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We tell our children unsettling fairy tales to teach them valuable life lessons, but these cautionary tales are for the education of the grown-ups — and they are all true. Tim Harford (Financial Times, BBC, author of Messy and The Undercover Economist) brings you stories of awful human error, tragic catastrophes, daring heists and hilarious fiascos. They’ll delight you and scare you, but also make you wiser.

Most Recent Episode

Chicago When It Sizzles

July 1995. A deadly heat wave gripped Chicago - bridges buckled; the power grids failed; and the morgue ran out of space - but some neighborhoods saw more deaths than…

The French Knight’s Guide to Corporate Culture

France 1346: The army of King Philip VI is Europe's pre-eminent killing machine. It's accustomed to crushing any force stupid enough to oppose it, and now fully expects to annihilate…

Frankenstein Versus the Volcano

When Mount Tambora erupted it spewed ash across the globe; blotting out the sun; poisoning crops; and bringing starvation, illness and death to millions. It may also have helped inspire…

Bless the Coal-Black Hearts of the Broadway Critics

When Billy Joel agreed to let dance legend Twyla Tharp turn his songs into a Broadway musical it seemed like a surefire hit. But in previews, Movin’ Out was panned…

When the Autopilot Switched Off

An airline captain thought he was giving his children a harmless thrill by letting them "fly" his packed airplane - the young cockpit visitors weren't really in control... the autopilot…

The False Dawn of the Electric Car

Sir Clive Sinclair was a computer whizz and business mogul to rival Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. He was a visionary who could do no wrong... until he tried to…

Death on the Dance Floor

With its splendid modern architecture, the Hyatt Regency was the place to be seen in Kansas City in 1981. Beneath space-age walkways, guests drank, laughed and danced... not realizing that…

The Balloons That Ate Cleveland (A Cautionary Tales Short)

When Disneyland released one million helium balloons to set a new world record, Cleveland, Ohio looked on in envy. Could it top the Magic Kingdom? What did citizens hope to…

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