The Laxative-laden Journey of Lewis and Clark


Hi, I'm Josh Clark of stuff, you should know. And I have a new podcast series called the end of the world. It's about all the ways humanity might accidents. Wipe ourselves out with the amazing new technology. We're beginning to develop like artificial intelligence. Sure, it's heavy stuff. But it's also enormously interesting. And surprisingly, it's kind of inspiring to if you're fan of the deep dive check out the end of the world with Josh Clark on apple podcasts, the iheartradio app and everywhere you get podcast and join the conversation on social at hash. Take e OT w Josh Clark. Is your crew of? Otherwise intrepid adventurous soldiers and scouts falling prey to the depredations of life on the edge of the map of the challenges of the untamed wild leaving your men with civilised constipation, scurvy, brain shutters, sticking Welshman, Zia and the other tragic painful condition, so come into modern explores if so fret not good, friends and neighbors, Dr Benjamin Russia's discovered a brilliant innovative solution to all your ills, Dr Russia's world-famous billion pills use a proprietary combination appealing, greedy. It's to gently urge the body of excess Beilin contaminants that caused these dreadful in commodious conditions. Hi, I'm bet who was that though, the oh that was a advertisement for Dr Benjamin Russia's billions pill, not Dr Benjamin Boland's business pills. No, no. He beat me. He beat me to this. No to the gut punch. Yes. To the to the thunder clap. Oh, my goodness gracious. So I think he left out a key component in that ad though. Ben yet, there was a little bit of a PR spin. There know what was what was that key ingredient? They got left out. I think it was mercury Ben. I'm believe you're correct. By friend of we are here ridiculous history along with our super producer, Casey peg REM. And I don't think we told Casey what this episode is going to be about. No, I think from our pre pro conversations he sort of gleaned that it was something to do with mercury and poop possibly exploration. Yes. Possibly exploration. Probably definitely exploration. Can you take bacchanal where where are we headed who who are protagonist today? Okay. Ben for today's episode. We are in fact going to time travel so that we can physically travel along with our companions for the day Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, otherwise known as Lewis and Clark. Yes. Yes. And there's an amazing superman spinoff television program called lowest and clever that they were really capitalizing people. Having fun memories of this intrepid traveling duo, but this is an eighteen o four and that was more like in nineteen ninety four. I wanna say so this is the important pair. So we've got Lewis and Clark who go out on an issue. Journey sort of like Lord of the rings ask journey to more door only. It's to survey this land that president Jefferson. You know, basically bought from Louisiana in another creative title for an event. Louisiana purchase. He purchased some land, easy, Anna, and they called it that and so this journey started from Saint Louis and very very slowly and deliberately made its way to the west coast. Right, right. If they wanted to they were testified to passage from the Missouri river to the Pacific, and they left as you said may fourteenth eighteen oh four it took them twenty eight months to complete the journey. They lucked out though, because almost everyone survived which was amazing when you consider that they were going through the untamed wa I think the only lost one person. Just right. Yeah. How he go on August. Twentieth. Sergeant charles. Charles Floyd died of what they called it the time bilious corley interesting wasn't that word in the name of that pill at that a disembodied. Yes. Announcer gave us the top of the show. Billions pills today. We call bilious quarterback C H O R L K, by the way, we call that a ruptured appendix, really. So Billy is referring to bile. Correct. Absolutely. And that's what you're pedic's is kind of chock full of. And it is a poisonous substance. If leached out into the body, right, right? Exactly billion is a word that can treat its June back to the old belief in the old, medical belief humor's. Yes, exactly. The four bodily humors would be black bile, yellow, bile, phlegm and blood. So you might be FLA Matic, you might be bilious and when Lewis and Clark set off with their thirty odd people they wanted to really be boy scouts about it. They needed to prepare as much as possible for any contingency and one of the things that they were very concerned with was the possibility. Of growing sick like indigestion diarrhea constipation constipation, mainly that's the big one because how many months was this journey again. Ben twenty eight twenty eight months, so you know, I it would be almost impossible to bring enough food. That