Podcast Show Notes — Episode 9 (May 12, 2014)

After losing his feet in an accident in the 1880s, South Africa railway worker James “Jumper” Wide found an unlikely friend in a baboon named Jack. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll learn how Jumper taught Jack to work as a signalman on the railway line, where he won the trust of both authorities and passengers.

We’ll also meet an Englishman who dreamed the winners of horse races, ponder the strange case of the Stringfellow Acid Pits, and present the next Futility Closet Challenge.



Our post about Jack the monkey signalman appeared on Nov. 14, 2005. Sources for that segment:

George B. Howe, “A Unique Signalman,” The Railway Signal, September 1890.

Chris Marais and Julienne Du Toit, Shorelines: A Journey Along the South African Coast, 2006.

Roger Webster, At the Fireside: True South African Stories, Volume 3, 2005.

Associated Press, “Jack, the Amazing Baboon, Gets a Correction, 100 Years Later,” Telegraph, Nov. 11, 1990. (This refers to a correction that appeared that year in Nature. Reportedly an article in the journal’s July 24, 1890, issue had indicated that Jack worked in Natal, not Uitenhage. I don’t think the reference is accurate — that would have been vol. 42, no. 1082, of Nature, and I don’t find the report in that issue.)

Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind, 2008.

Our post on John Godley, who dreamed the winners of horse races, ran on April 29, 2010. He tells the whole tale in Chapter 3 of his memoir Living Like a Lord, which was originally published in 1952.

In 2009 the Examiner recounted Godley’s experiences (including his big win at the 1958 Grand National), as well as those of others who have had premonitory dreams of racetrack winners.

“Toxic Dreams,” Jack Hitt’s article about the victims of chemical dumping at California’s Stringfellow Acid Pits in the 1970s, appeared in Harper’s in 1995. It’s since been collected in Ira Glass’ 2007 book The New Kings of Nonfiction. (Thanks, Andrew.)

4 Responses to “Podcast Show Notes — Episode 9 (May 12, 2014)”

  1. Futility Closet Challenge:

    When a lad of six or seven, I listened to The Ballad of Davy Crockett week after week on the TV show with Fess Parker as Davy.

    Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
    Greenest state in the Land of the Free
    Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree
    Kilt him a b’ar when he was only three.
    Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier!

    I was always very confused by the blunder in the first verse– How could he be kilt “in” a b’ar when he was only three? How and why was he kilt? What was a three year old doing in a bar? If he was kilt when he was three, who was this grown up claiming to be him? It puzzled even me more than “I led the legions to the flag” of the United States of America.

  2. Ana Moreno says:

    Hi! Im a listener from Panamá and i must say i absolutely love this website.

    And about the challenge… well…

    When i was i child (4 or 5, i can’t remember) i used to look up to my Dad, he was my prime example of a grown up human being. One day i was just staring at him while waiting for something and i tought he wasn’t breathing ( it was kind of hard to tell at that age because the 75% of the time i saw him he was wearing a suit).

    So i used to believe that grown ups doesn’t have the need to breathe. So i went through “training methods” to teach myself how to live without breathing…

    I got tired of that training pretty quickly

  3. yischon says:

    Both my parents immigrated to the United States before I was born and did not become citizens until I was a teenager, so as a child whenever we would see the president in the news on the television, they would tell me, “That’s your president.” For many years I thought that Richard Nixon was *my* personal president.

  4. Sky says:

    To find out when “Candy Drops” you can join this site…


Leave a Reply