iHeart Podcast Network

Humans have always committed crimes. What can we learn from the criminals and crimes of the past, and have humans gotten better or worse over time?


United States


Humans have always committed crimes. What can we learn from the criminals and crimes of the past, and have humans gotten better or worse over time?



Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Spoiler! Dr. Williams Pink Pills for Pale People … May Have Worked

Though the Pink Pills couldn't stand up to the wild advertising claims that the product was a cure-all, the pills were actually potentially medically beneficial to some people with a certain -- common -- condition; in theory. Maybe. Hey, we're not doctors. Let's talk about, how despite that, why this potentially potent patent medicine was under fire from the U.S. government. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Radioactive Quackery: 'Doctor' Bailey and His Jaw-Dissolving ‘Energy Drink’

William Bailey called himself a doctor, but his career was as a shady businessman, not a medical professional. In the early 20th century, he launched a series of start-up companies, capitalizing on the new discoveries of radioactive elements, and sold patent medicine products with lethal radioactive substances with unproven promises to cure everything from arthritis to impotence – it was said they could help you regain your youth. But instead, they were deadly. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

How Perkins Tractors Taught Us the Placebo Effect

Today, if you’re asked to think of a tractor, most of us probably imagine farm equipment. But in the late 18th century, a physician named Elisha Perkins made and sold a different kind of tractor – a device consisting of small metal rods that could cure what ails you simply through touch. And for several years, people were mad for the Perkins Patent Metallic Instruments, or Perkins Tractors as they became popularly known -- even though it all turned out to be what we now know as the placebo effect. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Madame Yale Made a Fortune as America’s 19th-century ‘Wellness Guru’

When Maude Mayberg was 38 years old, this was back in 1890, she 'discovered' an elixir that transformed her life. It was called Fruitcura, she said, and it cured her ailments when medical doctors could not. Two years later, she was a patent medicine entrepreneur and saleswoman going by the name, Madame Yale. Let’s talk about how that’s code for, snake oil peddler. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

How ‘Rattlesnake King’ Clark Stanley Became King of Snake Oil Sales

Clark Stanley was a silver-tongued Texas cowboy who called himself the ‘Rattlesnake King’. Back in the late 19th century, he wasn’t the first charlatan going from town to town in the American West, hawking quack products -- during this time when patent medicines were gaining popularity, American consumers could buy all sorts of fraudulent snake oil products like his. But Clark had a certain flair. A certain charisma and showmanship others didn't. And, for a few years, he really was the Rattlesnake King -- and king of the snake oil salesmen. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Welcome to the Season Finale of Criminalia's 'BLACKMAILERS'

From illicit love letters to political bribes, everyone has a secret, and it’s the threat of exposure that’s key to this crime -- and we discovered a whole lot of surprising examples along the way -- including a man who built his own submarine, hoping to escape with his payout under Lake Michigan; it sounds made up, but we speak the truth. We have enjoyed sharing these sometimes-almost-unbelievable stories of crime and criminals with you. Listen as Holly and Maria share their favorite shows and drinks from the season in our 'Blackmail' season finale. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Welcome to a New Season of Criminalia: 'THE SNAKE OIL SALESMEN'

Snake oil. Today the term describes any worthless remedy that's promoted as a cure-all. And, by extension, snake oil salesmen are considered a bunch of rip-off artists who peddle fraudulent goods. We’re rolling straight from the criminal world of blackmail and extortion into a new season -- we’ll see you there, not only with some very real stories about some very bogus things, but also with the cocktails and mocktails made to go with them. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

When Blackmail Accidentally Uncovers Political Corruption

This is a story of a Texas oil tycoon, a congressman from Idaho, and a financial commodities broker in Oklahoma City. It’s a story of blackmail, yes. But it’s also a story of political corruption and ethics uncovered by that blackmail. There’s a lot going on here, and pretty much everyone’s guilty. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Duke of York and Mary Anne Clarke

Mary Ann Clarke attempted to blackmail her ex-lover, the Duke of York — who led the British army — by threatening to publish his letters. Sounds similar to Wellington but it takes a turn: His political enemies took notice, and they discovered that Mary Ann was selling army commissions (meaning, men who wanted a military rank or promotion would pay off Clarke, who would then demand that the Duke give her clients what they wanted). See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

The Story of Walter Minx, the Sears Extortionist and His Homemade Submarine

Milwaukee Magazine once described Walter Minx as slender and fidgety, with, "the kind of sharp-featured handsomeness that the movies had taught people not to trust." He was German-born, and immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his parents, his brother, and his sister in 1925. He aspired to be a successful American businessman; he wanted to make a fortune -- and a name for himself. He did make a name for himself, but not quite the kind as he’d hoped for. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Blackmail Fail: What Happened When George Ratterman Reformed 'Sin City of the South'

