Archive for the 'England' Category

If you strolled through an English garden in the 1700s, you might have stumbled across someone employed in what just may be history’s weirdest job. Because, in Georgian Britain, it was all the rage to hire your very own ornamental garden hermit.

These hired hermits would live in solitude for years, never speaking, never washing, never leaving the grounds. They never cut their hair, their fingernails, or toenails, and would be clad in the outfit of an ancient Druid (or what everyone thought an ancient Druid would have looked like), all for the amusement of the rich elite and their guests.

In this episode we explore the particulars of this strange job and all the ways in which wealthy land owners would try to acquire hermits, as well as the lengths they would go to if they couldn’t find one.

We’ll also be meeting one of the last hermits around today, a man in a long line of recluses who have inhabited a cliffside in Saalfelden, Austria for the last 350 years.

While we’re at it, we pop into ancient Rome, take a stroll along Hadrian’s Wall, say hello to the Caledonians, and find out what a small hermitage in Tivoli, Italy has to do with 18th century garden hermits.
 
Join me as we explore what just may be history’s weirdest job.

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In this finale episode on the incredible life of Joe Carstairs we examine Joe’s life after she earned her place in history as the fastest woman on water. In 1934 Joe purchased Whale Cay, an island in the Bahamas, then known as the British West Indies. Here she built a life in exile, and integrated herself into the economic and social history of the Bahamas.

We cover her experiences on the island, her attempts to aid both British and American forces during WW2, her meeting with the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, the complicated impact she had as a colonist, the death of Ruth Baldwin, the love of her life, her eventual move to Naples, Florida, and the last years of her life.

Join me as we conclude our series on the relentlessly interesting life of Joe Carstairs.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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In Part 2 of the Historical Oddities series, we uncover two strange pieces of history. In the 1970’s when the crew of the Six Million Dollar Man was shooting an episode inside a funhouse in Long Beach, California, they accidentally stumbled upon something unexpected…the dead, mummified body of the outlaw Elmer McCurdy. Elmer had been shot dead by a Sherriff’s posse the better part of a century before, so what was his corpse doing hanging from the rafters of a funhouse? Today we examine his incredible true story.

Next, we go across the pond and back again to find out how just what the London Bridge is doing in the Arizona desert. Built after the London Bridge of nursery rhyme fame was demolished and before the bridge that now stands over the Thames, this 19th century granite London Bridge was headed for the junkyard until the city of London auctioned it off to an eccentric American millionaire. Tune in to hear how this iconic English landmark became the world's most expensive souvenir. 

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History is weird sometimes. In this first episode of a two-part series, we discuss historical oddities, and highlight some of the most curious events and people history has to offer. Today we begin with Frank Hayes, an unstoppable jockey, and Sweet Kiss, a bay mare no one was betting on. She and her jockey would make history with one race—but not because of their victory. Then we skip across the pond to find the unsinkable Violet Jessop, a woman who survived three of the 20th century’s most harrowing shipwrecks. South Africa is our last stop where we find Jack the Baboon who was better at his job working for the Cape Town Port Elizabeth Railway service than most of us are today. Plug in and get weird!

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Bundle up, grab some nog, and get ready for a 117-year-old ghost story. We don’t tend to think of ghost stories when we think of the glitz and glamour of the holidays, but the tradition of gathering around the fire to tell dark tales and call upon the lore of ages long since passed goes back generations. Today, we discuss this tradition and hear M.R. James’s tale “Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” first published in 1904.

