Jun 3, 2022

Origin Stories

We’re all in a tizzy here at Radiolab on account of our 20-year anniversary. And, as one does upon passing a milestone, we’ve been looking back in all kinds of ways. Two weeks ago, we went out over the airwaves, “Live on your FM dial,” a callback to our origins as a radio show. We revamped our logo and redid our website (get your Freq on, people!). More recently, Lulu's and Latif’s first stories came up in a meeting. They weren’t always the intrepid hosts of our collective journey in wonder. Soren Wheeler, our editor, thought it would be fun to highlight those firsts for you. 

So here they are, baby Latif and Lulu, doing their darndest to make audio magic.

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LATIF NASSER: Hey, I’m Latif Nasser. 

LULU MILLER: I'm Lulu Miller. 

LATIF: This is Radiolab. 

LULU: Today we've got a mashup of two stories. One is about musical hallucinations. And one is about spiritual machinations. 

LATIF: We are celebrating Radiolab’s 20th birthday this spring. And you know when you are celebrating your birthday, sometimes you just like bust out the old photo albums and look at, you know, baby pictures and pictures of awkward haircuts and stuff like that. And this is our version of our editor Soren asked us to dredge up our first ever Radiolab stories, Lulu and mine. And not only our first ever Radiolab episodes, our first ever radio stories and we wanted to play them for you. 

LULU: Yes. What was your first one? 

LATIF: Oh, we're gonna start with mine. Okay, fine.The first radio story ever did end up being called a clockwork miracle. I was at the time a very enthusiastic radio lab listener with pretty much zero journalistic experience. 

LULU: Okay.

LATIF: I was studying the history of science. And it was during that time that I also started listening to Radiolab and then pitching radio lab. It was like a shotgun blast of pitches - we were like, and then there's this and then there's this thing and this is an exciting thing about this and I had never looked into this I always wanted to. I have just been pitching constantly. I do pitching and pitching so many stories to the powers that be at Radiolab, which to me were mostly just sort of names on email addresses. I didn't know anybody and everyone was like nice, but saying no to all of them. And then this time I sat with it. I thought about it. I like to write down a big list of possible ideas. And then I found this article in a scholarly anthology by a sculptor. I mean, it was such a once upon a time story, you know, it's like haunting and beautiful. And it felt like a…yeah, like a, like a fable. 

LULU: Yeah, it feels like a fairy tale that we all had read, but we'd never read it. But then it's also about, like, engineering. 


LATIF: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so then I sent it in. And then I remember I walked in the building, Pat Walters, actually, I think was the one who like tapped me in through the security gate or whatever. And that was my first time at WNYC. So first time I met Jad. First time I'm - I think first time I met Soren and I like sat down…

JAD ABUMRAD: I've heard rumors-

LATIF: Mm-hmm 

JAD: Whispered by Soren mostly-


JAD: Uh, about a pooping duck.

LATIF: A poo... Oh, so the pooping duck is really famous, actually. The b-duck wasn't really eating and pooping, but they had, like, a store of, like, pre, pre-pooped duck poop.


 LATIF: I don't know what it was. It looked like duck poop, maybe.

JAD: And you would feed this robot duck and then watch it actually poop?

LATIF: Oh, I mean, all you see is you see sort of this in and this out and-

JAD: And people believed it?

LATIF: People thought this was a, this was a pooping duck. Um. And-

JAD: So, we talked about a bunch of these, uh, ancient robots and most of them are kind of funny. But then he told us about one in particular that was-

ROBERT KRULWICH: Actually, it was kinda haunting.

JAD: Yeah, it's not poopy at all.

LATIF: So, the year is, uh, is 1562. This is 450 years ago.

JAD: Not so long after Columbus.

ROBERT: Yeah. Ferdinand and Isabella are dead, and there's a new king of Spain.

JAD: Philip.

ROBERT: Philip. Yeah. And he has a son.

LATIF: The 17 year old crown prince. His name's Don Carlos.

JAD: And one day-

LATIF: He's in the royal lodgings, uh, he's walking down a flight of stairs, he trips, he falls, he bashes his head against a door near the bottom of the stairs.

LATIF: He's in the royal lodgings, uh, he's walking down a flight of stairs, he trips, he falls, he bashes his head against a door near the bottom of the stairs.

JAD: Mmm. This is the crown prince, you say?


LATIF: The crown prince of Spain.

JAD: So this is a national calamity.

LATIFr: It is a national calamity 'cause he's the heir apparent.

JAD: Mmm.

LATIF: Right? So, so, so wh... At first it doesn't look like it's such a bad injury. He's still conscious, but then his head starts to swell to this kind of crazy size. He becomes delirious and feverish. He's struck blind.

