Gimlet Media: Dark Podcasts that End Abruptly

I listen to podcasts from Gimlet Media on this iPhone. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Someone told my dad that I write a lot of dark stuff on my blog. So here’s another blog post about the dark podcasts that I enjoy.

This is about Gimlet Media’s dark podcasts that end abruptly.

Here’s my prior blog post about Gimlet Media. Here’s my recap:

I discovered podcasts in late 2014, when my sisters convinced me to listen to “Serial,” hosted by Sarah Koenig. This American Life released Serial in fall 2014.

Then, a former producer for “This American Life,” Alex Blumberg, co-founded his own podcast company, Gimlet Media, in August 2014.

Blumberg didn’t work on “Serial,” and Gimlet Media and its podcasts are actually competitors to “This American Life.” However, after I ran out of “Serial” podcast episodes, my sisters introduced me to the podcasts produced by Gimlet Media. I spent hours listening to Gimlet Media podcasts since early 2015.

I followed several Gimlet podcasts that just ended abruptly. Where did these podcasts go? I saw no notes on social media or on the platform where I get podcasts. Not even anything as simple as “Hey, guys, this will be our last episode.”

Months passed. Then, Gimlet either announced that they cancelled the podcast, or else that the season ended. For example, I waited for over a year to find out that Gimlet cancelled a certain podcast (“Mystery Show”) and also terminated its host (Starlee Kine) months earlier.

Several Gimlet competitors (including “mom-and-pop” podcasts) communicated to listeners much more clearly about the status of future episodes.

I noted a lack of consistency in regards to the existence of separate Facebook pages for Gimlet podcasts.

In October 2017, Gimlet introduced an American Civil War podcast, “Uncivil”. “Uncivil” is (was?) hosted by Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. (Hite was a contributing editor to “This American Life.”)

Between October and December 2017, Gimlet released ten episodes of “Uncivil.” And then . . . crickets. The episodes stopped. I saw no communication about the status of this show.

Then, on November 9, 2018, “Uncivil” actually did release TWO brand-new episodes. On the same day.

And then . . . crickets. Again.

So, here’s the most recent update that I have for this:

I learned that Spotify acquired Gimlet Media in February 2019.

Then, I recently listened to one of Gimlet’s remaining podcasts, Reply All. At the end of the Reply All podcast episode, the hosts announced that Matt Lieber, the other Gimlet founder, was no longer with Gimlet.

I learned that the Gimlet podcast Startup (a podcast series that dedicated its entire first season to Gimlet Media’s origin story) released one FINAL season, titled Startup: The Final Chapter. This final season explained Gimlet’s sale to Spotify earlier this year. The new episodes in this season included the title Our Company Has Problems

Finally, I listened to the entire season of Startup: The Final Chapter. (Spoiler alert: it consisted of three episodes.)

The episodes in Startup: The Final Chapter didn’t mention Uncivil by name. However, this is what I learned that could possibly apply to Uncivil:

1.) In spring 2018, the Gimlet management had just completed a round of financing that they hoped would last for two years. However, they learned in a meeting that at their burn rate at that time, the money raised would last for a much shorter time.

2.) Blumberg noted that several of Gimlet’s podcasts cost a great deal of time and money to produce. These same podcasts didn’t produce enough ad revenue to cover the expense of making them. (Blumberg didn’t mention Uncivil by name. I am under the impression that Uncivil might have fallen into this category.)

3.) The listenership data disappointed Gimlet’s management.

4.) Gimlet received an offer from Spotify in late November or early December 2018.

5.) Blumberg didn’t mention the podcast My Favorite Murder (MFM) by name. However, the Startup podcast episode about Gimlet’s burn rate and listenership included a clip from MFM. I am under the impression that Gimlet Media’s podcasts compete for listeners with MFM. (I listen to MFM regularly.)

So there you go. Case closed. I’m under the impression that the podcast Uncivil released its last episode.

However, I still needed to blog about this. Blumberg noted himself that several of his company’s podcasts cost significant sums of time and money. How much more time and money would it cost him to leave a note on Facebook to tell us that a certain podcast ended?

Heck, I can name several podcast producers who actually have other day jobs, and these people still communicated to listeners when their podcasts went on hiatus.

