Joe Carstairs is remembered for being the fastest woman on water in the 1920s. She raced power boats, won trophies, and loved adventure and speed. But her life was so much more than races and fast machines. Born in 1900, Joe was a British eccentric, an heiress, openly a lesbian, and shed many gender conformities of her day.

She served with the American Red Cross in France during WW1, established the X Garage, a chauffeuring business employing a staff of all female drivers and mechanics who had learned their skills while serving during the war, and after receiving some notoriety from racing, Joe bought Whale Cay, an Island in the Bahamas, which she ran almost as if it were her own country.

Her life was so full and colorful it became clear early on that this would have to be a two-part series. This is part one of a deep dive into the relentlessly fascinating life of Joe Carstairs, the fastest woman on water.

On September 30th, 1955 the life of film icon James Dean was tragically cut short while he was driving his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder, which he named “Little Bastard,” to its first race in Salinas when he was involved in a near head on collision. 

After the wreck, Little Bastard was declared a total loss and sent to a salvage yard. Some of its parts were used in other race cars and the body was toured around the US until 1960 when it disappeared. Over the years rumors of a “curse” began to circulate due to the tragedies and strange events, including one verified death, that seemed to follow the wreckage of Little Bastard, though most claims continue to be unverified.

Come explore what Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars original trilogy), the death of racing enthusiast Troy Lee McHenry, the 1966 Batmobile designer George Barris, NASCAR statistics, and an innocuous fire in Fresno have to do with the history surrounding the death of James Dean and the alleged “curse” of Little Bastard. 

Laughter is a universal language and today we celebrate humor through the ages by exploring three historic pranks. The first involves Anthemius of Tralles, one of the main architects involved in building the Hagia Sophia and a genius who really knew how to hold a grudge. Then we skip ahead several handfuls of centuries to uncover the Great Moon Hoax of 1835 when a newspaper editor for The Sun ignited a hoax that had everyone looking to the moon for bipedal beavers, bat-like humanoids, and even a unicorn. After that we head to the 1950s near Atlanta, Georgia where three guys, a $10 bet, a fake UFO sighting, and one unfortunate "Monkey from Mars" show us just how quickly a prank can go too far.

Bob Ross, American painter and iconic TV host of the 80s and 90s, famously told us that there are no mistakes, only “happy little accidents.” There are numerous examples of history happening by accident--archaeologists accidentally stumbling upon a find, scientists accidentally discovering a breakthrough--and today we explore four such stories.

First, we travel to 1856 when a teenager accidentally discovered mauve and synthetic dye while he was on vacation, which led to the pioneering of immunology and a Nobel prize. Then we head to 1940s France, when a group of teenagers chasing after a dog accidentally stumbled upon Lascaux cave, one of the greatest prehistoric finds of all time. Then we travel to 1767 to visit the Ayutthaya kingdom just before it was invaded by Burma. Almost 200 years later, a seemingly unremarkable statue pulled from its ruins finally tells its secrets: the Golden Buddha or, Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, is now one of the world’s most famous statues, and if it hadn’t been for an accident in the 1950s, we would all still believe it was made of nothing more than plaster and colored glass. After that, we head all the way into the 2000s for a look at some accidental breakthrough MS research.

Come join me as we uncover some of history’s most incredible happy little accidents.

In the 1880s a beast was rampaging through the deserts of Arizona. Known as the Red Ghost, this creature quickly became thrust into legend and folklore, but it was an echo of a real piece of history. The Red Ghost, which may have existed—not as a monster but as a camel—was a remnant of a piece of history largely forgotten.

In 1855 the US allocated funds for the importation of camels. They were part of an experiment to determine whether camels would be useful for transportation and military operations as the US pushed it’s territory towards the Pacific. Known as the Camel Corps, the experiment would ultimately fail despite initial success. The US Civil War would put an end to the Camel Corps and the transcontinental railroad would largely reduce the need for transport animals out west.

But the camels that were part of the experiment still remained, and some of them would roam free for decades throughout the Wild West.

