Podcast

Curious City

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

Episodes

  • Farmers Like Me Are Seeing Crop Prices Drop — But We're Resilient

    May 27 2020

    As the state and the city take new steps to reopen life during COVID-19, we're releasing our last episode of Life Interrupted, a weekly series about daily life in Chicago during the pandemic. On this last episode, we meet Kate Huffman, a sixth generation farmer. Despite the economic uncertainty right now, she says farmers will come through.

  • I Survived Tuberculosis In The 1950s, So I’m No Stranger To Quarantine

    May 24 2020

    At the beginning of the 20th Century, a global public health crisis hit Chicago—a widespread outbreak of tuberculosis. The highly contagious respiratory disease spread easily from person to person and attacked the lungs. Without a vaccine or a cure, doctors attempted to treat positive cases with sunshine, fresh air and by quarantining the sick away from the general public. Chicagoans who couldn’t afford to go to a private facility were sent to the Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Peterson Pa...more

  • I Thought Ramadan Would Be Depressing This Year — But It's Been A Blessing

    May 20 2020

    In today's episode of Life Interrupted: Deanna Othman looks forward to sharing meals with friends and family during Ramadan. Now, she’s relying on faith to get her through isolation.

  • Why Is Chicago Still Seeing So Many New Cases Of COVID-19?

    May 17 2020

    The Illinois stay-at-home order was supposed to slow the spread of COVID-19. So one Curious Citizen wonders how so many people are still getting sick.

  • I'm Bringing A Baby Into The World In the Middle Of A Pandemic

    May 13 2020

    In today's episode of Life Interrupted: A first pregancy is normally filled with a lot of excitment but also a lot of anxiety. So what's it like to bring a baby into the world during a global pandemic?

  • Has The Stay-At-Home Order Improved Chicago’s Air Quality?

    May 10 2020

    With less traffic on the roads and some businesses shut, one Curious Citizen wonders if the air we’re breathing is any cleaner.

  • Our Daughter Is A Nurse On The Front Lines Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

    May 06 2020

    Life Interrupted is a new weekly series from Curious City about daily life in Chicago during the pandemic. In today's episode, as their daughter treats COVID-19 patients in intensive care, Suzie and Bob Pschirrer wonder if military families feel the same mix of pride and fear.

  • Who Created The Cook County Forest Preserves?

    May 03 2020

    Around the turn of the century, the great American wilderness was disappearing. That’s when an architect named Dwight Perkins devised an ambitious plan to save Chicagoland’s natural treasures — by creating the state’s first forest preserves. . Over the next 15 years, Perkins would weather legal battles and partisan squabbling in pursuit of his vision.

  • I Started Sewing Clothes For My Barbies — Now I’m Sewing Face Masks

    Apr 29 2020

    Life Interrupted is a new weekly series from Curious City about daily life in Chicago during the pandemic. In today's episode, Lucy Keating first learned to sew on her grandmother’s Singer sewing machine. Today, she’s reviving her skills to make masks for COVID-19.

  • Looking For Quarantine Recipes? Try This Chicago-Invented Dish

    Apr 26 2020

    Two Albany Park chefs turned a Chinese-Korean chicken dish into a signature Chicago food. Listen to the history, then go to wbez.org/curiouscity for recipes to make at home.

  • Your Stories Of Love And Dating During COVID-19

    Apr 19 2020

    Whether you’re single or in a decades-long relationship, it’s likely coronavirus has had an impact on your love life. With Illinois’ “stay-at-home” order and new social distancing rules in place, the pandemic has fundamentally changed how we’re supposed to interact with one another, and that can include our romantic partners. Now, some couples are unexpectedly navigating long distance because of quarantine; other single folk are trying out virtual dates now that bars and restaurants are closed. ...more

  • This Synagogue's Story Mirrors The History Of Jewish Migration Across Chicago

    Apr 11 2020

    As many Chicagoans celebrate Passover, we’re sharing a story about the history of Chicago’s Jewish community through one congregation.

  • Pets And COVID-19: What You Need To Know

    Apr 05 2020

    Chicagoans have become familiar with how COVID-19 is spread from person to person and what types of safety measures they should be taking during this time. But WBEZ has gotten several questions from pet owners who are wondering about the risks to their furry friends, things like--are cats and dogs susceptible to the virus and who will care for my pet if I get hospitalized with COVID-19? Scientists recently confirmed the first cases of COVID-19 in domestic pets- two cats and two dogs. But s...more

  • Outdoor Activity Of The Day: Backyard Stargazing

    Mar 29 2020

    Governor Pritzker’s “stay-at-home” order has left lots of Chicagoans wondering how ⁠they can safely enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the city’s lakefront, adjacent parks, the 606 and Riverwalk have been closed because people were congregating in large groups, many natural areas in the region remain open. So people can still go outside to walk, run or bike ride, as long as they remain six feet away from other individuals...more

