Ep 71: School Spirits: College Ghost Stories

There are some locations that just inspire spooky lore: old, decrepit houses; imposing buildings and campgrounds. Somehow, colleges and universities manage to combine the feel of all these places. It’s no wonder that nearly every campus has its own ghost stories. This week we are bringing you a a variety of these tales straight from the urban legend hotline! Our listeners have sent us fantastic, strange and unique local legends from their college days, and we’ll be giving each one the Just A Story. We will examine the common themes and possible origins of some of these stories.  We’ll also be looking at a real life murder mystery that began in a university library, and the legends that have grown from its legacy. We’ll conclude by examining the possible origins of our own college ghost story, the legend of LSU’s haunted dormitory.  

 

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Ep 70: The Enemy Within: CONSPIRACY THEORY 101

Conspiracy theories are a mainstay of modern culture. Whether anchoring complex theatrical thrillers, or filling air time in the twenty-four hour news cycle, the complex shadow machinations of mysterious actors create excellent alternative narratives and high entertainment value wherever we might encounter them. The interesting side effect of this ubiquitous coverage of conspiracy theories is that they have moved from the fringes, to the mainstream. Where did this start? When did we politically paranoid Americans stop trusting the government? Maybe we have always been skeptical, but the widespread systematic dogma that makes up the modern belief in conspiracy theories wasn’t in place until after the Vietnam War. Join us this week as we discuss the burglary that brought down J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO program We’ll also talk about that program’s pointed effort to inspire paranoia in the domestic population. We’ll explore the lasting effects of this actual government conspiracy on the modern mind, why we believe conspiracy theories, and how these ideas spread. Of course, we would be remiss if we spoke of conspiracy theories and didn’t mention “the most paranoid man in America,” Alex Jones.  So we’ll do that, too. Wake up, sheeple, this one is a doozie. 

Guest Story Teller: Alex Jones infowars.com

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Ep 69: Splendid Little Wars: False Flags

War, what is it good for?

Apparently, ‘absolutely nothing,’ may have been a bit of an understatement. Teddy Roosevelt felt every generation of Americans needed its war to build its character. Manufacturing for the Second World War kind of saved the economy. War was basically what won American independence. Also, it freed enslaved people throughout the American South. We think of international allies in terms of their willingness to stand in battle with us. —Most of us do, at least (we love you Australia)— We threaten war against those who break treaties or violate human rights. Politically and practically, war can be very useful. But, would any government, anywhere ever create an attack out of whole cloth, just to sell its own citizens on the idea of war? Join us this week as we take a look at the legends of false flag operations and the history of American paranoia.

Guest Story Teller: Dr. Averill Earls of the History Buffs Podcast  https://historybuffs.org/

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Ep 68: Changelings: Turn And Face The Strange

There are moments when stories transcend geographic and culturally borders, and touch on something fundamentally and universally human. The persistent idea of changelings across Europe, and the ogbanje and abiku throughout Africa might be an example of that type of story. Join us this week as we examine the circumstances that might lead to believing your child has been replaced by an impostor from the spirit of fairy realm. From medical explanations to rare and nearly unbelievable psychological diagnoses, to the cultural needs created by unique circumstances this is a complex case full of twists and possibility. We will conclude by taking a look at a classic anthropological study on maternal love in Brazil’s shanty towns, and how things have changed there over the last 20 years.

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Ep 67: We’ll Say I Do, And Never Be Lonely Anymore: The Lost Bride

The story of ‘The Lost Bride’, sometimes called ‘The Mistletoe Bride’, blurs the line between classic folklore and urban legend. It’s one of the older stories that still finds relevancy and wide transmissions today. Transmitted as a series of ballads, poems and scary stories, it has reached audiences in a variety of ways for centuries. In this episode we’ll discuss the rich history and possible origins of this old tale.  We will also be exploring unlucky wedding traditions, and the origins of some of the practices still widely seen in nuptial ceremonies today.  Join us as we explore real ill-fated brides, ghost brides (and grooms) from other cultures, and the Victorian preoccupation with death and the marriage ceremony.

