Futility Closet

Futility Closet

www.futilitycloset.com/podcast
Forgotten stories from the pages of history.
220-The Old Hero of Gettysburg
Oct 8 • 31 min
At the Battle of Gettysburg, a 69-year-old veteran of the War of 1812 turned up to support the Union troops.
219-The Greenbrier Ghost
Oct 1 • 35 min
When Zona Shue died in 1897, her mother announced that the ghost had identified her killer.
218-Lost in the Amazon
Sep 24 • 32 min
In 1769, a Peruvian noblewoman found herself lost and alone in the Amazon rain forest.
217-The Bone Wars
Sep 17 • 34 min
In the 1870s a bitter feud arose between two paleontologists in the American West.
216-The Tromelin Island Castaways
Sep 10 • 32 min
In 1761 60 Malagasy slaves were shipwrecked on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean.
215-The Lieutenant Nun
Sep 3 • 31 min
In the 17th century, Catalina de Erauso fled a convent and became a soldier in the New World.
214-The Poison Squad
Aug 27 • 32 min
In 1902, chemist Harvey Wiley tested food additives by feeding them to a group of young volunteers.
213-Grover Cleveland’s Secret Surgery
Aug 20 • 32 min
In 1893 doctors secretly operated on the president aboard a moving yacht.
212-The Lost Treasure of Cocos Island
Aug 13 • 32 min
August Gissler spent 17 years searching Cocos Island for buried treasure.
211-Cast Away on an Ice Floe
Aug 6 • 33 min
In 1869 14 German polar explorers were stranded on an ice floe for six months.
210-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Jul 23 • 34 min
Play along as we untangle six strange-sounding situations using yes-or-no questions.
209-Lost Off Newfoundland
Jul 16 • 33 min
In 1883, fisherman Howard Blackburn was caught in a blizzard off the Newfoundland coast.
208-Giving Birth to Rabbits
Jul 9 • 32 min
In 1726, Mary Toft gave birth to 17 rabbits.
207-The Bluebelle’s Last Voyage
Jul 2 • 34 min
In November 1961, the two-masted ketch Bluebelle sailed out of the Bahamas and toward a dramatic fate.
206-The Sky and the Sea
Jun 25 • 30 min
Explorer Auguste Piccard conquered both the stratosphere and the deep ocean.
205-The White Mouse
Jun 18 • 33 min
Journalist Nancy Wake became an intrepid secret agent in wartime France.
204-Mary Anning’s Fossils
Jun 11 • 30 min
In the 1810s Mary Anning begin to unearth strange creatures near her English seaside town.
203-Notes and Queries
Jun 4 • 30 min
A selection of curiosities and questions from Greg’s research database.
202-The Rosenhan Experiment
May 28 • 31 min
In the 1970s, David Rosenhan showed that healthy people could be diagnosed as mentally ill.
201-The Gardner Heist
May 21 • 32 min
The world’s largest art heist remains unsolved.
200-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
May 14 • 31 min
Play along as we untangle five strange-sounding situations using yes-or-no questions.
199-The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering
May 7 • 33 min
In 1921 a schooner was discovered aground off Cape Hatteras. There was no one aboard.
198-The Man Who Wouldn’t Die
Apr 30 • 33 min
In 1932 four gangsters set out to kill their friend and failed five times in a row.
197-Alone Across the Outback
Apr 23 • 32 min
In 1975 a woman set out alone to lead four camels across the deserts of western Australia.
196-The Long Way Home
Apr 16 • 30 min
After Pearl Harbor was attacked, one American seaplane had to circle the world to get home.
195-A Case of Musical Plagiarism
Apr 9 • 32 min
A surprising case of classical music plagiarism.
194-The Double Life of Clarence King
Mar 26 • 32 min
For 13 years white geologist Clarence King maintained a second identity as a black man in New York.
193-The Collyer Brothers
Mar 19 • 31 min
Brothers Homer and Langley Collyer filled their Harlem townhouse with 140 tons of junk.
192-The Winchester Diver
Mar 12 • 31 min
Diver William Walker spent five years in flooded pits under Winchester Cathedral to restore the building’s foundations.
191-The Longest Flight
Mar 5 • 31 min
In 1958, two pilots managed to stay aloft in a small plane for two months continuously.
