show episodes
 
Serial killers. Gangsters. Gunslingers. Victorian-era murderers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Each week, the Most Notorious podcast features true-life tales of crime, criminals, tragedies and disasters throughout history. This is an interview show, spotlighting authors and historians who have studied their subjects for years, and whose stories are offered with unique insight, detail, and historical accuracy.
 
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show series
 
On November 1st, 1843, a dejected servant named Amelia Norman followed her former beau Henry Ballard to the steps of the Astor House Hotel in New York City. There she stabbed him with a folding knife, barely missing his heart. The city's newspapers and moral reformers quickly embraced Miss Norman's cause, seeing it as an opportunity to change seduc…
 
I interview award-winning popular science writer Mary Roach about her new book Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law. It's a humorous look at the serious topic of human-animal conflict in an age of exploding population and global warming. Buy your very own copy of Fuzz. For more about Mary and her work visit MaryRoach.net. This was Mary's third appearan…
 
In November of 1407, Louis I, The Duke of Orleans and brother of France's "Mad" King Charles VI, is murdered on a street near his home in Medieval Paris. A police investigation ensues, surprisingly as thorough and detailed as any modern day crime investigation. My guest, Eric Jager, is the author of "Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection …
 
On April 24th, 1891, a Bowery prostitute named Carrie Brown (known locally as "Old Shakespeare") was found murdered and mutilated in the seedy East River Hotel. With the Jack the Ripper murders unsolved and still news, many believed that the notorious killer had traveled across the Atlantic to continue his bloody work in the United States - and thi…
 
I interview Harvard Professor Jennifer Hochschild about her new book Genomic Politics: How the Revolution in Genomic Science Is Shaping American Society. To buy a copy of Genomic Politics, click here. Plus: America is finally out of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the chaotic end to US withdrawal will be an ongoing political controversy; and, of course…
 
On March 25, 1935, little George Weyerhaueser, heir to one of the biggest fortunes in America, was kidnapped on his way home from school in Tacoma, Washington. His abductors would keep him manacled in a pit in the middle of the forest as they negotiated a $200,000 ransom with his frantic family. What soon followed would be the largest manhunt in th…
 
In the spring of 1853 the ill-fated William and Mary, an American sailing ship captained by the incompetent Timothy Stinson, departed from England carrying over 200 Dutch, Scotch, Irish and English emigrants, all bound for New Orleans. The voyage was an absolute disaster, replete with illness, bad weather, starvation, a shipwreck, and ultimately th…
 
I interview Dr. Obery M. Hendricks, Jr. about his new book Christians Against Christianity, a scathing rebuke from a progressive Christian perspective against how (white) conservative Christians pursue political power while ignoring the central teachings of Jesus regarding love, mercy, tolerance, and justice. Plus: It looks like America is getting …
 
Do you have a criminal from your family's past that you've always wanted to learn more about, but don't know where to start? On this special episode of Most Notorious, prolific British author Stephen Wade offers helpful tips on how to maneuver through what can be both a daunting and thrilling experience - digging up sordid details of long-lost vill…
 
I interview Representative Jared Huffman (Democrat representing California's 2nd District), co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Freethought Caucus. We talk about the origins, purpose, and recent activity of the Freethought Caucus; about perennial issues (like the national motto, the Pledge of Allegiance, legislative prayer, etc.) of concer…
 
Of all of the Jack the Ripper suspects, Montague Druitt is the most maligned in modern times, my guests argue, despite the fact that many of his contemporaries believed him to be the murderer of the Canonical Five before drowning himself in the Thames. Jonathan Hainsworth and Christine Ward-Agius are the authors of "The Escape of Jack the Ripper: T…
 
The Cherry Mine in Cherry, Illinois was built to be one of the safest in the United States. However on November 13th, 1909, it caught fire, killing 259 boys and men who were trapped inside, hundreds of feet below ground. A few miners eventually escaped - and later told the tale of their experiences battling darkness, thirst, fire and the ominous "B…
 
I interview John V. Petrocelli, Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University, about his new book The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit. What exactly is bullshit, and how does it differ from a lie? Why do people bullshit? And how can we become better at identifying and countering bullshit? These are all important questions given our c…
 
Roanoke Island is host every year to the famous "Lost Colony" outdoor drama. It was during the 1967 production that a young makeup artist named Brenda Joyce Holland went missing - her body eventually discovered floating in Albemarle Sound. A murder investigation ensued, with important evidence being mishandled and a slew of suspects to sort through…
 
I interview Muhammad Syed, President of Ex-Muslims of North America. We discuss the critical mission of his organization, as well as their new Apostate Report, which analyzes the demographics of Muslims who live in the United States and Canada who leave the faith, and breaks down the reasons their decision and the challenges they face as a result. …
 
On the evening of December 23rd 1881, three teenagers, alone in a farmhouse in Ashland Kentucky, were savagely murdered and the house set afire to cover the crime. What followed would be an investigation, trials, a lynching, and a massacre of Ashland citizens by state militia, in this fascinating and tragic series of events. My guest is Joe Castle,…
 
