit the US on a whirlwind …

The FBI's Quest to Understand 'Louie, Louie'

June 28th, 2018

46:02

The Kingsmen's cover of "Louie, Louie" is one of the world's most famously unintelligible songs -- and this haunted the FBI. In this episode, Ben and …

Weird Wars Fought For Dumb Reasons

July 3rd, 2018

44:04

What do a camel, a bucket and an ear all have in common? Each was, at some point, responsible for starting a war. Join Ben and Noel as they dive into true stories of weird wars fought over cartoonishly dumb things.

Enough About Us: What About You?

July 5th, 2018

36:23

When we're talking about Ridiculous History, one thing's for sure: The story doesn't stop when the podcast ends. You've probably heard Ben and Noel …

Philadelphia's Transylvanian Doomsday Cult: The Cave of Kelpius

July 10th, 2018

44:47

There's a nifty bit of hidden history tucked away in Philadelphia's Wissahickon Valley Park -- a cave that, legend has it, was home to a doomsday …

The United States That Never Were

July 12th, 2018

43:47

Nowadays the number of U.S. states seems set in stone -- since 1959 the country has been comprised of fifty states, with one star for each on the flag. Yet in the not-so-distant past the concept of statehood was both …

Why British Soccer Players Saluted the Nazis

July 17th, 2018

39:16

As global tensions grew to a breaking point in the lead-up to World War II, European nations used every available avenue to pursue their geopolitical …

When Heineken Made Bottles That Could Be Used as Bricks

July 19th, 2018

31:43

Heineken is one of the world's most well-known, popular beers, and people across the planet can instantly recognize the iconic green bottle and red …

The 1904 Summer Olympic Games in St. Louis Hosted a Racist 'Special Olympics'

July 24th, 2018

32:31

A few years after Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the ancient sporting event known as the Olympics, he brought the games to the U.S. for the first time. The 1904 Summer Olympics were held in St. Louis, Missouri, …

Why did people hate the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge?

July 26th, 2018

30:27

Nowadays most people are fans of national parks, but this wasn't always the case. Join the guys as they delve into the strange 'birds vs. babies' conflict over Lake Malheur.

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Oregon Was a White Supremacist Paradise

July 31st, 2018

41:38

Today Portland, Oregon is often portrayed as a left-leaning haven for hipsters across the country, but the original Oregon was a vastly different …

The Korean Soldier Who Fought for 3 Armies During WWII

August 2nd, 2018

22:54

Born in what is now North Korea, Yang Kyoungjong didn't set out to become a soldier -- but fate had other plans. Join the guys as they trace one …

The WWII Naval Battle Won Using Potatoes

August 7th, 2018

31:50

The U.S.S. O'Bannon was a Fletcher-class navy destroyer with an impressive array of weaponry and a solid track record in conflicts in WWII. However, …

Kansas Imprisoned Women For Having STDs

August 9th, 2018

30:09

At the close of World War I, American soldiers returned home from abroad with scars, wounds, stories and, in some cases, infectious diseases of which …

Fanny and Stella: The Cross-Dressing Scandal of Victorian England

August 14th, 2018

34:23

In April of 1870, a shocking court case captivated Victorian England: Fanny and Stella, also known as Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton, were …

Adidas Versus Puma: A Tale of Two Brothers

August 16th, 2018

41:34

Today Adidas and Puma are two of the industry's most well-known tennis shoe makers, and people around the world prize the footwear for its unique design and reliable craftsmanship. Yet there's a strange, bitter origin …

Project A119: The Cold War Plan to Nuke the Moon!

August 21st, 2018

26:47

It sounds like something straight out of your favorite sketch comedy show -- what if a crack team of scientists joined forces with the world's most …

Angry Feds and Deadly Booze: The Story of the Chemists' War

August 23rd, 2018

28:36

From 1920 to 1933, the U.S. government attempted to ban (recreational) alcohol throughout the nation. In a stunning -- we're being sarcastic here -- …

Gregor MacGregor Invented a Country and Convinced People to Invest in It

August 28th, 2018

55:07

When His Serene Highness Gregor the First, Sovereign Prince of the State of Poyais and its Dependencies, and Cacique of the Poyer nation visited London, he made a huge impression. Hundreds of people jumped at the chance …

Roland the Farter and the Weird World of Professional Flatulence

August 30th, 2018

33:34

Regardless of what polite societies often want us to believe, everyone farts. And we fart often! And, believe it or not, a few rare individuals have …

The Cock Lane Ghost: Haunting, Hoax, Hysteria… or Hilarious?

September 5th, 2018

38:48

In 1762, crowds from across London gathered in hopes of seeing something the papers called "The Cock Lane Ghost". This alleged spirit was known to communicate in knocks and scratches, reacting to yes or no questions …

The Man Who Assassinated Abe Lincoln's Assassin

September 6th, 2018

33:23

On April 14th, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in Ford's theatre, escaping shortly thereafter and going on the run. …

War and Candy: The Infamous Tootsie Roll Air Drop

September 11th, 2018

30:19

During the battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, the First Marine Division seemed doomed. Surrounded, outnumbered, outgunned and running dangerously low on ammunition, the Marines called for an airdrop …

Lawsonomy: How the Father of the Modern Airline Started His Own Religion

September 13th, 2018

49:48

When middling baseball player Alfred Lawson first learned of the Wright Brothers, he experienced a revelation that would guide the greater part of …

William Walker: Filibuster and (Fantastically Bad) President

September 18th, 2018

40:53

The adventurer and filibuster William Walker was, in his heyday, lauded as an American hero for his repeated failed invasions of areas of Mexico and Nicaragua. But what led this man on a fanatical mission to invade …

Who are the Hartlepudlian Monkey Hangers?

September 20th, 2018

31:06

Years ago, if you wanted to start a fight in Hartlepool in north eastern England, all you'd have to do is start calling people 'monkey hangers'. But …

A Dead Pope Goes To Court

September 25th, 2018

25:06

The Catholic Church is no stranger to scandal and controversy, but in January of 897 the institution was home to a new and unique scandal that put …

Attack of the Aswang: How the CIA Used Vampires as Weapons of War

September 27th, 2018

29:49

Horror fans can tell you there's more than one type of vampire -- in fact, there are hundreds of vampire-like fiends in cultures around the world. In …

History's Coolest (Non-Human) Political Candidates, Part I

October 2nd, 2018

53:51

It's no secret that politics can be a minefield of quirky events, and strange things happen in the lead up to elections. But just how strange can it …

The Smooth-talking Takeover of Tabor Bridge

October 4th, 2018

29:49

In 1805, two French Marshals found themselves in quite a pickle -- Jean Lannes and Joachim Murat needed to cross the Danube at the Tabor bridge (a series of three bridges, actually) to reach Vienna. However, Austrian …

The Curious Rise of SPAM

October 9th, 2018

45:38

Nowadays the iconic 'SPAM' logo is recognized around the world -- whether you're traveling in the US state of Minnesota or Busan, Korea, you'll more often than not run into a couple of Spam cans in the local grocery …

The Mummies of Guanajuato

October 11th, 2018

28:34

When the city of Guanajuato instituted a grave tax, they included some harsh penalties for those who couldn't pay -- if you went more than three …

Back When the Rich Ate Corpses

October 16th, 2018

34:24

Nowadays it's safe to say that cannibalism isn't a widely-accepted practice, but not so long ago it was considered the bleeding edge (get it?) in medicine throughout Western Europe. Join Ben and Noel as they explore the …

The Ridiculous Story of the World’s First (Documented) Serial Killer

October 18th, 2018

34:36

Locusta of Gaul, also known as Lucusta The Poisoner, was one of the most infamous criminals of ancient times. Alternately sponsored and betrayed by …

The Life and Times of Ol' Knife Hand

October 23rd, 2018

27:09

A necropolis in what is now Northern Italy holds a strange and, at first glance, terrifying corpse. A Lombard man, aged somewhere between 40 and 50 …

The People vs. Lenny Bruce: Ridiculous Stand-up Stories with Wayne Federman

October 31st, 2018

31:20

Lenny Bruce is a legend in the history of stand-up comedy, and while his use of explicit language thrilled audience members, it didn't win him any …

George Carlin Gets Quoted in the Supreme Court: Ridiculous Stand-up Stories with Wayne Federman

November 2nd, 2018

24:12

In the second part of this two-part series, special guest Wayne Federman explores the strange, curse-word-riddled stand-up bit that resulted in …

How Conman Victor Lustig Sold The Eiffel Tower (Twice)

November 6th, 2018

1:00:23

Born Robert Miller, the man who would later become known as Count Victor Lustig traveled across Europe and the US bilking hundreds of people out of …

The Bizarre Origin of the Oxford English Dictionary

November 8th, 2018

43:20

With 600,000 words and 3 million quotations, the Oxford English Dictionary is a massive tome. Work began on the dictionary in 1857, but the first edition wasn't published until 1884. Compiling the dictionary was a …

The Strange and Spectacularly Disgusting Story of the Great Kentucky Meat Shower

November 13th, 2018

34:44

On March 3rd, 1876, residents of Bath County, Kentucky were startled to see what appeared to be chunks and flakes of meat falling from the clear, cloudless sky. The rain, which only lasted a few minutes, captured …

The Laxative-laden Journey of Lewis and Clark

November 15th, 2018

29:00

Before Lewis and Clark set out to explore the western side of the continent, they tried to prepare for every possible contingency — including medical conditions like constipation. Join the guys as they explore how a …

When Dentist Sold Dentures Made with Corpse Teeth

November 21st, 2018

31:04

Here in the modern day, most people don’t love going to the dentist — but we still have it much better than the dental patients of yesteryear! Join the guys as they dive into a strange, grisly story from the early days …

Feral Children and the True Story Behind The Jungle Book

November 22nd, 2018

28:24

What inspired Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book? Join the guys as they explore the real-life, tragic stories of feral children abandoned by their human parents, adopted by animals and raised in the wild.