JAD: Oo.

LATIF: And so, at this point the, the king comes. Right? This is King Philip the second, so he is at this time, he is the most powerful man in the world, right? So he basically controls the, all of the Americas, he controls much of Europe. The Philippines is named after him.

JAD: He was tight with the pope.

LATIF: At this time, the pope and the king were kind of, like, you know, BFF.

JAD: Yeah.

LATIF: So, so the whole Spanish court is going nuts. Um, across the country people are, uh, seeing this, reading this as a kind of sign that, uh, that God's very angry, right?

JAD: Yeah.

LATIF: And so, they're, they're fasting, they're doing these kinds of, uh, prayer processions, things like this.

JAD: And according to Latif, the King calls all the best doctors in Europe to come to Spain to help his son. And these doctors are trying everything.

LATIF: They are drilling a hole in his skull…

JAD: To relieve the pressure?

LATIF: To relieve the pressure, they are bleeding him and blistering him, and they are purging him to the extent that he has, like, 20 bowel movements within just, like, a certain few hours.


LATIF: They're, like, smearing all over the wound. They're, they're smearing, like, turpentine and honey-

JAD: Wow. Poor Don Carlos.

LATIF: But the... even after all of this, um, the, they sort of l-look at each other, they, they look at him, and it's kind of like, this is... He's gonna die. It's, it's, it's-

JAD: So he is dying.

LATIF: Yeah. He's basically on his deathbed.

JAD: So, at this point, according to Latif, the king goes to his son-


LATIF: Legend goes that he kneels beside, uh, his son at his son's death bed, and he makes a pact with God. The pact is, if you, if you help me, if you heal my son, if you do this miracle for me, I'll do a miracle for you.

JAD: Wow, that's, that's, uh, that's quite a hubristic of a, of a human being to say to God.

LATIF: Oh, let's also remember that he's the, he's, he's the most powerful man i-i-in the world at this point.

JAD: He is a God among men, really.

LATIF: Yeah. Hubristic or not, this is, this is, is what he says.

LATIF: All of a sudden, his son just gets better.

JAD: Really?

LATIF:  Within a week he can see again, within a month he, i-it's as if he didn't fall at all.

JAD: He just pops right back up?

LATIF: Yeah.

ROBERT: King Philip must have thought, "Well my God, this is, this is amazing."

JAD: Exactly. My God is probably exactly what he thought.

ROBERT KRULWICH: (laughs) Yeah.

JAD: And when his son can finally speak, he says to him, "Dad, you know, the weirdest thing happened when I was out. I had this dream."

ELIZABETH KING: Oh, that's a great story

JAD: This is Elizabeth King.

ELIZABETH KING: I'm an artist and, uh, a professor in the sculpture department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAD: She's actually the one that hooked Latif on the story.


JAD: In any case, the dream.

ELIZABETH KING:There are documents of Don Carlo the next morning 

saying that he had had a dream.

LATIF: This vision.

ELIZABETH KING: That a, that a figure-

LATIF: In a, in a Franciscan habit-

ELIZABETH KING: Shaved head-

ROBERT: Sharp nose.

ELIZABETH KING: This marvelous monk-

JAD: Entered his room-

LATIF: And approached his death bed holding a cross and basically told him, "You're gonna be fine."

ELIZABETH KING: And that's quite well documented.


ROBERT: Apparently, there was a witness in the room.

ELIZABETH KING: In the sick room, with him that night.

ROBERT: Who overheard the prince talking to a ghost, sort of mumbling things in his delirium.

JAD: So, Don Carlos has this dream, suddenly he's fine. And the natural question that people are asking is, "Who is this monk?"

LATIF: Yeah.


ROBERT: I mean, is it just a generic monk, or is it somebody specific? 

Some messenger from God.

JAD: And from his description-

LATIF: Physical description-

JAD: The shaved head, the-

ROBERT: Pointy nose, the monk's habit-

JAD: Piercing eyes, even the kind of cross he was using. Everybody in town, the king, everyone was like, "Oh yeah."

LATIF: "Like, we know exactly who this guy is."

JAD: Can really only be one guy.

LATIF: Kind of local Friar who died 100 years before named, uh, Diego De Alcala.

JAD: Diego De Alcala.

ROBERT: Who's he?

ELIZABETH KING: He is a, a local holy figure whose corpse was associated with a number of documented miracles.

JAD: In fact, this guy was so holy in this town.

ROBERT: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

JAD: Actually, not just in the town. You wanna know something?


JAD: Ever heard of San Diego?

ROBERT: California, you mean?

JAD: Yeah, as in the Padres?

ROBERT: Well, he has to... Is this the same guy?

JAD: Same guy! [crosstalk] He was the patron saint of the people who founded San Diego.

