079 | By George
Our world is full of the unexplainable. And if history is in open book, all of these amazing tales right there on display just waiting for us to explore. Welcome. The cabinet of curiosities. Friends come to us in unexpected ways. Their timing can seem strange, but oddly appropriate as they we've themselves so deeply into our lives that we couldn't imagine life without them friends can illuminate the best in us or amplify the worst in us. And sometimes we don't know what kind of friend. They are until it's too late. But no matter what a good friend is there when we need them. The most George p Birdal was that kind of friend. When Ed Smith met George Berdahl in nineteen twenty seven that to hit it off immediately. Both men attended Georgia Tech university that claims among its alumni former president Jimmy Carter and golf legend Bobby Jones, George and Ed took all of the same classes and often completed assignments together they even took the copying each other's homework on more than one occasion changing the answers just enough to make look like they done the work individually. The two men were inseparable, but eventually George started to gain notoriety around the campus. He played varsity football from nineteen twenty eight to nineteen thirty and upon reaching his senior year, he was offered membership into the A N A K society a secret Honor Society founded in nineteen oh eight Ed, however, continued his education as intended and in nineteen thirty he and George earn their bachelor's degrees in engineering. George continued on and received his master's degree. But as the conflict overseas continued to grow he saw an opportunity to put his education and his medal to the test after leaving school. He enlisted in war to and join the crew of a b seventeen bomber flying dozen missions with England's eighth air force. Once the war was over George met and fell in love with a young woman by the name of Ramona Cartwright's who had attended Agnes Scott college only, twenty minutes away from his alma mater. Their engagement was announced in nineteen fifty eight in the Atlanta Journal constitution newspaper and fifty years later, the public radio program a prairie home companion celebrated their anniversary live on the air. George pursued his dreams even after he'd settled down. He joined mad magazine as a member of its board of directors in nineteen sixty nine and maintained his position there until nineteen eighty one in two thousand one time magazine nearly chose him to be their person of the year. Although he lost a Rudy Giuliani following the attacks of September eleventh. However, despite these amazing achievements, George never forgot, his home and his home. Never forgot him. Georgia Tech is so proud of its accomplished alumnus it even named a store in the campus student center bells, and yet no one has ever seen George Pibor down. There are no photos. No videos, nor any I witness testimony as to his identity or whereabouts in two thousand fifteen President Barack Obama gave a speech at Georgia Tech. And joked that Mr. Berdahl was supposed to introduce him. But he was nowhere to be found. The student. Laughed of course. But not because they knew where he was rather. They knew that he was never going to come George p del accomplished Georgia Tech alum World War Two veteran and former mad magazine board member never existed. He was the creation of Ed Smith back in nineteen twenty seven after Ed had received to enrollment forms to the university by mistake. He was going to enroll his high school principal as a joke. But at the last minute decided to change the last name to burgle is best friend's mother's maiden name. The prank took off in ways that even surprised Ed. His friends all participated doing Georges assignments and changing the answers just enough to keep teachers from looking too closely. George Berdahl was listed in the official. Register as graduate of Georgia Tech. And as his classmates started getting drafted into the second World War. They took their fake friend with them. They added his name to the roster on numerous fronts until fellow Georgia Tech alums noticed his. Name and had him removed, and even after he had officially graduated brush Mun the school continued to enroll him for classes every year to the point where it became sort of a tradition. Georgia's name has appeared in the liner notes of rock albums in the signature line of a check from Kraft Foods and even on credit cards. George had become the biggest celebrity almost nobody ever heard of. Berle's legacy is lasted almost a century. And there's no reason why it wouldn't last another hundred years beyond after all George eventually had a son George p Berdahl junior. He can be found teaching several classes at Georgia Tech. Of course. John Kenneth zinn, professor emeritus at the university of Massachusetts medical school once said when you pay attention to boredom it. It's incredibly interesting. Recent studies have shown boredom to be a terrific catalyst for creativity. When the mind is starved for stimulation. It begins to wonder which leads to fascinating discoveries and creations. These days boredom is a rarity the blinking devices. We carry in our pockets, occupy every spare second with cat videos and scrolling feed of celebrity rumination. However during the early nineteenth century boredom was a fact of life, especially during the Napoleonic wars. And I know a war doesn't scream boredom, but to the French prisoners of war biding their time until rescue boredom was all they had as Napoleon's empire fought throughout Europe between eighteen o three and eighteen fifteen numerous French soldiers fell two bullets and bayonets in the pursuit of total domination. Those who weren't killed were taken his prisoners of war where they waited for weeks months, and sometimes even years to be released the British captors were particularly kind giving them an ounce of scotch the half pound of meat or fish and vegetables every day. Between their meals captive soldiers were left to their own devices, filling their time with sleep exercise and staring at the wall, not a very fulfilling lifestyle, but they made the best of it. Some even developed hobbies with such dearth of pastimes available to them. They started fashioning. What was around them into trinkets models tiny dioramas watch displays and houses were crafted from the refuse left behind after each meal, for example, a model guillotine featured in array of guards at the base of a long ramp leading up to the blade dangling precariously over an unfortunate victim ornate filigrees adorned, the thin fence around the perimeter of the model and simple hearts had even been carved into the center of each panel. However, the most popular creations made among the eighty thousand prisoners of war were ships like the kind of wooden models that might adorn a living room mantle. These ships were finally carved too. Look, just like the French and British gunships of the time. The men tightly wove their own hair into sail, rigging and folded scraps of tissue paper into sales and once the British officer saw the work coming from their prisoners. They started smuggling in their own materials. Such as silk, internal shells, tools were even brought in an act that could have ended disastrously if any of the prisoners had decided to use them to escape, but despite their circumstances and lack of freedom they were treated respectfully fed daily and assisted in their unique style of arts and crafts, of course, with wood and short supply in a prison cell the tissue sales and hair rigging had to be fastened to something. Like, I said the soldiers used whatever they could find to build their models out of and nothing was in greater supply than one specific item left behind after every meal bone. After they'd finished eating their daily, fish or lamb. The men would boil the bones and bleach them in the sun to make them easier to carve larger bones would be used for the ship bodies while fish bones, and tinier pieces were turned into masts and cannons the pigs that would roam the POW camp also aided in bone production. Not their own mind, you the pigs belong to the soldiers. But any truffle hunter knows the value of a pig snouts except instead of truffles the hogs would sniff out. Shallow graves that still held human remains the idea of slicing up human bones into model ships sounds morbid. I know, but French soldiers thought dying of boredom was a much worse fate when completed the ships became objects of desire among British naval officers the money earned from their sale. Went back to the soldiers to buy more supplies, thus allowing them to produce more ships. What no one's been able to explain in over two hundred years, though is just how. Prisoners were able to craft such accurate representations of these ships that they couldn't see from their cells. You see while they weren't built to scale the level of artistry and precision in each model makes one imagine that perhaps the men were sneaking out each night to study the real thing before getting back to work a ludicrous thought, I know, but no more ludicrous than what has become of the ships today. They're still around and just as in demand as they were two centuries ago. French prisoner of war bone ships can sell it auction for thousands of dollars. In fact, a model of the British Royal Navy's HMS victory sold for over fifty five thousand dollars back in two thousand seven not too shabby something made from spare parts in a prison cell. I hope you've enjoyed today's guided tour of the cabinet of curiosities subscribe for free on apple podcasts. Or learn more about the show by visiting curiosities podcast dot com. The show was created by me Aaron minke in partnership with how stuff works I make another award-winning show called Lor which is upon podcast book series and television show, and you can learn all about it over at the world of Lor dot com until next time. Stay curious.