There's one group of people that is universally tarred and feathered in the United States and most of the world. We never hear from them, because they can't identify themselves without putting their livelihoods and reputations at risk.
Ira plays tape from an interview that he did more than 20 years ago, with the author Doris Lessing, about her novel The Fifth Child, which tells the story of a woman who gives birth to a goblin-like baby. The archival audio appears courtesy of National Public Radio, Inc.Then Ira's conversation with Cheryl, from the top of the show, continues.
Huntington's Disease is a progressive brain disorder. There's a wide range of symptoms, but in the worst cases, people who have it can end up losing physical control of their bodies, sort of like Parkinson's Disease, and can also have mental symptoms that are like Alzheimer's or schizophrenia.
For decades, the writer Alex Kotlowitz has been writing about the inner cities and the toll of violence on young people. So when he heard about a program at Drexel University where guys from the inner city get counseling for PTSD, he wondered if the effect of urban violence was comparable to the trauma that a person experiences from war.
Jessica Benko tells the story of a woman named Cathy who was almost killed several times by a thought that she just couldn't get rid of.
Kristen Finch was a speech therapist who sometimes worked with kids with Asperger Syndrome, symptoms of which include emotional distance, inflexibility and missing social cues. Kristin and her co-workers often joked that all their husbands had Asperger's, since the symptoms overlap with stereotypically male personality traits.
In 2008, reporter Chris Neary told the story of John, a soldier who returned from tours of Iraq and Afghanistan with severe PTSD, and ended up attacking his fiancee and her mother. Chris finds out how John is coping today.
Ira explains that when the radio staff decided to take a test that reveals who is a psychopath, very quickly everyone came to believe that the highest score would go to either Robyn, Jane, or him.
Alix Spiegel tells the story of Robert Dixon, who's in a maximum security prison in Vacaville California and is unlikely to ever get parole because of his score on the psychopath test. The test also is called "the checklist" or, more formally, the PCL-R, which stands for "Psychopathy Check List—Revised." Alix tells the story of its creation and reports that the man who created the test, Bob Hare, is concerned at how it's being used today in the criminal justice system.
Jon Ronson investigates whether corporate leaders can, in fact, be psychopaths by visiting a former Sunbeam CEO named Al Dunlap. This is an excerpt from Ronson's book, The Psychopath Test.
Ira and the radio show staff get their results on the psychopath test from Dr. David Bernstein, of Forensic Consultants, LLC., who administered the test to them.
Writer Rosie Schaap tells the story of how she ingratiated herself into the adult society of the Metroliner commuter train bar car as a teenager. She would cast Tarot card prophesies for riders, in exchange for beer.
Ira Glass explains that, like the rest of America, we at This American Life are not tired of those stories of women who have no idea they're pregnant and then—poof—one day a baby pops out. Ira and several of our producers speak with Jennifer Lyne, who found out just a few days before giving birth and even appeared on the TV show I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant.
Back in 2004, a reporter named David Holthouse published a remarkable story in the weekly paper he worked for, Westword. It's about something he waited his entire life to do...since childhood.
There is a four mile long bridge in Naan-jing China, famous for how many people jump off to commit suicide. In 2003, a man named Chen Sah began spending all of his weekends on the bridge, trying to single handedly stop the jumpers.
On October 13, 2002, David MacLean woke up in India with no memory of who he was or how he got there. He had no choice but to let the people who recognized him—and even strangers—fill in his identity.
Host Ira Glass plays tape of two women who ended up as frenemies.They kept trying to be friends, but couldn't help themselves from fighting. Ira then speaks with psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad who has run scientific studies to answer the question: Why don't we simply end these troubling kinds of friendships? Holt-Lunstad's research also shows that these relationships are much more common than you might think.
From London, TAL contributor Jon Ronson tells the story of a man who has spent more than a decade trying to convince doctors that he's not mentally ill. But the more he argues his case, the less they believe him.
Karen Sosnoski's one-year-old son, Anton, was born with what's known as Mosaic Down Syndrome, a rare condition where some of his cells have the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome and other cells don't. So as he grows, he could end up having all the health risks and challenges of Down syndrome...or just a few of them.
When John came back from fighting in Iraq, he refused to leave his house. He was paranoid.
When Amy Silverman's daughter was born with Down syndrome, she followed the advice of all the parents she met: She signed her daughter up for "early intervention" therapy. But her daughter's progress had unexpected consequences, forcing Amy to make a choice she'd never predicted.
Sometimes the inner voice telling us to do the wrong thing actually sounds like a voice. TAL producer Nancy Updike talks to people about the voices in their heads that persuade them to go astray.
Brady Udall tells the story of the time he helped a stranger get his car out of a ditch. In exchange, the man promises to help him any time, for any reason—legal or not.
A husband and wife face a decision about their autistic son's future, and whether he should continue to live with their family.