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Curious City

Chicago Public Media

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.


Chicago, IL




Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.




How Do Chicagoans Cope With Winter Stress? Especially Now?

Curious City’s new reporter Adriana Cardona-Maguigad braves the freezing temperatures to find out how Chicagoans are getting through the stress of winter.


A Day At Marriage and Civil Union Court

Reporter Araceli Gómez-Aldana spent the day in Marriage and Civil Union Court in downtown Chicago where she met all kinds of couples who were there to say “I do,” and a clerk that’s helped thousands of couples tie the knot over the last 50 years. She’s seen it all, including brides left at the altar at the last minute, and Chicagoans lining up for hours to wed on the same day as Prince Charles and Princess Diana.


Chicago Rat Tales: Live at the Hideout

In this episode we head to the Hideout in Chicago for an evening of storytelling around rats. Jesse Dukes, Curious City’s lead rat reporter shares some stories from a trip we took to Lincoln Park’s rattiest alley. And some Chicagoans share their some of their most traumatic rat encounters.


A Bygone Chicago Nightclub And Christmas Tree Vendors

On this week’s episode we’re revisiting a couple of holiday stories. Reporter Monica Eng answers a question about a shuttered Chicago jazz bar that one hosted the likes of Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli and Lionel Hampton. Plus, we meet some of the people that run the Christmas tree pop-ups around Chicago.


Without Native Americans, Would We Have Chicago As We Know It?

Native Americans farmed, developed trade routes and took advantage of Chicago’s geography before anyone else settled in the region. Yet Chicago histories usually start in 1830. Reporter Jesse Dukes fills us in on what the history books are missing.


Why Aren't There Any Federal Indian Reservations In Illinois?

The Chicago region was home to a number of Native American nations, and Illinois’ native history is rich and varied. But unlike neighboring states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, Illinois doesn’t have any Indian reservations. Curious City looks into the history to find out why.


Do Speed Humps Work?

Every driver in Chicago has probably encountered a speed hump (yep, they are officially known as humps, not bumps) at some point while traversing the city. It’s probably safe to say that no one particularly enjoys going over one, but these barriers meant to slow drivers and make streets safer certainly annoy some more than others. And one listener wants to know if they’re even effective. Reporter Andrew Meriwether investigates.


What's Up With All Those Billboard Ads For Lawyers?

Lawyer selfies line the interstate between Illinois and Indiana. Curious City took a road trip and counted almost a hundred in one stretch of I-90/94. Audio producer Steven Jackson investigates why there’s so many of these billboards here, especially for personal injury attorneys. He shares insights from lawyers, marketers, and historians. Features a guest cameo by Lyndon B. Johnson.


Chicago Movie Locations

Chicago has served as the backdrop for blockbuster films like “The Blues Brothers,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Break-Up.” But just when did Chicago, sometimes referred to as the “Hollywood of the Midwest,” first become a go-to location for film and TV producers? The answer goes all the way back to the silent film era of the early 1900s when the Essanay Film Manufacturing Co. produced thousands of films from 1907 to 1917 and William Foster debuted “The Railroad Porter” in 1913. Productions...


The Making Of Polish Chicago

We all know Chicago has a strong Polish community. But how did it get that way? And just how Polish is this city, really? Reporter Jesse Dukes finds the answers.


A Split Pea Dilemma And The Chicago-Style Hot Dog

A listener noticed that diner after diner seemed to serve split pea soup every Wednesday. So is he really onto something? Reporter Linda Lutton investigates this legume mystery. Plus, we break down the origins of the Chicago-style hot dog.


The Halloween Episode: Munger Road

On this week’s episode Curious City investigates the origins of the Munger Road haunting. Like any good ghost story, there are several versions of the Munger Road tale, but the ghost story goes something like this: A school bus full of kids was crossing over the train tracks and it stalled. Before the driver could get the bus off the tracks, a train came along and hit the bus. No one bus survived the accident. The legend says the ghosts of the children are still there, and claims that if you...


Chicago Is Where Black Cinema Took Root

Chicago was like Hollywood before Hollywood became the movie capital we know today. And Black directors were an important part of that early industry. In 1913 Willam Foster became the first Black director to make a film with an all Black cast. Yet most people have never heard of him. Reporter Arionne Nettles shares his story and the legacy he left behind.


The Pilsen Episode

Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood was first settled by Irish and German immigrants who were soon supplanted by a large influx of Czech immigrants. They gave the neighborhood its name but it’s known today for its Mexican and Mexican American population who first began moving in during the 50s and 60s. Pilsen continued to be a port of entry for decades and since then, many have fought to maintain the neighborhood’s identity, culture, and its community. In this episode we answer several questions...


Three Buildings That Survived The Great Chicago Fire

The Great Chicago Fire, which lasted from October 8th to October 10th, 1871, destroyed most of Chicago from what is today Roosevelt Road up to Fullerton and from the Lake west to the Chicago River. Almost 100,000 Chicagoans lost their homes and several hundred lost their lives. And while the Chicago Water Tower has become an important symbol of what survived the destruction of the fire, it’s not the only building that made it through. Historian Paul Durica tells us about three other...


Lucy Parsons, The 'Goddess Of Anarchy'

Called "more dangerous than a thousand rioters" by the Chicago Police Department, Lucy Parsons was a radical socialist, a labor organizer, and a powerful orator who worked on behalf of people of color, women, and the homeless, she was


What’s The History Of Religious Exemptions To Vaccines?

While resistance to vaccine mandates goes back 200 years but state laws allowing for religious exemptions were rare until the 1960s. And faith leaders from the Pope to imams have pushed Americans to get vaccinated. So why do religious exemptions exist? Reporter Andrew Meriwether digs into the complicated history of religious exemptions.


Why Are The Cicadas So Loud And Chicago’s Livestock

The cicadas seem really loud this year around one listener’s home. But are they louder than usual? Are there more of them? Producer Jason Marck finds out the answers. Plus, can you really keep pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock in your backyard in Chicago?


The White Sox Logo And How The Chicago Bears Got Their Nickname

When a 22-year-old executive came up with the iconic White Sox logo, he probably never imagined it becoming a hip-hop fashion sensation. Nearly 27 years ago the White Sox debuted a look that would become iconic in pop culture. Producer Jesse Dukes traces its origins all the way back to 1948. And, ever wonder how the Chicago Bears, who don’t play near Midway Airport, ever got their nickname? Bears fan and reporter Araceli Gómez-Aldana tracks down the answer.


How Do Chicago’s Most Tenacious Weeds Grow?

Tenacious weeds like buckthorn, milkweed and goldenrod grow everywhere in Chicago from railroad tracks to sidewalk cracks. Reporter Natalie Dalea finds out how they’ve adapted to survive city life. Plus what happens to all the landscaping along the Mag Mile after the summer is over.