Season 2: Episode 3: The Mystery of William Shakespeare and the Crimes of Central Park

Season 2: Episode 3: The Mystery of William Shakespeare and the Crimes of Central Park

In 2007, a ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt’ was released by scholars and actors alike and it stated that there was ‘room for reasonable doubt about the identity of William Shakespeare.’ This week Clarke takes us behind the curtain of the mysteries and misinformation that surrounded the life of Shakespeare. The speculation that he was not the author of his plays, his weird, illegible signature, and what the heck he actually even looked like.

Justin brings us into more mysterious incidents, including all of the crimes surrounding, arguably, one of the most famous parks in the world. He shares the gruesome details of John Lennon’s murder, the police standoff at the Central Park washrooms and, of course, the Central Park Five. There is a lot more to the eye in this weeks episode of the Softbrains in Episode 3: The Mystery of William Shakespeare and the Crimes of Central Park!

An original print of A Midsommer Nights Dreame
Will’s crazy signature
The engraving of Shakespeare that everyone knows, the Droeshout Portrait
The potentially phony Flower Portait
The Cobbe Family portrait, expected to be one of the only portraits of Shakespeare painted from life.

The Dakota Apartments
A modern photo of the Dakota apartments where John Lennon was shot
An article about Maria Alves death
The police standoff with Angel Angelof
Original trial of the Central Park Five
Season 2: Episode 2: Building Central Park and the Unicorn Obsession

Season 2: Episode 2: Building Central Park and the Unicorn Obsession

What was Central Park before it was the groomed, touristy lawns that we know today? Well, it was a shanty town and some rocks. Justin tells us how Central Park became one of the most famous parks in the world and the ups and downs throughout its history. Including the effect of FDR and the Great Depression, the hippies and the kinda secret Central Park Conservancy.

Have you ever wanted to be a unicorn? The sparkly rainbow kind, the furry rhino kind or the business kind? Clarke details the weird origins and stories about unicorns throughout history, as well as their mistaken participation in the bible and the hoaxes that followed. Unicorns seem to have touched a little piece of every society, they’re not just frappuccinos or magical companions, they’re full of history and mystery. Find out all about it on Season 2: Episode 2 of @thesoftbrains

Christ depicted as a Unicorn
The throne of Denmark, apparently made of Unicorn horns.
The Unicorn in Captivity and No Longer Dead (One of seven tapestries from “the Hunt of the Unicorn”)
The real “Unicorn,” Elasmotherium Sibiricu
The very real skeleton of a Unicorn found in Germany in 1663.
The Unicorn Frappuccino

The design plans for Central Park
Beginning construction of Central Park in the 1850’s
A shanty town in Central Park in the 1930’s
The Great Lawn before renovations in the 1970’s.
The Great Lawn after it’s renovation.
Central Park, Manhattan, New York City
Season 2: Episode 1: The Success of Mcdonalds and Cod Wars

Season 2: Episode 1: The Success of Mcdonalds and Cod Wars

The Softbrains are back for Season 2 with a delicious mix of fast food and fresh fish. Clarke details the history and marketing of Mcdonalds that has made it the golden arched beast that we know today. Not only how they became so successful but how they maintained that success. She also touches on McDonalds’ slogans, their on and off relationship with Disney and their run in with fraud.
After talking about the Filet o’ Fish, Justin takes us to fish filets, specifically cod filets. Starting in the early 1900’s there has been several ‘cod wars’ between Iceland and the United Kingdom, fighting over the desirable waters that sit between the two countries. Justin gets into boat ramming, net cutting, NATO threats and all of the details that make the Cod Wars one of the strangest wars in recent human history. Back with a banger, check it all out in Season 2: Episode 1: The Success of Mcdonalds and Cod Wars

The oldest operating Mcdonalds, built in 1953
The original paper cup nose Ronald Mcdonald
McLobster, sold in Eastern Canada and New England region
Mcdonalds Monopoly peel off tokens that led to a $24 million fraud case in 2000.

A cod fish
Expansion of the Iceland territorial waters.  From Iceland internal waters to the 200 nmi expansion (current extent of EEZ) in 1975
Net cutter in action
Icelands “Odinn” and UKs “Scylla” ramming into one another in the North Atlantic
Episode 31: Kentucky Bourbon and the World’s Most Famous Restaurants

Episode 31: Kentucky Bourbon and the World’s Most Famous Restaurants

Are you ready to get drunk and hungry? In this weeks episode of the Softbrains, Justin takes us down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. He tells us exactly what this amber-coloured alcohol is made out of, its history and the weird rules and guidelines around its distillation. Bourbon barrels can’t be re-used, so what do they do with them? BBQ sauce, wine, decoration in your grandmas basement. This delicious drink is just the start of this episodes journey into deliciousness.

