Ridiculous History

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History is beautiful, brutal and, often, ridiculous. Join Ben Bowlin and Noel Brown as they dive into some of the weirdest stories from across the span of human civilization in Ridiculous History, a podcast by iHeartRadio.

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    • Sep 22, 2022 LATEST EPISODE
    • weekdays NEW EPISODES
    • 41m AVG DURATION
    • 535 EPISODES

    4.3 from 3,471 ratings Listeners of Ridiculous History that love the show mention: stuff they don t want, ben and noel, stdwytk, ster, ridiculous history, matt and noel, ridiculously awesome, want you to know, matt and ben, hippo, hsw, super producer, ffs, howstuffworks, missed in history class, stuff you missed in history, napoleon, rh, nole, pennsylvania.



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    Latest episodes from Ridiculous History

    Instant Noodles Changed The World, Part Two: Going Global

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 22, 2022 33:30


    As Momofuku Ando's instant noodles take Japan by storm, he sets his sights on the global horizon. In part two of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the expansion of instant noodles into the United States, the rest of the planet -- and, eventually, space.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Instant Noodles Changed The World, Part One: An Origin Story

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 20, 2022 31:15


    Today, instant noodles are ubiquitous. You can find them in almost every grocery store, in any number of flavors sold by any number of brands -- but where did they come from? In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the story of Momofuku Ando, and how a sudden realization in post-WWII Japan inspired an idea that would go on to change the world.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    The Accidental Invention of Holding Music

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 15, 2022 31:02


    We've all been there -- you're calling a bank, a loan company, you name it, and boom: you're put on hold. But where does that music come from? In today's episode, Ben and Noel dive into the strange origin story of telephone holding music. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions: Flyin' or Dyin', Part Two

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 13, 2022 39:56


    How far would you go to fly? It's a question many inventors have asked themselves over the ages and, tragically, for every successful breakthrough it seems there were also dozens of failures, flops and -- sometimes -- fatal crashes. In part two of Flyin' or Dyin', Ben, Noel and Max explore modern inventors who died as a result of their flying contraptions. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Inventors Killed By Their Own Inventions: Flyin' or Dyin', Part One

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 8, 2022 31:30


    Humans can swim, though not as well as a fish. Humans can run, though not as swift as a cheetah. From ancient civilization to the modern day, no human being can fly unaided. In this first of a long-running series, Ben, Noel and Max explore inventors across history who died while trying to fly. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Wilhelm Reich and Orgone, Part 2: Willy vs. The Feds

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 7, 2022 50:31


    If Reich's concept of orgone was simple pseudoscience, why did the US government ban -- and burn -- his books? In part two of this two-part episode on Wilhelm Reich and orgonomic vibes, Ben, Noel and Max explore Reich's activities in the US, as well as the oft-ignored legacy of Reich's studies in the modern day.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Introducing: Sisters of the Underground

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 3, 2022 1:57


    Sisters of the Underground is an 8-episode scripted series by Executive Producers Eva Longoria and Dania Ramirez. It follows the true story of three courageous women, known as the Mirabal sisters, who changed the world. Their lifelong activism in the Dominican Republic and state-orchestrated assassination ignited outrage that led to the downfall of one of the most brutal and enduring dictators of the 20th Century, Rafael Trujillo (aka El Jefe). This series takes us back to a period when the Mirabal Sisters inspired an entire nation to emancipate themselves from a tyrannical regime that lasted for more than 30 years. While the martyrdom of the Mirabal Sisters is the stuff of legend in the DR, Sisters of the Underground brings these hidden figures to life for a global audience in a vivid, immersive, audio drama.   Listen here and subscribe to Sisters of the Underground on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts!See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Wilhelm Reich and Orgone, Part 1: Sexy Psychoanalysis

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 1, 2022 47:51


    Born in 1897, Wilhelm Reich was an Austrian doctor of medicine and a psychoanalyst, as well as -- for a time -- a follower of Sigmund Freud. Today, he's most often associated with his life's work: the study of a strange, pervasive energy he called "orgone." In part one of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore Reich's origin story, from his early days to the experiences that persuaded him sexual vibes could, literally, save the world.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    The History of Pringles: Once You Pop...

