In the 1600s, residents of the Dutch Republic were -- according to the story -- absolutely bonkers for tulips. A market sprang up around the tulip trade, and people began paying in advance for tulip bulbs, negotiating increasingly extravagant financial agreements and, in some cases, even using tulips as currency. This Tulipmania is often presented as the first economic boom and bust... but how accurate is that claim? What really happened? Join Ben and Noel as they separate the fact from fiction.
It's true that the world's militaries often pioneer technological innovation -- but don't let all those great successes fool you! The world's militaries have at least as many failures as they do breakthroughs. Join Ben, Noel and special guest Christopher Hassiotis as they explore some of humanity's most hilarious military missteps, from round ships to rocket bullets and ball tanks.
For at least 200 years, part of London’s criminal underground was ruled by a gang of brilliant, all-female jewel thieves. Join the guys as they explore the rise and fall of the notorious Forty Elephants.
During Europe's period of witchcraft hysteria, one enterprising (and failed) witch hunter sought to bolster his reputation by creating an authoritative text on the existence, discovery and persecution of witches. While it may seem silly now, the Malleus Maleficarum was a runaway success, with thousands of copies inundating European society even while various officials warned against treating it as a reliable source. Listen in to learn more about The Hammer of the Witches.
In 1814, a poor neighborhood in London fell victim to a strange, tragic and boozy disaster -- this calamity would eventually leave eight people dead. So what exactly happened? How could an entire neighborhood flood with a deadly deluge of beer? Tune in to find out.
Nowadays, world-famous children's author Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known writers on the planet. "Green Eggs and Ham", one of his most successful books, sold over 8 million copies by 2016 -- but would you believe he wrote it based entirely on a bet?
What inspired Rudyard Kipling to write The Jungle Book? Join the guys as they explore the real-life, tragic stories of feral children abandoned by their human parents, adopted by animals and raised in the wild.
Here in the modern day, most people don’t love going to the dentist — but we still have it much better than the dental patients of yesteryear! Join the guys as they dive into a strange, grisly story from the early days of dentistry.
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.