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The Podcast of Doom

Epic Failure Analysis at its Finest
Greetings! Welcome to the Podcast of Doom--a podcast that explores the famous disasters and emphatically bad decisions of history. We will travel around the world and analyze how these calamities occurred.

category: Society and Culture
tags: podcast of doom david apelzin disaster cataclysm horror death fatalities history violent Peshtigo Tenerife USS Indianapolis Chumbawat Rwanda epic failure pessimist's guide Miley Cyrus accident Syria typhoon Elizabeth Bathory Mt. Pelee Martinique Cultural

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Episode 37 - The Nuclear Explosion and Meltdown at Chernobyl - (1:09:26) 63.57 MB
In 1986 Russia, during a late night safety test, inherent reactor design flaws along with operator error resulted in an uncontrolled reaction that caused a steam explosion and graphite fire. For the next 9 days, plumes of fissionable material were lofted into the air eventually dropping back down on the USSR and Europe.

Episode 36 - The Piper Alpha Explosion - (49:14) 45.08 MB
At its peak, the Piper Alpha oil platform was producing 300,000 barrels of oil a day, or 10% of Britain’s total oil production from just one platform. In 1980, the platform was modified to drill for natural gas in addition to oil. In 1988, the rig was due for major maintenance and upgrades. The operator, Occidental Petroleum, made the decision not to shut production down during this work. When a safety valve was removed for scheduled repairs it initiated a series of errors and events that led to a number of massive explosions that took the lives of 167 workers or three-quarters of the crew.

Episode 36 - 40 Announcement - (4:38) 4.24 MB
An announcement of the topics for episodes 36 - 40.

The Greatest Day Ever in History - (2:24) 2.21 MB
A brief examination of history's best day ever.

Episode 35 - Clampdown Part II: The Siege of Waco - (1:10:51) 64.87 MB
In 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives raided David Koresh’s ranch in Waco, Texas. A gun battle between the ATF and the Branch Davidians ended with the deaths of four agents and six of Koresh’s followers. Two months later, the FBI attempted to raid the compound again. During the raid, tear gas was launched into the domicile where the Davidians were holed up. There were 98 men, women and children inside the building when it exploded into flames.

Episode 35 - Clampdown Part I: The Bombing of MOVE - (1:09:36) 63.73 MB
In 1985, police attempted to enter the residence of a radical political organization known as MOVE. When numerous attempts to enter the house from either side failed, the city police commissioner ordered an explosive device to be dropped on the house right in the middle of a densely populated residential neighborhood. The result was the deaths of six adults and five children and the burning down of an entire neighborhood.

Episode 34 - Jews vs. Romans: The Bar Kokhba Revolt - (54:52) 50.23 MB
When the ancient Romans attempted to establish a colony in Judea during the first century of the modern era, they touched off violent rebellions from the native Jewish residents. These violent wars between the Jews and the Romans led to the deaths of thousands of people. In the year 132, Simon Bar Kokhba led a third and final revolt. A heavy Roman presence, implementation of harsher laws, economic upheaval and disrespect for the Jewish faith were some of the main causes of the revolt. After a number of initial rebel victories, Emperor Hadrian called in his general Sextus Severus to lead an immense Roman army assembled from every corner of the empire to deal with the Jewish rebels. The war led to the deaths of more than a half a million Jews. In an attempt to erase the memory of Judea and Israel, Hadrian renamed the colony Syria Palaestina and changed its capital from Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina.

Episode 33 - The French and Russian Heatwaves - (54:07) 49.56 MB
Two heatwaves, less than ten years apart and less than fifteen years ago struck Western and Eastern Europe killing tens of thousands of people, many as they suffered in their apartments and homes. Were these freak occurrences or something we should be getting adjusted to?

Episode 32 - The Ancash Avalanche and Earthquake - (29:59) 27.46 MB
On Sunday, May 31, 1970, while most of Peru was watching the World Cup game of Brazil vs. Italy, a major earthquake struck just off the coast. The quake flattened buildings and collapsed bridges and roads, but the worst was yet to come when a 500 meter long slab of ice slid off a 21,000 foot mountain peak and made a beeline for the villages below.

