Simeon Ellerton spent years building a house out of stones he found and carried home, one by one. Rejected by his one true love, Edward Leeskalnin spent decades erecting a bizarre monument for her, built of giant coral stones in Florida. But what exactly motivated these guys? How did they stick with their strange obsessions, and what mysteries surround them in the modern day? Tune in to learn more.
Today the United States Military Academy at West Point is known as one the country's top-notch training institutions, but back in 1826 it was home to a night of pure egg-nog-fueled pandemonium. Join Ben and Noel as they retrace the drunken, crazed steps of cooped-up cadets who decided to fight the power one Christmas.
The 36th President of the United States is often recalled as a complex, flawed individual responsible for profoundly important legislation. However, he was also a notorious telephone fanatic, installing loads of phones in both the White House and his Texas ranch. Here's the kicker: He recorded almost everything.
World War I was a devastating catastrophe, the likes of which the world had never before encountered. The chaos swept across Europe, and whether on the battlefield or at home no one was left untouched. Yet the war had another, unexpected casualty: the sausage industry. Join the guys as they explore how Germany's rush for air superiority deprived the average German citizen of one of the country's best-loved traditional foods.
For centuries people from all walks of life sought to eliminate friends, strangers and enemies using the devious, subtle poison known as arsenic. Arsenic poisoning became such a well-known method of murder that people in Britain began calling it ''inheritance powder''. But what made it so popular? How did this particular substance become the stuff of history? Join Ben and Noel as they delve into the fascinating, morbid story of arsenic.
Nowadays people across the planet are familiar with the story of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. People even celebrate the anniversary of the event, often interpreting it as a protest against overarching government authority. However, the real story is a bit more complicated. Some historians believe Fawkes and the crew he worked for were set up by factions of the government -- making the Gunpowder Plot something between a false flag attack and a killer marketing campaign.
Commonly regarded as one of humanity's premiere works on the art of pursuing and securing power, Niccolò Machiavelli's book ''The Prince'' has become so popular that the name of its author is synonymous with unethical behavior in the modern day. However, it turns out that Machiavelli himself wasn't the first proponent of ruthless behavior -- the author (or authors) of ancient India's Arthashastra outlined incredibly similar strategies almost 2,000 years before the publication of Machiavelli's masterpiece.
Nowadays U.S. grocery shoppers can be reasonably certain that the foods they purchase are safe (if not healthy). But this wasn't always the case. In fact, if it wasn't for one extremely driven, imperfect man on a mission to clean up America's food industry we might well still have rampant contamination in the grocery aisles today. Harvey Wiley didn't think it was enough to conduct conventional safety studies, either -- he jumped straight to human experimentation. Join the guys as they delve into the strange story of Harvey Wiley and the Poison Squad.
It's no secret that espionage and spycraft are common tools in the murky realm of geopolitics -- but not every spy is some sort of James Bond type character in a bespoke suit with a penchant for martinis. In fact, some spies aren't even human. Join Ben and Noel as they dive -- and fly -- into the strange stories of animal spies and nonhuman government operatives, from crows to dolphins, sea lions, cats and more.
Star Trek is one of the world's most well-known sci-fi franchises, spanning decades in film, TV, books, games and more. While it's had its fair share of lighthearted moments (hello, Tribbles!), its vision of a more equal, peaceful human civilization has made a profound impact on real-world politics and race relations. Join the guys as they explore how a single conversation with a surprising Star Trek fan shaped the course of the show -- and the course of US culture.
Every city has its drawbacks -- parking, for example, or crime, or the price of a decent pizza slice -- but in the 1800s London faced a particularly unusual and disgusting problem: the city literally stank. And this wasn't an occasional whiff of urine or hot garbage from an alleyway, oh no. Instead, a pervasive stench permeated the area, an odor so strong that it disrupted Parliament, forcing the government to take action (and eventually rewriting our understanding of disease in the process).
Nowadays smartphones are an ubiquitous part of many civilizations, but not so long ago telephones of any sort were a rare commodity -- and the infrastructure was enormously expensive. When telephones hit the mass market, companies focused on densely-populated urban areas, leaving rural communities with no hope of getting a phone line. Until, that is, a group of MacGyver-esque farmers figured out an ingenious way to connect not just themselves, but everyone in their town.
Today, most grocery stores carry a variety of margarine and butter brands -- but this wasn't always the case. In fact, both Canada and the United States once had bizarre laws banning the production or importation of margarine. So what launched the margarine bootlegging industry? Join the guys as they explore the startling, strange story of the Big Butter versus margarine and its ''kindred abominations''.
If you're like most people, the phrase ''Wild West'' conjures images of brutal gunfights in dusty, tumbleweed-ridden streets, visions of criminals slinking into the shadows of dimly-lit saloons and the vast stretch of lawless, unforgiving frontier. But how much of that image is actually true? Join Ben and Noel as they delve into the myth of the American frontier to discover how wild -- or mild -- it actually was.
Today the Ford GT40 is one of the world's most iconic vehicles -- but this award winning automotive beast is, it turns out, the result of a serious grudge match. Join the guys as they delve into the strange, spiteful history of the Ford GT40.
Donuts: they're sweet, delectable and dangerous. Nowadays they're best known as a sugary snack or a nice accompaniment to a cup of coffee, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, for a few years manufacturers tried to sell them as -- believe it or not -- a health food. Join the guys as they explore the strange rise and fall of the infamous vitamin donut.
Today botox is one of the world's most well-known wrinkle treatments, as well as a go-to joke in the realm of pop culture. But where did this treatment come from, and what on Earth does it have to do with sausage? Join Ben and Noel as they trace the origins of botox to one man's unending obsession with food safety and rotting pork.
Today Jell-O and other gelatin foodstuffs are generally relegated to world of desserts, but this wasn't always the case. In fact, gelatin took a long, strange path from ancient history to modern-day grocery shelves -- and got pretty gross along the way. Tune in to learn more about the bizarre world of savory gelatin.
When London was in the grips of a cholera epidemic, the already-overfilled cemetaries couldn't handle the extra bodies. So when there's literally no room in the soil for another dead body, what's a city to do? To the creators of the London Necropolis Railway, the answer was simple -- build a train for the dead.