In the first half of the twentieth century, John R. Brinkley was a celebrated and successful “doctor” renowned for his ability to use goat organs to help humans with infertility. In addition to his “medical” success, Brinkley was also an early adopter of radio technology, which he used to advertise his hospital and his other medicines.
In this first episode of season 3, which focuses loosely on the KC area, Fact or Fiction welcomes podcasters Cam and Jen of Our True Crime Podcast as guests who attempt to distinguish between fact and fiction. Listen carefully because it’s tricky to know if what you hear is Fact or Fiction. Ready to play?
Nicknamed “Liquor Island,” Long Island was a center for bootlegging and rumrunning for the New York metropolitan area during Prohibition. Amy Kasuga Folk’s book Rumrunners of Suffolk County: Tales from Liquor Island shares highlights from her book and inserts a fictional detail in her four choices at the end of the episode. Will you identify the fiction? Will I?
Listeners will be astonished by what they learn, and it’s mostly true!
In the late nineteenth century, West was wild all the way back to the Mississippi River. Only a day’s walk from the progressive big city of St. Louis, rural Jefferson County citizens were struggling with an outbreak of thefts, arson, and more. Mack Marsden, successful livestock trader and family man, was accused of being involved. After Mack was shot and killed, there remained lingering doubts. Was he a criminal, or was he wrongly accused?
Author Joe Johnston tells the fascinating story he uncovered while researching The Mack Marsden Murder Mystery. Of course, he inserts one fiction into this unbelievable but true story.
The following images are courtesy of Joe Johnston.
From 1848 to 1881, a small utopian colony in upstate New York—the Oneida Community—was known for its shocking sexual practices, from open marriage and free love to the sexual training of young boys by older women. And in 1881, a one-time member of the Oneida Community—Charles Julius Guiteau—assassinated President James Garfield in a brutal crime that shook America to its core.
Susan Wels, author of An Assassin in Utopia, shares this interwoven tale. Of course, she inserts one fiction into this unbelievable but true story. Will I recognize the fiction within the facts? Will you?
For this special episode Tracy Marak, member of the Belle Toffee family, is my guest. She shares the Belle Toffee story and tries her best to distinguish fact or fiction as I tell a mostly-true story about another candy maker, Forrest E. Mars.
Although this story doesn’t fit neatly into the true crime category, Forrest Mars’ road to ownership of Mars, Inc. wasn’t a smooth one and it certainly wasn’t sweet. Today, the Mars, Inc. is one of the largest privately held companies in the world, and Forrest’s descendent are among the world’s richest citizens.
Listen to learn how Forrest Mars achieved his success, but remember that one fiction has been inserted into the story. Will Tracy guess the fiction? Will you? It’s tricky to know if something is Fact or Fiction? Ready to play?
Cadbury, Deborah. (2010) Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World’s Greatest Chocolate Makers. Public Affairs.
Clayman, Andrew. (n. d.) Mars Inc., est. 1911. Made in Chicago Museum. Retrieved from https://www.madeinchicagomuseum.com/single-post/mars-inc/
James Brockman rose from shady character to preeminent defense attorney in Houston, Texas representing clients including gang leaders, jilted spouses, wealthy storekeepers and drunken on-duty policemen. His career gained national recognition, including his involvement in the most famous American murder case of the young twentieth century, when he himself was murdered leaving a dubious legacy.
Houston historian Mike Vance’s book Getting Away with Bloody Murder examines Brockman, the criminals he defended, and the crimes they allegedly committed. In this episode, Vance shares several riveting stories from his book. As always on the show, he inserts one fictional detail. Try to identify what he made up, but be warned: it’s not easy to know if something is fact or fiction.
In this episode, authors Victoria Cosner and Lorelie Shannon share a mostly-true story from their book Missouri’s Murderous Matrons. Emma Heppermann, a black widow killer, and Bertha Gifford, an angel of mercy killer, used arsenic to murder unsuspecting family and friends for decades. The story of how they managed to evade discovery is unbelievable. As always, these authors insert one fiction into our discussion. Try to identify what they made up, but be warned: it’s not easy to know if something is fact or fiction.
On Christmas Eve of 1900, someone got away with murder. Frank Richardson, wealthy business owner and family man, was shot as he entered his home. Although many people may have wanted him dead, the crime has remained unsolved to this day. Kimberly Tilley, author of Has it Come to This? The Mysterious, Unsolved Murder of Frank Richardson tells us the mostly-true story about Frank Richardson and his murder. She inserts one fiction into this unbelievable story. Try to identify what she made up, but be warned: it’s not easy to know if something is fact or fiction.
Note: All of the above images are taken from Has It Come to This? by Kimberly Tilley.
Litigator and author Cecil Kuhne shares a mostly-true story about Rudolph Ivanovich Abel, the subject of his book KGB Man: The Cold War’s Most Notorious Soviet Agent and the First to be Exchanged at the Bridge of Spies. Abel was captured by the FBI in 1957 after an inept colleague betrayed him to the US. Abel’s trial, his conviction, and his eventual exchange across the Glienicker Brücke (the “Bridge of Spies”) for US pilot Frances Gary Powers is a riveting story that will leave listeners questioning what is fact and what is fiction.
Click on the book cover for a link to purchase KGB Man.
A map of the location of the Bridge of Spies. The London Evening Standard, 1962, Feb 10, p. 1.
Today’s guest, Connie Yen, is the author of Sinner and Savior: Emma Molloy and the Graham Murder, the true story of an 1886 murder in Greene County known as “The Graham Tragedy.” In 1886, the nude body of Sarah Graham was found in a well on the Molloy property. Subsequent investigations uncovered a bigamous marriage and other allegedly scandalous happenings in the home of temperance advocate Emma Molloy. Connie shares the (mostly-true)
details of this fascinating story. Listen carefully because it’s not easy to know what’s fact and what’s fiction!
Emma’s Escapes. (1886, March 25). The Leavenworth Weekly Times, p. 5.