would not that would keep for that long. Let alone that you could actually carry through the completely untamed wilderness. They were traveling through. So they had to be prepared to have to catch their own food which would end up being like super kinda gamey stuff. I believe they ended up eating a lot of dogs on this trip. Yeah. Yeah. That was a thing. And this led them to having some pretty severe tummy troubles most specifically constipation. So they packed these pills in large quantities. Yes. Yeah. The weird thing about the billion pills is they were actually in effect anti bilious back than a patient was said to be billions. When supposed- poor flow of bile in their body gave them any number of symptoms, headaches, lassitude constipation, and Dr rush had actually spoken to Lewis, Mary weather Lewis before the left, and he said, if you see a sign of improving disease, if you see one of these symptoms pop-up, headaches, constipation just hand them one or two of these pills, but they had that nickname, right? Thunderbolts thunderbolt. Yeah. Sounds some truckstop speed doesn't it like like any mini thins yellow jacket yellow Jiang? But here here's the kicker, though. It contained something called calomel ten grams per serving, which the active ingredient in Kalomo is in fact. Mercury Mercurius chloride. Yeah. And this calomel stuff had been used in medical practice. Since the sixteen hundreds because it was actually a milder form of mercury compound the liquid metal mercury had been applied externally in different ways since ancient times to treat variety of skin diseases. And then because it been used so often externally it evolved into an internal medicine, boys. In the problem with mercury is that sure it does knock out some conditions of the skin, for example. But it also like poisons the person that's taking it, right? Right. Like, the the old haberdasher 's who would go crazy from exposure to mercury right? Yeah. Like that guy that killed John Wilkes booth. We didn't episode on back in the that's right. That's right. Yeah. Yeah. You know, the guy castrated himself Thomas, corvette, corvette. That's that's right. So we know that mercury could actually treat some medical conditions. People used it often to combat syphilis, for instance of. But we also know that this stuff had a range of terrible terrible side effects. If you took small doses of this matures chloride over time. It would give you mercury poisoning just in call it that at the time. You would have a a lot of saliva your gums. We get sore your teeth would loosen your breath would smell like metal which is super gross, and you would have discolored stool, but in large doses this stuff acted very quickly as a laxative, right? Yeah. Absolutely did. And that is of course, the purposes that was being employed for here with the Lewis and Clark team. They. Took so much of it that they would spend like an entire day. They would lose to multiple party members. Just you know, purging spray and pray is what I like to call. That's a good one. But thankfully, there was a popular kind of wisdom. I guess rounding camping that you should dig your latrine a certain distance away from your campsite. Oh, yeah. Not to contaminate your your mood, or you know, just just to keep things. Not gross. It's a quality of life. It's a quite specially if you gotta do hovering over this hole in the ground like expelling his bowels just explosively. Nobody wants to be around that. How you remember? How far it was what was the recommended distance? I I would think surely given the circumstance that they would have like up that whatever and may have been. Yeah, it it may have changed depending on their terrain. But the rule of thumb nowadays is about a hundred yards away a minimum in a secluded area. They were probably not that. Far away 'cause one hundred yards. That's a football field. You know what? I mean. An exactly like if you were in some kind of small clearing like in a wooded area. You might not have that much space to work with yet. It was probably just far it was at least far enough away that you wouldn't be haunted by the smell or the sounds horrible. All right. The the groans of anguish human misery, and like cartoonish splattering sounds even imagine Ben. I can it bothers me me too. Does it bother you listeners? Let's no. Does it bother you? Casey. Yeah. I'd say that bothers me. It's been case. It is decided. It's an unpleasant thing to be around. Right. We took it to the highest authority in the land. As far as this podcast is concerned. Hey, everyone, we're ridiculous history. And we want to tell you about a brand new apple we discover an app just for investing. It's cold. Robinhood answer, I Robin Hood and investing at that lets you buy and sell stocks F S's options and cryptocurrencies all commission free. They tried to make financial services work for everyone, including investment neophytes like me, and Ben not just the wealthy gets. None intimidating wave for stock market newcomers to invest for the first time with true confidence. Let's go back to the some of the high points of this. I love that there. No commission fees. Other brokerages may charge up to ten dollars for every trade. But Robin Hood does not full stop yet round. 