Episode 31 - The Deadly Cloud at Lake Nyos - (35:05) 32.12 MB
On August 21, 1986, a giant cloud of carbon dioxide rose from Lake Nyos in Cameroon, Africa. Three hundred-thousand tons of toxic fumes poured over the lip of the lake and into two valleys down below. As the cloud filtered down it displaced all of the air in its wake. Sixteen miles away it settled into the villages of Cha, Nyos and Subum killing some 1,700 people. It was a completely natural disaster with no human actions or developments playing any part in the tragedy. It was the first known large-scale asphyxiation caused by a natural event.

Episode 30 - The Children's Crusade - (32:24) 29.67 MB
After the failures of four Christian crusades to save the holy land from the infidel Saracens, the good people of Europe had finally had enough. It was time for the knights, nobles and corrupt merchant sailors to step aside and make way for the pure warriors--the Children Crusaders.

Episode 29 - The Bomb That Fizzled - (22:00) 20.14 MB
In 1968, a Stanford biology professor predicted population growth would outstrip food production. Nations would disappear and 100's of millions of people would die from starvation. It didn't happen that way. Are we finally out of the woods?

Episode 28 - King Leopold II of Belgium - (10:55) 10 MB
A brief overview of Belgium's most notorious king.

Episode 27 - Queen Isabella of Castile. - (12:07) 11.1 MB
A brief overview of the good and the bad of Spain's most famous Queen--Isabella.

Episode 26 - The Mosul Dam - (19:34) 17.92 MB
Iraq's largest dam was built when Saddam Hussein ruled the country. But the planners did not take care to select an appropriate location and the dam ended up being built atop soft rock. If the dam breaks as many engineers feel it will soon, it could wipe out the cities of Mosul and Baghdad where millions of people live.

Episode 25 - The Great Purge - (59:59) 54.93 MB
Joseph Stalin rose rapidly and ruthlessly through the ranks of the Soviet leadership. On his way up he took drastic measures to suppress his enemies including the forced collectivization of peasants that killed millions by famine. Other party leaders resented his tyrannical ways. Stalin countered with the Great Purges: a period when all of his enemies were accused of treason and no Russian could feel safe. The convicted were sent to prisons known as gulags or were executed. Those purged included wealthy peasants, political opponents within the Communist party, national minorities, writers, artists, the Secret Police themselves and eventually the officers of the Red Army—just prior to the outbreak of World War II.

Episode 24 - The Bombing of Air India Flight 182 - (1:02:44) 57.45 MB
On June 23, 1985, an Air India Boeing 747 blew up over Irish airspace killing all 329 passengers and crew onboard. On the flight were 268 Canadian citizens. It was Canada’s largest mass murder incident ever. A Sikh militant group named Babbar Khalsa was eventually determined to have planted the explosive that brought the plane down. The formal investigation took more than 20 years and was the most expensive in Canadian history, concluding that a cascading series of errors was responsible for the terrorist attack. The investigation held the Canadian government, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Security Intelligence Service responsible for lapses in security and prevention. But the original cause may have gone back to the British partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Episode 23 - The Ring, Iroquois and Station Fires - (55:24) 50.73 MB
At the glorious height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a new opera house was built in the middle of its capital, Vienna. On the night of December 8, 1881, Vienna’s elite came to the theater to watch Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman.” When lighting the gas lights, the stage hand acciddently ignited the curtains behind him. Although Vienna had established procedures for preventing fires, those procedure were not followed and the curtain burst into flames in front of hundreds of terrified theater-goers. On the night of December 30, 1903, Chicago's Iroquois theater was staging a performance of Mr. Blubeard. That day the theater was packed to beyond capacity in violation of existing city fire codes. In the middle of the second act, an electrical spark touched off a curtain. Attempts to smother the fire only made it spread higher, and an attempt to lower an asbestos fire curtain failed. The theater packed with mostly women and children went into a panic. In 2003, an excited Warwick, Rhode Island packed the Station nightclub to beyond capacity to see the band Great White. A pyrotechnic display designed for outdoor use only was set off for fifteen seconds. In less time than that it started a fire in the foam acoustic walls that spread with startling rapidity. Confused concertgoers did not move quickly enough to escape the flames.

Episode 22 - The Assassins - (53:30) 48.99 MB
In the 11th Century, a sect of Nizari Ismailis took to the mountains of Iran under the leadership of Hassan-I Sabbah (The Old Man of the Mountain). Sabbah was charismatic and drew followers from all over the Muslim Middle East. Drilling his followers on religious teachings, Sabbah carved out his own kingdom that threatened those around him. He trained his followers to carry out his orders to kill any political figure who stood in his way. These followers were called Hashshashin. It is where we get the word Assassins. The Sabbah’s Assassins made life miserable for competing Muslim as well as the Christian Crusaders who were just entering the scene.