Learn …

Dr. Seuss Wrote His Most Famous Book On A Bet

November 27th, 2018

34:00

Nowadays, world-famous children's author Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known writers on the planet. "Green Eggs and Ham", one of his most …

The Great London Beer Flood of 1814

November 29th, 2018

25:06

In 1814, a poor neighborhood in London fell victim to a strange, tragic and boozy disaster -- this calamity would eventually leave eight people dead. …

The Malleus Maleficarum: A Real-life Witch Hunter's Bible

December 4th, 2018

32:50

During Europe's period of witchcraft hysteria, one enterprising (and failed) witch hunter sought to bolster his reputation by creating an …

The Forty Elephants: London’s All-Female Jewel Thieves

December 6th, 2018

41:09

For at least 200 years, part of London’s criminal underground was ruled by a gang of brilliant, all-female jewel thieves. Join the guys as they …

(Some of) History's Dumbest Military Prototypes

December 11th, 2018

54:00

It's true that the world's militaries often pioneer technological innovation -- but don't let all those great successes fool you! The world's …

Were Tulips Really The Bitcoin of the 1600s?

December 13th, 2018

29:12

In the 1600s, residents of the Dutch Republic were -- according to the story -- absolutely bonkers for tulips. A market sprang up around the tulip …

When Vikings Loot The Wrong Town

December 18th, 2018

37:57

Like many Viking leaders, Halfdan and Bjorn wanted to be known for their fearlessness in battle and their ability to locate the finest spoils -- they wanted the community to tell stories of their valor for generations …

The Weird, Surprisingly Recent Origin of the Tooth Fairy

December 20th, 2018

26:34

For millions of kids in the West, the story is as mysterious as it is profitable: Once your baby teeth begin falling out, hide them beneath your pillow. Sometime in the night, the Tooth Fairy will retrieve the tooth, …

Gustaf Broman Tried to Cross the Atlantic in a Canoe . . . Or Did He?

December 25th, 2018

37:58

In 1895, Gustaf Broman announced he would sail across the Atlantic in a 13-foot-long sailboat crafted from a cedar log. His route had an odd …

Creature Feature: The Dark Tetrad

December 27th, 2018

1:02:42

Join the guys as they make an appearance on Creature Feature, the podcast that takes a critter’s eye view to explore how animal behavior parallels …

How a Broken Toilet Foiled a German Sub

January 1st, 2019

23:22

Toward the end of World War II, the German Type VIIC submarine was acknowledged to be one of the most advanced -- and deadliest -- predators on the …

The American Soldiers Who Defected to North Korea and Became Movie Stars

January 4th, 2019

33:12

Often described as one of the most isolated countries in the world, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has been ruled by the Kim dynasty since …

Uncle Sam Tried to End World War II With Bat Bombs

January 8th, 2019

34:48

It sounds like something straight out of the cave beneath Bruce Wayne's Manor, but thanks to the passion of a part-time inventor named Lytle Adams, the United States military really did spend millions attempting to arm …

What does 'Idaho' actually mean?

January 10th, 2019

22:56

Idaho was the 43rd state admitted to the Union, and today it's well-known for potatoes, mining, and stunning forests -- but, even in the modern day, Idaho is home to a surprising mystery: What does its name actually …

Benjamin Franklin's Advice on 'Finding a Mistress'

January 15th, 2019

29:03

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a man of many interests, but his endeavors were by no means limited to technical innovation, philosophy and …

Was there a real-life Rapunzel?

January 17th, 2019

27:30

Most people in the West are familiar with the old Rapunzel fairy tale -- a beautiful princess is confined to a tower until a prince, captivated by …

Idiomatic For The People, Part 1

January 23rd, 2019

1:02:07

Language is beautiful and, in many cases, continually evolving. As a result, we end up with hundreds of strange idioms and figures of speech that we …

How the Monopoly Board Game Became a World War II Escape Kit

January 24th, 2019

28:52

Monopoly is a pretty divisive game, and people tend to either love it or hate it. However, for hundreds of Allied POWs captured during World War II, …

Clara, The World's Most Famous Rhinoceros

January 30th, 2019

44:09

For centuries most people in Europe thought of rhinos as another form of mythical creature, like unicorns or griffins. However, this all changed when an enterprising sea captain brought a young, orphaned rhino named …

Who was the highest paid athlete in history?

January 31st, 2019

28:09

Today, most people probably don't remember the career of once-famous charioteer Gaius Appuleius Diocles -- however, in his day we was a cultural …

The Weird Life of George Washington, Part 1

February 5th, 2019

42:30

Returning special guest Christopher Hassiotis joins the guys today for a round-robin discussion of the very weird life of George Washington, first President of the United States. (As you may have guessed from the title, …

The Weird Life of George Washington, Part 2

February 8th, 2019

31:43

Join Ben, Noel, Casey and returning guest Christopher Hassiotis as they continue exploring the strange life and times of George Washington in the second part of this two-part series. Listen in to learn more about …

How Louisiana Almost Became a Hippo Ranching Hub

February 12th, 2019

40:48

Nowadays beef, chicken and pork are the most common meats in the US -- but, not so long ago, that could have all changed. Join the guys as they …

English Men Used to Sell Their Wives

February 14th, 2019

22:23

In late 17th-century England, it was almost impossible for anyone outside of the upper class to successfully get a divorce -- the process was …

How Admiral Horatio Nelson Ended Up Dead in a Barrel of Brandy

February 19th, 2019

33:24

Naval legend Admiral Nelson died on October 21st, 1805 shortly after being shot by a French sniper while standing on the deck his ship, Victory. …

How far did Isaac Newton go to hunt down forgers?

February 21st, 2019

27:37

Today, Isaac Newton is best known for his scientific pursuits -- but he also served as Warden and, later, Master of the Royal Mint. And this wasn't some sort of honorary position, either: Newton took his job of hunting …

Operation Gunnerside: How a Crew of Military Skiers Ruined the Nazi Bomb

February 26th, 2019

25:16

On February 27, 1942, nine saboteurs set out in the middle of the night to blow up a Nazi-controlled heavy water plant in Norway. This operation was …

The Tragic Origin Story of Morse Code

February 28th, 2019

33:24

The telegraph and the communication system known as Morse code revolutionized the way we transmit information, but how did it get here? Join the guys …

The War of the Stray Dog: How Far Would You Go For Your Pet?

March 5th, 2019

34:58

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it didn't take the newly-independent nations of Greece and Bulgaria long to begin bickering over their borders. …

Agent Garbo: The Strange Tale of the Man Who Saved D-Day

March 7th, 2019

39:06

When Juan Pujol first volunteered to spy for the British during World War II, they didn’t take him seriously. That all changed when he got a gig …

The Statue of Liberty Almost Lived in Egypt

March 12th, 2019

32:35

Today the Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous landmarks in the United States -- but it almost didn't make it to Liberty Island. Join the guys …

Idiomatic for the People II, Part 1

March 14th, 2019

48:34

Language is beautiful and, in many cases, continually evolving. As a result, we end up with hundreds of strange idioms and figures of speech that we …

Idiomatic for the People II, Part 2

March 19th, 2019

36:54

Language is beautiful and, in many cases, continually evolving. As a result, we end up with hundreds of strange idioms and figures of speech that we …

When West Virginia Begged the USSR for Foreign Aid

March 21st, 2019

29:07

Were it not for the coal mine, the town of Vulcan, West Virginia may well have never existed. As a rural and geographically isolated community, …

California Schoolchildren and the Great Squirrel War

March 26th, 2019

27:36

In 1918, as the planet was consumed by World War I, the government of California found itself combating an unexpected and catastrophic enemy: Ground squirrels. The rodents were wreaking havoc across the countryside, …

Did Robert E. Lee hate Confederate Memorials?