190-Mary Patten and the Neptune’s Car
Feb 26 • 31 min
In 1856, 19-year-old Mary Patten commanded a clipper ship around Cape Horn.
189-The “Wild White Man”
Feb 19 • 32 min
In the early 1800s, an escaped convict spent 32 years living among the aborigines of southeastern Australia.
188-The Bat Bomb
Feb 12 • 33 min
In World War II, the U.S. Army experimented with firebombs carried by live bats.
187-A Human Being in the Bronx Zoo
Jan 29 • 33 min
In 1906, the Bronx Zoo displayed a Congolese man in its primate house.
186-The Children’s Blizzard
Jan 22 • 32 min
In 1888 a harrowing blizzard trapped children in schoolhouses across the American Midwest.
185-The Man From Formosa
Jan 15 • 32 min
In 1703, a blond young man arrived in London who ate raw meat and claimed to be a native of Taiwan.
184-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Jan 1 • 29 min
Play along as we untangle six strange-sounding situations using yes-or-no questions.
183-An Everest Mystery
Dec 25, 2017 • 32 min
In 1924, two British mountaineers disappeared climbing the world’s highest peak.
182-The Compulsive Wanderer
Dec 18, 2017 • 32 min
In the 1870s, French gas fitter Albert Dadas made strange, compulsive trips all over Europe.
181-Operation Gunnerside
Dec 11, 2017 • 33 min
A daring 1943 commando raid to stop Germany from getting an atomic bomb.
180-An Academic Impostor
Dec 4, 2017 • 33 min
Bogus professor Marvin Hewitt taught at seven different schools and universities.
179-Two Vanished Young Writers
Nov 27, 2017 • 31 min
In the 1930s, two promising young American writers disappeared without a trace.
178-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Nov 20, 2017 • 33 min
Play along as we untangle six strange-sounding situations using yes-or-no questions.
177-Averting a Catastrophe in Manhattan
Nov 13, 2017 • 31 min
In 1977, architects realized that Manhattan’s Citicorp Tower could be toppled by a high wind.
176-The Bear That Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh
Nov 6, 2017 • 32 min
A.A. Milne and his son met an inspiring bear in the London Zoo in 1924.
175-The Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island
Oct 30, 2017 • 30 min
In the 19th century, a Native American woman lived alone on a California island for 18 years.
174-Cracking the Nazi Code
Oct 23, 2017 • 33 min
In 1940 Swedish mathematician Arne Beurling confronted a sophisticated German cipher.
173-The Worst Journey in the World
Oct 16, 2017 • 30 min
In 1911, three men traveled 70 miles through the Antarctic winter to collect penguin eggs.
172-An American in Feudal Japan
Oct 2, 2017 • 33 min
Ranald MacDonald ventured into Japan’s closed society for “the mere gratification of a love of adventure.”
171-The Emperor of the United States
Sep 25, 2017 • 32 min
Joshua Norton “reigned” over San Francisco for 21 years.
170-The Mechanical Turk
Sep 18, 2017 • 32 min
Did an 18th-century engineer manage to build a chess-playing automaton?
169-John Harrison and the Problem of Longitude
Sep 11, 2017 • 33 min
For centuries, navigators sought a way to reckon their precise position at sea.
168-The Destruction of the Doves Type
Sep 4, 2017 • 33 min
T.J. Cobden-Sanderson deliberately threw a ton of beautiful type into the river Thames.
167-A Manhattan Murder Mystery
Aug 28, 2017 • 32 min
A classic locked-room murder from 1920.
166-A Dangerous Voyage
Aug 21, 2017 • 33 min
During World War II, two Americans set out to sail 3,000 miles from the Philippines to Australia.
165-A Case of Mistaken Identity
Aug 14, 2017 • 31 min
The conviction of Adolph Beck, “one of the strangest true stories in British legal history.”
164-Vigil on the Ice
Aug 7, 2017 • 33 min
Augustine Courtauld was marooned at a remote weather station in Greenland in 1930.
163-Enslaved in the Sahara
Jul 31, 2017 • 31 min
Twelve Americans were enslaved in Africa after an 1815 shipwreck.
162-John Muir and Stickeen
Jul 17, 2017 • 32 min
An adventure with a dog and a glacier.
161-The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
Jul 10, 2017 • 30 min
High school student Juliane Koepcke survived a two-mile fall into the Peruvian rain forest.
