Podcast Episode 165: A Case of Mistaken Identity

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AdolfBeckMugshot.jpg

In 1896, Adolf Beck found himself caught up in a senseless legal nightmare: Twelve women from around London insisted that he’d deceived them and stolen their cash and jewelry. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Beck’s incredible ordeal, which ignited a scandal and inspired historic reforms in the English justice system.

We’ll also covet some noble socks and puzzle over a numerical sacking.

Intro:

A 1631 edition of the Bible omitted not in “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

When the first hydrogen balloon landed in 1783, frightened villagers attacked it with pitchforks.

Sources for our feature on Adolph Beck:

Tim Coates, The Strange Story of Adolph Beck, 1999.

Jim Morris, The Who’s Who of British Crime, 2015.

“An English Dreyfus,” Goodwin’s Weekly, Sept. 22, 1904, 6.

“Police Effort Was Tragedy,” [Grand Forks, N.D.] Evening Times, Dec. 24, 1909, 1.

“Errors of English Court,” Holt County [Mo.] Sentinel, Dec. 2, 1904, 2.

“England’s Dreyfus Case Is at an End,” [Scotland, S.D.] Citizen-Republican, Dec. 1, 1904, 3.

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a Detective in Real Life,” New York Sun, May 31, 1914, 3.

“Jailed for Another’s Crime,” [Astoria, Ore.] Morning Astorian, Aug. 13, 1904, 4.

Judith Rowbotham, Kim Stevenson, and Samantha Pegg, Crime News in Modern Britain: Press Reporting and Responsibility, 1820-2010.

Graham Davies and Laurence Griffiths, “Eyewitness Identification and the English Courts: A Century of Trial and Error,” Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 15:3 (November 2008), 435-449.

Haia Shpayer-Makov, “Journalists and Police Detectives in Victorian and Edwardian England: An Uneasy Reciprocal Relationship,” Journal of Social History 42:4 (Summer 2009), 963-987.

D. Michael Risinger, “Unsafe Verdicts: The Need for Reformed Standards for the Trial and Review of Factual Innocence Claims,” Houston Law Review 41 (January 2004), 1281.

“Remarkable Case of A. Beck: Innocent Man Twice Convicted of a Mean Offense,” New York Times, Aug 13, 1904, 6.

J.H. Wigmore, “The Bill to Make Compensation to Persons Erroneously Convicted of Crime,” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology 3:5 (January 1913), 665-667.

C. Ainsworth Mitchell, “Handwriting and Its Value as Evidence,” Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 71:3673 (April 13, 1923), 373-384.

Brian Cathcart, “The Strange Case of Adolf Beck,” Independent, Oct. 16, 2004.

“Adolf Beck, Unlawfully Obtaining From Fanny Nutt Two Gold Rings,” Proceedings of the Old Bailey, Feb. 24, 1896.

In the photo above, Adolph Beck is on the left, John Smith on the right. In July 1904, Smith was actually brought to Brixton Prison while Beck was being held there. Beck wrote, “I saw him at chapel two or three times. There is no resemblance between us.”

Listener mail:

“Why Weren’t the Clothes of the Pompeii Victims Destroyed by the Heat of a Pyroclastic Current?” Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time, Learning Zone, BBC, March 28, 2013.

Natasha Sheldon, “How Did the People of Pompeii Die? Suffocation Versus Thermal Shock,” Decoded Past, April 1, 2014.

Harriet Torry, “It’s a Vasectomy Party! Snips, Chips and Dips With Your Closest Friends,” Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2017.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Anees Rao, who sent this corroborating link (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

Please visit Littleton Coin Company to sell your coins and currency, or call them toll free 1-877-857-7850.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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!

Podcast Episode 164: Vigil on the Ice

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Radar_transect_south_dome.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1930, British explorer Augustine Courtauld volunteered to spend the winter alone on the Greenland ice cap, manning a remote weather station. As the snow gradually buried his hut and his supplies steadily dwindled, his relief party failed to arrive. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Courtauld’s increasingly desperate vigil on the ice.

We’ll also retreat toward George III and puzzle over some unexpected evidence.

Intro:

Rudyard Kipling hid messages in his illustrations for the Just So Stories.

In the early 1900s, Danes bred pigs colored to resemble the Danish flag.

Sources for our feature on Augustine Courtauld:

Nicholas Wollaston, The Man on the Ice Cap, 1980.

Mollie Butler, August and Rab, 1987.

“Augustine Courtauld,” Encyclopedia Arctica (accessed July 23, 2017).

“Augustine Courtauld,” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessed July 23, 2017).