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 30, 2022 55:34


    Pretty much everyone recognizes Pringles -- these tasty, not-quite potato chips come in tons of at-times bizarre flavors, all neatly packed in a nifty tube. But where did Pringles come from? In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Matt dive deep into the hidden history of this snack, the astonishing science behind it and the incredibly weird funeral demands of the Pringles creator.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Lincoln Loved Cats, and Other Presidential Pets

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 25, 2022 45:12


    Are you a cat person, a dog person, or somewhere in between? It turns out that famous trash-talking wrestler -- and former President -- Abraham Lincoln was also a huge fan of cats. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the lives of Presidential pets, from eagles to goats, dogs and more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    CLASSIC - Presidents Love Their Ridiculous Pets

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 23, 2022 32:27


    In today's episode, we venture into the podcast vault to talk about some snuggly friends, many of the ridiculous variety. It's no secret that, until very recently, US Presidents were known as huge fans of pets -- and they didn't limit themselves to cats and dogs! Join Ben and Noel as they explore some of the strangest pets in presidential history, from warhorses and cows to bears, raccoons and much, much more.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    What Happened to Ronald McDonald? Part Two: Supersizing A Mystery

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 18, 2022 59:35


    In a world where the iconic McDonald's arches became as recognizable as the Pope or Mickey Mouse, Ronald McDonald himself became synonymous with not just fast food -- but the United States, western imperialism and capitalism overall. In the second part of this episode, Ben, Max and returning special guest, the (ostensibly) reformed Jonathan Strickland, aka the Quizster, take a case-by-case look at the alleged causes of Ronald's demise, from anti-obesity activists to changing cultural tastes, a real-life clown terror craze, and more.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    What Happened to Ronald McDonald? Part One: Everybody Loves A Clown

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 16, 2022 55:50


    Today, billions of people across the world recognize McDonald's — it's one of the planet's most well-known brands. Yet, in recent years, McDonald's has also become home to an enduring mystery: What exactly happened to Ronald McDonald? In part one of this two-part series, Ben and Max welcome special guest Jonathan Strickland for an in-depth exploration of Ronald's meteoric rise and fall.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    The 1904 St. Louis Marathon Was Absolutely Bonkers

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 11, 2022 59:24


    It's no secret that the Olympics have evolved over time, and met with their fair share of controversy over the years -- but the 1904 Olympic marathon remains a tale of ridiculousness for the ages. In today's episode, Ben and Max dive into a madcap series of bizarre events, brazen cheating, and more in the humid heart of brutal St. Louis weather. Taking a cue from their pals at Ridiculous Crime, the guys want you to know everyone in this episode makes it out... OK. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Andrew Jackson Beat the Snot Out of His Would-be Assassin

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 9, 2022 57:44


    Known as Old Hickory to his fans, and King Andrew to his critics, Andrew Jackson was an outspoken, deeply divisive figure. When he was attacked by an assassin while leaving a funeral, the killer's gun miraculously misfired not once, but twice, and despite his old age Jackson retaliated by absolutely wailing on the guy, beating within an inch of his life. And, as it turns out, Andrew Jackson isn't the only president to survive an assassination attempt. Tune for more as Ben and Max explore the strange stories of Jackson, Taft and Roosevelt.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    CLASSIC: When (and why) did the US start calling its citizens consumers?

