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 dangerous laxative didn’t just save members of the expedition, but also may have preserved their campsites for posterity.
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 national attention. People across the country proposed various theories explaining the deluge, and today the guys believe they've finally solved the mystery.
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 Herculean task, and James Murray, the editor of the dictionary, put out a call for assistance. This early crowdsourcing strategy worked surprisingly well. Murray was particularly impressed by his most prolific and consistent contributor, an enigmatic fellow named Dr. W.C. Minor. So impressed, in fact, that Murray decided he had to meet the man in person. It's safe to say the meeting didn't go as expected.
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 hundreds of thousands of dollars. He had many, many scams, and posed as everything from an elite theatre producer to a stressed-out, down on his luck government official and more. Here's the thing: For most of his career, Victor was able to talk his way out of any arrests or convictions. Join Ben and special guest Christopher Hassiotis as they explore the Count's most ambitious, ridiculous scam -- selling the Eiffel tower (twice).
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 George Carlin setting a legal precedent with the Supreme Court. Listen in to learn how curse words changed the world and sparked a debate that continues today.
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 friends in law enforcement. In fact, Bruce was arrested multiple times for his use of 'obscenities', sparking a larger, continuing debate about the nature of free speech. Join the guys as they learn more about the early days of stand-up and the Lenny Bruce controversy with this week's special guest: Comedian, actor, writer and historian Wayne Federman.
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 years old, lost his right arm in a brutal accident. Normally this sort of wound would be a death sentence, but in this case the guy didn't just survive -- he created a prosthetic limb from a sword and officially became Knife Hand (a title we gave him because we think it sounds cool). Listen in to learn more about the life and times of Knife Hand, including why his story, when you get down to the details, is more an inspiring testament to human compassion than a frightening tale of a killer with a blade for an arm.
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 noble class, she committed crimes with impunity for years — even, at one point, opening an academy to teach her poisoning skills to others. Tune in to learn more about the rise and fall of what may well be the world’s first documented serial killer.
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 odd practice of consuming human body parts in hopes of curing all one's ills, through everything such as the King's drops to bandages soaked in human fat, along with related stories of the legendary Mellified Man and the current, tragic phenomenon of Tanzanian criminals hunting down those suffering from albinism to use their body parts in magic rituals.
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 years without paying the tax on your loved one's resting place, the body would be disinterred and taken from its grave. As gravediggers began removing corpses, they discovered something bizarre: Many of the bodies had somehow naturally mummified. Word of the Mummies of Guanajuato quickly spread, and the gravediggers starting charging locals to take a quick peek at the remains. This was only the beginning. Join Ben and Noel as they explore the strange tale of the Mummies of Guanajuato.
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 store. But what made this particular processed meat so popular? Join Ben, Noel and special guest, Savor cohost Anney Reese as they explore the strange circumstances that paved the way for the rise of Spam.
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 forces held the bridges and were prepared to destroy them before allowing the French to cross. With a brilliant talent for improvisation and more than a healthy dose of confidence, the Marshalls proceeded to con their way across the bridge without firing a shot. Listen in to learn more.
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 get? Join the guys and returning guest Christopher Hassiotis as they explore bizarre tales of non-human politicians.
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 most cases these are dismissed as spooky stories for children or ancient myths, but when the CIA needed to oust a group of Communist rebels in the Philippines, they decided to make the myth of the Aswang a reality.
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 the garden variety tales of adultery and financial corruption to shame. Listen in to learn what drove Pope Stephen VI (also sometimes called Pope Steven VII) to dig up one of his predecessors and put the corpse of another Pope on trial.
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 why? Join the guys as they explore how the Napoleonic War, a terrified village and one incredibly unlucky monkey collided -- allegedly -- in one of the most ridiculous events of its time.
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 these regions? Perhaps more importantly, why did so many folks in the US support his various strange escapades?
When middling baseball player Alfred Lawson first learned of the Wright Brothers, he experienced a revelation that would guide the greater part of his life: Aviation, he believed, was the future of more than just transit -- it would become one of the most important advances in the history of the human race. Lawson, brimming with confidence and charisma, led the charge to popularize aviation, publishing magazines and even designing the first modern airliner. After the Great Depression dashed many of America's budding businesses, Lawson shifted focus to economic theory and, eventually, he discovered his own religion.
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 of ammo only to receive... pallets of tootsie rolls. Over the next two bloody, violent weeks these tiny candies turned out be much more useful than anyone could have predicted -- tune in to learn why some Marines credit their survival to this oft-maligned, strange piece of candy.
On April 14th, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in Ford's theatre, escaping shortly thereafter and going on the run. The Federal troops in pursuit of the assassin had orders to bring Booth and any of his conspirators back alive. For most of the soldiers, this wasn't a problem. However, Boston Corbett felt he answered to a higher power -- and this higher power told him that Booth deserved to die. Tune in as we explore the (bizarre) life and times of Boston Corbett.