Welcome to The Unusual History of Every Thing, Season 6!
If you love weird history mixed with archaeological findings and some entertaining stories, then Melanie & Karen have a podcast for you!
New episodes air every Tuesday on all podcast outlets, with occasional hilarious accompanying video blogs on our YouTube channel! Check them out and don't forget to subscribe and leave a review!
The Unusual History of Every Thing is co-hosted, written and produced by Melanie Dellas and Karen Lacy.
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Season 6, Episode 32
Giving the Evils: The Meaning & Origins of Evil Eye Superstitions
Most people believe in some sort of superstition, whether it’s throwing salt over your shoulder to keep the devil away, or preventing bad luck by not walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror. It may seem silly, but these superstitions have been around for thousands of years and are passed down from generation to generation like grandma’s keepsakes. Some believe superstitions are super silly, but there are logical origins behind each one. On this episode, we look at the origins of some evil eye superstitions and just how afraid we still are of bad luck and evil spirits.
Season 6, Episode 31
From Snail Water to Sheep Lungs: History’s Strange Way of Staying Healthy
We all try to stay healthy and exercise, but the holidays tend to add a few extra pounds to our waistline. Throw in a pandemic or two and staying healthy is tops in our minds. Well, we’re here to help. You see, throughout history, various cultures have had the same problems and came up with some unusual food combinations to become healthier. From drinking snail water to roasting sheep lungs and eating a dead body part or two, it's clear to us where modern bizarre health food kicks and medicines come from. On this episode, we help you with your New Year’s resolution of staying healthy and avoiding COVID by offering up some tasty treats from history’s strangest food remedies.
Season 6, Episode 30
The Un-Yule-sual History of the Christmas Yule Log
The yule log, which wasn’t a log at all, but instead an entire tree, is originally a Nordic tradition dating back to medieval times. The burning of the Yule log is one of the oldest pagan rituals, which was lit to entice the sun to return as part of the Yule festival in Scandinavia. On this episode, we explore the history of the yule log and why people refused to cut the tree into pieces before they burned it.
Season 6, Episode 29
Knecht Ruprecht: Santa’s Sinister Sidekick
Santa Claus's gift bringing at Christmas time really began in northern and central Europe before spreading to other parts of the world. And some of the things that spread with him were his little helpers. We're not talking about the elves, although they did come along for the ride, no, we're talking about his darker little friends, the ones who handed out punishments. On this episode, we’re hanging out in Germany with St. Nick’s scary friend who smacks kids with his dirty bag of ashes if they’re on the naughty list.
Season 6, Episode 28
The Unusual KISS-tory of Mistletoe
Mistletoe has long been a romantic, fun Christmas tradition, but it didn’t start out that way. In fact, the plant is sort of gross when you think about it. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon words “mistel,” meaning “dung,” (which is poop, FYI) and “tan,” meaning branch. Calling it a dung branch makes sense, as the plant’s seeds are spread when birds poop them out onto the trees below. The seeds then attach themselves to the branches of whatever tree they were pooped out on, and use a connective appendage called a haustorium to suck the water and nutrients out of its host tree. Yes, the pretty Christmas kissing plant is a parasite. On this episode, we look at how a plant that sucks nutrients from its host tree became the symbol for sucking face at Christmas.
Season 6, Episode 27
The Domovoy: “He of the House”
Every house has its quirks, its moans and groans, its creaks and cracks. Most people attribute these sounds to the house settling or the wind blowing against the windows and walls. However many people believe there’s something just a tad more supernatural to blame it on. Some blame it on brownies, some point the finger at elves, but in Russia and the Ukraine, the Domovoy is the culprit. On this episode, we investigate one potential reason why so many houses creak, and what could be responsible for that missing left sock.
Season 6, Episode 26
Jingle Bells for Thanksgiving?
As America celebrated Thanksgiving, millions of people prepared their tables with roasted turkey and pumpkin pie, they turned on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and some football, and gathered ‘round the table to sing the traditional Thanksgiving Day song – Jingle Bells. On this episode, we look at the history behind one of the holiday season’s most iconic songs, and how it all started with Thanksgiving and made its way into space.
Season 6, Episode 25
Dowsing for the Dead
When you think of dowsing or using divining rods, most people’s minds automatically go to the two-pronged sticks used to find water. And that’s true, that’s what they are said to do. But what most people don’t know is that divining rods have been used for thousands of years around the world to find metal, the depth of oil in the ground, hidden tunnels and even bodies buried beneath our feet. On this episode, we look at how diving rods are being used to find more than just water.
Season 6, Episode 24
Sneezing Out Your Soul
Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages seem to be the parents of a whole host of superstitions many people practice today: carving crosses in Brussels sprouts, fear of the number 13, and this episode's topic: Sneezing out your soul.