160-The Birmingham Sewer Lion
Jul 3, 2017 • 32 min
In 1889 an African lion escaped into the sewers of Birmingham, England.
159-The Mozart of Mathematics
Jun 26, 2017 • 32 min
The rootless, gigantically prolific life of mathematician Paul Erdős.
158-The Mistress of Murder Farm
Jun 19, 2017 • 33 min
Belle Gunness lured lonely suitors to her Indiana farm, robbed them, and killed them.
157-The Brutal History of Batavia’s Graveyard
Jun 12, 2017 • 33 min
In 1629, Dutch castaways on a tiny island faced a desperately murderous leader.
156-The Most Dedicated Soldier
Jun 5, 2017 • 34 min
Hiroo Onoda hid in the Philippine jungle for 29 years, believing that World War II had not ended.
155-The Giraffe Who Walked to Paris
May 29, 2017 • 33 min
In 1826 a giraffe traveled 4,000 miles to be presented to the king of France.
154-Spared by a Volcano
May 22, 2017 • 29 min
The 1902 eruption of Mount Pelée left one survivor.
153-A Victorian Stalker
May 15, 2017 • 32 min
English teenager Edward Jones broke repeatedly into Buckingham Palace in the 1830s.
152-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
May 1, 2017 • 30 min
Play along as we untangle five strange-sounding situations using yes-or-no questions.
151-Double-Crossing the Nazis
Apr 24, 2017 • 31 min
How a Spanish chicken farmer became the greatest double agent of World War II.
150-The Prince of Nowhere
Apr 17, 2017 • 30 min
In 1821 Gregor MacGregor convinced hundreds of his countrymen to emigrate to a fictional republic in Central America.
149-The North Pond Hermit
Apr 10, 2017 • 29 min
Christopher Knight spent 27 years alone in the Maine wilderness.
148-The Perfect Murder
Apr 3, 2017 • 30 min
Raymond Chandler called the killing of Julia Wallace “the nonpareil of all murder mysteries.”
147-The Call of Mount Kenya
Mar 27, 2017 • 30 min
In 1943, an Italian POW escaped prison to climb a mountain.
146-Alone in the Wilderness
Mar 20, 2017 • 30 min
In 1913, Joe Knowles set out to spend two months naked and alone in the Maine woods.
145-The Pied Piper of Saipan
Mar 13, 2017 • 31 min
Guy Gabaldon captured more than 1,000 Japanese during World War II.
144-The Murder Castle
Mar 6, 2017 • 32 min
Serial killer H.H. Holmes ran a ghoulish hotel in Chicago in the 1890s.
143-The Conscience Fund
Feb 27, 2017 • 32 min
Citizens who have stolen from the U.S. government can contribute anonymously to this account.
142-Fingerprints and Polygraphs
Feb 20, 2017 • 30 min
The origins of two well-known tools of law enforcement.
141-Abducted by Indians, a Captive of Whites
Feb 13, 2017 • 32 min
Cynthia Ann Parker spent her life in a tug-of-war between two societies.
140-Ramanujan
Feb 6, 2017 • 30 min
The story of Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan.
139-The Painter’s Revenge
Jan 30, 2017 • 31 min
Dismissed by critics, Dutch painter Han van Meegeren set out to create “the ultimate forgery.”
138-Life in a Cupboard
Jan 23, 2017 • 33 min
The stories of two fugitives who spent years in wretchedly small spaces.
137-The Mystery of Fiona Macleod
Jan 16, 2017 • 33 min
Scottish author William Sharp had a feminine alter ego with her own literary career.
136-The Boston Molasses Disaster
Jan 9, 2017 • 31 min
In 1919 a failed storage tank released 2 million gallons of molasses into Boston’s North End.
135-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Dec 26, 2016 • 35 min
Play along as we untangle six perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.
134-The Christmas Truce
Dec 19, 2016 • 30 min
A spontaneous cease-fire spread across the Western Front on the first Christmas of World War I.
133-Notes and Queries
Dec 12, 2016 • 33 min
A selection of curiosities and questions from Greg’s research database.