March 28th, 2019

28:22

From 1861 to 1865, the United States of America was a country divided. More than a century later, it remains America's bloodiest war. After the cessation of conflicts and the surrender of the Confederate army, General …

Prohibition, Prescriptions and the Rise of 'Medicinal' Booze

April 2nd, 2019

30:09

From 1920 to 1933, the United States was, technically speaking, a dry country. The National Prohibition Act made the manufacture, transport and sale …

Teddy Roosevelt May Just Have Saved Modern (American) Football

April 4th, 2019

23:06

In recent years the public has become increasingly aware of the long-term dangers posed by sports injuries -- but at the turn of the 20th century this wasn't the case. Football players didn't wear protective gear, and …

How Big Bill Speakman Fought Off North Korea With Beer Bottles

April 9th, 2019

23:54

Bill Speakman, better known as the “Beer Bottle VC”, single-handedly took on a brigade of Chinese People’s Army Infantry in four hours of close-quarters combat. As he ran out of actual weapons, he began throwing beer …

Hong Xiuquan: The Younger Brother of Jesus Christ Who Led a Bloody Rebellion in China

April 11th, 2019

36:07

When the schoolteacher who would come to be called Hong Xiuquan first heard of the Christian religion, he wasn't particularly bowled over. However, …

How Oliver Cromwell Got Executed Several Years After His Death

April 16th, 2019

25:31

Today, Oliver Cromwell is known as one of the most famous figures in English history -- he was a Puritan with no military experience when the Civil War broke out in 1642, but within a decade he rose to the position of …

How Robert 'The Fastest Knife in the West End' Liston Conducted a Surgery With a 300% Mortality Rate

April 18th, 2019

28:06

It's no secret that hospitals can be intimidating, scary places -- but the medical operations of the modern day can't hold a candle to the grisly …

History's Weirdest Flexes, Part 1

April 23rd, 2019

30:16

Do you know anyone who decided to show off in a weird way? While the phrase 'weird flex' may be relatively recent, it turns out that this phenomenon …

History's Weirdest Flexes, Part 2

April 25th, 2019

26:22

While the phrase 'weird flex' may be relatively recent, it turns out that this phenomenon itself is as old as human civilization. Join the guys with …

Susanna Caroline Matilda: The Colonial Grifter Princess

April 30th, 2019

53:27

Have you ever dreamed about shedding your old identity, casting aside your obligations and becoming an entirely different person? Susanna Caroline …

How the Black Death Came To Norway On A Ghost Ship

May 2nd, 2019

33:29

In the 1300s, the Black Death sprang up in central Asia and swept across continents, killing millions. Quarantines became common as various nations …

Nosy Boraha: The Pirate's Paradise (And Cemetery)

May 7th, 2019

24:15

Nowadays most people know the pirates depicted in fiction bear little resemblance to real-life, historical pirates. Few actually buried any treasure, and fewer still lived in secretive island hideouts -- however, in at …

Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Hoax

May 9th, 2019

43:48

Queen Marie Antoinette's reputation was already tarnished by gossip in 1784, but was completely ruined by the implication that she defrauded the crown jewelers, conning them out of a dazzling, expensive diamond …

The Attack of the Japanese Balloon Bombs

May 14th, 2019

34:08

Picture this: It's late 1944, and you, like thousands of other people on the west coast of North America, have noticed bizarre, jellyfish-like objects floating through the sky. You call the local authorities, maybe even …

The Rise and Fall of Local Scrip: Alternative Currencies of the Great Depression

May 16th, 2019

37:41

Have you ever been so broke that you ended up creating your own currency? It may sound like a crazy idea today, but during the Great Depression …

That Time Ohio and Michigan Almost Went To War

May 21st, 2019

32:56

A misunderstanding of the geography of the Great Lakes started a feud, known as the Toledo War, between the state of Ohio and a territory called …

The Return of Listener Mail

May 23rd, 2019

31:09

Have you written to the guys lately? All of their best topic suggestions come from you and your fellow listeners -- tune in as Ben, Noel and Casey take some of their favorite listener suggestions to the air in this …

The Nature of Ephemera, with Alex Williams

May 28th, 2019

39:22

Whether we’re talking yesterday’s newspaper, pamphlets from museums, or even old lottery tickets and straw wrappers, the world is chock full of …

The Honorary Citizens of the United States

May 30th, 2019

41:24

Did you know you can become an honorary citizen of the United States? It's true -- but it isn't easy. Join the guys as they explore the life and times of the rare few who managed to become honorary citizens in the …

The Duke of Edinburgh is Literally a God in Vanuatu

June 4th, 2019

24:23

Compared to most people, the UK's Prince Phillip has a pretty swell life -- he's literally royalty, has never gone hungry, and has traveled the world meeting some of Earth's most important people. And, to some residents …

Fort Blunder: The US Fort Mistakenly Built in Canada

June 6th, 2019

33:12

After the War of 1812, the US decided to shore up security at Lake Champlain by constructing a fort on Island Point. However, due to a surveying error, the US ended up building this fort in Canada, rather than the …

Patriots, Prisoners and Plants: The World of Political Body Doubles

June 11th, 2019

49:02

Has anyone ever told you you resemble a celebrity? Have you ever thought of making this resemblance your job? In today’s episode, the guys explore …

I Modi: The Scandalous Erotic Blockbuster Banned By The Vatican

June 13th, 2019

33:54

Nowadays it's no secret that some Papal administrations from centuries past were a bit more scandalous than others, but when master engraver Marcantonio Raimondi created prints of explicit art located within the papal …

Playboy, Progressive Politics and Stand-up: The Dick Gregory Story with Wayne Federman

June 18th, 2019

49:31

In this episode, Wayne Federman joins the guys to explore the rise of legendary comedian Dick Gregory, who began life as a boundary-breaking stand-up …

The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I Tried To Make An Army of Super Tall Soldiers

June 20th, 2019

32:15

Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm was fascinated by all things military, but the crown jewel of his army was a group known as the Potsdam Giants -- men recruited on the basis of their height alone. If these tall boys, …

Yasuke, the African Samurai

June 25th, 2019

28:25

Japanese Daimyo Oda Nobunaga was fascinated by the mysterious, towering slave of a visiting Jesuit missionary, and soon this man, Yasuke, joined …

Bug Wars: When We Tried to Turn Insects into Soldiers

June 27th, 2019

30:09

Let's be honest: Bugs aren't everyone's cup of tea, but they're fascinating, crucial parts of the ecosystem. They're also, according to a few eggheads, the perfect weapons of war. Join the guys as they explore the …

The Night Witches: How an All-female Soviet Bomb Squad Terrorized Nazi Germany

July 2nd, 2019

30:11

The 588th Night Bomber Regiment didn't have the best equipment, and they didn't have the best planes. What this all-female bomber regiment did have, however, was unstoppable ambition, brilliant strategies and dozens of …

That Time Irish Separatists Invaded Canada

July 4th, 2019

27:43

It’s true! Once upon a time, Irish separatists based in the United States thought invading Canada was the best way to reunify Ireland. Join the gang as they explore the rise of the Fenians (and, along the way, why …

Operation Northwoods: How the US Planned to Attack Itself and Start a War with Cuba

July 9th, 2019

41:12

It's no secret that the US and Cuba have a long history of tense relations, often teetering on the brink of war. But just how far would Uncle Sam go …

Meet Albert Cashier, the Trans Man Who Fought for the Union in the Civil War

July 11th, 2019

27:29

Born as 'Jennie Hodgers' with a female sex assignment on December 25th, 1843, Albert Cashier emigrated to the United States lived as a man from his early teens on through the rest of his life. Despite the massive …

Did the US Mafia actually start in New Orleans?

July 16th, 2019

27:16

When we think of the mob today, most Americans think of New York City -- and why not? After all, films, books and TV shows often depict New York as the heart of mob country. Yet, as the guys discover in today's episode, …

A Grave Mistake: The Story of Patton's "Abandoned Rear"

July 18th, 2019

24:48

When George S. Patton decided to found a tank training school in the tiny French village of Bourg, the mayor approached him in tears. "An American …

Castle Itter: When Germans and Americans Joined Forces in World War II

July 23rd, 2019

24:21

With one notable exception, American and German forces were bitterly opposed to one another during World War II -- that exception? The Battle of Castle Itter. Tune in to learn more about the strange sequence of events …

Cow Shoe Camouflage: How Prohibition-era Moonshiners Outsmarted the Feds

July 25th, 2019

30:07

During the Prohibition Era, moonshiners and federal agents continually tried to outsmart one another — and one of the moonshiners’ most creative inventions? The bizarre footwear known as Cow Shoes.