  • How To Safely Enjoy The Outdoors During COVID-19

    Mar 28 2020

    Governor Pritzker’s “stay-at-home” order has left lots of Chicagoans wondering how ⁠they can safely enjoy the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the city’s lakefront, adjacent parks, the 606 and Riverwalk have been closed because people were congregating in large groups, many natural areas in the region remain open.So people can still go outside to walk, run or bike ride, as long as they remain six feet away from other individuals. If these rules are ...more

  • How To Eat Safely During The Coronavirus Crisis: Tips, Resources, FAQs

    Mar 19 2020

    WBEZ is answering lots of your other frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 outbreak in Illinois here. Life in Chicago has changed dramatically this past week, from schools and restaurants closing to evolving policies around social distancing and public events. As Chicagoans — and most people across the country — hunker down at home over the next few weeks, Curious City is answering questions about how to safely deal with food, cooking and eating during coronavirus. Please k...more

  • Chicago’s Got 1 Thai Restaurant For About Every 33 Thai People: How Come?

    Mar 15 2020

    Fourteen-year-old Evan Robinson is a Chicago foodie — you might have even seen him on Master Chef Junior. Over the years, when he’s gone to see his orthodontist on 55th Street in Hyde Park, he’s noticed a tasty mystery. “We always see all these different Thai restaurants,” he says, referring to Snail Thai Cuisine, Siam Thai Cuisine and Thai 55 Restaurant.. “I think that’s crazy that there are three [within] one block right here.” Evan’s dad, Christopher, has lived in a lot of Chicago neighborh...more

  • 'South Side Stories': The Legend Of Harold’s

    Mar 08 2020

    This curated episode from WBEZ and Comedy Central’s South Side Stories explores why every Harold’s chicken tastes different.

  • Chicago’s ‘Dibs’ Tradition Can Get Dirty, And Even Dangerous

    Mar 01 2020

    Police records show that dibs disputes have led to everything from broken mirrors to life-threatening acts of retaliation.

  • Who Wrote The Song About The Cow That Started The Great Chicago Fire?

    Feb 23 2020

    It’s sung everywhere from summer camps to soccer games. We dig into the song’s contested origins, and how it became such a hit.

  • From Chop Suey Houses To Saloons: What Was Chicago’s Foodie Scene Like In The Early 20th Century?

    Feb 16 2020

    From raw celery to “milk toast,” we explore the biggest food fads of the era — and the restaurants that served them.

  • Red Line To Your Heart: What Makes Chicago's Dating Scene Distinct?

    Feb 09 2020

    We explore a phenomenon called “cuffing” and the (short) lengths Chicagoans will go for love.

  • Little Eddie's Field Trip: The Union Stock Yards Through the Eyes of an Eighth Grader

    Feb 02 2020

    Back in the 1940s, Chicago school kids took local field trips that would be unthinkable today.

  • Are Chicagoans True Midwesterners?

    Jan 26 2020

    Chicago is geographically in the Midwest. But many people believe that being “Midwestern” is something else entirely.

  • Chicago Winter Warmth Tips: From Extra Gloves To Hot Potatoes

    Jan 19 2020

    From mail carriers to photographers, we asked people who spend a lot of time in the cold how they stay warm.

  • What’s The Deal With ‘Midwest Nice?’

    Jan 12 2020

    The common stereotype for Midwesterners is that we’re polite, friendly...and passive-aggressive. But is there any truth to that?

  • What Happens To The Lincoln Park Zoo Animals In The Winter?

    Jan 04 2020

    Do the animals go somewhere warm, like Florida? Does the zoo give them coats? We took a behind-the-scene tour of the zoo to find out.

  • Signs Of The Times: How Chicago Bars Got So Many Old Style Signs

    Dec 29 2019

    We uncover the history and bask in the glow of a ubiquitous Chicago bar sign.

  • Why Is Gambling Banned On The CTA?

    Dec 22 2019

    Commuters are regularly hit with the announcement “Gambling is prohibited on CTA trains.” We find the reason behind the rule and look for those who inspired it.

  • To Dibs Or Not To Dibs? The Essential Chicago Question

    Dec 15 2019

    We answer your most pressing questions about Chicago’s controversial winter tradition.

  • How Do You Solve A Problem Like Lead Pipes? Lessons From Cities Getting It Done

    Dec 08 2019

    Rust Belt cities tackling their lead problems offer advice for Chicago on funding, public education and getting political buy-in.

  • Christmas Tree Lots: Who Are The Folks Who Keep The Season Bright?

    Dec 01 2019

    "It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s over in about three and a half weeks."

  • City On Fire: Chicago Race Riot 1919

    Nov 24 2019

    Chicago’s "Red Summer" of 1919 comes alive in this radio drama from WBEZ's Natalie Moore. It’s history with a twist.

  • Chicago Police Hope To Build Trust With Experiment In Community Policing

    Nov 17 2019

    With trust in police at a historic low, the Chicago Police Department’s latest community policing initiative puts relationship building at its center.

  • Little Fingers And Screechy Sounds: Why Do So Many Kids Learn To Play The Recorder?