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It’s a stone with many names--the Stone of Destiny, the Stone of Scone, the Coronation Stone, Lia Fáil-- and there are numerous legends and myths about its origins. For centuries it was used in the coronations of Scottish kings, that is, until it was taken to England by Edward 1st in 1296. From then on it was used in the coronations of English and subsequent British monarchs, symbolizing their rule over Scotland and its incorporation into the United Kingdom. For 700 years after it was taken by the English king, it remained in Westminster Abby under the Coronation Chair, until Christmas day, 1950, when four students from the University of Glasgow--Kay Matheson, Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, and Alan Stuart--decided it was time for Scotland to take it back. This is the true story of one of the most famous and unlikely heists in history. The most remarkable part of this incredible true story isn't that these four students planned on breaking into Westminster Abby to steal back a symbol of Scottish nationalism…it's that they were going to get away with it.

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The finale of our miniseries comes to a close as we cover several real historical instances of people actually being buried along with a few who had some uncomfortable close calls. We hear about the incredible case of Mathew Wall and find out why on October 2nd for the last 450 years or so, the town of Braughing in Hertfordshire has celebrated “Old Man’s Day.” We learn about the curious cases of Nicephorous Glycas from Lesbos and Anne Green from Oxfordshire who nearly made it to their own funerals and/or dissections. We learn about Alice Blunden and why you should always check twice, maybe even three times, before you bury someone. After that we hear about the unfortunate case of Anna Hockwalt in 19th century Dayton, Ohio, before making a pit stop in France to visit Angelo Hays and find out just what a toilet was doing in a coffin in the 1970’s.

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The finale is here! Come find out just how one of the most inspiring stories of human endurance ended. We head back to Antarctica and watch the crew of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition make history as Shackleton attempts one last desperate attempt at a rescue mission. This episode has all the answers you've been waiting for. 

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In 1914 the 28 member crew of the Endurance left to trek across the continent of Antarctica on foot. It is now the beginning of 1916. Their ship has been crushed, they've been stranded on the ice with no way out, and they've taken to the boats in a last ditch effort to escape the ice melting beneath them. In Part 4 we hear what happens next as they head for the yet unexplored Elephant Island, and Shackleton with a sets out on an 820 mile open boat journey on the roughest sea passage in the world to either find rescue, or doom them all to an icy grave. 

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In Part 3 of Shackleton's Lost Voyage, we join the stranded crew of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, who have been stranded on the ice now for well over a year. Their ship has been crushed, starvation and madness have begun to set in, and they've been trapped by the ice and sea with no way out. In this episode, we watch as they make a desperate escape attempt while the ice splits beneath them, before heading out towards the unknown on the open sea. 

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In this two story episode we travel to Guanajuato, Mexico, and discover a cache of mummies that were literally evicted from their graves. Then we head to Beni Hassan, Egypt, where a farmer digging a well in 1888 accidentally stumbled upon one of the largest hoards of cat mummies ever found, and, possibly, an ancient, illegal crime ring of cat killers (seriously). We also meet Bastet, the ancient Egyptian goddess that started it all. 

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In Part 2 of Shackleton's Lost Voyage, the crew of the Endurance find themselves frozen fast in the Antarctic pack ice in 1915. In this episode, we examine the psychology behind what happens to the human mind during the long Polar Night as we join the crew on the next leg of their journey. Disaster, heartbreak, and uncanny resilience unfold in this second chapter before the finale of Part 3. 

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Poet, adventurer, bard of the Yukon, and British cowboy (that's a thing) Robert W. Service (1874-1958) is showcased in this week's history byte, followed by a retelling of his spookiest of poems, The Cremation of Sam McGee

This is the first of THREE EXTRA episodes premiering this month just for your Halloween season enjoyment, so pumpkin up that coffee, put in those ear buds, dust off that Necronomicon, and go nuts. 

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In 1914 the crew of the Endurance left to trek across the continent of Antarctica on foot. Led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, they believed their journey would bring them adventure, scientific discovery, and fame. What actually unfolded would become one of the greatest stories of human endurance the world has ever seen. Crushed by ice, lost, and wandering at the bottom of the world, they would harrow the most severe environment on Earth as they gave everything to make it home again. Come hear the story of the Trans Antarctic Expedition and the polar explorers that colored in the last pieces of the world's map. 

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