The Can’t Make This Up History Podcast
A Season with the Witch with J.W. Ocker (Ft. Haunted Happenstance)

A Season with the Witch with J.W. Ocker (Ft. Haunted Happenstance)

October 22, 2019

Happy Halloween!

My guest today is novelist and author J.W. Ocker whose book "A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts" documents his experience moving to "Witch City, USA" for the month of October. Salem is, of course, the site of the famous Witch Trials of 1692, and Ocker tells us about the tragedy that occurred over 300 years ago and how the city handles and embraces that legacy today. From its vibrant month-long celebration of Halloween called Haunted Happenings to its vibrant Wicca community of real life witches, Salem has become synonymous with witchcraft. Ocker is a travel writer with a passion for the strange and weird. He runs a very active blog at OddThingsIveSeen.com and he also hosts his own podcast of the same name. 

For this Halloween episode, I am also joined by a very special guest co-host, Jennifer, who hosts Haunted Happenstance, a creepy serial podcast set in a historic apartment full of unusual and spooky coincidences.

When you are done listening here, be sure to add both of their shows to your queue!

Saving Mona Lisa with Gerri Chanel (Patrons’ Pick)

Saving Mona Lisa with Gerri Chanel (Patrons’ Pick)

October 1, 2019

Hello and welcome to our first ever Patrons' Pick episode!

Four times a year, as a thank you for their support, I am handing over the programming reins to patrons of the show on Patreon where they can vote on who should come on the podcast. Over the summer, supporters of the podcast selected today's guest, Gerri Chanel, and her book "Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and Its Treasures from the Nazis." We have another poll up for our next Patrons' Pick episode in December. The candidates to invite to the show are: Mark Simmons, author of "Ian Fleming and Operation Golden Eye: Keeping Spain Out of World War II," Julia Flynn Siler, author of "The White Devil's Daughters: The Woman Who Fought Slavery in San Francisco's Chinatown," and Brian Jay Jones, author of "Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination." 

Well I put out the call to the show's supporters this summer and they selected today's guest, Gerri Chanel, and her book, "Saving Mona Lisa: The Battle to Protect the Louvre and Its Treasures from the Nazis" to be featured on the show. Gerri is a prize-winning freelance journalist who spent years in Paris researching the tale of how a band of brave museum curators painstakingly evacuated the world's largest art museum ahead of the German Blitzkrieg and then kept Europe's most prized artwork, including the Mona Lisa, out of the hands of Hitler and the Nazis. Gerri joins me from New York via Skype to discuss her book, "Saving Mona Lisa."

Visit show notes and extra resources at www.cmtuhistory.com 

The Volunteer with Jack Fairweather

The Volunteer with Jack Fairweather

September 10, 2019

We are all familiar with the story of the Holocaust and the mass genocide committed by the Third Reich. What you may have never heard of, however, is the story of the Polish patriot Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to enter the Auschwitz concentration camp as a prisoner in order to observe and report on the atrocities he witnessed.

My guest today is Jack Fairweather, a journalist and former war correspondent, whose new book, The Volunteer: One Man, An Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz, shines a light on Witold Pilecki's first hand reporting that had previously been hidden in Soviet Union archives for decades. 

I just want to give a word to like to listen to the show with little ears around. You might want to consider putting on a different episode and come back to this one later. Since we are talking about the Holocaust today and the conversation does get a little grim at times.

Lastly, I'd like to invite you to help the show. We don't do any kind of advertising here at the Can't Make This Up History Podcast. So the way we build the audience is all word of mouth. If you can spare a few seconds, please open up your Apple podcasts, Stitcher, or whatever you're using to listen to this and give the show a positive rating. If you're feeling really ambitious you can even leave a review and share what you like about the show. I'd love to give your review a shout out on a future episode. 

Bush Runner with Mark Bourrie (Ft. Cutting Class Podcast)

Bush Runner with Mark Bourrie (Ft. Cutting Class Podcast)

August 20, 2019

Welcome to the first ever crossover episode of the Can't Make This Up History Podcast!

My guest today is Mark Bourrie. Mark is a lawyer, journalist, and author from Canada who holds a PhD in media history. He has written over a dozen books on the history of Canada and the Great Lakes as well as contemporary issues facing the field of journalism. His latest book "Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson," profiles a 17th century adventurer from his early adulthood living among the Mohawk to his travels to England where he befriended King Charles II and survived the Great Fire of London to his being shipwrecked with Dutch pirates in the Caribbean. Radisson was a fur trader and entrepreneur as well as an admitted cannibal and a traitor to nearly every power in the New World. He was a founding member of the Hudson's Bay Company that still does business today some 350 years later and he is the namesake of the Radisson chain of hotels. It seems that if there was something worth doing in the 1600s, Radisson did it. 

Today I am joined by the hosts of Cutting Class Podcast. Jess and Joe are two high school history teachers from Tennessee who made a podcast around all the crazy things in history they would love to share with their students if they had more time. Cutting Class Podcast is a mixture of history and comedy that is always as funny as it is educational. You can check out Cutting Class Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.

Aloha Rodeo with Julian Smith

Aloha Rodeo with Julian Smith

July 30, 2019
When you think of the cowboy, what comes to mind? The long cattle drives of a Louis L'Amour novel? The shoot out at the O.K. Corral? Denim jeans, spurs, and a Stetson? The Marlboro Man?
 