    Nov 10 2019

    The recorder often inflicts squeaky torture on parents. Music teacher Valerie DePriest explains why it became a staple in music education.

  • Ida B. Wells’ Lasting Impact On Chicago Politics And Power

    Nov 03 2019

    She’s best known for her anti-lynching work in the South, but Wells spent nearly four decades advancing black equality in Chicago.

  • The Case Of The Chicago Mothman

    Oct 27 2019

    Following several recent reports of a strange winged creature around the Chicago area, we try to find out what the heck is going on.

  • DIY Bike Detective: Tips For Tracking Down Your Stolen Bicycle In Chicago

    Oct 20 2019

    Once you recover from the initial shock, experts recommend piecing together evidence, spreading the word, and hitting the street stat.

  • Floods, Carp, And Crap: The Environmental Impacts Of The Chicago River Reversal

    Oct 13 2019

    The effects of the groundbreaking engineering feat are still being felt today — as far as the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Half Day Road And The Origins Of A Semantic Slip-up

    Oct 06 2019

    A half day from ... what? Why this suburban myth is not even half true, and why the same mistake was made again 600 miles away.

  • Chicago’s Hidden Indie Rock Archive

    Sep 29 2019

    Over three decades, Aadam Jacobs obsessively documented Chicago’s indie rock scene. His collection includes the early work of Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins, Jeff Tweedy, New Order, Naked Raygun, Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo and much more. Today, the future of his roughly 10,000 live recordings is unclear. We took a peek into Jacob's archive.

  • To Help Homeless Kids In Chicago, First You Have To Find Them

    Sep 22 2019

    Population estimates vary drastically. And numbers matter, since they dictate funding for crucial resources like shelter beds, food and social services.

  • Climate Change Is Already Impacting Lake Michigan — Here’s How

    Sep 15 2019

    Erratic water levels, disappearing beaches — climate change is already affecting Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Here’s what else we can expect.

  • Drums, Fire And A Grilled Rabbit: The Birth Of Chicago’s Full Moon Jam

    Sep 08 2019

    Chicago’s Full Moon Jam is now a popular city-sanctioned attraction. But it began back in 2004 as a birthday party among friends.

  • The Cha-Cha Slide And More: Which Dances Were Invented In Chicago?

    Sep 01 2019

    Don your dancing shoes as we track down the Chicago band members, musicians, and dancers who helped create five iconic moves. 

  • Having ‘The Talk’: Expert Guidance On Preparing Kids For Police Interactions

    Aug 25 2019

    A child psychiatrist, a public defender and a police officer weigh in on how to prepare kids for interacting with the police.

  • Rats! The Science And Stories Behind Chicago’s Most Unwanted Pests

    Aug 18 2019

    To explore the mysteries of Chicago’s rodents, Curious City took a rat safari, interviewed experts and turned your stories into a zine.

  • Why Chicago’s Depression-Era School Murals Sparked Debates About Art And Politics For 80 Years

    Aug 11 2019

    Some were called Communist, while others have been called out for lack of diversity.

  • Nicky’s And The Big Baby Mystery Part II: We Found Nicky V.!

    Aug 04 2019

    Our recent search for the origins of a famous South burger hit a dead end — until the elusive Nicky Vagenas finally came forward.

  • Chicago’s Race Riots Of 1919 Contributed To The Segregation We See Today

    Jul 28 2019

    Choices made in the wake of the violence set a foundation for the racial inequality the city continues to grapple with.

  • Why Chicago Had Race Riots During The ‘Red Summer’ Of 1919

    Jul 21 2019

    Long-brewing racial tensions came to a head one hot summer day, when a black boy was drowned near a whites-only beach.

  • The Heart Of The City: Finding Chicago’s Geographic Center

    Jul 14 2019

    It smells like garbage and gym shoes, but, surprisingly, the city’s geographic center says a lot about Chicago’s soul.

  • Did A WWII Nuclear Experiment Make The U Of C Radioactive?

    Jul 06 2019

    We used a Geiger counter to see if we could detect any radiation footprint from the site of the first sustained nuclear chain reaction.

  • The Scoop On Poop At Chicago’s Beaches

    Jun 30 2019

    Use our handy guide to determine which Chicago beaches are safe for swimming, and when to proceed with caution.

  • Nicky’s And The Big Baby: A South Side Burger Mystery

    Jun 23 2019

    Dozens of unconnected fast food joints serve up the same popular Chicago cheeseburger under the same name. Where did it all begin?

  • Did City Officials Know About The Manhattan Project’s Work In Chicago?

    Jun 16 2019

    A key experiment in the development of the atom bomb was hidden in plain sight on University of Chicago’s campus. Who was in on the secret?

  • Here's Harold! (The Robot Edition)

    Jun 09 2019

    The DuSable Museum says — creepy or not — its Harold Washington robot will teach you a thing or two about the city’s first African-American mayor.

  • How Is Chicago Doing On Its Ambitious 2020 Climate Goals?

