Archive for the 'World History' 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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In Part 2 we continue to explore the relentlessly interesting life of Joe Carstairs, known as the fastest woman on water. We cover her impressive series of wins, the records she broke, and her years long pursuit of the famed Harmsworth Trophy against Gar Wood, the cup’s all time most successful competitor.

In this episode we meet both Ruth Baldwin, the love of Joe’s life, and Lord Tod Wadley, a doll that would become increasingly important to Joe, adding another layer to her reputation as an eccentric. We cover her life after she retires from racing and her purchase of Whale Cay, an island in the British West Indies, now the Bahamas, where she would spend the next four decades.

Join me as we journey back in time and continue to uncover the fascinating 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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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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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. 

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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.

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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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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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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.

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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.

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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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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. 

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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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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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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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We know that a lot of our communication happens not just through words, but through facial expressions, tone, and body language too. This can cause a researcher to unintentionally influence the person or animal they are examining. There are ways of getting around this-double blind studies are one way-where neither the researcher nor the subject knows if they are in a control or experimental group. But where did our understanding of subtle cues come from? Well, they came from a particularly clever horse. Clever Hans, a horse who took the media by storm in the early 1900s. Clever Hans was wowing the world with his ability to calculate numbers, identify musical tones, and ace any test thrown his way. His trainer, retired school teacher Wilhelm Van Osten, taught this horse as he would have a human child in front of a chalkboard and a counting machine in his backyard for years. Van Osten and the world truly believed Clever Hans was capable of extraordinary things. And he was…it just wasn’t what they had all suspected. Little did they know, they were all being outsmarted by one clever horse. 

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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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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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We continue our way through the life of Leadbelly in Part 4. In this episode we see Leadbelly make a plea for a pardon with his music, and watch as he tries adjusting to life outside of prison. As hard as he tries starting life anew, he finds himself once again behind bars, this time in Angola, known as the Alcatraz of the South, one of the bloodiest prisons in US history.

 

We finally meet John Lomax and his son Allen who would become key figures in Leadbelly’s life as they traveled the South searching for American folk music to preserve for the Library of Congress. We clear up some Leadbelly myth with primary sources, learn a bit about the earliest attempts at musical preservation through recording, and even get to hear a 130-year-old Passamaquoddy war song recorded by anthropologist Jesse Walker Fewkes.

The adventure continues.

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In Leadbelly Part 2 we continue the story of Huddie Ledbetter, one of the most influential musicians of all time. We cover his early adult life in Dallas, his collaboration with the great Blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson, and hear some of the music that earned him the moniker “King of the Twelve String Guitar.”

He was known for his tumultuous life as well as his musical genius. We explore his first arrest, his escape from prison that made him a wanted fugitive, his new life under the alias “Walter Boyd” and the murder that would change the course of his life forever.

Join me for Part 2 as we uncover more of the legend behind the man we now know as Leadbelly.

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Huddie Ledbetter was easily one of the most influential American musicians of all time, yet today he has become one of the most historically overlooked. Musical artists like Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, the White Stripes, and countless others have been covering Huddie’s songs for almost a century, however, most listeners have never heard his name. The life of Ledbetter, more widely known as Leadbelly, was fraught with complications, repressed by a world policed with Jim Crow laws, and often filled with violence.

Leadbelly was viewed by audiences as a murderer and criminal, but also as a poet gifted with an incredible musical talent. Separating and understanding the real man from the legend is a difficult task. His life was as epic as his music, and we’re going to explore all of it, starting with this first episode on the life of the legendary Leadbelly, King of the Twelve String Guitar.

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This week we travel back in time 430,000 years to find some of the first examples of compassion in the fossil record. This time we fuse psychology and science with history as we discuss why compassion exists, its potential health benefits, the consequences of stress, fight or flight, and what that all has to do with human happiness. This one packs a scientific punch as we turn up the nerd level to 11.

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