Curious City-logo

Curious City

Chicago Public Media

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.




Chicago’s Infamous Dojo Wars Part 2: The Fall of Count Dante, the Deadliest Man Alive

In the 1960s, Chicago was becoming known as a center for Karate teaching and international tournaments, and the main person behind this movement was John Keehan. In the last of this two part series, we delve into Keehan’s devolution into a persona he created, Count Dante. He was at the center of Chicago’s “Dojo Wars,” which would end up taking a dark turn.


Chicago’s Infamous Dojo Wars, Part 1: The Rise of John Keehan, Karate Sensei

In the 1960s, Chicago was becoming known as a center for Karate teaching and international tournaments, and the main person behind this movement was John Keehan. He was a revered black belt instructor who was also often an instigator in Chicago’s “Dojo Wars,” a series of brawls and incidents between competing martial arts schools. In part one, we follow Keehan’s rise as a sensei, and his efforts to bring more violence to the art, both on and off the mats.


Move Over Mayor. Adios Aldermen. Regular Citizens Can Propose Laws In Chicago And We’ll Tell You How

Brandon Johnson was just sworn in as Chicago’s new mayor. Johnson was known as a union and community organizer who believes average people should have more say in how their government works. Which is why we thought this story from 2021 about how any citizen can introduce new laws here in Chicago was the perfect pairing to inauguration week.


From Venezuela to Chicago, One Migrant’s Story

Carolina Sandoval was on one of the first buses from Texas to Chicago last fall. We follow her journey here from Venezuela, discovering how she’s found some sense of independence as the situation for new arrivals continues to evolve amid a growing crisis.


Beer and Bar Culture In Chicago: Curious City Live from Carol’s Pub

In April, Carol’s Pub was packed with Curious City fans eager to learn about the history of Uptown saloons and the importance of beer and tavern culture to Chicago. Knowledge flowed from the stage, brews flowed from the taps and great music flowed from the Hoyle Brothers. We’ll take you inside the event on this week’s episode of Curious City.


Measuring a Man: The Complicated Stature of Labor Leader Samuel Gompers

Samuel Gompers fought for the eight-hour work day and helped create child labor laws. But for all he achieved, he was also fiercely anti-immigrant. We explore Gompers' life, legacy, and the statue built to this complicated man.


What is Swedish Egg Coffee?

Curious City is joined by Reset’s Claire Hyman who went on a search for Swedish Egg Coffee in Chicago. Along the way she discovers its history, finds multiple recipes, and enlists a barista to brew up a batch.


A Day In 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.


What's life like in Chicago-area trailer parks?

Chicagoans live in two-flats, three-flats, bungalows and skyscrapers. And hundreds of households live in Chicago’s only trailer park, Harbor Point Estates. Beyond the city’s borders, there’s another 18,000 mobile homes in our metro area. Reporter Linda Lutton answers a question about what life is like in Chicagoland mobile home communities, as told by residents themselves.


From Killer Hawks To A TV Takeover: Historic Chicago Pranks

Chicago historian Paul Durica shares famous ruses, hoaxes and stunts pulled by (and on) local media.


When Disco Ruled Chicago’s Dance Scene

How disco evolved in Chicago in the 1970s in two distinct ways: On the near north side as part of the city’s emerging Queer nightlife scene. And on the southside in warehouses, underground clubs, and even in Catholic schools where it laid the foundation for house music.


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

Unlike many states in the Midwest, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, Illinois doesn’t have any federally recognized Indian reservations. Yet all around the state, in the names of cities, rivers, streets and sports teams, there are reminders that we are living on land where Native Americans once farmed, traded and made their home. So why doesn’t Illinois have any reservations? The answer requires a look back at the region’s history beginning in the 1700s.


Jerk Food Finds a Home in Chicago

Even though the Jamaican population in Chicago is relatively small, the city is flush with restaurants serving jerk-style foods. Why are there so many? And what is authentic jerk cuisine?


The Life and Legacy of Alice Hamilton

Scientist Alice Hamilton’s investigations into toxins in Chicago’s factories led to some of the first workplace safety laws in the country. She was known for her “shoe leather” epidemiology, wearing out the soles of her shoes from all the trips she made to Chicago homes, factories and even saloons to figure out what was making people sick. Reporter Edie Rubinowitz has her story.


Two Southside families trace their roots back to Chicago’s earliest days

You’ve never heard of the Atkinsons or the Bernsteins. But these are two historic Chicago families and in big and small ways, they have left their mark on this city.


Honoring Black History in Chicago: The impact of Ida B. Wells on Politics and Cadillac Baby on the Blues

Reporter Arionne Nettles brings us two stories honoring Black History in Chicago: The legacy of Ida B. Wells who empowered Black people to claim political power here. And the tale of Cadillac Baby, Nettle’s grandfather, who helped establish and nourish the Blues industry in Chicago.


Car Window Tinting Laws are Complicated (and hard to enforce)

Curious City takes a look at the growing popularity of car window tinting in Illinois. We find out what the state law says about how dark automobile windows can be, who enforces these laws -- or not -- and why some people have safety concerns about them.


Police accountability and the power of Chicago’s mayor

With the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers, the people and mechanisms that hold cops accountable are in the spotlight once again. It’s something we talk about often here in Chicago. Later this month, city residents will be voting for mayor, and whoever wins that race will sit at the head of a large-and growing-police accountability system. We’ll take you in a deep dive into that system, and update you on how a years-long battle for more citizen involvement in that system is finally coming to fruition.


Is There A Way To Save Altgeld Gardens’ Memorial Wall?

The uncertain fate of a hand-lettered memorial wall in the Far South Side Altgeld Gardens community has Curious City digging into how such memorials and other valued local murals and artwork might be saved from destruction, even if they are not officially national landmarks.


Why once migratory geese are now permanent Chicago residents

Geese have the only flights in and out of Chicago that aren’t delayed. But seriously…we find out why the once-migratory Canada geese decided to make Chicago their permanent home, why these birds have become a nuisance, and what’s being done to keep their population in check.