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 Google Podcasts, on Apple Podcasts, or via the RSS feed at https://futilitycloset.libsyn.com/rss.

If you have any questions or comments, you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Podcast Episode 365: Lateral Thinking Puzzles

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For this final episode of the Futility Closet podcast we have eight new lateral thinking puzzles — play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions.

Intro:

Sears used to sell houses by mail.

Many of Lewis Carroll’s characters were suggested by fireplace tiles in his Oxford study.

The sources for this week’s puzzles are below. In some cases we’ve included links to further information — these contain spoilers, so don’t click until you’ve listened to the episode:

Puzzle #1 is from Greg. Here are two links.

Puzzle #2 is from listener Diccon Hyatt, who sent this link.

Puzzle #3 is from listener Derek Christie, who sent this link.

Puzzle #4 is from listener Reuben van Selm.

Puzzle #5 is from listener Andy Brice.

Puzzle #6 is from listener Anne Joroch, who sent this link.

Puzzle #7 is from listener Steve Carter and his wife, Ami, inspired by an item in Jim Steinmeyer’s 2006 book The Glorious Deception.

Puzzle #8 is from Agnes Rogers’ 1953 book How Come? A Book of Riddles, sent to us by listener Jon Jerome.

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.

Many thanks to Doug Ross for providing the music for this whole ridiculous enterprise, and for being my brother.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Podcast Episode 364: Sidney Cotton’s Aerial Reconnaissance

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most remarkable pilots of World War II never fired a shot or dropped a bomb. With his pioneering aerial reconnaissance, Sidney Cotton made a vital contribution to Allied planning. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe his daring adventures in the war’s early months.

We’ll also revisit our very first story and puzzle over an unknown Olympian.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 363: The Lambeth Poisoner

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In 1891, a mysterious figure appeared on the streets of London, dispensing pills to poor young women who then died in agony. Suspicion came to center on a Scottish-Canadian doctor with a dark past in North America. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the career of the Lambeth Poisoner, whose victims remain uncounted.

We’ll also consider a Hungarian Jules Verne and puzzle over an ambiguous sentence.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 362: The Leatherman

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In 1856, a mysterious man appeared on the roads of Connecticut and New York, dressed in leather, speaking to no one, and always on the move. He became famous for his circuits through the area, which he followed with remarkable regularity. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the Leatherman, whose real identity remains unknown.

We’ll also consider the orientation of churches and puzzle over some balky ponies.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 361: A Fight Over Nutmeg

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In 1616, British officer Nathaniel Courthope was sent to a tiny island in the East Indies to contest a Dutch monopoly on nutmeg. He and his men would spend four years battling sickness, starvation, and enemy attacks to defend the island’s bounty. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Courthope’s stand and its surprising impact in world history.

We’ll also meet a Serbian hermit and puzzle over an unusual business strategy.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 360: Haggard’s Dream

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In 1904, adventure novelist H. Rider Haggard awoke from a dream with the conviction that his daughter’s dog was dying. He dismissed the impression as a nightmare, but the events that followed seemed to give it a grim significance. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Haggard’s strange experience, which briefly made headlines around the world.

We’ll also consider Alexa’s expectations and puzzle over a college’s name change.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 359: Stranded in Shangri-La

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

In 1945, a U.S. Army transport plane crashed in New Guinea, leaving three survivors marooned in the island’s mountainous interior. Injured, starving, and exhausted, the group seemed beyond the hope of rescue. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the plight of the stranded survivors and the remarkable plan to save them.

We’ll also reflect on synthetic fingerprints and puzzle over a suspicious notebook.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 358: The Radium Girls

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In 1917, a New Jersey company began hiring young women to paint luminous marks on the faces of watches and clocks. As time went on, they began to exhibit alarming symptoms, and a struggle ensued to establish the cause. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of the Radium Girls, a landmark case in labor safety.

We’ll also consider some resurrected yeast and puzzle over a posthumous journey.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 357: Scenes From an Earthquake

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The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is remembered for its destructive intensity and terrible death toll. But the scale of the disaster can mask some remarkable personal stories. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the experiences of some of the survivors, which ranged from the horrific to the surreal.

We’ll also consider a multilingual pun and puzzle over a deadly reptile.

See full show notes …

Podcast Episode 356: A Strawberry’s Journey

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The modern strawberry has a surprisingly dramatic story, involving a French spy in Chile, a perilous ocean voyage, and the unlikely meeting of two botanical expatriates. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the improbable origin of one of the world’s most popular fruits.

We’ll also discuss the answers to some of our queries and puzzle over a radioactive engineer.

See full show notes …