Season 6, Episode 23
Brussels Sprouts: The Evil Within
Brussels sprouts aren’t the favorite of many, and there could be a good reason for that. The often-overboiled side dish comes complete with a mushy texture, yellowed color and a rotten-egg smell that stays in your house -- and your hair -- for days. But, if you cook them right, it’s a whole other story. And you better cook them right, because some say evil lurks between the leaves.
Season 6, Episode 22
The Unusual History of Lucky Number 13
The number 13 really does have some baggage attached to it, and not all of it is deserving! We as a society may like to think we aren’t superstitious like people from ancient times or even the Middle Ages, but in fact we all still do a lot of things that stem from the superstitions of our ancestors. And the number 13 falls right in there with evil eye amulets, black cats and knocking on wood. On this week's episode, we’re going to show you how the number 13 got such a bad rap.
Season 6, Episode 21
Gargoyles: The Unusual Origins of Water Vomiters
Although the gargoyle as we know it today stems from medieval France, in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, an early form of the gargoyle took shape first. On this episode, as we gear up for Halloween, we thought we’d chip away at the stony exterior of gargoyles and see what historical goodies we can find.
Season 6, Episode 20
The Weird History of Epidemics & Hauntings
Hauntings, as we all know, usually take place in places that have tragic histories. Throw in some paranormal conductors, like water, limestone or fault lines, and you have the makings for the next great scary movie. On this episode, we enter at our own risk three hospitals that were the final resting places for epidemic victims – victims who are said to still call those places home.
Season 6, Episode 19
Holding A Wake Over A Corpse & Eating Their Sins: Old Traditions in Modern Times
Death and burial rituals have been part of human existence since the beginning. What that has looked like and still looks like varies depending on the culture, time period and location. On this episode, we explore the ancient origins of a modern funeral tradition, as well as the strange history of eating someone’s sins.
Season 6, Episode 18
The Unusual History of the First Museums
On this episode, we take a step back in time to when museums were considered collections of objects and not institutions, and Cabinets of Curiosities were prized possessions.
Season 6, Episode 17
Got Blood? Rituals, Sacrifice and Speaking to the Gods
Blood is the life force of humans and animals alike. And so for thousands of years it was believed that blood would in turn give the gods life, which would make the gods want to do nice things for the people. These blood rituals weren’t just animal and human sacrifices, they also included small amounts of blood used in ritualistic ways. On this episode, we examine some archaeological finds that point to a time when blood rituals allowed people to communicate with the gods and seek glory in the afterlife.
Season 6, Episode 16
That Time of the Month: Where ‘Period’ and ‘Mittelschmerz’ Came From
While researching our previous podcast on feminine products, we came across two words that made us stop and think for a minute. On this episode, we take a look at the bloody history of the words “period” and “mittelschmerz.”
Season 6, Episode 15
If the Foot Fits: Cinderella’s Origin Stories
One of the most known and treasured fairy tales in history, as it is today, is Cinderella. Almost everyone knows the tale about a young girl who is forced to live as a servant and becomes a princess who lives happily ever after when good triumphs over evil. However, where this story originated, the original meaning, and the full impact of this fairy tale on American society is not as well known.
Season 6, Episode 14
The Strange Histories of Some Kick-Ass Female Rulers
There are many incredible, strong, talented women in the world – dead and alive. And in this episode, we focus on a small handful who ruled for an unusual length of time, did some odd things along the way, and kicked their enemies’ butts up and down their lands.
Season 6, Episode 13
Dirty Hands, Dirty Bodies: The Evolution of Bathing
Washing your hands seems like common sense, especially if they’re dirty. But forget about what we know now about germs, viruses and bacteria. Forget how gross the feeling of gritty dirt is in your mouth because your hands were in the mud when you picked up that apple to take a bite. Forget about changing a baby’s diaper and then rubbing your eyes and getting pink eye. Instead, let’s focus on how society in general went from cleanliness to dying from infections, back to cleanliness. On this episode, we take a look at the uncommon history behind one of the most common things we know – washing our hands and bodies.
Season 6, Episode 12
From Brain Hooks to Poison Tea: How Different Cultures Preserve their Dead
When you think about mummification, I’m sure Ancient Egypt is the first thing that springs to mind. Although that culture’s mummies are absolutely some of the coolest, they’re not the only ones who mummified their dead. In fact, mummification is still going on today thanks in part to Mother Nature and some odd things live people do to themselves. On this episode, we unwrap the layers of mystery around mummification and get to the heart of how various cultures preserve their dead.
