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 spying for the German government. Listen to learn the story of one of World War II’s most successful double agents.
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. Throughout the early 1920s, small bands of peasants from both countries routinely crossed the border to steal livestock, damage property and harass locals. This untenable situation reached a breaking point in 1925, when a Greek border guard was fatally shot while crossing into Bulgaria to retrieve his dog (who had strayed away on dog business). This single incident sparked a cavalcade of chaos that eventually caught the attention of the League of Nations.
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 as they explore the tragic life and time of Samuel Morse.
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 as crucial as it was complicated -- if the plant continued to function, the Nazis very well may have been able to construct an atomic bomb. Tune in to learn exactly how the commandos glided in and, eventually, skied away.
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 down forgers seriously, and may have even bent (or broken) the law in his quest to arrest and hang his archnemesis, the counterfeiting kingpin William Chaloner.
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. Following the British victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, the survivors of the conflict were left with a dilemma -- how could they preserve Nelson's body long enough for the corpse to receive an appropriate burial back home?
In late 17th-century England, it was almost impossible for anyone outside of the upper class to successfully get a divorce -- the process was expensive and required approval from both the church and the government. As a result, some couples agreed to end their unhappy marriages through a bizarre practice known as 'wife selling'. And, unfortunately, it's exactly what it sounds like.
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 travel back to the early 1900s, when Louisiana congressman Robert Broussard proposed an unorthodox solution to the nation's crippling meat shortage: the introduction of African Hippopotamuses to Gulf Coast swamplands. What convinced Broussard that the world's deadliest land mammal could become America's next culinary craze? Tune in to find out.
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 Washington's weird hair routine, his bizarre, lifelong medical issues, and his family's troubling history in early America.
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, there's more weirdness than we could fit in a single episode.)
Today, most people probably don't remember the career of once-famous charioteer Gaius Appuleius Diocles -- however, in his day we was a cultural icon, one of the most famous athletes in Rome. Join the guys as they explore the story Diocles and trace one professor's quest to figure out exactly how much cash Diocles made in modern terms.
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 Clara back to his home country after his travels abroad. It's often said that fame can have a powerful effect on the average human being, but how does it affect rhinos? Join the guys and special guest Katie Goldin, host of the podcast Creature Feature, as they unravel the mystery.
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, Monopoly became more than a mere diversion -- it became, instead, their ticket to freedom. Join the guys as they explore the strange sequence of events that led the UK to turn Monopoly into a real-life escape kit.
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 and special guest, Rowan Newbie, the creator of the Pitches podcast, as they explore the bizarre origins of your favorite turns of phrase. (Ben here, with a bonus question: I went through and noted multiple turns of phrase we all used unintentionally - how many can you catch?)
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 her beauty, uses her hair as a ladder and comes to her rescue. But where did this story come from, exactly? Tune in to find out.
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a man of many interests, but his endeavors were by no means limited to technical innovation, philosophy and politics. In fact, throughout his life he had a reputation as an irredeemable lech -- literally, in later years, a dirty old man -- and his exploits were common knowledge on both sides of the Atlantic. He himself did not shy away from these accusations, and records show he even advised his younger friends on affairs, marriage, sex and romance. But was his famous 1745 letter "Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress" meant as sincere advice, or satire?
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 mean? Join the guys as they explore the ridiculous origin story of Idaho's name.
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 bats with incendiary devices and launch them -- real-life bat bombs -- across Japanese cities. Here's the weird thing: It could have actually worked.
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 1948. And while most reports of defectors focus on harrowing stories of North Koreans escaping to freedom in China or South Korea, a handful of people actually traveled in the other direction, defecting to North Korea. Listen in to learn more about the strange journeys American soldiers took, away from the military and straight to the forefront of North Korea's film industry.
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 seas. Yet, in at least one case, some of the same technological breakthroughs that made these subs astonishing also led to their demise. Join the guys as they dive (get it?) into the strange story of U-1206 and the high-tech toilet that led to its doom.