ROBERT: Oh, my, he is holy.

LATIF: All right, so, here you go.JAD: There you go. So, he was so holy in this town-



JAD... that people believed his corpse, his 100 year dead corpse, had healing powers.

LATIF: And some people, there are different stories, but some people say that even they, uh, these-

JAD: That unbeknownst to Don Carlos, that night that he had the dream…

ELIZABETH KING: The priesthood and the king himself, according to some stories, went and they got this corpse out of the church, out of the crypt. They carried it through the streets, they brought it to the bedroom, they-

LATIF: Literally, put it... They sort of snuck it in bed with, uh, Don Carlos, and that's how he healed.

ROBERT: They didn't stick 'im in bed with his bones, right?

JAD: Did they, did they…

ROBERT: They just kind of, they brought him into the room.

ELIZABETH KING: There's different reports, but there's a picture of it in, in this engraving.


ELIZABETH KING: Um, and if you can, you probably can't see it, but look at this picture right here.

ROBERT: She had a, a copy of a 16th... roughly a 16th century woodcut, showing you this scene-

JAD: Where you could kind of see...Oh, wait. So there 

ROBERT: They're dunkin' him! They're dunkin' him over the bed!

JAD: He's in bed! The two men in bed together.

LATIF: One guy who's alive, barely, and another guy who's been dead 100 years.

ELIZABETH KING: Well, they could be, you know, they could be just laying him down.


ROBERT: Okay. Yeah. He's caught in the middle.

ELIZABETH KING: It could be we're seeing it, we're seeing at a great dis-

JAD: Meanwhile, back to our story; you got Philip the second, who has asked God for a miracle. God came through, through this monk, and now Philip the second is like, "Uh oh."

LATIF: I gotta deliver. King Philip the second always got a miracle.

JAD: It is 1562ish, King Philip is on the hook, he knows he owes God a miracle.


LATIF: And he's, he's acutely aware of this. So basically what he does is he enlists this really renowned clock maker.

JAD: A clockmaker.

LATIF: Yep, named, uh, Juanelo Turriano.

ELIZABETH KING: A huge man. A big ox of a man, described as always being filthy and blustery and not a lot of fun to be around, but a great, great clock maker.

JAD: Certainly among the best.


ROBERT: Maybe the entire holy Roman Empire.

LATIF: So, the king, he goes to this guy and he says, "Look. I want you to make a mechanical version of Diego De Alcala."


JAD: A mechanical version of this 100 year dead holy priest.

LATIF: Yes. Like a mechanical monk.

ROBERT: A robotic padre.

LATIF: Yeah! Which-

JAD: And this I did not expect... still exists!

LATIF: Now the monk-bot is in the Smithsonian, perfect working order.

JAD: No way.

LATIF: I swear, I swear. The... And since 1977.

JAD: No.

LATIF: Yeah!

CARLENE STEVENS: The first time I saw this figure, I was drawn to it and then repelled.

JAD: That's Carlene Stevens. She is a curator at the Smithsonian in DC. About a week after Latif and I spoke, we ended up in DC meeting with her, and she showed us…

ROBERT: Oh, wow. [inaudible] Wow.

JAD: The monk who lives in a little glass case.

ELIZABETH KING: What we have here is an automaton over 400 years old. Um, and-

JAD: So... Fir... Is this the first robot that we know of?


JAD: No. No, no.


JAD: No, idiot.

CARLENE STEVENS:The ancient greeks-

JAD: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-


CARLENE STEVENS: ... had things that could be considered robots-

JAD: Okay, back to our story. 450 some-odd years ago, our clock maker... What's his name?

ROBERT: Uh, Torriano.

JAD: Torriano.

ROBERT: He goes into his shop and he, he does whatever he does.

JAD: Connects one gear to another, to another-

ROBERT: For hours-

JAD: Weeks, months.

LATIF: No idea how long it takes. And I don't think anybody does.

JAD: But he emerges one day into the bright sunshine-

CARLENE STEVENS: So, this is clockworks-

JAD: ...with... What did you call it?

ROBERT: A robotic padre.

LATIF: Yeah. It's a 15 inch high-


LATIF: ...made of wood and iron. Has the sort of habit, has the sandals, has the rosary, has the cross.

JAD: And poking out of the top of the habit is a little-

CARLENE STEVENS: Bald, hairless head.

JAD: With that sharp nose like a, like a razor.

CARLENE STEVENS: And the rather ferocious eyes.

ROBERT: Like, intense? Or like, uh, doing business ferocious?

JAD: Well, like, I'm focused.

ROBERT: I'm focused.

JAD: Like, maybe I'm only 15 inches tall, but I am focused on something much bigger than you, you human.