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Ep 66: Bigfoot: The Case for the Missing Link

Is there any more well known cryptid in modern lore than Bigfoot? The elusive forest dweller must have one incredible agent. Featured on multiple television programs, Internet channels, and countless books; Bigfoots are an odd kind of celebrity. For starters, the paparazzi cannot keep up with them, despite the best efforts of enthusiast the world over we have yet to find definitive proof of the existence of these mysterious bipedal behemoths.  Also they keep getting booked on network TV and failing to show up for their cameo appearances. Their reluctance to engage with their adoring public makes Woody Allen’s refusal to attend the Oscars seem downright congenial. Join us this week as we explore the history of Bigfoot, from famous sightings, to contested evidence; from mythical origins, to scientific conjecture. We’ll also be taking a look at the cultural significance of the idea of the “missing link.” We’ll be discussing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, along with the man who aimed to ‘prove it’ once and for all, Charles Dawson. His infamous Piltdown Man created mysteries and legends that remain to this day. We’ll conclude by taking an in-depth look at the Scope’s Monkey Trial. The first, but certainly not the last, legal battle over evolution’s place in the American classroom, in which rhetorical titans Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan started an argument we still can’t seem to settle. 

 

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Ep 65: Bury Them Side by Side: It’s Death for Bonnie and Clyde

What good is a love story without a little danger? Tales of star-crossed lovers do certainly seem to endure the tests of time, if they have a good dose of mortal peril in the mix. Romance means many things to many different people, and this week we are going to look at the American romance with crime; and the outlaws that throw caution to the wind and fully embrace it. We’ll be exploring the legends of famous outlaw couples throughout American history. From colonial highwaymen, to pirates on the high seas, to Wild West outlaws, we’ll bring you love stories from the unlikeliest of places. We’ll conclude with a thorough examination of the depression era bank-robbers, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beaty. Oh, I meant Bonnie and Clyde, sorry. We’ll see what we can do about separating the facts from the muck and mire of breathless fiction, and almost a century’s worth of lore and legend. Join us for this St. Valentine’s Day celebration of love on the wrong side of the law.

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Ep 64: The Many Faces of the Antichrist: The Omen

This week, we’re asking, is it just a movie? We will be taking a look at the 1976 horror classic, “The Omen.” Like many movies in this genre, there is an incredible amount of lore about the making of the film itself. Also, like many now classic scary movies; this one has its own curse. We’ll be checking out the many claims made about the purported “Omen” curse, and offering what we can in the way of historical verification. But when presented with a story full of such rich subject matter as the end times and the antichrist; we’d be crazy not to explore the legends that fueled the plot of the film, as well. We will learn all about the history of the antichrist concept, various suspected antichrists throughout history, and conclude by examining the ways these interpretations of religious text have shaped today’s political climate and cultural landscape. Join us this week as we look at those who bear the mark of the beast

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Ep 63: Better Angels of Our Nature

Angels are an intriguing idea. They’re ethereal beings who are like us, but maybe, just a little better than we are. They have our best interests at heart, they have wings, and they have a direct line to the supernatural, or the divine, or the universal forces beyond our control. So, that’s cool, but perhaps we’ve missed a step. What, pray tell, is an angel, exactly? Join us on this romp through the wilds of history, as we search for the answer to this seemingly simple question. From fierce, fiery warriors with four faces, to chubby winged-baby putti, there are a lot of different ways to understand the amorphous idea of the angel. We’ll examine angel symbolism and iconography in art through the ages, and discuss the origins of belief in guardian angels, specifically. We’ll also analyze the story of the Angel of Mons, a battlefield apparition that occurred during the Great War; its historical origins, and the incredible rapidity of its spread. We conclude with a discussion of the protective guardian alter that sometimes appears in cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder. 

