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Futility Closet

Feb 22, 2016

A quarter million Frenchmen vanished in World War I, leaving their families no clue whether they were still alive. During these anxious years, a lone man appeared on a Lyon railway platform without memory, possessions, or identification. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll tell the strange story of Anthelme Mangin, whose enigmatic case attracted hundreds of desperate families.

We'll also consider some further oddities of constitutional history and puzzle over an unpopular baseball victory.

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Sources for our feature on Anthelme Mangin:

Jean-Yves Le Naour, The Living Unknown Soldier, 2005.

Martha Hanna, "The Tidal Wave of War," European History Quarterly 38:1 (January 2008), 93-100.

Stefan Goebel, "Review: Beyond Discourse? Bodies and Memories of Two World Wars," Journal of Contemporary History 42:2 (April 2007), 377-385.

Carole Blair, V. William Balthrop, and Neil Michel, "The Arguments of the Tombs of the Unknown: Relationality and National Legitimation," Argumentation 25:4 (November 2011), 449-468.

"Unknown Soldier Claimed as Own by 15 Families," Reading [Pa.] Eagle, March 19, 1926.

Minott Saunders, "Two Mothers Battle for Memoryless War Veteran," Ottawa Citizen, June 30, 1928.

"French Derelict Is Unidentified," Eugene [Ore.] Register-Guard, July 2, 1928.

Adam Nicolson, "A Living Ghost From the Trenches Whose Plight Confused a Nation Riven by Grief," Telegraph, Jan. 16, 2005.

Listener mail:

Hershey Community Archives, in particular the history of the Hershey bar.

Wikipedia, Titles of Nobility Amendment (accessed Feb. 19, 2016).

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Keith Noto.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at
Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at Thanks for listening!