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Futility Closet

A History podcast
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Forgotten stories from the pages of history. Join us for surprising and curious tales from the past and challenge yourself with our lateral thinking puzzles.

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268-The Great Impostor
Ferdinand Demara earned his reputation as the Great Impostor: For over 22 years he criss-crossed the country, posing as everything from an auditor to a zoologist and stealing a succession of identities to fool his employers. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review Demara's motivation, morality, and techniques -- and the charismatic spell he seemed to cast over others. We'll also make Big Ben strike 13 and puzzle over a movie watcher's cat. Intro: In 1825, Thomas Steele proposed enclosing Isaac Newton's residence in a pyramid surmounted by a stone globe. In 1923 Arthur Guiterman found a rhyme for wasp. Sources for our feature on Ferdinand Demara: Robert Crichton, The Great Impostor, 1959. Robert Crichton, The Rascal and the Road, 1961. Frank E. Hagan, Introduction to Criminology: Theories, Methods, and Criminal Behavior, 2008. Joe McCarthy, "The Master Imposter: An Incredible Tale," Life, Jan. 28, 1952. Susan Goldenberg, "Unmasked," Canada's History 91:1 (February/March 2011), 31-36. Ray Cavanaugh, "Brother, Doctor, Soldier, Lies," National Catholic Reporter 51:20 (July 17, 2015), 16. David Goldman, "The Great Impostor," Biography 4:8 (August 2000), 24. "Ferdinand Waldo Demara, 60, An Impostor in Varied Fields," Associated Press, June 9, 1982. Tim Holmes, "Ferdinand Waldo Demara: One of the Greatest Imposters the World Has Ever Seen," Independent, Aug. 29, 2019. Kevin Loria, "The True Story of a Con Artist Who Conducted Surgeries, Ran a Prison, Taught College, and More," Business Insider, Feb. 20, 2016. "Americana: Ferdinand the Bull Thrower," Time, Feb. 25, 1957. Samuel Thurston, "Champion Rascal," New York Times, July 26, 1959. "Top 10 Imposters," Time, May 26, 2009. "'The Great Imposter' Reportedly a Cleric," Associated Press, Jan. 8, 1970. Thomas M. Pryor, "Universal to Film 'Great Impostor'; Career of Ferdinand Demara Jr. Will Be Traced -- Lilli Palmer's Pact Extended," New York Times, March 12, 1959. John Schwartz, "Ideas & Trends; James Gatz, Please Call Your Office," New York Times, March 11, 2001. Eric Pace, "Notes on People," New York Times, April 6, 1978. "Fake Surgeon a Success; Canada to Oust American Who Served Navy in Korea," New York Times, Nov. 21, 1951. "Navy Drops Bogus Surgeon," New York Times, Jan. 30, 1952. "Schoolmaster a Fraud; 'Surgeon' During Korea War Is Unmasked in Maine," New York Times, Feb. 15, 1957. Samuel T. Williamson, "Life Is a Masquerade," New York Times, Dec. 3, 1961. Glen Hallick, "Local Veteran Reflects on Service in the Korean War," Stonewall Argus and Teulon Times [Manitoba], July 25, 2013, 14. Glenn R. Lisle, "Waldo Demara Was a Daring Imposter," Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 20, 2006, A15. "The Original 'Impostor'," Newsday, Oct. 13, 1996, A.41. "Korean War Veteran Wells Met the Great Imposter," Scarborough [Ontario] Mirror, Nov. 12, 2012, 1. Marty Gervais, "My Town," Windsor [Ontario] Star, May 31, 2003, A5. Darren Mcdonald, "The Great Imposter," Chilliwack [B.C.] Times, Nov. 11, 2005, B2. John F. Morrison, "'The Great Imposter': Jack Doe of All Trades," Philadelphia Daily News, March 30, 1983, 22. Pat MacAdam, "The Great Impostor's Last Victim," Ottawa Citizen, April 11, 1999, A3. John Affleck, "Bold Look Into Minds of Conmen," Gold Coast [Southport, Queensland] Bulletin, June 18, 2016, 55. Glen Hallick, "Stan Davis Reflects on His Service in the Korean War," Interlake Spectator, July 25, 2013, 12. "From Our Pages: 1951," Kingston [Ontario] Whig, Dec. 27, 1999, 54. Darrel Bristow-Bovey, "The Man With 50 Lives," [Johannesburg] Times, Nov. 3, 2017. When Demara appeared on You Bet Your Life in 1959, Groucho Marx called him "the most intelligent and charming and likable crook I've ever met." Listener mail: "Hear Big Ben on the Radio Before You Hear It in Real Life," Londonist, Sept. 26, 2014. John O'Ceallaigh, "40 Amazing Facts About Big Ben – As Its Clock Takes on a New Colour," Telegraph, March 22, 2019. "The Great Bell - Big Ben," parliament.uk (accessed Oct. 5, 2019). Wikipedia, "Big Ben" (accessed Oct. 5, 2019). "How to Make Big Ben Strike Thirteen?", Secrets of the Universe, BBC, Nov. 1, 2010. Wikipedia, "Big Ben Strikes Again" (accessed Oct. 3, 2019). Jets Hunt, GPS Puzzles and the Sherlock Holmes Mystery: GPS (Global Positioning System) vs. Sherlock Holmes, 2010. This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listeners Neil De Carteret and Nala. 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. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!