Based on what I learned about Blumberg from the first and final seasons of Startup, I am under the impression that Blumberg was very hands-on a micromanager regarding his business’ creative side.

In the meantime, I stopped waiting for Gimlet to string me along regarding Uncivil. I’m listening to hours and hours of podcasts released by Gimlet’s competitors. Here’s a short list of them.

“My Favorite Murder”

The book Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered (SSDGM) by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark just hit #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list for “Advice.” The two authors host My Favorite Murder, a True Crime podcast.

I read SSDGM last week. I wrote TWO blog posts about SSDGM on my other blog. SSDGM (and my blog posts about SSDGM) don’t fit with The Parnassus Pen‘s “brand.” However, here are my two blog posts:

Why Not Me, Too?

My Favorite Murder

Harry K. Thaw’s Grave

Grave of Harry K. Thaw. Henry Kendall Thaw. February 12, 1871 - February 22, 1947. Allegheny Cemetery, Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Harry K. Thaw’s Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. May, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

A few months ago, I blogged about the time that Harry K. Thaw shot Stanford White over White’s relationship with Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. (Thaw was from Pittsburgh, and Nesbit was born in Tarentum, PA, although the two of them met in New York City.)

I visited Thaw’s grave in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh.

I didn’t put the rosary on this grave. I don’t know who put the rosary on the headstone.

Here is the marker for the Thaw family plot:

Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA.
Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. May, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

If you want to hear a podcast or two about Evelyn Nesbit, “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing,” and Thaw’s murder of White, check out these podcast episodes:

1.) Criminal (hosted by Phoebe Judge), covered this in episode 91The “It” Girl.

2.) Then, an episode of the podcast My Favorite Murder talked about this in episode 136 and heavily “cited” Criminal. (In my opinion, the bulk of the My Favorite Murder host’s “research” consisted of her listening to the Criminal episode! This is merely my personal opinion, though.)

Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh PA
Thaw Family Plot, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA. November 10, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)
William Thaw Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh
William Thaw Grave, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh PA. November 10, 2019. (Photo: Jenny Gaffron Woytek)

Dueling and Stephen Decatur

When I read about the American Civil War and the years leading up to it, I come across a lot of men named after “Stephen Decatur.” I know this, because the men all have “Stephen” for a first name, and “Decatur” for a middle name.

The American Civil War started in 1861. So, I guessed that these men were born in the first few decades of the 1800’s.

Stephen Decatur served as an officer in the United States Navy from 1798 – 1820. I’ll make this quick because anyone with an interest in naval history can just read all of this on Wikipedia. However, Decatur fought pirates along the Barbary Coast of North Africa. He witnessed his own brother, James’s, burial at sea after one of these battles. He earned a Medal of Honor. He died young as a national hero.

Here’s an example of how highly folks regarded Decatur: I listened to  Episode 9:  A Devil on the Roof from the Lore podcast by Aaron Mahnke.  This episode told the myth of the Jersey Devil in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. According to the folklore, Decatur saw the Jersey  Devil as he tested cannon balls in Burlington, New Jersey. The legend maintains that Decatur fired a cannon at the Jersey Devil but that the Jersey Devil flew away. This myth implies to me that if such a decorated hero as Decatur saw and reacted to the Jersey Devil, then us common folk should believe that the Jersey Devil actually existed.

I don’t know if Decatur actually saw the Jersey Devil and fired a cannon at it.

However, in 1818 Decatur did actually build his residence in Lafayette Square in Washington, a very short walk from the White House. Before this, Decatur married Susan Wheeler, a woman who had already rejected the romantic intentions of Aaron Burr and Jerome Bonaparte (Napoleon’s brother). Decatur and Susan entertained the elite of Washington society in their gorgeous Lafayette Square home. (In fact, you can still visit this “Historic Decatur House.”)

So, after all of the struggle and success, Stephen Decatur agreed to duel another naval officer, James Barron, in 1820. Decatur shot Barron. Barron shot Decatur. Decatur died at the age of 41. Barron survived for several more decades.