 

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Ep 62: The Uninvited Anesthetist: The Mad Gasser of Mattoon

In the Autumn of 1944, in the small town of Mattoon, Illinois, people were afraid. They weren’t afraid of bombs falling from the night sky without warning, or losing loved ones and how they’d get by on their own if something happened, or escaped Nazi Prisoners of War. Of course they weren’t. Voicing such fears would be bad for morale and positively un-American; at a time when patriotism was the greatest defense against a sense of powerlessness and depression that could have doused the brightest home fires. No, their fear was of something lurking in alley ways and creeping around slumbering homes. They feared the “Mad Gasser of Mattoon,” who piped unknown chemicals into their windows as they slept. His poison was not fatal, but its effects were unpleasant, and his attacks were quickly increasing in frequency. This mad scientist fiend had to be stopped, and he was, though not in the way one would expect. Join us this week as we explore the month of panic in Mattoon that began as a manhunt, and ended as the defining study of the psychological phenomenon of mass hysteria. Of course, we will spend some time analyzing the crimes as if they are not just a story. We’ll discuss credible suspects and incredible claims, and a brand new theory on the origin of the fear. 

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Ep 61: Birth of a Notion: Needle Men, Night Doctors, and the KKK

Imagine realizing you are worth more dead than you are alive; that there was a market for your corpse; that you might never be allowed to rest in peace, even after death. These are the ideas that drive the legend of Needle Men. The mysterious sounding title was used to describe rogue medical students in New Orleans who went out looking for unsuspecting victims to inject with poison and carve up in order to learn the secrets of the human body. While this is a legend, the study of human anatomy did have a dark side in America’s early days. This week we will explore the history of Resurrectionists, Night Doctors and Sackemup Men; and how the fear of such persons along with the fear of Night Riding Slave Patrols gave rise to the Invisible Empire known as the Ku Klux Klan. Join us this week as we discuss the terror the KKK has inspired in America for well over a century, and the ways in which this hate group is evolving to continue its teachings and missions in modern society.

Guest Story Teller: Matthew Guinn: http://www.matthewguinn.com/

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Ep 60: Baby, Baby It’s a Wild World

There is something infinitely fascinating about the idea of children who have grown up outside of the constructs of society. These individuals have taken on legendary status over the centuries, from Romulus and Remus to Mowgli and Tarzan. Perhaps we imagine their connections to the natural world run deeper than those of us civilized people, or that they might have something to tell us about the essential nature of humanity. In some ways, people look to these wild boys and girls to exemplify the ‘noble savage’ archetype. We will explore the legend of children raised by animals as we examine “The Wolf Girl of Devil’s River.” We will also discuss the real world phenomena of feral children and their reintegration into society over the course of history, and ask that age-old question; just what is it that separates humans from animals?

Hint: it rhymes with smodcasting.

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Ep 59: You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone

Where do people go when they disappear? The idea that a person can just vanish is inarguably mysterious, and that element of mystery seems to capture the public imagination each time such an event is reported. One line of conjecture that inevitably arises in the wake of a person going missing is, ‘maybe they just left to start a new life.’ This idea seems to be something of an urban legend. In fact, there are many urban legends surrounding these mysterious missing persons cases. From alleged amnesia, to falsified ransom notes, there are many ways in which people who wish to start over justify their absences. Though the stories of missing persons are as varied as they are numerous, statistically speaking; these disappearances are much more likely to be the results of foul play or accidents, than carefully orchestrated schemes to start over somewhere new. Can a person just walk away from his or her life? Is such a thing even possible, especially in this day and age? This week we will examine the difficulty of leaving behind a well established life without a trace. We will explore the recent case of someone who seems to have successfully hit the reset button, and left the world guessing at her reasons and methods, Lori Erica Ruff. We will also take a look at some extraordinary stories of historical incidents of staged kidnappings and high profile disappearances (and reappearances). We’ll conclude with a discussion of the very strange case of mystery author, Agatha Christie. 

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