At the tail end of World War Two, a serial killer named James Waybern "Red" Hall, stalked the roads of Arkansas, Kansas and other middle American states, remorselessly murdering kind people who made the unfortunate decision to offer him a ride. My guest, Janie Nesbitt Jones, is the author of “The Arkansas Hitchhike Killer: James Waybern ‘Red’ Hall.…
 
I interview skeptical investigator, author, and podcaster Benjamin Radford. Our wide-ranging conversation covers various topics, including the Pentagon's pending release of a report on UFOs [latebreaking info: the nine-page report, titled "Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena" was released on June 25, 2021 by the Director of Nation…
 
When sheriff's deputies arrived at David and Allene Lamson's Palo Alto home on Memorial Day, 1933, they found David frantic over what he said was a terrible accident in their bathroom. Allene, he explained, had slipped when getting out of the bathtub and bashed her head on the sink, resulting in her death. Investigators, however, believed something…
 
In November of 1912, a young woman named Ella Barham journeyed home, on her horse, to her family farm in Boone County, Arkansas, but never arrived. After her body was discovered, murdered and dismembered, suspicions quickly centered on a neighbor, Odus Davidson, who was rumored to have been in love with Ella, a love never returned. My guest, Nita G…
 
I interview Daniel A. Sjursen, retired combat veteran and former West Point history instructor, about his new book A True History of the United States, which tackles head-on the dark aspects of America's past: racism, genocide, conquest, and capitalist hegemony. For more about Danny and his work visit SkepticalVet.com. To buy a copy of his book cli…
 
Imprisoned in a Turkish war camp during WW1, two British officers pull off an unbelievable con against their captors involving a Ouija board, an angry ghost and feigned madness - leading to a truly astonishing escape. My guest is bestselling author Margalit Fox, author of "Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Esca…
 
I interview historian Philip Jenkins about his new book Climate, Catastrophe, and Faith: How Changes in Climate Drive Religious Upheaval, in which he rewrites the familiar approaches to the history of religion, argues that climate is the missing dimension in religious history, and offers a timely discussion of future trends in religion during an er…
 
Albert Johnson is famous in Canadian crime history for leading Mounties on a sensational and deadly chase through the Yukon and Northwest Territories during the winter of 1931-32. How he managed to elude police over hundreds of kilometers in subzero temperatures through a mountainous wilderness is as much a mystery as his real identity. To this day…
 
Most of us are familiar with the critically acclaimed film called Catch Me If You Can, based on the autobiography of legendary confidence man Frank Abagnale. It's the story of a brazen teenage imposter who through charm and intellect was able to pass as an attorney, a doctor, a pilot and a university professor in the late 1960s and early 1970s. My …
 
I interview Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the American Humanist Association and author of Justice-Centered Humanism: How (and Why) to Engage in Public Policy for Good. We talk about how Humanists can expand their concerns from separation of church and state to current issues like race, class, gender, and sexuality; his impending retirement …
 
In 1897 a Belgian named Adrien de Gerlache, in command of a ship called the Belgica, sailed to Antarctica with the intent to be the first to reach the south magnetic pole. On the expedition was Norwegian Roald Amundsen, who would later become one of the world's most famous explorers, and Doctor Frederick Cook, who would become one of America's grea…
 
J. Frank Norris rose to fame as the controversial fundamentalist pastor of America's first megachurch, the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He used his pulpit, his newspaper and his radio station to battle his enemies in unscrupulous ways, and when one angry local businessman named Dexter Chipps marched into his office in July of 1926 to …
 
I interview German astrophysicist Dr. Heino Falcke, who led the international team of scientists and technicians that created the first image of a black hole. Heino's new book is Light in the Darkness: Black Holes, the Universe, and Us. For more about Heino and his work visit HeinoFalcke.org. To buy a copy of his book click here. Theme music courte…
 
One of the more enduring mysteries in true crime history involves Vincenzo Capone, Al Capone's eldest brother, who abruptly left his struggling family in New York City one day, eventually resurfacing as a lawman with a new identity: Richard Hart. His rise to fame - becoming one of the most famous Prohibition agents of the 1920s - coincided with his…
 
I interview Princeton's Dr. Michael Gordin about his new book On the Fringe: Where Science Meets Pseudoscience, an exploration of the "demarcation problem"; i.e., how to separate science from non-science. For more about Michael and his work visit MichaelGordin.com. To buy a copy of his book click here. (At the top of the show, a clip from Irish com…
 
Almost a decade before Bonnie and Clyde blasted their way into our collective public consciousness, Richard and Margaret Whittemore, aka "The Candy Kid" and "Tiger Girl" made national news, not only for their participation in deadly robberies in 1920s New York, but also for their romantic love story, played out through newspaper articles and photog…
 
I interview journalist (and senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity) Mustafa Akyol, author of Reopening Muslim Minds, in which he outlines how the Islamic world lost its way, and how it can move toward progress and modernity by leveraging traditions from its own past. For more about Mustafa and his work visit …
 