Wikipedia gives a lot of information about the duel, so I’ll make this short. The Decatur / Barron duel resulted after Decatur served on Barron’s court-martial for surrendering a ship, Chesapeake, to the British. Some Wikipedia sources imply that Decatur and Barron meant to call off the duel or else not actually shoot each other, but their “seconds” encouraged things to proceed as they did. Also, Decatur left for his duel without telling his wife about his plans. (Alexander Hamilton did the same thing to Eliza in the Hamilton musical before Hamilton dueled with Aaron Burr and died.)

Decatur’s fatal duel occurred in Maryland at the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds.

You read correctly: so many duels happened before the Civil War that the Washington elite journeyed to a designated dueling grounds. In fact, I learned from Wikipedia that Francis Scott Key’s son, Daniel, died after a duel that started over a dispute about the speed of a boat.

Now, since I spend time in Erie along the shore of Lake Erie, I know that another naval officer, Oliver Hazard Perry, is the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. I just learned that in 1818, Perry fought in a duel and he chose Decatur as his own “second.” Nobody died or suffered gunshot wounds in that duel.

(If you go to Lafayette Square today, you will see a statue of Andrew Jackson sitting on a horse. Right now in 2019, Jackson’s mug decorates our American twenty dollar bills. However, back in 1878, Decatur’s face graced the twenty dollar bill. Here’s why I find this peculiar: Decatur fought a duel in which he died and his opponent was injured. Jackson fought a duel in which Jackson’s opponent died, but Jackson suffered an injury and lived. That’s right: Andrew Jackson shot and killed a man in a duel before he became POTUS.)

Dueling declined after the American Civil War. I learned on Wikipedia that the last Bladensburg duel occurred in the late 1860’s. I read in a book of Maryland folklore that a suburban housing development now sits on most of Bladensburg’s “dueling grounds.”

I thought tonight about what our society, our country would look like if people still challenged each other to duels. I read about so many posters on social media who tell the rest of us about how badly another social media user offended them. What if these angry people on Twitter or Facebook or wherever demanded “satisfaction” from each other by dueling? How would these people chose their “seconds?” Would they pick social media friends to be “seconds,” or would these duelers chose from their real life friends? Do any of these social media users (myself included) actually have any real life friends?

How would law enforcement handle dueling today? Would law enforcement arrest the duelers of color, but ignore the white duelers?

Finally, if somebody offended me on social media, would I challenge the offender to duel with me personally? Or should I expect my husband to defend my honor?

Ugh, so many questions!

Check back for future posts here about history and traveling.

Why I Love “The Dollop”

This is a blog post about one of my favorite podcasts.

As I mentioned earlier in this blog, my mom passed away about six months ago. Since then, I’ve listened to several hours of podcasts or audio books every day. I listen during my commute, housework, etc. Listening to these for hours and hours helps me to get through each day.

I used the “browse” section of my podcast app to find any comedy podcasts that exist. I found The Dollop, hosted by comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds. In each episode, Anthony reads a story to Reynolds, “who has no idea what the topic is going to be about.” Most of the stories are from American history. Anthony and Reynolds crack jokes as the story progresses.

Now, I am usually late to the party when I “discover” things that I like. For instance, this spring I “discovered” The Dollop. I told my husband, Jonathan, all about this podcast. Jonathan responded that he saw his Facebook friends post about The Dollop for years!

Listening to The Dollop archives is one of the best parts of my day.

To make this about Pittsburgh: last year, The Dollop did a live show in Pittsburgh. They profiled Henry Clay Frick. Anthony’s story included Andrew Carnegie, the Johnstown Flood, and the Homestead Strike. You can find this episode wherever you download podcasts, or you can listen to it here. I learned from the live recording that the Pittsburgh venue hosted a sold-out show and also that the Pittsburgh venue either ran out of, or just didn’t sell, beer.

Check back for upcoming blog posts about my other favorite podcasts.

Pay-What-You-Want / Can

In January, Planet Money released Episode 889: The Pay-What-You-Want Experiment. In this episode, host Sarah Gonzalez interviewed Panera Bread founder Ron Shaich. Shaich opened a small chain of “pay-what-you-want” eating establishments operating under the name of “Panera Cares” in 2010. Unfortunately, all of the “Panera Cares” locations eventually closed.

However, New Kensington, Pennsylvania has its own independent, non-profit “pay-what-you-can” restaurant: Knead Community Cafe.