ROBERT: So did you, like, turn it on or push something or-?

JAD: Yeah. Why would I get on a train and go for three hours-

JAD: ... just to go look at it?

ROBERT: All right, all right. Obvious question.

CARLENE STEVENS: Okay, do you want to wind it?

LATIF: Sure. Yeah.


LATIF: Okay.

JAD: So Carlene takes us out into the hall, we sit down on the floor, she gives Latif a little brass key, he sticks it into the secret slot in the monk's side-

CARLENE STEVENS: And I think it goes counterclockwise-


LATIF: Okay.

CARLENE STEVENS: You would tend, you would tend to wanna do it this way. Let me just-

JAD: And Latif winds up the monk.

LATIF: And I'm turning it counterclockwise, and it's surprisingly sort of taut. How much should I turn it? And so, if you sort of wind up this sort of secret spring-

CARLENE STEVENS: I think there's a stop, and it'll-

LATIF: Oh, okay. All right, I'm goin'. I'm goin'.

JAD: Put it on the ground.


LATIF: All right.


LATIF: Yeah.

CARLENE STEVENS: Give him a push.

JAD: It'll walk very slowly-

ELIZABETH KING: One foot after the other coming out from under the cassick. In fact, there's actually little wheels under there. But yet, you see the feet coming out, the head is turning from right to left, the eyes are rolling in the head, the mouth is opening and closing.

JAD: As if it's sort of muttering, like, a prayer.

ELIZABETH KING: The arms are in motion. One arm is raising and lowering across, the other arm is beating the chest.

JAD: Wow. 

CARLENE STEVENS: A symbolic gesture-

ELIZABETH KING: ... to a Catholic-

CARLENE STEVENS: That is called the mea culpa.

ELIZABETH KING: After three or four steps, the, the arm holding the cross does something new. It moves two different new directions to bring the cross to the mouth, and the figure kisses the cross.

LATIF: It's oddly like, uh, mesmerizing.


LATIF: Yeah.


ELIZABETH KING: The next thing that it's doing is that it's turning and moving in a different direction, and then walking its paces and kissing 

JAD: As we watched it turn once, then twice, then three times, four times, then it got back to where it started.


ELIZABETH KING: So, if you imagine a table with a number of people sitting around it, probably it's gonna sort of, at one point or another, head for you, and then turn away and head for someone else-

JAD: Wow

ELIZABETH KING: ... and then turn away.

ROBERT: Why would the king of Spain, uh, who could've, you know, I don't know, built a church, or, or taken a crusade to Jerusalem or done something, you know, he coulda done anything. Why did he decide to commemorate his son's revival by making a little m... automatic doll? Like, what was that for?

JAD: Yeah, Latif, what was he thinking?

LATIF: Yeah, it's a, it's a good qu-

ELIZABETH KING: That's the $64, 000 dollar question.

LATIF: It's a great question.

CARLENE STEVENS: It's a really good question.

JAD: The truth is, there's really no way to know for sure.

CARLENE STEVENS: And as a historian I gotta, I gotta rely on the documentation.

JAD: And there's not a whole lot of that in this case, but one interpretation certainly could be that, you know, the king had this amazing, miraculous thing happen to his son, and now he had a way of sharing that with his subjects. 'Cause he's got this device where it's a, it's an illusion, like, the machinery of it is completely hidden.

LATIF: There's no visible m-

JAD: That's the-

LATIF: Yeah. That's one of the craziest parts. That it's all sort of hidden underneath the, the robe.

JAD: So, when he put it down on a table or in a courtyard, people would've seen it move on its own. They woulda been amazed, as we were, and he coulda said, "Look, here is the miracle. Look what God did for our country."

ROBERT: God-like Spaniards.

JAD: Yeah, look at what God did for Spain-


JAD: ... which woulda been a useful thing for a king to be able to say, right?


JAD: That's, so that's one possibility. The other is just that on a more utilitarian level, this was a machine that was built to pray.


 ELIZABETH KING: And, this was a period when you could buy prayer repetition.

JAD: So if you had the money-

ELIZABETH KING: You could get someone to pray for you while you go do something out.

JAD: Oh, that's so cool!

ROBERT: Oh, so you're, you're, so you're covered.

ELIZABETH KING: You're, you're covered.

JAD: And if you think about it from Philip's perspective, he needed to say thank you to God, and he had had this thing where if he wound it up, was an automated thank you machine.

ROBERT: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you-

JAD: Yeah, it could be thank you, thank you, thank you.

ROBERT: Or it could be-

JAD: I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you-

ROBERT: I love you, I love you. Yeah.

LATIF: It could also be, um, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

ELIZABETH KING: Well, yeah, or it could be please, please, please, please, please.

