Futility Closet-logo

Futility Closet

History Podcasts

Forgotten stories from the pages of history. Join us for surprising and curious tales from the past and challenge yourself with our lateral thinking puzzles.


United States


Forgotten stories from the pages of history. Join us for surprising and curious tales from the past and challenge yourself with our lateral thinking puzzles.





Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

365-Lateral Thinking Puzzles

For this final episode of the Futility Closet podcast we have eight new lateral thinking puzzles — play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions. Intro: Sears used to sell houses by mail. Many of Lewis Carroll's characters were suggested by fireplace tiles in his Oxford study. The sources for this week's puzzles are below. In some cases we've included links to further information -- these contain spoilers, so don't click until you've listened to the episode: Puzzle #1 is from Greg. Here are two links. Puzzle #2 is from listener Diccon Hyatt, who sent this link. Puzzle #3 is from listener Derek Christie, who sent this link. Puzzle #4 is from listener Reuben van Selm. Puzzle #5 is from listener Andy Brice. Puzzle #6 is from listener Anne Joroch, who sent this link. Puzzle #7 is from listener Steve Carter and his wife, Ami, inspired by an item in Jim Steinmeyer's 2006 book The Glorious Deception. Puzzle #8 is from Agnes Rogers' 1953 book How Come? A Book of Riddles, sent to us by listener Jon Jerome. You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss. Many thanks to Doug Ross for providing the music for this whole ridiculous enterprise, and for being my brother. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

364-Sidney Cotton's Aerial Reconnaissance

One of the most remarkable pilots of World War II never fired a shot or dropped a bomb. With his pioneering aerial reconnaissance, Sidney Cotton made a vital contribution to Allied planning. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe his daring adventures in the war's early months. We'll also revisit our very first story and puzzle over an unknown Olympian. Intro: Hall's Law holds that a group's social class is reflected in its members' initials. In 1814 Richard Porson wrote a sonnet to nothing. Sources for our feature on Sidney Cotton: Michael Smith, The Secret Agent's Bedside Reader: A Compendium of Spy Writing, 2019. Chaz Bowyer, Air War Over Europe: 1939-1945, 2003. David Marshall and Bruce Harris, Wild About Flying!: Dreamers, Doers, and Daredevils, 2003. "Spies in the Sky: The Secret Battle for Aerial Intelligence During World War II," Contemporary Review 294:1705 (June 2012), 249. Taylor Downing, "Spying From the Sky," History Today 61:11 (November 2011), 10-16. "Sidney's Sky Spies," Air Classics 37:12 (December 2001), 30. Walter J. Boyne, "Reconnaissance on the Wing," Air Force Magazine 82 (1999), 72-78. "Parkes Display Plane's Remarkable Career," Parkes [N.S.W.] Champion Post, Nov. 1, 2015. Jessica Howard, "Daughter Tells of Spy Who Loved Her," [Hobart Town, Tas.] Mercury, July 27, 2013. "007 Cotton Inspires Bond," Gold Coast Bulletin, Sept. 27, 2008. "Aussie Maverick Who Fooled Nazis," [Surry Hills, N.S.W.] Daily Telegraph, Nov. 9, 2002. Christopher Bantick, "Aussie Spy in the Sky," [Hobart Town, Tas.] Mercury, Nov. 2, 2002. Stephen Holt, "Oh, What a Lovely War," [Brisbane, Qld.] Courier-Mail, Oct. 19, 2002. David Morris, "The Real Bond - Revealed: 007 Was Actually a Queenslander," [Brisbane, Qld.] Sunday Mail, July 15, 2001. David Wroe, "The Original Spy in the Sky," [Melbourne] Age, June 8, 2000. "He Fought the R.A.F. as Well as the Enemy," Sydney Morning Herald, April 12, 1969. "The Cheeky Missions of a Young Spy-Flier Helped to Save Thousands of Allied Lives," Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 9, 1969. "May Be the Wreckage of French Airplane," Morristown [Tenn.] Gazette Mail, July 15, 1927. "Search for Lost Men Is to Be Discussed," New Britain [Ct.] Herald, July 14, 1927. "Plans Search By Air For Nungesser, Coli," New York Times, May 26, 1927. "Was Proserpine's Sidney Cotton the Real James Bond?" Breakfast, ABC, Sept. 19, 2021. "Guide to the Papers of Frederick Sidney Cotton," Australian War Memorial (accessed Nov. 1, 2021). John McCarthy, "Cotton, Frederick Sidney (1894–1969)," Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1993. Listener mail: Norman Fraser, "Sad Ending to Beautiful Betsy Wartime Mystery," [Brisbane] Courier-Mail, March 18, 2015. "Beautiful Betsy," Monument Australia (accessed Nov. 13, 2021). "Monto-Historical and Cultural," North Burnett, Queensland (accessed Nov. 14, 2021). "Cylinder, Iowa," Wikipedia (accessed Nov. 18, 2021). "The Skeleton in the Bale," Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 2, 1892. (Greg's blog piece is here.) This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener S Wan. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle). You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

363-The Lambeth Poisoner

In 1891, a mysterious figure appeared on the streets of London, dispensing pills to poor young women who then died in agony. Suspicion came to center on a Scottish-Canadian doctor with a dark past in North America. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the career of the Lambeth Poisoner, whose victims remain uncounted. We'll also consider a Hungarian Jules Verne and puzzle over an ambiguous sentence. Intro: How can an investor responsibly divest herself of stock in a company that she feels has acted immorally? Lightning can vitrify sand into rootlike tubes. Sources for our feature on Thomas Neill Cream: Dean Jobb, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer, 2021. Lee Mellor, Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder, 2012. Joshua A. Perper and Stephen J. Cina, When Doctors Kill: Who, Why, and How, 2010. John H. Trestrail III, Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, and Attorneys, 2007. Angus McLaren, A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream, 1995. Paula J. Reiter, "Doctors, Detectives, and the Professional Ideal: The Trial of Thomas Neill Cream and the Mastery of Sherlock Holmes," College Literature 35:3 (Summer 2008), 57-95. Ian A. Burney, "A Poisoning of No Substance: The Trials of Medico-Legal Proof in Mid-Victorian England," Journal of British Studies 38:1 (January 1999), 59-92. Penelope Johnston, "The Murderous Ways of Dr Thomas Neill Cream," Medical Post 33:38 (Nov. 11, 1997), 47. Carolyn A. Conley, "A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream by Angus McLaren," American Historical Review 99:3 (June 1994), 899-900. Philippa Levin, "Modern Britain -- A Prescription for Murder: The Victorian Serial Killings of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream by Angus McLaren," Canadian Journal of History 28:3 (December 1993), 595-597. E.H. Bensley, "McGill University's Most Infamous Medical Graduate," Canadian Medical Association Journal 109:10 (1973), 1024. "A Crazy Poisoner," British Medical Journal 1:3302 (April 12, 1924), 670. Michael Dirda, "A True-Crime Columnist Turns His Attention to Victorian-Era Serial Killer Thomas Neill Cream," Washington Post, Aug. 11, 2021. Evan F. Moore, "New Book Details Canadian Serial Killer’s Murderous Legacy in Chicago and Beyond," Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 10, 2021. Rick Kogan, "Story of Serial Killer Dr. Thomas Neill Cream Takes You on a Grand, Gruesome, Historical Journey, With His Time in Chicago," Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2021. W.M. Akers, "Getting Away With Murder, Literally," New York Times, July 13, 2021. "When Canada's 'Jack the Ripper' Serial Killer Struck in Ontario," Toronto Star, May 29, 2021. Marc Horne, "Doctor Who Had a Taste for Poison," Scotland on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008. Jill Foran, "The Evil Deeds of Dr. Cream," The [Winnipeg] Beaver 86:4 (August/September 2006), 16-22. "Coincidences Point the Finger at Cream as the Ripper," [Regina, Saskatchewan] Leader-Post, May 5, 1979. "The Violent and Sadistic Dr. Cream," [Regina, Saskatchewan] Leader-Post, April 28, 1979. "Poisoner Trailed Over Three Countries," Knoxville [Tenn.] Journal, Feb. 2, 1947. Ruth Reynolds, "When Justice Triumphed," [New York] Daily News, Feb. 2, 1947. "His Last Letter," Waterloo [N.Y.] Advertiser, Dec. 9, 1892. "Cream's Joke," Arizona Republican, Nov. 30, 1892. "Execution of Neill," [Cardiff] Western Mail, Nov. 16, 1892. "Cream's Two Manias," Waterbury [Conn.] Evening Democrat, Nov. 16, 1892. "Execution of Neill, the Poisoner," Yorkshire Herald and the York Herald, Nov. 16, 1892. "A Demon Strangled," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nov. 15, 1892. "Cream's Many Crimes," Boston Globe, Nov. 15, 1892. "Neill Cream Hanged," [Wilmington, Del.] Evening Journal, Nov. 15, 1892. "Neill Will Hang," [Brockway Centre, Mich.] Weekly Expositor, Oct. 28, 1892. "Neill Cream On Trial," [Wilmington,...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