It’s time to tell their story.

Shackleton’s Endurance has been found! In this special bonus episode, we explore everything we know so far about the find. The Endurance was the ship that carried Shackleton and his crew towards what they thought would be an Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which began in 1914. However, ice floes would prevent the explorers from ever setting foot on the mainland of Antarctica. Instead, they would embark on a two-year journey of epic survival. Against all odds, all of them would survive, and now, 106 years later, we can once again set eyes on their ship. Come hear everything we know so far about this remarkable, once in a lifetime find.

In 1846 Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax received his patent for the saxophone, but not before he cheated death at least seven times. He was so accident prone that his own mother didn’t believe he would survive childhood. His close calls with death earned him the nickname “Little Sax the Ghost.”

Sax’s life was a roller coaster of ups and downs. Mired the backstabbing world of invention, he fought years of legal battles, narrowly escaped death multiple times, battled cancer in the 1850s, and still helped shape music history. 

Both hated and loved in his own time, Sax would revolutionize the French military band, register over 40 different patents, and invent 14 different types of saxophones as well as an entire family of saxhorns.

Come explore the surprisingly tumultuous history of the saxophone. 

In 1876 a bumbling group of Chicago counterfeiters broke into Abraham Lincoln’s tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Illinois, after formulating a plot to steal the president’s body and use it as leverage to get counterfeiter Benjamin Boyd released from prison. Boyd worked for small-time crime boss Big Jim Kinealy, and Big Jim’s attempted heist would, with the help of a secret service informant, go down in history as an utterly bad idea.

Then we jump ahead a century to explore the snarkiest tomb in history. Roy Bertelli, known as Mr. Accordion, regularly stood atop his own grave, which is a stone’s throw from Lincoln’s, to loudly play his accordion for the sole purpose of being as annoying as possible. After a row with the cemetery management over their attempt to seize his grave plot, Roy spent the rest of his life letting them know they wouldn’t be getting it back, even over his dead body. Come hear why his delightfully cantankerous story earns Mr. Accordion the gold in posthumous snark. 

350 miles off the cost of Costa Rica lies the legendary Cocos Island. Over the centuries it’s been a refuge for pirates, mutinous mariners, and the obsession of hundreds of treasure hunters. Some believe it was the original inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island

Though little evidence exists for the purported billion dollars worth of treasure said to be hidden within its shores, it has seen centuries worth of strange and interesting history. Pirates like Captain Morgan, Benito Bonito, Captain Edward Davis, Captain Bennett Grahame, and the mutinous Captain Thompson used the island as a haven and, some believe, left treasures such as the Devonshire hoard, the fabled treasure of Lima, and pirate booty on the island.

Subsequent centuries saw hundreds of treasure hunting expeditions. Some brought dynamite, one dug an irrational series of tunnels for two decades, at least eight exploded, many were evicted or arrested, and all left empty handed.

In this all new episode we explore the historical figures and incredible events surrounding this island and the treasure hunting expeditions carried out by those who became obsessed with the legends surrounding this real Treasure Island.  

There are many legendary figures who emerged from the American Wild West. In this all new episode we explore the life of the lesser known, though no less incredible, Mary Fields, who has come to be known as Stagecoach Mary.

Born enslaved, Mary was emancipated around the age of 33 after the American Civil War. Eventually she moved west to the Montana Territory. There she worked alongside the Ursuline nuns and Jesuits at St. Peter’s mission until she was dismissed for an incident involving drawn firearms.

Mary was a mold breaker and was unafraid to push against the expectations of others. She drank, smoke cigars, carried firearms, and sometimes wore men’s clothing. She was also someone of great generosity and won the admiration of many people in Cascade, Montana.

She was an unstoppable force, and at the age of 63, became history’s first African American Star Route Carrier for the US Postal Service. This was a dangerous job, but despite the threat of predators, bandits, rugged terrain, and harsh winters, Mary and her mule Moses never missed a day in her eight year tenure as a Star Route Carrier. If the whether became impassable for her stagecoach, Mary would deliver the mail by snowshoe, carrying the sacks over her shoulders.

