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.
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.
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.
In 1890, French inventor Louis Le Prince vanished just as he was preparing to debut his early motion pictures. He was never seen again. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll consider the possible causes of Le Prince’s disappearance and his place in the history of cinema.
We’ll also reflect on a murderous lawyer and puzzle over the vagaries of snake milking.
Marooned in Florida in 1528, four Spanish colonists made an extraordinary journey across the unexplored continent. Their experiences changed their conception of the New World and its people. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the remarkable odyssey of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his reformed perspective on the Spanish conquest.
We’ll also copy the Mona Lisa and puzzle over a deficient pinball machine.
The only dog ever enlisted in the Royal Navy was a Great Dane who befriended the sailors of Cape Town in the 1930s. Given the rank of able seaman, he boosted the morale of British sailors around the world. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of Just Nuisance and his adventures among the sailors who loved him.
We’ll also examine early concentration camps and puzzle over a weighty fashion.
In 1943, the U.S. established a camp for German prisoners of war near the village of Stark in northern New Hampshire. After a rocky start, the relations between the prisoners and guards underwent a surprising change. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of Camp Stark and the transforming power of human decency.
We’ll also check out some Canadian snakes and puzzle over some curious signs.
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.
In 1925, Swiss schoolteacher Aimé Tschiffely set out to prove the resilience of Argentina’s criollo horses by riding two of them from Buenos Aires to New York City. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Tschiffely’s unprecedented journey, which has been called “the most exciting and influential equestrian travel tale of all time.”
We’ll also read an inscrutable cookbook and puzzle over a misbehaving coworker.
In 1937, Englishwoman Ursula Graham Bower became fascinated by the Naga people of northeastern India. She was living among them when World War II broke out and Japan threatened to invade their land. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe Bower’s efforts to organize the Nagas against an unprecedented foe.
We’ll also consider a self-censoring font and puzzle over some perplexing spacecraft.