362-The Leatherman

In 1856, a mysterious man appeared on the roads of Connecticut and New York, dressed in leather, speaking to no one, and always on the move. He became famous for his circuits through the area, which he followed with remarkable regularity. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the Leatherman, whose real identity remains unknown. We'll also consider the orientation of churches and puzzle over some balky ponies. Intro: Western Poland contains a grove of 400 pine trees that appear to have been deliberately bent. In 1902 Montgomery Carmichael published the life story of an imaginary man. Image: The Leatherman, photographed on June 9, 1885, by James F. Rodgers at the Bradley Chidsey House, Branford, Ct. Sources for our feature: Dan W. DeLuca, ed., The Old Leather Man: Historical Accounts of a Connecticut and New York Legend, 2008. Robert Marchant, Westchester: History of an Iconic Suburb, 2018. Jim Reisler, Walk of Ages: Edward Payson Weston's Extraordinary 1909 Trek Across America, 2015. Kathleen L. Murray, Berlin, 2001. Clark Wissler, The Indians of Greater New York and the Lower Hudson, 1909. Dave Zucker, "Who Was Westchester’s Mysterious and Legendary Leatherman?" Westchester Magazine, March 24, 2021. Jon Campbell, "Mystery Man: Will Anyone Ever Know the Real Story Behind the Leatherman?" Village Voice, June 16, 2015. Steven R. Cooper, "Clues to the Past," Central States Archaeological Journal 58:3 (July 2011), 162-163. "Legend in Leather," Hudson Valley Magazine, March 11, 2010. Jim Fitzgerald, "Wanderer From 1800s Gets More Peaceful NY Grave," Associated Press, May 25, 2011. Dan Brechlin, "Leather Man Body May Yield Clues," [Meriden, Ct.] Record Journal, Jan. 3, 2011. "Would Leatherman Be Welcome Today?" New Haven Register, June 6, 2011. Pam McLoughlin, "Mystery Man," New Haven Register, Feb. 13, 2011. "Walker's Unusual Legend Is Told," Hartford Courant, Sept. 12, 2005. Steve Grant, "Final Journey Made to Resting Place of Legendary Wanderer," Hartford Courant, July 18, 1993. Steve Grant, "On the Road, Retracing the Leatherman's Path," Hartford Courant, June 20, 1993. Frances Phipps, "A Man Known by All, and by None," New York Times, Sept. 23, 1984. "The Leather Man," [Meriden, Ct.] Journal, July 19, 1886. "A Leather-Clad Hermit," Burlington [Vt.] Free Press, April 7, 1870. "Search For Clues Only Deepens 'Leatherman' Mystery," Morning Edition, National Public Radio, May 26, 2011. "Leatherman," Perception, WTIC-TV, Feb. 14, 1965. Listener mail: "Orientation of Churches," Wikipedia (accessed Oct. 10, 2021). Patrick Arneitz et al., "Orientation of Churches by Magnetic Compasses?" Geophysical Journal International 198:1 (2014), 1-7. "Brazil Nuts," ORAU Museum of Radiation and Radioactivity (accessed Oct. 10, 2021). "Natural Radioactivity in Food," EPA (accessed Oct. 14, 2021). "Brazil Nut," Wikipedia (accessed Oct. 16, 2021). G.V. Damiano, Hadhuch-Anti Hell-War: Monarchy's Victory; Constitution's Triumph; Tribute's Annihilation, 1922. This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener James Venning. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle). You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

361-A Fight Over Nutmeg

In 1616, British officer Nathaniel Courthope was sent to a tiny island in the East Indies to contest a Dutch monopoly on nutmeg. He and his men would spend four years battling sickness, starvation, and enemy attacks to defend the island's bounty. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Courthope's stand and its surprising impact in world history. We'll also meet a Serbian hermit and puzzle over an unusual business strategy. Intro: Should orangutans be regarded as human? How fast does time fly? Sources for our feature on Nathaniel Courthope: Giles Milton, Nathaniel's Nutmeg: or, The True and Incredible Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History, 2015. John Keay, The Honourable Company, 2010. Martine van Ittersum, The Dutch and English East India Companies, 2018. Sanjeev Sanyal, The Ocean of Churn: How the Indian Ocean Shaped Human History, 2016. Paul Schellinger and Robert M. Salkin, eds., International Dictionary of Historic Places, 2012. Daniel George Edward Hall, History of South East Asia, 1981. H.C. Foxcroft, Some Unpublished Letters of Gilbert Burnet, the Historian, in The Camden Miscellany, Volume XI, 1907. William Foster, ed., Letters Received by the East India Company From Its Servants in the East, Volume 4, 1900. Samuel Rawson Gardiner, History of England From the Accession of James I to the Outbreak of the Civil War, 1895. W. Noel Sainsbury, Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, East Indies, China and Japan, 1617-1621, 1870. Martine Julia van Ittersum, "Debating Natural Law in the Banda Islands: A Case Study in Anglo–Dutch Imperial Competition in the East Indies, 1609–1621," History of European Ideas 42:4 (2016), 459-501. Geraldine Barnes, "Curiosity, Wonder, and William Dampier's Painted Prince," Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 6:1 (Spring-Summer 2006), 31-50. Barbara D. Krasner, "Nutmeg Takes Manhattan," Calliope 16:6 (February 2006), 28-31. Vincent C. Loth, "Armed Incidents and Unpaid Bills: Anglo-Dutch Rivalry in the Banda Islands in the Seventeenth Century," Modern Asian Studies 29:4 (October 1995), 705-740. Boies Penrose, "Some Jacobean Links Between America and the Orient (Concluded)," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 49:1 (January 1941), 51-61. Jennifer Hunter, "Better Than the David Price Deal? Trading Nutmeg for Manhattan," Toronto Star, Aug. 8, 2015. Janet Malehorn Spencer, "Island Was Bargain for Britain," [Mattoon, Ill.] Journal Gazette, Feb. 22, 2013. Kate Humble, "The Old Spice Route to the Ends of the Earth," Independent, Feb. 12, 2011. Sebastien Berger, "The Nutmeg Islanders Are Aiming to Spice Up Their Lives," Daily Telegraph, Oct. 9, 2004. Clellie Lynch, "Blood and Spice," [Pittsfield, Mass.] Berkshire Eagle, Nov. 11, 1999. Kevin Baker, "Spice Guys," New York Times, July 11, 1999. Robert Taylor, "How the Nutmeg Mania Helped Make History," Boston Globe, May 18, 1999. Giles Milton, "Manhattan Transfer," Sydney Morning Herald, April 10, 1999. Martin Booth, "All for the Sake of a Little Nutmeg Tree," Sunday Times, Feb. 28, 1999. Charles Nicholl, "Books: Scary Tales of an Old Spice World," Independent, Feb. 20, 1999. "Mr Sainsbury's East Indian Calendar," Examiner, March 18, 1871. "Courthopp, Nathaniel," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 1885. Listener mail: "Past Divisional Champs – Little League Baseball," Little League (accessed Oct. 6, 2021). "Serbian Cave Hermit Gets Covid-19 Vaccine, Urges Others to Follow," Straits Times, Aug. 13, 2021. Matthew Taylor, "The Real Story of Body 115," Guardian, Jan. 21, 2004. Godfrey Holmes, "Kings Cross Fire Anniversary: It's Been 30 Years Since the Deadly Fireball Engulfed the Tube Station," Independent, Nov. 18, 2017. This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tom Salinsky. You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

