You know those moments when your jaw genuinely drops and you scramble to find whatever device has internet access so you can look up if what you just heard is actually true? Yeah, us too. And those stories (podcasts) are the ones we want to share so you can have the same mind-bending moments that we had.
We collected seven of the podcasts that have made us smarter, made us think harder, and made us take what we thought we knew into question. From Jack the Ripper to Hurricane Katrina, finding happiness and reveling in the unknown, these are the podcasts that had us telling everyone we know that they have to listen.
Bad Women: The Ripper Retold
“Bad Women: The Ripper Retold” podcast’s entire concept is jaw-dropping. The story of the most widely-known serial killer, Jack the Ripper, is literally nothing like anyone thought it was. Even Hallie Rubenhold. The historian and author specializing in 18th and 19th century social history, women’s history, and prostitution couldn’t help but wonder if the key to finding Jack was through his victims, and in her studies, she found out that they are not at all what we’ve been told. While standing over the bodies of nearly dismembered women in the back alley of Whitechapel in 1888, police just decided that these women were prostitutes, when there is no evidence in their history that says they were sex workers. In fact, all of them came from the upper class, growing up outside of the poverty-stricken East End where their lives were brutally ended, having husbands, jobs, and children. “Bad Women: The Ripper Retold” blew our minds from start to finish and had us wondering: why did we just take the original story of these women as the truth?
When it comes to this Slate Production, the lesson we most got out of it was that Americans are still fighting the same cultural battles we were 44 years ago. “One Year” takes us through the year 1977; when Elvis died, the first woman was hired as an MLB announcer, Anita Bryant lead the anti-gay movement, Jesus showed up on a tortilla and Alex Haley wrote Roots which traced his lineage back beyond American slavery to Africa. It was a pivotal year, but most poignant is the perspective it gives on America’s history and how little has actually changed.
Against the Rules with Michael Lewis
“NBA refs have achieved what police forces can only dream of: race blindness” is the line from Michael Lewis’ “Against the Rules” that left us speechless. And it’s just in the first episode. For the 20 or so minutes before this, we listen to Lewis talk about the advancements that have had to happen in refereeing with ever-improving technology, and you can’t help but think that at some point police forces must come up in one way or another. A discussion more prevalent than ever, “Against the Rules” analyzes who makes the rules, who enforces them, and why it’s best we question them.
Here Be Monsters
What we really love about “Here Be Monsters” is that all of the thinking has been done for us. Like it’s cover art, you just have to sit back and listen to Jeff Emtman’s contemplations and investigations into the details of vast concepts like fear, beauty, and death. Every episode will teach you something, even if it is just how to think more abstractly. Since 2012, “Here Be Monsters” has been putting out high-quality content on every level: production, concept, and presentation. His ponderings make us think beyond what we know and ask the questions to which we may never find an answer.
The Happiness Lab
Obviously, a Yale professor is going to make us question every notion we’ve previously held. Dr Laurie Santos has studied the psychology of happiness for decades. Her Yale psychology course is the most popular class in the university’s 300-year history and found that people often do the opposite of what will make them happy. “The Happiness Lab with Laurie Santos” not only rights the story about the murder of Kitty Genovese that pushed forward the creation of a universal emergency 911 line, but rights our own ideas of happiness.
Who would we be to leave Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” off of our list? The whole point of this podcast is to take overlooked and misunderstood events in history and let them rewrite themselves. From Wilt Chamberlain’s shooting technique to the Royal Academy of Art in England finally letting women in to the Satire Paradox of Thatcherism. Our histories’ lessons can often be the best teachers, but what happens when those lessons are taught differently than how they actually happened?
On August 29, 2005, the levees broke and the City of New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina – one of the defining tragedies of the 21st century that has been carved into the collective consciousness of a nation. “Floodlines” tells the stories of the survivors, not just of the storm and flood, but of negligence and racism. These are stories from Katrina that you didn’t hear and it will absolutely reshape what you thought you knew about it.