Learn more about …

The Portuguese Bank Note Crisis: How One Lucky Forger Almost Destroyed A Nation's Economy

July 30th, 2019

34:48

Artur Virgilio Alves dos Reis had a gift. He wasn't the smartest kid growing up, nor was he the most athletic -- he was, however, one of Europe's most talented forgers. After a string of various cons, he decided to go …

Ye Xian: The Story of China's Cinderella

August 1st, 2019

27:00

We've all heard the story of Cinderella -- it's one of the world's most popular fairy tales! However, this story exists in multiple versions across …

That Time Ancient Monks Waged War Over A Copyright

August 6th, 2019

26:15

The first modern copyright law was the Statute of St. Anne, passed in Great Britain in 1710. However, copyright disputes themselves are much older -- …

The Listener Mail Extravaganza

August 9th, 2019

34:34

The guys often end the show by asking you and your fellow listeners for your own takes on everything from strange town names, crackpot military experiments and more. In today’s episode, Ben and Noel explore some of …

Hunting Fireflies for Fun (and Profit)

August 14th, 2019

37:14

From the 1960s well into the 1990s, thousands of children in the United States were actually paid to hunt fireflies. Join the guys as they explore the strange story of Sigma and firefly hunting — and get surprised by an …

Creature Feature: Go Home Nature, You're Drunk

August 15th, 2019

1:32:22

Join the guys as they make a return appearance on Creature Feature, the podcast that takes a critter’s eye view to explore how animal behavior …

Shame and Fish: The Embarrassing and Tragic Story of François Vatel

August 20th, 2019

34:19

In this episode, Ben and Noel dive into the story of François Vatel, a majordomo who was tasked with organizing an extravagant royal banquet in 1671. With 2,000 attendees expected, among them many high-ranking French …

The Super Fight: When Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano Had A Fight That Never Happened

August 23rd, 2019

34:27

Radio executive Murray Woroner had a dream -- a fantasy radio boxing tournament matching 16 fighters from different eras. In a move that pushed the …

The Bloody Revenge of Saint Olga of Kiev

August 27th, 2019

36:52

When the rebellious Drevlian tribe killed Princess Olga of Kiev's husband, Igor, she set forth on one of history's bloodiest revenge's schemes, …

John Willis Menard: The First African American Elected To US Congress

August 30th, 2019

26:18

A statesman, editor, publisher, poet, activist and more, John Willis Menard was a true Renaissance man, and he dedicated his life to public service. Listen in to learn more about the life and times of John Willis Menard.

Why George Washington is Huge in Barbados

September 3rd, 2019

48:49

Before he became one of the leaders of the Revolutionary War, George Washington was just another young man with big dreams and no small amount of …

Around the World in a Model T: The Story of Aloha Wanderwell

September 5th, 2019

27:49

Nowadays her name may be unfamiliar, but in the 1920s Aloha Wanderwell was an international celebrity, traveling hundreds of thousands of miles across the globe and filming her adventures. Tune in to learn more about …

Sir Francis Drake and the Great Iowa Swindle

September 10th, 2019

38:16

When Oscar Hartzell's mother met Milo and Sudie, she fell for a story too good to be true: She, as an heir to the fortune of Sir Francis Drake, was eligible to receive a large part of his treasure -- all she had to do …

4 Times Women in the US Were Actually Arrested for Wearing Pants

September 13th, 2019

49:32

Today we take a look at a practice that many of us do every day without a second thought - namely, wear pants. However, for women throughout history, wearing pants has not always been such a trivial matter. Join Ben and …

Otto Rahn, The Nazi Occultist Who Hated Nazis and Inspired Indiana Jones

September 17th, 2019

27:48

Otto Rahn was a German writer obsessed with finding the Holy Grail -- and, despite being opposed to the Nazi party, as well as openly gay, Otto was …

The Gaspee Affair: Rhode Island’s Revolutionary “Tea Party”

September 19th, 2019

23:58

Most US residents are familiar with the famous Boston Tea Party - but it was far from the only conflict of this type. Join the guys as they explore Rhode Island’s Gaspee Affair, and why it’s sometimes called Rhode …

Teddy Bears, Rhinos, Safari and Everywhere Else: A Conversation with Daniel Scheffler

September 24th, 2019

39:48

Although he was wildly popular during his final Presidential term (the world-famous Teddy Bear was even inspired by him), Theodore Roosevelt declined …

Tom Watson Gordy: How One Uncle’s Adventures Inspired Jimmy Carter to Join the Navy

September 27th, 2019

47:52

Former President Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to public service, but even now few people know what exactly inspired him. Join Ben, Noel and special guest Ryan as they explore the astonishing adventures of …

How Uncle Tom's Cabin Became One of the Most Popular Books in China

October 1st, 2019

38:56

Published in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin quickly reached international acclaim, becoming the best-selling novel of the 19th century, and the second-best selling book after the Bible. While this antislavery narrative …

The Kaiser’s Plan to Invade the United States

October 3rd, 2019

33:22

Kaiser Wilhelm II was nothing if not ambitious, and he had grand geopolitical plans to increase German influence across the planet. In his mind, …

Christopher Columbus Was Such A Jerk That Even Spain Turned Against Him

October 8th, 2019

38:31

For decades in the West, Christopher Columbus was often inaccurately portrayed as a pioneering explorer, his life, times and crimes sanitized in the …

John Clem: The 12-year Old Civil War Hero

October 10th, 2019

30:24

Although most soldiers in the U.S. Civil War were between 18 and 39, an estimated 20% of the soldiers were underage -- and thousands of those …

John Wilkes Booth's Brother Saved Abraham Lincoln's Son

October 16th, 2019

27:05

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 …

The Bizarre Capitulation of Stettin

October 17th, 2019

23:07

When French General Antoine Lasalle first arrived at the Prussian-held city of Stettin in 1806, his odds of successfully capturing the community …

The Death of Luxury Air Travel

October 22nd, 2019

41:26

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 …

John Edmonstone: The Man Who Trained Darwin

October 25th, 2019

32:22

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 …

Kakigōri: The Story of Japan's Famous Shaved Ice

October 30th, 2019

31:12

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 …

John of Bohemia, the Blind King Who Charged Into Battle

November 1st, 2019

31:09

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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Science and Spiritualism: Why were ghost stories so popular in the 1800s?

November 5th, 2019

43:00

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 …

Rose Mackenberg: Houdini's Ghostbuster

November 7th, 2019

39:43

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 …

That Time Germany Got Obsessed With Polar Bear Photos

November 12th, 2019

42:57

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 …

How Bertha Heyman Conned Her Way Into Show Business

November 14th, 2019

42:39

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.

Learn …

Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Who Called Out the Hypocrisy of Slavery, Part 1

November 19th, 2019

32:18

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 …

Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Who Called Out the Hypocrisy of Slavery, Part 2

November 21st, 2019

33:09

As Benjamin Lay continued his one-man protest against the hypocrisy of slavery in the Quaker community, he inspired some folks and frustrated others …

The Weird, Weird History of Shipping: Part 1

November 26th, 2019

30:51

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 …

The Weird, Weird History of Shipping: Part 2

November 28th, 2019

21:21

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 …

The Honey Trap: Sex in Espionage Throughout History

December 3rd, 2019

29:42

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 …

French Waiters Once Had to Strike for Their Right to Wear Mustaches

December 5th, 2019

38:22

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 Strange Tradition that Forced Everyone in New York to Move House on the Same Day

December 10th, 2019

39:10

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 …

The Starving Time: When Jamestown Colonists Turned Cannibal, Part 1

December 12th, 2019

26:05

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, …

The Starving Time: When Jamestown Colonists Turned Cannibal, Part 2

December 17th, 2019

21:48

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, …

Colonel Blood and the Theft of the Crown Jewels

December 19th, 2019

47:06

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 -- …

The Time Salvador Dali Partnered with Walt Disney - Part 1

December 24th, 2019

29:27

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 …

The Time Salvador Dali Partnered with Walt Disney - Part 2

December 26th, 2019

24:36

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 …

The Weird Stories Behind Your Favorite Christmas Carols

December 31st, 2019

34:49

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 …

That Time America Fell In Love With Competitive Walking

January 2nd, 2020

39:00

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 …

Abandoned Ship: What Really Happened Aboard the "Mary Celeste"?