132-The Mad Gasser of Mattoon
Dec 5, 2016 • 31 min
In 1944 hysteria swept Mattoon, Illinois, as residents reported a paralyzing gas being sprayed into their bedrooms
131-Escape From Libby Prison
Nov 28, 2016 • 30 min
In 1864, 109 Union officers executed a daring escape from one of the Confederacy’s most notorious prisons.
130-The Unlikely Ultramarathoner
Nov 21, 2016 • 34 min
In 1983, a 61-year-old potato farmer entered Australia’s 500-mile Sydney-to-Melbourne ultramarathon.
129-The Voynich Manuscript
Nov 14, 2016 • 32 min
In 1912, bookseller Wilfrid Voynich discovered a manuscript written in an unknown alphabet.
128-The Battle for Castle Itter
Nov 7, 2016 • 30 min
Near the end of World War II, enemies joined forces to rescue prisoners from a medieval castle.
127-Rowing Across the Atlantic
Oct 24, 2016 • 35 min
In 1896 two New Jersey clam diggers crossed the North Atlantic in a rowboat.
126-The Great Australian Poetry Hoax
Oct 17, 2016 • 31 min
In 1943, two Australian army officers submitted 17 senseless poems to an Australian literary magazine.
125-The Campden Wonder
Oct 10, 2016 • 34 min
A baffling murder confession gripped the town of Campden, England, in 1660.
124-D.B. Cooper
Oct 3, 2016 • 33 min
In 1971 a hijacker bailed out of a plane with $200,000 and was never seen again.
123-Washington D.C.’s Hidden Tunnels
Sep 26, 2016 • 31 min
Smithsonian scientist Harrison Dyar spent 20 years digging hidden tunnels under Washington D.C.
122-The Bear Who Went to War
Sep 19, 2016 • 30 min
During World War II, one Polish transport company adopted a brown bear as its mascot.
121-Starving for Science
Sep 12, 2016 • 31 min
During the siege of Leningrad, nine botanists starved to death protecting a storehouse of edible crops.
120-The Barnes Mystery
Sep 5, 2016 • 30 min
In 1879 a London maid dismembered her employer and then assumed her identity.
119-Lost in the Taiga
Aug 29, 2016 • 33 min
In 1936 a Russian family retreated into the Siberian forest, where they lived in complete isolation for 42 years.
118-The Restless Corpse of Elmer McCurdy
Aug 22, 2016 • 30 min
Oklahoma outlaw Elmer McCurdy had a career that lasted 100 years — two-thirds of it as a dead body.
117-The Road to En-dor
Aug 15, 2016 • 33 min
How Allied prisoners used a Ouija board to escape a Turkish prison camp in World War I.
116-Notes and Queries
Aug 8, 2016 • 31 min
The love affair that lies behind the Rolls Royce hood ornament.
115-Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier
Jul 25, 2016 • 30 min
Could a dead Gettysburg soldier be identified by the photograph he held?
114-The Desperation of Donald Crowhurst
Jul 18, 2016 • 36 min
A British engineer tried to fake a sailing trip around the world in 1968.
113-The Battle Over Mother’s Day
Jul 11, 2016 • 31 min
Why the founder of Mother’s Day came to hate the holiday.
112-The Disappearance of Michael Rockefeller
Jul 4, 2016 • 34 min
Was a son of the powerful Rockefeller family eaten by cannibals?
111-Japanese Fire Balloons
Jun 27, 2016 • 32 min
During World War II, Japan floated balloons across the Pacific to drop bombs on the U.S.
110-The Brooklyn Chameleon
Jun 20, 2016 • 31 min
The adventures of serial impostor Stanley Clifford Weyman.
109-Trapped in a Cave
Jun 12, 2016 • 31 min
Trapped in a cave in 1925, Floyd Collins became one of the first popular media sensations of the 20th century.
108-The Greenwich Time Lady
Jun 6, 2016 • 33 min
For 50 years, Ruth Belville set her watch at the Greenwich observatory and “sold the time” to London customers.
107-Arthur Nash and the Golden Rule
May 29, 2016 • 29 min
The unique management philosophy of a maverick 1920s clothing manufacturer.
106-The Popgun War
May 23, 2016 • 31 min
During wargames in 1941, three boys with a toy cannon briefly held off the U.S. Army.
105-Surviving on Seawater
May 8, 2016 • 34 min
In 1952 a French physician tried to cross the Atlantic on a diet of fish, plankton, and seawater.
