Episode 4: 618.9201 – The Incubator Babies of Coney Island

In this episode of the Reference Desk, Hailee tells us about the strange Coney Island sideshow responsible for saving hundreds of lives. Martin Couney’s Infant Incubator facility was one of Coney Island’s most popular exhibits. It may have been a strange place for infants to be cared for, but for much of the early-to-mid twentieth century, there were very few options available for premature infants and their families. Listen in to see how, in a career spanning nearly half a century, one man claimed to have saved nearly 6,500 babies with a success rate of 85%.

For a full list of all the books we mentioned in this episode, please check out the episode book list on our affiliate shop page at Bookshop.org.


Life Under Glass – Radio Documentary

The Forgotten Carnival Sideshow that Saved Countless Babies

NPR: Babies On Display


Blakemore, Erin. “Baby Incubators: From Boardwalk Sideshow to Medical Marvel.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 12 Sept. 2018, http://www.history.com/news/baby-incubators-boardwalk-sideshows-medical-marvels.

Department of Surgery , Columbia Pediatricians. History of Medicine: The Incubator Babies of Coney Island. 2021, columbiasurgery.org/news/2015/08/06/history-medicine-incubator-babies-coney-island.

“How One Man Saved a Generation of Premature Babies.” BBC News, BBC, 22 May 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36321692.

Prentice, Claire. Miracle at Coney Island: How a Sideshow Doctor Saved Thousands of Babies and Transformed American Medicine. Kindle, 2016, Amazon.

Prentice, Claire. “The Man Who Ran a Carnival Attraction That Saved Thousands of Premature Babies Wasn’t a Doctor at All.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 19 Aug. 2016, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/man-who-pretended-be-doctor-ran-worlds-fair-attraction-saved-lives-thousands-premature-babies-180960200/.

RAFFEL, DAWN. STRANGE CASE OF DR. COUNEY: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American … Babies. PENGUIN Books, 2019.

Rego Barry , Rebecca. “Coney Island’s Incubator Babies | JSTOR Daily.” Jstor Daily, 15 Aug. 2018, daily.jstor.org/coney-islands-incubator-babies/.

Staff, NPR. “Babies On Display: When A Hospital Couldn’t Save Them, A Sideshow Did.” NPR, NPR, 10 July 2015, http://www.npr.org/2015/07/10/421239869/babies-on-display-when-a-hospital-couldnt-save-them-a-sideshow-did.

Episode 3: 364.163- Frank Abagnale, Jr.

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Katie is bewitched by Frank Abagnale, Jr. 

One of America’s most notorious con-men, Frank Abagnale, Jr.’s unlikely journey into the world of check forgery, criminal impersonation, and other scams, inspired the popular film “Catch Me If You Can.” From his humble beginnings as a teenage runaway cashing bad checks, to his summer spent escorting a group of Pan-Am flight attendant hopefuls through Europe, this episode covers his life of crime from beginning to end. After our deep-dive into Abagnale’s problematic rise to notoriety, we give you book recommendations about the world of fraud, scams, and swindles. 


 Abagnale, F., Jr., & Redding, S. (2000). Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake. Crown.

Brock, P. (2009). Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam. Crown.

Carreyrou, J. (2020). Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Vintage.

Dean J., Grigoriadis, V. (Hosts). Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen. [Audio Podcast]. Campside Media. https://www.campsidemedia.com/shows/chameleon 

Docter, P., & Powers, K. (Directors). (2020). Soul [Motion picture]. Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios.

Frank Abagnale. (2020, August 10). Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.biography.com/personality/frank-abagnale

Haig, M. (2020). The midnight library. New York, NY: Viking.

Highsmith, P. (2013). The talented Mr. Ripley. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

King, S. (2014). Revival. Scriber.

Mosley, Laci. (Host). Scam Goddess. [Audio Podcast]. Earwolf. https://www.earwolf.com/show/scam-goddess/ 

Sales, N. J. (2013). The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World. It Books.

Spielberg, S. (Director). (2002). Catch Me if You Can [Motion picture]. Dreamworks Pictures.

Episode 2: 974.45 – The Salem Witch Trials

In this episode of The Reference Desk, Hailee is bewitched with The Salem Witch Trials. 

Between February 1692 and May 1693, more than two hundred people were accused of witchcraft in Salem and surrounding towns. Thirty were found guilty, nineteen were executed by hanging, one other man was pressed to death, and at least five people died in jail. Also, two dogs were found guilty of witchcraft. Listen to find out more about this strange time in America’s history!


