Episode 207: John Harvey Kellogg

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched by the strange medical inventions and treatments of John Harvey Kellogg at his Battle Creek Sanitarium. 

John Harvey Kellogg was a Seventh Day Adventist darling who gained directorship over their medical facility in mid-Michigan just a year after becoming a doctor. What followed was Kellogg becoming the face of modern medicine, beloved by America for bringing a renaissance of health. But behind the famous celebrities and politicians that flocked to his facility is a darker story. Kellogg fought with his brother until his death, completed horrific surgeries on children in the effort to stop the “evil vice,” and was a staunch eugenicist who fought to create a national race register. 

Books mentioned in this episode (available at our bookshop):

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and the Region of Biologic Living by Brian C. Wilson

The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek by Howard Markel

The Sawbones Book: The Hilarious, Horrifying Road to Modern Medicine by Dr. Sydnee McElroy, Justin McElroy

The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle

The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenadore

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue 

The House of God by Samuel Shem


The Secret Ingredient in Kellogg’s Corn Flakes is Seventh-Day Adventism

Dr. John Kellogg Invented Cereal. Some of His Other Wellness Ideas Were Much Weirder

John Harvey Kellogg’s Legacy of Cereal, Sociopathy, and Sexual Mutilation 

The Wild Story Of John Harvey Kellogg, The Eccentric Wellness Guru Who Invented Corn Flakes

Episode 206: The Hicks Clinic

This week, Hailee talks about the Hicks Clinic, a small, community clinic in McCaysville, GA where a doctor sold over 200 babies and performed illegal abortions, sometimes against the will of the mother, in the 50s and 60s. 


A History Not Yet Laid to Rest – The Atlantic

How Many Babies Did Thomas Hicks Put Up for Adoption? – heavy.

‘Hicks Baby’ Adoptee Sold by Georgia Doctor 50 Years Ago Reunites With Birth Mother, Brother – ABC News

‘Black market baby’ meets biological father in Gallatin – Gallatin News

Black Market Babies Reunited After More Than 50 Years – New York Post

ReproductiveRights.org – World Abortion Laws

What If Roe Fell? Interactive US Map from Reproductive Rights

Abortion Access – Planned Parenthood

Recommended Media


  • Taken at Birth – TLC docuseries, available on Discovery+



  • Taken at Birth by Jane Blasio
  • American baby: a mother, a child, and the shadow history of adoption by Gabrielle Glaser
  • Booth Girls: pregnancy, adoption, and the secrets we kept by Kim Heikkila
  • The girls who went away: the hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the decades before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler
  • Before and After: the Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate


  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books mentioned in this episode, please check out our affiliate shop on Bookshop.org!

Episode 205: Anna Delvey (Sorokin)

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched with the story of Manhattan grifter-extraordinaire Anna Delvey (Anna Sorokin)

For several years, the New York City upper crust embraced a charming young German heiress named Anna Delvey. Delvey was a chic, bold entrepreneur who was pursuing funding for her brainchild the Anna Delvey Foundation when Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams met her. The pair formed an unlikely friendship involving celebrity trainers, infrared sauna treatments, and expensive meals in SoHo’s hottest restaurants. But the pair’s friendship turned sour when a so-called “dream vacation” to Morocco left Rachel with more than $60,000 in credit card debt, which Delvey refused to reimburse as promised. Rachel would soon discover that she was only one in a long line of victims Delvey defrauded.

Recommended titles (available in our bookshop

All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams

How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

The Curse Workers trilogy by Holly Black

The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers

To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

Conman: A Master Swindler’s Own Story by J.R. ‘Yellow Kid’ Weil and W.T. Branson

Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb


New York Magazine piece by Jessica Pressler

Vanity Fair piece by Rachel DeLoache Williams

Trailer for Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” 

Episode 204: The New England Vampire Panic

This week, Hailee is bewitched by the New England Vampire Panic. During the later part of the 18th and 19th centuries, large amounts of people were dying from what they called consumption, what we know of today as Tuberculosis. In New England, they had a different idea about what was causing their friends and loved ones to waste away in front of their eyes: vampires. Though they never used the exact term, they thought that the undead were preying upon the living and they had some very interesting methods to stop the attacks.


The Great New England Vampire Panic – Smithsonian Magazine

Belief in Connecticut Vampires

The New England Vampire Panic

The Strange History of the New England Vampire Panic



Lore – Season 1 Episode 1: They Made a Tonic

Ask A Mortician – America’s Forgotten Vampire Panic


Michael E. Bell’s Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England’s Vampire

Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber

A History of Vampires in New England by Thomas D’Agostino


Mercy: The Last New England Vampire by Sarah L. Thomson

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

If you are interested in purchasing any of the books we talked about in this episode, please check out our affiliate link to bookshop.org!