The late 1960s and early 1970s were witness to some of the worst serial killers in American history. Ranking at the top was Gerard John Schaefer, a cop who used his charisma to lure unsuspecting females into his car before torturing and murdering them in brutal fashion. My guest is Patrick Kendrick, who has spent the past 35 years gathering informa…
 
I interview scientist and science advocate Dr. David Robert Grimes about his new book Good Thinking: Why Flawed Logic Puts Us All at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World. For more about David and his work visit DavidRobertGrimes.com. To buy a copy of the book for yourself click here. Plus: The 21-year-old man who murdered eight people …
 
Holmes County, Ohio is one of the largest Amish communities in America. It was here, in the summer of 1957, that an Amish man named Paul Coblentz was murdered by two ex-cons in his family's rural farmhouse. My guests are David Meyers and Elise Meyers Walker, authors of the book "A Murder in Amish Ohio: The Martyrdom of Paul Coblentz". They not only…
 
Sophie Lyons was arguably the most successful (and colorful) female criminal of 19th-century America. She was a trained by her abusive parents at an early age in the art of thievery and scam artistry, and by the end of her life had accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars through her ill-gotten means. And in her wake, she had left a trail of fo…
 
I interview Emily Joy Allison, author of #ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing, in which she shares her deeply personal story and offers a way forward for survivors of church-based indoctrination and mistreatment. To buy a copy of this book click here. For more about Emily and her work visit EmilyJoyPoetry.com. Plus: …
 
One of the great historical Hollywood mysteries, still unsolved, revolves around the death of silver screen comedienne Thelma Todd. She was found dead in her car on December 16th, 1935, killed by carbon monoxide poisoning according to the Los Angeles coroner. But rumors have circulated for decades that she was murdered, with suspects that have incl…
 
My guest, Russell Shorto, has a unique connection to the subject of his latest book, "Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob". He is the namesake of his grandfather, a gangster who ran an Italian-American outfit in the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania in the 1940s and 50s. The organization would eventually crumble after the murder of a local bo…
 
I interview Ian Rosenberg, media lawyer, legal counsel for ABC News, and author of The Fight for Free Speech: Ten Cases that Define Our First Amendment Freedoms. For more about Ian and his book visit thefightforfreespeech.com. Plus: Donald Trump survived his second impeachment, and now the Republican Party continues the project of ejecting anyone w…
 
Murder, Inc. was arguably the most ruthless and successful hit squad in American history, killing hundreds of people throughout the 1930s. It was led by a brutal Brooklyn gangster named Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, who under orders from mob bosses like Lucky Luciano, Lepke Buchalter and Albert Anastasia, dispatched his hitmen across the country to kill a…
 
I interview Dr. Randall Balmer, historian and Episcopal priest, about his new book Solemn Reverence: The Separation of Church and State in American Life. To buy this book click here. Plus: Kudos to the US House of Representatives for removing Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments, as punishment for promulgating…
 
My guest, Ben Montgomery, tells the story of George Dinning, a former slave who was visited one night in 1897 by a mob, hellbent on driving him and his family off of their Kentucky farm. In an exchange of gunfire, Dinning killed a wealthy white man. Dinning then had to elude lynchers while fighting for his life in court. Unlikely allies would come …
 
In the autumn of 1920, two couples pulled into a campsite in Central Park, Montana, but only one left alive. Seth and Iva Danner would eventually turn on each other with their own versions of how John and Florence Sprouse were murdered, but only Seth would be tried, convicted, and put to death. And questions still linger - about whether justice was…
 
I interview Harvard economist Dr. Benjamin M. Friedman about his new book Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. To buy this book click here. Plus: Donald Trump gets impeached. Again. For inciting the riot at the US Capitol. And his impeachment trial begins in the Senate on February 9th. The Justice Department should show no mercy to the rioters who …
 
Somehow Jane Toppan managed to skirt through the first half of her life murdering people at will, before finally being caught and committed to an insane asylum in 1901. Her nursing background made her an expert with drugs, and she used that expertise to kill over thirty people, often torturing them by purposely prolonging their suffering. My guest …
 
In late August of 1876, an eighty-two-year-old Methodist minister, William England, his wife Selena, and two of their children were slaughtered on their North Texas farm. Selena, on her deathbed, insisted that one of the murderers was their neighbor, Ben Krebs, with whom they had suffered some ongoing troubles. But was he the actual killer, or did …
 
Rioters overrun the US Capitol for four hours, disrupting the formal tally of electoral votes by a joint session of Congress. Trump and his surrogates (and a long line of conservative leaders) bear direct responsibility for inciting this violence and feeding dangerous misinformation to their followers. Plus: Democrats will control both Congress and…
 
In late 1960s a serial murder stalked the city of London, Ontario, killing at will and baffling police. My guest is author, bookstore owner and historian Vanessa Brown. She has spent countless hours researching these horrific murders and looking for the killer, and joins us to share details and theories from her book, "The Forest City Killer: A Ser…
 
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