Damn Interesting



A collection of fascinating true stories from history, science, and psychology. In text and podcast form.


Death by Derivatives

Death by Derivatives:

In April of 1873, an unhappy man walked along Clark Street in downtown Chicago. His name was Aymar de Belloy. There was a gun in his pocket, and a nickel – enough for one final glass of beer. He entered Kirchoff's tavern and sat at a table, then changed his mind about the beer. He [...]


Ghoulish Acts & Dastardly Deeds

Ghoulish Acts & Dastardly Deeds:

On 29 March 1951, shortly after 5 p.m., a hand-grenade-sized pipe bomb exploded in the landmark Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Ordinarily, the detonation of a pipe bomb in a busy commuter terminal at rush hour would be cause for grave public concern, yet the local news media barely acknowledged the event. It [...]


No Country For Ye Olde Men

No Country For Ye Olde Men:

The year was 1721. The ship was called the Prince Royal, its destination the American colonies. And the cake–the cake was gingerbread. The British crew shouldn’t have been surprised to find the metal file in the cake. Its stasher, James Dalton–a notorious thief and escape artist–had been shuttled involuntarily between Britain and America more times [...]


Fire and Dice

Fire and Dice:

Downstairs in the casino, little remained of the MGM Grand Hotel’s former glory. In the early morning hours of 21 November 1980, a fire had broken out in the Las Vegas landmark, ripping through the lounge in an explosive wave that instantly killed everyone in the area. Bodies sat frozen in front of what had [...]


The Reconstruction of Ulysses S. Grant

The Reconstruction of Ulysses S. Grant:

In the second half of the 19th century, few Americans were better known–and revered–than the man whose face looks out today from the $50 bill. Ulysses S. Grant led Union troops to victory in the American Civil War, then thwarted attempts by President Andrew Johnson to suppress fundamental civil rights of newly freed black Americans. [...]


The Greatest Baroque Composer Never Known

The Greatest Baroque Composer Never Known:

As a choirmaster in 1870s Salzburg, Innocenz Achleitner often saw sheet music treated in a less-than-reverent manner. It might be scattered across a composer’s desk, crammed into vocalists’ folios, or even marred with personal notes about bowings or breath marks. Never before, however, had he seen it wrapped around vegetables. Only about 80% of men [...]


Foreign Exchange(s)

Foreign Exchange(s):

By the summer of 1944, the Mount Washington Hotel had been mothballed for two years. Nestled deep in the Appalachian mountains, the sprawling resort was once a favorite getaway for wealthy New Englanders. But in the wake of the Great Depression and the second war to end all wars, the end appeared nigh for this [...]


Starving for Answers

Starving for Answers:

In early 1945, 36 American men lay in their bunks in a windowless room, each man alone with his thoughts as he tried to fall asleep despite the hunger that gnawed at his gut. Just a few weeks earlier, they had all been fit, healthy young men, eager to serve their country. But then their [...]


The Voyager Golden Record Experience

The Voyager Golden Record Experience:

In 1977, in response to a fortuitous alignment of the outer planets of our solar system, NASA launched space probes Voyager 1 and 2 to tour the outer planets and transmit photographs back to Earth. In that capacity the Voyagers were spectacularly successful, sending tens of thousands of images of planets and moons back to [...]


Ten Minutes in Lituya Bay

Ten Minutes in Lituya Bay:

In 1952, geologist Don Miller was conducting a petroleum investigation in the region surrounding the Gulf of Alaska when he encountered a vaguely disquieting geological anomaly. While surveying a remote fjord known as Lituya Bay, Miller found that the dense, mature forest that surrounded the bay ended abruptly hundreds of feet upslope of the water. [...]