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Ridiculous History

Ridiculous History

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 iHeartRadio.

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J. Paul Getty, Part Two: A Kidnapping Discount

For members of the mob, the plot to kidnap J. Paul Getty's grandson was a home run -- after all, what's a few million to a literal billionaire? Yet, as it turns out... the mob didn't know who they were messing with. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore a series of terrifying events that led to one of most ridiculous examples of miserliness in human history.

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2022-11-22
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How A Massive Turkey Screw-up Created TV Dinners

Hey, it's us, your pals Ben, Noel and Max from Ridiculous History. We figured the holidays can be stressful for everyone, and we're pretty sure you've heard the history of Thanksgiving countless times. So instead of telling you that story, we decided to celebrate by exploring the weird history of TV dinners and microwave meals -- none of which would exist if the food company Swanson hadn't accidentally found itself with 260 tons of leftover turkeys after Thanksgiving in 1953. So tune in; we hope it gives you a chuckle.

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2022-11-24
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J. Paul Getty, Part One: Money Doesn't Make You Happy

It's often said that money doesn't buy happiness -- and, in the tragic case of the Getty family, it seems that saying holds true. In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Getty's origin story, his infamously... let's say... 'thrifty' nature, and how he earned a reputation of one of the coldest businessmen in modern history.

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2022-11-17
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Have you heard of Andorra?

While it may be unfamiliar to many folks outside the region, the 6th-smallest country in Europe has a fascinating history all its own. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the strange origin story of Andorra, from its ancient past to the modern day.

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2022-11-15
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Introducing: Jordan Klepper Fingers The Conspiracy

On his adventures into MAGA country, Jordan Klepper encounters some of the more imaginative, conspiratorial minds America has to offer. In ?Jordan Klepper Fingers the Conspiracy,? a new, six-episode limited podcast series, Jordan steps off the trail to dig deep into some of the wildest theories he?s heard, and trace their origins with journalists, experts, and anyone who might have a lead on when JFK Jr. is coming back. The podcast offers an opportunity to better understand some of the most extravagant stories Americans tell themselves. Listen to Jordan Klepper Fingers The Conspiracy on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-klepper-30873042/

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2022-11-16
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How Smart Was Alex the Grey Parrot?

Picked at random from a pet store, a humble grey parrot named Alex went on to fundamentally alter the way humans think about animal cognition. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore how animal psychologist Irene Pepperberg and her parrot pal Alex spent three decades proving it's actually pretty impressive to be 'bird brained.'

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2022-11-10
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Surprising Former Careers, Part 2: Truman Can't Sell Hats

Years before he became a world-famous actor, Christopher Lee did wetwork with elite special forces during World War II. Before entering public office, Harry Truman almost ruined his life by starting a haberdashery. In part two of this continuing series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the ins and outs of more surprising former careers.

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2022-11-08
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The Ancient -- and Surprisingly Divisive! -- Story of Ketchup

Ketchup is in almost 97% of US homes today -- and, while this statistic may sound surprising, it turns out there's a long story behind this humble condiment. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max trace the origin of ketchup from its ancient predecessors in Southern China and the Mediterranean to the introduction of the tomato all the way to the modern day. Tune in for the first episode in our continuing series on the history of condiments (and tell us which condiments you'd like us to explore next).

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2022-11-03
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The Bizarrely Xenophobic Origins of Scotch Tape

There's no two ways about it: tape is a pretty handy, amazing thing -- and one we often take for granted. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive deep into the origin story of Scotch tape, uncovering the weird prejudice behind the name, as well as the journey of the young man who changed the world with his... well, let's call it stick-to-it-iveness. 

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2022-11-01
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Lost Media, Part Two: We Didn't Start The Fire

Silent films took the world by storm, but the material they were manufactured from was notoriously -- cartoonishly -- flammable. Soon multiple studio buildings were burning to the ground. There wasn't always a spark involved, either: sometimes this stuff just spontaneously combusted. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore how silent films became so endangered in the modern day. 

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2022-10-27
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Lost Media, Part One: What Happened to All Those Silent Films?

For a relatively brief period of time, silent films rocked the world of entertainment. However, these nitrate- and acetate-based films proved both fragile -- and downright dangerous. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the strange story of how so many silent films ended up lost forever.

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2022-10-26
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A Ridiculous History of Hot Tubs

While hot tubs may not always have the... best reputation in some circles, there's no denying people across the world love a good, hot soak after a long day. And we've loved this since antiquity, all the way back to the first time humans found natural hot springs. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the strange origin of hot tubs, from millennia past all the way to the modern day. 