January 7th, 2020

41:22

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 …

Violet Jessop, the Unsinkable Stewardess Who Survived Three Famous Shipwrecks

January 9th, 2020

34:54

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. …

Pneumatic Tubes: The 'Futuristic' Transport System That's Over 150-Years-Old

January 15th, 2020

40:20

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 Great Goldfish Gulping Craze That (For Some Reason) Swept America

January 16th, 2020

38:29

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 …

The Ersatz Wild West Shootouts of Palisade, Nevada

January 22nd, 2020

34:54

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 …

That Time Ernest Hemingway's Younger Brother Started His Own Country

January 24th, 2020

46:28

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 …

Why Genghis Khan's Great-Great Granddaughter Was Just as Badass

January 29th, 2020

35:34

Khutulun was the warrior daughter of Kaidu, and the great-great granddaughter of Genghis Khan. While she was fearless in battle and an accomplished …

The Legend of Tarrare, the Insatiable Glutton Who Ate a Quarter of a Cow Daily

January 31st, 2020

41:33

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 …

The Straw Hat Riots of 1922

February 5th, 2020

40:10

The world of fashion has historically been a landmine of strange, seemingly arbitrary rules, from when to wear white around labor day to what …

Erasto Mpemba: The High School Student Who Disproved Thermodynamics

February 6th, 2020

33:28

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. …

'Mad' Jack Churchill: The Bagpipe Playing Soldier Who Hunted Nazis with a Longbow - Part 1

February 11th, 2020

28:09

It sounds like something straight out of a Tarantino film -- a bloodthirsty, eccentric soldier welding a longbow and claymore against Nazis, then …

'Mad' Jack Churchill: The Bagpipe Playing Soldier Who Hunted Nazis with a Longbow - Part 2

February 13th, 2020

34:00

It sounds like something straight out of a Tarantino film -- a bloodthirsty, eccentric soldier welding a longbow and claymore against Nazis, then …

The Great Diamond Hoax - Part 1

February 19th, 2020

34:39

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 …

The Great Diamond Hoax - Part 2

February 20th, 2020

21:25

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 …

The Tiny Spanish Town That Went To War With France For 100 Years

February 26th, 2020

33:59

Located two hours' drive inland along a winding potholed road from Almeria on Spain's southeastern Mediterranean coast, the small town of Lijar, …

Night Soil Men Were the Unsung Heroes of Urban Sanitation

February 27th, 2020

49:04

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 …

Was the Lone Ranger Inspired by a Black U.S. Marshall?

March 4th, 2020

41:33

Bass Reeves was a larger than life figure -- a man who escaped slavery, taught himself multiple Native American languages, and eventually became one …

The Presidential Dinner That Scandalized America

March 5th, 2020

31:04

Breaking bread with your fellow humans has long been acknowledged as fantastic, wholesome way to bond with people outside of social conventions, …

Calvin Coolidge Skipped Town and Went Fishing for Three Months (While He was President)

March 11th, 2020

36:27

Widely known as a taciturn man who liked public gatherings even less than he liked people, Calvin Coolidge was often ridiculed by the press -- …

Donald Crowhurst Faked a Race Around the World

March 13th, 2020

35:15

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 …

The History of MREs with Jacqueline Raposo

March 17th, 2020

51:55

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 …

The Ponzi Scheme with Chelsea Ursin

March 20th, 2020

49:36

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 …

Pepsi Briefly Became the Sixth Largest Navy in the World

March 25th, 2020

53:15

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 …

Two Green Children Mystified Woolpit, England

March 27th, 2020

47:20

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 …

That Time the US Literally Banned Sliced Bread

April 1st, 2020

51:13

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 …

Key West, Florida Declared a One-Minute War on the United States

April 3rd, 2020

45:26

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 …

Dromomania: The Wanderlust Disease

April 8th, 2020

35:04

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 …

HL Hunley: The Mysterious Demise of a Civil War Submarine, with Rachel Lance

April 10th, 2020

43:16

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 …

The Bizarrely Disturbing History of People Jumping Out of Cake

April 15th, 2020

45:18

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 …

The Bottle Jumping Hoax (And Riot)

April 17th, 2020

32:30

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 …

The CIA Paid War Spies with Stuff From the Sears Catalog

April 21st, 2020

28:04

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 -- …

Miguel de Cervantes and the Case of the Fake Don Quixote

April 23rd, 2020

35:51

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 …

That Time Trainwrecks Became a Spectator Sport

April 28th, 2020

33:38

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 …

New Zealand's Tragic (And Pretty Hilarious) Exploding Pants Epidemic

May 1st, 2020

30:11

For a brief span of time, farmers in New Zealand were baffled by a bizarre phenomenon -- their pants were smoldering, catching fire, and sometimes …

People Used To Straight Up Drink Gold

May 5th, 2020

31:21

For millennia various luminaries have claimed precious metals have special curative powers -- and, back in the day, people used to actually drink it. …

The Authors Of Curious George Were On The Run From Nazis

May 8th, 2020

29:05

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. …

The Return of Historical Flexes, Part 1: 2 Flex 2 Furious

May 12th, 2020

41:56

History is riddled with bizarre stories of flexes — things people of the past thought were somehow impressive at time. The Ridiculous Historians are …

The Return of Historical Flexes, Part 2: Flexcessiveness

May 14th, 2020

27:41

History is riddled with bizarre stories of flexes — things people of the past thought were somehow impressive at time. The Ridiculous Historians are …

Emperor Tiberius Was Debauched, Deranged and Probably Not Fun At Parties

May 20th, 2020

43:19

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 …

Feedsack Fashion: How Thrifty Inventiveness Transformed America

May 22nd, 2020

36:39

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 …

Louis Wain, the Godfather of Cat Memes: Part 1

May 27th, 2020

31:28

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, …

Louis Wain, the Godfather of Cat Memes: Part 2

May 29th, 2020

44:09

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 …

Flashback: Unforeseen Consequences Throughout History: Part 1

June 3rd, 2020

39:21

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 …

Flashback: Unforeseen Consequences Throughout History: Part 2

June 5th, 2020

28:28

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 …

World War I and the Rise of the Peat Moss Bandage

June 10th, 2020

35:04

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 …

The Mysterious Origin of (and Disturbing Problems with) the "Wolf Whistle"

June 12th, 2020

35:42

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 …

The North Pole, Part 1: Maps and Legends

June 17th, 2020

29:48

In 1569, Gerardus Mercator creates the first world map. It's the predecessor of the cartoonishly inaccurate Mercator projection, and this math guides …

The North Pole, Part 2: The Chase To The North

June 19th, 2020

43:54

The Mercator Projection continues to inform explorers, many of whom send their own appropriative versions of the Mythical North. Join Ben, Casey and …

What is Fudge, Part 1: The Science, The Curious Name

June 23rd, 2020

26:08

Nowadays, most people in the global West associate fudge with the idea of a homemade, homely confection. Yet once upon a time, this dangerously …

What is Fudge, Part 2: The Rebellion

June 25th, 2020

25:22

The students of Vassar thrived despite a system of Victorian -- near Orwellian -- control. In a time when these college students were not allowed to …

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

July 1st, 2020

34:19

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 …

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

July 2nd, 2020

39:33

While Kate Warne had numerous adventures (and brilliantly solved multiple high-profile cases), her most well-known work with pinkerton involved none …

Did People Really Throw Tar And Feathers On Each Other?

July 7th, 2020

38:43

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 …

The Vikings Made a Fortune in the 'Unicorn' Trade

July 9th, 2020

45:25

Nowadays, experts and equestrians alike largely agree: unicorns are creatures of myth. But, not too long ago, the wealthiest people in Europe would …

The Hobo King: Leon Ray Livingston, Chapter One

July 15th, 2020

33:12

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 …

The Hobo King: Leon Ray Livingston, Chapter Two

July 17th, 2020

38:35

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 …

Henry VIII and That English Sweat, Part 1: A Pandemic

July 22nd, 2020

33:15

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 …

Henry VIII and That English Sweat, Part 2: A Disease and a King

July 23rd, 2020

25:25

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 …

Clever Hans, Part 1: The Equine Mathematician

July 28th, 2020

30:56

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 …

Clever Hans, Part 2: The Rise and Fall of Hans

July 30th, 2020

26:35

Unconvinced by claims of this horse's mathematical acumen, psychologist Oskar Pfungst conducted a series of experiments to determine whether Clever …

That Time Rebellious Freemasons Starting Kissing Porcelain Pug Butts

August 4th, 2020

45:58

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 …

Ridiculous "Remedies" of the Spanish Flu: The Rise of the Lemon

August 7th, 2020

43:46

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 -- …

The Hidden History of Jewish Pirates, Part 1: Escaping Europe

August 11th, 2020

21:00

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, …

The Hidden History of Jewish Pirates, Part 2: Famous Privateers

August 14th, 2020

40:00

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, …

Why do people 'christen' ships with champagne?