    Jun 02 2019

    Back in 2008, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s plan to make Chicago “the greenest city in America” by 2020 made national news. How’s that going?

  • Caps On Or Off? Pizza Boxes OK? Answers To 10 Common Chicago Recycling Questions

    May 26 2019

    Think you know all the recycling rules? Think again. Check out this quick guide to some common dos and don’ts of Chicago recycling.

  • From Vienna Beef To PBR: Five Food And Drink Legacies Of The 1893 World's Fair

    May 19 2019

    Lots of items in your local grocery aisle claim to have been at the 1893 World's Fair. We piece together these savory origin stories.

  • How Chicago Women Created The World’s First Juvenile Justice System

    May 12 2019

    The U.S. legal system treated children the same as adults until the late 19th century, when a group of Chicago women demanded change.

  • Chicago’s Tornado-Proof Delusion

    May 05 2019

    Yes, tornadoes can hit Chicago. Why do so many people think otherwise?

  • How My Grandparents Helped Shape Chicago’s Blues Industry

    Apr 28 2019

    Like millions of black Southerners during the Great Migration, they sought greater freedom and opportunity. They found it in the blues.

  • It’s Complicated: The University Of Chicago’s Relationship With Its Neighbors

    Apr 21 2019

    Community activists and a university representative reflect on why the relationship has been difficult in the past and where it stands now.

  • Stories Behind CTA ‘L’ Lines’ Strange Curves, Dips and Twists

    Apr 14 2019

    Here’s who and what to blame if you spill your coffee on your commute.

  • A Tavern On (Almost) Every Corner: Why Did So Many Chicago Bars Disappear?

    Apr 07 2019

    Demographic shifts, changes in attitudes towards public drinking and the politics of the Daley family led to the shuttering of many Chicago bars.

  • BAM! A Pothole Damaged Your Car! Now What?

    Mar 31 2019

    It takes a lot of information and a lot of patience, but here’s what you need to know to get reimbursed from the city.

  • These Four Design Ideas Turned ‘The Hancock Center’ Into An Iconic Skyscraper

    Mar 24 2019

    Bruce Graham and Fazlur Khan changed the way architects and engineers thought about the structure of the modern skyscraper.

  • Your Guide To Chicago Music History’s Greatest Hits: Part II

    Mar 17 2019

    Part I of our CliffsNotes guide to Chicago music history included jazz, folk, Latin, and gospel. Here, we present four more genres.

  • Your Guide To Chicago Music History’s Greatest Hits

    Mar 10 2019

    A former CPS student wishes kids learned more about Chicago’s rich music history. So here’s a CliffsNotes music guide. Happy listening!

  • How Do You Find Out If Your Neighborhood Is Contaminated With Lead Pollution?

    Mar 03 2019

    Northwest Indiana resident Beth Braun wants to know whether lead emissions from the nearby steel mill are landing in her backyard.

  • What Are Chicago’s Oldest Laws?

    Feb 24 2019

    Did you know you can’t perform in a window or dye a baby chick? We feature nine of Chicago’s most obscure laws.

  • From Mickey Mouse To Oprah: What Chicagoans Write In On Election Day

    Feb 17 2019

    Election judges don’t usually count votes for cartoon mice or celebrities, but there was one exception. We took a peek.

  • To Chicago, With Love: What Do Transplants Love About The City?

    Feb 10 2019

    One Chicagoan wants to know what people who moved to Chicago love about the city. From fireflies to marathons, here’s what they have to say.

  • Chicago’s Dill Pickle Club: Where Anarchists Mixed With Doctors And Poets

    Feb 03 2019

    The Dill Pickle wasn’t just any old 1920s nightclub. It opened its doors to queer Chicagoans and other marginalized groups.

  • The Gold Star Sardine Bar: The Rise And Fall Of A Chicago Jazz Club

    Jan 27 2019

    The story of one Chicago grocery store tycoon’s dream for jazz music, movie stars, and bygone glamour.

  • Buying Black Then And Now: What’s The History Of Black-Owned Business Signs In Chicago?

    Jan 20 2019

    From boycotts to hashtags, Curious City traces the history of a 150-year-old message urging the black community to support black businesses.

  • What Was It Like To Dance At The Warehouse Club In Chicago?

    Jan 13 2019

    Curious City spends a night at The Warehouse club through the memories of teens who danced there in the 1980s.

  • Unlocking The Closet: Coming Out Later In Life

    Jan 06 2019

    WBEZ’s Tony Sarabia talks with people who came out later in life about how that affected their closest relationships.

  • VPR’s ‘But Why’: Why Do We Poop And Fart?

    Dec 30 2018

    A recent episode from VPR’s podcast for curious kids features reporting from Curious City about what happens after you flush the toilet.

  • Tips For Hunting Chicago’s Long-lost Recipes

    Dec 23 2018

    The city's top recipe sleuths share their secrets as we recreate a divine, but elusive, fried chicken dish.

  • A Butcher, A Developer And His Wife: Where Six Chicago Streets Got Their Names (And Pronunciations!)

