Right Now in Ridiculous History

The Weird World of Meat Jell-O (Gelatin Origin Story)

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.

London Made a Train for the Dead

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.

Roald Dahl: Children's Author and Secret Agent

Today author Roald Dahl is best-known for his prolific writing career -- but, as it turns out, he lived an entirely different life before he ever put pen to paper to create children's stories. Learn more about Roald Dahl's earlier life as a fighter ace, a legendary ladies man, and a World War II-era spy (seriously, like a real-life James Bond!) in this episode.

When did ALL-CAPS type become YELLING?

You've seen them before, whether in a forwarded spam email, a strangely passionate Facebook post or a weirdly emphatic comment on your favorite website: THE DREADED ALL-CAPS TYPER. But where does this practice come from? How did everyone agree that typing in ALL CAPS means you're yelling at someone via text? Tune in to... FIND OUT.

Why does the Guinness Beer Company Track World Records?

Odds are you've heard about the Guinness Book of World Records, the famous, often inaccurate compilation of various impressive, important, and ridiculous feats from people across the planet. But how did it come about? How on earth did a brewer become the repository of all this strange knowledge? Tune in for a surprising peek behind the keg -- and into the cups -- of Guinness history and human ambition.

Digging Up James K Polk (For the Third Time)

The average American may not hear much about James K Polk in school today, but during his time in office the 11th U.S. President was responsible for a number of tremendously significant policy movements. Today he and his wife are interred in the Tennessee State Capitol, but this was neither their first resting place nor, if certain lawmakers succeed, their last. So why do people keep digging up this President's remains? Join Ben and Noel to learn more about the posthumous journey of President Polk.

Presidents Love Their Ridiculous Pets

It's no secret that, until very recently, US Presidents were known as huge fans of pets -- and they didn't limit themselves to cats and dogs! Join Ben and Noel as they explore some of the strangest pets in presidential history, from warhorses and cows to bears, raccoons and much, much more.

The Atomic Whoops: When the US Air Force Bombed South Carolina

During the height of the Cold War, both the US and the USSR constantly ran drills in anticipation of a possible nuclear conflict. While the Gregg family of Mars Bluff, South Carolina knew the Cold War was in full swing, they had no idea that they would become the first American family bombed -- accidentally -- by the US Air Force. Join Ben and Noel as they explore one of the most bizarre atomic slip-ups in history.

Waging War With Hallucinogenic Honey

Honey is popular around the world, and for good reason. This addictively sweet substance is a common ingredient in hundreds of recipes, and people historically believe it has medicinal properties in addition to, well, being delicious! But in certain areas of the world honey is much more than a sweet ingredient -- it's a disturbingly effective weapon of war.

Ben Franklin Tried To Reinvent the Alphabet

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).

The Strange History of Antarctic Fruitcake

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.

When the Puritans Canceled Christmas

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.

Baguettes and Vacation: France versus Bakers

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?

What's the deal with smashing cake at weddings?

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?

Conquest via Bird Poop: One Island at a Time

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.

When Scientists Hid Under Beds To Spy On Kids

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.

When People Thought They Were Made of Glass

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.

Nazis, Churchill and Chocolate

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.

When (and why) did the US start calling its citizens consumers?

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?

Does the US Confederacy still exist in Americana, Brazil?

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.