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April 25, 2024 11 mins

The curious afterlife is on full display on today's tour.

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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.

Speaker 1 (00:36):
There are all kinds of medical practices out there, like dermatology,
orthopedic surgery, and dentistry. Whether you need a root canal
or a new kidney, there is someone trained to examine, diagnose,
and treat your condition. But some of the most debilitating
types of problems aren't the ones that require anesthesia or
invasive surgery. All it takes is one wrong move and

(00:57):
suddenly we can't sit up, turn our heads, or walk.
Those of us of a certain age have probably slept
wrong or bent ourselves in a way that caused a
twinge in our backs, and when we feel it, it's
some of the most excruciating pain imaginable. Daniel David Palmer
thought so too. Born in Canada in eighteen forty five,
Palmer moved to America with his family when he was

(01:18):
twenty years old. Looking back, at might seem like that
he didn't have much direction in life. He bounced from
job to job for many years, like teaching school, beekeeping,
and owning a grocery store. Or maybe he just had
a lot of interests and he was out there looking
for his true calling that whole time, while in eighteen
ninety five he found it. Palmer had been fascinated by

(01:40):
spiritualism and alternative medicine for a very long time. He
even practiced magnetic healing, which involved the placement of magnets
along the body to improve one's health. Eventually, he began
to theorize that curing diseases required more than some well
placed magnets. He needed something bigger, like a complete readjustment
of the spine. This idea came to him almost by accident.

(02:03):
He'd been in his office in Davenport, Iowa, when he
ran into the janitor, a man named Harvey Lillard. Lillard
had been hard of hearing for seventeen years. He told
Palmer about how one day something popped in his spine
and suddenly he couldn't hear as well as he used to.
The two men continued talking, and that's when Palmer noticed
something strange. On Lillard's back. It was a lump, and

(02:23):
in Palmer's eyes, it was the reason his janitor was
nearly deaf. So he decided to test out the practice
he'd been studying, called thoracic manipulation. Palmer worked on the
man's spine, twisting and cracking it in different directions. It
took a few days, but pretty soon Lillard came back
to Palmer with an unbelievable claim his hearing had returned.

(02:44):
This miracle of sorts was the reassurance that Palmer needed
to continue his work, and it led to the creation
of one of the most important discoveries in alternative medicine.
And that's the official story at least. But there is another,
and it's not nearly as heartwarming. In fact, it's a
bit so here's take two. It all started when Palmer
consulted a man named Jim Atkinson, also from Davenport, Iowa.

(03:07):
Atkinson was a physician and taught Palmer all about the
different thoracic manipulation techniques that he had learned. In fact,
they weren't even Atkinson's methods in the first place. In
a textbook published by Palmer in nineteen ten, he wrote
doctor Atkinson has frequently informed me that the replacing of
displaced vertebrae for the relief of human ills has been
known and practiced by the ancient Egyptians for at least

(03:30):
three thousand years. Unfortunately, the concepts that have been proposed
by Atkinson hadn't caught on. According to him, they were
ahead of the time, or, as Palmer wrote in his book,
the intellectuality of that time was not ready for this advancement.
But how could that be, after all, these techniques were
already thousands of years old. Maybe these Iowans just couldn't

(03:51):
handle the idea that a few twists and turns could
cure what ailed them, Or maybe there was something about
doctor Atkinson that rubbed them the wrong way. Whatever the case,
it was a long time before people understood the ideas
being presented, and it took Palmer to show them. But
it was a funny thing about Atkinson and Palmer. The
two men actually never met, and they didn't exchange letters

(04:12):
or chat over the phone either. Their paths had never
crossed because doctor Atkinson had died fifty years earlier. Palmer, ever,
the devoted spiritualist, had spoken to him through a seance
or other similar event. In other words, Daniel David Palmer,
the founder of chiropractic medicine, had been introduced to it

(04:33):
by a ghost. There are some parts of history that
form the very foundation of our understanding of the world.

(04:53):
Many of our beliefs are cemented in what we know
about the past. Sometimes, though, the bridge between past and
present isn't as that's wrong as we might think. In
early two thousand and six, a woman named Dun Barya
made her way down the bustling streets of Mumbai. She
journeyed toward the lush green forest on the city's outskirts.
Once under the cover of the canopies, the noise faded,

(05:15):
but the change in scenery didn't give done the sense
of peace that she had come for. Still, she continued
down the path and hoped for a good sign. Finally,
she approached her destination, a clearing in the woods with
a stone tower at its center. It was an isolated,
sacred space. Dun hoped to find the answers there. She
hoped to find closure. Once at the base of the tower,