Mary became a legend in her own time as stories of this gun carrying, cigar smoking, hard liquor drinking woman who seemed to break down every barrier thrown her way, earned Mary her place in history.

Come hear how the life of Mary Fields become the legend of Stagecoach Mary.

A mythical holiday legend grew from the life of Hans von Trotha, a medieval knight who served in both the German Palatinate and the French court of Louis XII. His life had some tumultuous twists and turns: excommunication, exile, and a row with a Benedictine abbot over Berwartstein Castle that nearly destroyed the town of Weissenburg.

After his death, history was transformed into lore, and this chevalier d’or, “knight of gold,” became a monster whose tale is still told in several regions of France and Germany.

Come learn how myth turned the medieval knight Hans von Trotha into Hans Trapp, the Christmas scarecrow.

The 1904 Olympic marathon is remembered as history’s most bizarre race. Running in tandem with the St. Louis World’s Fair, or the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the 1904 Olympics were the first games hosted by the US. Given the disorganization, poor international turnout, and competition with the World Fair’s 20 million visitors, the 1904 games were perhaps doomed before they started. But no single event would ever compare with the absurd chaos of the marathon. From wild dogs to a professional clown on performance enhancing drugs, this race had it all.

We also delve into the history of the ancient Olympic games and explore how an ancient festival honoring Zeus became a worldwide modern event.

Come hear the unbelievable true story of the 1904 St. Louis Olympic marathon.

48.5 tons of meteoric material falls onto our planet every day, which has made for some stellar history. Today we explore history that has fallen from the sky. We begin in Egypt by examining the meteorite dagger of Tutankhamun, then we travel to Sylacauga, Alabama in the year 1954 when Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges became the first documented person in history to be struck by a meteorite. After that we travel 50,000 years back in time to hear the story of the basket meteorite, a special piece of space rock that made its way to Northern Arizona’s Meteor Crater twice thanks to a yard sale and a retired Wisconsin man. Grab your space suit and tune in for an episode that’s truly out of this world.

The Raven

In 1845 Edgar Allen Poe first published his now iconic poem The Raven. Come hear the full reading of this legendary literary tale in this bonus Halloween mini episode.

About 30 miles north of Manhattan lies the town of Sleepy Hollow. Made famous by Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this nook in the Hudson Valley is home to legends and history alike. A real, lesser known figure in the history of this region is a woman the townsfolk called Hulda of Bohemia.

Ostracized by the larger community, the elderly Hulda crafted herbal medicines for the town, leaving them anonymously on people’s doorsteps and windowsills. Though her gifts were appreciated in secret, Hula was shunned and labeled as a witch.

When the American Revolution came, bringing war to the countryside, Hulda wanted to join the local militia. She was refused. One day in 1777 British Troops began marching towards Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. Not to be turned away this time, Hulda grabbed her musket and joined the fight.

Her acts on the battlefield were so impactful, that she’s still remembered today. Find out what happened, and discover the woman who is known, for better or worse, as the witch of Sleepy Hollow.

We’ve been putting animals on trial probably as long as we’ve been putting one another on trial. In this episode we examine several animal trials spanning nearly a 600-year period. We cover six trials extending over three continents: A monkey in Hartlepool accused of espionage, a murderous pig in Savigny, a group of slugs who just wouldn’t listen, a circus elephant in Tennessee we should never forget, a bear who served time with good behavior in Kazakhstan, and a rooster (or basilisk depending on whom you ask) in Basel, Switzerland, burned at the stake for laying an egg. Grab you gavels and get ready to travel on this sometimes whimsical, sometimes sad, and constantly strange episode exploring the history of animals put on trial.

