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

January 19, 2022 49 min

For many adults, the idea of 'summer camp' conjures up fond, nostalgic memories of childhood. And most folks see these outfits as great opportunities for children to learn, play and connect with their peers. Yet as the Nazi party rose to power in Germany, multiple communities in the US created their own kinds of summer camp -- camps dedicated entirely to indoctrinating children with Nazi propaganda, all under the guise of p...

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When San Franciscan businessman Joshua Norton lost his fortune in a Peruvian rice deal gone sour, he temporarily disappeared from the public eye. Not long after, he reemerged as Norton I, the self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States (and, later, Protector of Mexico). In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore the life and times of Norton, and the surprising legacy he left behind.

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Most people haven't met an ostrich in person, but everyone knows what they are: the large, flightless birds have been around since before the rise of humanity, and throughout history people have admired their long, luxurious feathers. Back in the day, any self-respecting socialite absolutely had to have ostrich feathers festooning their hats, creating an international trade market that led a small army of South Africans to laun...

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January 7, 2022 54 min

War is ugly, horrific and, according to some, a necessary part of human civilization. Yet in the 1920s, world powers recovering from World War I sought to make the planet a safer (or, at least, less unsafe) place. Their solution? The Paris Peace Pact, which aimed to, through an international agreement, outlaw war. Spoiler: it didn't work.

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Antarctica is home to one of the most brutal climates on the planet, and the few humans living on this continent face profound isolation and cramped quarters. Often, tension rises as the months between supply runs pile up -- so what happens when something goes wrong?

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You've probably heard of the Ice Ages -- long periods of reduction in Earth's temperature, triggering massive expansion of glaciers and so on -- but you may not have heard of the "Little Ice Age," a time of regional cooling that, from the 14th to the 19th centuries, dramatically affected weather and society across Europe and abroad. Tune in to learn more.

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As towns go, Vernon, Florida is pretty tiny -- it has a small population, has struggled with economic depression, and doesn't get a ton of tourists. But that all changed several decades ago, when Vernon became a subject of national interest as insurance investigators discovered a grisly scam. You may not have heard of Vernon, but you may know it by its other, unofficial name: Nub City.

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By 1857, London's exotic animal trade was in full swing. Animals arrived at the city from across the world (often not surviving the journey), and Charles Jamrach was one of the most prominent animal dealers on the planet. At the height of his fame, he gained public attention by saving a child from a tiger. One problem: it was Jamrach's fault the tiger was in London in the first place. Learn more about London's exotic an...

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Walking through London today, you'll doubtlessly hear cacophonous traffic, sirens, construction, countless languages -- all the noises familiar to big cities... but, not too long ago, it would also have been normal to hear the roars of large animals in certain neighborhoods. In the first part of this two-part series, the guys explore the factors that led London to become a world-class hub for the exotic animal trade, often to t...

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While the idea of draining (most of) the Mediterranean sounds... ambitious, to say the least, Herman Sörgel's vision met with a surprising amount of popular support. In the second part of this two-part episode, the gang explores the dark side of Atlantropa, from its roots in colonialism to the potentially disastrous ecological and social consequences involved.

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Like everyone in post-World War I Europe, Herman Sörgel was horrified by the devastation of a continent-wide conflict. He saw raging poverty, crippling unemployment, overpopulation and burgeoning geopolitical tensions, all of which led him to believe new conflicts were on the horizon. His solution? To drain the Mediterranean and create a new supercontinent. Tune in to learn more in the first part of this two-part episode.

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When you think of bed bugs, you probably think of dirty mattresses, irritating rashes and bites, and the dubious joy of calling an exterminator. However, in millennia past, people were convinced bed bugs, properly prepared, could cure everything from cataracts to the common cold. Tune in to learn more.

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As musical instruments go, pianos are pretty amazing -- they're also not particularly easy to move. Clunkiness aside, pianos provide endless hours of entertainment, lightening the mood in even the darkest of times. In today's episode, Ben and Noel explore how the US government and the Steinway company sought to boost wartime morale by literally dropping pianos into the front lines (along with, thankfully, instructions on ho...

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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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Ben Bowlin

Ben Bowlin

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Noel Brown

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