futility closet Archive

The story of D.B. Cooper, the only unsolved hijacking in American history

In 1971 a mysterious man hijacked an airliner in Portland, Oregon, demanding $200,000 and four parachutes. He bailed out somewhere over southwestern Washington and has never been seen again. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell the story of D.B. Cooper, the only unsolved hijacking in American history. We’ll also hear some musical disk drives and puzzle over a bicyclist’s narrow …

The bear who fought in World War II

During World War II a Polish transport company picked up an unusual mascot: a Syrian brown bear that grew to 500 pounds and traveled with his human friends through the Middle East and Europe. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll meet Wojtek, the “happy warrior,” and follow his adventures during and after the war. We’ll also catch up with a Russian …

How Allied prisoners used a Ouija board to escape a Turkish prison camp in World War I

How Allied prisoners used a Ouija board to escape a Turkish prison camp in World War I / Boing Boing In 1917 a pair of Allied officers combined a homemade Ouija board, audacity, and imagination to hoax their way out of a remote prison camp in the mountains of Turkey. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll describe the remarkable escape of …

Oklahoma outlaw Elmer McCurdy had a career that lasted 100 years — two-thirds of it as a corpse.

Oklahoma outlaw Elmer McCurdy had a career that lasted 100 years — two-thirds of it as a corpse. / Boing Boing In 1976 a television crew discovered a mummified corpse in a California funhouse. Unbelievably, an investigation revealed that it belonged to an Oklahoma outlaw who had been shot by sheriff’s deputies in 1911 and whose remains had been traveling the country ever since. In …

Could a dead Gettysburg soldier be identified by the photograph he held?

After the Battle of Gettysburg, a dead Union soldier was found near the center of town. He bore no identification, but in his hands he held a photograph of three children. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow the efforts of one Philadelphia physician to track down the lost man’s family using only the image of his children. We’ll also sample …