104-The Harvey’s Casino Bombing
May 2, 2016 • 32 min
In 1980, an extortionist planted a thousand-pound bomb in a Nevada casino.
103-Legislating Pi
Apr 24, 2016 • 33 min
Did the Indiana legislature once vote on a mathematical proof?
102-The Bunion Derby
Apr 18, 2016 • 34 min
In 1928, 199 men set out to run across the United States.
101-Jerome
Apr 11, 2016 • 30 min
In 1863 a legless man appeared on a beach in Nova Scotia.
100-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Apr 4, 2016 • 36 min
Play along as we untangle five perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.
099-Notes and Queries
Mar 28, 2016 • 33 min
Eleven oddities and inquiries from Greg’s research.
098-The St. Albans Raid
Mar 21, 2016 • 32 min
In October 1864, a group of Confederate soldiers staged a surprise raid in northern Vermont.
097-The Villisca Ax Murders
Mar 14, 2016 • 31 min
On June 10, 1912, eight people were found bludgeoned to death in a house in southwestern Iowa.
096-The Abduction of Edgardo Mortara
Mar 7, 2016 • 32 min
In 1858 the Catholic Church seized a 6-year-old boy from his Jewish family in Bologna.
095-A New Day at Charleston
Feb 29, 2016 • 30 min
In 1862, a slave on a South Carolina transport ship seized a rare chance at freedom.
094-The Living Unknown Soldier
Feb 22, 2016 • 33 min
In 1918, a soldier without a memory appeared on a French railway platform.
093-The Old Flying Days
Feb 8, 2016 • 33 min
Journalist C.C. Turner was everywhere in the early days of English aviation.
092-The Forgotten Amendment
Feb 1, 2016 • 29 min
The 27th amendment was ratified largely because one man got a C on a term paper.
091-The Voyage of the Damned
Jan 25, 2016 • 34 min
In 1939, the United States turned back an ocean liner carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.
090-The Candy Bar War
Jan 18, 2016 • 31 min
In 1947, Canadian teenagers went on “strike” to protest high-priced chocolate bars.
089-An African From Baltimore
Jan 11, 2016 • 31 min
Bata Kindai Amgoza ibn LoBagola was not quite what he seemed.
088-Mrs. Wilkinson and the Lyrebird
Jan 4, 2016 • 32 min
In 1930, an Australian widow befriended a shy and gifted bird.
087-A Sleuthing Cabbie, Edward VI’s Homework, and a Self-Aware Crow
Dec 28, 2015 • 31 min
Seven oddities from our research.
086-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Dec 21, 2015 • 30 min
Play along as we try to untangle some puzzling situations.
085-Raising Chicago
Dec 14, 2015 • 34 min
In the 1850s, much of central Chicago was raised several feet by men turning jackscrews.
084-The Man Who Never Was
Dec 7, 2015 • 34 min
How the Allies fooled the Nazis using a person who never existed.
083-Nuclear Close Calls
Nov 30, 2015 • 36 min
In 1983, the Soviet Union’s early warning system reported that the U.S. had launched a nuclear missile toward Moscow.
082-Stealing Abe Lincoln
Nov 23, 2015 • 34 min
In 1876, an inept gang of Chicago counterfeiters planned to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom.
081-The Typhus Hoax
Nov 15, 2015 • 32 min
During World War II, two Polish doctors saved 8,000 of their countrymen by faking an epidemic.
080-‘Black Like Me’: Race Realities Under Jim Crow
Nov 2, 2015 • 34 min
In 1959, white writer John Howard Griffin traveled the segregated South disguised as a black man.
079-One Square Inch of the Yukon
Oct 25, 2015 • 34 min
In 1955, Quaker Oats gave away deeds to tiny plots of land in northwestern Canada.
078-Snowshoe Thompson
Oct 19, 2015 • 37 min
In the 1850s, mail was carried through the California mountains by one man on skis.
077-The Sourdough Expedition
Oct 12, 2015 • 33 min
In 1910, four gold miners set out to climb Mount McKinley to win a two-cent bet.
076-Get Out of Jail Free
Oct 4, 2015 • 30 min
During World War II, the British Secret Service smuggled escape aids to Allied POWs using Monopoly games.
075-The Sea Devil
Sep 28, 2015 • 35 min
Felix von Luckner was a gentleman pirate who made friends of his enemies in World War I.