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The weird thing about these pills is that it was a large enough dose of mercury to actually kill a human being. But it went through their bodies. And the other because it was fast acting too. That was another part. That's why they were called lightning pills. I imagined right. Yeah. Exactly. And they had to be named after the sound, you know, which just still bothers me a little bit. No. But here's here's some saying sounded like lightning when they evacuated their bowels. Yes. Out of the sounded like the clap of thunder. You know, got it like is a storm coming in or is Louis sick. Again, you know, but here's something that hopefully made the pain of the journey worth it for these for these intrepid explorers for a long time. Archaeologist were attempting to trace the exact path that Lewis and Clark took and these guys stated over six hundred different sites. So you might know the general trend, and you can see some stuff that they have documented themselves. But if you want to find the specific actual facts campsites, you're looking at a needle in the haystack situation, or so one would assume or you could call it a pile of human excrement in a hole in the ground situation. That's true. That's probably more accurate. More accurate, which honestly seems to me would be pretty difficult to find as well. But find it. These intrepid. Archaeologist did did they not they didn't know they did. And they did it with the incidental help of Dr Benjamin rushes billions pills because remember how just a moment ago. We said that the these things are sixty percent mercury. Sixty percent, matures chloride or calomel. There was so much mercury. Running through these poor guys bodies that the mercury stayed in the ground where they're latrines were like, unusual heart. Tune ish I'll say it disgusting amount of mercury. And that is how given the opportunity archaeologists could differentiate between the Lewis and Clark poop and the poop of of others who may have passed through a similar location. But then they had to have had a vague idea that couldn't have been like, you know, going willy nilly to every random campsite like this seems like a insane process. How did this go down? It's a good question, my friend. There's a writer for the Chicago trip. View name Marie supposedly who walks us through a little bit of this in his journals. Mary weather Lewis refers to a campsite near a place called Lolo creek, which is just a few miles south of Missoula in causes police travelers rest, and they all everybody thought for longtime that this camp was at the confluence of the bitter river and Lolo creek about a mile and a half away. But this old change when a vapor analysis verified, this unusual amount of mercury there, a high was that much of Apor analysis, and it was like in the air and crazy they were able to they were able to analyze the soil pretty easily once they once they find that one site, and like, oh, this proves it. Let's see if we can test other specific sites entries as Merck, and maybe maybe. To the source. Buy seeing how the concentrations change, right? Yeah. Exactly. You could in theory. I guess find that that hole in the ground by tracking the concentration of mercury. Yes. And there's an interesting thing here that you and I talked about off air. We we've been mentioning mercury as a treatment for constipation, but it was also used to treat an entirely different medical condition. That's the thing. They were getting this mercury from from two different sources, the the billions pills, which was kind of considered a cure all, but then they also had a cache of another type of medication that was specifically designed to treat syphilis because they were they basically kind of prepared for the fact they're going to have a lot of one of their kind of sex. Was there the time unprotected sex? Some native women. There's an article in the Atlantic that came out in twenty six teen that seems to dispel this belief for a while people believe that syphilis actually came somehow from the new world, but all the evidence indicates we still don't know exactly where syphilis came from. And I think you, and I had always assumed that syphilis came with the Europeans into the new world, which I know we're not supposed to use the term new world anymore. But that's what they called it at that time. We know we're talking about. Yeah. So the disease already had a long history in Europe. But maybe the syphilis epidemic seemed like a