267-The Murchison Murders
In 1929, detective novelist Arthur Upfield wanted to devise the perfect murder, so he started a discussion among his friends in Western Australia. He was pleased with their solution -- until local workers began disappearing, as if the book were coming true. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe the Murchison murders, a disturbing case of life imitating art. We'll also incite a revolution and puzzle over a perplexing purchase. Intro: Jacques Jouet wrote a love poem in the language of Tarzan's great apes. To accompany Apollo 11, the president of Ivory Coast wrote a message to the moon. Above: Snowy Rowles with James Ryan's car, photographed by Arthur Upfield. Sources for our feature on the Murchison murders: Arthur Upfield, The Murchison Murders, 1932. Arthur Upfield, The Sands of Windee, 1931. Arthur Upfield, Up and Down the Real Australia, 2009. Jack Coulter, With Malice Aforethought, 1982. James Morton and Susanna Lobez, Dangerous to Know: An Australasian Crime Compendium, 2009. Travis Barton Lindsey, Arthur William Upfield: A Biography, dissertation, Murdoch University, 2005. Carol Hetherington, "Bony at Home and Abroad: The Arthur Upfield Phenomenon," Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (2009). Bill Casey, "Some Burning Issues: Arthur Upfield and the Murchison Murders, Marginalising Aboriginal People and Suggestions on Teaching Australia's History of Frontier Violence," Australian Aboriginal Studies 1 (2018), 29-42. "Turning Pages," The Age, July 18, 2015, 29. Christopher Fowler, "Arthur Upfield," Independent, Sept. 15, 2013, 16. Terry Sweetman, "Perfect Murder Around the Fire," [Brisbane] Courier-Mail, Aug. 25, 2013, 55. James Cockington, "Detective Work Pays Off: Enjoy It - Collect," Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 17, 2010, 13. Rachel Browne, "Perfect Crime," [Sydney] Sun-Herald, June 14, 2009, 3. Bridget McManus, "A Novel Approach to Crime," Sydney Morning Herald, June 8, 2009, 6. Many thanks to Graham Marshall for his help in researching this story. Listener mail: Wikipedia, "The Scottish Play" (accessed Sept. 4, 2019). Royal Shakespeare Company, "The Curse of the Scottish Play" (accessed Sept. 4, 2019). "Macbeth: The Curse of the Scottish Play," Telegraph, Sept. 18, 2015. Laura Schumm, "Why Do Actors Avoid the Word 'Macbeth'?", History.com, April 9, 2014. David Berre, "'Macbeth' Curse of the Stage," Washington Post, Jan. 28, 1988. "'Scottish Curse' Struck Heston in Bermuda," Bernews, April 7, 2013. Tim Hodgson, "Heston's 'Macbeth' Painting Goes on Display," Royal Gazette, April 18, 2016. "Did the Dumb Girl of Portici Really Set Off the Belgian Revolution in 1830?", Focus on Belgium, Aug. 10, 2018. Wikipedia, "La muette de Portici," (accessed Sept. 17, 2019). This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Jim Power. 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. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!
266-Lateral Thinking Puzzles
Here are seven new lateral thinking puzzles -- play along with us as we try to untangle some perplexing situations using yes-or-no questions. Intro: The Rotator typeface presents the digits 0-9 even when turned upside down. In 1897 The Strand designed a complete alphabet using three human acrobats. The sources for this week's puzzles are below. In a few places 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 Kyle's Hendrickson's 1998 book Mental Fitness Puzzles. Puzzle #2 was contributed by listener Chris. Puzzle #3 was contributed by listener Wayne. Here are two links with further information. Puzzle #4 is from listener Jeff Harvey. Puzzle #5 is from listener Ben Sack, who sent two corroborating links. Puzzle #6 is based on an item in Dan Lewis' Now I Know newsletter. Here's a corroborating link. Puzzle #7 is from listener Katie Tripp. 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. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- you can choose the amount you want to pledge, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

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Podcast Details
Started
Mar 14th, 2014
Latest Episode
Oct 7th, 2019
Release Period
Weekly
No. of Episodes
269
Avg. Episode Length
33 minutes
Explicit
No

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