Podcast

The Futility Closet podcast is a weekly show featuring forgotten stories from the pages of history. Join us each Monday for surprising and curious tales from the past and to challenge yourself with our lateral thinking puzzles.

You can listen using the streaming players below, or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Android, or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

Support us on Patreon to get post-show discussions, outtakes, extra lateral thinking puzzles, and more.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Podcast Episode 327: The Misplaced Tourist

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Main_Street,_Bangor,_Maine_(67541).jpg

In 1977, West German tourist Erwin Kreuz spent three days enjoying the sights, sounds, and hospitality of Bangor, Maine. Unfortunately, he thought he was in San Francisco, on the other side of the continent. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe Kreuz’s unlikely adventure, which made him a local hero in his adopted city.

We’ll also consider an invisible killer and puzzle over a momentous measurement.

Intro:

In 1712, Sweden observed a February 30.

In 1898, J.W. Dunne dreamed correctly that his watch had stopped.

Sources for our feature on Erwin Kreuz:

Geoffrey Wolff, The Edge of Maine, 2011.

William Langewiesche, “Reporting Points,” Flying Magazine 102:1 (January 1978), 29-32.

Joseph Owen, “On This Date in Maine History: Oct. 20,” Portland [Me.] Press Herald, Oct. 20, 2020.

Emily Burnham, “The Story of How a German Tourist Ended Up Mistaking Bangor for San Francisco,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 17, 2020.

Kent Ward, “A Feel-Good Story From the Archives,” Bangor Daily News, Dec. 4, 2009.

Sara Kehaulani Goo, “Bangor Is Used to Surprise Landings,” Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2004.

Joshua Weinstein, “Bangor International Familiar With Hosting Unexpected Guests,” Portland [Me.] Press Herald, Sept. 23, 2004.

Tom Weber, “Mall Man,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 18, 1997.

John S. Day, “City of Bangor Urged to Hold Fire on I-Man,” Bangor Daily News, July 26, 1997.

Kim Strosnider, “An Accidental Tourist Put Bangor on Map,” Portland [Me.] Press Herald, July 7, 1996.

Richard Haitch, “Follow-Up on the News: California in Maine,” New York Times, July 15, 1984.

Ed Lion, “A Look Back at the Saga of Erwin Kreuz,” United Press International, July 8, 1984.

“New England News Briefs; Payments Never Late From W. Germany,” Boston Globe, July 4, 1984.

“Wrong-Way German Tourist Still Paying Maine Taxes,” United Press International, July 3, 1984.

Maureen Williams, “Future in Bangor Pales, Erwin Kreuz Returns to Germany,” Bangor Daily News, March 16, 1979.

“Superstar Attractions to Highlight Bangor Mall’s Supergrand Opening,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 4, 1978.

“Instant Celebrity to Revisit Bangor,” Associated Press, Sept. 18, 1978.

“German Tourist Misses Maine,” United Press International, Sept. 15, 1978.

“Bangor, Me., Family in Temporary Limelight,” New York Times, Feb. 18, 1978.

Jeanne Bolstridge, “Not Political,” Bangor Daily News, Nov. 15, 1977.

“So riesig,” Der Spiegel, Nov. 7, 1977.

“Lives It Up Wild West Frisco Style,” The [Fairfield County, Conn.] Hour, Nov. 1, 1977.

“It’s Wong for Kreuz in Frisco,” Miami Herald, Nov. 1, 1977.

“Ja, Erwin Kreuz ist ein ‘Bangor,'” Minneapolis Star, Nov. 1, 1977.

“People,” Chicago Tribune, Nov. 1, 1977.

“Wrong-Way Tourist’s Weekend Fit for King,” United Press International, Oct. 31, 1977.

“In San Francisco: Lost German Partial to Maine,” Quad-City [Iowa] Times, Oct. 30, 1977.

Ted Sylvester, “Andre Tries to Kiss Kreuz,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

“Famed Figures,” [Pittsfield, Mass.] Berkshire Eagle, Oct. 28, 1977.

“San Francisco Paper Lays Red Carpet for Kreuz,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

“Erwin Kreuz,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

David Platt, “Column One,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 28, 1977.

“Land for Erwin Kreuz,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 27, 1977.

“That’d Be a Long Taxi Ride,” Kingsport [Tenn.] Daily News, Oct. 26, 1977.

“German Tourist Ready to Stay in Maine,” Associated Press, Oct. 26, 1977.

“3,000-Mile Error Ends With a Pleasant Visit,” United Press International, Oct. 25, 1977.