Episode 203: The True Story of the “First” Thanksgiving

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched with the true story of the “first Thanksgiving.”

American schools have long taught about the history of Thanksgiving with cringe-worthy pageants and re-enactments of happy pilgrims and Indians gathered around a table. In reality, the shared meal we’ve dubbed the “first Thanksgiving” was a pure coincidence of Wampanoag warriors joining in a meal they happened upon while expecting to find a full-scale battle. (why else would the woods be full of gunshots?!) The tenuous relationship between the colonizers and Indigenous people of New England quickly deteriorated after the feast, and what ensued was near total decimation of Indigenous life, land, and culture. After an accurate retelling of the accidental party, we share some suggestions on how to de-colonize your Thanksgiving celebration, as well as recommended books by Indigenous authors. 

Recommended titles (available in our bookshop):

All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

This Land is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Eyes Bottle Drunk with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Sheets

There There by Tommy Orange

The Round House by Louise Edrich

1612: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Jake Swamp

We Are Grateful: Otashlihelgia by Traci Sorell

My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith


Indigenous Digital Archive Treaties Explorer

6 Native Leaders on What it Would Look Like if the U.S. Kept its Promises

Native Land Digital

Episode 202: The Houses of Refuge and the U.S. Life Saving Service

This week, Hailee is bewitched with something she stumbled upon during a recent trip to Florida: Houses of Refuge and the United States Life Saving Services. According to Martin County Historical Society, the Houses of Refuge were designated as havens for shipwrecked sailors and travelers along the sparsely populated Atlantic coastline of Florida. Run by the United States Lifesaving Service, the Houses played a critical role in a time when sailing ships dominated world commerce. Over their years of operation, the Lifesaving Service saved over 100,000 people and was the start of the Coast Guard.


House of Refuge Museum

US Life-Saving Service Heritage Association

Books Mentioned:

  • A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks by Stewart Gordon
  • Sinking the Sultana: A Civil War Story of Imprisonment, Greed, and a Doomed Journey Home by Sally M. Walker
  • The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger
  • Ghosts of the Treasure Coast by Patrick and Patricia Mesmer
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon 
  • Small Town Monsters by Diana Rodriguez Wallach 

If you are interested in purchasing any of these titles, please use our affiliate link through bookshop.org!  

Episode 201: Carry A. Nation

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched by the saloon-smashing, hatchet-wielding, temperance leader Carry A. Nation. 

In the fight for prohibition, no one waged war like Carry Nation. After a hard childhood that ended in a brief marriage to an alcoholic, Carry became involved in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Finding no success in the usual campaigns of letter-writing and prayer circles, Carry took it upon herself to deliver the message in a more direct way. She became famous for smashing saloons with her trademark hatchet while preaching about the sins of alcohol to anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot. Carry Nation was largely written off by historians as a religious hysteric, but by examining her actions in the context of the woman’s suffrage movement, we can see Carry played an integral role in our nation’s progress. 

Recommended titles (available in our bookshop): 

The Haunting of Leigh Harker by Darcy Coates

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Carry A. Nation: Retelling the Life by Fran Grace

Smashing the Liquor Machine: A Global History of Prohibition by Mark Lawrence Schrad

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee


Roots of Prohibition

Carry Nation biography

Historic Missourians: Carry A. Nation

Carry Nation on History.com

Another Carry bio

Smithsonian mag on Carry nation

Hatchet Nation-Slate

Mini Spookysode: The Origins and History of Halloween

In our last mini spookysode, Hailee tells us about the origins and celebrations of Halloween! How we celebrate Halloween is pretty different than how it was originally celebrated over 2000 years ago, but there are still some traces of the ancient festivals that inspired the holiday.

Listen here:


Mini Spookysode: The Soap-Maker of Correggio

In this week’s mini spookysode, Katie is bewitched by the soap-maker of Correggio. 

When fortune-teller Leonarda Cianciulli set up shop in the tiny Italian town of Correggio, luck for the local women seemed to change. Leonarda helped them find new jobs, new loves, and new adventures. But their families never heard from them again, save a couple of letters telling them they’d left town for good. When one missing woman’s sister-in-law began poking around, she discovered a vat of secrets in Leonarda’s bubbling cauldron. 

Recommended reading:

Hell House by Richard Matheson

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helen Tursten

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Listen here:


Mini Spookysode: The Legend of the Bell Witch

This week, Hailee is bewitched with the legend of the Bell Witch.

The Bell Witch is a menacing spirit that haunted the Bell family in Addams, Tennessee for years. Beginning with unexplained noises and sightings of strange creatures, the haunting soon escalated to physical torments and is said to be one of the only cases in which a spirit has caused the death of a person.

Listen here: