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Endless Thread


Hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson dig into the internet's vast and curious ecosystem of online communities to find untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other jaw-dropping stories online and IRL.


Boston, MA




Hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Sivertson dig into the internet's vast and curious ecosystem of online communities to find untold histories, unsolved mysteries, and other jaw-dropping stories online and IRL.






The Spider Web

With new and exotic species available at the click of a button, the digital age forever changed the multimillion-dollar arachnid industry. What has that meant for spiders? Credits: This episode was written and produced by Dean Russell. Mixing, sound design, and original music by Matt Reed. Ben Brock Johnson and Dean Russell are the co-hosts. (Henrik Sorensen/Getty Images)


Introducing 'The Gun Machine' Ep. 1: The U.S. gun industry's surprising origin story

Hey, threadheads. It's a different day than we'd normally be in your feed, and we HAVE... something different for you! It's the first episode of a new series from WBUR, our home station, of course, and The Trace. It's called "The Gun Machine," and it's an 8-part series about the history of the gun industry in America and the industry's biggest supporter... THE GOVERNMENT. This first episode is all about how the United States has shaped, and been shaped by, the gun industry — and how we all play a role. A trigger warning... some actual triggers get pulled in this episode. You'll hear that. So take care. And you dig it, the second episode is already waiting for you. Just search for "The Gun Machine" wherever you listen to Endless Thread. https://link.chtbl.com/thegunmachine


Find A Grave: Social Media Icon

Host Ben Brock Johnson and producer Quincy Walters go to an historic Boston cemetery to try out findagrave.com — a volunteer-generated database of millions of graves throughout the world. At the cemetery, Ben and Quincy have a hard time finding anyone who's ever heard of the site that's been around since 1995. Despite this, Quincy makes the argument that Find a Grave is one of the first social media sites that doesn't get the respect it deserves. "But how is it social media if no one knows about it?" Ben asks. Then the pair encounter a veteran user of the site. After that, they get ahold of the guy who started Find a Grave. Does he think Find a Grave is social media? Find out in this episode of Endless Thread.


Dune Boy

Back in 2013, the sand dunes of Michigan City, Indiana swallowed a six-year-old boy. It took rescuers nearly 4 hours to dig him out of 12 feet of sand. It was a phenomenon that scientists hadn't studied in-depth. But Facebook recreational naturalists were on the case. In this episode of Endless Thread, producer Grace Tatter and host Ben Brock Johnson go down an internet rabbit hole and bring bring us an explanation of what happened, the coexistence of miracles and science and even the including the six-year-old boy who's now an adult. "We're pro-portal and we're pro- tree hole," Ben says. "Basically anywhere there's space, we want to explore it."


The online legacy of 'To Catch a Predator'

Back in 2004, NBC’s 'To Catch a Predator' captivated millions of viewers as it followed a vigilante group called Perverted Justice, which has a goal to thwart pedophiles searching the internet for minors. Adult volunteers go online to pose as minors in order to, well, catch predators. Three years later, amid its growing popularity, it came to an end. But nearly two decades later, it's inspired a genre of influencers who have tried to fill the void.


Lofi Girl

The popular YouTube channel Lofi Girl provides a 24/7 livestream of chill beats to relax and study. Endless Thread producer Nora Ruth Valerie Saks and co-host Ben Brock Johnson look at how the Lofi Girl phenomenon has expanded into a record company, inspired copycats, and prompted academic research.


Meet the Gen Zs archiving the Muzak of the Twin Towers

On Discord and YouTube, hundreds of Gen-Zers are teaming up for the purposes finding and archiving the Muzak (aka elevator music) that played in the plaza and lobby and mall of the Twin Towers. On this 22nd anniversary of 9/11, join Endless Thread in an episode where teens and young 20-somethings collect the seemingly innocuous sonic artifacts of the original World Trade Center people thought were lost and the lengths they've gone to find them.


Artist: Known

The cover art for the 1976 paperback edition of Madeleine L'Engle's classic sci-fi/fantasy novel "A Wrinkle in Time" — featuring a rainbow-winged centaur and a green, glowering, red-eyed face — is iconic. And yet, for nearly 50 years, no one has known who illustrated it. Well, not NO ONE. Not anymore... Endless Thread cracks the case!


PARKS! Pt. 4: Death Sea

A Redditor proposed a quick fix to one of humanity’s greatest threats. But the real threat may be our fixation with quick fixes. Credits: This episode was written and produced by Dean Russell. Mixing and sound design by Emily Jankowski. Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson are the co-hosts. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)


PARKS! Pt. 3: Close Encounters with Mato Tipila

As of late, Endless Thread co-host Ben Brock Johnson has been obsessed with a rock in Wyoming, a lot like the protagonist of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But you won't find Ben in the kitchen, making a replica of the rock out of mud and chicken wire. Instead you'll find him and co-host Amory Sivertson in this episode, traversing Reddit and TikTok and YouTube and Wyoming to find out why hundreds of thousands of people have been drawn to a monolith that has so many names and meanings.