JAD: But, if you think about it more expansively, says Latif, like, what did it mean at that time to be a Catholic? Like, what did it really mean? Well, then this robot was maybe the best. 

LATIF: What counted as prayer was, was quite specific in the sense that if you say the right things, and, and do the right actions in the right order, in the right time, and in the right place, sort of that's prayer. That's when God notices.

JAD: So, it's about method.

LATIF: It's about method, it's about-

JAD: And maybe this monk, he says, was, like, method embodied.

ELIZABETH KING: That's a good one! I mean, why not?

ROBERT: Right.

ELIZABETH KING: I mean, it is in fact perfect. W... It repeats itself-

ROBERT: Right.

ELIZABETH KING: ...over and over and over it... and it replicates the ideal.

JAD: So it's, basically what is it, is-

LATIF: Like, this is what you're aiming for. Like, this is it. This is the perfect prayer.

JAD: The perfect prayer.


LATIF: This is doing it the perfect way every time, and I, because I'm, I'm just this, you know, lowly, imperfect human, um, I'm not... I can only aspire to this perfect piety.

JAD: Are you making this up, or do you think that this, the monk might've 

LATIF: It could be true.  I don't think it's so crazy.

JAD: Especially if you think about what was happening at that moment. This is counter-reformation reformation Spain, right?

LATIF: Not so long after Luther, you know, is nailing his thesis on the wall, and-

JAD: And there's this big debate raging about how actually do you get closer to God?

LATIF: You have the kind of protesters with, with Luther who are saying it's not about, you know, works, it's not about saying something this many times, it's about whether you feel it. And then you have the kind of Catholic argument, which is to say you do these rituals because these are the rituals, and these are the way you get... This is the way you get close to God. Uh, this is the way you pray.

JAD: You pray like this thing.

ROBERT: Just like this thing. And if you're a Catholic king, and God's a Catholic, and you better hope he is.

JAD: And if you're Philip the second, you look at the sky and you say, "God, you and me are square."


LATIF: Okay, now, this is so satisfying. I didn't want to go first. But now I'm glad I did because I get to turn the table. Turn the tables.

LULU: Because this story is musical. 

LATIF: No, just turn the tables in the EU. Now we're in the hot seat and I get to ask the questions here. What's the story behind us right at the start? 

LULU: Okay. So this was 2008. So I've been working there for almost three years as a producer and I was you know, cutting interviews and structuring stuff, but this was the first story that I reported a voice and I was shy, like I was still really afraid of calling people up and asking my nosy questions and bursting into their world, which turns out is something to do a lot if you want to be a reporter. 

LATIF: Yeah. 

LULU: And we were working on this story about musical hallucinations and Robert had just talked to Oliver Sacks about his new book. 

LATIF: Was it like musicophilia or something like that? 

LULU: Yeah..and he mentioned this old man in his 90s, who had musical hallucinations. And Robert just did this huge kindness where he just said, oh, yeah, I could ask Oliver for that guy's number. You could just call him… 

LATIF: …did you call him up or you went to see him in person.. 

LULU: I called him. Yeah, he was in LA. And so we did it through the studio. We got like a nice studio connection. And I remember going into the studio by myself because by this point, I knew how to use it really well.

And just kind of slipping into that darkness of radio interviewing space. And then he was just with me. And then it was like…

LULU: Yeah. 

LATIF: Now Lulu, let's play your first ever story. It was part of a bigger 

episode, about earworms… 

LULU: …about songs that get stuck in your head… 

LATIF: …and you can't get them out. Take it away Lulu. 

ROBERT: This is Radiolab - I'm Robert Krulwich. 

JAD: I'm Jad Abumrad 

ROBERT: …and this hour…I'm going to curse you Jad. I'm going to ask you to just simply do this one thing you know that song that we both hate 

JAD: …which one

ROBERT: it's like the moment you start that can you think - there are some songs that I can stick in your head and they just leave? There's somebody - poor Suzanne - who got this song somehow stuck in her head. And then there are songs that just won't go away because you didn't even invite them and they stay. This is an hour on the music in our heads. Where does the songs come from? Why do they stay a whole hour? Without Suzanne Vega.. 

JAD: thankfully..

ROBERT: …on radio lab…

JAD: Let me ask you a question to get us started - when a song gets stuck in your head – do you have one in there right now?

ROBERT: Oliver the Broadway show tune. 

JAD: Of course. What does it sound like when it's in there? 

ROBERT: What does it sound like? 

JAD: Yeah.Just think before you answer it. What does it really sound like? Describe it musically?

ROBERT: Well, it's funny you mentioned this, it doesn't actually mean I don't hear any musicians. 

JAD: Is it loud? 


ROBERT: No, it's nothing. It's not loud. 