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 4, 2022 42:17


    Today, the terms "citizen" and "consumer" are often used interchangeably by authors, journalists and politicians. To some experts, this shift has disturbing implications. But how important is a word? How did this switch occur, and why? In today's classic episode, Ben and Noel explore the implications of this strange, often unexamined, evolution.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part Two: Reality Goes Global

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 2, 2022 40:52


    As reality TV continued to grow across networks and genres, it also spread across the planet. In the second part of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to break down the evolution of massive hits like The Bachelor, The Real Housewives empire, and more.See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    A Ridiculous History of Reality TV, Part One: An Origin Story

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 28, 2022 41:35


    However you define it, reality TV is a giant in the world of entertainment. From soap operas to game shows and the hazards of dating, it seems almost any genre can find a home in reality television. But how did we get here? How did this global phenomenon begin? In part one of this two-part series, special guest Anna Hossnieh joins Ben, Noel and Max to explore the evolution of unscripted programming -- and what it teaches us about humanity. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Surprising Former Careers of the Famous

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 26, 2022 48:13


    Did you know Abraham Lincoln was an infamous, trash-talking wrestler? Ronald Reagan spent his younger years saving people from drowning (and throwing rocks at them) as a lifeguard. And before Norma Jean became the iconic Marilyn Monroe, she built drones during World War II. In today's episode, the guys explore the little-known, surprising careers of some of America's most notable historical figures. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    A Humorous History of Genetics

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 21, 2022 49:32


    What makes you... well, you? It's a question humanity has wrestled with since the dawn of recorded history all the way to the modern day. In today's special episode in partnership with 23andMe, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the history of genetic research from its ancient predecessors to great breakthroughs of the recent past, as well as learning a bit about their own genetic history along the way. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Tsutomu Yamaguchi: The World's Only (Recognized) Double Atomic Bomb Victim

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 19, 2022 36:51


    On August 6th, 1945, Mitsubishi engineer Tsutomu Yamaguchi was finally heading home from a three month assignment in Hiroshima... until the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the city. Miraculously, he survived the bombing and made his way home to Nagasaki -- where he once again witnessed, and survived, an atomic bomb. Tune in to learn more about Tsutomu Yamaguchi's harrowing journey, as well as his life after surviving not one, but two separate atomic bombs. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Gods of Deception, Part II: Art, History, Fiction and War

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 14, 2022 30:08


    As Ben and Noel continue their conversation with novelist and art historian David Adams Cleveland, the group finds themselves going far beyond the world of Alger Hiss. In the second part of this two-part series, the guys learn more about David's award-winning work as an art historian, the ways in which history, research and fiction converge -- and a little about the oft-ignored effects of history on geopolitics. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Gods of Deception, Part I: Alger Hiss in the Halls of Power

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 12, 2022 31:59


    Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Alger Hiss was a mover and shaker in the political sphere. Highly educated and deeply connected, Hiss worked as a lawyer involved in everything from the Justice Department to the United Nations. Until, that is, he was accused of being a spy -- a prime character in a vast conspiracy stretching from DC to the Soviet Union. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben and Noel join special guest, novelist and art historian David Adams Cleveland, to learn more about how these events informed David's newest novel, God of Deception. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Operation LAC: That Time Uncle Sam Sprayed Poison Across St. Louis

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 7, 2022 39:41


    As the US government became increasingly concerned about the possibility of large-scale biological weapons, they decided something must be done: they needed to test— in secret. In today's episode, the guys explore how the US Army conspired to spray an entire impoverished part of St. Louis with potentially dangerous chemicals… basically, to see what happened. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    CLASSIC - Does the US Confederacy Still Exist in Americana, Brazil?

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 5, 2022 34:56


    The guys took a day off to celebrate the 4th of July -- and what better time to share a classic episode about another (very strange) form of patriotism? At the close the US Civil War, tens of thousands of former Confederate families fled the US for a small city in Brazil, where they sought to continue living as they had in the days before the war. Tune in to learn more about the strange history of Americana, Brazil. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Millerism, Part II: The Great Disappointment (and the Aftermath)

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 30, 2022 41:51


    As the alleged End of the World drew ever closer, William Miller and the Millerism movement became a pop culture phenomenon. Thousands of people quit their jobs, sold their possessions, and prepared to ascend into the afterlife. Yet when the predicted day came -- and passed -- without the return of Jesus Christ, many of these believers were at a loss. What should they do now?  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    CLASSIC - Did a Real-Life Rainmaker Almost Drown San Diego?