August 19th, 2020

40:10

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 …

Railroad Tycoons Decided What Time It Is Now

August 21st, 2020

37:19

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, …

The Nazi Super Horse Program, Part 1: Equine Eugenics

August 25th, 2020

30:36

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 Nazi Super Horse Program, Part 2: A Horse-filled Heist

August 27th, 2020

28:10

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 …

The United Kingdom Has A Weird Thing With Swans

September 2nd, 2020

42:15

In the days before London found itself riddled with Rolodexes and Lamborghinis, the Crown controlled a now-obscure status symbol: the swan. Every …

The Rise of the US Camel Corps

September 3rd, 2020

43:10

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 …

Babies in Incubators were Once a Sideshow Attraction

September 8th, 2020

41:45

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 …

That Time New York City Rioted Over Shakespeare

September 10th, 2020

49:57

Don't let reality television and wrestling fool you -- celebrity rivalries are a tale as old as entertainment itself. In 1849, the rivalry between …

Knocker-Uppers: The Human Alarm Clocks of the Industrial Age

September 15th, 2020

32:10

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 …

The Tragic Tale of the 'Turnspit Dog'

September 17th, 2020

36:42

Before the rise of household automation, British elites struggled to find the perfect method for cooking meat. They preferred it roasted, slowly, …

The Misadventures of Wade Boggs, Part 1

September 22nd, 2020

48:32

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 …

The Misadventures of Wade Boggs, Part 2

September 25th, 2020

33:43

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 …

The US Waged War on Pinball for Decades

September 29th, 2020

46:43

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 …

The BBC Convinced People Spaghetti Grows on Trees

October 2nd, 2020

45:42

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 …

The Beast of Gévaudan, Part 1: Murders In France

October 7th, 2020

33:28

For three years, a monster terrified the backwater region of Gévaudan. From 1764 - 1767, people found the mutilated corpses, one by one, across the …

The Beast of Gévaudan, Part 2: The Birth of a Grisly Legend

October 9th, 2020

23:37

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 …

Brooms and Witchcraft, Part 1: A Killer in the Rye?

October 14th, 2020

28:56

Most people are familiar with the stereotypical image of a witch: a haggard, often older individual with a peaked hat, black robes, a demonic …

Brooms and Witchcraft, Part 2: Inquisitions and Iniquity

October 15th, 2020

28:14

Could the stereotype of witches on broomsticks actually be a drug reference? Join Ben, Noel and Casey as they continue digging through the history …

The Hand of Glory, Part 1: A Thief's Theme

October 20th, 2020

32:31

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 …

The Hand of Glory, Part 2: Recipes, Necropants and Toes

October 22nd, 2020

17:59

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 …

The Case of the Greenbrier Ghost, Part 1: An 'Everlasting Faint'

October 28th, 2020

37:49

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 …

Ridiculous History Presents: Criminalia

October 28th, 2020

38:41

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

On Criminalia, hosts Holly Frey and Maria …

The Case of the Greenbrier Ghost, Part 2: The Court

October 29th, 2020

38:29

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.

The US Didn't Always Have Secret Ballots

November 3rd, 2020

48:55

Nowadays, voters in the US consider secret ballots a fundamental part of any election. Yet -- perhaps surprisingly -- this wasn't always the case. …

S T O V E G O B L I N

November 5th, 2020

29:54

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 …

An Elephant in the Vatican, Part 1: The Discovery of Hanno

November 11th, 2020

30:43

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 …

An Elephant in the Vatican, Part 2: An Elephant in the Reformation

November 13th, 2020

41:56

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 …

The Weird Origin of Pink Lemonade, Part 1: A Humble Citrus

November 18th, 2020

26:56

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? …

The Weird Origin of Pink Lemonade, Part 2: The Rise of Clown Pants

November 19th, 2020

27:28

As historians dove into the evolution of pink lemonade, one theory about its origin seemed particularly compelling (if gross): Pink lemonade, they …

How a German Prince Built his own Artificial Volcano

November 24th, 2020

36:23

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 …

How the Pandemic Helped (and Hurt) the Struggle for Women's Rights

November 26th, 2020

29:07

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.

That Time the US was Terrified of Tomatoes

December 2nd, 2020

39:46

Nowadays the tomato is an ubiquitous foodstuff in households across the planet - but in the US, this humble staple was once considered downright …

People Have Been Convinced Robots Will Take Their Jobs For Centuries

December 4th, 2020

43:54

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 …

Why are Chimney Sweeps good luck at weddings?

December 9th, 2020

39:15

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 …

Snowmen as Protest: The Miracle of 1511

December 11th, 2020

29:52

During the brutal winter of 1511, residents of Brussels built more than one hundred snowmen... and these sculptures weren't the type of snow …

Benito Mussolini was Super into Wearable Milk

December 15th, 2020

41:13

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 …

Goodyear and the Mystery of the Ghost Blimp

December 18th, 2020

39:04

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 …

Holiday Classic: The Strange History of Antarctic Fruitcake

December 22nd, 2020

29:24

Nowadays fruitcake is considered a stereotypical, often comical holiday punchline, but even in the modern day people across the planet can agree on …

Holiday Classic: When the Puritans Canceled Christmas

December 24th, 2020

28:51

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 …

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

December 31st, 2020

30:17

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 …

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

January 5th, 2021

37:41

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, …

Admiral Byrd and the Polar Dairy

January 12th, 2021

32:31

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. …

That Time New York Banned Spitting

January 14th, 2021

52:26

As tuberculosis spread throughout the US, New York City banned spitting. Learn how the Ladies’ Health Protective Association saved the Big Apple from …

Dan Sickles, American Scoundrel, Part 1: How to Get Away with Murder

January 20th, 2021

33:23

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 …

Dan Sickles, American Scoundrel, Part 2: The Civil War

January 22nd, 2021

28:45

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 …

It's a Cat's World, Part 1: The Sacred and the Suspicious

January 26th, 2021

33:54

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 …

It's a Cat's World, Part 2: The Rise of the Cat Show

January 29th, 2021

27:30

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 …

The Hatpin Peril

February 3rd, 2021

45:36

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 …

Stab Yourself to Health and Happiness: The Bizarre Rise of the Lebensweker

February 4th, 2021

46:33

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 …

Turtle Soup, Part 1: A Delicacy of Yesteryear

February 9th, 2021

37:42

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, …

Turtle Soup, Part 2: Rise of the Mock Turtle

February 12th, 2021

24:04

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 …

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

February 19th, 2021

24:50

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 …

Elagabalus The Raunchy, Racy High Priest Who Became a Roman Emperor

February 23rd, 2021

53:04

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 …

The 1973 Michigan Pizza Funeral

February 25th, 2021

35:44

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 …

The US and the UK Almost Went to War over a Pig

March 2nd, 2021

51:44

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. …

Billy Cottrell, the Tyrant Mayor of Cedar Key, Florida

March 4th, 2021

45:04

The politically-connected, cartoonishly belligerent Billy Cottrell was a terrible Mayor, hated and feared by the locals of Cedar Key, Florida -- and …

History's Most Ridiculous (and Deadly) Beauty Trends

March 8th, 2021

56:36

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 …

The Rise and Fall of the Flea Circus, Part 1

March 9th, 2021

31:38

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, …

The Rise and Fall of the Flea Circus, Part 2

March 11th, 2021

45:14

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 …

Wyoming Tales, Part 1: Walking in the Shoes of Big Nose George

March 17th, 2021

39:15

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 …

Wyoming Tales, Part 2: Absaroka, the State That Almost Was

March 19th, 2021

45:03

Back in the 1930s, the residents of Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota felt the federal government— and the state legislatures— ignored them. They …

A Currency for Colonies: The Strange Story of "Leprosy Money"

March 23rd, 2021

37:05

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 …

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Part 1

March 25th, 2021

26:55

As wartime fears peaked across the US during World War II, people throughout the nation were overwhelmed with fears of invading Nazis, secret …

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon, Part 2

March 30th, 2021

45:58

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 …

Ancient Mesopotamian Societies Sacrificed Substitute Kings to Eclipses

April 2nd, 2021

35:26

Thousands of years before the current day, ancient civilizations accurately predicted both lunar and solar eclipses. They often believed these events …

The Windham Frog Fight of 1754

April 6th, 2021

42:11

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 …

The Mysterious Dark Day That Terrified New England

April 8th, 2021

33:45

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 …

Pineapples In Europe, Part 1: A Weird, Cartoonishly Expensive Flex

April 14th, 2021

46:14

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 …

Pineapples In Europe, Part 2: People Literally Rented Pineapples to Impress their Friends

April 15th, 2021

52:09

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 …

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

April 20th, 2021

42:14

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 …

The Great Panjandrum: A Hilariously Terrible Idea

April 22nd, 2021

28:42

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, …

How Pie in the Face Became a Comedy Classic, Part 1: Rise of the Pie

April 27th, 2021

24:58

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 …

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

May 4th, 2021

33:38

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 …

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

May 6th, 2021

31:58

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 …

A Race Across the World: From New York to Paris in 1908

May 11th, 2021

1:03:39

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 Troubling, Hidden History of Turpentine

May 13th, 2021

1:00:25

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 …

The Mystery of the Devonshire Colic

May 18th, 2021

45:53

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 …

Joseph Bonaparte, Cryptid Hunter

May 20th, 2021

54:04

Napoleon’s lesser-known, older brother Joseph was, at times, the polar opposite of his conqueror sibling. Yet by merely being related to Napoleon, …

The Phantom Barber of Pascagoula

May 26th, 2021

39:45

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 …

That Time Al Capone Ran A Soup Kitchen

May 27th, 2021

33:33

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, …

Classic: Why do British lawyers wear wigs?

