For such a popular, well-known language, English is full of strange, seemingly arbitrary rules. Most people just accept these various idiosyncracies... but Benjamin Franklin was not most people. Tune in as Ben and Noel explore Franklin's strange quest to revise the English language by cutting out old letters (and inventing new ones).
Nowadays fruitcake is considered a stereotypical, often comical holiday punchline, but even in the modern day people across the planet can agree on at least one fruitcake fact: Those things are pretty darn durable! So how long could a fruitcake really last before it becomes inedible? Join Ben and Noel as they travel to Antarctica to find out.
Nowadays Christmas is a globally-recognized holiday celebrated by millions of people, but in the past this wasn't the case. In fact, some groups of Christians detested the holiday, going so far as to ban it completely. So what led Puritans to ban one of the most prominent celebrations in the Christian faith? Join Ben and Noel as they take a closer look at the strange story of Puritans and Christmas.
You've probably heard that France takes its bread seriously -- but did you know France had specific laws governing the lives of bakers? For centuries the country regulated how and when bakers could close or take vacation. Although this may sound amusing now, in the past it was a deadly serious issue. So what happened? What happened to make the French government so frightfully concerned about bakers taking time off?
Weddings are an ancient tradition, and over the millenia the various rituals associated with (theoretically) life-long partnership have evolved and changed. One ritual in particular became both prominent and controversial in the West: the act of newly-married couples smashing wedding cake into each other's faces. So where did it come from? Why does it happen, and what do its critics think the practice means?
If you land on a deserted island, you might be tempted to search for the basic stuff first -- food, water, shelter, and so on -- but don't forget to keep an eye out for guano! Why, you ask? Well, due to a relatively obscure law, the presence of guano on a deserted island may allow you to declare it property of the United States! Sort of. Tune in to learn more.
Let's say you're a scientist -- how far would you go to carry out a study? Back in the 1930s, two intrepid researchers went into full spy mode, stalking college students in an effort to determine how they behaved when they didn't know they were being observed. Join Ben and Noel as they explore the strange, ridiculous and, at times, disturbing history of informed consent.
In 1422, King Charles VI died after ruling France for more than 40 years. He was also remembered as Charles the Mad, in part because he was convinced that his body was made of glass and would shatter upon contact with other people. This condition, known as the glass delusion, would continue to pop up through medieval Europe until the late 19th century, seemingly disappearing in the modern day.
When Lord Victor Rothschild first heard the news, he was incredulous -- surely Nazi Germany wasn't seriously planning to assassinate Winston Churchill with an exploding chocolate bar. However, Rothschild learned the intelligence reports were solid and was forced to take action before the Prime Minister fell victim to a literal death by chocolate.
Today, the terms 'citizen' and 'consumer' are often used interchangeably by authors, journalists and politicians. To some experts, this shift has disturbing implications. But how important is a word? How did this switch occur, and why?
At the close the US Civil War, tens of thousands of former Confederate families fled the US for a small city in Brazil, where they sought to continue living as they had in the days before the war. Tune in to learn more about the strange history of Americana, Brazil.
Charles Mallory Hatfield considered himself a real-life rainmaker (or, as he preferred to describe himself, a 'moisture accelerator') and, when San Diego faced one of its most damaging droughts, Hatfield cracked a deal: He'd bring the water back to San Diego. City officials were skeptical, but desperate -- and, as ridiculous as it might sound -- they got more than they bargained for.
Caught between the conflicting ideologies of the Cold War, Soviet teens were banned from collecting Western music -- smuggled records could be both rare and expensive. The solution? Discarded X-rays, also known as 'bone recordings'. Join the guys as they explore the strange story of the Stilyagi.
Antarctica is home to one of the most brutal climates on the planet, and the few humans living on this continent face profound isolation and cramped quarters. Often, tension rises as the months between supply runs pile up -- so what happens when something goes wrong?
Today Chinese restaurants serve some of the most popular cuisine in the United States, with more than 41,000 restaurants scattered around the country. Yet in the 1900s these restaurants were so controversial that labor unions, hate groups and even politicians joined forces in an attempt to wipe the businesses out. Tune in to hear the whole story (which, luckily, has a delicious and happy ending).
The Protestant Reformation remains one of the most significant cultural events in the Western world. Martin Luther's 95 Theses addressed numerous concerns with the Catholic church, including corruption and the practice of granting dispensations -- allowing people to, essentially, pay their way out of sin. So what was it about butter that spurred Martin Luther into action? The story might surprise you.
Humanity has always had a fascination with -- and fear of -- the dead. And when the small medieval village of Wharram Percy felt they might become victims of the undead, they took drastic, grisly action, committing an atrocity that would not be uncovered until the modern day.
When notorious drug kingpin Pable Escobar died, he left behind a legacy of brutal crime, opulent living and, oddly enough, four hippos. Fast forward to the modern day, and experts estimate as many as 50 hippopotamuses may roam free in the lands around Escobar's old estate. So what happens when these 4.5 ton animals decide to make themselves at home in Colombia?
History is beautiful, brutal and, often, ridiculous. Join Ben Bowlin and Noel Brown as they dive into some of the weirdest stories from across the span of human civilization in Ridiculous History, a podcast by HowStuffWorks. Here's a preview of our upcoming episode 'Butter: Protestantism's Secret Ingredient?'