(05:37):
she said a prayer, but even this didn't settle her unease.
There were a few men there as well, not many
people were allowed to enter the area, but it was
the men's job to be there, and she knew that
they might have the answers that she was looking for.
So she asked them, is my mother gone? And the
men laughed no, they said, your mother will be here
for years to come. Done stood in horror. She thought

(05:58):
to herself, could it be? Are the rumors true? Panicton confused,
she returned home and devised a plan. She needed to
know the truth, so she hired a photographer to sneak
back into the clearing in the woods, but this time
the photographer would climb the tower, something few people were
allowed to do. The photographer's job was to capture images
of whatever he found there without getting cut, and that's

(06:22):
what he did. Soon these photographs and even video footage
made their way around the city. Done plastered the images
around town. They were so shocking that they even ended
up on CNN, and by that point the whole world
knew what Done had discovered. Dozens of dead bodies were
decaying atop the tower in the forest. The people of
Mumbai were in an uproar. The city's governing body insisted

(06:44):
that they had everything under control, but it was too late.
Everyone had seen the pictures. Now, I know that this
might sound like an unsolved murder case, but it's a
little more complicated than that, and it all circles back
to the question Done had set out to answer in
the first place, and as it turned turned out, scientists
from another part of the world with an entirely different
question would find that answer. In the late nineteen nineties,

(07:07):
a Kenyan biologist named Munir Vuani traveled to a tiger
reserve in India. But Munir wasn't there to study tigers.
His specialty was in birds. He worked for the Peregrine Fund,
an organization that protects birds of prey. When he arrived,
Munir walked through the reserve to a large ficus tree.
Under the tree, over a dozen vultures lay dead. Munir

(07:28):
took a closer look. He was puzzled. The birds showed
no signs of harm. They weren't even that old. The
biologists couldn't understand why young, healthy birds would suddenly drop dead.
And it wasn't just these birds that Munir was concerned about.
By this point, the vulture population in India had declined
by about ninety five percent, and this was a big issue.

(07:49):
You see, vultures are known for eating dead things. For
that reason, they sometimes give people the hebgbis. But vultures
eating habits are actually great for the health of the
environment and even for humans. Disease and bacteria thrive inside
dead bodies, but vulture's stomach acid is highly acidic, so
they killed deadly bacteria, including rabies and anthrax before it

(08:11):
spreads to the living. I'm sure you can imagine the
level of harmful decay a country is left with when
ninety five percent of vultures just disappear. Suffice to say,
Munir had quite the undertaking. He and his colleagues dissected
some of the dead vultures and discovered that a white,
chalky paste covered their insides. It was uric acid, the

(08:31):
very same acid that allows vultures to digest deadly things.
The build up of the acid meant that the vulture's
kidneys had shut down, but why. By the early two thousands,
Manir and his team formed a hypothesis whatever was causing
the vulture's kidney failure had come from something they were eating,
and at some point the researchers asked cattle farmers what
their cows ate, and that's how they found the answer.

(08:54):
It was a painkiller called Diclopenic. India had approved it
for use in cattle farming in you guessed it's the
nineteen nineties, and this brings us back to dun Barriya's
initial investigation. Dunn observes Zoroastrianism, a small religion that was
formed over three thousand years ago, and the tower where
she went to prey at the beginning of our story

(09:14):
is a big part of this religion. It's known as
the Tower of Silence. There are many like it, but
this one has been there since sixteen seventy three, and
Zoroastrians practiced something known as sky burials, which involve bringing
the bodies of the departed to the top of the
towers for vultures defeat on. They believe that bodily decay
is caused by a demon, so by eating the bodies

(09:35):
before the decaying process can begin, the vultures help people
gain entry into heaven. After her mother died, Dunn had
a gut feeling that her body was still on top
of the Tower Decayne on that day in two thousand
and six, when she journeyed to the tower, she spoke
with the men who were responsible for carrying the bodies
up the tower and eventually disposing of the bones. These

(09:56):
were the only people who were allowed to venture to
the top. My reaction to Dunn's question about her mother
all but confirmed her suspicions when the photographer she hired
return with proof. The rest was history. In two thousand
and six, following munir Varani's discovery, India banned the use
of diclofenic and cattle. While the country works to recover
its vulture population, it's also trying to find new ways

(10:19):
to manage sky burials. We don't know what will happen
in the future, but this story is a reminder to
not take for granted the parts of our world that
connect us to our history and maybe even to our afterlives.
I hope you've enjoyed today's guided tour of the Cabinet
of Curiosities. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, or learn

(10:42):
more about the show by visiting Curiosities podcast dot com.
The show was created by me Aaron Manky 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 over at
theworldoflore dot com, and until next time, stay curious.

Speaker 2 (11:09):
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