In the 1500s, four Spanish colonists were marooned in an unexplored North America

Marooned in Florida in 1528, four Spanish colonists made an extraordinary journey across the unexplored continent. Their experiences changed their conception of the New World and its people. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the remarkable odyssey of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his reformed perspective on the Spanish conquest.

We'll also copy the Mona Lisa and puzzle over a deficient pinball machine.

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In 1939 a Great Dane joined the Royal Navy

The only dog ever enlisted in the Royal Navy was a Great Dane who befriended the sailors of Cape Town in the 1930s. Given the rank of able seaman, he boosted the morale of British sailors around the world. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Just Nuisance and his adventures among the sailors who loved him.

We'll also examine early concentration camps and puzzle over a weighty fashion.

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A New Hampshire POW camp in World War II was unexpectedly transformed by kindness

In 1943, the U.S. established a camp for German prisoners of war near the village of Stark in northern New Hampshire. After a rocky start, the relations between the prisoners and guards underwent a surprising change. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Camp Stark and the transforming power of human decency.

We'll also check out some Canadian snakes and puzzle over some curious signs.

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Two settlers disappeared from a small Eastern Pacific island in 1934

In 1929 a German couple fled civilization to live on an uninhabited island in the Eastern Pacific. But other settlers soon followed, leading to strife, suspicion, and possibly murder. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Galápagos affair, a bizarre mystery that remains unsolved.

We'll also meet another deadly doctor and puzzle over a posthumous marriage.

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In 1925, Aimé Tschiffely set out to ride two horses from Buenos Aires to New York City

In 1925, Swiss schoolteacher Aimé Tschiffely set out to prove the resilience of Argentina's criollo horses by riding two of them from Buenos Aires to New York City. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow Tschiffely's unprecedented journey, which has been called "the most exciting and influential equestrian travel tale of all time."

We'll also read an inscrutable cookbook and puzzle over a misbehaving coworker.

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Six lateral thinking puzzles

Here are six 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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In 1942, English anthropologist Ursula Graham Bower organized Indian hill people against invading Japanese

In 1937, Englishwoman Ursula Graham Bower became fascinated by the Naga people of northeastern India. She was living among them when World War II broke out and Japan threatened to invade their land. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Bower's efforts to organize the Naga against an unprecedented foe.

We'll also consider a self-censoring font and puzzle over some perplexing spacecraft.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre

In 1911, the Mona Lisa disappeared from the Louvre. After an extensive investigation it made a surprising reappearance that inspired headlines around the world. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the painting's abduction, which has been called the greatest art theft of the 20th century.

We'll also shake Seattle and puzzle over a fortunate lack of work.

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Boxer Johann Trollmann challenged the Nazis' presumption of his ethnic inferiority

In the 1930s, Sinto boxer Johann Trollmann was reaching the peak of his career when the Nazis declared his ethnic inferiority. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Trollmann's stand against an intolerant ideology and the price he paid for his fame.

We'll also consider a British concentration camp and puzzle over some mysterious towers.

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In 1957, an underdog Mexican team stunned the world of Little League baseball

In 1957, 14 boys from Monterrey, Mexico, walked into Texas to take part in a game of Little League baseball. What followed surprised and inspired two nations. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of the Monterrey Industrials and their unlikely path into baseball history.

We'll also have dinner for one in Germany and puzzle over a deadly stick.

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In the 1930s, an Englishman decided to fly to Mount Everest and climb it alone

In 1932, Yorkshireman Maurice Wilson chose a startling way to promote his mystical beliefs: He would fly to Mount Everest and climb it alone. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow Wilson's misguided adventure, which one writer called "the most incredible story in all the eventful history of Mount Everest."

We'll also explore an enigmatic musician and puzzle over a mighty cola.

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In 1957, English doctor John Bodkin Adams was accused of killing his patients for their money

In 1957, an English doctor was accused of killing his patients for their money. The courtroom drama that followed was called the "murder trial of the century." In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the case of John Bodkin Adams and its significance in British legal history.

Well also bomb Calgary and puzzle over a passive policeman.

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In 1932, 9-year-old Lennie Gwyther rode 600 miles to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

In 1932, 9-year-old Lennie Gwyther set out to ride a thousand kilometers to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Along the way he became a symbol of Australian grit and determination. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Lennie's journey, and what it meant to a struggling nation.

We'll also recall a Moscow hostage crisis and puzzle over a surprising attack.

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Henry Ford built a Midwestern-style town in the Amazon

In 1927, Henry Ford decided to build a plantation in the Amazon to supply rubber for his auto company. The result was Fordlandia, an incongruous Midwestern-style town in the tropical rainforest. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the checkered history of Ford's curious project -- and what it revealed about his vision of society.

We'll also consider some lifesaving seagulls and puzzle over a false alarm.

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In 1946, Australian engineer Ben Carlin decided to circle the world in an amphibious jeep

In 1946, Australian engineer Ben Carlin decided to circle the world in an amphibious jeep. He would spend 10 years in the attempt, which he called an "exercise in technology, masochism, and chance." In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Carlin's unlikely odyssey and the determination that drove him.

We'll also salute the Kentucky navy and puzzle over some surprising winners.

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In a 1917 dogfight, German flying ace Werner Voss took on seven of the best pilots in the Royal Flying Corps

In 1917, German pilot Werner Voss had set out for a patrol over the Western Front when he encountered two flights of British fighters, including seven of the best pilots in the Royal Flying Corps. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the drama that followed, which has been called "one of the most extraordinary aerial combats of the Great War."

We'll also honk at red lights in Mumbai and puzzle over a train passenger's mistake.

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In 1889, a dam failure sent a disastrous flood descending on Johnstown, Pennsylvania

In 1889, a dam failed in southwestern Pennsylvania, sending 20 million tons of water down an industrialized valley toward the unsuspecting city of Johnstown. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe some of the dramatic and harrowing personal stories that unfolded on that historic day.

We'll also celebrate Christmas with Snoopy and puzzle over a deadly traffic light.

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