Episode 21. 5 - A Few Words About Paris - (2:45) 2.52 MB
A few words about the recent tragedy in Paris.

Episode 21 - A Couple of Crushes - (48:11) 44.12 MB
On June 16, 1883, Mr. and Mrs. Fay presented a magic and variety show at Victoria Hall in Sunderland, England. The show featured conjurers, marionettes, illusionists and talking wax figures. At the end of the show prizes would be given away. More than 2,000 children showed up and filled the hall to capacity. When the prizes were distributed to the children nearest the stage, the children in the upper gallery panicked and rushed the doors in the lower gallery, which had been bolted closed to an opening the width of one child. One hundred years later, in Sheffield, England, a different stampede took place. Thousands of Liverpool football fans showed up at neutral Hillsborough stadium to watch their team face Nottingham Forest for the right to play for the Cup. When the fans arrived en masse they were faced with narrow entrances and decrepit turnstiles just as the match was about to get underway.

Episode 20.5 Question and Answer Time - (19:26) 17.81 MB
Time to answer your questions about Episodes 1-20. Also, an announcement of the topics for episodes 21-25.

Episode 20 - The Jonestown Massacre - (1:10:17) 64.36 MB
You’re familiar with the term “Don’t Drink the Kool Aid?” It basically means don’t go along with the dominant way of thinking. It also has become an easy way for people to end an argument when they have run out of ideas. In this episode we will learn about the origin of the term “Don’t Drink the Kool Aid.” It goes back to a small town Indiana preacher named Jim Jones, who idolized charismatic leaders like Stalin, Marx, Mao, Gandhi and Hitler, and dreamed of building a communist utopia. He gathered about him a congregation of poor and repressed people in a place he called, “The Peoples Temple.” When Jones became overly concerned about the scrutiny of the public eye, he moved his temple out of the United States and into Guyana. However, the move didn’t resolve Jones’s worries. In fact, his paranoia grew only deeper.

Episode 19 - The Irish Potato Famine - (44:38) 40.87 MB
Potato blight was the proximate cause of the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1849, but there were many contributing causes including the high dependency on this food staple, the harshness of British rule, the passage of laws that prohibited Irish Catholics from owning land, absentee landlords, dire poverty, and the subdivision of holdings that made the raising of any crops other than potatoes nearly impossible. As the famine took its toll, more than 1.5 million people would die of starvation in Ireland and another 1 million would emigrate to other countries.

Episode 18 - The Banqiao Dam Failure - (32:02) 29.33 MB
China is a nation of many rivers and following mass industrialization efforts in the mid-20th century, China also became a nation of dams. One of those important dams was the Banqiao on the River Ru. The Chinese government boasted that the Banqiao Dam was built to withstand a once-in-a-thousand-year rainstorm. There was only one small problem: in August of 1975, eastern China was about to be hit by a once-in-a-two-thousand year rainstorm. The combination of a typhoon colliding with a cold front caused more than 40 inches of rain to fall in one day with 7.5 inches falling in just one hour. During the storm more than 62 dams would fail and more than 200,000 people were reported killed.

Episode 17 - Iranian Blizzard and Carolean Death March - (29:47) 27.28 MB
Two giant blizzards on two different continents in two different centuries. The Iranian Blizzard of 1972 killed more than 4,000 people, many who died from exposure or suffocation beneath the snow. In one week the storm dropped as much as 26 feet of snow. In a different century on a different continent, a Swedish army prepares to invade Norway as part of a plan to retore their power and pride. But a campaign that starts in August and was only supposed to last 6 weeks ends up taking just a little longer. Things get really complicated when the King of Sweden dies and this army in the far north must return to the homeland over a range of difficult mountain passes just as the worst winter in years is about to hit.

Episode 16 - The Bombing of Nagasaki - (57:08) 52.31 MB
Three months after the surrender of Nazi Germany to Allied forces concluded World War II in Europe, fighting was still raging between the Allies and the Japanese Imperial government. Between mid-April and mid-July, 1945, Japanese forces inflicted half as many casualties as those suffered during the three previous years of fighting in the Pacific. With the capture of the Japanese Island of Okinawa, American forces were at the doorstep of the main island. With his military advisors cautioning Harry Truman that a conventional attack would result in over 1 million American casualties, the U.S. President faced one of the most difficult decisions in world history: risk millions of lives in a ground invasion or use the most powerful weapon ever developed against a civilian population.

