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May 9, 2024 11 mins

Our power of observation as a species has led to all sorts of curious stories. Here are two that you'll enjoy.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to Aaron Manke's Cabinet of Curiosities, a production of
iHeartRadio and Grimm and Mild.

Speaker 2 (00:12):
Our world is full of the unexplainable, and if history
is an open book, all of these amazing tales are
right there on display, just waiting for us to explore.
Welcome to the Cabinet of Curiosities. It's hard to comprehend

(00:37):
what we see. Sometimes what might seem like something strange
or of their worldly could be nothing more than a
trick of the lights or a clear and obvious hoax.
For example, that famous nineteen thirty four photograph of the
Lockness Monster. It's nothing but a picture of a children's
toy cast in shadow. And all over social media, a
computer stabilized version of the infamous Bigfoot foot has been circulating.

(01:01):
Except it doesn't look like a mythical creature trapesing through
the forest anymore. It looks like a guy in a costume.
But for a pair of Ohio police officers, what they
saw one early morning in April of nineteen sixty six
was not a hoax, and it wasn't their eyes playing
tricks on them either. It was real, and it ruined
their lives. It was around five am when Deputy Dale

(01:24):
Spower and Wilbert Barney Neff noticed something odd on the
side of Route two two four. It was a car,
seemingly abandoned. Spower got out to investigate, his flashlights illuminating
his path. Except once he got to the car, all
he saw were piles of walkie talkies and radios inside,
as though the owner had been hoarding them. This was

(01:45):
a strange enough sight on its own, but then Spower
pointed his flashlights a little lower, and that's when he
saw the markings on the side. Someone had painted the
words seven steps to Hell, along with a picture of
a lightning bolt inside a triangle. This could have ballooned
into something interesting, a true mystery for these two officers
to solve. But then Spower heard the buzzing. It was

(02:06):
a distant hum that he couldn't ignore. Suddenly, from behind
a cluster of trees rose an enormous silver object. It
flew high into the air before bathing the surrounding area
in a blinding light. He radioed in and informed his
dispatcher about the UFO floating overhead, and then it took off.
Spower and ne F were told to go after it.

(02:27):
Their car hit one hundred miles per hour as they
craned their necks to keep the object in their sights.
According to an article in The Times, Spower later described
it as and I quote, like the head of a flashlight,
about forty feet wide and twenty feet tall. Another officer
named h Wayne Houston had been listening to the radio
chatter and he took to the pursuit as well. Meanwhile,

(02:48):
police Chief Gerald Buckert had also heard about the ensuing
chase and decided to grab his camera from home and
hopefully snap a photo of whatever it was. They watched
as it zigged and zagged above them, clearly being operated
by someone or something inside, but after a short time,
the officers lost visual contact with the craft. They met
up with it again in Conway, Pennsylvania. It just floated

(03:10):
there in mid air, like it was something that was
waiting for them. Spower flagged down a local cop to
ask for assistance, and.

Speaker 1 (03:17):
The officer radioed for help. Finally, after a chase lasting
almost an hour and a half, spour Nef and Houston
got word that United States Air Force jets were on
the way, and that's when the UFO zoomed off. Leaving
everyone on the ground dumbfounded. It wasn't just the officers either,
a few hundred people had also claimed to have seen
something flying overhead. A major from the US government soon

(03:41):
arrived to take statements. He was in charge of a
program called Project Bluebook, which was responsible for looking into
possible UFO sightings. He quickly dismissed the officer's claims, alleging
that all they had seen was a satellites or maybe
the planet Venus. He told them that there had been
nothing up there that morning, and no jets had been
to investigates either. As for Buchert's pictures, they weren't enough

(04:04):
to convince the major of anything except the chief's poor
photography skills. But even though everyone else eventually moved on
and left the incident alone, Spower refused to stay silent.
He spoke to newspapers and anyone else who would listen,
and that destroyed his life. His wife left him, he
quit the force, and he wound up homeless. As for
the Pennsylvania cop who helped him, he had to rip

(04:26):
out his phone line. While Officer Houston moved to Seattle
and started driving a bus. But one funny thing did
come out of this incident. Two months after the first sighting,
Spower was cruising down I eighty when he looked up
and saw the saucer once again, except he'd been prepared.
Not wanting to face any further ridicule or attention, he
gave the object a code name, something he could speak

(04:48):
over the radio without worry. So he named it Floyd.
And so when he spotted the UFO this second time,
he told the dispatcher Floyd's here with me. A short
time later, it had flown off for good. As for
the car with the lightning bolt on it, well, that
lead dried up too. By the time the officers got
back to the scene, it was already gone. History is

(05:23):
marked with mistakes, some big and some small. Sometimes those
small mistakes get swept under the rug and we never
realize how one tiny force set off a chain reaction.
And I mean that metaphorically. Today's story isn't about chemistry,
but it is about a chance event that took the
scientific world by storm. In eighteen seventy nine, a French

(05:44):
microbiologist named Charles prepared to go on holiday. He closed
down his lab and locked the door behind him. Charles
was going to be gone for weeks. He probably looked
forward to some much needed rest. He and his lab
partner have been working diligently on their latest project. They
were trying to cure cholera in chickens. The disease wiped
out whole flocks, which took a significant toll on farmers