JAD: Is it like a location? 


JAD: …a tambor. 

ROBERT: No, it just has a melody, a vague foggy..

JAD: … like a shadowy melody.

ROBERT: Yeah, exactly. 

JAD: Okay, well, so that's our starting point. You know, most of us get a song in our head. It's kind of like what you describe, vague but there are people who when they get song stuck in their head, it's a whole it's a whole different experience. It is not vague. In fact, they wish it were vague. They wish it were a shadow, and you'll know what I mean in a second. Let me introduce you to someone… 

LEO RANGELL: [SINGING] Mary Had a Little Lamb little little 

JAD: ..always has songs running through his head 

LEO RANGELL: everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go…

JAD: …he's plagued by them actually. Then he spoke with our producer Lulu Miller. 

LEO RANGELL: Mary had a little over and over again. 

LULU: You know, let me have you just introduce yourself really quickly

LEO RANGELL: My name is Leo Rangell and I'm not young. I just had my 94th birthday. I've been in LA since I was in the War and World War Two 

LULU: Leo is a psychoanalyst. 

LEO RANGELL: Oh yeah, I'm still in practice. 

LULU: So he finds everything that's been going on in his own head, sort of intriguing like from a professional standpoint. 

LEO RANGELL: I'm trying to think what the hell am I doing? 

LULU: Anyway, this whole thing started for him about 12 years ago. He just had major heart surgery and he wakes up in his hospital bed. 

LEO RANGELL: I wake up in the ICU. Almost as soon as I'm conscious outside my hospital window, I hear music. And it was distant. It just 

sounded funereal, like hymns. I hear these songs. I look out the window. I think these rabbis out there.I say to my kids, I casually say hey, there's there's a rabbi out singing. They said, What do you mean? So I said there must be a rabbi school and he must be teaching young people how to be rabbis. And they the kids looked at each other.


LULU: Cuz they weren't hearing anything. But at that moment, that didn't matter to Leo because the music was so loud and vivid to him so totally coming through that window 

LEO RANGELL: I dismissed them as - oh, well. They could have their opinion if they want. I didn't think anything of it. The rest of the week in the hospital you know, I'm getting better and better and as I get better, the music changes. I start being more perky and the songs the music out the window. Changes to Chattanooga Choo Choo da do da do the Chattanooga Choo Choo..one in the morning two in the morning I’m waking up with these songs…

LULU: …Always coming in from right outside that window 

LEO RANGELL: And I thought it was a pretty energetic group there across the street.

LULU: At this point, Leo was beginning to suspect that something a little weird was going on. 

LEO RANGELL: But the real coup de gras came when I was gonna leave the hospital after a week or so. And this tune. I didn't know the words at first, but I started to hear that [sings tune] da da da da da

LULU: That's when it hit him. 

LEO RANGELL: I still was hearing the song. 

LULU: The song was still coming from outside a window but now the scenery was moving. 

LEO RANGELL: I thought it was related to the hospital and to the thing across the street - here I am in the car listening to this.

LULU: And that's when the lyrics appeared 

LEO RANGELL: Finally that’s when the words come 

LULU: he couldn't ignore it anymore. Not only was the song following him home, it's like the song was about him. He was the Johnny the girls will cheer marching home - coming home from the hospital.

LEO RANGELL: I realized I am listening to me. I am listening to me.

ROBERT: Okay, is he really though? 

JAD: I mean, he's really listening to anything, or does he just think he's hearing something 

ROBERT: No. There's nothing out there for him to hear from the inside. Like is his brain actually hearing music?

JAD: Well, lucky for us, there's a professor in England who had the exact same question. I called him up. 

JAD: Hi, can I speak to Professor Griffith, please? 



JAD: Tim Griffith is his name - he is a professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University. Here's what he did. He took 35 People who are likely to claim to be hallucinating music 


JAD: And he scanned their brain. 

TIM GRIFFITH: Very simple experiment. I just put people in a scanner and asked what are you hearing now? What are you hearing now? 

JAD: When they told him-I'm hearing music, that that moment he would snap a picture of their brain. But then he took a different group of people who have no hallucinations, played them real music… 

TIM GRIFFITH: Actual music. 

JAD: Scanned their brains. And then he compared the pictures… 

TIM GRIFFITH: and if you look…

JAD: …they look virtually identical…

TIM GRIFFITH: …if you were to put those in front of people hallucinating the other people being played music, I wouldn't be able to tell you which was which…

JAD: …which tells you two things - First, this condition is real. These people are not making it up. And second, this goes way beyond the ordinary experience the rest of us have where we get a song stuck in our head. These people are getting the full hifi experience of listening to music. Their entire brain is lit up.

