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

February 22, 2024 32 mins

Odds are you've heard about the Guinness Book of World Records, the famous, often inaccurate compilation of various impressive, important, and ridiculous feats from people across the planet. But how did it come about? How on earth did a brewer become the repository of all this strange knowledge? Tune in for a surprising peek behind the keg -- and into the cups -- of Guinness history and human ambition.

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Long-time listeners will know Ben, Noel and Max are big fans of their peer podcast, Ridiculous Crime -- but what happens when the guys join forces with Elizabeth, Zaron and Dave? Tune in for the first part of this two-part series, as Ridiculous Crime and Ridiculous History seek to stump each other in a lively game of 20 Questions, all based on strange historical flexes.

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As curses go, Tecumseh's is, according to the legend, ridiculously specific. Every US President elected in a year divisible by twenty is doomed to meet misfortune, ruin and possibly death in office. But how did this curse acquire such purported specificity? In part two of this special two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore how the curse entered popular culture, as well as the examples true believers point to as evidence.

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Did the legendary Shawnee chief Tecumseh really lay a curse on US Presidents? In the first part of this special two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive deep into Tecumseh's origin, his mission to unite Native peoples against the ruthless expansion of the new United States -- all to learn why so many people believe every president elected in a year ending with zero dies in office.

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True story: back in the late 70s, US President Jimmy Carter accidentally claimed he'd left the states forever, and wanted to sleep with everyone in Poland. According to legendary marketing lore, Pepsi accidentally told the nation of China that soda would bring their relatives back from the grave. And don't get us started on weird car names! Join Ben, Noel and Max as they explore some of history's most hilarious mistranslations in t...

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In our continually ridiculous mission to explore the funniest events of yesteryear, Ben, Noel and Max often leave some stones unturned. In today's episode the gang pays their respects to the last shantyman, asks why President Taft adopted not one but two cows, and explores multiple historic hot tubs they are not currently allowed to enter. (We end with a shoutout to our favorite turkey.)

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True story: in the heart of the CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia, there's a puzzle no one has solved. In the second part of this special two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max join up with returning guest A.J. Jacobs to learn more about the enigmatic sculpture known as Kryptos. 

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For most people, puzzles are a fun, fascinating diversion. Yet throughout history, they've also played a crucial role in the great game of espionage. Join Ben, Noel and Max as they welcome their returning guest A.J. Jacobs, author and creator of The Puzzler podcast, to learn more about the history of puzzles, codes and spies in part one of this special two-part episode.

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As paranoia increases in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks, amateur magician (and storied military official) John Francis Ohmer, Jr. finds Uncle Sam and Hollywood increasingly onboard with his idea of camouflaging entire compounds. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore how the US constructed a fake town atop Boeing's most important facility, weirdly named "Plant 2." 

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In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, paranoia reigned across the western US -- and the country entirely. From California to Washington, civilians and the military alike were terrified that another attack was imminent. The country's aircraft manufacturers were prominent sitting ducks, and too inconvenient to move. With instructions to spin up manufacturing as soon as possible, the clock was ticking and no one was sure...

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When President Warren G Harding passed away abruptly while in office, his Vice President Calvin Coolidge assumed in the role of Commander in Chief. Today, he's not as well-known as other US Presidents like Lincoln or Washington -- yet his history remains fascinating and unique. Tune in as the guys explore the strange story of the man sometimes known as "Silent Cal."

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Nowadays it feels like everyone has a baseball cap at home... even though most of the folks wearing them do not, in fact, play baseball. So how did this one type of hat become so ubiquitous -- not just in the US, but the rest of the world? To answer the question, Ben, Noel and Max travel back to the early (hatless) days of baseball, following its evolution to the modern day.

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Have you ever looked at a childhood photo of a noted historical dude and thought -- huh, why did his folks put him in a dress? If so, you're seeing evidence of a strange parenting practice of yesteryear... the phenomenon known as breeching. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore how awarding a boy his first pair of pants became a rite of passage in Western society, and why it seems so strange in the modern day.

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Located in southern Riverside and northern Imperial counties, the Salton Sea is California's largest lake. Although large seas have cyclically formed and dried over historic time due to natural flooding from the Colorado River, the current sea formed as the result of an accident during canal construction. And, ever since that moment, humans have been trying to figure out what to do next.

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The average American may not hear much about James K Polk in school today, but during his time in office the 11th U.S. President was responsible for a number of tremendously significant policy movements. Today he and his wife are interred in the Tennessee State Capitol... but this was neither their first resting place nor, if certain lawmakers succeed, their last. So: Why do people keep digging up this President's remains? Join Ben...

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During the height of the Cold War, both the US and the USSR constantly ran drills in anticipation of a possible nuclear conflict. While the Gregg family of Mars Bluff, South Carolina knew the Cold War was in full swing, they had no idea that they would become the first American family bombed -- accidentally -- by the US Air Force. Ben and Noel explore one of the most bizarre atomic slip-ups in American history in today's classic ep...

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Once humans nailed down the spicy art of carbonation, they went absolutely bonkers with flavors and gimmicks. While Coca-Cola and Pepsi may be the world's most famous sodas, hundreds of other drinks came and went -- some with a bang of success, and others falling as flat as a day-old Josta. In part two of this series, Ben, Noel and Max continue their exploration of soda pop history along with shoutouts to some of their favorite dis...

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There's nothing quite like the fizzy kick of soda -- since ancient times, cabonation beverages have always delighted and fascinated humanity... even though soda certainly isn't the healthies drink. In the first part of this two-part episode, Ben kicks soda as he, Noel and Max dive into the history of these amazing drinks.

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How did the Rubik's Cube become a global phenomenon? Where exactly is Waldo? In part one of this series, legendary author and podcaster AJ Jacobs regales the gang with the wide world of Puzzlers, from early human history to the modern day.

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This week, Ben, Noel and Max welcome special guest, the legendary author AJ Jacobs, to explore the world's strangest historical puzzle crazes. In part one of this two-part series, AJ regales the gang with the moral panic surrounding early crosswords, armchair treasure hunts and much more. Spoiler: you can hear Ben and Noel on AJ's own show, The Puzzler.

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Ben Bowlin

Ben Bowlin

Noel Brown

Noel Brown

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