074-Charley Parkhurst’s Secret
Sep 21, 2015 • 34 min
One of the most fearless and admired stagecoach drivers of the Wild West was discovered after death to be a woman.
073-The Tichborne Claimant
Sep 14, 2015 • 34 min
Was an Australian butcher really a long-lost English aristocrat?
072-The Strange Misadventures of Famous Corpses
Sep 7, 2015 • 35 min
Being well known can make it harder to rest in peace.
071-Godless in Missouri
Aug 31, 2015 • 33 min
In 1880, George Walser founded Liberal, Mo., a town dedicated to freethought and opposed to Christianity.
070-Sunk by a Whale
Aug 24, 2015 • 33 min
In 1820, the Nantucket whaleship Essex was attacked and sunk by an 85-foot sperm whale in the South Pacific, a thousand miles from land.
069-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Aug 10, 2015 • 32 min
Here are four new lateral thinking puzzles — play along as we try to understand some puzzling situations.
068-The Niihau Incident
Aug 2, 2015 • 38 min
After taking part in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese fighter pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi crash-landed on the isolated Hawaiian island of Niihau.
067-Composing Beyond the Grave
Jul 27, 2015 • 30 min
In the 20th century, two women claimed to receive messages from the spirits of dead classical composers.
066-Eighteen Holes in Vietnam
Jul 20, 2015 • 31 min
In 1972, a downed Air Force navigator used his knowledge of golf to elude North Vietnamese forces.
065-The Merchant Prince of Cornville
Jul 13, 2015 • 33 min
In 1898, the author of Cyrano de Bergerac was accused of plagiarizing a Chicago real estate developer.
064-Murder at the Priory
Jul 6, 2015 • 32 min
The 1876 poisoning death of London barrister Charles Bravo has never been solved.
063-The Rainmaker
Jun 28, 2015 • 32 min
In 1915, San Diego hired Charles Hatfield to relieve its drought — and got more than it bargained for.
062-Marconi Catches a Murderer
Jun 21, 2015 • 29 min
In 1910, Marconi’s new wireless telegraph helped Scotland Yard apprehend a killer fleeing across the Atlantic.
061-The Strange Custom of Garden Hermits
Jun 14, 2015 • 34 min
In the 1700s, English landowners would pay people to live in primitive isolation on their estates.
060-The Day They Hanged an Elephant
Jun 1, 2015 • 33 min
In 1916 a circus elephant named Mary was hanged in Erwin, Tennessee.
059-The Wizard of Mauritius
May 24, 2015 • 33 min
In 1764, a French naval engineer began to claim that he could see ships below the horizon.
058-English as She Is Spoke
May 18, 2015 • 30 min
In 1855, Pedro Carolino published the worst phrasebook ever written.
057-Jules Verne’s Lost Novel
May 11, 2015 • 35 min
Eight decades after Jules Verne’s death, his great-grandson opened a family safe and discovered an unpublished manuscript.
056-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
May 4, 2015 • 38 min
Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles — play along as we try to understand some puzzling situations.
055-The Dyatlov Pass Incident
Apr 26, 2015 • 31 min
On February 1, 1959, something terrifying overtook nine student ski-hikers in the northern Ural Mountains.
054-Escape From Stalag Luft III
Apr 20, 2015 • 36 min
In 1943, three Allied pilots found an ingenious way to escape from a German POW camp.
053-The Lost Colony
Apr 13, 2015 • 31 min
What became of the 100 English colonists who vanished from North Carolina’s Roanoke Island in the 1580s?
052-Moving Day in New York
Apr 6, 2015 • 29 min
By tradition, apartment leases in New York City used to expire together on May 1.
051-Poet Doppelgängers
Mar 29, 2015 • 32 min
At least five notable poets have appeared before human witnesses when their bodies were known to be elsewhere.
050-The Great Tea Race
Mar 23, 2015 • 34 min
In 1866, a quintet of clipper ships raced from China to London with the season’s first tea.
049-Can a Kitten Climb the Matterhorn?
Mar 16, 2015 • 34 min
In 1950, newspapers around the world reported that a 10-month-old kitten had climbed the Matterhorn, one of Europe’s highest peaks.