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2022-10-20
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Eugene V Debs, Part Two: A Prisoner Runs For President

As a known agitator, Eugene V. Debs soon caught the attention of the US power structure -- and his outspoken nature led to him to court. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore how the Espionage Act resulted in Eugene's incarceration... and how he ran for the office of President while literally imprisoned. 

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2022-10-18
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Eugene V Debs, Part One: Railroad Workers Fight The Power

You may not have heard of Eugene V. Debs before this podcast -- but in his day this political activist was one of the most prominent (and at-times controversial) figures in the United States. In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Gene's origin story, from his early career in the railroad industry to his growing status as a trade unionist and agitator of the status quo.

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2022-10-13
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The Michelin Man was an Unhinged Lunatic

Virtually every foodie is aware of the Michelin Guide -- the last word in high-end restaurant ratings -- but originally came about as a way to sell more cars (and, ultimately, tires). In today's episode with research associate Geoff Bartlett, Ben, Noel and Max dive deep into the origins of the Michelin guide, as well as Michelin's iconic mascot Bibendum, the Michelin Man. Spoiler: the Michelin Man was originally the absolute worst mascot for anything related to driving. Tune in to learn why.

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2022-10-11
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The Yukio Mishima Story, Part Two: Mishima's End

In his heyday, Japanese author Yukio Mishima was one of the most well-known writers in the world. But where did he come from -- and what on Earth led to his strange demise? In part two of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome research associate Zach Williams in his first on-air appearance. 

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2022-10-06
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The Yukio Mishima Story, Part One: Confessions of a Mask

In his heyday, Japanese author Yukio Mishima was one of the most well-known writers in the world. But where did he come from -- and what on Earth led to his strange demise? In part one of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome research associate Zach Williams in his first on-air appearance. 

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2022-10-05
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Wait, How Do I Know It's Funny? A Rollicking History of Laugh Tracks

We've all heard them. You're watching or hearing a show, a character says something, and -- boom! -- an invisible choir of audience members loses their minds in riotous laughter, awws, or applause. But how did where does this come from? In today's episode, we're learning how this came to be, and how it eventually became its own worst enemy. Ben here: I'd like to give a special thanks to Max for some stellar sound design.

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2022-09-29
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Who, exactly, were the Luddites?

Today you'll hear people described as 'Luddites' if they don't care for -- or don't understand -- some newer piece of technology, but where did this phrase come from? In today's episode, Ben, Noel and guest producer Tari trace the term back to its surprising origin story ... a violent labor uprising that, these days, remains largely forgotten.

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2022-09-27
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Instant Noodles Changed The World, Part Two: Going Global

As Momofuku Ando's instant noodles take Japan by storm, he sets his sights on the global horizon. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the expansion of instant noodles into the United States, the rest of the planet -- and, eventually, space.

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2022-09-22
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Instant Noodles Changed The World, Part One: An Origin Story

Today, instant noodles are ubiquitous. You can find them in almost every grocery store, in any number of flavors sold by any number of brands -- but where did they come from? In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the story of Momofuku Ando, and how a sudden realization in post-WWII Japan inspired an idea that would go on to change the world.

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2022-09-20
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The Accidental Invention of Holding Music

We've all been there -- you're calling a bank, a loan company, you name it, and boom: you're put on hold. But where does that music come from? In today's episode, Ben and Noel dive into the strange origin story of telephone holding music. 

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2022-09-15
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Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions: Flyin' or Dyin', Part Two

How far would you go to fly? It's a question many inventors have asked themselves over the ages and, tragically, for every successful breakthrough it seems there were also dozens of failures, flops and -- sometimes -- fatal crashes. In part two of Flyin' or Dyin', Ben, Noel and Max explore modern inventors who died as a result of their flying contraptions. 

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2022-09-13
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Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions: Flyin' or Dyin', Part One

Humans can swim, though not as well as a fish. Humans can run, though not as swift as a cheetah. From ancient civilization to the modern day, no human being can fly unaided. In this first of a long-running series, Ben, Noel and Max explore inventors across history who died while trying to fly. 

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2022-09-08
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Wilhelm Reich and Orgone, Part 2: Willy vs. The Feds

If Reich's concept of orgone was simple pseudoscience, why did the US government ban -- and burn -- his books? In part two of this two-part episode on Wilhelm Reich and orgonomic vibes, Ben, Noel and Max explore Reich's activities in the US, as well as the oft-ignored legacy of Reich's studies in the modern day.

