Rank #1: Episode 25 - The Great Purge
Joseph Stalin rose rapidly and ruthlessly through the ranks of the Soviet leadership. On his way up he took drastic measures to suppress his enemies including the forced collectivization of peasants that killed millions by famine. Other party leaders resented his tyrannical ways. Stalin countered with the Great Purges: a period when all of his enemies were accused of treason and no Russian could feel safe. The convicted were sent to prisons known as gulags or were executed. Those purged included wealthy peasants, political opponents within the Communist party, national minorities, writers, artists, the Secret Police themselves and eventually the officers of the Red Army—just prior to the outbreak of World War II.
Rank #2: Episode 16 - The Bombing of Nagasaki
Three months after the surrender of Nazi Germany to Allied forces concluded World War II in Europe, fighting was still raging between the Allies and the Japanese Imperial government. Between mid-April and mid-July, 1945, Japanese forces inflicted half as many casualties as those suffered during the three previous years of fighting in the Pacific. With the capture of the Japanese Island of Okinawa, American forces were at the doorstep of the main island. With his military advisors cautioning Harry Truman that a conventional attack would result in over 1 million American casualties, the U.S. President faced one of the most difficult decisions in world history: risk millions of lives in a ground invasion or use the most powerful weapon ever developed against a civilian population.
Rank #3: Episode 14 - The Black Death
The Bubonic Plague, a.k.a. The Black Death, first appeared in China, and owing to improved trade routes, quickly moved across the Asian plateau to the Black Sea and eventually all of Europe. Killing at the rate of 1 out of every 3 people, it wiped out whole villages and towns at a time. Panic led to the mass persecutions of Jews, Romani, and lepers. The plague changed world history and European culture; and it continued to strike again and again in the centuries that followed.
Rank #4: Episode 19 - The Irish Potato Famine
Potato blight was the proximate cause of the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1849, but there were many contributing causes including the high dependency on this food staple, the harshness of British rule, the passage of laws that prohibited Irish Catholics from owning land, absentee landlords, dire poverty, and the subdivision of holdings that made the raising of any crops other than potatoes nearly impossible. As the famine took its toll, more than 1.5 million people would die of starvation in Ireland and another 1 million would emigrate to other countries.
Rank #5: Episode 2 - The Genocide in Rwanda
The Rwandan Genocide of 1994, resulted in the largest loss of life in the shortest period of time. It is believed that more than 800,000 people died in less than 3 months in a violent struggle that pitted neighbor against neighbor and family member against family member. Find out how this small sub-Saharan nation became a ticking time-bomb.
Rank #6: Episode 37 - The Nuclear Explosion and Meltdown at Chernobyl
In 1986 Russia, during a late night safety test, inherent reactor design flaws along with operator error resulted in an uncontrolled reaction that caused a steam explosion and graphite fire. For the next 9 days, plumes of fissionable material were lofted into the air eventually dropping back down on the USSR and Europe.
Rank #7: Episode 4 -The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis
During World War II, after delivering the world's first operational atomic bomb, the United States Navy Cruiser USS Indianapolis is sunk by a Japanese submarine in the middle of the western Pacific. More than 300 sailors drowned; but for the more than 880 survivors of the torpedoes, more horrors awaited.
Rank #8: Episode 7 - Elizabeth Bathory: The Blood Countess
Elizabeth Bathory, The Blood Countess, was a powerful member of the aristocracy in 16th century Hungary. Following the death of her husband, with the help of her servants, she began abducting local peasant girls. The abductees were taken to her castle where they were tortured and murdered. Although, she was investigated for murdering hundreds of people, she was never put on trial. Included in this podcast is an interview with Mark Hewitt, of the blog, Radians and Inches. Mark discusses what makes serial killers tick.
Rank #9: Episode 1 - The Great Peshtigo Fire
A raging forest fire obliterates a small Wisconsin lumber town.
Rank #10: Episode 41 - The Spanish Flu
As the world's most lethal war was drawing to a conclusion, humanity was faced a crisis of even greater proportions. The Spanish Influenza turned out to be the second most fatal panedemic follwoing the Bubonic Plague of the middle ages. More than 50 million people would die from the flu and more than 500 million people would be infected. It was a truly global disease spreading from Europe and America out to all of the continents including Asia, Africa, South America and the islands of the South Pacific.