    Dec 16 2018

    Hint: If you want a Chicago street named after you, it helps to know a real estate developer — or be married to one!  

  • Chicago Candidates Need Loads of Petition Signatures To Land On The Ballot, But Is That Fair?

    Dec 09 2018

    Candidates need to gather and then defend stacks of petition signatures. We break down who this helps and hurts.

  • Pregnancy Tests? Pigeon Poo? What Chicago Aldermen Really Do

    Dec 02 2018

    Sure, they pass laws and vote on city budgets. But there’s so much more. Think: Pregnancy tests and pigeon poo.

  • DEH-vin Or Deh-VOHN? Why The CTA Pronounces Chicago Street Names A Certain Way

    Nov 25 2018

    The CTA consults lots of sources to decide how to pronounce street names. Take our quiz to find out how your pronunciations match up.

  • Displaced: When The Eisenhower Expressway Moved In, Who Was Forced Out?

    Nov 18 2018

    The Ike was the city’s first superhighway. In this special presentation, people affected open up about how it scattered ethnic neighborhoods and changed many lives forever.

  • Steak And Lemonade: What Are The Origins Of This Chicago Food Combo?

    Nov 11 2018

    The beef sandwich and slushy drink are sold together all across the South and West sides. We track down the guy who put the two together.

  • Did All Chicagoans Support The Civil War?

    Nov 04 2018

    The story of Irish-American draft resisters, African-Americans who defied the odds in order to fight, and women who found alternate ways to support the war.

  • From Stockyards To Speakeasies: A Chicago Historian Tackles 5 Questions About The City’s History

    Oct 28 2018

    Dominic Pacyga shares his encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago history and answers questions about everything from “gin joints” to stockyards.

  • How Vacant Chicago Storefronts Rise From The Dead As Halloween Costume Stores

    Oct 21 2018

    We unearth the business model behind these seasonal shops, and get the scoop on what costumes will be most popular this season.

  • Why Doesn’t Chicago Have More Co-Op Grocery Stores?

    Oct 14 2018

    We learn that, despite the current paucity of food co-ops, the city actually has a strong food co-op history — and there may be more on the horizon.

  • Gone Fishin’: What Happened To Chicago’s Booming Commercial Fishing Industry?

    Oct 07 2018

    Chicago once had a booming commercial fishing industry. Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp is one of the last vestiges of that industry.

  • Who Is Billy Sunday In The Popular Sinatra Song, ‘Chicago?’

    Sep 30 2018

    Billy Sunday was an influential preacher within the American evangelical movement. How'd he end up in a song sung by Sinatra?

  • How Political Clout And Union Power Created Chicago’s Lead Water Problem

    Sep 16 2018

    Chicago continued to use lead pipes long after many cities banned them. We look at the politics and personalities behind it.

  • Daley vs. Little Italy: Did The Mayor Drop UIC On The Neighborhood Out Of Spite?

    Sep 09 2018

    Why did Richard J. Daley push for the UIC campus to rise from the heart of a long-standing ethnic neighborhood? In this special Curious City presentation, reporter Monica Eng examines the pervasive suspicion that the mayor’s choice rose from a political spat or — even worse — from disdain for the Italian-American community. Click here for the full story.

  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Inside Downtown Chicago's Windowless, Doorless Buildings

    Sep 02 2018

    Here’s a peek at what goes on inside some of these “mystery buildings” and how their architectural disguises have evolved over the decades.

  • This Synagogue’s Story Mirrors The History Of Jewish Migration Across Chicago

    Aug 26 2018

    We trace one synagogue’s migration, from the Maxwell Street neighborhood to North Lawndale to West Rogers Park.

  • What Happened To The East Chicago Residents Forced Out By Pollution?

    Aug 19 2018

    More than 1,100 people had to move due to pollution. We follow two of them as they fight to find housing.

  • What Are The Costs Of Chicago’s Air And Water Show?

    Aug 12 2018

    The city says the show generates millions of dollars in business. But some listeners wonder whether it’s worth the environmental costs.

  • Skyscraper Central: Why Are So Many of Chicago's Tallest Buildings Located Downtown?

    Aug 05 2018

    We find out why downtown became the go-to destination for Chicago’s tallest buildings, and whether that might change in the future.

  • An Extended Interview With Actor And Improviser T.J. Jagodowski

    Jul 29 2018

    Lots of famous comedians got their start in Chicago. Actor and improviser T.J. Jagodowski talks with Jimmy Carrane about why that’s the case.

  • What Officials Are(n't) Doing About Chicago’s Lead Pipes

    Jul 22 2018

    Chicago has the nation's most extensive network of lead service lines, but city officials say drinking water is safe.

  • How The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Played Into Chicago’s Rivalry With New York

    Jul 15 2018

    In this live podcast episode, two actors playing New York and Chicago duke it out over who will host the coveted 1893 World’s Fair.

  • Why Do Chicago Beaches Ban Flotation Devices?

    Jul 08 2018

    One Chicagoan wonders why Chicago beaches ban things like rafts and boogie boards. But experts say there's good reason to leave them at home.

  • How Does Chicago Track Its Coyotes?

    Jul 01 2018

    Chicago is home to an estimated 2,000 coyotes. To learn how they survive, Curious City joined researchers as they tracked down pups.

  • Doors Closing! Life As A CTA Rail Operator

    Jun 24 2018

    Long hours, fatigue, and boredom can be hazards of the job. But former rail operators say there’s a lot to love about driving an 'L' train.

  • How Pollution Seeped Into The Lives Of East Chicago Residents

    Jun 17 2018

    When pollution invaded Ezell Foster’s East Chicago neighborhood, he found himself stuck between industry and a bureaucracy.

  • WPLN’s 'The Promise': A Beautiful Day In The Projects

    Jun 10 2018

    We curate an episode from WPLN’s podcast, ‘The Promise,’ a series about life in the James Cayce Homes, a public housing complex in Nashville.

  • Nerdette: Comedian John Hodgman Really Loves Malört

    Jun 03 2018

    We curate an episode of the WBEZ podcast, Nerdette, featuring an interview with comedian John Hodgman and the very Chicago story of Malört.

  • Special Training For School Police: How Do Young People Feel About It?

    May 27 2018

    As lawmakers move to require additional training for police in Illinois schools, five young people weigh in on whether it will make a difference.

  • Seeing Blue: Will Chicago's New LED Streetlights Do More Harm Than Good?

    May 20 2018

    Do LED lights cause cancer? Can they really reduce crime? One kid is so concerned about LED streetlights that he called Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

  • Sweet Success: How Chicago's Mexican Bakeries Stay Competitive

    May 13 2018

    Lots of Mexican bakeries can be found near one another in neighborhoods like Pilsen. So how do they stay in business?

  • What A Murder In My Family Reveals About Chicago’s Chinese Gangs

    May 06 2018

    On a warm September night, a gunman walked into a West Side restaurant, greeted the manager, and shot him three times. Hours after the murder, Chicago cops were still trying to figure out if the shooting was gang-related, the Chicago Tribune reported. This may sound a lot like Chicago in 2018. But the murder actually happened in 1936. The alleged gangs were Chinese — and the killer was after my family. ...more

  • What Are Chicago’s Oldest Laws?

    Apr 28 2018

    Looking around Chicago today, you won’t find many stink balls or cannons—but did you know the city has ordinances regulating both? When these laws were first passed more than a century ago, aldermen may have believed they posed a real threat. But today, these old laws don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Logan Square resident Ty McCarthy was wondering whether Chicago had any outdated laws on the books. So he asked Curious City: What are some of Chicago’s oldest and weirdest laws? To find ...more

  • Which Historical Monuments Have Sparked Controversy In Chicago?

    Apr 22 2018

    From a statue honoring police to a tribute to Confederate prisoners, these monuments have raised debate over how history is represented.

  • Map Quest: Searching for Chicago’s ‘Lizard Mound’

    Apr 15 2018

    A Curious City fan asked us about an odd detail on an old Chicago map. Was it really a Native American burial mound?

  • Mold-A-Rama-Rama! The Secrets Behind Chicago's Plastic Souvenir Empire

    Apr 08 2018

    How a Chicago-area family turned cheap plastic souvenirs into a nostalgia empire.

  • Seeing Red: What’s Up With That Stoplight On North Lake Shore Drive?

    Apr 01 2018

    The light near Chicago Avenue causes mile-long backups. City officials are proposing a solution, but you might be in traffic for a while.

  • Picture This: Did The Art Institute of Chicago Ever Rent Out Paintings?

    Mar 25 2018

    Robert K. Elder would love to decorate the walls in his living room with original paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago. So he was floored when a friend told him that her mom rented two pieces of artwork back in the day. This was hard for Robert to imagine. Like, what would that even look like? Someone strolling onto Michigan Avenue with a rented Monet stuck in his or her backpack? Curious City looked into whether this story has any truth to it. 

  • From Blizzards To Heat Waves: Is It Actually Harder To Predict Weather In Chicago?

    Mar 18 2018

    Beach weather one day and freezing rain the next: Chicago weather can be unpredictable, but how do we compare to other cities?

  • 9 Chicago Pizza Mysteries Solved

    Mar 08 2018

    You asked about square slices, where the pepperoni goes, and the origins of the pizza puff. We dish it deep on nine questions you kneaded to know.

  • Bed Rest And Sputum Tests: Inside Chicago's Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium

    Mar 01 2018

    Former patients recall the tests, treatments, and trauma nearly 250,000 Chicagoans experienced over the sanitarium's near 60-year-long existence.

  • How 1920s Chicago Public School Design Reflects Changes In Education

    Feb 22 2018

    More public elementary schools were built in the 1920s than in any other era. Their design reflected new ideas about child development and health.

  • Not In Your Front Yard: Why ‘For Sale’ Signs Are Banned In Oak Park

    Feb 18 2018

    The village insists a decades-old rule to fight blockbusting continues to protect a precious suburban commodity: diversity.