048-The Shark Arm Affair
Mar 9, 2015 • 33 min
In 1935, a tiger shark in an Australian aquarium vomited up a human forearm.
047-The Scariest Travel Books Ever Written
Feb 22, 2015 • 35 min
Favell Lee Mortimer published travel books that would frighten any child from leaving England.
046-The 1925 Serum Run to Nome
Feb 16, 2015 • 34 min
In 1925, an epidemic threatened Nome, Alaska, and only dogsleds could provide the needed medicine in time.
045-Crossing Africa for Love
Feb 8, 2015 • 30 min
In 1898, Cambridge dropout Ewart Grogan set out to walk across Africa to win the hand of the woman he loved.
044-Ballooning to the North Pole
Feb 1, 2015 • 32 min
In 1897, Swedish engineer S.A. Andrée made the world’s only attempt to reach the North Pole by balloon.
043-Ben Franklin’s Guide to Living
Jan 25, 2015 • 34 min
For most of his life, Benjamin Franklin followed a 13-step “plan for attaining moral perfection.”
042-The Balmis Expedition: Using Orphans to Combat Smallpox
Jan 19, 2015 • 33 min
In 1803, a lifesaving mission from Spain found an ingenious way to carry the smallpox vaccine to the New World.
041-The Tragic Tale of the Lady Be Good
Jan 12, 2015 • 31 min
An American bomber disappeared during a bombing run in 1943 — and reappeared 15 years later.
040-The Mary Celeste: A Great Sea Mystery
Jan 5, 2015 • 38 min
In 1872 the British merchant brigantine Mary Celeste was discovered drifting and apparently abandoned 600 miles off the coast of Portugal.
039-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Dec 22, 2014 • 30 min
A holiday special — eight new lateral thinking puzzles!
038-The Thunder Stone
Dec 14, 2014 • 30 min
In 1768 Catherine the Great ordered a 3-million-pound granite boulder moved 13 miles to Saint Petersburg.
037-Edgar Allan Poe’s Graveyard Visitor
Dec 8, 2014 • 32 min
For 75 years a succession of mysterious visitors left cognac and roses annually at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.
036-The Great Moon Hoax
Dec 1, 2014 • 34 min
In 1835 the New York Sun announced that flying man-bats had been discovered on the moon.
035-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Nov 24, 2014 • 25 min
Seven lateral thinking puzzles that didn’t make it into past episodes.
034-Spring-Heeled Jack — A Victorian Supervillain
Nov 17, 2014 • 37 min
Newspapers report a fire-breathing demon bounding impressively about southern England in the 19th century.
033-Death and Robert Todd Lincoln
Nov 10, 2014 • 35 min
Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert was connected with three different presidential assassinations.
032-The Wow! Signal
Nov 3, 2014 • 30 min
In August 1977 an Ohio radio telescope received a signal that appeared to have been sent by an alien intelligence.
031-Pigs on Trial
Oct 27, 2014 • 30 min
Why did medieval courts prosecute cows, bulls, horses, and weevils for crimes ranging from criminal damage to murder?
030-The Oak Island Money Pit
Oct 20, 2014 • 33 min
Nova Scotia’s Oak Island has become famous as the site of a vast treasure that no one has been able to unearth.
029-The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser
Oct 6, 2014 • 37 min
In 1828 a 16-year-old boy appeared in Nuremberg, claiming that he’d spent his entire life alone in a dark cell.
028-The Real-Life Sherlock Holmes
Sep 29, 2014 • 32 min
The famous fictional detective was inspired by a real-life medical lecturer who taught Arthur Conan Doyle at the University of Edinburgh.
027-The Man Who Volunteered for Auschwitz
Sep 22, 2014 • 33 min
Polish army captain Witold Pilecki is the only person to enter the concentration camp at Auschwitz voluntarily.
026-A Practical Joke on a Grand Scale
Sep 15, 2014 • 31 min
In November 1810 one of the most elaborate practical jokes of all time unfolded in an innocent London street.
025-An Australian Enigma
Sep 8, 2014 • 29 min
A well-dressed corpse appeared on a South Australian beach in 1948 — and has been baffling investigators for 66 years.
024-The World’s Worst Poet
Sep 1, 2014 • 30 min
William McGonagall wrote such disastrous verse that he’s achieved an ironic immortality, “the only truly memorable bad poet in our language.”
