Britain's most remote community gave up their unique way of life in 1930

1930 saw the quiet conclusion of a remarkable era. The tiny population of St. Kilda, an isolated Scottish archipelago, decided to end their thousand-year tenure as the most remote community in Britain and move to the mainland. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the remarkable life they'd shared on the island and the reasons they chose to leave.

We'll also track a stork to Sudan and puzzle over the uses of tea trays.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

LISTEN Read the rest

In 1907, hunter Jim Corbett stalked a Nepalese tiger that had killed 434 people

At the turn of the 20th century, a rogue tiger terrorized the villages of Nepal and northern India. By the time British hunter Jim Corbett was called in, it had killed 434 people. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Corbett's pursuit of the elusive cat, and his enlightened efforts to address the source of the problem.

We'll also revisit a Confederate spy and puzzle over a bloody ship.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

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.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In the winter of 1931, a mysterious fugitive led police on a 300-kilometer chase through northern Canada

In the winter of 1931, a dramatic manhunt unfolded in northern Canada when a reclusive trapper shot a constable and fled across the frigid landscape. In the chase that followed the mysterious fugitive amazed his pursuers with his almost superhuman abilities. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the hunt for the "Mad Trapper of Rat River."

We'll also visit a forgotten windbreak and puzzle over a father's age.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

Socialite Rose O'Neal Greenhow was a surprising spy for the Confederacy

As the Civil War fractured Washington D.C., socialite Rose O'Neal Greenhow coordinated a vital spy ring to funnel information to her beloved Confederates. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Greenhow's courage and resourcefulness, which won praise from Jefferson Davis and notoriety in the North.

We'll also fragment the queen's birthday and puzzle over a paid game of pinball.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In 1965, a retired truck driver was convicted of one of the greatest art heists in British history

In 1961, Goya's famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington went missing from London's National Gallery. The case went unsolved for four years before someone unexpectedly came forward to confess to the heist. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe one of the greatest art thefts in British history and the surprising twists that followed.

We'll also discover Seward's real folly and puzzle over a man's motherhood.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

Frances Glessner Lee created miniature death scenes to train investigators in the 1940s

In the 1940s, Frances Glessner Lee brought new rigor to crime scene analysis with a curiously quaint tool: She designed 20 miniature scenes of puzzling deaths and challenged her students to investigate them analytically. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death and their importance to modern investigations.

We'll also appreciate an overlooked sled dog and puzzle over a shrunken state.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In 1909, Alice Ramsey set out to cross the United States by car

In 1909, 22-year-old Alice Huyler Ramsey set out to become the first woman to drive across the United States. In an era of imperfect cars and atrocious roads, she would have to find her own way and undertake her own repairs across 3,800 miles of rugged, poorly mapped terrain. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow Ramsey on her historic journey.

We'll also ponder the limits of free speech and puzzle over some banned candy.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In 1822, a desperate band of convicts fleeing a Tasmanian penal colony ended up resorting to cannibalism

In 1822, Irish thief Alexander Pearce joined seven convicts fleeing a penal colony in western Tasmania. As they struggled eastward through some of the most inhospitable terrain on Earth, starvation pressed the party into a series of grim sacrifices. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow the prisoners on their nightmarish bid for freedom.

We'll also unearth another giant and puzzle over an eagle's itinerary.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

  Read the rest

In 1902, scam artist Cassie Chadwick claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie

In 1902, scam artist Cassie Chadwick convinced an Ohio lawyer that she was the illegitimate daughter of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. She parlayed this reputation into a life of unthinkable extravagance -- until her debts came due. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe Chadwick's efforts to maintain the ruse -- and how she hoped to get away with it.

We'll also encounter a haunted tomb and puzzle over an exonerated merchant.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In 1978, Kim Jong-Il abducted two South Korean cinema stars to make films in North Korea

In 1978, two luminaries of South Korean cinema were abducted by Kim Jong-Il and forced to make films in North Korea in an outlandish plan to improve his country's fortunes. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Choi Eun-Hee and Shin Sang-Ok and their dramatic efforts to escape their captors.

We'll also examine Napoleon's wallpaper and puzzle over an abandoned construction.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In 1631, Barbary pirates abducted 107 people from an Irish village and forced them into a life of slavery

One night in 1631, pirates from the Barbary coast stole ashore at the little Irish village of Baltimore and abducted 107 people to a life of slavery in Algiers -- a rare instance of African raiders seizing white slaves from the British Isles. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the sack of Baltimore and the new life that awaited the captives in North Africa.

We'll also save the Tower of London and puzzle over a controversial number.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

The amazing career of Ferdinand Demara, "The Great Impostor"

Ferdinand Demara earned his reputation as the Great Impostor: For over 22 years he criss-crossed the country, posing as everything from an auditor to a zoologist and stealing a succession of identities to fool his employers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review Demara's motivation, morality, and techniques -- and the charismatic spell he seemed to cast over others.

We'll also make Big Ben strike 13 and puzzle over a movie watcher's cat.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

Detective novelist Arthur Upfield invented the perfect murder, then watched a killer adopt it

In 1929, detective novelist Arthur Upfield wanted to devise the perfect murder, so he started a discussion among his friends in Western Australia. He was pleased with their solution -- until local workers began disappearing, as if the book were coming true. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the Murchison murders, a disturbing case of life imitating art.

We'll also incite a revolution and puzzle over a perplexing purchase.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

Seven lateral thinking puzzles

Here are seven 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.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In the 1800s, Britain grew a thousand-mile hedge across India

In the 19th century, an enormous hedge ran for more than a thousand miles across India, installed by the British to enforce a tax on salt. Though it took a Herculean effort to build, today it's been almost completely forgotten. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe this strange project and reflect on its disappearance from history.

We'll also exonerate a rooster and puzzle over a racing murderer.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

In 1868 a Scottish castaway had to make a new life among the people of the Solomon Islands

In 1868, Scottish sailor Jack Renton found himself the captive of a native people in the Solomon Islands, but through luck and skill he rose to become a respected warrior among them. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the story of Renton's life among the saltwater people and his return to the Western world.

We'll also catch some more speeders and puzzle over a regrettable book.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon! Read the rest

More posts