I ate breakfast this morning at Knead. I breakfasted there several other Saturday mornings in the past year. Knead opened in February 2017. I took all of the photos in this blog post in April 2018.

To clarify, New Kensington’s Knead Community Cafe is NOT affiliated in any way with Panera Bread. I mentioned the Planet Money episode merely to illustrate that Planet Money did a story on an innovative type of establishment similar to one that exists in my own town.

The above linked Planet Money episode referred to the concept as “pay-what-you-want.” The website for Knead referred to the concept as “pay-what-you-can / pay-it-forward.” I based my below explanation on Knead’s website. If you want specific information on how the restaurant works, its hours of operation, or its menu, please visit its website and / or its Facebook page.

The booth inside of Knead’s front door explained “pay-what-you-can” as it applied to Knead:

Before each trip to Knead, I first checked Knead’s Facebook page to review that day’s menu. Note that the menu changes each day. On my first trip, I had a choice of three breakfast options.

We ordered our food and our choice of juice at a counter. Cafe volunteers brought our food to our assigned table. We helped ourselves to coffee, tea, and iced tea at the cafe’s beverage bar.

In addition to Knead’s indoor seating, Knead has an outdoor courtyard. I never sat in the courtyard, but I took a few photos of it. People who sit in the courtyard can enjoy this old city’s “ghost signs.” (Ghost signs are hand-painted advertisements on the sides of old buildings. Many ghost signs advertise now-defunct products or businesses.)

In fact, if you chose to eat at Knead, you might work off your meal with a short photo walk around downtown New Kensington. You will be able to photograph several ghost signs.


Finally, parking options are very important to me when I visit a place. I am satisfied with Knead’s parking options. Visitors can park along the street for free. Visitors can also park in a large, free public parking lot directly across the street from Knead’s front entrance.

My husband and I live within walking distance from Knead. When we visit, we often run into people that we know. However, we also chat at Knead with people that we never previously met. Knead provides an excellent place for the community to partake of a meal as fellow human beings.

Have you ever visited a “pay-what-you-want / pay-what-you-can / pay-it-forward” restaurant? Tell me about your experience.

Social Media Thoughts

Yesterday I listened to the podcast Invisibilia’s most recent episode, titled “Post, Shoot.” The episode is about the curated images of ourselves that we project on social media. So, this most recent blog post is about my thoughts on social media.

I went to high school a million years ago. Up until I graduated from high school, I had no access to the internet. (I lived in a rural town in the Laurel Highlands, so I don’t even know if anybody in my hometown had internet access back then.) The summer before my senior year of high school, I met somebody my age who casually mentioned something called “email.” I was too embarrassed to ask, “What’s email?” My college freshman composition professor taught my class how to use an internet message board. That’s how old I am.

I was out of college for several years before I first heard of a smartphone.

Also, up until I met my future husband (Jonathan), I didn’t own a computer. I accessed the internet from my desktop at work, the computers at the local public library, and from a web television in my apartment. This was how I searched for higher-paying jobs. (I didn’t even own the Web TV. I had signed up for a deal with a consumer survey company in which I took surveys in exchange for use of the Web TV and internet use over my (land) phone line.)

I mention all of this because I didn’t grow up using the internet.

So anyway, I met my first post-college roommate, Erin, on an internet message board. We became friends. It turned out that Erin and I actually knew some of the same people “in real life” from different places. Then Erin moved away. Erin met my husband, Jonathan, on a different internet message board. Erin, the matchmaker, arranged for Jonathan and I to meet each other online because she thought that the two of us had a lot in common with each other. It turned out that Jonathan and I knew a bunch of the same people “in real life” from different places!

You follow me?

During this time, I visited my public library several times a week to find a higher-paying job that was also closer to Jonathan in the Pittsburgh area. I eventually found this.

So, I grew up with no internet access. Then, in the span of a few years, I found a great roommate and friend, my future husband, and a career over the internet.

Then Jonathan and I got engaged. I signed up to use the message boards on a very well-known wedding website. I shall call this wedding website “The Bond.”

Back in those days, brides could create their own wedding pages on the “The Bond,” complete with online guest books where the brides’ loved ones could leave notes of “love and encouragement.” When these brides posted on The Bond’s message boards, everybody on the message boards could click on the poster’s username to access her wedding website.

