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Great Big Story

A podcast about the delightful, the surprising, and the untold true stories all around us. Hosted by Drew Beebe.

The Neverending Game Great Big Story
The year is 1982. The first compact disc player is released. George R. R. Martin’s book A Game of Thrones is still 14 years from being published. And a teenager named Robert Wardhaugh starts a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Thirty-eight years later, Wardhaugh and his group of friends are still playing the same game of D&D, quite possibly the longest continuous game of the popular fantasy role playing game. Wardhaugh has altered the rules to his liking and created a sweeping storyline that keeps his dozens of players coming back year after year.
Sep 15, 2020
Journey to Justice Great Big Story
When Jarrett Adams was 17 years old, he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 28 years in prison. Fueled by his desire for justice, Adams set out to prove his innocence from within the prison law library, despite never having opened a legal textbook in his life. After enlisting the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, Adams was exonerated and his conviction was overturned, but not after he had already been incarcerated for nearly a decade. Yet his journey didn’t end there. Adams was determined to become a defense attorney himself, fighting to help others facing the same injustices.
Sep 8, 2020
The Hidden History of Hollerin' Great Big Story
Back in the days before electricity, a peculiar tradition rose out of southeastern North Carolina. Over vast swaths of farmland, voices would ring out to say good morning, ask for help, or just to share a ditty. The old timers called this tradition “hollerin’.” Part singing and part yelling, it was the text message of the pre-industrial age with a complicated history. But, just as telephones and automobiles were about to make hollerin’ obsolete, a group of North Carolinians put together a one-of-a-kind event that may have saved this folk tradition from dying out forever.
Sep 1, 2020
One of the Weirdest Crimes in Austin, Texas Great Big Story
In the summer of 1989, someone had tried to kill a beloved resident of Austin, Texas, and the people were demanding justice. The victim was barely clinging to life, as countless well-wishers sent get-well cards and cans of chicken soup. Who was this icon of Austin? A 600-year-old tree named Treaty Oak. And as the lone city forester valiantly tried to save the mighty oak’s life, the police were searching for the answer to the question: “Who would want to murder a tree?”
Aug 25, 2020
Chalk Apocalypse Great Big Story
Once upon a time, a mysterious substance emerged that was so precious, so wondrous to have inspired a kind of worship. That magical object was … a chalk. But not just any chalk! This was Hagoromo: a Japanese brand so smooth, so perfect that some mathematicians wondered if it was made from the tears of angels. But one day it was threatened with extinction, triggering the greatest crisis the world of chalk had ever seen. Pencils down, please, as we tell the tale of a writing implement so irreplaceable, professors stockpiled it. And we’ll meet the brave teacher who singlehandedly saved its legacy from being erased.
Aug 18, 2020
The Accidental Invention of the Super Soaker Great Big Story
As the dog days of summer wear on, many of us grow nostalgic for the hours spent blasting our friends with one of the best-selling toys of the early '90s: the Super Soaker. This pressure filled water blaster is all thanks to a nuclear scientist who worked for NASA and the Air Force. In 1982, Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker while he was tinkering on something totally different in his basement. But his inventions don’t stop there: Johnson worked on everything from Nerf toys to a thermoelectric energy converter.
Aug 11, 2020
Running the Marathon on Crutches Great Big Story
An avid runner since high school, Hannah Gavios suffered a spinal cord injury after a horrific attack in 2016 that left her partially paralyzed. But she didn’t let that end her dream of running a marathon. Unable to imagine a life without running, the native New Yorker learned how to run in a different way — what she likes to call “crutching.” In this episode, Great Big Story follows her as she attempts to complete the 2019 New York City Marathon. (This episode contains a description of sexual violence — so this may not be suitable for all listeners.) Let us know what you think of the show! Take a short survey at
Aug 4, 2020
Where Have I Seen That Guy? Great Big Story
Whether you know him by name or not, you’ve definitely seen James Hong before. From movies like “Blade Runner” and “Chinatown,” TV shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “Seinfeld,” and animated features like “Kung Fu Panda” and “Mulan,” in his over six decades in Hollywood, Hong has become one of the most credited actors in history. Born in Minnesota to parents from Hong Kong, Hong moved to Los Angeles in the 1950s to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. However, he has had to spend his entire career combating stereotypical depictions of Chinese, Asians and Asian Americans in film and television. Even in his 90s, Hong is showing no signs of slowing down.
Jul 28, 2020
Mrs. Comet and the Man on the Moon Great Big Story
All his life, Eugene Shoemaker dreamed of stepping foot on the moon. A geologist and planetary scientist known for his work with craters, Gene worked tirelessly in the hopes of becoming an Apollo astronaut so he could explore the lunar surface. A failed medical test cut his dreams short, but his journey didn’t end there. His wife, astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker, tells us the story of how Gene was always destined to be the man on the moon.
Jul 21, 2020
Homemade Island Great Big Story
Hidden in wilderness off the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada sits the magical home of Catherine King and Wayne Adams. 45-minutes by boat to the nearest town, this couple’s sustainable fortress is complete with a dance floor, art galleries, and gardens galore. Every single building is not only built by hand, but is completely floating on the water. In this episode of Great Big Story, we explore this fantastical homemade island and learn what drove Catherine and Wayne to build a home so utterly unique.
Jul 14, 2020
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