My guest today shatters our preconceived notions of what a cowboy was and who he could be. Julian Smith is a journalist with a background in ecology who has written for several scientific publications including: Smithsonian, National Geographic, and and Wired Magazine. He joins me today from Oregon via Skype to discuss the book he co-authored with David Wolman, Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World's Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West. Julian and I discuss the lengthy history of cattle herding in Hawaii that actually predates the famous cattle drives of the Great Plains, the dangers of cowboy life on a tropical island, how the sport of rodeo was born in America, and the three men who introduced the world to Hawaiian cowboy culture.
The Polar Bear Expedition with James Carl Nelson

The Polar Bear Expedition with James Carl Nelson

July 9, 2019

Remember the time the United States invaded Russia? No? Well you're not alone. Few people know that the two superpowers of the Cold War at one point actually did participate in so-called "hot" war. In fact, even Presidents Nixon and Reagan gave speeches in which they claimed the US and Russia had never been in a direct confrontation. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

My guest today is James Carl Nelson, a former staff writer for The Miami Herald who has since written extensively on the American experience in World War I. He joins me from Minnesota via Skype to discuss his latest book, "The Polar Bear Expedition: The Heroes of America's Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919." Jim and I discuss the reasons the Allies thought it necessary to intervene in the Russian Civil War, the experience of the AEF - North Russia (or the polar bears as they became known) during their nearly year long campaign in Russia near the arctic circle, and what lessons this "strange little war" has for us living 100 years later. 

After the show, head over to www.cmtuhistory.com to check out the show notes and extra resources. 

Black Flags, Blue Waters with Eric Jay Dolin

Black Flags, Blue Waters with Eric Jay Dolin

June 18, 2019

We are fascinated with pirates. Whether it's Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney, the Assassin's Creed Black Flag video game, or Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Treasure Island, it seems we've always loved the Age of Piracy. But my guest today says the pirates we see in the movies don't perfectly lineup with the real pirates who sailed the high seas in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In this episode, I talk with historian Eric Jay Dolin who's most recent book, Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious Pirates, profiles many of the pirates you know and some you've likely never heard of. Eric and I discuss how integral piracy was to colonial America, what pirate life was really like, and how the real money wasn't in the Caribbean but all the way across the globe in the Indian Ocean. Eric then tells us about the explosion of piracy in the New World following the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1715 and the ways we started immortalizing pirates in pop culture even when there were pirates still sailing the Caribbean. 

After the show is over check out the show notes on our webpage www.cmtuhistory.com for extras and resources.

Battle for the Marble Palace with Michael Bobelian

Battle for the Marble Palace with Michael Bobelian

May 28, 2019

Remember when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia as a Justice on the Supreme Court in 2016 only to have that nomination complete shut down Senate Republicans? Or remember when President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Court resulting Kavanaugh's sexual history played out before the national media?

My guest today writes about the Supreme Court for a living and has quite thoughtfully asked if the nomination process has always been so brutal? Michael  Bobelian is the author of Battle for the Marble Palace: Abe Fortas, Earl Warren, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and the Forging of the Modern Supreme Court in which he identifies the 1968 nomination of Abe Fortas to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as the turning point when what had been a mundane procedural vote became a bitter partisan feud. 

Michael is himself a lawyer as well as a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He covers the Supreme Court and other legal subjects for Forbe.com, and has contributed to numerous publications including Reuters, the LA Times, and NPR.

Michael joined me for a fascinating Skype interview about the Fortas nomination and what that means for us today.

Liberated Spirits with John Schuttler

Liberated Spirits with John Schuttler

May 7, 2019

Welcome! You are listening to the Can't Make This Up History Podcast. I am your host Kevin, and today we raise a glass of cold water in honor of prohibition. 

 

In the 86 years since its repeal, we have romanticized the era of the speakeasy and the gangster in film and literature. But what gets lost in popular culture is the prohibition movement's origins in the women's rights movement, how tricky the whole ideal was to enforce, and how enforcing the dry law put it at odds with Americans' constitutional freedoms.

 

I'm joined today by John Schuttler who co-wrote along with the late Hugh Ambrose, "Liberated Spirits: Two Women Who Battled Over Prohibition." John is a professional research historian who has made a 20-year career of digging through archives and librarians on behalf of authors, companies, and government bodies. In our discussion we cover two women with unique vantage points regarding prohibition. The first is Pauline Sabin, an influential East Coast socialite, who helped shape policy within the machinery of the Republican Party. The second is Mabel Walker-Willebrandt who served as Assistant Attorney General of the United States for most of the 1920s and was responsible for enforcing the 18th Amendment. 

Valley Forge with Bob Drury

Valley Forge with Bob Drury

April 16, 2019

We're talking military history today and invoking the the Indispensable Man, His Excellency, George Washington. 

My guest today is Bob Drury. Bob is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist-turned-author who has written or co-written over a dozen books. He joins us on the podcast to talk about his most recent book, Valley Forge, that he co-wrote with Tom Clavin. Today, Bob and I separate the myths of Valley Forge from the reality, how George Washington became the one man the American Revolution could not do without, and how the hellish six months in Valley Forge tempered the Continental Army from a ragtag militia into a professional fighting force capable of ousting the largest empire in the world.

This one is a lot of fun. With this being a military topic, you will hear some mild language in this episode, so if you like to listen with the kids in the car, I just wanted to give you a heads up.