Here’s what I read about many times on these boards: a bride would set up her wedding page, and then go over to the message boards to complain about a bridesmaid or a future mother-in-law or or an aunt or something. The bride would be under the impression that she was venting on an “anonymous” message board. Some other reader on on the “anonymous” message board would screenshot the bride’s “venting” post. This reader would then click on the bride’s username, access the bride’s wedding page, and paste the unkind screenshot into the bride’s online guest book.

I read about this happening many times. I read about instances in which the subject of the complaint read the complaint snapshot.

I should also mention here that the personalized wedding pages on The Bond provided brides with an opportunity to list all of their vendors. I read accusations on the message boards that some visitors to The Bond would punish other posters by calling up the other poster’s listed vendors and cancelling them. I have no idea how many of these accusations were true. However, at this time I had a family member who worked at a church. This family member told me that the church had received a message to cancel a church member’s wedding date. When the church staff called the prospective bride to confirm the cancellation, the prospective bride advised that she did NOT actually reach out to the church to cancel her wedding date. My family member who worked at the church was completely puzzled as to what happened until I explained what I had learned about the vengefulness that I witnessed on The Bond.

So anyway, I learned to post NO personal information on The Bond.

Around this same time, I used a different message board that I shall call “Shoot the Breeze.” Shoot the Breeze had a frequent poster that I shall call “Jane.” Jane liked to complain about her job and her manager on Shoot the Breeze.

Jane didn’t provide her real name or the actual name of her place of employment. However, Jane provided other details about herself and her employment. She posted the name of the city where she worked. One day, she mentioned on the message board that she walked one block to a very specific coffee shop in this specific city.

A few weeks later, Jane posted again to allege the following: Another poster pulled up Google maps and identified all of the places of employment that were within one block of this coffee shop that Jane mentioned. This other poster accessed the employee directories of all of these places of employment. This other poster used details that Jane provided and thus identified Jane and her manager. This poster forwarded screenshots of all of Jane’s online work complaints to her manager.

Anyway, I developed an interest in how people use the internet “spitefully” after I read about these alleged incidents.

We’ve all read many times now about people using the internet spitefully. In case you haven’t, though, here are some other links to content on the subject:

Criminal podcast, episode #109, Homewrecker

When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life, by Kashmir Hill, Gizmodo

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life by Jon Ronson, New York Times

Okay, so now I’m going to talk about Invisibilia:

Invisibilia is an NPR podcast in its 5th season. The podcast description on the iTunes app and on the website describes it thus, “Unseeable forces control human behavior and shape our ideas, beliefs, and assumptions. Invisibilia – Latin or invisible things – fuses narrative storytelling with science that will make you see your own life differently.”

I think that I listened to every episode of every season released thus far. I really liked Season #1. To be honest, though, the podcast has confused me off and on ever since Season #2. For instance, on several of the episodes, the podcast will start off with a story. Then, the podcast will switch to a different story. Then, the podcast will conclude that both stories make the same point. Or else, the podcast hosts will maintain that the stories make competing points. I don’t understand how the hosts arrived at many of the episode conclusions. Huh. Perhaps I’m just not intelligent enough to “get” Invisibilia.

That being said, I highly recommend that you listen to the most recent episode: Season 5, Episode 2, Post, Shoot, hosted by Hanna Rosin.

Here’s a link to the episode and also the transcript. You can also download this from whatever app you use to download podcasts.

Rosin starts with the story of Brandon Wingo, a teenager from Wilmington, DE. Another teenager shot Brandon in 2016 over something that Brandon posted on Facebook.

Then, Rosin points out the effort that Wilmington teenagers put into curating online identities for themselves on social media. Wingo curated an online identify that did not match the way that his “real life” loved ones identified him. The teenager who murdered Wingo only knew Wingo from his online identity and his Facebook posting.

This episode really spoke to me.

Post, Shoot explored the social media activity and the social media curation of African American teenagers in Wilmington, Delaware. I’m a white adult in suburban Pittsburgh. I, too, see significant effects on my social circle and family dynamics from social media activity of my friends and loved ones.

(In fact, before I write each blog post, I ask myself whether the post could hurt my career or my relationships with my loved ones. I actually posted a link to my blog on my company’s intranet and on my online employee profile. This way, if some wise guy identifies my employer and emails the blog link to my manager, there are no surprises!)

