Podcast Episode 314: The Taliesin Murders

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

By 1914 Frank Lloyd Wright had become one of America’s most influential architects. But that August a violent tragedy unfolded at his Midwestern residence and studio. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the shocking attack of Julian Carlton, which has been called “the most horrific single act of mass murder in Wisconsin history.”

We’ll also admire some helpful dogs and puzzle over some freezing heat.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 309: The ‘Grain of Salt’ Episode

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

Sometimes in our research we come across stories that are regarded as true but that we can’t fully verify. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll share two such stories from the 1920s, about a pair of New York fruit dealers and a mythologized bank robber, and discuss the strength of the evidence behind them.

We’ll also salute a retiring cat and puzzle over a heartless spouse.

See full show notes …

Intentions

In 1983 Paul Desmond Taafe imported certain packages into England. He thought they contained currency, which he erroneously believed was illegal to import. The packages actually contained cannabis, which was illegal to import. Was he “knowingly concerned in [the] fraudulent evasion” of any prohibition on importing goods?

He was convicted but appealed. “If we describe his action in terms of his own beliefs (about the facts and about the law), it obviously constituted an attempt to commit (indeed, it constituted the actual commission of) that crime,” writes R.A. Duff in Criminal Attempts. But Taafe wasn’t “knowingly concerned” in evading the ban on cannabis — he didn’t know he was importing cannabis. And however guilty he may have felt for smuggling currency, that wasn’t a crime.

He was acquitted.

(Taaffe [1983] 1 WLR 627 (CA); [1984] 1 AC 539 (HL).)

Podcast Episode 307: The Cyprus Mutiny

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Watercolour_of_the_brig_Cyprus_(1830).jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1829 a group of convicts commandeered a brig in Tasmania and set off across the Pacific, hoping to elude their pursuers and win their freedom. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the mutineers of the Cyprus and a striking new perspective on their adventure.

We’ll also consider a Flemish dog and puzzle over a multiplied Oscar.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 302: The Galápagos Affair

https://www.si.edu/object/siris_arc_380988
Image: Smithsonian Institution Archives

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.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 298: The Theft of the Mona Lisa

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouched.jpg

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.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 294: ‘The Murder Trial of the Century’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:John_Bodkin_Adams_1940s.jpg

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.

We’ll also bomb Calgary and puzzle over a passive policeman.

See full show notes …

“Settling a Bill”

Four sharpers having treated themselves to a sumptuous dinner at the Hotel Montreuil, were at a loss how to settle for it, and hit on the following plan: They called for the waiter and asked for the bill. One thrust his hand into his pocket as if to draw his purse; the second prevented him, declaring he would pay; the third did the same. The fourth forbade the waiter from taking any money from either of them, but all three persisted. At last one said: ‘The best way to decide is to blindfold the waiter, and whoever he first catches shall settle the bill.’ This proposal was accepted, and while the waiter was groping his way around the room they slipped out of the house one after another.

Western Literary Messenger, May 1854

Podcast Episode 288: Death at the Lane Cove River

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

On New Year’s Day 1963, two bodies were discovered on an Australian riverbank. Though their identities were quickly determined, weeks of intensive investigation failed to uncover a cause or motive for their deaths. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Bogle-Chandler case, which riveted Australia for years.

We’ll also revisit the Rosenhan study and puzzle over a revealing lighthouse.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 284: The Red Barn

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

When Maria Marten disappeared from the English village of Polstead in 1827, her lover said that they had married and were living on the Isle of Wight. But Maria’s stepmother began having disturbing dreams that hinted at a much grimmer fate. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Red Barn, which transfixed Britain in the early 19th century.

We’ll also encounter an unfortunate copycat and puzzle over some curious births.

See full show notes …