“The British Arctic Air Route Expedition,” Geographical Journal 76:1 (July 1930), 67-68.

“British Air Route to the Arctic Regions,” Science, New Series, 72:1857 (Aug. 1, 1930), 108-109.

“Swedish Flier Ready to Hop for Greenland to Rescue Courtauld, Young British Explorer,” New York Times, April 27, 1931, 4.

Svend Carstensen, “Ahrenberg to Start Rescue Flight Today,” New York Times, April 29, 1931, 12.

Svend Carstensen, “Ahrenberg on Way to Save Courtauld, Lost in Greenland,” New York Times, April 30, 1931, 1.

“Rescuers Race to Locate Lost Arctic Explorer,” China Press, May 2, 1931, 13.

E. Lemon, “Plane in Greenland to Hunt Courtauld,” New York Times, May 3, 1931, 2.

Percy Lemon, “Ahrenberg Ready to Fly to Ice Cap,” New York Times, May 5, 1931, 6.

“Courtauld Hunted by Sea, Air And Land: Area of Great Arctic Search,” New York Times, May 8, 1931, 12.

“Courtauld Rescued,” Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1931, 3.

Percy Lemon, “Courtauld Is Found Safe on the Greenland Ice Cap,” New York Times, May 8, 1931, 1.

Albin Ahrenberg, “Ahrenberg to Guide Courtauld To Camp,” New York Times, May 9, 1931, 1.

Percy Lemon, “Courtauld Back Safely on Greenland Coast,” New York Times, May 12, 1931, 1.

H.G. Watkins, “Courtauld Search a Surprise to Him,” New York Times, May 14, 1931, 12.

“Courtauld Buried in Igloo 2 Months,” Associated Press, May 15, 1931.

“Arctic Burial Escape Told,” Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1931, 4.

“Courtauld Tells Story of Long Imprisonment,” China Press, May 15, 1931, 1.

“Rescued From Greenland’s Icy Cap,” Sphere 125:1634 (May 16, 1931), 278.

“Courtauld to Sail Home on First Ship,” New York Times, May 17, 1931, 2.

T.J.C. Martyn, “Greenland Is Still a Scientific Puzzle,” New York Times, May 24, 1931, 4.

Augustine Courtauld, “Courtauld’s Story of the Five Months He Spent on Ice Cap,” New York Times, May 29, 1931, 1.

“The Ice-Cap Hero,” New York Times, May 30, 1931, 8.

“The British Arctic Air Route Expedition,” Geographical Journal 77:6 (June 1931), 551-554.

“From the Four Winds: Mr. Courtauld’s Arctic Vigil,” China Herald, June 30, 1931, 459.

“The British Arctic Air Route Expedition,” Geographical Journal 78:3 (September 1931), 291.

F.S. Chapman, “Watkins and Aides Held in No Danger,” New York Times, Sept. 19, 1931, 17.

“Explorers Return From Greenland,” New York Times, Nov. 14, 1931, 8.

William Goodenough, Augustine Courtauld, Lauge Koch, J.M. Wordie, and H.R. Mill, “The British Arctic Air Route Expedition: Discussion,” Geographical Journal 79:6 (June 1932), 497-501.

Percy Cox, Helge Larsen, Augustine Courtauld, M.A. Spender and J.M. Wordie, “A Journey in Rasmussen Land: Discussion,” Geographical Journal 88:3 (September 1936), 208-215.

Henry Balfour, E.C. Fountaine, W.A. Deer, Augustine Courtauld, L.R. Wager, and Ebbe Munck, “The Kangerdlugssuak Region of East Greenland: Discussion,” Geographical Journal 90:5 (November 1937), 422-425.

“Augustine Courtauld Dies at 54: Explored Greenland in Thirties,” New York Times, March 4, 1959, 31.

L.R. Wager, “Mr. Augustine Courtauld,” Nature 183:4666 (April 4, 1959).

Quintin Riley, “Obituary: Augustine Courtauld 1904-1959,” Geographical Journal 125:2 (June 1959), 286-287.

Ronald Porter, “Lady Butler of Saffron Walden,'” Independent, April 1, 2009.

Listener mail:

Matthew J. Kinservik, Sex, Scandal, and Celebrity in Late Eighteenth-Century England, 2007.

Chris Best, “Watch: Hungry Bear Opens Fridge, Rummages Through Home,” wkrg.com, July 6, 2017.

“NC Bear Opens SUV Door, Climbs Inside and Destroys It,” wncn.com, July 8, 2017.

