Latest Podcast Episode
189 Thom Wall on The History of Juggling
Thom Wall is a professional juggler and who’s known both for his feats of dexterity and his enthusiasm for old-style vaudeville performance. His new book Juggling From Antiquity to the Middle Ages traces the history of the art across time […]
188 Swingin’ on the Flippity-Flop
Find out what a badly-sourced article in the Toronto Sun, a fake list of grunge slang in the New York Times, and an oft-repeated anecdote about a floating bordello can tell us about better evaluating sources and looking at how […]
187 Presidential Pets
This week we look at the animal companions of America’s chief executives, including opossums, eagles, and very good dogs.
186 Crystal King on The Chef’s Secret
Crystal King is the author of two novels about Italian food history. Her first book Feast of Sorrow delved into the world of food in ancient Rome, and her follow up moves forward over a thousand year to explore food […]
185 The Georgia Guidestones
In 1980 a mysterious benefactor who only identified himself as “R.C. Christian” commissioned a granite monument in rural Georgia bearing advice on how to reconstruct civilization after the apocalypse. Unfortunately, it’s not very good advice.
184 Is Taiwan a Country?
Taiwan’s status is a matter of debate. In this episode we get into its history and try to suss out whether it’s part of China or an independent country.
183 Krampus and Friends
Over the past decade or so the Krampus, a demonic figure from German folklore, has become something of a Christmas staple in the United States. However, the Krampus is by no means the only German Christmas monster. Frau Berchta, Knecht […]
182 Atlantropa, the Plan to Drain the Mediterranean
In the 1920s German architect Herman Sorgel had a plan: Solve nearly all of Europe’s social, economic, and environmental problems by partially draining the Mediterranean. He called the project “Atlantropa,” and it would have been a massive environmental disaster. View […]
181 Thanksgiving Mummery
Thanksgiving, at least in New York City at the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, used to look a lot like Halloween. Traditional trappings like turkey and family gatherings were certainly present, but it was also a day for […]
180 Lucy Bellwood on Sailor Tattoos
Lucy Bellwood is a cartoonist and author in Portland, Oregon. Last year her illustration of sailor tattoos went viral. We talked about nautical tattoos, their meanings, and what it means to get well-known on the Internet very quickly. We also […]
179 Buried Alive!
Being buried alive was one of the most common phobias of the Victorian era. Fear of premature interment in a coffin inspired the creation of the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial, an Edgar Allan Poe short story […]
Cannibalism is one of the the most prevalent taboos across human societies, and people who practice cannibalism have frequently been demonized throughout history. The Wendigo, a creature from Algonquin folklore, is one of the most vivid examples of how cannibalism […]
177 How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Be Okay With Ghost Tours
Some reflections on giving tours, ghost tours, and how the Philip experiment is kind of like Dungeons and Dragons.
176 The Cadaver Synod
In 897 Pope Stephen VI put the corpse of one of his predecessors, Formosus, on trial. The current pope ordered that the former pope’s dead body be dressed in papal finery and put on a throne to stand trial. Stephen […]
175 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part Two
From 1954 until 2011 the Comics Code Authority exercised control over what could and couldn’t be in comic books. The first version of the code was one of the most restrictive content regimes U.S. media has ever known, banning subject […]
174 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part One
From 1964 until 2011 comic books were nominally approved by a content regime called the Comics Code Authority. The Authority grew out of anti-comic book sentiment in the early part of the twentieth century. Anti-comics advocates like Fredric Wertham portrayed […]
The disappearance of the Roanoke colony is one of America’s oldest mysteries. However, the story of the Roanoke colony was only a major pillar of American historiography after the 1830s, and later on in the 1800s Virginia Dare, the granddaughter […]
172 Live at the Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, The Tempest and the New World
Shakespeare’s Tempest is a fantasy, but it’s backgrounded by European encounters with the New World. When the play was written in 1610 or 1611 European sailors had already been exploring the Americas for over a century. References to the New […]
171 Live at Floyd’s, The Mythical Geography of the Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest was one of the last areas to be accurately mapped by European and American cartographers. At various times mapmakers thought that it was near a Asian region called Ania, that California was an Island, or that a […]
170 Phreak Out!
Hacking predated personal computers. From the 1960s until the 1990s early hackers known as “phreaks” learned how to hack into phone lines, make long-distance calls for free, set up secret conference calls, and explore the global telephone network.
169 The Telharmonium
In the first decade of the 20th century you could pick up a phone in New York City and listen to the world’s first ever electronic synthesizer. The Telharmonium was the invention of Thaddeus Cahill, and the 200 ton musical […]