It was believed the Coelacanth went extinct along with the dinosaurs around 66 million years ago when the Chicxulub impactor smashed into planet Earth…that was until Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator of the East London Museum, found one in a pile of fish on a dock in South Africa in 1938. This ancient fish surprised the scientific world when the first living specimen was pulled up by Captain Hendrik Goosen while he was trawling for fish near the mouth of the Chalumna River. The Coelacanth was dubbed a “living fossil” though it was eventually discovered that it has evolved over the last 400 million years. Come hear the story of how the determined Marjorie saved the world’s first extant Coelacanth specimen, and what exactly makes this strange, ancient species so special.

The Monte Vista Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona is a place where history and lore are inseparably intertwined. Built in 1927, this 73-room hotel and cocktail bar has seen prohibition, a speakeasy, mysterious underground tunnels, historic radio broadcasts, Hollywood, and some swear a ghost or two. Come explore the fascinating story of this famous, and some say infamous, hotel nestled in the Arizona mountains.

Over 5,200 years ago a king rose to power in Upper Egypt. His name was Scorpion. Yes, there was a real Scorpion king, and we can piece together a fragmentary picture of his life through the archaeological evidence left behind. Though the details of his life are debated, it’s clear he was an important part of Egyptian history. Come join me as we time travel back to predynastic Egypt and meet the legendary Scorpion King.

In 1928 Glen and Bessie Hyde struck out to make history. They wanted to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon at a time when only 45 people in recorded history had dared to make that journey. If successful, they would set a new speed record, and Bessie would be the first woman in recorded history to make the voyage.

Their scow was found snagged in the river at mile 232, all their belongings still intact, but the young couple had vanished. Their disappearance sparked a mystery still told around canyon camp fires and has made them an inseparable piece of Grand Canyon lore. A diary, a skeleton with a bullet hole in the skull, and a campfire confession all stoked the flames of a century of mystery. Come hear their story.

It’s incredibly unlikely you’ll ever be involved in a plane crash. Its also incredibly unlikely you’ll ever be struck by lightning. Both of those things happened to Juliane Koepcke at the same time. In 1971, she and her mother were making their way from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru, when their plane broke apart at 10,000 feet. Julianna fell almost two miles out of the sky and into the Peruvian jungle. The the only survivor, she was injured, alone, and lost in the Amazon rainforest. What followed is an incredible account of survival, will, and the relentless tenacity of human endurance. Come hear her story.

In 1879 the Victorian world was shocked by one of the most sensational murders it would ever see. When Kate Webster killed, dismembered, and boiled her employer Julia Martha Thomas, she went down in history as one of the most notorious killers of the 19th century. Find out all the gory details and just what David Attenborough had to do with it 131 years later. Yes, that David Attenborough. 

This is the story of Shackleton and the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916 as presented at this year’s 2021 Intelligent Speech Conference. The theme this year was escape and in the last expedition of the Heroic Age of Arctic Exploration, Shackleton and his crew pulled off the greatest escape of all time, against all odds, at the brink of human endurance as they spent nearly two years lost, adrift on the pack ice of the Weddell sea, setting foot onto some of the last uncharted places in the world. This is the cliff notes version of the expedition. For a much more detailed history check out last year’s five-part series. 

She has one of the most recognizable smiles in the world, but why is the Mona Lisa so famous? She is undoubtedly a masterpiece, but didn’t become a worldwide sensation until 1911 when Vincenzo Peruggia stole her from the Louvre museum in Paris. It has been dubbed by some as the greatest art theft of the 20th century. Find out how he pulled it off and how the Mona Lisa, known as La Joconde in France and La Gioconda in Italy, made her way back to France to become the world’s most visited painting. 

Decades before the movie phenomenon of Jaws, our fear of sharks was ignited by a series of real shark attacks that all occurred within a 12-day period in the summer of 1916. Before these attacks along the New Jersey shore, many believed sharks were not capable of killing or attacking humans. This week we sift through the lore to find the real history surrounding the five attacks-and four deaths-that kindled our fascination with these animals. We also discuss how the shark mania that spread out from the 1916 attacks and the sensational film Jaws, has given sharks a reputation as blood thirsty killers, and how that mentality is shifting the more we learn about these incredible animals. Let’s jump into the water with some of history’s most famous sharks.

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