Mark Price, “NC’s Bears Are Now Opening Car Doors, Leading to Strange Driveway Encounters,” Charlotte Observer, July 9, 2017.

“Bear and the SUV,” Sylva Herald, June 21, 2017.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was devised by Sharon. Here are three corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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 or browse our online store for Futility Closet merchandise.

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!

Podcast Episode 163: Enslaved in the Sahara

https://books.google.com/books?id=-Q9FAAAAIAAJ

In 1815 an American ship ran aground in northwestern Africa, and its crew were enslaved by merciless nomads. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow the desperate efforts of Captain James Riley to find a way to cross the Sahara and beg for help from Western officials in Morocco.

We’ll also wade through more molasses and puzzle over a prospective guitar thief.

Intro:

In 1972 archaeologists in northwestern Iran found evidence of one couple’s tender final moment.

An anonymous author recast “A Visit From St. Nicholas” in legal language.

Sources for our feature on James Riley:

Dean King, Skeletons on the Zahara, 2004.

James Riley, An Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce, 1817.

Archibald Robbins, A Journal, Comprising an Account of the Loss of the Brig Commerce, of Hartford Conn., 1847.

James Riley and William Willshire Riley, Sequel to Riley’s Narrative, 1851.

Robert J. Allison, The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World, 1776-1815, 1995.

Christine E. Sears, American Slaves and African Masters, 2012.

Paul Baepler, ed., White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives, 1999.

Eamonn Gearon, The Sahara: A Cultural History, 2011.

Dean King, “The Cruelest Journey,” National Geographic Adventure 6:1 (February 2004), 46.

Paul Michel Baepler, “The Barbary Captivity Narrative in American Culture,” Early American Literature 39:2 (2004), 217-246.

Sven D. Outram-Leman, “Alexander Scott: Constructing a Legitimate Geography of the Sahara From a Captivity Narrative, 1821,” History in Africa 43 (2016), 63-94.

Gordon M. Sayre, “Renegades From Barbary: The Transnational Turn in Captivity Studies,” American Literary History 22:2 (Summer 2010), 347-359.

Glenn James Voelz, “Images of Enemy and Self in the Age of Jefferson: The Barbary Conflict in Popular Literary Depiction,” War & Society 28:2 (2009), 21-47.

Hester Blum, “Pirated Tars, Piratical Texts: Barbary Captivity and American Sea Narratives,” Early American Studies 1:2 (Fall 2003), 133-158.

Paul Baepler, “White Slaves, African Masters,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 588:1 (July 2003), 90-104.

R. Gerald McMurtry, “The Influence of Riley’s Narrative Upon Abraham Lincoln,” Indiana Magazine of History 30:2 (June 1934), 133-138.

K. Gerald McMurtry, “Some Books That Lincoln Read,” Journal of Developmental Reading 1:2 (Winter 1958), 19-26.

Mark Kirby, “Author’s Sahara Trek Inspired by Classic Tale,” National Geographic Adventure, Jan. 27, 2004.

“Riley’s Sufferings in the Great Desert,” Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, Dec. 24, 1836, 382-383.

Robert C. Davis, “Slavery in North Africa — The Famous Story of Captain James Riley,” Public Domain Review (accessed July 9, 2017).

Lev Grossman, “Sailing the Seas of Sand,” Time 163:9 (March 1, 2004), 47.

Listener mail:

Dana Rieck, “Loveland’s Sticky Situation Reaches 25-Year Anniversary,” Loveland [Colo.] Reporter-Herald, Feb. 16, 2015.

“Meet Stan, the New Flemish Hermit!” Flanders News, Feb. 5, 2017.

Ben Gilbert, “These Incredible Photos Show One 72-Year-Old Woman’s Hermit Lifestyle in Siberia,” Business Insider, July 1, 2017.

Jennifer Schaffer, “The Snatching of Hannah Twynnoy.”

“Hannah Twynnoy and the Tiger of Malmesbury.”

Steve Winters’ decimal clock.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Dan White, who sent this corroborating photo (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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 or browse our online store for Futility Closet merchandise.

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!

Podcast Episode 162: John Muir and Stickeen

https://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery.htm?id=B17BC4E5-155D-4519-3EC6B73FCE2806A8

One stormy morning in 1880, naturalist John Muir set out to explore a glacier in Alaska’s Taylor Bay, accompanied by an adventurous little dog that had joined his expedition. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the harrowing predicament that the two faced on the ice, which became the basis of one of Muir’s most beloved stories.

We’ll also marvel at some phonetic actors and puzzle over a season for vasectomies.