DIANA DEUTSCH: The music sounds so convincingly like real life music, what are you to think when it suddenly appears? 

JAD: That's Diana Deutsch, a psychologist at the University of California San Diego has been collecting emails from hundreds of different people who hallucinate music. 

DIANA DEUTSCH: One person described it in the following way. He said, imagine that you were at a rock concert standing right by the loudspeaker. Well, it's louder than that.

TIM GRIFFITH: At the beginning when I didn't know what was gonna happen. I thought it was going to take over my mind.

[song] It started interfering with sleep. It’s the Chesapeake and the Santa Fe, like all night, I got mad. I used to say Stop it already. Stop it. Cut it out. Come on. Enough. Enough enough, but you're never free. I thought I'd never sleep again. That was the low point. I thought I've got to get help for this. 

LULU: What point did you bring it up with doctors? 


TIM GRIFFITH: The doctor is completely impotent to this day. They roll their eyes when I tell them about it. 

LULU: One doctor told him that maybe it was the fillings in his teeth picking up the radio. 

TIM GRIFFITH: Okay, I hoped it was - but it wasn't. It continued forever. 

LULU: Nothing he could do could make it stop. 

TIM GRIFFITH: I don't have an off button. 

LULU: Like there was a jukebox in his head run by an evil Gremlin and the worst part the Gremlin would mess with the tempo like that data to the data.

TIM GRIFFITH: The Man on the Flying Trapeze daring young man all that starts speeding - that's the worst when that started to happen. I really think that's getting close to planning.I had the feeling that it could go at its rate and I couldn't stop it. It's like you're on a galloping horse. We once told that to my daughter. She said why don't you just instead think of the song 


and I could control the tempo and instead when that was galloping, I would go and immediately 


I'm completely relaxed and the Gallop is completely gone. And I can even let it come back. And it would start now being and that was no longer ever a problem of the tempo running away with me. 

JAD: Okay, so let's just assume that Leo is not crazy. 

TIM GRIFFITH: I never thought it was psychotic. Never, Never.

JAD:  Because most people with, turns out with this condition, are not crazy. 

DIANA DEUTSCH: There's nothing else wrong with them 

JAD: according to Diane Geutsch. So then the question becomes, how can a person who is otherwise sane hallucinate to such a crazy degree? Well, in the 60s there was a Polish psychologist named Jerzy Aronofsky who thought about this, and and he came up with a simple, kind of beautiful idea based on an assumption that he couldn't prove yet, which was that between the ears and the brain, there are some connections he thought just a few stray connections that run backwards, brain back to ear which would allow sound to run in reverse. Now, this was just an idea. He couldn't really test it. But many years later, neuroscientists like Tim Griffith start to poke around in the brain they start to explore and what they find is that he was right. 


TIM GRIFFITH: Yeah, very right. If you look at the pathway between the ears and the brain - Probably about 70% of the fiber don't actually go up, they go down, they go the other way towards the ears. 

ROBERT: 70% go up?

JAD: 70% go from the brain to the ears. It's like our ears are literally wired to hear our brains. Now, his idea was that normally our ears wouldn't hear what the brain was saying because it was too busy taking in all the sounds from the outside. But what if he thought the sound from the outside stopped? Maybe then there would be a kind of backflow - sounds stored in your brain would start to flow backwards. Now again, this is just an idea but there might be something to this because it would explain why most of the people who suffer from musical hallucinations according to Tim Griffith have one thing in common 

TIM GRIFFITH: …by far and away the common situation you see it in, that is in people who have deafness, usually in middle or later life

JAD: And you don’t have to take his word for it…

[??] …nearly the instant that I went deaf. I started experiencing around the clock 24/7 auditory hallucinations. 

JAD: This is Michael [??] when he was 36 he lost all of his hearing and he remembers the moment it happened. He was in the emergency room. Talking to a nurse and suddenly the sound started to go 

MICHAEL ??: …it was like going from talking like this to talking like this to my ears were just draining out like water draining out about I was just getting different effects. And at the same time I was starting to hear a very loud ringing sound in my ears.It was gradually morphing into sort of Formless eerie ethereal music. Music of the spheres really I would call it. And you would slowly morph into a version of the Ave Maria. It was almost as if it was a sort of recompense to being deaf. I was like plugged into some sort of deep background melody in the cosmos.

JAD: Here's the question. What would happen if Michael suddenly got his hearing back? Well, a couple of months later, Michael got a cochlear implant installed. This is a little chip that's put into his brain which promises to return at least part of his hearing and he says when the doctors turned it on the moment he says they turned it on. Sounds from the world came rushing in and the music stopped…

MICHAEL ??: …stopped cold. Just went away almost instantaneously.

JAD: There you go. 