360-Haggard's Dream

In 1904, adventure novelist H. Rider Haggard awoke from a dream with the conviction that his daughter's dog was dying. He dismissed the impression as a nightmare, but the events that followed seemed to give it a grim significance. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Haggard's strange experience, which briefly made headlines around the world. We'll also consider Alexa's expectations and puzzle over a college's name change. Intro: Marshall Bean got himself drafted by reversing his name. An air traveler may jump into tomorrow without passing midnight. "Bob, although he belonged to my daughter, who bought him three years ago, was a great friend of mine, but I cannot say that my soul was bound up in him," Haggard wrote. "He was a very intelligent animal, and generally accompanied me in my walks about the farm, and almost invariably came to say good morning to me." Sources for our feature on Haggard's nightmare and its sequel: H. Rider Haggard, The Days of My Life, 1923. Mrs. Henry Sidgwick, "Phantasms of the Living," Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research 86:33 (October 1922), 23-429. H. Rider Haggard, Delphi Complete Works of H. Rider Haggard, 2013. Peter Berresford Ellis, H. Rider Haggard: A Voice From the Infinite, 1978. C.L. Graves and E.V. Lucas, "Telepathy Day by Day," Bill Peschel, et al., The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes, 2014. Harold Orel, "Hardy, Kipling, and Haggard," English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 25:4 (1982), 232-248. "Spiritualism Among Animals" Public Opinion 39:18 (Oct. 28, 1905), 566. "Character Sketch: Commissioner H. Rider Haggard," Review of Reviews 32:187 (July 1905), 20-27. "Rider Haggard on Telepathy," Muswellbrook [N.S.W.] Chronicle, Oct. 8, 1904. "Case," Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 11:212 (October 1904), 278-290. "Mr. Rider Haggard's Dream," [Rockhampton, Qld.] Morning Bulletin, Sept. 24, 1904. "Has a Dog a Soul?" [Adelaide] Evening Journal, Sept. 21, 1904. "Spirit of the Dog," The World's News [Sydney], Sept. 10, 1904. "Thought-Telepathy: H. Rider Haggard's Dog," [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, Aug. 31, 1904. "Dog's Spirit Talks," The World's News [Sydney], Aug. 27, 1904. "Telepathy (?) Between a Human Being and a Dog," [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, Aug. 25, 1904. "Mr. Rider Haggard's Ghost Dog," Kansas City Star, Aug. 22, 1904. "The Nightmare of a Novelist," Fresno Morning Republican, Aug. 21, 1904. "Psychological Mystery," Hawaiian Star, Aug. 20, 1904. H.S., "Superstition and Psychology," Medical Press and Circular 129:7 (Aug. 17, 1904), 183-184. "Canine Telepathy," [Montreal] Gazette, Aug. 10, 1904. "Telepathy (?) Between a Human Being and a Dog," Times, Aug. 9, 1904. "Haggard and His Dog," Washington Post, Aug. 7, 1904. "Mr. Haggard's Strange Dream," New York Times, July 31, 1904. "Country Notes," Country Life 16:395 (July 30, 1904), 147-149. "Mr. Rider Haggard's Dream," Light 24:1229 (July 30, 1904), 364. "Telepathy Between Human Beings and Dogs," English Mechanic and World of Science 79:2053 (July 29, 1904), 567. John Senior, Spirituality in the Fiction of Henry Rider Haggard, dissertation, Rhodes University, 2003. Wallace Bursey, Rider Haggard: A Study in Popular Fiction, dissertation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1972. Morton N. Cohen, "Haggard, Sir (Henry) Rider," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept. 23, 2004. Listener mail: "How to pronounce Akira Kurosawa," Forvo (accessed Oct. 1, 2021). Sarah Sicard, "How the Heck Do You Pronounce 'Norfolk'?" Military Times, July 30, 2020. William S. Forrest, Historical and Descriptive Sketches of Norfolk and Vicinity, 1853. "Dubois, Wyoming," Wikipedia (accessed Oct. 1, 2021). "Our History," Destination Dubois (accessed Oct. 2, 2021). This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tony Filanowski. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle). You can listen using the player above, ...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

359-Stranded in Shangri-La

In 1945, a U.S. Army transport plane crashed in New Guinea, leaving three survivors marooned in the island's mountainous interior. Injured, starving, and exhausted, the group seemed beyond the hope of rescue. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the plight of the stranded survivors and the remarkable plan to save them. We'll also reflect on synthetic fingerprints and puzzle over a suspicious notebook. Intro: What's the shortest possible game of Monopoly if each player plays optimally? Omen or crated inkwell. Sources for our feature on the Gremlin Special: Mitchell Zuckoff, Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II, 2011. Randy Roughton, "Impossible Rescue," Airman, Jan. 26, 2015. John Cirafici, "Lost in Shangri-La," Air Power History 58:3 (Fall 2011), 65. Sara Hov, "Lost in Shangri-La," Army 61:8 (August 2011), 70. Harrison T. Beardsley, "Harrowing Crash in New Guinea," Aviation History 10:2 (November 1999), 46. David Grann, "Plane Crash Compounded by Cannibals," Washington Post, May 22, 2011. Mitchell Zuckoff, "Escape From the Valley of the Lost," Calgary Herald, May 8, 2011. Mitchell Zuckoff, "In 1945, a U.S. Military Plane Crashed in New Guinea," Vancouver Sun, May 7, 2011. Brian Schofield, "A Tumble in the Jungle," Sunday Times, May 1, 2011. Mitchell Zuckoff, "Return to Shangri-La," Boston Globe, April 24, 2011. "Wartime Plane Crash," Kalgoorlie [W.A.] Miner, Sept. 17, 1947. "Glider Saved Fliers, WAC in Wild Valley," [Hagerstown, Md.] Daily Mail, Aug. 14, 1945. Margaret Hastings, "Shangri-La Diary," Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, July 22, 1945. Bob Myers, "Rescued Wac Is En Route to Washington," [Binghamton, N.Y.] Press and Sun-Bulletin, July 9, 1945. "3 Crash Survivors Dramatically Rescued From New Guinea Valley by Glider Snatch Pickup," St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 30, 1945. "New Guinea's 'Hidden Valley,'" St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 28, 1945. "Survivors of Mishap in Shangri-La Valley Reach Their Rescuers," Birmingham [Ala.] News, June 20, 1945. "Two Airmen, Wac Await Rescue in Fantastic 'Hidden Valley,'" [Richmond, Va.] Times Dispatch, June 8, 1945. "Plan Rescue of Survivors of Crash in Shangri-La Dutch New Guinea," Del Rio [Texas] News Herald, June 8, 1945. Lynn Neary, "A WWII Survival Epic Unfolds Deep In 'Shangri-La,'" All Things Considered, National Public Radio, April 26, 2011. Listener mail: Sophie Weiner, "These Synthetic Fingerprint Gloves Can Unlock Your Phone," Popular Mechanics, Nov. 12, 2016. "TAPS - Make Touchscreen Gloves Using a Sticker w/ Touch ID," Kickstarter.com (accessed Sept. 23, 2021). Nanotips (last accessed Sept. 23, 2021). Jon Porter, "This Picture of Cheese Helped Send a Man to Prison for 13 Years," The Verge, May 24, 2021. Alex Mistlin, "Feeling Blue: Drug Dealer's 'Love of Stilton' Leads to His Arrest," Guardian, May 24, 2021. Rob Picheta, "Drug Dealer Jailed After Sharing a Photo of Cheese That Included His Fingerprints," CNN, May 25, 2021. Chaim Gartenberg, "WhatsApp Drug Dealer Convicted Using Fingerprints Taken From Photo," The Verge, April 16, 2018. Chris Wood, "WhatsApp Photo Drug Dealer Caught by 'Groundbreaking' Work," BBC News, April 15, 2018. CSChawaii, "CSC Presents Japanese Sign Language - Family" (video), Sept. 25, 2017. Ian Sample, "Copying Keys From Photos Is Child's Play," Guardian, Nov. 14, 2008. Elinor Mills, "Duplicating Keys From a Photograph," CNET, Nov. 19, 2008. "KeyMe: Access & Share Saved Keys" (accessed Sept. 25, 2021). "KeyMe: Access & Share Keys" (accessed Sept. 25, 2021). This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Bill Spencer. Here's a corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle). You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss. Please consider...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

358-The Radium Girls

In 1917, a New Jersey company began hiring young women to paint luminous marks on the faces of watches and clocks. As time went on, they began to exhibit alarming symptoms, and a struggle ensued to establish the cause. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Radium Girls, a landmark case in labor safety. We'll also consider some resurrected yeast and puzzle over a posthumous journey. Intro: Joseph Underwood was posting phony appeals for money in 1833. The earliest known written reference to baseball appeared in England. Sources for our feature on the Radium Girls: Claudia Clark, Radium Girls : Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910-1935, 1997. Ross M. Mullner, Deadly Glow: The Radium Dial Worker Tragedy, 1999. Robert R. Johnson, Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation From the Radium Girls to Fukushima, 2012. Dolly Setton, "The Radium Girls: The Scary but True Story of the Poison that Made People Glow in the Dark," Natural History 129:1 (December 2020/January 2021), 47-47. Robert D. LaMarsh, "The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women," Professional Safety 64:2 (February 2019), 47. Angela N.H. Creager, "Radiation, Cancer, and Mutation in the Atomic Age," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 45:1 (February 2015), 14-48. Robert Souhami, "Claudia Clark, Radium Girls," Medical History 42:4 (1998), 529-530. Ainissa Ramirez, "A Visit With One of the Last 'Radium Girls,'" MRS Bulletin 44:11 (2019), 903-904. "Medicine: Radium Women," Time, Aug. 11, 1930. "Poison Paintbrush," Time, June 4, 1928. "Workers From Factory May Get Federal Honors," Asbury Park Press, June 27, 2021. John Williams, "Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: Kate Moore's 'The Radium Girls,'" New York Times, April 30, 2017. Jack Brubaker, "Those 'Radium Girls' of Lancaster," [Lancaster, Pa.] Intelligencer Journal / Lancaster New Era, May 9, 2014. William Yardley, "Mae Keane, Whose Job Brought Radium to Her Lips, Dies at 107," New York Times, March 13, 2014. Fred Musante, "Residue From Industrial Past Haunts State," New York Times, June 24, 2001. Denise Grady, "A Glow in the Dark, and a Lesson in Scientific Peril," New York Times, Oct. 6, 1998. Martha Irvine, "Dark Secrets Come to Light in New History of 'Radium Girls,'" Los Angeles Times, Oct. 4, 1998. Marc Mappen, "Jerseyana," New York Times, March 10, 1991. "Radium Poisoning Finally Claims Inventor of Luminous Paint After Fight to Harness Terrific Force of Atom," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Nov. 25, 1928. "Two of Women Radium Victims Offer Selves for Test While Alive," [Danville, Va.] Bee, May 29, 1928. "Death Agony From Radium," [Brisbane, Qld.] Daily Standard, May 15, 1928. "To Begin Two Suits Against Radium Co.," New York Times, June 24, 1925. "U.S. Starts Probe of Radium Poison Deaths in Jersey," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 19, 1925. Listener mail: Carolyn Wilke, "How Do We Know What Ancient People Ate? Their Dirty Dishes," Atlantic, July 24, 2021. Chris Baraniuk, "The Treasure Inside Beer Lost in a Shipwreck 120 Years Ago," BBC, June 22, 2021. Fiona Stocker, "A Beer Brewed From an Old Tasmanian Shipwreck," BBC, Dec. 7, 2018. Mary Esch, "Taste of History: Yeast From 1886 Shipwreck Makes New Brew," AP News, March 15, 2019. National Collection of Yeast Cultures. "National Collection of Yeast Cultures," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 29, 2021). "History of Missing Linck," Missing Linck Festival (accessed Sep. 3, 2021). "Missing Linck Festival Arrives … Finally!" The Gnarly Gnome, June 4, 2021. This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Tim Ellis, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this spoils the puzzle). You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

357-Scenes From an Earthquake

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is remembered for its destructive intensity and terrible death toll. But the scale of the disaster can mask some remarkable personal stories. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the experiences of some of the survivors, which ranged from the horrific to the surreal. We'll also consider a multilingual pun and puzzle over a deadly reptile. Intro: In the 1600s, a specialized verb described the carving of each dish. The Earls of Leicester kept quiet in Parliament. An iconic image: The quake toppled a marble statue of Louis Agassiz from its perch on the second floor of Stanford's zoology building. Sources for our feature: Malcolm E. Barker, Three Fearful Days, 1998. Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, The San Francisco Earthquake: A Minute-by-Minute Account of the 1906 Disaster, 2014. Louise Chipley Slavicek, The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, 2008. Richard Schwartz, Earthquake Exodus, 1906: Berkeley Responds to the San Francisco Refugees, 2005. Gordon Thomas, The San Francisco Earthquake, 1971. Edward F. Dolan, Disaster 1906: The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1967. William Bronson, The Earth Shook, the Sky Burned, 1959. Charles Morris, The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire: As Told by Eyewitnesses, 1906. Alexander Olson, "Writing on Rubble: Dispatches from San Francisco, 1906," KNOW: A Journal on the Formation of Knowledge 3:1 (Spring 2019), 93-121. Susanne Leikam, "The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire," Journal of Transnational American Studies 7:1 (2016). Penny Allan and Martin Bryant, "The Critical Role of Open Space in Earthquake Recovery: A Case Study," EN: Proceedings of the 2010 NZSEE Conference, 2010. Brad T. Aagaard and Gregory C. Beroza, "The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake a Century Later: Introduction to the Special Section," Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America 98:2 (2008), 817-822. Jeffrey L. Arnold, "The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: A Centennial Contemplation," Prehospital and Disaster Medicine 21:3 (2006), 133-134. "... and Then the Fire Was Worse Than the Earthquake ...," American History 41:1 (April 2006), 34-35. Andrea Henderson, "The Human Geography of Catastrophe: Family Bonds, Community Ties, and Disaster Relief After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire," Southern California Quarterly 88:1 (Spring 2006), 37-70. Kristin Schmachtenberg, "1906 Letter to the San Francisco Health Department," Social Education 70:3 (2006). Laverne Mau Dicker, "The San Francisco Earthquake and Fire: Photographs and Manuscripts From the California Historical Society Library," California History 59:1 (Spring 1980), 34-65. James J. Hudson, "The California National Guard: In the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906," California Historical Quarterly 55:2 (Summer 1976), 137-149. Michael Castleman and Katherine Ellison, "Grace Under Fire," Smithsonian 37:1 (April 2006), 56-60, 64-66. Jack London, "Story of an Eyewitness: The San Francisco Earthquake," Collier's Weekly (May 5, 1906), 107-13. "San Francisco and Its Catastrophe," Scientific American 94:17 (April 28, 1906), 347. Bob Norberg, "A City in Flames," [Santa Rosa, Calif.] Press Democrat, April 13, 2006. "The Ground Shook, a City Fell, and the Lessons Still Resound," New York Times, April 11, 2006. "Eyewitness to History," San Francisco Examiner, April 18, 1996. "The San Francisco Earthquake," [Beechworth, Victoria] Ovens and Murray Advertiser, June 23, 1906. "The Call-Chronicle-Examiner," [Hobart, Tasmania] Mercury, May 30, 1906. "Earthquake at San Francisco," Fitzroy City Press, May 25, 1906. "The San Francisco Earthquake," Singleton [N.S.W.] Argus, April 24, 1906. "Flames Unchecked; Whole City Doomed," Richmond [Ind.] Palladium, April 20, 1906. "Beautiful Buildings That Lie in Ruins," New York Times, April 20, 1906. "The Relief of San Francisco," New York Times, April 20, 1906. "Over 500 Dead," New York Times, April 19,...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

356-A Strawberry's Journey

The modern strawberry has a surprisingly dramatic story, involving a French spy in Chile, a perilous ocean voyage, and the unlikely meeting of two botanical expatriates. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the improbable origin of one of the world's most popular fruits. We'll also discuss the answers to some of our queries and puzzle over a radioactive engineer. Intro: Williston Fish bequeathed everything. Philip Cohen invented an English contraction with seven apostrophes. Sources for our feature on Amédée-François Frézier: Amédée-François Frézier, A Voyage to the South-sea, and Along the Coasts of Chili and Peru, in the Years 1712, 1713, and 1714, 1717. George McMillan Darrow, The Strawberry: History, Breeding, and Physiology, 1966. James F. Hancock, Strawberries, 2020. R.M. Sharma, Rakesh Yamdagni, A.K. Dubey, and Vikramaditya Pandey, Strawberries: Production, Postharvest Management and Protection, 2019. Amjad M. Husaini and Davide Neri, Strawberry: Growth, Development and Diseases, 2016. Joel S. Denker, The Carrot Purple and Other Curious Stories of the Food We Eat, 2015. Adam Leith Gollner, The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession, 2013. Mary Ellen Snodgrass, World Food: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture and Social Influence From Hunter Gatherers to the Age of Globalization, 2012. Noel Kingsbury, Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding, 2011. Christopher Stocks, Forgotten Fruits: The Stories Behind Britain's Traditional Fruit and Vegetables, 2009. Stevenson Whitcomb Fletcher, The Strawberry in North America: History, Origin, Botany, and Breeding, 1917. Dominique D.A. Pincot et al., "Social Network Analysis of the Genealogy of Strawberry: Retracing the Wild Roots of Heirloom and Modern Cultivars," G3 11:3 (2021), jkab015. Marina Gambardella, S. Sanchez, and J. Grez, "Morphological Analysis of Fragaria chiloensis Accessions and Their Relationship as Parents of F.× ananassa Hybrid," Acta Horticulturae 1156, VIII International Strawberry Symposium, April 2017. Chad E. Finn et al., "The Chilean Strawberry (Fragaria chiloensis): Over 1000 Years of Domestication," HortScience 48.4 (2013), 418-421. Jorge B. Retamales et al., "Current Status of the Chilean Native Strawberry and the Research Needs to Convert the Species Into a Commercial Crop," HortScience 40:6 (2005), 1633-1634. J.F. Hancock, A. Lavín, and J.B. Retamales, "Our Southern Strawberry Heritage: Fragaria chiloensis of Chile," HortScience 34:5 (1999), 814-816. James F. Hancock and James J. Luby, "Genetic Resources at Our Doorstep: The Wild Strawberries," BioScience 43:3 (March 1993), 141-147. Wilson Popenoe, "The Frutilla, or Chilean Strawberry," Journal of Heredity 12:10 (1921), 457-466. Liberty Hyde Bailey, "Whence Came the Cultivated Strawberry," American Naturalist 28:328 (1894), 293-306. Emily Tepe, "A Spy, a Botanist, and a Strawberry," Minnesota Fruit Research, University of Minnesota, June 11, 2019. "How Strawberries Grew Bigger: Plant History," Financial Times, Aug. 30, 2008. Steve Zalusky, "From 'Hayberry' to 'Strawberry': A Look at the History of the Delicious Fruit," [Arlington Heights, Ill.] Daily Herald, June 26, 2005. "The Modern Strawberry Owes Its Discovery to Ironic Incidents," Charleston [W.V] Daily Mail, March 30, 2005. Peter Eisenhauer, "The Berry With a Past," Milwaukee Journal, June 20, 1990. Eve Johnson, "Sweet Quest for Perfection: Juicy Story With Sexy Angle," Vancouver Sun, June 16, 1990. Listener mail: Thanks to listener Patrick McNeal for sending this 1888 proof of the Pythagorean theorem by Emma Coolidge ("Department of Mathematics," Journal of Education 28:1 [June 28, 1888], 17). The proof is explicated in Robert and Ellen Kaplan's 2011 book Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem (pages 103-107). Tony O'Neill, "Glenade Lake and the Legend of the Dobhar-chú," Underexposed, Dec. 4, 2017. Patrick...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

355-The Auckland Islands Castaways

In 1864, two ships' crews were cast away at the same time on the same remote island in the Southern Ocean. But the two groups would undergo strikingly different experiences. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Auckland Islands castaways and reflect on its implications for the wider world. We'll also consider some fateful illnesses and puzzle over a street fighter's clothing. Intro: Lewis Carroll proposed fanciful logic problems. In 1946, a kangaroo made off with William Thompson's money. Sources for our feature on the Aucklands Islands castaways: Joan Druett, Island of the Lost: An Extraordinary Story of Survival at the Edge of the World, 2007. Nicholas A. Christakis, Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society, 2019. Elizabeth McMahon, Islands, Identity and the Literary Imagination, 2016. A.W. Eden, Islands of Despair, 1955. William Pember Reeves, New Zealand, 1908. F.E. Raynal, Wrecked on a Reef, or Twenty Months on the Auckland Islands, 1880. T. Musgrave, Castaway on the Auckland Isles: Narrative of the Wreck of the "Grafton," 1865. Don Rowe, "A Tale of Two Shipwrecks," New Zealand Geographic 167 (January-February 2021). "The Kindness of Strangers," Economist 431:9141 (May 4, 2019), 81. Peter Petchey, Rachael Egerton, and William Boyd, "A Spanish Man-o-War in New Zealand? The 1864 Wreck of Grafton and Its Lessons for Pre-Cook Shipwreck Claims," International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 44:2 (2015), 362-370. Bernadette Hince, "The Auckland Islands and Joan Druett's Island of the Lost," Shima: The International Journal of Research Into Island Cultures 2:1 (2008), 110. "Mystery of the Shipwreck Shelter," [Wellington, New Zealand] Sunday Star-Times, Feb. 21, 2021. Charles Montgomery, "The Audacity of Altruism: Opinion," Globe and Mail, March 28, 2020. "Was New Zealand Pre-Cooked?" [Wellington, New Zealand] Sunday Star-Times, April 26, 2015. Herbert Cullen, "Wreck of the Grafton Musgrave -- An Epic of the Sea," New Zealand Railways Magazine 9:2 (May 1, 1934). "Twenty Months on an Uninhabited Island," Glasgow Herald, Dec. 27, 1865. "Wreck of the Grafton: Journal of Captain Musgrave," Australian News for Home Readers, Oct. 25, 1865. "New Zealand," Illustrated Sydney News, Oct. 16, 1865. "The Wreck of the Grafton," Sydney Mail, Oct. 7, 1865. "The Wreck of the Schooner Grafton," Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 2, 1865. "Wreck of the Schooner Grafton," The Age, Oct. 2, 1865. "The Wreck of the Schooner Grafton," Bendigo Advertiser, Sept. 30, 1865. Grafton collection, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (retrieved Aug. 8, 2021). "Grafton Wreck and Epigwaitt Hut," Department of Conservation, Te Papa Atawhai (retrieved Aug. 8, 2021). Listener mail: "Suez Crisis," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 11, 2021). Christopher Klein, "What Was the Suez Crisis?" History, Nov. 13, 2020. "Suez Crisis," Encyclopaedia Britannica, July 19, 2021. "History: Past Prime Ministers," gov.uk (accessed Aug. 13, 2021). "Anthony Eden," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 12, 2021). David Owen, "The Effect of Prime Minister Anthony Eden's Illness on His Decision-Making During the Suez Crisis," QJM: An International Journal of Medicine 98:6 (June 2005), 387–402. David Owen, "Diseased, Demented, Depressed: Serious Illness in Heads of State," QJM: An International Journal of Medicine 96:5 (May 2003), 325–336. Meilan Solly, "What Happened When Woodrow Wilson Came Down With the 1918 Flu?" Smithsonian Magazine, Oct. 2, 2020. Dave Roos, "Woodrow Wilson Got the Flu in a Pandemic During the World War I Peace Talks," History, Oct. 6, 2020. Steve Coll, "Woodrow Wilson’s Case of the Flu, and How Pandemics Change History," New Yorker, April 16, 2020. "History of 1918 Flu Pandemic," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 21, 2018. This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Neil de Carteret and his cat Nala, who sent this corroborating link (warning -- this...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

354-Falling Through a Thunderstorm

In 1959, Marine pilot William Rankin parachuted from a malfunctioning jet into a violent thunderstorm. The ordeal that followed is almost unique in human experience. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Rankin's harrowing adventure, which has been called "the most prolonged and fantastic parachute descent in history." We'll also hear your thoughts on pronunciation and puzzle over mice and rice. Intro: How do mirrors "know" to reverse writing? Artist Alex Queral carves portraits from telephone books. Sources for our feature on William Rankin: William H. Rankin, The Man Who Rode the Thunder, 1960. Andras Sóbester, Stratospheric Flight: Aeronautics at the Limit, 2011. Stefan Bechtel and Tim Samaras, Tornado Hunter: Getting Inside the Most Violent Storms on Earth, 2009. Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds, 2007. Christopher C. Burt, Extreme Weather: A Guide & Record Book, 2007. Robert Jackson, Baling Out: Amazing Dramas of Military Flying, 2006. David Fisher and William Garvey, eds., Wild Blue: Stories of Survival From Air and Space, 2000. Missy Allen and Michel Peissel, Dangerous Natural Phenomena, 1993. Sally Lee, Predicting Violent Storms, 1989. James Clark, "The Incredible Story of the Marine Who Rode Lightning," Task & Purpose, June 17, 2016. Burkhard Bilger, "Falling: Our Far-Flung Correspondents," New Yorker 83:23 (Aug. 13, 2007), 58. "The Nightmare Fall," Time, Aug. 17, 1959. Paul Simons, "Weather Eye," Times, Aug. 8, 2016. Paul Simons, "US Airman Survived a Thunder Tumble," Times, April 22, 2006. Paul Simons, "Weatherwatch," Guardian, Aug. 30, 2001. Brendan McWillams, "Jumping Into the Eye of a Thunderstorm," Irish Times, June 22, 2001. Harry Kursh, "Thunderstorm!" South Bend [Ind.] Tribune, May 26, 1963. "Marine Flier Bails Out, But It Takes Him 40 Minutes to Land," Indianapolis Star, Aug. 8, 1959. "Tossed by Elements Half-Hour," [Davenport, Iowa] Quad-City Times, Aug. 8, 1959. "Bails Out 9 Miles Up ... Into a Storm," Des Moines [Iowa] Tribune, Aug. 7, 1959. Listener mail: "Rhoticity in English," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 7, 2021). "Mechelen," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 7, 2021). Marieke Martin, "Where Did You Say You Were? The Perils of Place Name Pronunciation," BBC Blogs, Sept. 4, 2013. "History of Melbourne," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 8, 2021). "Melbourne," Wikipedia (accessed Aug. 8, 2021). This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Jon-Richard. You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

353-Lateral Thinking Puzzles

Here are six new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions. Intro: Lili McGrath's 1915 "floor polisher" is a pair of slippers connected by a cord. Eighteenth-century English landowners commissioned custom ruins. The sources for this week's puzzles are below. In some cases we've included links to further information -- these contain spoilers, so don't click until you've listened to the episode: Puzzle #1 is from listener Moxie LaBouche. Puzzle #2 is from listener Cheryl Jensen, who sent this link. Puzzle #3 is from listener Theodore Warner. Here's a link. Puzzle #4 is from listener David Morgan. Puzzle #5 is from listener Bryan Ford, who sent these links. Puzzle #6 is from listener John Rusk, who sent this link. You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

352-A Victorian Hippopotamus

In 1850, England received a distinguished guest: A baby hippopotamus arrived at the London Zoo. Obaysch was an instant celebrity, attracting throngs of visitors while confounding his inexperienced keepers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe his long tenure at the zoo, more than 4,000 miles from his Egyptian home. We'll also remark on a disappearing signature and puzzle over a hazardous hand sign. Intro: In 1969 Rolling Stone invented a fake album with a real fanbase. In 1990 Terence King invented hand-holding gloves. Sources for our feature on Obaysch: John Simons, Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London, 2019. Edgar Williams, Hippopotamus, 2017. Takashi Ito, London Zoo and the Victorians, 1828-1859, 2014. Helen Cowie, Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Empathy, Education, Entertainment, 2014. Hannah Velten, Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City, 2013. John Toman, Kilvert's World of Wonders: Growing up in Mid-Victorian England, 2013. Peter Loriol, Famous and Infamous Londoners, 2004. Wilfrid Blunt, The Ark in the Park, 1976. Abraham Dee Bartlett, Wild Animals in Captivity: Being an Account of the Habits, Food, Management and Treatment of the Beasts and Birds at the 'Zoo,' with Reminiscences and Anecdotes, 1898. George C. Bompas, Life of Frank Buckland, 1885. Clara L. Matéaux, Rambles Round London Town, 1884. Charles Knight, ed., The English Cyclopaedia, 1867. Zoological Society of London, The Zoological Gardens: A Description of the Gardens and Menageries of the Royal Zoological Society, 1853. David William Mitchell, A Popular Guide to the Gardens of the Zoological Society of London, 1852. Wendy Woodward, "John Simons. Obaysch: A Hippopotamus in Victorian London [review]," Animal Studies Journal 9:1 (2020), 221-223. Ronald D. Morrison, "Dickens, London Zoo, and 'Household Words,'" Nineteenth-Century Prose 46:1 (Spring 2019), 75-96. Andrew J. P. Flack, "'The Illustrious Stranger': Hippomania and the Nature of the Exotic," Anthrozoös, 26:1 (2013), 43-59. S. Mary P. Benbow, "Death and Dying at the Zoo," Journal of Popular Culture 37:3 (February 2004), 379-398. David M. Schwartz, "Snatching Scientific Secrets From the Hippo's Gaping Jaws," Smithsonian 26:12 (March 1996), 90-102. Nina J. Root, "Victorian England's Hippomania," Natural History 102:2 (February 1993), 34. "Madam Hippo's Way," Youth's Companion 73:31 (Aug. 3, 1890). James Bradley, "The Lessons to Learn Today From a Hippopotamus in the 19th Century," Sydney Morning Herald, June 7, 2019. "What Are the World's Deadliest Animals?" BBC News, June 15, 2016. "Rhino Escapes and Bonnets-Stealing Elephants: The Amateurish Early Days of London Zoo Revealed," Telegraph, Jan. 13, 2017. "At the Zoo," Australian Star, Nov. 28, 1903. "Wild Animals Captivity," [London] Morning Post, March 14, 1899. "An Eminent Naturalist," [London] Standard, Feb. 11, 1899. "A Life in the Zoo," [London] Daily News, May 10, 1897. "The Hippo and His Habits," Westminster Budget, June 21, 1895. "Hippo's Farewell," Punch 74 (March 23, 1878), 132. "Public Amusements," Lloyd's Illustrated Newspaper, March 17, 1878. "The Old Hippopotamus at the Zoological Society's Gardens Died on Monday Night," Illustrated London News 72:2020, March 16, 1878. "Death of a Hippopotamus at the Zoological Gardens," Yorkshire Herald, March 14, 1878. Listener mail: Livia Gershon, "Maori May Have Reached Antarctica 1,000 Years Before Europeans," Smithsonian, June 14, 2021. Priscilla M. Wehi et al., "A Short Scan of Maori Journeys to Antarctica," Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, June 6, 2021. Tess McClure, "New Zealand Maori May Have Been First to Discover Antarctica, Study Suggests," Guardian, June 11, 2021. "Polynesian History & Origin," Wayfinders: A Pacific Odyssey, PBS (accessed July 15, 2021). Faye Fiore, "Getting Treated Like Royalty: Fans of Former Prime Minister Thatcher Flock to Her Book Signing,"...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

351-Notes and Queries

In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll explore some curiosities and unanswered questions from Greg's research, including a novelist's ashes, some bathing fairies, the mists of Dartmoor, and a ballooning leopard. We'll also revisit the Somerton man and puzzle over an armed traveler. Intro: Amanda McKittrick Ros is widely considered the worst novelist of all time. John Cummings swallowed 30 knives. Sources for our notes and queries: The Pony Express ad is quoted in Christopher Corbett's 2004 history Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express. It appeared first in Missouri amateur historian Mabel Loving's posthumous 1961 history The Pony Express Rides On!, but she cites no source, and no one's been able to find the ad. The anecdote about John Gawsworth keeping M.P. Shiel's ashes in a biscuit tin appears in John Sutherland's 2011 book Lives of the Novelists. "The comedian and scholar of nineteenth-century decadent literature, Barry Humphries, was (unwillingly) one such diner -- 'out of mere politeness.'" Sutherland gives only this source, which says nothing about the ashes. (Thanks, Jaideep.) Henry Irving's observation about amateur actors and personal pronouns is mentioned in Robertson Davies' 1951 novel Tempest-Tost. Joseph Addison's definition of a pun appeared in the Spectator, May 10, 1711. Theodore Hook's best pun is given in William Shepard Walsh's Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities, 1892. Richard Sugg's anecdote of the Ilkley fairies appears in this 2018 Yorkshire Post article. The proof of the Pythagorean theorem by "Miss E. A. Coolidge, a blind girl" appears in Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan's 2011 book Hidden Harmonies: The Lives and Times of the Pythagorean Theorem. They found it in Elisha Scott Loomis' 1940 book The Pythagorean Proposition, which cites the Journal of Education (Volume 28, 1888, page 17), which I haven't been able to get my hands on -- the Kaplans couldn't either, until they discovered it had been mis-shelved in the stacks of Harvard's Gutman Library. Neither Loomis nor the Kaplans gives the proof as it originally appeared, and neither gives Coolidge's age at the proof. The anecdote of the Dartmoor fog appears in William Crossing's 1888 book Amid Devonia's Alps. The Paris fogs of the 1780s are described in Louis-Sébastien Mercier's Tableau de Paris (Chapter CCCLXIV, 1:1014), a 12-volume topographic description of the city that appeared between 1782 and 1788, as quoted in Jeremy Popkin, ed., Panorama of Paris: Selections From Tableau de Paris, 2010. "I have known fogs so thick that you could not see the flame in their lamps," Mercier wrote, "so thick that coachmen have had to get down from their boxes and feel their way along the walls. Passers-by, unwilling and unwitting, collided in the tenebrous streets; and you marched in at your neighbour's door under the impression that it was your own." The anecdote about Charles Green and his ballooning companions appears in John Lucas' 1973 book The Big Umbrella. The best image I've been able to find of the Dobhar-chú, the "king otter" of Irish folklore, accompanies this 2018 article from the Leitrim Observer. Does a photo exist of Grace Connolly's entire headstone? According to WorldCat, G.V. Damiano's 1922 book Hadhuch-Anti Hell-War is held only by the New York Public Library System; by Trinity College Library in Hartford, Ct.; and by the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago. If it's available online, I haven't been able to find it. The incident of the dividing typewriters is mentioned in this article from the Vancouver Sun, and there's a bit more on this Australian typewriter blog. The anecdote about Enroughty being pronounced "Darby" appears in the designer's notes for the wargame The Seven Days, Volume III: Malvern Hill. This 1912 letter to the New York Times affirms the pronunciation, and this 1956 letter to American Heritage gives another explanation of its origin -- one...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

350-Symmes' Hole

In 1818, Army veteran John Cleves Symmes Jr. declared that the earth was hollow and proposed to lead an expedition to its interior. He promoted the theory in lectures and even won support on Capitol Hill. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Symmes' strange project and its surprising consequences. We'll also revisit age fraud in sports and puzzle over a curious customer. Intro: Grazing cattle align their bodies with magnetic north. The Conrad Cantzen Shoe Fund buys footwear for actors. Sources for our feature on John Cleves Symmes Jr.: David Standish, Hollow Earth: The Long and Curious History of Imagining Strange Lands, Fantastical Creatures, Advanced Civilizations, and Marvelous Machines Below the Earth's Surface, 2007. Peter Fitting, ed., Subterranean Worlds: A Critical Anthology, 2004. Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, 1986. Paul Collins, Banvard's Folly: Thirteen Tales of Renowned Obscurity, Famous Anonymity, and Rotten Luck, 2015. Americus Symmes, The Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres: Demonstrating That the Earth Is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open About the Poles, 1878. James McBride and John Cleves Symmes, Symmes's Theory of Concentric Spheres: Demonstrating That the Earth Is Hollow, Habitable Within, and Widely Open About the Poles, 1826. Adam Seaborn, Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery, 1820. Donald Prothero, "The Hollow Earth," Skeptic 25:3 (2020), 18-23, 64. Elizabeth Hope Chang, "Hollow Earth Fiction and Environmental Form in the Late Nineteenth Century," Nineteenth-Century Contexts 38:5 (2016), 387-397. Marissa Fessenden, "John Quincy Adams Once Approved an Expedition to the Center of the Earth," smithsonianmag.com, May 7, 2015. Daniel Loxton, "Journey Inside the Fantastical Hollow Earth: Part One," Skeptic 20:1 (2015), 65-73. "Journey Inside the Fantastical Hollow Earth: Part Two," Skeptic 20:2 (2015), 65-73. Matt Simon, "Fantastically Wrong: The Real-Life Journey to the Center of the Earth That Almost Was," Wired, Oct. 29, 2014. Kirsten Møllegaard and Robin K. Belcher, "Death, Madness, and the Hero's Journey: Edgar Allan Poe's Antarctic Adventures," International Journal of Arts & Sciences 6:1 (2013) 413-427. Michael E. Bakich, "10 Crazy Ideas From Astronomy's Past," Astronomy 38:8 (August 2010), 32-35. Darryl Jones, "Ultima Thule: Arthur Gordon Pym, the Polar Imaginary, and the Hollow Earth," Edgar Allan Poe Review 11:1 (Spring 2010), 51-69. Johan Wijkmark, "Poe's Pym and the Discourse of Antarctic Exploration," Edgar Allan Poe Review 10:3 (Winter 2009), 84-116. Donald Simanek, "The Shape of the Earth -- Flat or Hollow?" Skeptic 13:4 (2008), 68-71, 80. Duane A. Griffin, "Hollow and Habitable Within: Symmes's Theory of Earth's Internal Structure and Polar Geography," Physical Geography 25:5 (2004), 382-397. Tim Harris, "Where All the Geese and Salmon Go," The Age, July 22, 2002. Victoria Nelson, "Symmes Hole, or the South Polar Romance," Raritan 17:2 (Fall 1997), 136-166. Hans-Joachim Lang and Benjamin Lease, "The Authorship of Symzonia: The Case for Nathaniel Ames," New England Quarterly 48:2 (June 1975), 241-252. Conway Zirkle, "The Theory of Concentric Spheres: Edmund Halley, Cotton Mather, & John Cleves Symmes," Isis 37:3/4 (July 1947), 155-159. William Marion Miller, "The Theory of Concentric Spheres," Isis 33:4 (December 1941), 507-514. "John Cleves Symmes, the Theorist: Second Paper," Southern Bivouac 2:10 (March 1887), 621-631. Will Storr, "Journey to the Centre of the Earth," Sunday Telegraph, July 13, 2014. Richard Foot, "Believers Look for Fog-Shrouded Gate to Inner Earth," Vancouver Sun, May 30, 2007. Umberto Eco, "Outlandish Theories: Kings of the (Hollow) World," New York Times, July 21, 2006. Mark Pilkington, "Far Out: Going Underground," Guardian, June 16, 2005. Leigh Allan, "Theory Had Holes In It, Layers, Too," Dayton Daily News, Dec. 11, 2001. Tom Tiede, "John Symmes: Earth Is Hollow,"...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

349-The National Hotel Disease

In 1857 guests at Washington D.C.'s National Hotel began to come down with a mysterious illness. One of them was James Buchanan, who was preparing to assume the presidency of the United States. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the deadly outbreak and the many theories that were offered to explain it. We'll also contemplate timpani and puzzle over an Old West astronaut. Intro: The words overnervousnesses and overnumerousnesses are vertically compact. Harvard mathematician George Birkhoff reduced the principle underlying beauty to a formula. Sources for our feature on the National Hotel Disease: Kerry Walters, Outbreak in Washington, D.C.: The 1857 Mystery of the National Hotel Disease, 2014. George Alfred Townsend, Washington, Outside and Inside, 1874. Ruth D. Reichard, "A 'National Distemper': The National Hotel Sickness of 1857, Public Health and Sanitation, and the Limits of Rationality," Journal of Planning History 15:3 (August 2016), 175-190. Brian D. Crane, "Filth, Garbage, and Rubbish: Refuse Disposal, Sanitary Reform, and Nineteenth-Century Yard Deposits in Washington, D. C.," Historical Archaeology 34:1 (2000), 20-38. Homer T. Rosenberger, "Inauguration of President Buchanan a Century Ago," Records of the Columbia Historical Society 57/59 (1957/1959), 96-122. H.J. Forrest, "The National Hotel Epidemic of 1857," Medical Annals of the District of Columbia 16:3 (1947), 132-134. Isaac O. Barnes, "The National Hotel Disease — Letter to Dr. D.H. Storer," New Hampshire Journal of Medicine 7:8 (August 1857), 238-243. "The National Hotel Disease," Scientific American 12:46 (July 25, 1857), 365. "The 'Hotel Endemic' at Washington," Peninsular Journal of Medicine 5:1 (July 1857), 31-34. "National Hotel Disease," New York Journal of Medicine 3:1 (July 1857), 90-92. "Chemical Opinions of the National Hotel Disease," Scientific American 12:37 (May 23, 1857), 296. "National Hotel Disease," Scientific American 12:36 (May 16, 1857), 286. Philip Bump, "Concerns About Members of Congress Being Poisoned Date to 1857 -- and D.C.'s National Hotel," Washington Post, Jan. 14, 2015. Clinton Yates, "Book on National Hotel Disease Shows Not Much Has Changed in D.C. Since 1850s," Washington Post, Oct. 15, 2014. Scott McCabe, "Congressman Dies From D.C. Hotel Affliction," Washington Examiner, July 17, 2012. "National Hotel Disease," [New York] Sun, Nov. 14, 1916. "The National Hotel Disease," Shepherdstown [W.Va.] Register, April 10, 1858 "National Hotel Disease," [Washington, D.C.] Evening Star, June 16, 1857. "Another Victim of the National Hotel Disease," New York Times, May 16, 1857. "The National Hotel Disease," New York Times, May 15, 1857. "The 'National Hotel' Poison," Holmes County [Ohio] Republican, May 14, 1857. "The National Hotel Disease," New York Times, May 8, 1857. "The National Hotel Disease -- Fatal Cases," National Era, May 7, 1857. "The Health of President Buchanan," [Ebensburg, Pa.] Democrat and Sentinel, May 6, 1857. "The Washington Mystery," New York Times, May 5, 1857. "The National Hotel Mystery," New York Times, May 2, 1857. "Death of Hon. John G. Montgomery," [Bloomsburg, Pa.] Star of the North, April 29, 1857. "The Washington Epidemic," Times, April 11, 1857. "Effects of the National Hotel Disease," New York Times, April 4, 1857. "Sickness at the National Hotel," [Wilmington, N.C.] Tri-Weekly Commercial, March 31, 1857. "The Washington Epidemic -- Report of the Committee of the Board of Health," New York Times, March 25, 1857. Ludwig Deppisch, "The National Hotel Disease," The Grog Ration 4:1 (January-February 2009), 1-5. "Historical Highlights: The Mysterious National Hotel Disease," United States House of Representatives (accessed June 23, 2021). Andrew Glass, "National Hotel Disease Claims Many Victims, June 24, 1859," Politico, June 24, 2010. Listener mail: "Feyenoord Keeper Treijtel Shoots Seagull Out of the Sky," De Dag van Toen...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

348-Who Killed the Red Baron?

In 1918, German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen chased an inexperienced Canadian pilot out of a dogfight and up the Somme valley. It would be the last chase of his life. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the last moments of the Red Baron and the enduring controversy over who ended his career. We'll also consider some unwanted name changes and puzzle over an embarrassing Oscar speech. Intro: In the early 1970s, AI researcher James Meehan tried to teach a computer to retell Aesop's fables. In 1983, Jacob Henderson appealed a burglary conviction on the ground that the indictment was illiterate. Sources for our feature on the death of Manfred von Richthofen: Norman Franks and Alan Bennett, The Red Baron's Last Flight: A Mystery Investigated, 1998. Dale M. Titler, The Day the Red Baron Died, 1990. P.J. Carisella and James W. Ryan, Who Killed the Red Baron?, 1969. Dan Hampton, Lords of the Sky: Fighter Pilots and Air Combat, From the Red Baron to the F-16, 2014. Nicolas Wright, The Red Baron, 1977. Floyd Phillips Gibbons, The Red Knight of Germany: The Story of Baron von Richthofen, Germany's Great War Bird, 1959. Bob Gordon, "The Fearless Canadian Flier Who Led the Red Baron to His Death," Aviation History 31:2 (November 2020). O'Brien Browne, "Deadly Duo," Aviation History 24:1 (September 2013), 44-49. O'Brien Browne, "Shooting Down a Legend," MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History 23:2 (Winter 2011), 66. James S. Corum, "The Other Richthofen," World War II 23:3 (August/September 2008) 28-37. Jonathan M. Young, "Against DNIF: Examining von Richthofen's Fate," Air Power History 53:4 (Winter 2006), 20-27. A.D. Harvey, "Why Was the Red Baron's Fokker Painted Red? Decoding the Way Aeroplanes Were Painted in the First World War," War in History 8:3 (July 2001), 323-340. Henning Allmers, "Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen's Medical Record -- Was the 'Red Baron' Fit to Fly?" Lancet 354:9177 (Aug. 7, 1999), 502-504. M. Geoffrey Miller, "The Death of Manfred von Richthofen: Who Fired the Fatal Shot?" Sabretache: The Journal and Proceedings of the Military History Society of Australia 39:2 (June 1998), 16-29. Carl Dienstbach, "Fighting in a Three-Decker Airplane," Popular Science Monthly 93:3 (September 1918), 386-387. Laurence La Tourette Driggs, "Aces Among Aces," National Geographic 33:6 (June 1918), 568-580. Tom Gilling, "Who Shot Down Manfred von Richthofen, Germany's Fearsome 'Red Baron'?" The Australian, March 30, 2021. Catherine and Michael Greenham, "How the Red Baron Met His Fate," [Durban] Mercury, April 30, 2018. "Lord Ashcroft: Why We Should Salute the Red Baron, the German Flying Ace Who Killed 73 British Servicemen," Telegraph, April 22, 2018. Todd Leopold, "Who Really Killed the Red Baron? Account Offers New Wrinkle," CNN, Oct. 19, 2015. Chris Must, "Who Killed the Red Baron?" Smiths Falls [Ont.] EMC, April 9, 2009. Brian Bergman, "Wings of a Hero," Maclean's 118:7 (Feb. 14, 2005), 37. Randy Boswell, "Red Baron Was a 'Sitting Duck,'" Vancouver Sun, Sept. 21, 2004. Evan Hadingham, "Who Killed the Red Baron?" NOVA, September 2003. "Red Baron Kill Questioned," [Sarnia, Ont.] Observer, Feb. 5, 2003. "Capt. Richthofen Killed: On This Day, 23 April 1918," Times, April 23, 1996. Donald Jones, "Did He or Didn't He Kill the Red Baron," Toronto Star, Dec. 1, 1990. Kathryn Watterson, "War Ace Still Bears Witness to History," New York Times, Oct. 9, 1988. William E. Burrows, "Here He Is in His Fokker Triplane -- The Red Baron," New York Times, April 7, 1968. "Capt. Brown, Flyer, Killed Richthofen," New York Times, March 10, 1944. "Who Killed Richthofen?" [Brisbane, Qld.] Courier-Mail, Dec. 8, 1937 T.A. Trevethan, "The Killing of Richthofen," Brisbane Courier, Feb. 20, 1930. A. Roy Brown, "My Fight With Richthofen," Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 3, 1928. Floyd Gibbons, "The Red Knight of Germany," [Washington D.C.] Evening Star, June 13,...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

