How an inept gang of crooks tried to steal Abraham Lincoln's corpse


Read the rest

How two Polish doctors saved 8,000 people from the Nazis by faking an epidemic

Read the rest

In 1959, a white journalist traveled the Deep South posing as a black man. The conditions horrified him.


In 1959, Texas journalist John Howard Griffin darkened his skin and lived for six weeks as a black man in the segregated South. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe his harrowing story and what it showed about the true state of race relations in America.

We'll also ponder crescent moons, German submarines, and griffins in India and puzzle over why a man would be arrested for winning a prize at a county fair.

Show notes

Enter coupon code CLOSET at Harry's and $5 off their starter set of high-quality razors.

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

What's one square inch of Yukon land worth?

deed 600

If you opened a box of Quaker Oats in 1955, you'd find a deed to one square inch of land in northwestern Canada. Read the rest

In the 1850s, mail was carried through the California mountains by one guy on skis.


In the 1850s, settlers in western Nevada were cut off from the rest of the world each winter by deep snow. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll learn about their lifeline, Norwegian immigrant John Thompson, who for 20 years carried mail, medicine, and supplies through 90 miles of treacherous snowdrifts on a pair of homemade skis.

We'll also hear listener contributions regarding prison camp escape aids in World War II and puzzle over how lighting a cigarette results in a lengthy prison sentence.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In 1910, a group of inexperienced gold miners bet two cents that they could reach the top of Mount McKinley


In 1910, four Alaskan gold miners set out to climb the highest peak in North America just to show that it could be done. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the surprising story of the Sourdough Expedition, a mountaineering effort that one modern climber calls "superhuman by today's standards."

We'll also hear about a ghoulish tourist destination and puzzle over why a painter would blame himself for World War II.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

How the Allies used Monopoly sets to smuggle escape equipment into Nazi POW camps


Read the rest

The Sea Devil: the gentleman pirate who made friends of his enemies in World War I


Felix von Luckner was a romantic hero in the Great War, a dashing nobleman who commanded an old-style sailing ship. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Luckner's uniquely civilized approach to warfare, which won admiration even from his enemies.

We'll also puzzle over how a product intended to prevent drug abuse ends up encouraging it.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

LISTEN: Charley Parkhurst's Secret

drawing of face

One of the most fearless and admired stagecoach drivers of the Wild West was discovered after death to be a woman.

Read the rest

LISTEN: Back From the Dead?

Was an Australian butcher really a long-lost English aristocrat?

The Strange Misadventures of Famous Corpses

Being well known can make it harder to rest in peace.

LISTEN: Godless in Missouri

What happens to a town founded explicitly to reject Christianity?

Read the rest

Embrace the Manic Pixie Dream Witch!

We’re happy for the Hugos, sad for the last Terry Pratchett novel, and J.R.R. Tolkien has a new book. Plus, we wrap up Uprooted by Naomi Novik and make our peace with a trope.

The Sword and Laser (S&L) is a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club podcast hosted by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt. The main goal of the club is to build a strong online community of science fiction / fantasy buffs, and to discuss and enjoy books of both genres. For show notes and previous episodes, head here. You can also help support us on Patreon! Read the rest

LISTEN: Sunk by a Whale

Follow the desperate journey of 20 surviving seamen stranded a thousand miles from land.

LISTEN: Lateral Thinking Puzzles


Here are four new lateral thinking puzzles to test your wits! Read the rest

Psychology’s unhealthy obsession with the WEIRDest people in the world

Psychology studies are almost always about WEIRD people: Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic – the kind of people who make up less than 15 percent of the world's population.

Why you should welcome the robots

Tom and Veronica talk to J-F Dubeau, author of 'The Life Engineered,' about why we should build more robots.

More posts