Blumberg, Jess. “ A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials.” Smithsonian Magazine, 23 Oct. 2007, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-the-salem-witch-trials-175162489/.

“Functional Neurologic Disorders/Conversion Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 Oct. 2019, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/conversion-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355197.

History.com Editors. “Salem Witch Trials.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Nov. 2011, http://www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/salem-witch-trials.

“How Rye Bread May Have Caused the Salem Witch Trials.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., http://www.britannica.com/story/how-rye-bread-may-have-caused-the-salem-witch-trials.

Jackson, Nicholas. “It Could Just Be Stress: The Teens of LeRoy and Conversion Disorder.” The Atlantic, 5 Feb. 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/02/it-could-just-be-stress-the-teens-of-leroy-and-conversion-disorder/252582/.

Lawson, Deodat. A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft .. Printed for Benjamin Harris, 1692, quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A49794.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext.

Mendleson, Scott. “Conversion Disorder and Mass Hysteria.” Huffpost, 1 Feb. 2012, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/mass-hysteria_b_1239012.

Newman, Caroline. “With UVA’s Help, Salem Finally Discovers Where Its ‘Witches’ Were Executed.” UVA Today, 27 Jan. 2016, news.virginia.edu/content/uvas-help-salem-finally-discovers-where-its-witches-were-executed.

Schiff, Stacey. “The Witches of Salem.” The New Yorker, 7 Sept. 2015.

Worthen, Meredith. “Remembering the Victims of the Salem Witch Executions.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 16 June 2020, http://www.biography.com/news/salem-witch-trials-facts.

Episode 1: 027.07 -The WPA Packhorse Library

In our first full-length episode, we learn how to podcast (with only forgetting to hit ‘record’ one time, ok?!) and Katie tells us about the bizarre and beautiful history of Eastern Kentucky’s Packhorse Librarians.

Buy the books we recommended in this episode here.


Appelt, K., & Schmitzer, J. C. (2019). Down cut Shin Creek: The pack horse librarians of Kentucky. Cynthiana Kentucky: Purple House Press.

Bennett, A. (2007). The uncommon reader. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press.

Boyd, D. C. (2007). The Book Women of Kentucky: The WPA Pack Horse Library Project 1936-1943. Libraries and the Cultural Record, 42(2), 111+.

Catte, E. (2018). What you are getting wrong about Appalachia. Cleveland, OH: Belt Publishing.

Colgan, J. (2017). The Bookshop on the corner: A novel. United States: Thorndike Press.

Elam, C. (2002). Culture, Poverty, and Education in Appalachian Kentucky. Education and Culture, 18(1), 10-13.

Elving, R. (2020, April 04). In The 1930s, Works Program Spelled HOPE For Millions Of Jobless Americans. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/2020/04/04/826909516/in-the-1930s-works-program-spelled-hope-for-millions-of-jobless-americans

George, N. (2016). The Little Paris Bookshop. Turtleback Books.

Glenn, S. M. (2018). Library on wheels: Mary Lemist Titcomb and America’s first bookmobile. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.

Henson, H., & Small, D. (2010). That Book Woman. Toronto: CNIB.

A History of US Public Libraries. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://dp.la/exhibitions/history-us-public-libraries/libraries-on-the-move/wpa-library-programs

History.com Editors. (2009, October 29). New Deal. Retrieved January, from https://www.history.com/topics/great-depression/new-deal

Houston, G., & Lamb, S. C. (2011). Miss Dorothy and her bookmobile. New York: HarperCollins.

McGraw, E. (2017, June 21). Horse Riding Librarians Were the Great Depression’s Bookmobiles. Smithsonianmag.com. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/horse-riding-librarians-were-great-depression-bookmobiles-180963786/

Michaels, K. A. (2018). Wednesday’s children: Memoirs of a nurse-turned-social-worker in the Appalachian mountains. Charleston, SC: Monkeypaw Press.

Moyes, J. (2019). The Giver of Stars. New York: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Richardson, K. M. (2019). The book woman of Troublesome Creek: A novel. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Landmark.

Ruurs, M. (2005). My Librarian is a camel: How books are brought to children around the world. Honesdale, Pennysylvania: Boyds Mills Press.

Sawyer, K. V. (2021). The librarian of Boone’s Hollow: A novel. Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Compnay.

Stoll, S. (2018). Ramp Hollow: The ordeal of Appalachia. New York: Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Stone, L. (2017, January 13). Where Is Appalachia? Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://medium.com/migration-issues/where-is-appalachia-2d240d74161b

Winter, J. (2013). Biblioburro: A true story from Colombia. Johnson City, TN: National Geographic School Publishing.