Intro:

In 1904 a 12-year-old J.R.R. Tolkien sent this rebus to a family friend.

In 1856 Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner with a gold-headed cane on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Sources for our feature on John Muir and Stickeen:

John Muir, Stickeen, 1909.

Ronald H. Limbaugh, John Muir’s “Stickeen” and the Lessons of Nature, 1996.

Kim Heacox, John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire, 2014.

Ronald H. Limbaugh, “Stickeen and the Moral Education of John Muir,” Environmental History Review 15:1 (Spring 1991), 25-45.

Hal Crimmel, “No Place for ‘Little Children and Tender, Pulpy People’: John Muir in Alaska,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 92:4 (Fall 2001), 171-180.

Stefan Beck, “The Outdoor Kid,” New Criterion 33:4 (December 2014), 1-6.

Edward Hoagland, “John Muir’s Alaskan Rhapsody,” American Scholar 71:2 (Spring 2002), 101-105.

Ronald H. Limbaugh, “John Muir and Modern Environmental Education,” California History 71:2 (Summer 1992), 170-177.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “John Muir” (accessed July 2, 2017).

“John Muir: Naturalist,” Journal of Education 81:6 (Feb. 11, 1915), 146.

William Frederic Badè, “John Muir,” Science 41:1053 (March 5, 1915), 353-354.

Charles R. Van Hise, “John Muir,” Science 45:1153 (Feb. 2, 1917), 103-109.

Listener mail:

Delta Spirit, “Ballad of Vitaly”:

Wikipedia, Aftermath (2017 Film)” (accessed July 14, 2017).

Wikipedia, “Überlingen Mid-Air Collision” (accessed July 14, 2017).

Anthony Breznican, “‘The Princess Bride’: 10 Inconceivable Facts From Director Rob Reiner,” Entertainment Weekly, Aug. 16, 2013.

Wikipedia, “Charlotte Kate Fox” (accessed July 14, 2017).

Wikipedia, Incubus (1966 film)” (accessed July 14, 2017).

Wikipedia, “Esperanto” (accessed July 14, 2017).

Toño del Barrio, “Esperanto and Cinema” (accessed July 14, 2017).

Wikipedia, “Phonetical Singing” (accessed July 14, 2017).

Wikipedia, “Deliver Us (The Prince of Egypt)” (accessed July 14, 2017).

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was inspired by an item in Dan Lewis’ Now I Know enewsletter. (Warning: This link spoils the puzzle.)

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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!

Podcast Episode 161: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_ggallice_-_Rainforest.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1971 high school student Juliane Koepcke fell two miles into the Peruvian rain forest when her airliner broke up in a thunderstorm. Miraculously, she survived the fall, but her ordeal was just beginning. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Juliane’s arduous trek through the jungle in search of civilization and help.

We’ll also consider whether goats are unlucky and puzzle over the shape of doorknobs.

Intro:

Before writing about time machines, H.G. Wells calculated that he’d earned a single pound in his writing endeavors.

In 1868, as an engineering trainee, Robert Louis Stevenson explored the foundation of a breakwater at Wick.

Sources for our feature on Juliane Koepcke:

Juliane Diller, When I Fell From the Sky, 2011.

“She Lived and 91 Others Died,” Life 72:3 (Jan. 28, 1972), 38.

“Jungle Trek: Survivor of Crash Tells of Struggle,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 6, 1972, A11.

“Didn’t Want to Steal: Survivor of Crash Passed Up Canoe,” Los Angeles Times, Jan. 9, 1972, A7.

Jennings Parrott, “The Newsmakers: It’s Back to School for Peru Survivor,” Los Angeles Times, March 20, 1972, A2.

Werner Herzog, Wings of Hope, 2000:

Dan Koeppel, “Taking a Fall,” Popular Mechanics, February 2010.

Jason Daley, “I Will Survive,” Outside 29:9 (Sept. 1, 2004), 64.

Stephan Wilkinson, “Amazing But True Stories,” Aviation History, May 2014.

Tom Littlewood, “The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” Vice, Sept. 2, 2010.

“Juliane Koepcke: How I Survived a Plane Crash,” BBC News, March 24, 2012.

Frederik Pleitgen, “Survivor Still Haunted by 1971 Air Crash,” CNN, July 2, 2009.

Sally Williams, “Sole Survivor: The Woman Who Fell to Earth,” Telegraph, March 22, 2012.

Katherine MacDonald, “Survival Stories: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky,” Reader’s Digest (accessed July 2, 2017).

Listener mail:

“America’s First Serial Killer – H.H. Holmes,” geocaching.com (accessed July 7, 2017).

Colin Ainsworth, “Mystery in Yeadon: Who Is Buried in Serial Killer’s Grave?” Delaware County [Pa.] Daily Times, May 21, 2017.

Robert McCoppin and Tony Briscoe, “Is ‘Devil in White City’ Buried in Tomb? Remains to Be Unearthed to Find Out,” Chicago Tribune, May 4, 2017.

ShaoLan Hsueh, “The Chinese Zodiac, Explained,” TED2016, February 2016.

Wikipedia, “Erdős–Bacon Number” (accessed July 7, 2017).

Erdős, Bacon, Sabbath.

Natalie Portman (Erdős-Bacon number 7) co-authored this paper under her birth name, Natalie Hershlag:

Abigail A.Baird, Jerome Kagan, Thomas Gaudette, Kathryn A. Walz, Natalie Hershlag, and David A.Boas, “Frontal Lobe Activation During Object Permanence: Data From Near-Infrared Spectroscopy,” NeuroImage 16:4 (August 2002), 1120–1126.

Colin Firth (Erdős-Bacon number 7) was credited as a co-author of this paper after suggesting on a radio program that such a study could be done:

Ryota Kanai, Tom Feilden, Colin Firth, and Geraint Rees, “Political Orientations Are Correlated With Brain Structure in Young Adults,” Current Biology 21:8 (April 2011), 677–680.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Alon Shaham, who sent this corroborating link (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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 or browse our online store for Futility Closet merchandise.

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!

Podcast Episode 160: The Birmingham Sewer Lion

https://books.google.com/books?id=tBM6AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA523

Birmingham, England, faced a surprising crisis in 1889: A lion escaped a traveling menagerie and took up residence in the city’s sewers, terrifying the local population. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll descend into the tunnels with Frank Bostock, the 21-year-old manager who set out to capture the desperate beast.

We’ll also revisit a cosmic mystery and puzzle over an incomprehensible language.

Intro:

Historian Bell Wiley collected the misspellings of Confederate soldiers.

The minuet in Haydn’s Piano Sonata in A Major is a palindrome.

Sources for our feature on the Birmingham lion escape:

“The Escape of Lions From the Menagerie at Birmingham,” Graphic, Oct. 5, 1889, 412.

“A Lion Hunt in Birmingham,” Graphic 40:1036 (Oct. 5, 1889), 407.

“Hunting a Lion in a Sewer,” New York Times, Oct. 20, 1889, 9.

“Lion Hunting in Birmingham,” Scientific American Supplement, No. 724 (Nov. 16, 1889), 11568.

“Lion-Hunting in Birmingham,” Poverty Bay (New Zealand) Herald, 16:5625 (Nov. 21, 1889), 3.

Frank Charles Bostock, The Training of Wild Animals, 1903.

Frank C. Bostock and H.J. Shepstone, “A Lion-Hunt in a Sewer,” Wide World Magazine 21:126 (October 1908), 523-529.

Frank C. Bostock, “The Tightest Corner I Was Ever In,” Boys’ Life 1:4 (June 1911), 44-46.

Will Oliphant, “The Lion Tamer of Birmingham,” Birmingham Evening Mail, July 31, 2010, 3.

Helen Cowie, “Philadelphia Zebras: Six Great Animal Escapes of the Victorian Era,” Independent, Nov. 17, 2015.

Ben Hurst, “Panic on Streets as Circus Lion Runs Free,” Birmingham Evening Mail, Nov. 27, 2015.

Bethan Bell, “When a Lion Prowled the Streets of Birmingham,” BBC News, May 14, 2017.

https://books.google.com/books?id=tBM6AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA523

“A terrific fight took place between the two animals.” From Wide World Magazine.

Listener mail:

Jesse Emspak, “Has Mysterious Signal From Space Finally Been Explained?” NBC News, June 14, 2017.

“The ‘Wow!’ Signal,” Center for Planetary Science (accessed June 30, 2017).

Rachel Premack, “Why Korean Companies Are Forcing Their Workers to Go by English Names,” Washington Post, May 12, 2007.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Steven Jones.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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 or browse our online store for Futility Closet merchandise.

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!

Podcast Episode 159: The Mozart of Mathematics

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Erdos_with_Terence_Tao.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Mathematician Paul Erdős had no home, no job, and no hobbies. Instead, for 60 years he wandered the world, staying with each of hundreds of collaborators just long enough to finish a project, and then moving on. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet the “magician of Budapest,” whose restless brilliance made him the most prolific mathematician of the 20th century.

We’ll also ponder Japanese cannibalism in World War II and puzzle over a senseless stabbing.

Intro:

Elbert Hubbard published 12 blank pages in 1905.

A duck spent 18 months in the U.S. 2nd Marine Division in 1943.

Sources for our feature on Paul Erdős:

Paul Hoffman, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, 1999.

The magisterial biography of Erdős. The first chapter is here.

Bruce Schechter, My Brain Is Open, 2000.

Béla Bollobás, “Paul Erdős (1913-96),” Nature, 383:6601 (Oct. 17, 1996), 584.

Melvin Henriksen, “Reminiscences of Paul Erdős,” Mathematical Association of America (accessed June 10, 2017).

László Babai, Carl Pomerance, and Péter Vértesi, “The Mathematics of Paul Erdős,” Notices of the AMS 45:1 (January 1998).

László Babai and Joel Spencer, “Paul Erdős (1913–1996),” Notices of the AMS 45:1 (January 1998).

Ronald L. Graham, Jaroslav Nesetril, Steve Butler, eds., The Mathematics of Paul Erdős, 2013.

Rodrigo De Castro and Jerrold W. Grossman, “Famous Trails to Paul Erdős,” Mathematical Intelligencer 21:3 (January 1999), 51–53.

Bruce Torrence and Ron Graham, “The 100th Birthday of Paul Erdős/Remembering Erdős,” Math Horizons 20:4 (April 2013), 10-12.

Krishnaswami Alladi et al., “Reflections on Paul Erdős on His Birth Centenary,” Parts I and II, Notices of the American Mathematical Society 62:2 and 62:3 (February and March 2015).

Béla Bollobás, “To Prove and Conjecture: Paul Erdős and His Mathematics,” American Mathematical Monthly 105:3 (March 1998), 209-237.

“Information About Paul Erdős (1913-1996),” Oakland University (accessed June 13, 2017).

Calla Cofield, “An Arbitrary Number of Years Since Mathematician Paul Erdős’s Birth,” Scientific American, March 26, 2013.

Béla Bollobás, “Obituary: Paul Erdős,” Independent, Oct. 2, 1996.

N Is a Number: A Portrait of Paul Erdős, Kanopy Streaming, 2014.

“Paul Erdős,” MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive (accessed June 10, 2017).

Above: Erdős teaching 10-year-old Terence Tao in 1985. Tao is now recognized as one of the world’s finest mathematicians; he received the Fields Medal in 2006.

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, “Chichijima Incident” (accessed June 23, 2017).

Charles Laurence, “George HW Bush Narrowly Escaped Comrades’ Fate of Being Killed and Eaten by Japanese Captors,” Telegraph, Feb. 6, 2017.

James Bradley, Flyboys, 2003.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Waldo van der Waal, who sent this corroborating link (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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 or buy merchandise in our store.

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!

Podcast Episode 158: The Mistress of Murder Farm

belle gunness

Belle Gunness was one of America’s most prolific female serial killers, luring lonely men to her Indiana farm with promises of marriage, only to rob and kill them. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of The LaPorte Black Widow and learn about some of her unfortunate victims.

We’ll also break back into Buckingham Palace and puzzle over a bet with the devil.

Intro:

Lee Sallows offered this clueless crossword in November 2015 — can you solve it?

Souvenir hunters stole a rag doll from the home where Lee surrendered to Grant.

Sources for our feature on Belle Gunness:

Janet L. Langlois, Belle Gunness, 1985.

Richard C. Lindberg, Heartland Serial Killers, 2011.

Ted Hartzell, “Belle Gunness’ Poisonous Pen,” American History 3:2 (June 2008), 46-51.

Amanda L. Farrell, Robert D. Keppel, and Victoria B. Titterington, “Testing Existing Classifications of Serial Murder Considering Gender: An Exploratory Analysis of Solo Female Serial Murderers,” Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling 10:3 (October 2013), 268-288.

Kristen Kridel, “Children’s Remains Exhumed in 100-Year-Old Murder Mystery,” Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2008.

Dan McFeely, “DNA to Help Solve Century-Old Case,” Indianapolis Star, Jan. 6, 2008.

Kristen Kridel, “Bones of Children Exhumed,” Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2008.

Ted Hartzell, “Did Belle Gunness Really Die in LaPorte?” South Bend [Ind.] Tribune, Nov. 18, 2007.

Edward Baumann and John O’Brien, “Hell’s Belle,” Chicago Tribune, March 1, 1987.