347-The Cottingley Fairies

In 1917, two young cousins carried a camera into an English dell and returned with a photo of fairies. When Arthur Conan Doyle took up the story it became a worldwide sensation. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Cottingley Fairies, a curiosity that would remain unexplained for most of the 20th century. We'll also remember a ferocious fire and puzzle over a troublesome gnome. Intro: Poet Harry Graham found "a simple plan / Which makes the lamest lyric scan." In the 1920s, Otto Funk fiddled across the United States. Sources for our feature on the Cottingley fairies: Jason Loxton et al., "The Cottingley Fairies," Skeptic 15:3 (2010), 72B,73-81. Russell Miller, The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography, 2008. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Coming of the Fairies, 1922. Timothy R. Levine, Encyclopedia of Deception, 2014. Jerome Clark, Encyclopedia of Strange and Unexplained Physical Phenomena, 1993. Joe Cooper, "Cottingley: At Last the Truth," The Unexplained 117 (1982), 2338-2340. A. Conan Doyle, "The Cottingley Fairies: An Epilogue," Strand 65:2 (February 1923), 105. Kaori Inuma, "Fairies to Be Photographed!: Press Reactions in 'Scrapbooks' to the Cottingley Fairies," Correspondence: Hitotsubashi Journal of Arts and Literature 4 (2019), 53-84. Douglas A. Anderson, "Fairy Elements in British Literary Writings in the Decade Following the Cottingley Fairy Photographs Episode," Mythlore 32:1 (Fall/Winter 2013), 5-18. Bruce Heydt, "The Adventure of the Cottingley Fairies," British Heritage 25:2 (May 2004), 20-25. Helen Nicholson, "Postmodern Fairies," History Workshop Journal 46 (Autumn 1998), 205-212. Michael W. Homer and Massimo Introvigne, "The Recoming of the Fairies," Theosophical History 6 (1996), 59-76. Alex Owen, "'Borderland Forms': Arthur Conan Doyle, Albion's Daughters, and the Politics of the Cottingley Fairies," History Workshop 38 (1994), 48-85. "The First, and Best Known, of the Cottingley Fairy Photographs," Nature 346:6281 (July 19, 1990), 232. "Away With the Fairies," Country Life, Nov. 11, 2020, 128-129. Leslie Gardner, "Notes on Mr S. F. Sanderson's Presidential Address, 21 March 1973, on 'The Cottingley Fairy Photographs,'" Folklore 86:3/4 (Autumn-Winter 1975), 190-194. S.F. Sanderson, "The Cottingley Fairy Photographs: A Re-Appraisal of the Evidence," Folklore 84:2 (Summer 1973), 89-103. David Barnett, "Fairy Tales," Independent, March 28, 2021. "Cottingley Fairies: How Sherlock Holmes's Creator Was Fooled by Hoax," BBC News, Dec. 5, 2020. "Cottingley Fairies Fake Photos to Go Under the Hammer," Guardian, March 31, 2019. Edward Sorel, "The Spiritual Life of Arthur Conan Doyle," New York Times, Dec. 28, 2018. Phil Penfold, "One Hundred Years on From the Famous Cottingley Hoax, Why People Still Believe in Fairies," Yorkshire Post, Feb. 13, 2018. Emily Hourican, "A Country Devastated by War, a Famous Author Desperate to Believe in the Spiritual World and Two Little Girls Who Borrowed a Camera ... the Fascinating Story of the Cottingley Fairies," Belfast Telegraph, Sept. 2, 2017. Hazel Gaynor, "Inside the Elaborate Hoax That Made British Society Believe in Fairies," Time, Aug. 1, 2017. David Barnett, "Why Do So Many People Still Believe in the Cottingley Fairies?" Telegraph, July 17, 2017. Mark Branagan, "Academic's Daughter: Curse of Cottingley Fairies Destroyed My Poor Father's Life," Express, Jan. 15, 2017. Sarah Freeman, "How the Cottingley Fairies Cost My Parents Their Marriage," Yorkshire Post, Dec. 28, 2016. Martin Wainwright, "Obituary: Joe Cooper: He Got the Cottingley Fairy Fakers to Confess," Guardian, Aug. 25, 2011. Chris Cheesman, "Obituary: Geoffrey Crawley: Photographic Scientist Who Played a Key Role in Debunking the Cottingley Fairies," Guardian, Nov. 16, 2010. Rick Whelan, "The Enchanting and Phony Cottingley Fairies," [Stratford] Beacon Herald, Nov. 11, 2010. "Geoffrey Crawley: Photographic Expert and...


Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

346-A Desperate Winter in Antarctica

In 1898 a Belgian ship on a scientific expedition was frozen into the sea off the coast of Antarctica. During the long polar night, its 18 men would confront fear, death, illness, and despair. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe life aboard the Belgica during its long, dark southern winter. We'll also consider a devaluing signature and puzzle over some missing music. Intro: George S. Kaufman was uninterested in Eddie Fisher's dating problems. The Hatter and the March Hare impugn one another's honesty. Sources for our feature on the Belgian Antarctic Expedition of 1897–1899: Julian Sancton, Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica's Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night, 2021. Roland Huntford, The Last Place on Earth, 1985. T.H. Baughman, Before the Heroes Came: Antarctica in the 1890s, 1994. Marilyn Landis, Antarctica: Exploring the Extreme, 2001. Frederick Albert Cook, Through the First Antarctic Night, 1898-1899: A Narrative of the Voyage of the "Belgica" Among Newly Discovered Lands and Over an Unknown Sea About the South Pole, 1900. Henryk Arçtowski, The Antarctic Voyage of the Belgica During the Years 1897, 1898, and 1899, 1902. Patrick De Deckker, "On the Long-Ignored Scientific Achievements of the Belgica Expedition 1897-1899," Polar Research 37:1 (2018), 1474695. Alexandru Marinescu, "An Original Document About the History of the Antarctic Expedition 'Belgica,'" in Charles W. Finkl and Christopher Makowski, eds., Diversity in Coastal Marine Sciences: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Research of Geology, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Remote Sensing, 2017. Jacek Machowski, "Contribution of H. Arçtowski and AB Dobrowolski to the Antarctic Expedition of Belgica (1897-1899)," Polish Polar Research 19:1-2 (1998), 15-30. Kjell-G. Kjær, "Belgica in the Arctic," Polar Record 41:3 (2005), 205-214. Roger H. Charlier, "Philatelic Panorama of Some Belgian Antarctic Marine Contributions, 19th-21st Centuries: From Belgica to Princess Elisabeth," Journal of Coastal Research 26:2 (2010), 359-376. Hugo Decleir and Gaston R. Demarée, "The Belgica Antarctic Expedition, 1897-1899: A View, 120 Years Later," Okhotsk Sea and Polar Oceans Research 5 (2021), 7-14. Claude de Broyer and Thierry Kuyken, "The Celebration of the Centennial of the Belgica Antarctic Expedition: A Tribute to the Pioneers," Polish Polar Research 22:1 (2001), 71-76. Ian N. Higginson, "Roald Amundsen's Belgica Diary: The First Scientific Expedition to the Antarctic, Edited by Hugo Decleir," Arctic 54:1 (2001), 86-87. Henryk Gurgul, "Henryk Arçtowski and Antoni Dobrowolski in the Hundredth Anniversary of 'Belgica' Expedition to Antarctica," Oceanologia 39:2 (1997), 197-199. Evert Lataire et al., "The Contradictions Between the Original Three Master Belgica and Present Regulations," in Royal Institution of Naval Architects, Historic Ships 2009, 2009. Roger H. Charlier et al., "Belgica's Antarctic Toponymic Legacy," Journal of Coastal Research 26:6 (November 2010), 1168-1171. Peder Roberts, "Belgium's Day in the Midnight Sun," Metascience 12:3 (November 2003), 345-348. Pat Millar, "The Tension Between Emotive/Aesthetic and Analytic/Scientific Motifs in the Work of Amateur Visual Documenters of Antarctica's Heroic Era," Polar Record 53:3 (May 2017), 245-256. Pat Millar, "Frederick A. Cook: The Role of Photography in the Making of His Polar Explorer-Hero Image," Polar Record 51:4 (July 2015), 432-443. H.R. Guly, "'Polar Anaemia': Cardiac Failure During the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration," Polar Record 48:2 (April 2012), 157-164. Shane McCorristine and Jane S.P. Mocellin, "Christmas at the Poles: Emotions, Food, and Festivities on Polar Expeditions, 1818-1912," Polar Record 52:5 (September 2016), 562-577. Lawrence A. Palinkas and Peter Suedfeld, "Psychological Effects of Polar Expeditions," Lancet 371:9607 (Jan. 12-18, 2008), 153-63. Arnoldus Schytte Blix, "On Roald Amundsen's Scientific...