Clarke takes us on a journey through the world’s most famous restaurants. From the Napa Valley, to Catalonia to Paris, the French Laundry, El Bulli and the Tour D’argent are without a doubt the most famous restaurants in the world. Whether they started off as an Eagle Saloon or whether they specialize in foamed food, these restaurants are famous for a reason. Was it their ingredients, their innovation or their cultural significance that led to their fame? Get ready to salivate in Episode 31: Kentucky Bourbon and the World’s Most Famous Restaurants.

Bourbon evaporating into the ‘Angels Share’
The best of the best for Bourbon
The Makers Mark distillery, one of the stops on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Buffalo Trace Distillery

The original French Laundry restaurant in the Napa Valley
The 10 million dollar French Laundry renovation.
Mini pancakes from the French Laundry
El Bulli Restaurant in Catalonia, Spain
Lobster Gazpacho and a view from El Bulli
The Tour D’Argent, originally an Inn from the 15th century
A depiction of the Tour D’argent in the 1800’s
The Tour D’Argent restaurant today.

The French Laundry Website:

La Tour D’argent Website:

Episode 30: The Franklin Expedition and Sumo Wrestlers

Episode 30: The Franklin Expedition and Sumo Wrestlers

In 1858, two ships headed for the search of the Northwest Passage disappeared. The Franklin Expedition is one of Canada’s most enduring mysteries, it’s the story of a determined wife, possible cannibalism, and a sprinkle of the paranormal. The HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror were discovered in 2014 and 2016, respectively, but the ships are still rife with mystery and suspicion. Clarke tells us all about how they got there, what happened and how the Canadian government is involved.

On the other side of the planet, Justin takes us into the world of Sumo and the Rikishi. The popularity of sumo came and went, depending on local rulers and how they felt about sumo. But it was consistently a staple of Japanese culture and tradition at time to a fault. The conditions that sumo wrestlers live in and the associations persistence to hold to tradition has stirred up some controversy in recent years. Find out all about it this weeks episode of @thesoftbrains Episode 30: The Franklin Expedition and Sumo Wrestlers

The route of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror
Sir John Franklin, ‘the man who ate his boots.’
Lady Jane Franklin
The 20 000 euro reward for the search of Sir John Franklin and his ships

Check out the national geographic website for pictures of the discovered HMS Erebus!

Sumo Wrestler depiction from 1850
A rikishi wearing a traditional kesho-mawashi
Low ranking sumo wrestling trainees doing their daily workout at a stable in Tokyo.
Harumafuji, a star sumo wrestler from Malaysia
Episode 29: Rain Man’s Savant Syndrome and the Disney Cruise Disappearance

Episode 29: Rain Man’s Savant Syndrome and the Disney Cruise Disappearance

Savant Syndrome, a condition where an individual excels in a specific skill like art, music or math. Only about 75 people in the world today are deemed as ‘mega-savants,’ but the syndrome is not without its drawbacks. Justin tells us all about how Savant Syndrome affects individuals like Kim Peek, a mega savant. The 1988 blockbuster hit, Rain Man was based on Kim Peek and his incredible ability to memorize everything that he read. 
Then Clarke shifts gears to the not-so-magical disappearance of Rebecca Coriam, a Disney employee who vanished from a Disney cruise ship in 2011. Her story is riddled with mystery, cover ups and lawsuits. Disney maintains to this day that Rebecca was washed overboard by a wave but Clarke breaks down why that can’t possibly be true and its clear that something more malicious happened to the young Disney worker. Don’t believe everything the Mouse tells you in Episode 29: Rain Man’s Savant Syndrome and the Disney Cruise Disappearance. 

Art painted by a Savant by the name of Richard Wawro
Kim Peek, a Mega Savant, who Rain Man is based on.
Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in 1988’s Rain Man
Kim Peek and screenwriter Barry Morrow with the ‘most loved oscar.’

Rebecca Coriam in her Disney Crew uniform
The Disney Wonder ship in 2011.
The last message Rebecca sent to her family.
Bex speaking on the phone, the morning that she disappeared.
A flip flop that Rebecca’s parents were given even though it had someone else’s name on it.
Bex and Tracie Medley dancing.
Episode 28: America’s Weirdest Bank Robber and the Chocolate Industry

Episode 28: America’s Weirdest Bank Robber and the Chocolate Industry

Cowboy Bob was a notorious bank robber in the early 90’s in Texas. He hit multiple banks in the Irving area and stole thousands of dollars. He always wore a 10 gallon hat, a beard and sunglasses and no one knew that under all that, it was actually a middle-aged woman named Peggy Jo Tallas. Clarke tells us all about Peggy Jo’s story and the events that led to Cowboy Bob’s final stand in 2005.

Originally thought to be cultivated in Central America, Cocoa trees were actually domesticated first in South America according to a recent research group from British Columbia. It was long after that the delicious chocolate-giving trees were moved to Africa. Justin dives into chocolate’s history, production and the current issues facing the industry in episode 28: America’s Weirdest Bank Robber and the Chocolate Industry.