Episode 9 - The Eruption of Mt. Pelee - (39:20) 36.01 MB
Located on the small island of Martinique in the Caribbean, the volcano of Mt. Pelee showed signs of activity around the turn of the last century. Day by day inhabitants of the island watched the activity increase. Sulfur vapors gave way to a light rain of cinders and eventually explosions and columns of black smoke. Yet the inhabitants of the nearby town of Saint-Pierre were completely unprepared for the blast of superheated gas and rock that was headed their way at more than 100 miles an hour.

Mid-Sabbatical Update - (4:31) 4.14 MB
I am back for a quick update on the status of the podcast. The good news is we will continue the project. The downside is you will have to wait until July. Hang in there and thanks for listening.

Episode 15 - A Tale of Two Trails: Conclusion - (14:33) 13.32 MB
Episode 15 concludes with a summary of what happend after the Trail of Tears and The Death March of Bataan and what we can learn from those two forced marches.

A Tale of Two Trails: Bataan and the Trail of Tears - (57:13) 52.4 MB
A comparison of two different forced marches, on two different continents and in two different centuries. In one case, Americans were the victims, in the other case, they were the perpetrators. Thousands died in the Bataan March during World War II, as the Japanese Army forced the defeated American and Filipino troops on an 80-mile march to Camp O’Donnell. The forced relocation of Native Americans out of the American South led to the deaths of thousands of people by exposure, disease and starvation. We will look at how two forced marches changed history.

Episode 14 - The Black Death - (47:34) 43.56 MB
The Bubonic Plague, a.k.a. The Black Death, first appeared in China, and owing to improved trade routes, quickly moved across the Asian plateau to the Black Sea and eventually all of Europe. Killing at the rate of 1 out of every 3 people, it wiped out whole villages and towns at a time. Panic led to the mass persecutions of Jews, Romani, and lepers. The plague changed world history and European culture; and it continued to strike again and again in the centuries that followed.

Episode 13 - The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 - (39:12) 35.9 MB
On November 1, 1755, All Saints Day, the city of Lisbon, Portugal was hit by a massive earthquake. The shaking lasted more than three-and-a-half minutes. Frightened residents ran out from beneath their crumbling buildings for the open safety of the harbor. But those who lingered too long, were swept out to sea by the tsunami that followed forty minutes later. And then came five days of fire. The earthquake not only shook up the people of Portugal; it had a profound effect on the European Enlightenment.

Apology and Explanation - (3:15) 2.98 MB
I just wanted to get you caught up on why it has taken so long to produce the next episode. Also, a special POD segment on the History Podcasters College project on Terrible Leaders. And, the Nicki Minaj POD video special.

Episode 12 - The Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff - (40:32) 37.12 MB
In the last months of World War II, German forces were in full retreat from Eastern Europe. German commanders decided they had no choice but to evacuate Courland in East Prussia. The last remaining route for escape was through the Baltic; and so the Germans launched Operation Hannibal. It would be the largest evacuation by sea in history. On the night of January 30th, the luxury cruiser, Wilhelm Gustloff was loaded down with more than 10,000 civilians and military personnel when it came within firing range of a Soviet submarine.

Episode 11 - The British Retreat from Kabul - (37:19) 34.18 MB
During the "Great Game" with the Russian Empire, the British invaded and took control of Afghanistan as a colonial possession. Within a few years, the Afghan people were in open revolt against their British occupiers. With assurances of safe passage from rebel leader, Akbar Khan, Major General Sir William Elphinstone, evacuated 4,000 soldiers and 12,000 camp followers. The British and their Indian allies were lulled into a trap that along with severely cold weather, a lack of equipment and incompetent leadership led to the deaths of almost the entire force.

Intermezzo and Sneak Peak at Episodes 11 - 15 - (8:09) 7.46 MB
I will explain where we've been, where we are at, and where we are going. A look at the next five episodes of The Podcast of Doom.