new disease at the time because it previously been mistaken for something else. Or maybe it was particularly virulent strain of syphilis, whatever the case may be the. These travelers knew damn well that they were going to be exposed to this condition. But they weren't thinking about that stop them from having a nice fling with an attractive lady. And they took this stuff to either. I guess it wasn't really could be a safeguard against except that they were gonna get it. Apparently. We're okay with that resign themselves to their their syphilis fate, which is no joke rice, if this is the one that like can kind of like make you go insane over time right in the late stages. Yes. So they had syphilis and mercury poisoning. I would imagine by the end of this journey. These dues were were not well, right? And mentally, right? And let's see it was even just in the first year of the expedition on October fifteenth eighteen four Clark writes down that the party had arrived at a place called the camp of the hour Kara, and that quote, they're women were very fond of caressing our men and company and by March of eighteen. Five he noted that the men were quote, generally, healthy except the Nereo complaints, which is very common amongst the natives here the men catch it from them. So they were blaming the native population. But you know, it was just apparently just crazy talk for them to, you know, not pursue these flings. I mean, the handed occupy their time somehow, so we were just on this cycle of unprotected sex syphilis mercury while times my and eating dogs and eating dogs and just laying some epic flagellations. What about this? What the farts thunderclaps? Oh, that's different. It was manifest destiny. I'll ben. I love my son much. There is another thing too about the times that they spent on the on the old rugged trail. Apparently every man got a ration of whiskey. They had barrels of whiskey, and that was a really important part of their staying sane in these intense circumstances and one man, I believe was caught taking more than his fair share. And he got fifty stripes on the back with a cat or nine tales or some such bull whip. Oh, while they took that stuff. Really seriously. Yeah. And you know that stuff left scars. Oh, big time. Yeah. But I mean that was the height of punishment. And if they did that for just, you know, taking a little extra shot of whiskey. I can't imagine what they would have done for more severe crimes. Right. And this is fascinating. I think to both of us because growing up here in the states when you hear about the Lewis and Clark expedition, you just hear the bare bones, and it's some. It's a little romanticized. You know, it's like these this noble group of people who are the harbingers of western civilization at this point trying to explore a great unknown, at least unknown to Europeans land. And as so often happens in so many stories like this. We skip over a lot of the nitty gritty details. The epidemic of syphilis the epidemic of diarrhea the mercury in the ground everywhere dog eating the dog eating. None of that's very sexy at all. No, that's not what you wanna think about think about this. We're left with this image of conquering. You know, the great outdoors, and you've got these trails named after Lewis and Clark. And now, we know that they went to I think more than six hundred campsites throughout this journey and like travelers rest because of these intrepid archaeologists and their ability to analyze some of these sites. I mercury content. We know. No a little bit more about where these folks pass through. Yes. And we have also learned that what you know. Neither of us. Are doctors Casey is not a doctor either. We've also learned the perils of mercury don't take don't break the thermometer and play with it. Did you ever do that as a kid no seen videos of it looks pretty cool? It's like the T one thousand actually. Yeah. But it's still not worth it can do horrible things you it just happened. In today's episode to preserve for posterity. The details of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Man. No, I've got good news and bad news. That Shufi businesses started what feed shoe feet? It's the shoes. I make look like feet. So people think you're barefoot, but you're wearing shoes. I hate those. Sorry exist are the ones with the little toes. No minor different because they look like actual feet. It's a really smart idea. But I did something that was not smart. I went to just the first job site placement center. I can find and they kept sending me the wrong resumes. That's a bummer. I'll tell you. What is smart though? Ben going to ZipRecruiter dot com slash Riddick to hire that right person to help you manufacture, these disgusting sounding shoe feet. I'm telling you, they're brilliant. You don't have to put me down about it. But you're right. I should go to ZipRecruiter dot