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.... Show More

Episodes

August 11, 2020 26 min

During the age of European expansion, members of the Jewish diaspora traveled to Caribbean and the continents of North and South America, often escaping the intense persecution of the Inquisition. Some became merchants, others explorers -- and some became pirates. Join Ben and Noel as they explore the little-known stories of these pirates and privateers, and why Jamaica became known as a haven for those fleeing European persecution...

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Have you ever used a home remedy when under the weather? Some, like honey and lemon (and whiskey) for a sore throat, remain common today. In 2020, other treatments people once swore by seem -- I hesitate to say it -- ridiculous. In the early 20th century, people were desperate to find a cure or treatment for the flu. They tried any number of things that may seem bizarre today, and part of that panic led to the lemon becoming a hous...

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We've all heard about Freemasons -- but what about the Order of the Pug? Join the guys as they explore the strange series of events that led German Masons to create their own secret society, embodied by a porcelain sculpture of a pug.

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Unconvinced by claims of this horse's mathematical acumen, psychologist Oskar Pfungst conducted a series of experiments to determine whether Clever Hans was actually solving problems. Pfungst discovered there were serious issues with Hans's 'performance' ... but he also, in a roundabout way, ended up proving Hans was, in some ways, more clever than the average person. Ben also pitches a stunning conclusion to a (fak...

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Back in the early 20th century, retired teacher Wilhelm von Osten had a dream -- to exhibit the gifts of his brilliant horse, Clever Hans, to the world. Wilhelm believed Hans was capable of solving pretty advanced math problems, working out the sums in his head and communicating them to humans through a system of hooftaps. And Clever Hans took the German public by storm -- what could this mean? If animals like Hans were this intell...

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While history often only remembers Henry VIII as a real pill, he was also a profound hypochondriac -- and, rightly terrified of contracting the English Sweats, Henry hightailed it to a series of safehouses as he sought to isolate himself from any possible infection. Join the guys as they continue exploring the long-term consequences of the mysterious English Sweats.

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Beginning in 1485, a mysterious disease swept in waves across England. No one was sure how it spread, no treatment existed, and the disease took the name of its most memorable symptom. The English sweating sickness seemed to have a taste for the wealthy, and the bulk of fatalities were English. The last widespread outbreak of sweating sickness was reported in 1551 -- after that, the disease vanished. Along the way, it made a king o...

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As the Great Depression devastates the nation, roughly 2 million people find themselves out of home and hope, migrating toward distant promises of jobs, distant family members -- some distant idea of a better life. The concept of the 'hobo' becomes a mainstream concern. Leon Ray Livingston warns about living a life "on the road."

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Born in San Francisco, an 11-year-old ran away from home, living and writing about his travels. Hailed as a self-coronated 'Hobo King,' Livingston made his own mythology, creating tropes that survive in the modern day.

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Nowadays, experts and equestrians alike largely agree: unicorns are creatures of myth. But, not too long ago, the wealthiest people in Europe would pay top dollar for everything from powdered 'unicorn' dust, to fragments or full specimens of 'unicorn' horn, convinced these supernatural relics had curative powers, capable of saving them from poison. So what was really going on here? Join the guys as they delve into t...

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It's true -- people used to throw tar on other people, then shake feathers on them as a specific form of legally-sanctioned punishment. Where did the concept of tarring and feathering a person actually come from, and how did it spread throughout the world?

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While Kate Warne had numerous adventures (and brilliantly solved multiple high-profile cases), her most well-known work with pinkerton involved none other than Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. In the conclusion of special two-part series, the guys continue exploring Kate Warne's adventures with Jo Piazza, the award-winning author, journalist, and host of the new podcast, Fierce.

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Kate Warne wasn't just the first female private investigator in the US -- she was also one of the best Pinkerton detectives in the history of the agency. In this special two-part series, the guys join forces with award-winning author and journalist, Jo Piazza, the host of Fierce, to learn more about the mysterious origins of the one and only Kate Warne.

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June 25, 2020 30 min

The students of Vassar thrived despite a system of Victorian -- near Orwellian -- control. In a time when these college students were not allowed to have agency over their own diet, they rebelled, popularizing the confection known as fudge today. Other students at elite institutions joined in, and soon contemporaneous newspapers noted fudge as both a desert and a rebellion against prevailing social norms.

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Nowadays, most people in the global West associate fudge with the idea of a homemade, homely confection. Yet once upon a time, this dangerously delightful, sugar-laden snack was the domain of the elite. Learn more about the origin of fudge here -- and tune in for part two of our series: Fudge As Rebellion.

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The Mercator Projection continues to inform explorers, many of whom send their own appropriative versions of the Mythical North. Join Ben, Casey and Noel as they ask: Who actually discovered the North Pole?

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In 1569, Gerardus Mercator creates the first world map. It's the predecessor of the cartoonishly inaccurate Mercator projection, and this math guides people toward what they believe to be the North Pole.

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It's one of those iconic 'you know it when you hear it' sounds - the two-note whistle made famous in old Tex Avery cartoons and multiple films of yesteryear. But what is the wolf whistle? Where did it actually come from, and how did it go from being such a popular trope to something (thankfully) so rare in the modern day?

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War often drives innovation — often out of desperation. In World War I, doctors were overwhelmed and dangerously short on supplies, especially bandages. With no end in sight for the cotton shortage, ingenious doctors found an unlikely (and superior) alternative: peat moss.

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How did air conditioning fundamentally change the course of U.S. politics? What does the Y.M.C.A. have to do with cigarettes? Join Ben and Casey as they welcome special guest, Sean Braswell, to learn more about the strange stories of everything from air conditioning to kudzu in part two of this two-part series.

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