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Fascinating True Stories from the Flip Side of History

Author Archives: Steve Silverman

The Shoeless Hillbilly

Useless Information Podcast

When Peter Grainger walked into a US Army recruiting center in San Antonio, Texas back in 1951, he had quite the story to tell.  He had spent nearly his entire life living high in the mountains of New Mexico with virtually no contact with the outside world. But was there more to this story than what he was telling them?

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Murder in the Mail

Useless Information Podcast

On an October day back in 1941, John Kmetz received a trial supply of herbal pills that would supposedly restore vitality to his 54-year-old body. Shortly after taking the pills, Kmetz was dead. Learn about the man suspected of the crime, another bizarre event that occurred prior to the murder, and his ultimate fate.

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The Penny Covered Desk


If we had taken a trip to the Liberty National Bank at 3158 Roosevelt Road in Chicago, Illinois on September 18th of 1949, we would have found bank floor manager William H. Oglesbee sitting at his very unusual desk. What made the desk so unusual was that it was covered with more than 12,000 pennies that had been individually glued to it using 77 tubes of airplane cement.

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The Great Venus Swindle

Useless Information Podcast

In 1953 Harold Jesse Berney, head of a Washington, DC television antenna manufacturing operation, was chosen by the US government to be its main contact with Uccelles, a prince visiting our planet from Venus.  If that sounds a bit bizarre, check out this story to learn about one of the most fantastic swindles ever conceived.

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Stolen Coffee Truck


On January 22nd of 1958 thieves in New York City stole a tractor trailer loaded with $22,000 worth of green coffee.  (That would be about $175,000 today.) They drove the truck to another garage at 564 Carroll Street and unloaded the coffee.  What they didn’t anticipate was that in removing all of that weight, the truck’s body would rise higher than the garage door through which it had entered.  

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Boy Stuck in Chimney


On December 12, 1951, 8-year-old Jimmy Kirk told his friend, Peter Rosinsky, also 8-years of age, that no one, not even Santa could fit down his chimney.  

You can probably guess what happened next.  Jimmy went up on the roof of his family’s Philadelphia home and headed down the chimney, feet first.  It wasn’t long before he got stuck with only his head sticking out of the chimney.

A house painter who had been working in the neighborhood came and safely pulled Jimmy out.  I guess no one ever told Jimmy that Santa had a lot of experience with chimneys.  No one is more of an expert than he is.  Santa can get up and down any chimney.  Yes, some may be tougher than others, but he never gets stuck. 

Girls Free Santa Claus


Santa Claus got himself into a bit of hot water in Burlington, NC back in December 1933.  That’s because he was handing out circulars without obtaining a license to do so. 

Personally, I am a bit shocked that Santa would have to do this in the first place since one would assume that he was quite busy getting ready for his annual Christmas run.  Of course, this was during the Great Depression, so maybe he needed to supplement his gift-giving in some way.  

Two sisters – 7-year-old Juliette and 9-year-old Henrietta Stolpher of Oklahoma – heard about Santa’s predicament and decided that they needed to take immediate action.  They had to get Santa out of jail before Christmas.   

First, they hired a lawyer, who just happened to be their dad.  His retainer was 10-cents per day and he served papers upon Burlington mayor Earl B. Horner by mail.

The mayor ordered that Santa be released and sent a telegraph to the two girls apologizing for not acting sooner.  Of course, children worldwide were also thankful now that Santa was free because the two girls had saved Christmas.