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.
For centuries, May 1 brought chaos to New York, as most tenants had to move on the same day, clogging the streets with harried people and all their belongings. In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll review the colorful history of “Moving Day” and wonder how it lasted through two centuries.
We’ll also recount some surprising escapes from sinking ships and puzzle over a burglar’s ingenuity.
In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll look at the strange phenomenon of poet doppelgängers — at least five notable poets have been seen by witnesses when their physical bodies were elsewhere.
We’ll also share our readers’ research on Cervino, the Matterhorn-climbing pussycat, and puzzle over why a man traveling internationally would not be asked for his passport.
In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow the dramatic 14,000-mile clipper ship race of 1866, in which five ships competed fiercely to be the first to London with the season’s tea.
We’ll also track the importance of mulch to the readers of the comic book Groo the Wanderer and puzzle over the effects of Kool-Aid consumption on a woman’s relationships.
In 1950 newspapers around the world reported that a 10-month-old kitten had climbed the Matterhorn, one of the highest peaks in Europe. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll wonder whether even a very determined kitty could accomplish such a feat.
We’ll also marvel at a striking demonstration of dolphin intelligence and puzzle over a perplexed mechanic.
In 1935 a shark in an Australian aquarium vomited up a human forearm, a bizarre turn of events that sparked a confused murder investigation. This week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast presents two cases in which a shark supplied key evidence of a human crime.
We’ll also learn about the Paris Herald’s obsession with centigrade temperature, revisit the scary travel writings of Victorian children’s author Favell Lee Mortimer, and puzzle over an unavenged killing at a sporting event.
Victorian children’s author Favell Lee Mortimer published three bizarre travel books that described a world full of death, vice, and peril. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll sample her terrifying descriptions of the lands beyond England and wonder what led her to write them.
We’ll also review the movie career of an Alaskan sled dog, learn about the Soviet Union’s domestication of silver foxes, and puzzle over some curious noises in a soccer stadium.
In 1925, Nome, Alaska, was struck by an outbreak of diphtheria, and only a relay of dogsleds could deliver the life-saving serum in time. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow the dogs’ desperate race through arctic blizzards to save the town from epidemic.
We’ll also hear a song about S.A. Andree’s balloon expedition to the North Pole and puzzle over a lost accomplishment of ancient civilizations.
When Ewart Grogan was denied permission to marry his sweetheart, he set out to walk the length of Africa to prove himself worthy of her. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll find out whether Ewart’s romantic quest succeeded.
We’ll also get an update on the criminal history of Donald Duck’s hometown, and try to figure out how a groom ends up drowning on his wedding night.
In 1897, Swedish patent engineer S.A. Andrée set out in a quixotic bid to reach the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon, departing from Norway with two companions and hoping to drift over the top of the world and come down somewhere in the Bering Strait. Instead the expedition vanished. In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll learn what happened to the Eagle and its three brave passengers, and consider the role of hindsight in the writing of history.
We’ll also learn what the White House planned to do if Neil Armstrong became stranded on the moon, and puzzle over why seeing a plane flying upside down would impact a woman’s job.
As a young man, Benjamin Franklin drew up a “plan for attaining moral perfection” based on a list of 13 virtues. Half a century later he credited the plan for much of his success in life. In this episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll explore Franklin’s self-improvement plan and find out which vices gave him the most trouble.
We’ll also learn how activist Natan Sharansky used chess to stay sane in Soviet prisons and puzzle over why the Pentagon has so many bathrooms.