Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

HBM074: Benedict Arnold Makes People Nervous (Rumble Strip)

There is an unusual piece of carved grey stone in the hills of upstate New York.  It depicts the boot of a notorious American villain who was shot in the leg during the Battle of Saratoga.  Major General Benedict Arnold’s name is nowhere to be found on the inscription.  Instead, it refers only to the "most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army”.  The rest is implied.

Steve Sheinkin thinks that we can’t—and don’t—talk about Benedict Arnold’s actual history because it serves Americans an unpalatable contradiction.  Benedict Arnold won crucial battles for American independence, but he was also a turncoat.  

Steve was often asked to sterilize history during his career as a textbook writer.   Certain characters of the American Revolution enjoyed near godlike status.  Giving counterevidence to their omniciencense or foresight was practically blasphemy.  But that counterevidence exists, found in letters and personal journals of George Washington, Paul Revere and others.  And these records paint much more conflicted, funny, perverse and sometimes bumbling portraits of the country’s forefathers.  

But Steve’s bosses found it an issue of money.  His editors were especially risk-averse for fear of offending a seemingly all-powerful Texas State Board of Education, who, according to Steve, had no patience for course material that questioned manifest destiny, Protestant Christianity, or the free market. 

And that, Steve says, is why textbooks are boring.

Author Steve Sheinkin.
Image courtesy Erica Heilman/Rumblestrip

Steve Sheinkin is now the author of many children’s history books that tell the stories left on the cutting room floor of his former employer.   Recent releases are about the history of the atomic bomb, the permanently undefeated Carlisle Indian School football team, and, of course, Benedict Arnold.

We adapted this episode of Here Be Monsters from a brilliant piece by Erica Heilman that she made for her own podcast, Rumble Strip.  Rumble Strip is great, listen to it.  It’s part of The Heard.  Jeff Emtman re-edited this piece with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Music: Swamp Dog | | | The Black Spot

HBM073: A Trial Ghost Hunt

Ken Arnold and his wife Donna have opposite work schedules, but they are lucky to share a hobby. For the last nine years they have operated an all-volunteer group called the Puget Sound Ghost Hunters. They spend nearly every weekend together, along with a handful of other volunteers investigating paranormal activity in residential homes and notoriously haunted buildings all across western Washington. They don’t get paid for the work they do and over the years they have invested their own money into building a robust toolbox of paranormal detectors.

Puget Sound Ghost Hunters have seen some turnover recently, and Ken and Donna are in need of new team members. They put an ad up on their website and on their Facebook group inviting would-be ghost hunters to join their team of volunteers.

After a series of interviews, they narrowed it down to two candidates: Scott Harris and Tanya Routt, two people who seem to have what it takes to investigate reported paranormal activity with rigor and compassion.

But before Ken and Donna offer membership to Scott and Tanya, they arranged a trial ghost hunt to see how they behave in the field. The four of them meet at the Walker Ames House in Port Gamble, Washington. HBM producer Bethany Denton was invited to come along and record the night’s activity.

HBM072: Ant God [Explicit]

As far as gods go, Jacob Lemanski is more tepid than most.  Despite his omniscience, he feels unequipped to deal with the ethical decisions required of him.

Jacob is the owner of AntLife, a company that makes large ant farms.  In one of his prototype farms, he was experimenting with different soil types.  One of his formulations caused a problem: tunnel collapse.  And during a cave-in, one of his ants became trapped in a small underground cavern, just inches from the surface.

Jacobs ants live in an environment lit by programmable LEDs

Jacob’s newest ant farms have photos of nebulae as their backdrop.

In this episode, Jacob recalls his personal history with both passivity and intervention, and tries to figure out what’s best for his ants.  

Please Note: this episode contains a description of a violent assault.

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Music: The Black Spot

HBM071: The Evangelists of Nudism

Growing up Mormon in Montana, Bethany Denton had a phrase drilled into her mind from an early age: “modest is hottest.”  To her, it became a mantra even while many of her friends, especially other girls, struggled with Mormonism’s strict modesty standards. But never Bethany–she was fat enough to know that no one wanted to see that anyway.

By the time Bethany moved to Washington State for college, she had rejected the church and was looking for new, broader experiences.  She got a job as a campus security officer, started drinking, and began wading into feminism.  She looked for new, non-Mormon role models to help her find adventure. That’s when she met Helen, a punk rock pirate who invited Bethany to join her for an all-expenses paid nude vacation, courtesy of an eccentric tech millionaire who evangelized the merits of nudism.

Bethany said yes, and went with Helen to California to bake in the sun for a week, and to learn about the body she’d been hiding for the past 20 years, learn to decouple nakedness from sexuality.

And when she returned, she felt utterly changed.  But she’d soon tearfully discover she was not entirely untangled from childhood guilt.

Names in this story have been changed.

"Artist's" Renderings of what Bethany Saw
Photos by Jeff Emtman

This episode was written and produced by Bethany Denton, and was edited by Jeff Emtman. Nick White is HBM’s editor at KCRW.

Music:  Nym | | | Half Ghost  | | |  Lucky Dragons 

Review us on iTunes and follow us on Twitter.

wet-slop-plop.wav (Among Other Sounds)

There are about 10,000 files in the Here Be Monsters sound library.   HBM producer Jeff Emtman has been recording, synthesizing and downloading them since way back before this show started.  And of these thousands of sounds, there’s a tiny subset of them that just keep winding up on podcast episodes.

On this interstitial episode, Jeff plays back some of these heavily-used sounds and asks whether they occur because of an inherent goodness, a force of habit, or some kind of weird nostalgia he feels for the early days of the podcast. 

The site Jeff often downloads sound from is FreeSound.org (see Jeff’s download history).  A big thank you to the many recordists there who volunteer their work to the public domain, especially Felix Blume, a sound artist and sound engineer who is responsible for many of the site’s best recordings.