Three boys with a toy cannon briefly held off U.S. Army during 1941 wargames

2016-05-23-podcast-episode-106-the-popgun-war

During wargames in Louisiana in September 1941, the U.S. Army found itself drawn into a tense firefight with an unseen enemy across the Cane River. The attacker turned out to be three boys with a toy cannon. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll revisit the Battle of Bermuda Bridge and the Prudhomme brothers' account of their historic engagement. Read the rest

Can a castaway survive on fish, plankton, and seawater?

2016-05-23-podcast-episode-105-bombard

In 1952, French physician Alain Bombard set out to cross the Atlantic on an inflatable raft to prove his theory that a shipwreck victim can stay alive on a diet of seawater, fish, and plankton. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll set out with Bombard on his perilous attempt to test his theory.

We'll also admire some wobbly pedestrians and puzzle over a luckless burglar.

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The FBI's race against a casino bomber in 1980

2016-05-02-podcast-episode-104-the-harveys-casino-bombing

In August 1980, an extortionist planted a thousand-pound bomb in Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Casino in western Nevada. Unless the owners paid him $3 million within 24 hours, he said, the bomb would go off and destroy the casino. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the tense drama that followed and the FBI's efforts to catch the criminal behind it.

We'll also consider some dubious lawn care shortcuts and puzzle over why a man would tear up a winning ticket.

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In 1928, 199 men set out to run 3,400 miles across the United States.

2016-04-18-podcast-episode-102-the-bunion-derby

In 1928, 199 runners set out on a perilous footrace across America, from Los Angeles to Chicago and on to New York. The winner would receive $25,000 -- if anyone finished at all. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Bunion Derby, billed as the greatest footrace the world had ever known.

We'll also learn some creepy things about spiders and puzzle over why one man needs three cars.

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Who was the legless man discovered on a Nova Scotia beach in 1863?

2016-04-11-podcast-episode-101-jerome

In 1863 the residents of Nova Scotia discovered a legless man on the shore of St. Mary's Bay. He spoke no English and couldn't tell them who he was or where he'd come from. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell what we know about the strange man they called Jerome and the guesses that have been made about his story.

We'll also learn about explosive rats in World War II and puzzle over a computer that works better when its users sit.

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Five lateral thinking puzzles

2015-08-10-podcast-episode-69-lateral-thinking-puzzles

Here are five new lateral thinking puzzles to test your wits and stump your friends -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.

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A spectacularly disaster-prone oil tanker and other curiosities

argo merchant
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In 1864, a band of Confederate soldiers raided a very surprised town in northern Vermont.

2016-03-21-podcast-episode-98-the-saint-albans-raid

Seemingly safe in northern New England, the residents of St. Albans, Vermont, were astonished in October 1864 when a group of Confederate soldiers appeared in their midst, terrorizing residents, robbing banks, and stealing horses. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the St. Albans raid, the northernmost land action of the Civil War.

We'll also learn about Charles Darwin's misadventures at the equator and puzzle over a groundskeeper's strange method of tending grass.

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The baffling case of the Villisca ax murders

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Early one morning in 1912, the residents of Villisca, Iowa, discovered a horrible scene: An entire family had been brutally murdered in their sleep. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the gruesome crime, which has baffled investigators for a hundred years.

We'll also follow the further adventures of German sea ace Felix von Luckner and puzzle over some fickle bodyguards.

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In 1858 the Catholic Church seized a 6-year-old boy from his Jewish family.

2016-03-07-podcast-episode-96-the-abduction-of-edgardo-mortara-600x403
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In 1862, a South Carolina slave stole a Confederate ship and sailed it to the Union navy.

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In 1918, a soldier with no ID and no memory appeared on a French railway platform.

2016-02-22-podcast-episode-94-the-living-unknown-soldier
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Experience the early days of flight in Edwardian England.

2016-02-08-podcast-episode-93-the-old-flying-days

In the early days of English aviation, journalist C.C. Turner seemed to be everywhere, witnessing bold new feats and going on some harrowing adventures of his own. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll sample Turner's record of those exciting times, including his own clumsy first attempt to fly an airplane and a record-setting balloon voyage to Sweden.

We'll also ponder the nuances of attempted murder and puzzle over a motel guest's noisemaking.

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The 27th amendment was ratified largely because a college student got a C on a term paper

2016-02-01-podcast-episode-92-the-forgotten-amendment-600x399

For a government class in 1982, college sophomore Gregory Watson argued that a long-forgotten constitutional amendment could still be ratified. His instructor found this implausible and gave him a C on the assignment. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow Watson's 10-year mission to prove his professor wrong -- and ultimately get the amendment added to the Constitution.

We'll also learn an underhanded way to win a poetry contest and puzzle over how someone can murder a corpse.

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Voyage of the Damned: In 1939, the U.S. turned back a ship carrying refugees from Nazi Germany.

2016-01-25-podcast-episode-91-voyage-of-the-damned

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In 1947, Canadian kids went on "strike" to protest candy-bar prices.

2016-01-18-podcast-episode-90-the-candy-bar-war-1

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The curious story of an "African" from Baltimore

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In the 1920s Bata Kindai Amgoza ibn LoBagola toured the United States and Europe to share the culture of his African homeland with fascinated audiences. The reality was actually much more mundane: His name was Joseph Lee and he was from Baltimore. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the curious story of this self-described "savage" and trace the unraveling of his imaginative career.

We'll also dump a bucket of sarcasm on Duluth, Minnesota, and puzzle over why an acclaimed actor loses a role.

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Enter promo code CLOSET at Harry's and get $5 off your first order of high-quality razors. Read the rest

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