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Most Notorious! A True Crime History Podcast
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Most Notorious! A True Crime History Podcast

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Serial killers. Gangsters. Gunslingers. Victorian-era murderers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Each week, the Most Notorious podcast features true-life tales of crime, criminals, tragedies and disasters throughout history. Host Erik Rivenes interviews authors and historians who have studied their subjects for years, and the stories are offered with unique insight, detail, and historical accuracy.
163 Episodes
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The city of Boston was put to the test when occupying British soldiers open fire onto a crowd of rioters on March 5th, 1770.  Known forever as the Boston Massacre, it later became a rallying cry for an American revolution.  My guest is Carlton College's Professor Serena Zabin, author of "The Boston Massacre: A Family Affair". Her research into the pivotal event breaks some long standing myths on the Massacre, including introducing evidence that suggests that many of the British soldiers who occupied Bostonian homes in the late 1760s actually assimilated smoothly into the city during their stay.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On November 5th, 1934, in the small coal mining town of Kelayres, Pennsylvania, Republican political boss Joe Bruno took an extreme and shocking step.  Worried and agitated about a possible loss in the following day's elections, he and his family used his large weapons arsenal to fire into a Democratic parade.  My guest, Stephanie Hoover, author of "The Kelayres Massacre: Politics & Murder in Pennsylvania's Anthracite Coal Country", outlines the political tensions leading up to the terrible event, give details of the shootings, and explains what  happened to the killers afterwards.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
As political factions battled in pre-Civil War Washington D.C., a sensational sex and murder scandal suddenly grabbed the nation's attention. New York Congressman Daniel Sickles, having learned that his wife Teresa was in the midst of a torrid love affair with U.S. Attorney Philip Barton Key II, angrily confronted him in a park with fatal consequences.  My guest is Chris DeRose, New York Times bestselling author, historian and former law professor. He shares details from his meticulously researched book, "Star Spangled Scandal: Sex, Murder and the Trial That Changed America".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the years following World War One, thousands of young women were hired to paint radium on watch and clock dials so they would glow in the dark. As a result, many of the women would suffer the excruciating effects of radiation poisoning, which often lead to their deaths at an early age.  My guest, Kate Moore, is author of the New York Times bestselling book "Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women". She joins me to talk about this terrible tragedy (which would be covered up by the guilty corporations for decades) and the bravery of the afflicted women, who fought an uphill battle for justice.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In early 19th century Australia, escaping from a penal colony was not an easy task, mostly because there was no where to go. Six foot five William Buckley did just that, however, wandering though the wild Australian bush before being taken in by a tribe of aborigines, close to death. For the next thirty-two years he would live with the tribe, before finally meeting famed bushranger and bounty hunter John Batman.  My guest, Adam Courtenay, is an Australian author and historian, and he joins me to talk about this legendary character and his role in one of the most dangerous and tragic eras in Australia's history. His book is called "The Ghost and the Bounty Hunter." Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas was once home to some of the most notorious criminals in America, including Carl Panzram, Robert "the Birdman" Stroud, Frank Nitti and George "Machine Gun" Kelly. Part of its history includes one of the most exciting prison breaks in U.S. history, when the "Leavenworth Seven" kidnapped Warden Tom White in December of 1931 White and busted out, only to face one wild obstacle after another.  My guest, Kenneth LaMaster, is not only a Leavenworth prison historian but a former correctional officer of the institution. He offers some background history on Leavenworth, tells the tale of the breakout, and even shares stories of his own personal brushes with infamous criminals while working there. His book is called "Leavenworth Seven: The Deadly 1931 Prison Break".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Calamity Jane is without question one of the most iconic figures in Old West history. She's been portrayed innumerable times in film and television, most recently in the HBO series Deadwood as Wild Bill Hickock's loyal buckskin-wearing friend and sidekick. Her reputation proceeded her wherever she went, as a master bullwhacker, an excessive drinker, a riveting storyteller, and as a woman who found herself in some of the most pivotal moments in American western history. But how much of her larger-than-life personality was based on fact, and how much was exaggerated?  My guest, Linda Jucovy, helps separate fact from fiction in this episode of Most Notorious. She is the author of "Searching for Calamity: The Life and Times of Calamity Jane".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Black Death. Typhoid fever. Pellagra. In the early 1900s they invaded the United States, killing thousands. One of the most notorious historical figures associated with disease was "Typhoid Mary", who unknowingly infected untold numbers of people with typhoid fever while cooking in kitchens along the east coast.  My guest, Gail Jarrow, is the author of three books which she calls her "Deadly Diseases Trilogy". They are "Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America", "Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary", and "Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat". She discusses the history of these epidemics in America, and how early 20th century doctors tried to combat them.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Just over a hundred years ago, the world suffered through a brutal influenza pandemic, which infected up to a quarter of the world's population. It was nicknamed the Spanish Flu, and killed millions of people.  My guest, John Barry, is an historian, adjunct faculty at Tulane University, and author of the New York Times bestseller "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Greatest Plague in History". He joins me to offer some historical perspective on the disease, in an effort to shed some light on our own current battle with COVID-19.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
