Curious City WBEZ's Curious City lets the public choose the stories we cover. You sound off on what's got you curious about Chicago, the region and its people and WBEZ works with you to get answers. Our investigations can morph into videos, comics, long-form articles and — yep—radio stories. This podcast serves up a steamy buffet of questions and answers we've found along the way. You can submit your questions and follow what we're up to at curiouscity.wbez.org.
Curious City

Curious City

From WBEZ Chicago

WBEZ's Curious City lets the public choose the stories we cover. You sound off on what's got you curious about Chicago, the region and its people and WBEZ works with you to get answers. Our investigations can morph into videos, comics, long-form articles and — yep—radio stories. This podcast serves up a steamy buffet of questions and answers we've found along the way. You can submit your questions and follow what we're up to at curiouscity.wbez.org.

Most Recent Episodes

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 shot on location in Chicago ebbed and flowed in the years that followed as Hollywood became a film and television hub. But as of September 2021, a record 15 TV shows were filming here. And with so many things being filmed here, we get asked a lot of questions about what makes certain locations popular for movie shoots? Matt Sigur tracks down some answers for us.

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 drive your car onto the tracks and put it in neutral and sprinkle some baby powder on your car bumper, allegedly, the children are going to push your car off the tracks to safety. And small handprints will appear in the baby powder.

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 about Pilsen's history — about the role murals have played in creating that sense of community, how the people rose up and came together to fight for a new high school, and how residents of Pilsen took a Chicago housing peculiarity and made it their own.

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 "survivors" and what happened to them decades later.

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.