I would like it if you listened to this podcast episode or read the transcript.

If you are familiar with the episode, what are your thoughts?

Public Shaming

Over this past weekend, a debate broke out on social media about using social media to publicly shame other people.

I once attended a career development group in which we discussed online public shaming. At that time, I pulled together the following podcast / reading list about the subject:

1.) In 2014, my employer’s women’s group hosted a web cast conducted by Sam Richter that explored online reputation management. Richter’s presentation briefly mentioned Justine Sacco, a public relations professional who sent an inappropriate tweet.

This linked article by Jon Ronson from the New York Times goes into much more detail about the entire Justine Sacco incident. (See How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life by Jon Ronson, New York Times, February 12, 2015.)

2.) The above linked article also referenced Lindsey Stone. Ms. Stone lost her job and her reputation over a photo posted online in which she made an inappropriate gesture while standing in front of a sign at Arlington National Cemetery.

I listen to a podcast series about the internet titled Reply All from Gimlet Media.  Episode #18 of the series, titled Silence and Respect, is about Lindsey Stone’s experience with an online reputation management company after this incident.

3.) Finally, the podcast mentioned the following book: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Note: I didn’t actually read So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

Do you ever worry about being publicly shamed? Why?

They “Bought” a Dead Body: My Visit to Jim Thorpe, PA

Pennsylvania has a borough named Jim Thorpe.

Jim Thorpe is the county seat of Carbon County.

Here’s a story about Jim Thorpe, PA’s name.

In the 1800’s, white settlers, ah, settled in a gorge in the Lehigh Valley. They named the town “Mauch Chunk.” This came from the Lenni Lenape people’s name for the nearby mountain. I find this ironic, and you will read why in a few paragraphs.

The Lenni Lenape were American Indians.

(I grew up using the term “Native American.” However, the Smithsonian now uses the term “American Indian” in referring to the indigenous peoples of the United States. For this blog post I will use “American Indian.”)

Many white settlers earned their livings from the coal mined above Mauch Chunk. In the 1820’s, they built the Switchback Gravity Railroad from these coal mines. 

(Guess why Carbon County is named Carbon County!)

The mine owners employed large numbers of Irish immigrants. The mine owners exploited and oppressed these miners.

The Irish miners formed an illegal labor union. Some also joined a secret society, the Molly McGuires (the Mollies). The mine owners hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to infiltrate and prosecute the Mollies. Soon, Carbon County hung (hanged?) several alleged members of the Mollies for murder, at the county jail in Mauch Chunk in 1877. Here’s my blog post about this.

A decade later, in 1887, an American Indian named Wa-Tho-Huk (Bright Path) was born in Oklahoma. He belonged to the Sac and Fox tribe.

Wa-Tho Huk was of mixed-race ancestry. Both of his parents were Roman Catholic. His parents had him baptized in the Catholic Church as Jacobus (Jim) Thorpe.

During this time in history, the United States Federal Government set up boarding schools to assimilate American Indians into “white American” culture.

Our government had established the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to educate American Indian children. Carlisle is in the central part of our state, near Harrisburg. It is about a hundred miles away from the borough that used to be known as Mauch Chunk.

As a teenager, Wa-Tho-Huk / Jim Thorpe travelled to Pennsylvania to attend the Carlisle school.

Now, one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab, produced a beautiful episode about the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. I posted the link to this episode’s website here. You can also download it from the platform of your choice. The episode is titled “American Football,” dated January 29, 2015. Radiolab posted photos from the Carlisle school here. If you want to learn about the Carlisle school and its athletic successes, you should listen to this episode.

I can’t rival the information presented by Radiolab. Let me just paraphrase that athletics – especially football – played a huge part in the Carlisle school’s education and culture.

Jim Thorpe excelled in sports at the Carlisle school.

Then, he won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the Olympics in Sweden in 1912. His special track shoes “disappeared” before the competitions. Jim Thorpe had to wear shoes that he found in a garbage bin when he won his gold medals.

Then he played professional baseball AND professional football.

Jim Thorpe the man died impoverished in 1953. Thorpe’s widow, Patricia, was frustrated by efforts to convince Thorpe’s birth state of Oklahoma to provide a grave / memorial for Thorpe. She claimed that Thorpe’s estate didn’t provide enough funds to bury Thorpe without outside help.

At this time, Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania existed separately from a neighboring borough named East Mauch Chunk. Both boroughs wanted to “attract new businesses,” according to Wikipedia.

Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk cut a deal with Thorpe’s widow. The two boroughs merged and renamed themselves as “Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.” The new borough of Jim Thorpe built a memorial / grave to Jim Thorpe the man.

The borough also paid Mrs. Thorpe.

In return, Mrs. Thorpe agreed to have Jim Thorpe the man buried in Jim Thorpe the borough.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Thorpe agreed to this without the consent of Jim Thorpe’s remaining family, including children from a prior marriage.

In fact, Mrs. Thorpe agreed to have Jim Thorpe’s body transported from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania while Thorpe’s family was in the process of conducting traditional tribal rituals for him.

So, Jim Thorpe’s body was removed from Oklahoma during his own funeral!

Jim Thorpe’s sons later filed a federal lawsuit to have the body returned to Oklahoma. They argued that Jim Thorpe the borough qualified as a museum under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

However, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Jim Thorpe’s body remains in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Note that Jim Thorpe the man never actually visited Jim Thorpe the borough (Mauch Chunk) during his lifetime. He did attend the Carlisle school, but from what I can tell, this was Jim Thorpe the man’s only connection to Pennsylvania.

My sisters and I grew up telling each other the ghost story that is connected with the Irish coal miners that were hung at the Carbon County jail in Mauch Chunk / Jim Thorpe.

Then we learned about Jim Thorpe the man.

My sister K. moved to the Lehigh Valley a few years ago. My sister E.R. and I visited her. We took a road trip to Jim Thorpe the borough since we had heard so much about it.

So here’s what we saw:

1.) The Jim Thorpe Memorial

That’s right, we visited Jim Thorpe the man’s grave.

This memorial sits in a wooded area on the edge of town. It’s like a little public park.

The original red marble marker bearing his name has a quote from Sweden’s King Gustav V. This memorial sits on soil taken from Oklahoma. I added a photo of this marker at the very top of this blog post.

The memorial now includes several statues and a sculpture. Through the years, the borough added several smaller markers to educate the public about Thorpe’s life in Oklahoma and at the school in Carlisle.

The memorial has a free parking lot that it doesn’t have to share with any other attractions.

There is no admission fee to visit the Jim Thorpe Memorial.

In my opinion, it’s really easy for families to stop here and reflect on the life of Jim Thorpe.

2.) The old Carbon County Jail, now the Old Jail Museum

Here’s a photo that my sister K. took of the gallows used at the Carbon County Jail in the 1800’s. This is the jail where the alleged Molly McGuires were imprisoned until their hangings just outside of the jail walls.

You can use this link to see my prior blog post about this event.

The Old Jail Museum’s physical building witnessed a haunted, loaded history.  As such, it now carries several ghost stories. The museum features these stories on its tours and also on its website.

One word about the tour: visitors are required to climb up and down several staircases. This is NOT a comfortable tour for people with mobility issues.

Also, we had to park several blocks away from the jail museum on the June Saturday of our visit. Keep this in mind if you plan your own visit.

3.) The Dimmick Memorial Library

I mention this because my sister K. loves this library. (K. is a librarian, so she likes to survey other people’s libraries.)

Here’s a photo of my sisters K. and E.R. posing on the library’s second floor.

This library is within walking distance of the Old Jail Museum. Also, it sits on a street full of historic buildings that appeal to tourists. If you are sight-seeing and you need to find a public restroom during the library’s operating hours, then you are in luck.

4.) Streets of historic buildings that appeal to tourists.

I was only in Jim Thorpe for several hours on this one day. We spent most of our trip at the Old Jail Museum. Then we walked around for a little bit more and ate ice cream. I was exhausted.

So I didn’t really explore the histories of the borough’s other buildings. After my next visit to Jim Thorpe, I will blog more of its stories.

Here are my sisters again:

Here is my sister K.’s blog post about her multiple trips to Jim Thorpe.

What towns do you like to visit?

Uncivil

This blog post is about the Civil War-themed podcast Uncivil from Gimlet Media.

I will also mention a specific episode of Uncivil that describes how George and Martha Washington skirted around a Pennsylvania slavery law.

I discovered podcasts in late 2014 when my sisters convinced me to listen to Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig. This American Life released Serial in fall 2014.

Well, it just so happens that a former producer for This American Life, Alex Blumberg, co-founded his own podcast company in August 2014. This podcast company came to be known as Gimlet Media.

From what I understand, Blumberg didn’t work on Serial and Gimlet Media and its podcasts are actually competitors to This American Life. However, after I ran out of Serial podcast episodes, my sisters introduced me to the podcasts produced by Gimlet Media.

Also from what I understand, Gimlet Media just happened to be fortunate enough to roll out its own first podcasts just as the public got excited over listening to Serial.

So ever since early 2015, I spent hours listening to podcasts from Gimlet Media.

On more than one occasion, I became deeply attached to one particular Gimlet podcast or another. Then, without any prior warning, the podcast would just cease to release new episodes. I wouldn’t see any notes on social media or on the platform where I get podcasts. Months would go by. Then, Gimlet would either announce that they cancelled the podcast, or else they would finally admit that the season ended and that I should stay alert for a new season soon. In one highly-publicized example, I waited for over a year to find out that the podcast in question (Mystery Show) was cancelled and that the host (Starlee Kine) had been terminated months earlier.

I found several other podcast companies after I discovered Gimlet. In my opinion, these other companies do better jobs of informing listeners as to when a season or podcast series will end. I’ve even found “mom-and-pop” podcasts who do a better job of telling listeners that they are ending their shows than Gimlet does.

I also find it odd that some Gimlet podcasts have their own Facebook pages that give listeners information about new podcast episodes, while other Gimlet podcasts just post their news on the main Gimlet Facebook page.

Here’s why I mention all of this: In October 2017, Gimlet introduced Uncivil. Uncivil is (was?) hosted by Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. (Hite was a contributing editor to This American Life.)

Uncivil is (was?) much, much different than the PBS Ken Burns documentary that I watched in junior high school. Each episode thus far discussed stories and events that aren’t part of the common Civil War narrative. For instance, one episode was about female soldiers who passed themselves off as men. Many of the episodes featured stories and events involving African-Americans.

Between October and December 2017, Gimlet released ten episodes of Uncivil. And then . . . crickets. Did Uncivil’s Season One end? Would Uncivil return with a Season Two? Uncivil actually does have its own Facebook page, and indeed people posted these questions on Facebook.

I never read any responses to these questions.

Then in early January 2019 – THIS MONTH – I browsed iTunes for podcast suggestions. I learned that on ONE day – November 9, 2018 – Uncivil actually did release TWO brand-new episodes.

(Note: I previously subscribed to Uncivil. However, I had storage issues on my old smartphone. Therefore, when I needed to free up more storage, I unsubscribed from Uncivil. This was several months after December 2017, so I had no reason to hope that new episodes were forthcoming. I concede that I may have learned about the two newest Uncivil episodes sooner if I hadn’t unsubscribed.)

I find the following weird: Today, neither the Facebook page for Uncivil nor the Facebook page for Gimlet promotes these 2 new episodes. I thought that I initially saw on Facebook that these are the “final two episodes” of Season One, but now I don’t see this. The podcast app on my phone lists these two newest episodes as “unknown season.”

So, I have no idea if Uncivil is coming back for a Season Two. I have no idea why two brand-new Uncivil episodes were both released on the same random day in November after eleven months of silence.

I suspect that the answer had to do with money. But why the sketchy communication, Gimlet?

Anyway, one of the two new episodes that were released in November was titled “The Fugitive.” It focused on a young enslaved woman who was owned by George and Martha Washington. The Washingtons were President and First Lady of the United States. They lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that time, by law enslaved people living in Philadelphia were granted their freedom after six months. The Washingtons apparently rotated their enslaved servants between Philadelphia and their Mount Vernon plantation so that none of their slaves lived in Philadelphia for six months straight. Therefore, none of these slaves gained their freedom. The young woman featured in this episode ran away from the Washingtons and she spent the rest of her life hiding from them and their heirs.

Here is the website link to all of the Uncivil episodes.

What podcasts do you enjoy?

Digital Humanities