When All-American footballer George Ratterman announced his candidacy for sheriff of Campbell County, Kentucky, in April of 1961, he said, “I am told that if I run for sheriff, I will be the victim of all sorts of personal slanderous attacks, but I say to our opponents, let the attacks start now, if they must.” And, well, the attacks did start – culminating in a high-profile set-up of Ratterman in a compromising position with a woman named April Flowers. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Inheritance Lost: The Murder of Captain Joseph White

Joseph Jenkins Knapp, Jr. was expecting to receive a sizable inheritance upon the death of his 82-year-old great uncle, wealthy retired shipmaster and trader Captain Joseph White. But with debts piling up, Knapp decided he couldn’t wait for natural causes; in April of 1830, he and his brother, John Francis Knapp, hired a hitman to murder him, faked some blackmail letters, and, in the end, didn't get any inheritance at all. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

‘Acid Burns’: That Time Mae West Was Blackmailed, Know What I Mean? See?

It started just after Labor Day, with an envelope postmarked September 13, 1935, sent special delivery, addressed to Miss Mae West of 570 N. Rossmore, Ravenswood Apartments, Hollywood, California. There was nothing unusual about the envelope, but its contents were a different matter. It was the first of what would become a series of extortion letters threatening disfigurement by acid if she didn't pay $1,000. This wasn’t about keeping secrets or giving favors; it was about taking money from Mae West. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Why Charles Augustus Howell Was Called the Worst Man in Victorian London

Described by some as a, “charming rogue,” Charles Augustus Howell was a dodgy figure in Victorian art circles, in particular London’s Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood movement. There was extortion. There was forgery. And just a whole lot of unsavory bits. Howell was an art dealer by trade who was also known to manipulate those around him so he could acquire works that would establish and increase his reputation – and his financial security. When that didn’t work, in the words of biographer Humphrey Hare, "Howell did not hesitate to blackmail." So let’s get to know this charming-yet-unsavory character. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

A Murder, a Letter, and the Questions Surrounding King Edward II’s Death

This is a story of controversy; actually, more than one controversy. It’s a story of medieval kings and queens, of revenge, and of a letter that challenges the circumstances historians thought they knew surrounding King Edward II’s death – including possible blackmail. Or maybe not blackmail. Stick with us while we try to sort it out. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

How Emily Posts' Philandering Husband Was the Catalyst for Her Career Success

Philandering husband Edwin Main Post found himself blackmailed by a scorned mistress who threatened to go public with their affair unless he paid her and her publisher to stay silent. This is a story about blackmail, yes, but it isn't actually a story about Edwin, not really; this is the story about how his wife, Emily Price Post, suffered the humiliations of his actions and the blackmail that ensued, and then rose above it. Let’s hop back to Manhattan during the Gilded Age for this story of adultery, blackmail, and bestselling books about etiquette. Executive Producers: Maria Trimarchi and Holly Frey Producer & Editor: Casby Bias See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

‘Publish and Be Damned!’; and, Harriette Wilson Did

Regency courtesan Harriette Wilson exposed in her memoirs the names of royal, aristocratic, and political men, whom she then blackmailed to keep their names out of those memoirs. Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was, famously, one of those influential names. Arthur was a national hero and wasn’t the kind of man who was easily intimidated; and when Harriette threatened to name his name, he was outraged, leading him to roar the now-famous quote: "Publish and be damned!" Let's talk about what happened next. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Horrific Murderer and Half-Hearted Blackmailer: Meet Dr. Cream

Thomas Neill Cream graduated with honors from Montreal's McGill medical school in 1876. His thesis had been about the effects of chloroform; and he would soon demonstrate just how devastating he could be with toxic compounds. Several people died under his 'care.' But we’re not here to talk about Dr. Cream the murderer; we’re here to talk about his other criminal offense: extortion. Thomas was ultimately undone when he attempted to frame and blackmail other people for his murders. Let’s meet the doctor. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

How Constance Kopp Become New Jersey's First 'Plucky Girl Sheriff'

“I got a revolver to protect us, and I soon had use for it,” stated Constance Kopp when interviewed about the intruders intimidating her family under the cover of darkness at her home. Her assistance with solving the case led to her role as the first female appointed deputy sheriff of Bergen County, New Jersey. Let's talk about how Constance got there in a time when women were not-so-much welcomed into such work. See for privacy information.


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Welcome to the Season Finale of Criminalia's 'FORGERS'

Welcome to the final episode of our season of forgers, where we've been exploring the stories of some of the most amazing forgeries – and those behind them -- throughout history. But it wasn't all about fakes and forgeries. There were plenty of cocktails and mocktails to go around, too. See for privacy information.