PARKS! Pt. 2: Slime Mind

Two years ago, he didn’t even know slime molds existed. Now, he may be the internet’s most famous slime savant. Co-hosts Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson take a walk in the park with Regular Slime Guy. Credits: This episode was written and produced by Dean Russell. Mixing and sound design by Emily Jankowski. Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson are the co-hosts. (Photo by Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)


PARKS! Pt. 1: Social media gone 'wild'

"To avoid crowds, visit areas that are less crowded." These comically obvious, wise words come from the Twitter account — ahem, X account — of the National Park Service, who has been hitting it out of the park lately (get it?) with its social media content and reaping viral rewards. Who is behind this material? And why has a more than hundred year old government agency chosen to let its hair down on social media? Amory and Ben talk to the National Park Service's lone social media ranger, Matt Turner, and to Sarah Southerland from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, whose delightfully outrageous social media presence has captured the hearts and funny bones of hundreds of thousands of people.


Best of Summer: MEMES: Scumbag Steve

If there is an OG meme in which a human is the star, Scumbag Steve is it. He spread across the internet like wildfire in 2011 as a universal representation of dudes who are the worst. And, like any person grappling with immediate internet fame, Blake Boston — the man behind Scumbag Steve — tried to capitalize: merch, rap songs, public appearances. But the full story of what happened to Blake — and his family — has never been told. The Scumbag Steve meme became a bargaining chip in a custody battle, a complicating factor in meeting his birth mother, the cause of fights with extended family members, a source of anxiety attacks, and an echo of trauma. In this episode, we go past the origin story of Scumbag Steve and learn about Blake’s real struggles with PTSD and abuse — and how trauma has brought him and his mother, Susan Boston, even closer.


Best of Summer: Goblins, Toenails, and Beach Rap

In times like these, you've got to take joy wherever and however you can get it. Amory and Ben swap unexpected sources of joy they've bumped into recently — from a goblin-themed Reddit post, to the scariest toe talons on the internet, to a funky 1980's little-known bop about going to the beach on Massachusetts' North Shore.


Best of Summer: The Loudest Sound

Imagine if an explosion in California was so loud that it could be heard in New York City. This is the story of a real event that was just as loud — the loudest sound ever recorded in human history. This sound ripped across oceans in 1883, reaching people 3,000 miles away. Infrasonic pressure waves circled the globe four times. News of its destruction traveled through the early internet, the telegraph system, and altered the course of scientific history. In this episode of Endless Thread, we recreate this magnum opus — a hotly debated darling of Reddit — with the help of scholars and infrasonic scientists.


Best of Summer: The 100-million-year origin story of laughter and humor

The first documented bar joke was copied onto a clay tablet 4,000 years ago in the ancient language of Sumerian. Scholars have translated it, but the meaning remains lost. After the Twitter account @DepthsOfWiki posted the joke in March, thousands of people attempted to decipher it to no avail. Yet, as cryptic as the bar joke may be, it offers clues into humor’s role in human civilizations and raises questions about when humor — and its sibling laughter — first emerged. In this episode, the second of two parts, Endless Thread continues its journey attempting to deconstruct the beginnings of humor and explain an unexplainable joke from the forgotten tablets of the past.


Best of Summer: What makes the world’s first bar joke funny? No one knows.

What makes the world’s first documented bar joke funny? No one knows. In a tweet that garnered thousands of responses in March, the Twitter account @DepthsOfWiki posted about a 4,000-year-old proverb written on a clay tablet. The line, which experts believe is a joke from the ancient civilization of Sumer, starts with the set-up, “A dog walks into a tavern.” But the punchline has left scholars and online commenters scratching their heads. The joke’s meaning has been lost, and finding it could reveal something unique about early human civilization. In this episode, the first of two parts, Endless Thread journeys back in time, attempting to deconstruct the origins of humor and explain an unexplainable joke from the forgotten tablets of the past.


Best of Summer: Swimming Hole - The man, the myth, the leap

In this summer-y episode of Endless Thread, Ben and Amory take a leap of faith (or do they?) to the depths of an upstate New York swimming hole with a legend surrounding it that's almost as shadowy as exact it's location.


Pup Play

“Which one of you freaks hijacked the south Boston green space google maps for your furry photo shoot?” Earlier this year, a Redditor was trying to find the person who uploaded pictures of himself posing in a dog mask and rubber suit to this location in Google Maps. But he's no furry. He's a pup. There's a difference, we learned, after speaking to the subject of these photos. Take a walk on the kinky side in this episode that explores the origins of puppy play and how the internet and the pandemic shaped the pup community.


'Going Dark': Reddit's API Changes

Reddit is restricting the use of third-party apps. More than 8,000 subreddit communities shut down in protest — including r/Blind, which says the change will drastically reduce accessibility. In this special episode, co-host Ben Brock Johnson speaks with two moderators of r/Blind about their concerns. Credits: This episode was produced by Ben Brock Johnson and Dean Russell. Mixing and sound design by Matt Reed. Amory Sivertson and Ben Brock Johnson are the co-hosts. (Image credit: Getty/Johner Images)