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154-Spared by a Volcano

By Greg and Sharon Ross

The worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century struck Martinique in 1902, killing 30,000 people in the scenic town of Saint-Pierre. But rescuers found one man alive -- a 27-year-old laborer in a dungeon-like jail cell. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll meet Ludger Sylbaris, who P.T. Barnum called "The Only Living Object That Survived in the Silent City of Death." We'll also address some Indian uncles and puzzle over a gruesome hike. Intro: The French newspaper La Bougie du Sapeur is published only on Leap Day. When a vat burst in 1814, 323,000 imperial gallons of beer flooded a London street. Sources for our feature on Ludger Sylbaris: Peter Morgan, Fire Mountain, 2003. Edmund Otis Hovey, The 1902-1903 Eruptions of Mont Pelé, Martinique and the Soufrière, St. Vincent, 1904. Ludger Sylbaris, "Buried Alive in St. Pierre," Wide World Magazine, November 1903. Matthew St. Ville Hunte, "Inside the Volcano," Paris Review, Sept. 16, 2016. "Prison Cell of 'The Man Who Lived Through Doomsday,'" Slate, July 31, 2013. Brian Morton, "There's No Smoke Without Fire," Financial Times, Feb. 13, 2003. Tony Jones, "Lone Survivor," New Scientist 177:2382 (Feb. 15, 2003), 48-49. "[front page -- no title]," New York Times, Oct. 13, 1906. Listener mail: Kate Connolly, "He's Hired: Belgian Lands 'Dream Job' as Hermit for Austrian Cliffside Retreat," Guardian, April 19, 2017. This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener David White, who sent two sets of corroborating links -- these contain explicit photos, and these don't. You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play Music or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset. Please consider becoming a patron of Futility Closet -- on our Patreon page you can pledge any amount per episode, and we've set up some rewards to help thank you for your support. You can also make a one-time donation on the Support Us page of the Futility Closet website. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode. If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

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