The Last Ride of Cowboy Bob
Peggy Jo Tallas AKA Cowboy Bob
Peggy Jo about to come out of her RV in 2005, her last stand.
Peggy Jo Tallas before her untimely death in May of 2005.

Cocoa pods that look like skinny pumpkins.
Cocoa beans in a cocoa pod.
A woman in Trinidad crushing cocoa beans with her feet.
A big slab of cocoa butter.
A child working in the chocolate industry in Africa.
Episode 27: Detroit’s Purple Gang and the Northern Lights

Episode 27: Detroit’s Purple Gang and the Northern Lights

Detroit, 1920’s, prohibition is in full swing and a juvenile street gang is started up by the Burnstein brothers. Abe, Joe, Raymond and Izzy call it ‘the Purple Gang.’ Justin details the purple gangs involvement in several turf wars, bootlegging and the laundry industry union. They controlled all of Detroit’s vices and they were number one until the Collingwood Manor Massacre, then, things changed for the Burnsteins. 

North of Detroit, Clarke delves into Aurora or the Northern Lights. The colourful dancing lights in the sky that have led to legends, stories and myths that have lasted centuries. Some say it’s a gateway to heaven others say it’s spirits playing football with a Walrus’s head. But actually, it’s solar particles crashing into the atoms in our atmosphere. Find out how you can run your telegraph system with auroral current instead of batteries in episode 27: Detroit’s Purple Gang and the Northern Lights. 

The Purple Gang, rotten, purple like the colour of bad meat.
The apartment where the Collingwood Manor Massacre occurred.
The Purple Gang at the trial where they were accused and convicted of first-degree murder.

An 1865 painting by Frederic Edwin Church, possibly inspired by the Great Auroral Exhibition
A diagram of how Aurora is formed from solar particles and our atoms crashing together
Steve, an atmospheric phenomenon
Green Aurora caused by oxygen, Estonia 2015
Purple Aurora caused by Nitrogen in Duluth, Minnesota
Rare red Aurora in Yellowknife, Canada
Image credit: Chul Kwon
Episode 26: Waco Siege (Part 2) and the Mary Celeste Disappearance

Episode 26: Waco Siege (Part 2) and the Mary Celeste Disappearance

Federal agents did everything they could to drive the Branch Davidians out of the Mount Carmel Centre in the 1993 Waco Siege. Recordings of rabbits being slaughtered, flash grenades, and finally, tear gas to drive out David Koresh and his followers. In part two of the Waco Siege, Clarke details the events that resulted in the fire on April 19th, 1993 that would end with a total death count of 76 people.

The Waco Siege is surrounded in mystery and unconfirmed conspiracies, as is the disappearance of the crew of the Mary Celeste. In December of 1872, the ship (Mary Celeste) was discovered 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal. Not one soul on board, navigation systems missing but the cargo of denatured alcohol untouched. Justin expands on the mystery and @thesoftbrains explore the story in this weeks episode, episode 26: Waco Siege (Part 2) and the Mary Celeste Disappearance.

The Mount Carmel Center on the first day of the siege, 4 ATF agents and 5 Branch Davidians were killed that day.
David Koresh’s interview with CNN on February 28, 1993
David Koresh’s full negotiated radio sermon from 1993
A combat engineering vehicle breaking through the center wall
Live CNN coverage of the Waco siege and the Mount Carmel Center fires.
The last remnants of the center being burned to the ground.

An 1861 painting of the Amazon which would later be known as the Mary Celeste
A map indicating the discovery position of the empty Mary Celeste
Gibraltar in the 19th Century
Episode 25: Invasive Species and the Waco Siege (Part 1)

Episode 25: Invasive Species and the Waco Siege (Part 1)

‘Unwelcomed pests, invasive three
Save yourselves is natures plea’
Justin shares with us his poetic side in episode 25 of @thesoftbrains, he tells us all about the damage of three invasive species. The zebra mussels, dandelions and the Norwegian rat. They’ve spread all over the world, damaging and infiltrating human environments. And human intervention hasn’t exactly been the most helpful.

Speaking of human intervention, Clarke tells us all about the ways that intervention can go wrong. She gives us a brief history on the Branch Davidians and their previous leader David Koresh who was preparing for the apocalypse by stockpiling weapons. Eventually leading to the ATF’s intervention and the death of 76 people during the Waco Siege in 1993.

The Softbrains podcast is available on all major podcast apps including iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.

An aptly named Zebra Mussel
Zebra Mussels sticking on to another mussel.
A dandelion field in Russia
The rat, the most successful mammal aside from humans

The Mount Carmel Center, the Branch Davidian’s home
Victor Houteff, the founder of the Branch Davidians
The flag of Branch Davidians
David Koresh