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.

Episodes

December 2, 2021 45 min

Once the Little Orphan Annie comic strip was adapted to a radio program, it wasn't just a hit show -- it was a marketing coup for the good folks at Ovaltine. The company underwrote the program, riddled it with advertising, and worked like mad to convince every child in the US that they must drink as much Ovaltine as possible. Tune in and learn more in the second part of this two-part series.

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These days, most folks think of Little Orphan Annie as a folksy, wholesome slice of nostalgia -- but during its heyday as a radio program, parents across the US became increasingly concerned. The show, they thought, had a deep, dangerous hold on the minds of children. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel dive into the surprising controversy surrounding Little Orphan Annie.

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Today Chinese restaurants serve some of the most popular cuisine in the United States, with more than 41,000 restaurants scattered around the country. Yet in the 1900s these restaurants were so controversial that labor unions, hate groups and even politicians joined forces in an attempt to wipe the businesses out. Tune in to hear the whole story (which, luckily, has a delicious and happy ending).

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As rulers go, Anna of Russia was considered pretty bad news. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys explore how Anna (aka Anna the Terrible)'s traumatic life experience may have contributed to her later, profoundly cruel punishments -- things like forcing a disgraced prince to behave like a chicken, or die in the halls of a real-life 'ice palace.'

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“Despite being born into royalty, Anna Ioannovna didn’t have the easiest life. Her uncle publicly ridiculed her marriage, and the cruelty she experienced growing up may have had lasting emotional damage, leading her to eventually build an actual ice palace.”

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November 16, 2021 41 min

When a horrific accident left railroad signalman James Wide without the use of his legs, he was desperate to maintain his livelihood -- an effort that may well have been futile were it not for a chance encounter with a highly intelligent baboon named Jack. Jack began by assisting James with simple tasks, and gradually became competent enough do James Wide's job for him. In today's episode, the guys explore the strange circu...

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November 11, 2021 46 min

After its formation in 1836, the new Republic of Texas had some problems -- multiple people wanted the capital in different places. The Republic's archives were seen as a stamp of legitimacy to any city's claim, and by 1842, this led to what what we now call the Texas Archives War. Tune in to learn more.

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For most people, the old saying "it's good to be king" is just a cool phrase -- but for magician and noted spinner of tall tales Otto Witte, this sounded like an idea to take literally. In today's episode, the guys explore how one man (maybe) managed to con the entire nation of Albania into believing he was their king... and got away with it for a week. If, in fact, it actually happened.

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November 4, 2021 48 min

The Battle of Varolampi Pond has another, less formal name: the Sausage War. Don't let the funny moniker fool you -- the 1939 conflict between Finland and Russia remains one of the most brutal moments of the Winter War. Tune in to learn how horrific conditions and the threat of starvation led the outnumbered Finnish forces to a temporary victory against the massive Red Army.

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As the Civil War broke out, Sarah Josepha Hale found politicians were, understandably, more occupied with country-wide chaos than the creation of a national, unified Thanksgiving. After the close of the war, Thanksgiving became, to Northern politicians, a way to bring the once-divided population together -- and, still, some Southerners disagreed. Tune in to learn more in part two of this two-part series.

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Today Thanksgiving is considered a largely innocuous holiday, centered on food and family. In the US, people across the country get together on the same Thursday in November every year, breaking bread, practicing thankfulness -- and, sometimes, suffering through awkward conversations with family. But this wasn't always the case. In part one of this two-part series, Ben and Noel explore how the modern Thanksgiving came to be, an...

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October 27, 2021 54 min

Haunted houses are a big deal in the United States -- like Spirit stores, they seem to spring up every October -- but whence did they originate? When did people start paying to be scared?

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In part two of this two-part series, Ben is joined once again with guest host Alex Williams to explore the harrowing tale of the New England Vampire Panic, tracing how increasingly desperate communities resorted to ritualistic desecration of graves to combat the horrors of what some believed to be a supernatural affliction. (And how the rest of the world branded it a 'vampire panic' when the locals probably didn't use t...

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While historians continue to explore the details of the infamous Salem witch trials, another, earlier panic swept through New England -- something modern historians often refer to as the "Vampire Panic." In part one of this two-part series, Ben is joined again with guest host Alex Williams, creator of the Ephemeral podcast, to explore the brutal realities of daily life in New England, and how the everpresent threat of disea...

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After marrying and having three children, Ada dove back into the world of poetical science, continuing her correspondence with Charles Babbage as he tried to garner support for his ambitious, expensive analytical engine. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys explore how Ada's work -- and prescience -- created a profound legacy that remains with us in the modern day.

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Today Ada Lovelace is hailed as one of the most important figures in the early history of computing -- but, during her childhood, her mother was worried she might take after her father, the famous poet (and infamous philanderer) Lord Byron. Learn more about Ada's childhood in part one of this two-part series.

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Scottish King James IV was, by all accounts, a learned man. As a polyglot, he was especially interested in the origin of language -- so much so, in fact, that he allegedly conducted an experiment that would scandalize modern scientists: James had two children spirited off to the remote island of Inchkeith, where they were raised without language by a mute caretaker. While historians still debate whether this actually occurred, Jame...

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October 5, 2021 50 min

On June 2nd, 1855, the good people of Portland Maine had reached a breaking point. The Mayor, an infamous hardline teetotaler, had just been caught approving the purchase of alcohol after making it illegal throughout town. In today's episode, the guys explore what led to the riot, what happened after, and how this strange episode in Portland influence the later Prohibition movement.

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You might not associate cacti with candy -- on the surface, they seem to have very little in common, mainly because candy is sold in stores around the world, and cacti have a well-deserved, literally prickly reputation. Yet not too long ago the US was in the midst of a genuine cactus candy craze, one that almost drove the poor barrel cactus to extinction.

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September 28, 2021 39 min

In the second part of this two-part series, the guys return to the astonishing story of the Catalpa, exploring how the men prepared for and committed the actual jailbreak -- and how they got away. Listen in to learn more.

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Ben Bowlin

Ben Bowlin

Noel Brown

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