Associated Press, “Authorities Question Identity of Suspect in Matrimonial Farm,” St. Petersburg [Fla.] Evening Independent, July 18, 1930.

“Hired Hand on Murder Farm,” Bryan [Ohio] Democrat, Jan. 11, 1910.

“The First Photographs of the ‘American Siren’ Affair: Detectives and Others at Work on Mrs. Belle Gunness’s Farm,” The Sketch 62:801 (June 3, 1908), 233.

“Horror and Mystery at Laporte Grow,” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1908.

“Police Are Mystified,” Palestine [Texas] Daily Herald, May 6, 1908.

“Federal Authorities Order All Matrimonial Agencies in Chicago Arrested Since Gunness Exposure,” Paducah [Ky.] Evening Sun, May 8, 1908.

“Tale of Horror,” [Orangeburg, S.C.] Times and Democrat, May 8, 1908.

“Lured to Death by Love Letters,” Washington Herald, May 10, 1908.

“Fifteen Victims Die in Big Murder Plot,” Valentine [Neb.] Democrat, May 14, 1908.

“Murderess,” Stark County [Ohio] Democrat, May 22, 1908.

“Mrs. Belle Gunness of LaPorte’s Murder Farm,” Crittenden [Ky.] Record-Press, May 29, 1908.

“The La Porte Murder Farm,” San Juan [Wash.] Islander, July 11, 1908.

“Ray Lamphere Found Guilty Only of Arson,” Pensacola [Fla.] Journal, Nov. 27, 1908.

“Lamphere Found Guilty of Arson,” Spanish Fork [Utah] Press, Dec. 3, 1908.

Listener mail:

“Text of Scotland Yard’s Report on July 9 Intrusion Into Buckingham Palace,” New York Times, July 22, 1982.

Martin Linton and Martin Wainwright, “Whitelaw Launches Palace Inquiry,” Guardian, July 13, 1982.

Wikipedia, “Michael Fagan Incident” (accessed June 16, 2017).

Wikipedia, “Isn’t She Lovely” (accessed June 16, 2017).

Wikipedia, “Body Farm” (accessed June 16, 2017).

Kristina Killgrove, “These 6 ‘Body Farms’ Help Forensic Anthropologists Learn To Solve Crimes,” Forbes, June 10, 2015.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Frank Kroeger.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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!

Podcast Episode 157: The Brutal History of Batavia’s Graveyard

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ongeluckige_voyagie_vant_schip_Batavia_(Plate_3).jpg

In 1629, a Dutch trading vessel struck a reef off the coast of Australia, marooning 180 people on a tiny island. As they struggled to stay alive, their leader descended into barbarity, gathering a band of cutthroats and killing scores of terrified castaways. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll document the brutal history of Batavia’s graveyard, the site of Australia’s most infamous shipwreck.

We’ll also lose money in India and puzzle over some invisible Frenchmen.

Intro:

In 1946, an Allied dentist inscribed “Remember Pearl Harbor” on Hideki Tojo’s dentures.

Sigourney Weaver named herself after a character in The Great Gatsby.

Sources for our feature on the Batavia mutiny:

Mike Dash, Batavia’s Graveyard, 2002.

Mike Sturma, “Mutiny and Narrative: Francisco Pelsaert’s Journals and the Wreck of the Batavia,” The Great Circle 24:1 (2002), 14-24.

“We Are Still on the Batavia,” Queen’s Quarterly 12:4 (Winter 2005), 489.

Bruce Bennett, “Politics and Spying: Representations of Pre- and Early Australia,” Antipodes 22:1 (June 2008), 17-22.

“Batavia,” Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia, 1997, 52-53.

D. Franklin, “Human Skeletal Remains From a Multiple Burial Associated With the Mutiny of the VOC Retourschip Batavia, 1629,” International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 22:6 (Jan. 19, 2011), 740-748.

Michael Titlestad, “‘Changed as to a Tiger’: Considering the Wreck of the Batavia,” Antipodes 27:2 (December 2013), 149-156.

Mark Staniforth, “Murder and Mayhem,” dig 8:4 (April 2006), 20-21.

Christopher Bray, “The Wreck of the Batavia [review],” Financial Times, Aug 17, 2007.

“Batavia’s History,” Western Australian Museum (accessed May 28, 2017).

Sarah Taillier, “Unearthed Grave Sheds Light on Batavia Shipwreck Mass Murder,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Feb. 3, 2015.

“Australia Dig Unearths Batavia Mutiny Skeleton,” BBC News, Feb. 4, 2015.

