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

July 29, 2021 50 min

When the Earl of Rundel learned his acquaintance Prince Rupert was languishing in an Austrian prison during the Thirty Years' War, he gifted the prince a rare white hunting poodle as a companion. Rupert named his new pooch "Boy" and the two became inseparable. Boy accompanied Rupert into multiple conflicts and became a mascot of sorts -- and, in an odd twist, people across England started to believe Boy was no ordinary ...

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Today, the humble potato can be found in restaurants and dinner tables across the world -- but this wasn't always the case. In today's episode, Ben and Noel dive into the story of one spud-loving, potato-proselytizing man named Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, and his ambitious life's mission to get an entire continent onboard with the idea of an obscure, Peruvian tuber that would go on to fundamentally change the world.

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July 22, 2021 62 min

What exactly is Bhutanese "Night Hunting," and how does it work? How do some rural Cambodian communities navigate the tricky world of dating while living in communal homes? It's often said the course of true love never did run smooth -- and it sure takes some odd turns on the path from courtship to marriage. In the second part of this special two-part series, Ben and Noel welcome special guests Eli and Diana banks, the ...

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July 20, 2021 65 min

Would you whisper sweet nothings to your sweeheart through a six-foot tube with your Puritan grandmother in the room? Would you force feed your children to make them more attractive for a potential groom? It's often said the course of true love never did run smooth -- and it sure takes some odd turns on the path from courtship to marriage. In part one of this special two-part series, Ben and Noel welcome special guests Eli and ...

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July 15, 2021 64 min

Underwear! Whether we're talking boxers, briefs, loincloths, brassieres or even lingerie, undergarments have a storied history in cultures across the planet. It's a tale touching on everything from shifting attitudes about morality to scientific innovations, fashion and more. In today's episode, Ben and Noel take a closer look at the ancient origins of underwear, tracing its evolution to the modern day.

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Since before the dawn of recorded history, human beings have been obsessed with talking to each other. This primal impulse inspired French occultist Jacques-Toussaint Benoît to propose a new, global communication system in the mid-1800s, a system he was certain would replace the telegraph: collections of snails. Benoît was certain snails, after mating, remained in constant, non-physical contact, meaning pushing one would affect the...

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We've all had those days where we just need a little solitude, a quiet place away from the clamor and chatter of other people. However, William John Cavensidh-Scott-Bentinck, the 5th Duke of Portland, took this to an extreme. He spent the majority of his life minimizing the chance that he might have to run into other people, and eventually honeycombed his estate with an elaborate network of tunnels, including a secret passage t...

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Today, most Americans think of lemonade stands with nostalgia. In decades past, this could be an enterprising kid's first brush with the world of business as they set out to make a fortune, one cup at a time. But where did these stands come from, and how did they become so ingrained in American cultural identity? Tune in to learn more.

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Edgar Parker, later better known as "Painless Parker," wasn't your ordinary dentist. When his first practice was struggling in 1892, he began to think outside of the figurative box, combining dentistry, showbiz and public spectacle in a way that'd never been done before, including making dentistry part of an actual traveling circus.

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In the early 1920s, the still-new technology of powered aircraft amazed folks across the planet. People weren't quite sure what this technology could do, so when a plane flight appeared to restore Henry A. Renz, Jr's voice, experts and the public alike wondered whether plane flights might have medical benefits. In today's episode, the guys explore how this came about -- and whether any of these 'cures' were effe...

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June 28, 2021 53 min

Nowadays, most people pay rent with the currency of their given nation — but for a time in England, your rent might have been paid with eels (yes, literal eels). In today’s episode, Ben, Max and returning guest host Matt Frederick explore the strange story of the Medieval eel economy, from the financial constraints that inspired it, to the religious beliefs that sustained it, to explain exactly how owning thousands of eels became a...

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In 1848, times were dire for the Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake Valley. Massive swarms of crickets laid waste to everything in their path, destroying crops and endangering the community's chances of survival. The threat of starvation loomed. According to the legend the community was saved by the miraculous arrival of gulls with a craving for crickets -- but how much of this story is fact, and how much fiction? Tune in to learn ...

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In earlier centuries, when science and spirituality were considered one and the same, the world was full of advice and warnings surrounding pregnancy cravings. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel explore how humans perceived these cravings: as superstition, stereotype and, eventually, science.

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Pregnancy is amazing — and scary, and beautiful, and a thousand other things. The modern world has stereotypes and tropes aplenty about pregnancy, especially including the phenomena known as pregnancy cravings. But how far back does this go? In the first part of this series, Ben and Noel explore the history of cravings, along with beliefs about how too much — or too little — of a given food was believed to affect children later in ...

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Less than 18 hours after Richard Carrington noticed something screwy on the sun’s surface, chaos erupted. Telegraph operators found their machines literally aflame. The Northern Lights were visible from Cuba. People and plants across the globe became convinced it was daytime. Centuries later, Ben and Noel explore the consequences of the Carrington event and — perhaps most importantly — what this may mean for the future.

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When amateur astronomer Richard Carrington gazed through his telescope on the morning of September 1st, 1859, he noticed something weird about the surface of the sun -- it seemed to have clusters of dark spots. Later historians would recognize this as the earliest observation of a solar flare -- and a little less than 18 hours later, the associated coronal mass ejection would wreak havoc on Earth, setting telegraphs aflame, lightin...

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In an effort to prevent further conflicts in what would become known as the Wars of the Roses, King Henry VI called the warring parties to London, with a weird pitch -- they would resolve their disputes through diplomacy, culminating in a parade where these sworn enemies would have to literally walk around town holding hands. Tune in to see how it all played out.

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In today’s Classic episode, the guys travel back to their early days.


For centuries some lawyers and judges in the U.K. have worn distinctive wigs during court proceedings. But why? Join Ben and Noel as they explore the strange history of the peruke.

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Al Capone is rightly remembered as of the most notorious gangsters in US history -- but for a time residents of Chicago also thought of him as a benefactor. As people struggled to survive the Great Depression, Capone, in an apparent act of benevolence, founded a free, no-questions-asked soup kitchen to feed the hungry. In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore how the kitchen came to be, how it functioned -- and what Capone'...

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May 25, 2021 46 min

For a brief period in 1942, the town of Pascagoula, Mississippi was terrorized by a strange criminal -- he would sneak into people's houses as they slept and cut off locks of their hair. In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore this bizarre series of events (which may remain unsolved in the modern day).

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Ben Bowlin

Ben Bowlin

Noel Brown

Noel Brown

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