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 28, 2022 29:02


    In today's episode we are revisiting a classic. Charles Mallory Hatfield considered himself a real-life rainmaker (or, as he preferred to describe himself, a 'moisture accelerator') and, when San Diego faced one of its most damaging droughts, Hatfield cracked a deal: He'd bring the water back to San Diego. City officials were skeptical, but desperate -- and, as ridiculous as it might sound -- they got more than they bargained for. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Millerism: America's First End Times Gospel

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 23, 2022 46:38


    You might not have heard of William Miller, but in his time he was a pretty big deal. In the first part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the origin of William Miller and Millerism, his spiritual movement predicated on the idea that, with some tricky math, you could indeed predict the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Ben Franklin Faked a Rival's Death to Promote His Almanac

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 21, 2022 32:58


    Benjamin Franklin was many things: an inventor, a Founding Father, a publisher... and, it turns out, a massive troll. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into a strange story of absolute pettiness and out-the-box PR stunts. You see, when Ben Franklin wanted to up the sales of his almanac, he decided to predict the death of his longtime publishing rival, Titan Leeds. One problem: when the prediction didn't come to pass, Titan, who was very much alive, responded in kind.  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part II: A Pseudoscience (Sort of) Informs the Modern Day

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 16, 2022 53:33


    While the credibility of phrenology inevitably deteriorated over time, it was neither a completely original concept, nor, in some respects, a completely useless one. In the second part of this two-part series, Ben, Noel and Max explore the ancient precedents of judging inner qualities based on outer appearance, as well as what modern scientists have to say about how phrenology, as imperfect as it was, helped establish some concepts that stay with the world of research today. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Why was Phrenology a Thing? Part I: The Rise of Dr. Finger

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 14, 2022 45:21


    Once upon a time, a young man named Franz Joseph Gall thought "That's weird... all my school chums with big eyes are good at memorizing things." Years later, he took this idea and ran with it, assuring people that bumps on their skulls held profound insights about both their flaws and their talents. Nowadays everyone agrees phrenology is bunk -- but in its heyday, folks across the US and Europe were convinced this quackery was the bleeding edge of scientific innovation. In part one of this two-part episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the origins of cranioscopy and phrenology. (We also fell in love with a side character named Dr. Finger.) See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Nancy Wake, the White Mouse of the French Resistance

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 9, 2022 43:49


    Although Nancy Wake began her career as a journalist, her first-hand experience with Nazis compelled her to a new calling: the French Resistance. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the larger-than-life triumphs of the freedom fighter the Gestapo would come to call "the White Mouse," from her early days to her heroic (though, at times, murderous) work to save innocent lives during World War II. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    The US Boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and Puerto Rican Boxers Went Anyway

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 7, 2022 41:40


    In a response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US, along with more than 60 other countries, boycotted the Olympics. Yet three Puerto Rican boxers refused to allow politics to stand in their way of their athletic ambitions. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max welcome Bijan Stephen and Layne Gerbig, the creators of the Eclipsed podcast, to learn what led them to create this show -- and what the 1980 Olympics can teach us about the larger context of history. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Disco Demolition Night: How Disco Died at a White Sox Game

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 2, 2022 50:27


    Cast your memory back to 1979. Tensions across the US are high, on multiple levels. Disco dominates the music scene, and, oh boy, rock fans are mad about it. Things come to a head at Comiskey Park, where White Sox owner Bill Veeck and a young anti-disco DJ named Steve Dahl decide to promote a doubleheader baseball event with a particular theme -- bring a disco record, and you get to watch it get blown up between games. Spoiler alert: things went wrong, almost immediately. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Bolivia Fought -- And Lost -- A War For Bird Poop