com slash Riddick. Our idea. I see a because from what I hear ZipRecruiter doesn't depend on candidates finding you it finds them for you. That's right using its powerful matching technology. It scans thousands of resumes. It's like a resume robot. Identifying people with the right skills education and experience for your job and actively invites them to apply. So you get qualified candidates quick. And that is why ZipRecruiter's rated number one by employers in the US. This reading comes from hiring sites on trust pilot with over one thousand reviews and right now listeners ridiculous history. Can try ZipRecruiter for free at this exclusive web address. That's ZipRecruiter dot com slash Riddick. Are Idei see once again, the ZipRecruiter dot com slash Redick. Ziprecruiter dot com slash Redick. And one thing. That's surprising is although we we hold the Lewis and Clark expedition in such high regard today, it only became popular relatively recently like fifty years ago, or so I think when these men return they expected like a hero's. Welcome right. And it just never really came and Mary weather Lewis. In fact, his death has been a source of much speculation. But one very plausible one is that he kind of spiraled into despair and self doubt. And that he alternately took his own life in quite outlandish fashion walk through. Yeah. Well, so Thomas Jefferson himself had reported that Lewis is family had a history of depression, bipolar disorder specifically, and that he himself Lewis had been suffering from this condition. Himself since he was a child, and here's a quote from article on history dot N, D dot gov, where Jefferson says this governor Lewis had from an early life been subject to hypochondriac affections. It was a constitutional disposition in all the nearer branches of the family of his name. It was more immediately inherited by him from his father while he lived with me in Washington. I observed at times sensible depressions of mind, but knowing their constitutional source. I estimated their course by what I had seen in the family. This is really interesting because this idea of mental illness having such stigma it's still around today. Sure it hasn't gotten that much better. So back in these days is certainly wouldn't have been something you would have talked about. But yes, he suffered from these great highs and great lows, and the story of his demise goes like this. Oh show. Also mentioned just injury Jack that he his rediscovered letters show that he had written his will before the journey, and he also attempted suicide. On the expedition, but was restraint. Good. A good thing. He had his broS around him to kind of hold him pull back from the legis FO's. So what happened? How how did he has a way? So the story goes like this. He had booked himself a room at an end Attaran and he shot himself. But that didn't take because I guess, I don't know maybe this little musket balls. Those those guys always discharge properly, maybe just didn't wasn't a deathblow. And so he did it again. And that didn't quite take either. So he decided to go to sleep. He went to sleep and he woke up not dead. And then he apparently ran out into the hallway and said, quote, give me some water and heal my wounds and all the guests were freaking out. And he went back to sleep and then woke up and someone witnessed him quote, cutting himself from head to foot. So it took about twelve hours of time. Two bullets a little bit of sleep and a blade for Lewis to finally die. And that is like some tortures of the damned kind of stuff right there. Because Lord self-inflicted is is the belief, right? This was at the Grinder's stand. His on the notches trace and believe he had one gun shot in the head one to the gut and said he ran out and scared the hell out of everyone Nashville newspaper reported that his throat was cut. There is one complicating factor here money that he had borrowed from guy a major Gilbert Russell to complete the journey was missing. The plot thickens. The plot thickens and Thomas Jefferson, as you pointed out along with some modern historians generally accepted, the idea that Lewis died of suicide, but there's still a debate. There's still people who say it was homicide for. One reason or another that is pretty fascinating. It does seem like the groundwork was laid for him having already demonstrated suicidal tendencies, but this whole missing money business. The only muddies the water, so he might have spent it because of the historian Paul Russell cut right completely believes this was suicide, and he has a pretty detailed take down in the murder slash robbery theory. He says Lewis had a lot of debt. He was a heavy drinker. He may have been using morphine and opium. He was running late preparing the expedition's journals publishing he just couldn't get a romantic partner. And he was on the outs with Thomas Jefferson, their