Archive for the 'Humor' Category

It’s officially Halloween season and chances are you’ve already seen a considerable amount of Jack-o’-Lanterns. Perhaps you’ve even carved one yourself, taking part in a centuries old tradition. But where does this old Celtic custom come from? Today we explore the origins of Jack-o-Lanterns, discuss the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, and meet Stingy Jack, the cheeky character who just may be behind the origin of the term ‘Jack-o-Lantern’ itself. Wrap up and grab some cider, today’s history is served up with an extra side of spooky.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It’s Halloween season, and that means it’s time for some spooky history. And what is spookier than being buried alive? Nothing really, and that’s where this two-part miniseries is headed. Today in Part 1 we cover taphophobia-the fear of being buried alive-and examine some of the ways we’ve dealt with this fear throughout history. Safety coffins, devices built to save the prematurely buried, and the death tests we used to determine if a person was really, completely dead, are showcased. Edgar Allen Poe, Houdini, and some ill-fated escape artists even make an appearance. If you love the macabre, you don’t want to miss this one. Come get your spook on.  

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This episode is the first in a series highlighting extraordinary people doing extraordinary things in times of crises. This week we travel to Belfast during the Blitz of 1941 and meet Denise Weston Austin. She worked as one of the Belfast Zoo’s first female zookeepers, and the friendship she developed with Sheila, the zoo’s baby elephant, would become an inspirational part of Irish history. For decades, Denise’s identity remained a mystery until an old black and white photo of a woman and a baby elephant in a backyard surfaced from the zoo’s archives. Come hear the story of the woman who risked everything to save a small, plucky elephant, and why Denise has become known around the world as the Elephant Angel. 

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Come and meet Poll, a presidential parrot so extra that his epic level of snark still lives on today. 

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