  • How Often Do People Defend Themselves With A Gun?

    Feb 11 2018

    For more than 20 years, researchers have tracked how often Americans defend themselves with a gun. So why can’t they agree on an answer?

  • What's It Like To Live In Chicago's Loop?

    Feb 04 2018

    A family, a dog owner and tenants of a men's hotel explain why the Loop offers a sense of community amid the hustle and bustle.

  • What Makes Chicago A Destination For Improv?

    Jan 28 2018

    Eight improvisers who got their start in Chicago explain what draws so many aspiring funny people to the city’s improv scene.

  • What Happens To The Lincoln Park Zoo Animals In The Winter?

    Jan 21 2018

    Do the animals go somewhere warm, like Florida? Does the zoo give them coats? We took a behind-the-scene tour of the zoo to find out.

  • Why Aren't There More Statues Of Women In Chicago?

    Jan 14 2018

    Statues of historic men can be found throughout Chicago’s parks and plazas. But one Curious Citizen wonders, "Where are all the women?"

  • What’s With That Demolition Dust? The Rules And Risks Of Residential Teardowns In Chicago

    Jan 05 2018

    Tearing down an old home can release dust containing asbestos or lead. Curious City found that Chicago rarely enforces laws meant to minimize contaminant exposure.

  • Curious City: The Mystery Collection

    Dec 31 2017

    Answers to listeners' questions about the mysterious side of Chicago that lies beyond the soaring skyscrapers and the sheen of the Bean.

  • Blacksmiths: The 'Plastic Surgeons' On Chicago's Payroll

    Dec 24 2017

    The City of Chicago employs 20 full-time blacksmiths. But what do they do? And what's with the ancient job title?

  • Are Taxpayers Footing The Bill For Patriotic Tributes At College Games?

    Dec 17 2017

    A 2015 Senate investigation found that the DOD did in fact pay college sports teams to stage patriotic tributes at games. Curious City finds out whether they still do.

  • What Would You Do With A Million Dollars? Whether Participatory Budgeting Is Worth The Effort

    Dec 10 2017

    Some wards vote on how to spend some taxpayer money. Does it help spread the wealth or is it just a feel-good exercise?

  • So, Why Did It Take So Long For It To Be Mayor Jane Byrne's Turn?

    Dec 03 2017

    It took decades for Chicago's first and only female mayor to land an official honor from City Council. Is there a reason it took so long?

  • Where Does Your Poop Go?

    Nov 26 2017

    Curious City finds out where your poop goes by taking a journey through the Chicago-area sewer system.

  • Little Fingers And Screechy Sounds: Why Do So Many Kids Learn To Play The Recorder?

    Nov 19 2017

    The recorder often inflicts squeaky torture on parents. Music teacher Valerie DePriest explains why it became a staple in music education.

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

    Nov 12 2017

    Names like Marquette and Joliet are cited in history books. But it was Native Americans who first set Chicago on a path to develop into a major metropolis.

  • Don't Believe The Height! Why Chicago Suburb Names Flat Out Lie About Their Elevation

    Nov 05 2017

    From Chicago Heights to Mount Prospect, here's why Chicago suburb names flat out lie about their elevation.

  • Why Chicago's Chinatown Is Practically Invisible On Apartment Rental Sites

    Oct 29 2017

    The listings are there — just in Chinese. Is this a form of discrimination, or a way to preserve a neighborhood's character?

  • Cycling In Cemeteries? Why Some Chicago Graveyards Are Changing Their Rules About Bicycles

    Oct 22 2017

    The answer has to do with shifting ideas about bikes and the proper way to mourn the dead.

  • Which Natural Disasters Are Most Likely To Hit Chicago?

    Oct 15 2017

    The good news is Chicago probably won’t be hit by hurricanes and earthquakes. But the area is becoming more vulnerable to other disasters.

  • Do Chicago’s Arab And African-American Muslims Share Mosques? If Not, Why Not?

    Oct 08 2017

    Chicago area Muslim leaders weigh in, and they open up about what divides and unites the community.

  • Forest Foresight: Who Created The Cook County Forest Preserves?

    Oct 01 2017

    Architect Dwight Perkins' ambitious plan to save Chicago's natural landscapes raised a question: Which kinds of nature deserve to be preserved?

  • Who Came Up With The Iconic Chicago White Sox Look?

    Sep 24 2017

    The brainchild of a 22-year-old executive, the White Sox look hit a home run with fans and, half a century later, rappers.

  • The Cha-Cha Slide And More: Which Dances Were Invented In Chicago?

    Sep 17 2017

    Don your dancing shoes as we track down the Chicago band members, musicians, and dancers who helped create five iconic moves.

  • Baring It All: Why Boys Swam Naked In Chicago High Schools

    Sep 10 2017

    John Connors says swimming naked in high school gym class was “torture.” Curious City looks at why schools enforced the policy for decades.