relationship was going downhill, so he's saying that it's plausible that Lewis given his history right has his own mental struggles he's saying it's more plausible that Lewis eventually took his own life. Well, that's a real bummer. And that is surely Downer way to end this episode. So I'm gonna throw in one more thing to kind of like change gay like pallet cleanser, a little bit of a pallet cleanser, and that is the fact or the idea that Thomas Jefferson, one of the big things he was super excited about them. Finding his expedition was like giant animals. Yes. Like mammoths so American right? Yeah. Big time and something called a mega Lon IX or a mega mega mega onyx, which is like some kind of giant cat, and he described it as as preeminent over the lion in size as the mammoth is over the elephant. And if you want to see a really cool exploration of this as if it were real there's a comic book series called manifest destiny. I've read it issue thirty six right now going, but you can get the collected trains, or what have you checked it out? I've read like the first trade, and it's really cool, but it has some of these crazy creatures. Yeah. Yeah. Big part of it in this comic. They're finding will tell you. Without spoiling it in in this story in the graphic novels lash comic book manifest destiny, the expedition does run into megaphone just a generic term for large animals, but they also keep funding these structures that look like the gateway arch there in Saint Louis, and I you know, what if you're a fan of good stories we highly recommend that. I'm so glad you mentioned this on air, always reading it. Rereading it last night. No way. Yeah. In prep for the podcast all that good historical data in there. Because I think there is some stuff in there that is a story accurate, but it's largely fictionalized version with some of these more high and lofty ideas of what this this unsettled, wilderness might be like so pretty cool stuff. Yeah. Check it out. I like the we like we made a good comic recommendation. We do whatever we can have we before we may have mentioned comics like, but I don't know if we out not recommend one. I pledged from this day forth to always recommend a comic on every. Okay. No. That's too much. No as long as caveat as long as it doesn't have to completely tie in with the episode. And we're gonna do episode on every state, and we're gonna complete it by the end of this year. Whoa. Now, I don't do can make it my promising too much. We're only coming out twice a week. Forget it's under promise over deliver. So there's also another common called the black Monday murders has nothing to do with today's episode. But you will thoroughly enjoy it. And I'm a fan of lock and key which you loaned me trying to get my way through it. But it's by Joe hill who Stephen king's son, nothing really like anything Stephen King, though. He's got his own thing. Yeah. Yeah. Joe hill is a fantastic writer. You don't let us know. What comic books you like historical or otherwise? Yeah. And you can let us new right now. You're listening to Sepah sued. They have to do is hop on Instagram Twitter or Facebook, especially our Facebook community page ridiculous stories or you can write us to fashion Email ridiculous. How stuff works dot com. I'm we love to thank super producer Casey peg room. I want to. Thank you, Ben. I'd like to thank, you know, along with Alex Williams from composed our track a research associate Gabe who does just an amazing jobs. Right. And big shutouts. Christopher Eves who have done an incredible job at this point. I still think we've got a few of their ideas kicking. In the cancer. We'll make sure that we shout them out when those and a shoutout to Dr Benjamin rush. I don't know if you meant to be in the history books this way, doc, but congratulations nonetheless, Casey, can we get an appropriate sound q. Hey, guys, get another cool podcast wreck for you. It's called creature feature and it's a new comedy educational podcast from how stuff works hosted by Katie golden, former writer at crack dot com, evolutionary biology at Harvard, and apparently writes from the perspective of a bird on Twitter. That's right folks in each episode of creature feature Katie takes different guests comedian through some downright freaky. Evolutionary oddities that will make you wonder what mother nature has been smoking this whole time when you listen to this. You're taking on an expedition through the bizarre world of human and animal behaviors may be hard to admit. We will discover how irritably similar we are to our untamed animal cousins. So here's the pitch comedians are asked to shrink down, you know, imaginary and get inside the minds of animals. What would it be like to be the brainwashed victim of a parasitic wasp or a penguin who turns to a life of crime? Yeah. 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