The Weird History Podcast explores the out-of-the-way, obscure, weird, and overlooked corners of history. New episodes appear every Thursday.
224 Carlton F.W. Larson on Treason in the U.S.
Treason is the only crime specifically defined in the U.S. Constitution, and talk of treason has been in the air for the last four years. Carlton F.W. Larson is a professor of constitutional law at University of California at Davis, and the author of On Treason: A Citizen’s Guide to the Law. He joined us to discuss how treason is defined in the U.S., why it’s defined in that particular way, and the U.S.’s checkered past when it comes to actually prosecuting (or not prosecuting) people for treason.
223 Grand Guignol Part Two: Tales of Terror!
It’s not enough to just talk about the history of the Grand Guignol. We also want to bring you a little bit of what it was like to take in a night of horror there. On this special Halloween episode, we bring you three adaptations of Grand Guignol plays: Him!, The Ultimate Torture, and The Kiss of Blood.
222 Grand Guignol Part One: Theater of Horror!
The Grand Guignol was a small Parisian theater which regularly produced original works of horror. The theater, which operated from 1897 until 1962, showcased short plays about murder, insanity, dismemberment, disease, and other horrors, much to the delight of regulars and tourists alike. The theater produced over 1,200 original plays during it’s six decades of work, and today occupies a special place in the history of the horror genre. However, the Grand Guignol’s mythic status is sometimes at odds with how plays were actually staged, and how horror effects were achieved on stage. In this episode, we look at the history of the Grand Guignol in general, and how the artists who worked there achieved an atmosphere of terror and dread.
221 Sasha Abramsky on Lottie Dod
Sasha Abramsky is a journalist and author whose new book Little Wonder tells the story of Lottie Dod, the modern world’s first female sporting celebrity. Dod came to prominence as a tennis prodigy and later excelled in other sports like golf, archery, and mountain climbing before voluntarily giving up her celebrity and fading into obscurity.
220 Michel Paradis on Last Mission to Tokyo
Today’s show is a conversation with Michel Paradis, attorney and author of Last Mission to Tokyo. Early in WWII the U.S. launched the Doolittle Raids against Japan, attacking the Japanese mainland for the first time. Most of the raiders were able to land safely in allied China, but some were captured by the Japanese and put on trial for the attack. After the war, the Japanese officers who put the raiders on trial were, themselves, put on trial by the Americans. Last Mission to Tokyo tells the story of that trial, and plays out like a legal thriller or detective story, except the stakes are on the level of war crimes and international relations.
219 Patient Zero
In 1987 journalist Randy Shilts chronicled the early years of AIDS in North America in his book And the Band Played On. Shilts’ reporting was mostly concerned with the failures of the U.S. government and healthcare infrastructure to respond to AIDS, but much of the promotion and hype around the book focused on a man named Gaeten Dugas. Dugas had been a flight attendant for Air Canada, and Shilts blamed him for spreading AIDS throughout North America. Dugas, later named “Patient Zero” was demonized as the man spread a new, incurable disease across a continent.
However, in 2016 a study published in Nature exonerated Dugas, and revealed that Shilts and the public at large had unjustly blamed him for being the source of the epidemic. The truth was more complicated.