Right Now in Ridiculous History

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 episode of Listener Mail.

That Time Ohio and Michigan Almost Went To War

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 Michigan. Tune in to Ridiculous History to hear how the conflict between these lands was solved.

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

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 multiple communities actually created and circulated their own forms of local currency. And this wasn't a lark -- it was a matter of survival. Listen in to learn more about some of the precedents for the (world-famous) BenBucks.

The Attack of the Japanese Balloon Bombs

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 Air Force, only to be ignored. You don't see anything about this in the papers or on the radio. You are in the midst of a real-world conspiracy of silence -- until, that is, the bombs begin to explode. Listen in to learn more about the attack of the Japanese balloon bombs.

Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Hoax

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 necklace. That's the short summary -- but the story itself is a startling tale of intrigue and iniquity. Listen in to learn more about the strange tale of the diamond necklace hoax.

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

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 least one case, the truth appears stranger than fiction. Join the guys as they explore the story of Nosy Boraha, the Pirate's Paradise.

How the Black Death Came To Norway On A Ghost Ship

In the 1300s, the Black Death sprang up in central Asia and swept across continents, killing millions. Quarantines became common as various nations sought safety in isolation, and some met with more success than others. Norway may have staved off the plague for years, were it not for a mysterious ghost ship -- listen in to learn more.

Susanna Caroline Matilda: The Colonial Grifter Princess

Have you ever dreamed about shedding your old identity, casting aside your obligations and becoming an entirely different person? Susanna Caroline Matilda, narrowly escaping death after stealing from the Queen, did just that upon arriving at the American colonies. Join Ben, Casey and returning guest Christopher Hassiotis as they unravel the strange story of the Colonial Grifter Princess.

History's Weirdest Flexes, Part II

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 special guests Miles and Jack from The Daily Zeitgeist as they explore some of the strangest (and most petty) flexes in human history in the conclusion of this two-part episode.

History's Weirdest Flexes, Part I

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 itself is as old as human civilization. Join the guys with special guests Miles and Jack from The Daily Zeitgeist as they explore some of the strangest (and most petty) flexes in human history.

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

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 procedures of the 1800s. Back then, even some of the best surgeons still had about a one in ten chance of their patients dying during or shortly after a procedure. And Robert Liston was no exception. Listen in to learn how this otherwise top-notch surgeon managed to kill not only his patient, but also his assistant and some guy just standing nearby all in the course of one procedure gone horribly wrong.

How Oliver Cromwell Got Executed Several Years After His Death

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 Lord Protector, essentially ruling Wales, Scotland and England. He died of natural causes, but was later executed... after his death. What are we talking about? Tune in to find out.

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

When the schoolteacher who would come to be called Hong Xiuquan first heard of the Christian religion, he wasn't particularly bowled over. However, when he had a nervous breakdown after failing his scholarly exams, he experienced a series of visions that he later believed revealed his true destiny: He was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, and he was meant to lead his followers to earthly and spiritual freedom. Tune in to learn how Hong Xiuquan's visions sparked one of the bloodiest rebellions in Chinese history.

How Big Bill Speakman Fought Off North Korea With Beer Bottles

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 bottles -- and, somehow, survived. Tune in to learn more about Big Bill Speakman, the Beer Bottle VC (and learn why he came to hate this nickname).

Teddy Roosevelt May Just Have Saved Modern (American) Football

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 in 1905 alone more than 15 players died from game-related injuries. Universities were on the verge of banning football entirely. President Roosevelt, himself a life-long fan of the sport, knew something must be done. Listen in to learn how the 26th President of the US may just have saved modern football.

Prohibition, Prescriptions and the Rise of 'Medicinal' Booze

From 1920 to 1933, the United States was, technically speaking, a dry country. The National Prohibition Act made the manufacture, transport and sale of alcohol illegal for the vast majority of the population. However, there were several loopholes available for the enterprising alcohol enthusiast -- and doctors quickly realized they could make loads of cash prescribing booze for medicinal purposes. Join the guys as they explore the rise and fall of the medicinal alcohol industry.

Did Robert E. Lee hate Confederate Memorials?

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 Robert E. Lee found himself constantly approached to endorse numerous different memorials, statues and other structures. There was just one problem -- he apparently hated them.

California Schoolchildren and the Great Squirrel War

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, consuming crops left and right. State horticulture commissioner George H. Hecke proposed an unorthodox solution -- enlist schoolchildren in a statewide massacre of all ground squirrels. Oddly enough, it worked.

When West Virginia Begged the USSR for Foreign Aid

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, Vulcan relied on a single, small bridge for its connection to the larger world. When the bridge failed, the town repeatedly tried to get financial assistance from the local and state government -- with no success. In a state of increasing desperation, the Mayor of Vulcan wrote the Soviet Union for help... during the Cold War. Listen in to learn what happened next.

Idiomatic for the People II, Part II

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 use on a daily basis, with little to no understanding of what they originally meant. Join the guys with special guests Frank Mulherin and Rowan Newbie, the creator of the Pitches podcast, as they explore the bizarre origins of your favorite turns of phrase.