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

August 4, 2022 42 min

Today, the terms "citizen" and "consumer" are often used interchangeably by authors, journalists and politicians. To some experts, this shift has disturbing implications. But how important is a word? How did this switch occur, and why? In today's classic episode, Ben and Noel explore the implications of this strange, often unexamined, evolution.

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As reality TV continued to grow across networks and genres, it also spread across the planet. In the second part of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to break down the evolution of massive hits like The Bachelor, The Real Housewives empire, and more.

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However you define it, reality TV is a giant in the world of entertainment. From soap operas to game shows and the hazards of dating, it seems almost any genre can find a home in reality television. But how did we get here? How did this global phenomenon begin? In part one of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to explore the evolution of unscripted programming -- and what it teaches us about h...

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Did you know Abraham Lincoln was an infamous, trash-talking wrestler? Ronald Reagan spent his younger years saving people from drowning (and throwing rocks at them) as a lifeguard. And before Norma Jean became the iconic Marilyn Monroe, she built drones during World War II. In today's episode, the guys explore the little-known, surprising careers of some of America's most notable historical figures.

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July 21, 2022 49 min

What makes you... well, you? It's a question humanity has wrestled with since the dawn of recorded history all the way to the modern day. In today's special episode in partnership with 23andMe, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the history of genetic research from its ancient predecessors to great breakthroughs of the recent past, as well as learning a bit about their own genetic history along the way.

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On August 6th, 1945, Mitsubishi engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi was finally heading home from a three month assignment in Hiroshima... until the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the city. Miraculously, he survived the bombing and made his way home to Nagasaki -- where he once again witnessed, and survived, an atomic bomb. Tune in to learn more about Tsutomu Yamaguchi's harrowing journey, as well as his life after surviving ...

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As Ben and Noel continue their conversation with novelist and art historian David Adams Cleveland, the group finds themselves going far beyond the world of Alger Hiss. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys learn more about David's award-winning work as an art historian, the ways in which history, research and fiction converge -- and a little about the oft-ignored effects of history on geopolitics.

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Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Alger Hiss was a mover and shaker in the political sphere. Highly educated and deeply connected, Hiss worked as a lawyer involved in everything from the Justice Department to the United Nations. Until, that is, he was accused of being a spy -- a prime character in a vast conspiracy stretching from DC to the Soviet Union. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel join special guest, nove...

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As the US government became increasingly concerned about the possibility of large-scale biological weapons, they decided something must be done: they needed to test— in secret. In today’s episode, the guys explore how the US Army conspired to spray an entire impoverished part of St. Louis with potentially dangerous chemicals… basically, to see what happened.

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The guys took a day off to celebrate the 4th of July -- and what better time to share a classic episode about another (very strange) form of patriotism? At the close the US Civil War, tens of thousands of former Confederate families fled the US for a small city in Brazil, where they sought to continue living as they had in the days before the war. Tune in to learn more about the strange history of Americana, Brazil.

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As the alleged End of the World drew ever closer, William Miller and the Millerism movement became a pop culture phenomenon. Thousands of people quit their jobs, sold their possessions, and prepared to ascend into the afterlife. Yet when the predicted day came -- and passed -- without the return of Jesus Christ, many of these believers were at a loss. What should they do now? 

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In today's episode we are revisiting a classic. Charles Mallory Hatfield considered himself a real-life rainmaker (or, as he preferred to describe himself, a 'moisture accelerator') and, when San Diego faced one of its most damaging droughts, Hatfield cracked a deal: He'd bring the water back to San Diego. City officials were skeptical, but desperate -- and, as ridiculous as it might sound -- they got more than they...

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You might not have heard of William Miller, but in his time he was a pretty big deal. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the origin of William Miller and Millerism, his spiritual movement predicated on the idea that, with some tricky math, you could indeed predict the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

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Benjamin Franklin was many things: an inventor, a Founding Father, a publisher... and, it turns out, a massive troll. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into a strange story of absolute pettiness and out-the-box PR stunts. You see, when Ben Franklin wanted to up the sales of his almanac, he decided to predict the death of his longtime publishing rival, Titan Leeds. One problem: when the prediction didn't come to pas...

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While the credibility of phrenology inevitably deteriorated over time, it was neither a completely original concept, nor, in some respects, a completely useless one. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the ancient precedents of judging inner qualities based on outer appearance, as well as what modern scientists have to say about how phrenology, as imperfect as it was, helped establish some concepts...

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Once upon a time, a young man named Franz Joseph Gall thought "That's weird... all my school chums with big eyes are good at memorizing things." Years later, he took this idea and ran with it, assuring people that bumps on their skulls held profound insights about both their flaws and their talents. Nowadays everyone agrees phrenology is bunk -- but in its heyday, folks across the US and Europe were convinced this quack...

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Although Nancy Wake began her career as a journalist, her first-hand experience with Nazis compelled her to a new calling: the French Resistance. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the larger-than-life triumphs of the freedom fighter the Gestapo would come to call "the White Mouse," from her early days to her heroic (though, at times, murderous) work to save innocent lives during World War II.

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In a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US, along with more than 60 other countries, boycotted the Olympics. Yet three Puerto Rican boxers refused to allow politics to stand in their way of their athletic ambitions. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome Bijan Stephen and Layne Gerbig, the creators of the Eclipsed podcast, to learn what led them to create this show -- and what the 1980 Olympics can teach...

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Cast your memory back to 1979. Tensions across the US are high, on multiple levels. Disco dominates the music scene, and, oh boy, rock fans are mad about it. Things come to a head at Comiskey Park, where White Sox owner Bill Veeck and a young anti-disco DJ named Steve Dahl decide to promote a doubleheader baseball event with a particular theme -- bring a disco record, and you get to watch it get blown up between games. Spoiler aler...

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Most people associate think of bird poop as an annoyance -- it can gunk up sidewalks and windshields, and, occasionally, even splat on an unlucky person walking by. But in the late 1800s, guano was a hugely important resource. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max take a closer look at the 'white gold' of guano... and how it led to one of 19th-century South America's deadliest wars.

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