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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.