While the Coen brothers refuse to confirm it, many believe that their movie "Fargo" was inspired by the Carol Thompson murder case. She was viciously killed in her comfortable Saint Paul home by a hitman hired by her eccentric husband, T. Eugene Thompson, in March of 1963, leaving behind four small children. It was an absolutely sensational case, one not only covered extensively by local press, but by national and international press as well.  Longtime journalist William Swanson covers the case with me. His book is called "Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Some of the most notorious cases in American history were solved by the masterful techniques of forensics expert Dr. Edward Oscar Heinrich. He was known as the "American Sherlock Holmes" for his use of science and deduction to solve what many considered unsolvable cases, including Oregon's infamous 1923 Siskiyou "train robbery"/multi-murder, and San Francisco's 1921 Fatty Arbuckle murder case.  My guest, once again, is Kate Winkler Dawson. She talks about Heinrich's pioneering crime-solving techniques, his compelling, complicated personality, and his personal troubles as well. She is the author of "American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In late October of 1928, authorities in the small town of Lake Bluff, Illinois discovered a grisly scene in the village hall basement. They found a young woman named Elfreida Knaak, naked, horribly burned and barely clinging to life, next to a furnace. From that point on, investigators would uncover a bizarre story, including a secret affair, mystical Christian rituals, and contradictory deathbed confessions. My guest is historian Kraig Moreland, who has researched this hometown mystery for years. His book is called "Furnace Girl: The Mysterious Case of Elfrieda Knaak". Thanks, The RealReal for supporting Most Notorious. Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
On March 6th, 1873, a brutal double ax murder took the lives of two Norwegian women living on the isolated Smuttynose Island, one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. My guest is J. Dennis Robinson, a prolific writer, historian and steward of Smuttynose Island, and author of "Mystery on the Isles of Shoals: Closing the Case on the Smuttynose Ax Murders of 1873". He not only tells the story of the murders of Karen and Anethe Christensen, the harrowing escape by Karen's sister, Marin, and the capture and trial of Louis Wagner, but of the rocky and desolate island itself, and it's role in the horrific and bloody affair. He also addresses the recent conspiracy theories, fueled by a popular novel, that Marin was the actual murderer. Thanks, The RealReal for supporting Most Notorious. Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
David Grann, author of the New York Times Bestselling "Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI", is my guest on this week's episode of Most Notorious. He talks about his research into a spree of murders of oil-rich Osage Indians in 1920s Oklahoma. Dozens and dozens of people were being murdered in a crime wave that became so sensational that J Edgar Hoover and his fledgling F.B.I. were forced to intercede. A team of agents, led by famed lawman Tom White would eventually uncover a diabolical plot to slaughter an entire family. Thanks The RealReal for supporting Most Notorious. Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the summer of 1937, in an idyllic neighborhood of Los Angeles called Inglewood, the unspeakable happened. Three little girls were lured from a park, assaulted and murdered. The sensational case, known as the "Babes of Inglewood" Murders, would shake Depression-era America.  My guest, Pamela Everett, is not only an attorney with the InnocenceProject and a UNR professor of criminal justice, but also the niece of two of the girls who were killed that day, Madeline and Melba Marie. She draws some very interesting conclusions from her research into the case, and shares her serious doubts about the guilt of the man convicted of the murders. A second suspect, instead, seems more likely to be the killer.  Her bestselling book is called Little Shoes: The Sensational Depression-Era Murders That Became My Family's Secret.  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Alvin "Creepy" Karpis could claim many things in his life. He was not only the brains behind the Barker-Karpis Gang, but the last public enemy of the 1930s, one of J. Edgar Hoover's most hated adversaries, and the longest serving inmate in Alcatraz history.  Julie Thompson, author of "The Hunt for the Last Public Enemy in Northeastern Ohio: Alvin "Creepy" Karpis and his Road to Alcatraz" is my guest on this week's episode of Most Notorious. She reveals fascinating details about this brilliant, cunning and dangerous bankrobber-killer. She also tells the little known story of Karpis's final heist in Garrettsville, Ohio - the last successful train robbery in American history.  Thanks The RealReal for supporting Most Notorious. Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this episode, we examine the most notorious witch hunt in American history, in Salem, Massachusetts. Hundreds of women and men were accused of witchcraft by young, "afflicted" girls, and many were executed.  My guest is Mary Beth Norton, award-winning historian and professor of American history at Cornell University. She joins me to talk about her book, "In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692". Besides explaining the details on how the crisis unfolded, she dispels some of the common myths surrounding this infamous historical event.  Thanks, The RealReal! Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In early 1946, a serial killer nicknamed "The Phantom Killer" (aka the "Moonlight Killer") terrorized the citizens of Texarkana (Arkansas and Texas). It was most sensational series of murders in post-war America.  Dr. James Presley is my guest, and the author of "The Phantom Killer - Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town In Terror". He walks us through the terrible slayings and builds a case for who he thinks the real killer was. He also tells the story of meeting the likely murderer under unusual circumstances. Thanks, The RealReal! Sign up for an account to receive $25 off your first purchase within one week and then get 20% off select items at therealreal.com with promo code REAL. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Most of us are probably familiar with the Kingston Trio song, "Tom Dooley", but fewer may realize that it was based on the true life murder of Laura Foster in 1866 North Carolina.  Charlotte Corbin Barnes is an unapologetic supporter of Tom Dooley's innocence, and explains the crime, the complications of the trial due to the intense political climate in North Carolina in the era of Reconstruction, and her suspicions on what might have really happened. Her book is called "The Tom Dooley Files: My Search for the Truth Behind the Legend".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In October 1922, a sensational murder gripped the city of London. While on a walk home after a show, Percy Thompson was stabbed by Freddy Bywaters, the lover of his wife, Edith. Passionate love letters written by her, including mentions of the desire to murder Percy, helped send not only Bywaters to the gallows, but her as well. My guest is bestselling author Laura Thompson, and she joins Most Notorious to talk about her book, "A Tale of Two Murders: Guilt, Innocence and the Execution of Edith Thompson".  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (54)