023-A Victorian Poisoning Mystery
Aug 25, 2014 • 33 min
On New Year’s Day 1886, Edwin Bartlett was found dead in bed with a lethal quantity of liquid chloroform in his stomach. How it got there has been a mystery for 120 years.
022-The Devil’s Hoofmarks
Aug 18, 2014 • 35 min
On Feb. 9, 1855, the residents of Devon, England, awoke to find a strange confusion of hoofprints in the newfallen snow.
021-A Gallant German Fighter Ace
Aug 4, 2014 • 32 min
Wounded over Germany in 1943, American bomber pilot Charlie Brown found himself shadowed by Nazi fighter ace Franz Stigler.
020-Life Imitates Science Fiction
Jul 28, 2014 • 37 min
In 1944, U.S. military intelligence was alarmed to discover a remarkably detailed description of an atomic bomb in Astounding Science Fiction magazine.
019-Testing the Post Office
Jul 21, 2014 • 34 min
In 1898 W. Reginald Bray set out to test the limits of the British postal system.
018-The Mystery of the Disappearing Airmen
Jul 14, 2014 • 31 min
What became of Ernest Cody and Charles Adams, Navy pilots who disappeared from a blimp in August 1942?
017-An Aircraft Carrier Made of Ice
Jul 7, 2014 • 30 min
Desperate to overcome German submarines in World War II, Britain entertained a strange plan.
016-A Very Popular Sack of Flour
Jun 30, 2014 • 29 min
Nevada mining merchant Reuel Gridley used a single sack of flour to raise $250,000 for wounded Union soldiers during the Civil War.
015-The Flannan Isles Mystery
Jun 23, 2014 • 32 min
In 1900, three lighthouse keepers vanished from a remote Scottish island.
014-The Unsinkable Violet Jessop
Jun 16, 2014 • 31 min
Stoic stewardess Violet Jessop escaped disaster on three successive ocean liners in the 1910s.
013-An Ingenious Escape From Slavery
Jun 9, 2014 • 35 min
Georgia slave Ellen Craft traveled 1,000 miles posing as a white man — and bringing her husband William as a servant.
012-The Great Race, Grace Kelly’s Tomahawk, and Dreadful Penmanship
Jun 2, 2014 • 29 min
Six teams undertook an impossible task in 1908 — to drive westward from New York to Paris.
011-A Woolf in Sheikh’s Clothing
May 26, 2014 • 33 min
In 1910, as a practical joke, Virginia Woolf donned a false beard and turban and toured a British battleship.
010-A Baboon Soldier, Lighthouse Rescues, and a Parliament of Owls
May 19, 2014 • 34 min
When Albert Marr joined the South African army in 1915, he brought his baboon with him.
009-The Monkey Signalman, Racetrack ESP, and Toxic Dumps
May 12, 2014 • 34 min
Meet Jack the baboon, who served as assistant signalman on a South African railway in the 1880s.
008-Owney the Mail Dog, Candy Bombers, and Bertrand Russell
May 5, 2014 • 33 min
A travel-mad terrier tours the nation by mail car in the 1890s
007-Louisiana Hippos, Imaginary Epidemics, and Charles Lindbergh
Apr 28, 2014 • 29 min
A French flight set out to cross the Atlantic 12 days before Lindbergh — and disappeared.
006-Texas Camels, Zebra Stripes, and an Immortal Piano
Apr 21, 2014 • 33 min
The U.S. Army once considered using camels as pack animals in the American Southwest
005-Mailing People, Alien Shorthand, and Benjamin Franklin
Apr 14, 2014 • 32 min
How Henry “Box” Brown earned his nickname.
004-Mystery Airships, Marauding Lions, and Nancy Drew
Apr 7, 2014 • 35 min
What was flying over San Francisco in 1896?
003-Extreme Pedestrians, Kangaroo Stew, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Mar 31, 2014 • 34 min
One woman’s resolution to walk to Siberia.
002-Mass Hysteria, Airborne Sheepdogs and Mark Twain’s Brother
Mar 24, 2014 • 28 min
Some feared that the return of Halley’s comet in 1910 would kill us all.
001-Calendar Reform, Doll Mansions, and Hitchcock’s Vertigo
Mar 14, 2014 • 30 min
Is there a better way to lay out our annual calendar?