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2022-09-07
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Wilhelm Reich and Orgone, Part 1: Sexy Psychoanalysis

Born in 1897, Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian doctor of medicine and a psychoanalyst, as well as -- for a time -- a follower of Sigmund Freud. Today, he's most often associated with his life's work: the study of a strange, pervasive energy he called "orgone." In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Reich's origin story, from his early days to the experiences that persuaded him sexual vibes could, literally, save the world.

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2022-09-01
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The History of Pringles: Once You Pop...

Pretty much everyone recognizes Pringles -- these tasty, not-quite potato chips come in tons of at-times bizarre flavors, all neatly packed in a nifty tube. But where did Pringles come from? In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Matt dive deep into the hidden history of this snack, the astonishing science behind it and the incredibly weird funeral demands of the Pringles creator.

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2022-08-30
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Lincoln Loved Cats, and Other Presidential Pets

Are you a cat person, a dog person, or somewhere in between? It turns out that famous trash-talking wrestler -- and former President -- Abraham Lincoln was also a huge fan of cats. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the lives of Presidential pets, from eagles to goats, dogs and more. 

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2022-08-25
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CLASSIC - Presidents Love Their Ridiculous Pets

In today's episode, we venture into the podcast vault to talk about some snuggly friends, many of the ridiculous variety. 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.

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2022-08-23
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What Happened to Ronald McDonald? Part Two: Supersizing A Mystery

In a world where the iconic McDonald's arches became as recognizable as the Pope or Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald himself became synonymous with not just fast food -- but the United States, western imperialism and capitalism overall. In the second part of this episode, Ben, Max and returning special guest, the (ostensibly) reformed Jonathan Strickland, aka the Quizster, take a case-by-case look at the alleged causes of Ronald's demise, from anti-obesity activists to changing cultural tastes, a real-life clown terror craze, and more.

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2022-08-18
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What Happened to Ronald McDonald? Part One: Everybody Loves A Clown

Today, billions of people across the world recognize McDonald's ? it's one of the planet's most well-known brands. Yet, in recent years, McDonald's has also become home to an enduring mystery: What exactly happened to Ronald McDonald? In part one of this two-part series, Ben and Max welcome special guest Jonathan Strickland for an in-depth exploration of Ronald's meteoric rise and fall.

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2022-08-16
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The 1904 St. Louis Marathon Was Absolutely Bonkers

It's no secret that the Olympics have evolved over time, and met with their fair share of controversy over the years -- but the 1904 Olympic marathon remains a tale of ridiculousness for the ages. In today's episode, Ben and Max dive into a madcap series of bizarre events, brazen cheating, and more in the humid heart of brutal St. Louis weather. Taking a cue from their pals at Ridiculous Crime, the guys want you to know everyone in this episode makes it out... OK. 

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2022-08-11
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Andrew Jackson Beat the Snot Out of His Would-be Assassin

Known as Old Hickory to his fans, and King Andrew to his critics, Andrew Jackson was an outspoken, deeply divisive figure. When he was attacked by an assassin while leaving a funeral, the killer's gun miraculously misfired not once, but twice, and despite his old age Jackson retaliated by absolutely wailing on the guy, beating within an inch of his life. And, as it turns out, Andrew Jackson isn't the only president to survive an assassination attempt. Tune for more as Ben and Max explore the strange stories of Jackson, Taft and Roosevelt.

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2022-08-09
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CLASSIC: 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? In today's classic episode, Ben and Noel explore the implications of this strange, often unexamined, evolution.

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2022-08-04
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A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part Two: Reality Goes Global

As reality TV continued to grow across networks and genres, it also spread across the planet. In the second part of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to break down the evolution of massive hits like The Bachelor, The Real Housewives empire, and more.

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2022-08-02
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A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part One: An Origin Story

However you define it, reality TV is a giant in the world of entertainment. From soap operas to game shows and the hazards of dating, it seems almost any genre can find a home in reality television. But how did we get here? How did this global phenomenon begin? In part one of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to explore the evolution of unscripted programming -- and what it teaches us about humanity. 

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2022-07-28
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Surprising Former Careers of the Famous

Did you know Abraham Lincoln was an infamous, trash-talking wrestler? Ronald Reagan spent his younger years saving people from drowning (and throwing rocks at them) as a lifeguard. And before Norma Jean became the iconic Marilyn Monroe, she built drones during World War II. In today's episode, the guys explore the little-known, surprising careers of some of America's most notable historical figures.

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2022-07-26
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A Humorous History of Genetics

What makes you... well, you? It's a question humanity has wrestled with since the dawn of recorded history all the way to the modern day. In today's special episode in partnership with 23andMe, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the history of genetic research from its ancient predecessors to great breakthroughs of the recent past, as well as learning a bit about their own genetic history along the way.