Libby-Jane Charleston, “The Batavia Mutiny and Massacre of 1629 Is Still Revealing Secrets,” Huffington Post, July 2, 2016.

Karl Quinn, “Mutiny, Shipwreck, Murder: The Incredible True Story Russell Crowe Wants to Film,” Sydney Morning Herald, March 30, 2016.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Batavia_victim.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Interest in the Batavia was reawakened in the 1960s, when archaeologists began to examine the site of the mutiny. This victim, excavated in 1963, had received a cutting wound to the head; the right shoulder blade was broken, and the right foot was missing.

Listener mail:

Andrew Levy, “Doctors Solve Mystery of a Man Who ‘Died From Laughter’ While Watching The Goodies After His Granddaughter Nearly Dies From Same Rare Heart Condition,” Daily Mail, June 20, 2012.

Wikipedia, “2016 Indian Banknote Demonetisation” (accessed June 9, 2017).

“The Dire Consequences of India’s Demonetisation Initiative,” Economist, Dec. 3, 2016.

Micheline Maynard, “The ‘Zion Curtain’ Is About to Fall in Utah, and Restaurants Can’t Wait,” Forbes, March 29, 2017.

Donald Hoffman, “Do We See Reality As It Is?” TED, March 2015.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Aden Lonergan. Here’s a corroborating link (warning — this spoils the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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!

Podcast Episode 156: The Most Dedicated Soldier

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:President_Marcos_and_Hiroo_Onoda.jpg

When American forces overran the Philippine island of Lubang in 1945, Japanese intelligence officer Hiroo Onoda withdrew into the mountains to wait for reinforcements. He was still waiting 29 years later. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet the dedicated soldier who fought World War II until 1974.

We’ll also dig up a murderer and puzzle over an offensive compliment.

Intro:

In 1896, Austrian engineers designed a mountain railway pulled by a balloon.

In 1965 Kingsley Amis inventoried Ian Fleming’s unsavory descriptions of M.

Sources for our feature on Hiroo Onoda:

Hiroo Onoda, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, 1974.

Mark Felton, “The Soldiers Who Would Not Surrender,” World War II 18:4 (November 2003), 18.

Robert D. McFadden, “Hiroo Onoda, Soldier Who Hid in Jungle for Decades, Dies at 91,” New York Times, Jan. 17, 2014.

Adam Bernstein, “Hiroo Onoda, Japanese Soldier Who Hid in Philippine Jungle for 29 Years, Dies at 91,” Washington Post, Jan. 17, 2014.

David Powers, “Japan: No Surrender in World War Two,” BBC, Feb. 17, 2011.

“Last Man Fighting: Hiroo Onoda,” Economist 410:8871 (Jan. 25, 2014).

“Hiroo Onoda – Obituary,” Telegraph, Jan. 17, 2014.

Justin McCurry, “Hiroo Onoda: Japanese Soldier Who Took Three Decades to Surrender, Dies,” Guardian, Jan. 17, 2014.

“Japan WW2 Soldier Who Refused to Surrender Hiroo Onoda Dies,” BBC News, Jan. 17, 2014.

Jethro Mullen, Yoko Wakatsuki and Chandrika Narayan, “Hiroo Onoda, Japanese Soldier Who Long Refused to Surrender, Dies at 91,” CNN, Jan. 17, 2014.

Noah Rayman, “Hiroo Onoda, World’s ‘Last Ninja’, Dead at 91,” Time.com, Jan. 21, 2013.

Mike Dash, “Final Straggler: The Japanese Soldier Who Outlasted Hiroo Onoda,” Mike Dash History, Sept. 15, 2015.

Associated Press, “Bulletins,” March 16, 1974.

Listener mail:

Travis M. Andrews, “An Infamous and Sadistic American Serial Killer Was Hanged in 1896. Or Was He?” Washington Post, May 4, 2017.

Kristen De Groot, “Body of 19th Century Serial Killer Exhumed Near Philadelphia,” Associated Press, May 3, 2017.

“New Jersey Couple Says They Found Note in Family Bible Signed by Notorious Serial Killer H.H. Holmes,” NBC Philadelphia, May 22, 2017.

Craig Cook, “Scientist at Centre of DNA Break-Throughs in Cold Case Appeals for Government to Exhume the Body Somerton Man to Finally ‘Give Him Name,'” The Advertiser, Oct. 1, 2016.

Dan Vergano, “DNA Just Tied a Mystery Death in Australia to Thomas Jefferson,” BuzzFeed, Sept. 24, 2016.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Noah Kurland.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, 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!