“Airline Puts Out Call for Errant Passenger,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 21, 1977.

“A Big Mac Blitz,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 21, 1977.

Nancy Remsen, “Golden Gate-Bound German Visits Bangor by Mistake,” Bangor Daily News, Oct. 20, 1977.

(Five unheadlined Associated Press wire reports, dated Oct. 29, 1977; Oct. 31, 1977; Sept. 25, 1978; Oct. 4, 1978; and March 19, 1979.)

Listener mail:

Wikipedia, “Lake Nyos Disaster” (accessed Dec. 29, 2020).

Wikipedia, “Limnic Eruption” (accessed Dec. 29, 2020).

Kevin Krajick, “Defusing Africa’s Killer Lakes,” smithsonianmag.com, September 2003.

“Falklands Cleared of Landmines Following 1982 Conflict,” Forces.net, Nov. 10, 2020.

Matthew Teller, “The Falklands Penguins That Would Not Explode,” BBC News, May 6, 2017.

“Japanese Town Deploys Monster Wolf Robots to Deter Bears,” Reuters, Nov. 11, 2020.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Nick Claus. Here are three 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.

Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet — you can choose the amount you want to pledge, 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 326: The Recluse of Herald Square

ida wood

In 1931, a 93-year-old widow was discovered to be hoarding great wealth in New York’s Herald Square Hotel. Her death touched off an inquiry that revealed a glittering past — and a great secret. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll tell the story of Ida Wood, which has been called “one of the most sensational inheritance cases in American history.”

We’ll also revisit the Candy Bomber and puzzle over some excessive travel.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 324: The Bizarre Death of Alfred Loewenstein

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks12/1203681h.html

In 1928, Belgian financier Alfred Loewenstein fell to his death from a private plane over the English Channel. How it happened has never been explained. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe the bizarre incident, which has been called “one of the strangest fatalities in the history of commercial aviation.”

We’ll also consider whether people can be eaten by pythons and puzzle over an enigmatic horseman.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 323: The Blind Traveler

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

When a mysterious illness blinded him at age 25, British naval officer James Holman took up a new pursuit: travel. For the next 40 years he roamed the world alone, describing his adventures in a series of popular books. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe Holman’s remarkable career and his unique perspective on his experiences.

We’ll also remember some separating trains and puzzle over an oddly drawn battle plan.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 322: Joseph Medicine Crow

http://www.futilitycloset.com/support-us/

Joseph Medicine Crow was raised on a Montana reservation in the warrior tradition of his Crow forefathers. But during World War II he found himself applying those lessons in very different circumstances. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe Joseph’s exploits in the war and how they helped to shape his future.

We’ll also consider how to distinguish identical twins and puzzle over a physicist’s beer.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 321: The Calculating Boy

https://books.google.com/books?id=7bcVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false

George Parker Bidder was born with a surprising gift: He could do complex arithmetic in his head. His feats of calculation would earn for him a university education, a distinguished career in engineering, and fame throughout 19th-century England. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll describe his remarkable ability and the stunning displays he made with it.

We’ll also try to dodge some foul balls and puzzle over a leaky ship.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 320: John Hornby and the Barren Lands

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hornby_1924.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

John Hornby left a privileged background in England to roam the vast subarctic tundra of northern Canada. There he became known as “the hermit of the north,” famous for staying alive in a land with very few resources. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll spend a winter with Hornby, who’s been called “one of the most colorful adventurers in modern history.”

We’ll also consider an anthropologist’s reputation and puzzle over an unreachable safe.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 319: Friedrich Kellner’s Opposition

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Friedrich_and_Pauline_Kellner_in_1914.jpg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the 1930s, German civil servant Friedrich Kellner was outraged by the increasing brutality of the Nazi party and the complicity of his fellow citizens. He began to keep a secret diary to record the crimes of the Third Reich and his condemnations of his countrymen. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast, we’ll tell the story of Friedrich’s diary and his outspoken warnings to future generations.

We’ll also ponder the problem with tardigrades and puzzle over a seemingly foolish choice.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 318: Peace Pilgrim

peace pilgrim

In 1953 Mildred Norman renounced “an empty life of money and things” and dedicated herself to promoting peace. She spent the next three decades walking through the United States to spread a message of simplicity and harmony. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe her unusual life as a peace pilgrim.

We’ll also admire Wellington’s Mittens and puzzle over a barren Christmas.

Intro:

In 1956, Navy pilot Tom Attridge overtook his own rounds in a supersonic jet.

Flemish artist Cornelius Gijsbrechts painted a rendering of the back of a painting.

See full show notes …