Jaymes

if he had an author on his show who said " well i wanted to write a play for men, and do something for male actors" Eric would have piles of hate mail and 1 star reviews coming down on him! I'm so sick of this tired feminist attitude, and I know plenty of women who even cringe as stupid statements like the one she made. women are just as represented in the arts as anybody. there's TONS of strong female leads, playing strong female characters. stop acting like you're some kind of hero fighting women's suffrage. I swear some idiots like her will never ever be satisfied. because they just having a Battle to fight. it has nothing to do with equality to them, and they'll never be happy, nor satisfied. feminist's like her give women a bad name. stop trying too be a hero in a war that doesn't exist anymore in movie/theatre. I know at least 2 female friends who listened to this episode and both found that statement foolish. get off your damn high horse, and open your ignorant eyes to the real world.

May 11th
Reply

jess d

read the book in under 3 days, I couldn't put it down despite how much it made me angry due to the fact that these women where lied to their faces about what was happening to them.

May 6th
Reply

Jaymes

I started listening to his other book last night on Audible "The ship that never was" it's good so far!

Apr 28th
Reply

Sean Rosenau

Wife under the floorboards, other people walled up. Sounds like the killer liked Edgar Allen Poe.

Apr 12th
Reply (1)

Nicholas Houllis

great podcast

Apr 6th
Reply

Sherrie Lucas

This was good information. i think this guy is a jerk though. I did not appreciate has negative, judgemental comments about president Trump. This wad disciple to be about his knowledge, not his political opinion.i wish you would have edited that out.

Apr 2nd
Reply (1)

Sue M Gable

thank you Eric. oh so perfect

Apr 2nd
Reply

Erin Kloeppner

I love all your podcasts but especially on the 1920-30s, John Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, and about Minnesota as well, I am a Minnesota gal. My family was involved in the Minnesota 13 moonshining and boot legging in Stearns County in that era. My great grandmother, Agnes Litchy, told me many great stories before she passed about making the moonshine while her husband and brothers boot legged it. She also told a story of Dillinger passing through Stearns County on a county road, who had pulled the car over to the side of the road. A couple of local children who were playing outside ran up to the vehicle wondering about this guy in such a nice vehicle and asked him who he was. He told them "Well kids, I'm public enemy number one" and a couple minutes later he went on his way. I've always wanted to share my accounts but never known who to contact?

Mar 26th
Reply

Heather McNamee Rensel

why the different intro?

Mar 15th
Reply

Jaymes

great episode!! I've always thought this story was one of the craziest I've heard,..but damn they're butchering those pronunciations lol. I've been a fan of this podcast for a long time. it's the best historical true crime podcast I've come across.

Mar 14th
Reply

David Schultz

so many unanswered questions to this story. one of the oddest ones I've ever heard.

Feb 28th
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Just a fan

Interesting. I always thought Sweeney was the best suspect. If he was the killer then he got away with it.

Jan 18th
Reply

Monique Hicks

this is great! I would love to have this become a series..

Jan 15th
Reply

Heather McNamee Rensel

just bad journalism. instead of looking for the truth she went looking for proof that he was innocent

Jan 10th
Reply

Kris King

interesting!!

Nov 1st
Reply

Aetherflow

Great episode!

Oct 30th
Reply

Jean Volz Conant

very interesting I enjoyed it

Oct 25th
Reply (1)

Linda M Duncan

Not at all boring. Thank you.

Oct 12th
Reply

Mishi Michelle

i never thought anyone could make vlad sound so boring

Oct 7th
Reply (1)

Christina L Wertman

So much was left out of this story. Listen to crime junky, they give a much more detailed account. I was going to buy this guys book but with all the major details he left out of this pod...never mind.

Sep 26th
Reply
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