Right Now in Ridiculous History

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

How Bertha Heyman Conned Her Way Into Show Business

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.

That Time Germany Got Obsessed With Polar Bear Photos

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

Rose Mackenberg: Houdini's Ghostbuster

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

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

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

John of Bohemia, the Blind King Who Charged Into Battle

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.

Kakigōri: The Story of Japan's Famous Shaved Ice

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

John Edmonstone: The Man Who Trained Darwin

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

The Death of Luxury Air Travel

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

Introducing History VS.

In the podcast History Vs., we’ll explore how larger-than-life historical figures faced off against their greatest foes. In this inaugural season, we’re looking at Theodore Roosevelt’s incredible life using a convention that he, as a boxer, would have appreciated. Each episode, we’ll analyze how Roosevelt took on a particular challenge, from his debilitating childhood asthma and conflict within his family to conquering the hours of the day and preserving the world for the next generation.


History VS. is now available. Listen here.

The Bizarre Capitulation of Stettin

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

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

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

John Clem: The 12-year Old Civil War Hero

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 children were under the age of 15. John Lincoln Clem was one of the most extreme examples of this phenomenon, and remains one of the most well-known today. He joined up with the Union when he was only eleven years old, surviving multiple conflicts and living to the ripe old age of 85. But how did he feel about the practice of allowing children into battle? The answer might surprise you.

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

For decades in the West, Christopher Columbus was often inaccurately portrayed as a pioneering explorer, his life, times and crimes sanitized in the public record. Schoolchildren learned rhymes about this individual, and in the US he was given an official holiday. However, the activities of the real Christopher Columbus fall far short of the image children were taught growing up. In fact, Columbus was such a dirtbag that, eventually, even the Spanish Crown turned against him.

The Kaiser’s Plan to Invade the United States

Kaiser Wilhelm II was nothing if not ambitious, and he had grand geopolitical plans to increase German influence across the planet. In his mind, there was one big roadblock in the way — the pesky United States. Join the guys as they explore the bizarre German plans to invade the U.S.

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

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 profoundly affected American attitudes about slavery, the story also had a global reach -- in fact, a Chinese translation of Uncle Tom's Cabin became one of the hottest books of the late Qing Dynasty.

Introducing Worst Year Ever

2020 isn't going to be fun for anybody, left, right, or center. What many call the Most Important Election of Our Lifetime is going to be exhausting, ugly, angry, and probably at least a little racist. Listen as Robert, Katy, and Cody try to keep level heads covering the election while traveling the country, from the Iowa Caucus to gun shows and anti-vaccine conventions, finding out what Real America really wants and thinks during the, “Worst Year Ever.”

The first two episodes are now available. Listen here.

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

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 Carter’s Uncle Tom Gordy — and how one man’s letter home set Carter on a path that would eventually lead to the presidency.

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

Although he was wildly popular during his final Presidential term (the world-famous Teddy Bear was even inspired by him), Theodore Roosevelt declined to run for the office again in 1908. Immediately after the inauguration of President Howard Taft in 1909, Roosevelt set out on his dream trip -- a safari across the African continent. Join the guys and special guest Daniel Scheffler, the host of Everywhere, as they explore the complicated, paradoxical relationship Roosevelt had with conservation and hunting, along with how a Teddy Bear inspired Daniel to travel to over 120 countries.

You can listen to Everywhere wherever podcasts are available. Listen here.

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

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 Island’s Boston Tea Party.