Season 6, Episode 11
The Unusual History of the Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal
On this episode, we’re going to suck you into the unusual history of the Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal – the Straw. In order to fully grasp the unusual history of the straw (get it, grasping at straws? Ha Ha), we need to go back in time before Friedman’s patented “Drinking Tube,” a.k.a., the bendy straw; before a man named Marvin Stone discovered how to make straws not disintegrate in his mint juleps. We have to go all the way back to 3000 BC. Underground, as a matter of fact. Into the tomb of Pu-Abi, a Sumerian queen of Ur, which is modern-day Iraq.
Season 6, Episode 10
Vampires in Venice
Vampires in Venice. It sounds like the title of an Anne Rice novel, a dark supernatural romance. But alas, this podcast episode isn’t a dark romance, rather it’s the true story of how humans take what they do not understand and create legends that endure through the centuries – and make great Halloween costumes. On this episode, we’re going to take a bite out of vampire history and dig deep into some vampire burial grounds around the world.
Season 6, Episode 9
The Month San Diego Almost Drowned
It all began in 1915 during yet another drought affecting Southern California. The San Diego City Council, in a 4-1 vote, decided to hire a man named Charles Hatfield, a self-proclaimed Moisture Accelerator, to make it rain – and all for the low, low price of $10,000, to be paid only if he succeeded. His chemical cocktail would soon prove too successful, and that’s when everything began to go awry.
Season 6, Episode 8
Wedding Spiders, Watchdog Crickets & Other Good Luck Bugs
Whenever you think of good luck charms you automatically think of bugs, right? Afterall, who wouldn’t want tiny critters flying around you, crawling all over you or even being consumed by you as long as good fortune followed? Humans are always concocting new and interesting ways of using the things around them for random things, and we’re going to tell you about a few creepy crawlies that do their jobs well. Itchy yet?
Season 6, Episode 7
Wedding Cakes: From Testicle-Filled Bridal Pies to Sweet Confections
Nowadays most weddings include a beautifully decorated, sweet-filled cake with layers and tiers and all sorts of fun stuff. But it wasn’t always like that. On this episode, we talk about the evolution of the wedding cake from being filled with testicles, pieces of throat and rooster combs to being smashed on the bride’s head. Bon Appetit!
Season 6, Episode 6
The Unusual History of Things You Can Throw at Weddings
Warding off evil has been a thing forever. People don’t want it around them, and part of the evil that lurks about is called bad luck. Who wants that? No one, especially brides, grooms and people attending weddings. And since it’s wedding season, we thought we’d start our journey into things people have historically thrown at weddings by looking underneath the wedding dress first. You probably don’t think there’s much of anything to throw under there, but you’d be wrong! On this episode, we explore the history behind some of the things people used to throw at weddings – and sometimes still do.
Season 6, Episode 5
Armpit Apples & Other Unusual Courtship Rituals
On this episode, we take a look at how courting someone used to be, strange dating rituals that led to marriage, and how stinky sweat-infused apple slices and the severed heads of your enemies used to be tokens of love. Yes, they say, “love makes the world go round” and “love is strange,” and throughout most of human history both phrases are true.
Season 6, Episode 4
The Neanderthal Hashtag
Three-hundred feet inside Gorham’s cave just east of the Strait of Gibraltar, a team of European researchers uncovered strange markings on a bedrock ledge that jutted out from the wall a few feet above the cave floor. The really strange part: The markings were very similar to our modern-day hashtag. But that’s just “scratching the surface.” On this episode, we do some digging into the mystery of the Neanderthal hashtag found carved in a cave near the Strait of Gibraltar.
Season 6, Episode 3
Death Dresses & Victorian Fashion
Tuberculosis has a long track record of death and devastation throughout human history, but only one era romanticized it and created a fashion trend because of it: consumptive chic. On this episode, we explore how tuberculosis transformed the world of Victorian-era fashion.
Season 6, Episode 2
The Unusual History of Atlantis
The myth of Atlantis has captivated the hearts and minds of many for over 2000 years. People work endlessly to discover the long-lost city, making guesses as to where it could have sunk and how. Could it be near the Straits of Gibraltar, in the Mediterranean Sea, or off the coast of Everglade City? Could an earthquake or volcano sink an entire civilization? Some venture to say that the Atlanteans were aliens and have long gone home to their planet. Still others believe this civilization became what we today call mermaids. On this episode, we travel to the depths of the ocean and try to figure out where the fabled Atlantis now rests.
Season 6, Episode 1
From Dwarves to Elves to Gardens: The Origin of the Gnome
Welcome to Season 6 of The Unusual History of Every Thing, where we will be revamping a few of the episodes you heard all those years ago in Season 1, and sprinkling them in with new ones. On this episode, we’re taking you back to Season 1, Episode 1 where we’ll show you how gnomes went from dwarves to elves to gardens.