June 1st, 2021

33:11

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 …

Loveday: Henry VI's Well-intentioned, Terrible Attempt at Making Peace

June 3rd, 2021

50:30

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, …

The Carrington Event, Part I: The Sun is Acting Strange

June 8th, 2021

25:55

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 …

The Carrington Event, Part II: Attack of the Sun!

June 10th, 2021

22:58

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 …

A History of Pregnancy Cravings, Part 1: Pickles and Ice Cream

June 15th, 2021

41:12

Pregnancy is amazing — and scary, and beautiful, and a thousand other things. The modern world has stereotypes and tropes aplenty about pregnancy, …

A History of Pregnancy Cravings, Part 2: Stereotypes, Superstitions and Science

June 17th, 2021

43:39

In earlier centuries, when science and spirituality were considered one and the same, the world was full of advice and warnings surrounding pregnancy …

The Miracle of the Gulls: A Cricket War

June 22nd, 2021

38:44

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 …

That Time People Paid Rent With Eels

June 28th, 2021

48:04

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 …

The Rise and Fall of Curative Plane Flights

June 29th, 2021

46:51

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 …

Painless Parker and the Dental Circus

July 1st, 2021

48:23

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 …

Where do Lemonade Stands Come From?

July 7th, 2021

41:18

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 …

The Duke of Portland Hated People and Loved Tunnels

July 8th, 2021

43:51

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 …

One Guy Was Certain Telepathic Snails Would Replace Telegraphs

July 13th, 2021

30:13

Since before the dawn of recorded history, human beings have been obsessed with talking to each other. This primal impulse inspired French occultist …

A Brief History of Underwear

July 15th, 2021

1:02:01

Underwear! Whether we're talking boxers, briefs, loincloths, brassieres or even lingerie, undergarments have a storied history in cultures across the …

Weird Courtship Rituals, Part One

July 20th, 2021

1:00:20

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 …

Weird Courtship Rituals, Part Two

July 22nd, 2021

51:58

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 …

How One Guy Made Europe Fall In Love With Potatoes

July 27th, 2021

1:02:41

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 …

A Prince and His Poodle: The Supernatural Adventures of Rupert and Boy

July 29th, 2021

42:39

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 …

An Alabama Town Built a Statue Honoring the Insect that Almost Destroyed It

August 3rd, 2021

34:54

Enterprise, Alabama is home to a fascinating statue honoring the boll weevil, a tiny creature that once wreaked havoc across cotton country. So what …

That Time People Rioted Over a Hot Air Balloon

August 5th, 2021

34:00

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 …

Military Cats, Part 1: Spies and Mascots

August 10th, 2021

39:47

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 …

Military Cats, Part 2: Simon Saves the British

August 12th, 2021

30:43

When 17-year old British seaman George Hickenbottom saw an undernourished, ailing stray wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong, his heart melted. He …

Ostracism: How Ancient Greeks Handled Uncool Politicians

August 17th, 2021

36:42

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 …

That Time People Were Terrified of Libraries

August 19th, 2021

38:06

Today, libraries across the US and the rest of the world are seen as centers of free learning, presenting enormous opportunities for children and …

History's Dumbest Criminals, Part 1

August 24th, 2021

1:02:36

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 …

History's Dumbest Criminals, Part 2

August 27th, 2021

1:02:23

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 …

Flu Julia: The Con Artist Nurse That Made Bank Off Of Misery

August 31st, 2021

44:01

During the flu pandemic of 1918, Julia Lyons saw opportunity amid chaos. Posing a visiting nurse in Chicago, she successfully swindled numerous …

Ridiculous Live: The Humor and the Heavy

September 2nd, 2021

57:15

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 …

CLASSIC: Butter: Protestantism's Secret Ingredient?

September 7th, 2021

35:13

The Protestant Reformation remains one of the most significant cultural events in the Western world. Martin Luther's 95 Theses addressed numerous …

Sky Pilot: The Man Who Brought Religion to Lumberjacks

September 9th, 2021

48:14

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 …

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

September 14th, 2021

25:12

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 -- …

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

September 16th, 2021

26:39

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.

Learn more …

37 Days of Peril, with Alex Williams

September 21st, 2021

57:43

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 …

The Australian Prison Break of 1876 Part 1

September 23rd, 2021

31:49

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 Australian Prison Break of 1876, Part 2

September 28th, 2021

31:34

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 …

The Love of Candy Almost Drove a Cactus Extinct

September 30th, 2021

32:54

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 Rum Riot of Portland, Maine

October 5th, 2021

42:22

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 …

The King of Scotland Got Real Weird with Language Experiments

October 7th, 2021

50:01

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 …

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

October 12th, 2021

34:26

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 …

Ada Lovelace, Part Two: The Analytical Engine

October 15th, 2021

39:22

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 …

New England versus Vampires, Part One: The Brutal, Terrifying Life of Early Colonists

October 20th, 2021

37:21

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 …

New England versus Vampires, Part Two: Desperation and Desecration

October 21st, 2021

35:17

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 …

How Haunted Houses Became A Thing

October 27th, 2021

46:24

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?

Learn more about your …

Modern Thanksgiving, Part One: A Culture War

October 28th, 2021

33:46

Today Thanksgiving is considered a largely innocuous holiday, centered on food and family. In the US, people across the country get together on the …

Modern Thanksgiving, Part Two: Sarah Josepha Hale Finally Gets Her Wish

November 2nd, 2021

38:13

As the Civil War broke out, Sarah Josepha Hale found politicians were, understandably, more occupied with country-wide chaos than the creation of a …

The Bloody Tale of the Sausage War

November 4th, 2021

40:30

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 …

King for a Week: The Strange Story of Otto I

November 10th, 2021

38:11

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 …

Austin and the Texas Archives War

November 11th, 2021

37:49

After its formation in 1836, the new Republic of Texas had some problems -- multiple people wanted the capital in different places. The Republic's …

That Time a Baboon Worked for the Railroad

November 16th, 2021

33:01

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 …

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

November 18th, 2021

25:41

“Despite being born into royalty, Anna Ioannovna didn’t have the easiest life. Her uncle publicly ridiculed her marriage, and the cruelty she …

Russia’s Real-life Ice Queen, Part 2: Weird, Brutal Flexes

November 24th, 2021

32:47

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 …

CLASSIC: How White America Tried To Destroy Chinese Restaurants

November 25th, 2021

36:19

Today Chinese restaurants serve some of the most popular cuisine in the United States, with more than 41,000 restaurants scattered around the …

The Sinister Side of Little Orphan Annie, Part One: Parents Were Terrified

December 1st, 2021

41:30

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 …

The Sinister Side of Little Orphan Annie, Part Two: Drink Your Ovaltine

December 2nd, 2021

36:51

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 …

The US Literally Threw Pianos From Planes During World War II

December 7th, 2021

29:47

As musical instruments go, pianos are pretty amazing -- they're also not particularly easy to move. Clunkiness aside, pianos provide endless hours of …

People Used Bed Bugs as Medicine for Thousands of Years

December 10th, 2021

34:30

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 …

The Atlantropa Project, Part One: Saving Europe via Supercontinent

December 14th, 2021

29:44

Like everyone in post-World War I Europe, Herman Sörgel was horrified by the devastation of a continent-wide conflict. He saw raging poverty, …

The Atlantropa Project, Part Two: What Happened to the Supercontinent?

