Episodes
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.  See omnystudio.com/listener...
Published 08/11/22
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...
Published 08/09/22
Published 08/09/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 08/04/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 08/02/22
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.  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 07/28/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 07/26/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 07/21/22
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. See...
Published 07/19/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 07/14/22
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...
Published 07/12/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 07/07/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 07/05/22
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?  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 06/30/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 06/28/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 06/23/22
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.  See...
Published 06/21/22
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. See...
Published 06/16/22
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...
Published 06/14/22
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. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 06/09/22
In a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US, along with more than 60 other countries, boycotted the Olympics. Yet three Puerto Rican boxers refused to allow politics to stand in their way of their athletic ambitions. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome Bijan Stephen and Layne Gerbig, the creators of the Eclipsed podcast, to learn what led them to create this show -- and what the 1980 Olympics can teach us about the larger context of history. See...
Published 06/07/22
Cast your memory back to 1979. Tensions across the US are high, on multiple levels. Disco dominates the music scene, and, oh boy, rock fans are mad about it. Things come to a head at Comiskey Park, where White Sox owner Bill Veeck and a young anti-disco DJ named Steve Dahl decide to promote a doubleheader baseball event with a particular theme -- bring a disco record, and you get to watch it get blown up between games. Spoiler alert: things went wrong, almost immediately. See...
Published 06/02/22
Most people associate think of bird poop as an annoyance -- it can gunk up sidewalks and windshields, and, occasionally, even splat on an unlucky person walking by. But in the late 1800s, guano was a hugely important resource. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max take a closer look at the 'white gold' of guano... and how it led to one of 19th-century South America's deadliest wars. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 05/31/22
As one of history's most well-known, highly-regarded writers, it's no secret that Shakespeare's life and work is full of strange stories -- but did you know one of his most famous plays is considered cursed? In today's episode, the guys are joined by special guest, award-winning playwright Will McFadden, as he breaks down to supposed origin of the curse, along with multiple disasters attributed to it.  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Published 05/26/22
As World War II raged on in 1943, both Allied and Axis forces knew they were riddled with spies. In a dizzying cavalcade of undercover, double, and even triple agents, both sides of the war sought to deceive their opponents -- and ethical concerns increasingly took a back seat in these pursuits. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the story of Operation Mincemeat, a macabre (and, ultimately, successful) plan to plant fake intel on a corpse. Inspired by Netflix's new film,...
Published 05/24/22