(06:06):
and consumers alike. But at some point between turning the
key to the lab door and putting his feet up
in front of a fire, Charles panicked. He realized that
he had forgotten to perform one final step in their experiment.
His partner, Louis, had left for the holiday break before him,
so Charles was supposed to inject some chickens with their
experimental concoction. Then when the men returned, they would see

(06:28):
how the chickens were doing, and Charles didn't want to
let his partner down. Louis was kind of a big deal.
He'd already made huge strides in their field, and people
from all over the world had heard about him. This
project was just as paramount. It could change the course
of French society and the world. So one month later,
when Charles returned to the lab, he quickly injected the

(06:49):
chickens with that concoction, which had been sitting out while
the scientists were away. At some point, Louis returned and
Charles broke the news of his blunder. But Louis didn't
seem upset with Charles. That's because Charles may have inadvertently
cracked the code. Now to understand how, we need to
go back about one hundred years, smallpox ravaged the planets,
and a practice known as variolation developed in parts of

(07:12):
Asia and Africa to combat the disease. That involved taking
a sample of one's personal smallpox sores and transferring it
to a healthy person. Healers did this either with a
needle or by drying and grinding up smallpox scabs for
a healthy person to breathe in through their nose. As
a result, the person who received the sample would come
down with a mild case of smallpox, nowhere near as

(07:34):
severe as the cases people contracted naturally. In seventeen sixteen,
enslaved people brought this knowledge to the American colonies, as
it had long been practiced in West Africa, and in
seventeen twenty one, Lady Mary Whortley Montague brought variolation back
to Europe after learning about it in the Ottoman Empire,
and finally, in seventeen ninety six, English physician doctor Edward

(07:57):
Jenner brought a new form of variolation to the mainstream.
Jenner had cut wind that rural communities used samples from
cowpox sores to protect against smallpox, the idea that cowpox
was similar to smallpox, but far less deadly. Jenner tested
this idea on an eight year old boy. He exposed
the kid to a small amount of cowpox. The boy

(08:17):
came down with mild symptoms, then eventually got better. Then
Jenner exposed him to smallpox, and the boy didn't become sick.
And this brings us back to Charles and Louis's lab
in eighteen seventy nine. Louis was heavily inspired by doctor Jenner.
He believed that if there was protection against smallpox, there
could be protection against any disease. This was the whole

(08:39):
reason he took on the challenge of preventing the spread
of chicken cholera, and it was also why he wasn't
mad at Charles for forgetting to inject the chickens. Prior
to this point, Louis had identified the bacteria that caused
chicken cholera. He and Charles had been injecting those chickens
with fresh cultures of the bacteria. Under this method, the
chickens died from the disease. Louis thought back to Jenner

(09:00):
and the cowpox. He decided to inject the chickens with
the old cultures. This time, the chickens came down with
a mild form of cholera, but they all survived. Then
the men injected the chickens with fresh cultures and they
didn't get sick.

Speaker 2 (09:13):
Voila.

Speaker 1 (09:14):
The men had found a preventative measure against chicken cholera.
This was the first time a live attenuated vaccine was
successfully administered in a lab. Louis and Charles went on
to help develop a similar vaccine for anthrax. These two
vaccines are some of Louie's later recorded achievements. As I mentioned,
Louis was already a big deal in the scientific world.

(09:36):
He revolutionized medicine by developing germ theory, which states that
many illnesses are caused by micro organisms that are invisible
to the naked eye and can only be seen under
a microscope. He'd also been credited with discovering that microscopic
organisms caused the process of fermentation. This helped him disprove
spontaneous generation and come up with a way to prevent

(09:58):
bacteria growth in food. To this day we call this
process pasteurization, which is named for you guessed it, Louis Pasture.
But our story doesn't end here. In eighteen seventy eight,
about ten years before he died, Pasteur told his son
in law that he never wanted anyone to see his
laboratory notebooks. His son in law agreed to never share them,

(10:20):
but it seems like Louis's grandson didn't get the memo,
or maybe he had other ideas. In nineteen sixty four,
the grandson donated those notebooks, of which there were one
hundred and fifty two, to the French National Library. Historians
poured through them, and some came to the conclusion that
Louis often took credit for others' work and was haphazard

(10:40):
in his methodology. One thing is for sure, though, If
Charles had remembered to vaccinate the chickens before he went
on holiday, he and Louis may never have made a
crucial discovery. So next time you forget to complete a
task at work, don't be so hard on yourself. You
never know how one small mistake can change the course
of history. I hope you've enjoyed today's guided tour of

(11:06):
the Cabinet of Curiosities. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts,
or learn more about the show by visiting Curiosities podcast
dot com. The show was created by me Aaron Mankey
in partnership with how Stuff Works. I make another award
winning show called Lore, which is a podcast, book series,
and television show, and you can learn all about it

(11:28):
over at Theworldolore dot com. And until next time, stay curious.

Aaron Mahnke's Cabinet of Curiosities News

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