Podcast Episode 316: A Malaysian Mystery

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1967, Jim Thompson left his silk business in Thailand for a Malaysian holiday with three friends. On the last day, he disappeared from the cottage in which they were staying. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the many theories behind Thompson’s disappearance, which has never been explained.

We’ll also borrow John Barrymore’s corpse and puzzle over a teddy bear’s significance.

Intro:

A 1969 contributor to NPL News suggested that orchestras were wasting effort.

Robert Wood cleaned a 40-foot spectrograph by sending his cat through it.

Sources for our feature on Jim Thompson:

William Warren, Jim Thompson: The Unsolved Mystery, 2014.

Joshua Kurlantzick, The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War, 2011.

Matthew Phillips, Thailand in the Cold War, 2015.

Taveepong Limapornvanich and William Warren, Thailand Sketchbook: Portrait of a Kingdom, 2003.

Jeffery Sng, “The Ideal Man: The Tragedy of Jim Thompson and the American Way of War by Joshua Kurlantzick,” Journal of the Siam Society 102 (2014), 296-299.

Tim McKeough, “Jim Thompson,” Architectural Digest 71:4 (April 2014).

Alessandro Pezzati, “Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King,” Expedition Magazine 53:1 (Spring 2011), 4-6.

Daisy Alioto, “The Architect Who Changed the Thai Silk Industry and Then Disappeared,” Time, May 9, 2016.

Anis Ramli, “Jim Thompson Found, 40 Years On,” Malaysian Business, May 1, 2009, 58.

“Thailand: Jim Thompson’s Legacy Lives On,” Asia News Monitor, Feb. 8, 2010.

Peter A. Jackson, “An American Death in Bangkok: The Murder of Darrell Berrigan and the Hybrid Origins of Gay Identity in 1960s Thailand,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 5:3 (1999), 361-411.

Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa, “Documentary Claims CPM Responsible for Jim Thompson’s Disappearance in Cameron Highland,” Malaysian National News Agency, Dec. 10, 2017.

Barry Broman, “Jim Thompson Was Killed by Malay Communists, Sources Say,” The Nation [Bangkok], Dec. 4, 2017.

Grant Peck, “New Film Sheds Light on Jim Thompson Mystery,” Associated Press, Oct. 21, 2017.

“A 50-Year Mystery: The Curious Case of Silk Tycoon Jim Thompson,” dpa International, March 22, 2017.

George Fetherling, “The Man Who Vanished,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 29, 2013, B.7.

“Trends: The Mystery of Jim Thompson,” [Hamilton, New Zealand] Waikato Times, May 8, 2013, T.13.

“Bangkok: Remembering Jim Thompson,” The Nation [Bangkok], Oct. 3, 2012.

Bernd Kubisch, “The Riddle of Jim Thompson Continues to Fascinate Bangkok Visitors,” McClatchy-Tribune Business News, Feb. 21, 2012.

Joshua Kurlantzick, “Into the Jungle,” [Don Mills, Ont.] National Post, Dec. 7, 2011, A.16.

Joshua Kurlantzick, “Our Man in Bangkok,” [Don Mills, Ont.] National Post, Dec. 6, 2011, A.14.

Yap Yok Foo, “Mystery of Jim Thompson’s Disappearance,” [Kuala Lumpur] New Straits Times, Feb. 1, 2004, 30.

Robert Frank, “Recipe for a Fashion Brand?”, Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2001, B.1.

Jonathan Napack, “Will Jim Thompson’s House Disappear, Too?”, International Herald Tribune, Aug. 30, 2000.

Michael Richardson, “The Disappearance of Jim Thompson,” International Herald Tribune, March 26, 1997, 2.

Hisham Harun, “Jim Thompson’s Legacy,” [Kuala Lumpur] New Straits Times, Aug. 12, 1996, 09.

Philp Shenon, “What’s Doing In: Bangkok,” New York Times, Jan. 31, 1993.

William Warren, “Is Jim Thompson Alive and Well in Asia?”, New York Times, April 21, 1968.

“Jim Thompson,” Encyclopaedia Britannica (accessed Oct. 4, 2020).

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, “John Barrymore” (accessed Oct. 8, 2020).

“Drew Barrymore Has a Hard Time Processing While Eating Hot Wings,” Hot Ones, Aug. 20, 2020.

Marina Watts, “Drew Barrymore Reveals the Unique Experience Grandfather John Barrymore Had After Death,” Newsweek, Aug. 21, 2020.

Adam White, “Drew Barrymore Says Her Grandfather’s Corpse Was Stolen From the Morgue for ‘One Last Party,'” Independent, Aug. 20, 2020.

Wikipedia, “Hot Ones” (accessed Oct. 8, 2020).

“Earth Does Not Move for Science,” BBC News, Sept. 7, 2001.

Tim Radford, “Children’s Giant Jump Makes Waves for Science,” Guardian, Sept. 7, 2001.

Reuters, “Jump Kids, Jump! Shake That Earth,” Wired, Sept 7, 2001.

“Schoolkids Jump-Start a Quake in Britain,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 8, 2001.

“Newspaper Clipping of the Day,” Strange Company, Aug. 26, 2020.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Hanno Zulla, who sent these corroborating links (warning — these spoil the puzzle).

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

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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 315: Beryl Markham’s Unconventional Life

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Beryl Markham managed to fit three extraordinary careers into one lifetime: She was a champion racehorse trainer, a pioneering bush pilot, and a best-selling author. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review her eventful life, including her historic solo flight across the Atlantic in 1936.

We’ll also portray some Canadian snakes and puzzle over a deadly car.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 314: The Taliesin Murders

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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 313: The Santa Claus Association

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In 1913, New York publicist John Duval Gluck founded an association to answer Santa’s mail. For 15 years its volunteers fulfilled children’s Christmas wishes, until Gluck’s motivation began to shift. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the rise and fall of “Santa’s Secretary” in New York City.

We’ll also survey some splitting trains and puzzle over a difference between twins.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 312: The Last of the Yahi

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In 1911 an exhausted man emerged from the wilderness north of Oroville, California. He was discovered to be the last of the Yahi, a people who had once flourished in the area but had been decimated by white settlers. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Ishi’s sad history and his new life in San Francisco.

We’ll also consider the surprising dangers of baseball and puzzle over a forceful blackout.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 311: A Disputed Russian Princess

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In 1920, a young woman was pulled from a canal in Berlin. When her identity couldn’t be established, speculation started that she was a Russian princess who had escaped the execution of the imperial family. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the strange life of Anna Anderson and her disputed identity as Grand Duchess Anastasia.

We’ll also revisit French roosters and puzzle over not using headlights.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 310: The Case of Bobby Dunbar

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In 1912, 4-year-old Bobby Dunbar went missing during a family fishing trip in Louisiana. Eight months later, a boy matching his description appeared in Mississippi. But was it Bobby Dunbar? In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the dispute over the boy’s identity.

We’ll also contemplate a scholarship for idlers and puzzle over an ignorant army.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 309: The ‘Grain of Salt’ Episode

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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 …

Podcast Episode 308: Nicholas Winton and the Czech Kindertransport

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In 1939, as the shadow of war spread over Europe, British stockbroker Nicholas Winton helped to spirit hundreds of threatened children out of Czechoslovakia. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Winton’s struggle to save the children and the world’s eventual recognition of his achievements.

We’ll also consider some ghostly marriages and puzzle over a ship’s speed.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 307: The Cyprus Mutiny

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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 …