ROBERT: Well, but I happen to know a woman who had a very, very different experience - she had the same problem. She went deaf she started hearing music 

ROBERT: …what's - what kind of music was it?

CHERYL C:  Spirituals. patriotic songs 

ROBERT: Her name is not actually your real name. It's Cheryl C is what we're gonna call her. She wanted the music in her head to stop and she'd heard about a patient like your friend 

CHERYL C: …who had musical hallucinations received a cochlear implant and hallucinations disappeared. So I wanted to do it. 

ROBERT: So she did. She got the implant. She wakes up on the operating table.

CHERYL C: I had the music it was inside me. 

ROBERT: Still there 

CHERYL C: Just still there. I can't stop it. 

JAD: Why in the first case and they're kind of the same situation

ROBERT: …they are very much the same. Why would there be that difference? I don't know why there is this difference between now and then so I asked Dr. Oliver Sacks who we often talk to about these questions. How do you explain the difference? 

OLIVER SACKS: And as a physician, you know, one sees patients you ask about their symptoms, they produce their symptoms, but it is equally important to see the relation of the symptoms of the disease to the person themselves to their identity. 

ROBERT: He's discovered over the years that the problem expressed in the patient is partly a disease. I mean the person is sick or in trouble in some way. At the same time the disease is reflecting something about the person in front of him. 

OLIVER SACKS: One sees interaction, a liaison, or collusion the condition I don't know what word to use between the self and a symptom 

ROBERT: And sometimes it can come out so strangely. For example, there's a patient who was a Jewish kid..

OLIVER SACKS:…he was a Jewish boy who'd grown up in Hamburg in the 1920s, 1930s. And he had been terrified by the Nazi youth and for some horrible reason. He hallucinated. Nazi marching songs, he was tormented

ROBERT: …but on the other hand Oliver told me about an old woman he in a nursing home, who was haunted by lullaby 


OLIVER SACKS: …one after the other non stop but she she was an orphan. The father died before she was born, and her mother before she was five orphaned alone. She found the songs in her head, deeply comforting the music and the hallucinations, in fact, seemed to be a door into a lost part of childhood. 

ROBERT: So then the differences between people when music floods into their head what's going on, says Oliver, is the disease and depression they're talking to each other. 

OLIVER SACKS: The self can be molded by hallucination, but it can mold them in turn. 

JAD: I wonder where Leo fits into this Lulu? 

LULU: Yeah. 

JAD: How would you say that, that Leo self interacts with his symptoms or vice versa? Well, he's a psychoanalyst, so whenever he gets a song stuck in his head, which is like all the time, he analyzes it, he looks for a hidden meaning 

LEO RANGELL: …and like you know the way dreams reveal your inner life the same thing with songs 

LULU: Leo will tell you that every song is a message from his subconscious. 

LEO RANGELL: Everything has an unconscious connection, pleasant or unpleasant. 

LULU: And he's just got to figure out what it is. 

LEO RANGELL: I'm analyzing me like I have a patient in front of me. Like when I first called him up he had Mary Had a Little Lamb stuck in his head that he told me was because he'd been thinking about the passivity of the American people in following a leader that misleads them And everywhere that Mary went, the lambs were sure to go I mean, the connection is obvious, or when he first got home from the hospital.

LULU:always had America the Beautiful stuck in his head

LEO RANGELL: …and I'm certainly not a raving patriot. But what this meant was home sweet home - America to me was home.

LULU:  It's easy to think that this is kind of a stretch. I mean, every song has some very specific meaning for him. But I don't know there was this one time he told me about this one time where he woke up with a song in his head. 

LEO RANGELL: I start going to brush my teeth. I’m singing along as I go to the bathroom

LULU: …he didn't know why, what it was. Just a few years after his wife had died. 

LEO RANGELL: My Bonnie lies over the ocean. My Bonnie lies over the sea. My Bonnie lies over the ocean. Bring back bring back bring back my Bonnie to me. I realized when I said why am I singing that song and then suddenly [Pause] I realized it was our wedding anniversary. That week. That was one of our major anniversaries. You know that song can kill me

LULU: Even so he told me that when that song comes, he doesn't want it to go. 

LEO RANGELL: I found that when the song disappeared, but I didn't want it to disappear. 

LULU: It’s now been over a decade of hallucinating music for Leo, and he found that at some point, the music switched and went from intruder to friend. Now he looks forward to the songs 

LEO RANGELL: Stars and steel guitars 

LULU: They keep him company because often he finds himself alone LEO RANGELL: It's true that one of the things about being 94 is that when you look at your telephone address book, half of them are not there anymore. You scratch out the name and that's not easy. Just Molly and me - and baby makes - three all happy blue heaven…..




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