    Play Episode Listen Later May 31, 2022 30:13


    Most people associate think of bird poop as an annoyance -- it can gunk up sidewalks and windshields, and, occasionally, even splat on an unlucky person walking by. But in the late 1800s, guano was a hugely important resource. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max take a closer look at the 'white gold' of guano... and how it led to one of 19th-century South America's deadliest wars. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Why You Can't Say "MacBeth" in a Theater

    Play Episode Listen Later May 26, 2022 53:51


    As one of history's most well-known, highly-regarded writers, it's no secret that Shakespeare's life and work is full of strange stories -- but did you know one of his most famous plays is considered cursed? In today's episode, the guys are joined by special guest, award-winning playwright Will McFadden, as he breaks down to supposed origin of the curse, along with multiple disasters attributed to it.  See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Operation Mincemeat: Britain's Ghoulish Plan to Fool the Nazis

    Play Episode Listen Later May 24, 2022 44:28


    As World War II raged on in 1943, both Allied and Axis forces knew they were riddled with spies. In a dizzying cavalcade of undercover, double, and even triple agents, both sides of the war sought to deceive their opponents -- and ethical concerns increasingly took a back seat in these pursuits. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max dive into the story of Operation Mincemeat, a macabre (and, ultimately, successful) plan to plant fake intel on a corpse. Inspired by Netflix's new film, Operation Mincemeat, the guys explore the facts behind the latest adaptation. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Paradise Lost: Crime in Miami Trailer

    Play Episode Listen Later May 23, 2022 1:52


    Paradise Lost: Crime in Miami is a conversation between friends, both South Florida natives, about the notorious true crime cases that have occurred in their home state. Each episode cohosts Kareem Tabsch and Joey Daoud narrate the facts of the case, with details, anecdotes, and general color offered by an interview guest with a connection to the crime - journalists who covered it, the investigators who solved it, survivors or the perpetrators. In each episode, we share the story of true crimes committed right under the Florida sun, from the outrageous to the utterly bizarre. Listen here or on the iHeartRadio App. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Who the heck was Joseph Warren?

    Play Episode Listen Later May 19, 2022 41:47


    When it's time to study the American Revolution in grade school, US kids tend to learn the same few names -- Betsy Ross, George Washington, Benjamin Banneker, Jefferson, Revere and so on. But, were it not for a single gunshot, physician and revolutionary Joseph Warren just may have become one of the first presidents. Tune in to learn more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Chocolate Syrup: From Medicine to Dessert

    Play Episode Listen Later May 17, 2022 42:53


    Most people nowadays associate chocolate syrup with ice cream -- but back in the day, it was considered a legitimate medicine. In today's episode, Ben, Noel and Max explore the origins of chocolate from ancient Mesoamerica to the modern day. Ben and Max also try to save their pal Noel from the unpleasant experience of 'Beverly.' See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Historical Hypocrisy: The Confederacy's Weird Stance on "Individual Rights"

    Play Episode Listen Later May 12, 2022 39:52


    While the Confederacy often portrayed itself as a champion of certain individual rights-- not applied to enslaved people, of course-- it didn't always practice what it preached. In today's episode, the guys explore how factions of the Confederate government used the chaos of war to confiscate all sorts of property and then, through a web of corruption, made themselves wealthy in the process. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

    Juana Maria: The Real-life Story Behind "Island of the Blue Dolphins"

    Play Episode Listen Later May 10, 2022 31:19


    No one knew the real name of the woman living alone on San Nicolas Island, but when she returned to civilization after decades in solitude, she was a hit with the locals at the nearby mission. Known for her exuberance and friendliness, the religious authorities and townsfolk alike loved the woman they christened Juana Maria, but they knew next to nothing about her life -- because she spoke a language no one, from the missionaries to the native communities, could understand. Tune in to learn more. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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