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2022-07-21
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Tsutomu Yamaguchi: The World's Only (Recognized) Double Atomic Bomb Victim

On August 6th, 1945, Mitsubishi engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi was finally heading home from a three month assignment in Hiroshima... until the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the city. Miraculously, he survived the bombing and made his way home to Nagasaki -- where he once again witnessed, and survived, an atomic bomb. Tune in to learn more about Tsutomu Yamaguchi's harrowing journey, as well as his life after surviving not one, but two separate atomic bombs.

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2022-07-19
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Gods of Deception, Part II: Art, History, Fiction and War

As Ben and Noel continue their conversation with novelist and art historian David Adams Cleveland, the group finds themselves going far beyond the world of Alger Hiss. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys learn more about David's award-winning work as an art historian, the ways in which history, research and fiction converge -- and a little about the oft-ignored effects of history on geopolitics.

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2022-07-14
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Gods of Deception, Part I: Alger Hiss in the Halls of Power

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Alger Hiss was a mover and shaker in the political sphere. Highly educated and deeply connected, Hiss worked as a lawyer involved in everything from the Justice Department to the United Nations. Until, that is, he was accused of being a spy -- a prime character in a vast conspiracy stretching from DC to the Soviet Union. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel join special guest, novelist and art historian David Adams Cleveland, to learn more about how these events informed David's newest novel, God of Deception.

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2022-07-12
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Operation LAC: That Time Uncle Sam Sprayed Poison Across St. Louis

As the US government became increasingly concerned about the possibility of large-scale biological weapons, they decided something must be done: they needed to test? in secret. In today?s episode, the guys explore how the US Army conspired to spray an entire impoverished part of St. Louis with potentially dangerous chemicals? basically, to see what happened.

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2022-07-08
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CLASSIC - Does the US Confederacy Still Exist in Americana, Brazil?

The guys took a day off to celebrate the 4th of July -- and what better time to share a classic episode about another (very strange) form of patriotism? 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.

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2022-07-05
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Millerism, Part II: The Great Disappointment (and the Aftermath)

As the alleged End of the World drew ever closer, William Miller and the Millerism movement became a pop culture phenomenon. Thousands of people quit their jobs, sold their possessions, and prepared to ascend into the afterlife. Yet when the predicted day came -- and passed -- without the return of Jesus Christ, many of these believers were at a loss. What should they do now? 

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2022-06-30
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CLASSIC - Did a Real-Life Rainmaker Almost Drown San Diego?

In today's episode we are revisiting a classic. 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.

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2022-06-28
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Millerism: America?s First End Times Gospel

You might not have heard of William Miller, but in his time he was a pretty big deal. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the origin of William Miller and Millerism, his spiritual movement predicated on the idea that, with some tricky math, you could indeed predict the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

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2022-06-24
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Ben Franklin Faked a Rival's Death to Promote His Almanac

Benjamin Franklin was many things: an inventor, a Founding Father, a publisher... and, it turns out, a massive troll. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into a strange story of absolute pettiness and out-the-box PR stunts. You see, when Ben Franklin wanted to up the sales of his almanac, he decided to predict the death of his longtime publishing rival, Titan Leeds. One problem: when the prediction didn't come to pass, Titan, who was very much alive, responded in kind. 

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2022-06-22
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Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part II: A Pseudoscience (Sort of) Informs the Modern Day

While the credibility of phrenology inevitably deteriorated over time, it was neither a completely original concept, nor, in some respects, a completely useless one. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the ancient precedents of judging inner qualities based on outer appearance, as well as what modern scientists have to say about how phrenology, as imperfect as it was, helped establish some concepts that stay with the world of research today.

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2022-06-16
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Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part I: The Rise of Dr. Finger

Once upon a time, a young man named Franz Joseph Gall thought "That's weird... all my school chums with big eyes are good at memorizing things." Years later, he took this idea and ran with it, assuring people that bumps on their skulls held profound insights about both their flaws and their talents. Nowadays everyone agrees phrenology is bunk -- but in its heyday, folks across the US and Europe were convinced this quackery was the bleeding edge of scientific innovation. In part one of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the origins of cranioscopy and phrenology. (We also fell in love with a side character named Dr. Finger.)

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2022-06-14
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Nancy Wake, the White Mouse of the French Resistance

Although Nancy Wake began her career as a journalist, her first-hand experience with Nazis compelled her to a new calling: the French Resistance. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the larger-than-life triumphs of the freedom fighter the Gestapo would come to call "the White Mouse," from her early days to her heroic (though, at times, murderous) work to save innocent lives during World War II.

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2022-06-10
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