December 16th, 2021

29:35

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 …

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

December 21st, 2021

33:20

Walking through London today, you'll doubtlessly hear cacophonous traffic, sirens, construction, countless languages -- all the noises familiar to …

London's Tiger King, Part Two: Charles Jamrach Becomes a Problematic Hero

December 23rd, 2021

31:56

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 …

Nub City: Florida's Infamous Amputation Scam

December 28th, 2021

44:25

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. …

The Lil Ice Age Was Way Less Cute Than It Sounds

December 30th, 2021

36:39

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 …

CLASSIC: Who Solves Murders in Antarctica?

January 4th, 2022

31:24

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 …

That Time Everyone Tried To Outlaw War

January 7th, 2022

46:29

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 …

The Trans-Saharan Ostrich Expedition of 1911

January 12th, 2022

50:52

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, …

The Emperor of the United States

January 13th, 2022

51:55

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 US Literally Had Nazi Summer Camps

January 19th, 2022

41:02

For many adults, the idea of 'summer camp' conjures up fond, nostalgic memories of childhood. And most folks see these outfits as great opportunities …

Did Honduras and El Salvador Really Go to War over Soccer?

January 20th, 2022

42:31

If you read the international headlines in 1969, you'd think the Central American countries of Honduras and El Salvador loved football (soccer, for …

Peter Freuchen: Explorer, Raconteur, Movie Star and War Hero

January 25th, 2022

49:54

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 …

Tossed Popcorn, Part 1: The Wizard of Oz and the Titanic

January 28th, 2022

59:00

It's no secret that Hollywood has been home to numerous lurid, disturbing -- and, sometimes, ridiculous -- tales over the decades. In the first part …

Tossed Popcorn, Part 2: Chaplin was a Jerk, Brando was Insane

February 2nd, 2022

1:07:29

Don’t let the charming slapstick fool you — Charlie Chaplin was a monster to his lovers, coworkers and family. His former collaborator, Marlon Brando …

CLASSIC: X-Rays, Songs and Soviets: The Stilyagi Story

February 3rd, 2022

35:28

Caught between the conflicting ideologies of the Cold War, Soviet teens were banned from collecting Western music -- smuggled records could be both …

Weirdest Celebrity Busts, Part I: Nixon Smuggled Weed, Arbuckle Was Innocent

February 9th, 2022

1:12:24

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 …

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

February 10th, 2022

1:01:21

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 …

Valentine's Day Is So Much Weirder Than We Thought

February 15th, 2022

1:16:29

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 …

That Time Victorians Treated Seaweed like Pokemon

February 18th, 2022

51:11

Europe's Victorian Era was, in many ways, a study in contradiction. While society in general championed independent scientific research, institutions …

Slum Tourists: When Wealthy People Toured Chinatown ‘For Fun’

February 23rd, 2022

44:58

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 …

Did Soldiers in World War I Really Team Up to Fight Wolves?

February 25th, 2022

43:22

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 …

A Tale of Two Hansons: Busting Myths About the 'First' US President

March 2nd, 2022

39:07

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, …

British Suffragettes Knew Jūjitsu

March 4th, 2022

52:08

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 …

The Cobra Effect, Part 1: Snakes, Rats, and Unintended Consequences

March 8th, 2022

41:44

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 …

The Cobra Effect, Part 2: Four Pests and a Disastrous Success

March 10th, 2022

41:16

The Cobra Effect - a particularly extreme form of unintended consequences - isn't limited to India and Vietnam. In China, the technically successful …

Ridiculous History Presents: A History of "Adult" Toys, Part 1

March 15th, 2022

56:35

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 …

Ridiculous History Presents: A History of "Adult" Toys, Part 2

March 17th, 2022

1:03:00

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 …

Julia Barnett Rice Waged an Elitist War on Noise

March 23rd, 2022

42:26

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 …

That Time A Dead Guy Won an Olympic Medal

March 24th, 2022

28:38

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 …

Weird Ways People Used to Communicate, Part I: Only a Pigeon Away

March 29th, 2022

30:25

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, …

Weird Ways People Used to Communicate, Part II: Smoke Signals and Bottled Messages

March 31st, 2022

35:19

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, …

The Much-Maligned Reign of Swedish Queen Maria Eleonora

April 5th, 2022

41:16

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 …

Day Drinkers (Sort of) Helped Stop Cholera in London

April 7th, 2022

38:27

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, …

How The Evil May Day of 1517 Became the Perfect Propaganda Opportunity

April 12th, 2022

46:45

London of the 1500s was a bustling center of commerce, finance and industry -- and it attracted a fair number of foreign-born professionals, who …

The Infamous Aurora UFO Incident of 1897

April 14th, 2022

34:40

In April of 1897, something crashed from the sky, destroying a local windmill. As rumors and speculation grew, strange reports emerged -- could there …

The Yule Lads Terrified Children Across Iceland

April 19th, 2022

33:36

Many countries have their own, distinct Christmas traditions, but Iceland's Yule Lads are especially disturbing. Born of a monsterous giantess, these …

Lithuanian Book Smugglers Vs. The Russian Empire

April 21st, 2022

43:17

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 …

Ira Aldridge: Actor, Activist and Record-breaker

April 26th, 2022

47:18

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 …

A Teetotaling Preacher Basically Invented Modern Tourism

April 28th, 2022

32:37

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 …

Nobuo Fujita Bombed Brookings, Oregon -- and Then Became a Town Hero

May 3rd, 2022

27:39

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 …

Curling: The Most Ridiculous Sport?

May 5th, 2022

43:32

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 …

Juana Maria: The Real-life Story Behind "Island of the Blue Dolphins"

May 10th, 2022

31:19

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 …

Historical Hypocrisy: The Confederacy's Weird Stance on "Individual Rights"

May 12th, 2022

39:52

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 …

Chocolate Syrup: From Medicine to Dessert

May 17th, 2022

42:53

Most people nowadays associate chocolate syrup with ice cream -- but back in the day, it was considered a legitimate medicine. In today's episode, …

Who the heck was Joseph Warren?

May 19th, 2022

41:47

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 …

Operation Mincemeat: Britain's Ghoulish Plan to Fool the Nazis

May 24th, 2022

44:28

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 …

Why You Can't Say "MacBeth" in a Theater

May 26th, 2022

53:51

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 …

Bolivia Fought -- And Lost -- A War For Bird Poop

May 31st, 2022

30:13

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 …

Disco Demolition Night: How Disco Died at a White Sox Game

June 2nd, 2022

50:27

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 …

The US Boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and Puerto Rican Boxers Went Anyway

June 7th, 2022

41:40

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 …

Nancy Wake, the White Mouse of the French Resistance

June 9th, 2022

43:49

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 …

Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part I: The Rise of Dr. Finger

June 14th, 2022

45:21

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." …

Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part II: A Pseudoscience (Sort of) Informs the Modern Day

June 16th, 2022

53:33

While the credibility of phrenology inevitably deteriorated over time, it was neither a completely original concept, nor, in some respects, a …

Ben Franklin Faked a Rival's Death to Promote His Almanac

June 21st, 2022

32:58

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 …

Millerism: America’s First End Times Gospel

June 23rd, 2022

46:38

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 …

CLASSIC - Did a Real-Life Rainmaker Almost Drown San Diego?

June 28th, 2022

29:02

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 …

Millerism, Part II: The Great Disappointment (and the Aftermath)

June 30th, 2022

41:51

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 …

CLASSIC - Does the US Confederacy Still Exist in Americana, Brazil?

July 5th, 2022

34:56

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 …

Operation LAC: That Time Uncle Sam Sprayed Poison Across St. Louis

July 7th, 2022

39:41

As the US government became increasingly concerned about the possibility of large-scale biological weapons, they decided something must be done: they …

Gods of Deception, Part I: Alger Hiss in the Halls of Power

July 12th, 2022

31:59

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 …

Gods of Deception, Part II: Art, History, Fiction and War

July 14th, 2022

30:08

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 …

Tsutomu Yamaguchi: The World's Only (Recognized) Double Atomic Bomb Victim

July 19th, 2022

36:51

On August 6th, 1945, Mitsubishi engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi was finally heading home from a three month assignment in Hiroshima... until the United …

A Humorous History of Genetics

July 21st, 2022

49:32

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 …

Surprising Former Careers of the Famous

July 26th, 2022

48:13

Did you know Abraham Lincoln was an infamous, trash-talking wrestler? Ronald Reagan spent his younger years saving people from drowning (and throwing …

A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part One: An Origin Story

July 28th, 2022

41:35

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 …

A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part Two: Reality Goes Global

August 2nd, 2022

40:52

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 …

CLASSIC: When (and why) did the US start calling its citizens consumers?

August 4th, 2022

42:17

Today, the terms "citizen" and "consumer" are often used interchangeably by authors, journalists and politicians. To some experts, this shift has …

Andrew Jackson Beat the Snot Out of His Would-be Assassin

August 9th, 2022

57:44

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 …

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