Episode 10 - The Bhopal Gas Leak - (35:00) 32.05 MB
On the night of December 2-3, 1984, the people of Bhopal, India and the surrounding areas were exposed to a massive chemical leak of methyl isocyanate gas from the nearby Union Carbide plant. The people of Bhopal suffered coughing, vomiting, severe eye irritation and a feeling of suffocation. For many death eventually followed. Animals bloated and died and the tree leaves turned yellow and fell. The leak would be the cause of thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries

Episode 8 - The Cultural Revolution - (41:24) 37.91 MB
Stung by the enormous failure of the Great Leap Forward, Chairman Mao Zedong, discredited leader of Communist China, institutes a plan to regain his former popularity and erradicate his critics. The revolution's outward aim was to reinvigorate Marxist-Leninist ideology in the Chinese people. It's less publicized goal was to restore Mao's Cult of Personality--his unquestioned authority over the government and his adoration by the people. It resulted in the persecution of millions and the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

Episode 7 - Elizabeth Bathory: The Blood Countess - (51:41) 47.32 MB
Elizabeth Bathory, The Blood Countess, was a powerful member of the aristocracy in 16th century Hungary. Following the death of her husband, with the help of her servants, she began abducting local peasant girls. The abductees were taken to her castle where they were tortured and murdered. Although, she was investigated for murdering hundreds of people, she was never put on trial. Included in this podcast is an interview with Mark Hewitt, of the blog, Radians and Inches. Mark discusses what makes serial killers tick.

Episode 6 - The Great London Smog - (28:19) 25.93 MB
For centuries, Londoners had grown accustomed to "Pea-Soupers," thick ground fog that made travel and often walking or bicycling difficult. Following the changes that accompanied the Industrial Revolution, Londoners had also grown accustomed to having a little bit of dust and smoke mixed in with their fog. What they got on a cold December week in 1952 was thicker and more fatal than any man-made disaster before or since.

Analysis - Episodes 1 - 5 - (12:52) 11.78 MB
We will analyze Episodes 1 through 5 looking for ways that history could have played out differently. We will compare and contract The Peshtigo Fire, The Rwanda Genocide, The Man-Eating Tiger of Champawat, The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Airplane Accident at Tenerife. Spoiler Alert! I will also let you know what the topics will be for the next five episodes.

Commentary - Nelson Mandela - (2:49) 2.59 MB
A short reflection on the life and achievements of Nelson Mandela.

Episode 5 - The Airplane Crash at Tenerife - (32:51) 30.08 MB
Following a terrorist bombing at the Canary Islands' largest airport, international traffic is rerouted to the much smaller airport at nearby Tenerife. As jumbo jets line up for take off, a thick fog settles in. A KLM 747 is given clearance to taxi down the runway and complete a 180-degree turn to prepare for take-off. With tragic consequences, a Pan Am 747 enters the same runway from the opposite end and moves straight into the path of the KLM jet.

Episode 4 -The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis - (50:11) 45.95 MB
During World War II, after delivering the world's first operational atomic bomb, the United States Navy Cruiser USS Indianapolis is sunk by a Japanese submarine in the middle of the western Pacific. More than 300 sailors drowned; but for the more than 880 survivors of the torpedoes, more horrors awaited.

Commentary - The Haiyan Typhoon - (1:49) 1.68 MB
A brief statement about the recent typhoon that hit the Phillipines.

Episode 3 - The Man-Eating Tigress of Champawat - (30:13) 27.67 MB
In turn-of-the-century India and Nepal, an injured Bengal tiger develops a taste for human flesh. During her rampage, she manages to kill over 400 people and strike terror into the hearts of the villagers in the region. She was the fiercest of many man-eating beasts prevalent in Northern India and Nepal during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Episode 2 - The Genocide in Rwanda - (32:40) 29.92 MB
The Rwandan Genocide of 1994, resulted in the largest loss of life in the shortest period of time. It is believed that more than 800,000 people died in less than 3 months in a violent struggle that pitted neighbor against neighbor and family member against family member. Find out how this small sub-Saharan nation became a ticking time-bomb.

Episode 1 - The Great Peshtigo Fire - (21:40) 19.84 MB
A raging forest fire obliterates a small Wisconsin lumber town.

Introduction - The Podcast of Doom - (5:18) 4.85 MB
Greetings! Welcome to the Podcast of Doom--a podcast that explores the famous and consequential catastrophes, cataclysms, disasters and emphatically bad decisions of world history. If you like fires, volcanoes, floods, maritime disasters, civil conflict, industrial accidents and the foibles of human nature then I invite you to listen to the Podcast of Doom. We will travel around the world and through time to analyze famous calamities and how they occurred.