  • Chicago's Forgotten Civil War Prison Camp

    Sep 03 2017

    Camp Douglas’ deadly reputation was kept in shadows but now there’s a surprising movement to bring it to light.

  • Push Carts, Popsicles, And Patience: How To Be A Paletero In Chicago

    Aug 27 2017

    Being a paleta vendor may seem like a sweet life, but we learned that selling Mexican popsicles is anything but a walk on the beach.

  • City Of Big Agriculture: Here Are The Crops Chicago Was Once Famous For

    Aug 20 2017

    The city deserves cred as an industrial giant, but it was also the first city of flowers, a pickle powerhouse and the heart of American celery.

  • What Happened To Chicago’s Japanese Neighborhood?

    Aug 13 2017

    Lake View once had a thriving Japanese community, but it fell victim to a push for assimilation. As one Japanese-American puts it: “You had to basically be unseen.”

  • Chicago Bathhouses: A Century Of Sanitation, Sex And Sweat

    Aug 06 2017

    A quick tour of places where residents would chill, get clean and — sometimes — get down.

  • Is Notoriously Segregated Chicago Becoming More Integrated?

    Jul 30 2017

    On paper, Chicago is more integrated than it was a few decades ago. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

  • Carl Sandburg's Chicago: The Places, People, And Events That Shaped His Writing

    Jul 23 2017

    From 1912 to 1930, the famous poet and writer lived and worked in the Chicago area. Step back in time to experience Sandburg's Chicago.

  • Why Chicago Lightning Bugs Light Up One Neighborhood But Not the Next

    Jul 16 2017

    A listener’s nostalgia for catching lightning bugs as a kid lead her to wonder: Are there any left these days? Our experts say they’re around, just really, really fickle.

  • How Chicago Beaches Get and Keep That Nice Fine Sand

    Jul 09 2017

    Here’s why you shouldn’t take that "sand between your toes" experience for granted!

  • Chicago's Best Stargazing Spots

    Jul 02 2017

    Chicago's notorious light pollution hides the stars, but here's where you have a fighting chance to peek at the heavens.

  • Welcome Back, Otters: Could The River Otter Call Chicago's Loop Home?

    Jun 25 2017

    Forty years ago, it would have been nearly impossible to find an otter in Illinois, never mind Chicago. Today, could they be here to stay?

  • The Meaning Of Boystown: A Conversation About Chicago's LGBTQ Neighborhood

    Jun 18 2017

    A multi-generational panel talks about what the neighborhood means to them and where they see its future.

  • Chicago's Architectural Clues Reveal How We Live

    Jun 11 2017

    We look at eight building features and what each reveals about how society and urban life has changed over the years.

  • Building Skyscrapers on Chicago's Swampy Soil

    May 28 2017

    Engineers once compared Chicago’s soggy soil to jelly cake. How did they build a forest of skyscrapers on it?

  • Rubber Stamp Aldermen: Why Does Chicago City Council Always Vote For What The Mayor Wants?

    May 21 2017

    Most aldermen almost always vote with the mayor, but that's starting to change.

  • City Of Big Potholes: Is Asphalt The Best Choice For Chicago's Streets?

    May 14 2017

    In the past decade the city paid out nearly $3 million drivers whose cars were damaged by poor road conditions. Is asphalt to blame?

  • Boystown: How Chicago Got Its Gay Neighborhood

    May 07 2017

    Political activism and businesses helped shape the city's gay neighborhood, but there's a debate about its future.

  • Curious City: What Happens To Food On Cancelled Flights?

    Apr 30 2017

    When a flight gets cancelled, it's not only travel plans that get trashed.

  • Curious City: The Nazis' Neighborhood

    Apr 23 2017

    Was there ever a Nazi neighborhood in Chicago? In this special Curious City mini-documentary and online presentation (complete with archival photos and video), we tell the story of how an infamous neo-Nazi group settled in the Marquette Park neighborhood and used it as a home base to gain attention and promote its political agenda. The story of the group’s rise and fall on Chicago’s Southwest Side raises questions about the extent of free speech and how mainstream racism in any neighborhood can ...more

  • How A Rat Balloon From Suburban Chicago Became A Union Mascot

    Apr 19 2017

    Scabby the Rat is now common on picket lines around the world, but the balloon started in Chicago’s historically blue-collar suburbs.

  • Safer, Faster, Smarter? The Road Ahead For Illinois' High-Tech Highway

    Apr 09 2017

    Officials say the Jane Addams Tollway will soon be faster, safer and smarter. But will it deliver?

  • First Responder: Why Do Fire Trucks Often Arrive Before Ambulances For Medical Emergencies?

    Apr 02 2017

    Medical calls outnumber fire calls 20 to one in Chicago. So why does the city own so many more fire trucks than ambulances?

  • The Meteorologist’s Climate Change Dilemma

    Mar 26 2017

    Tom Skilling explains why most TV meteorologists don't talk about climate change, but should.

  • Are there fallout shelters left in Chicago?

    Mar 19 2017

    There are plenty, but let's just say they're not ready for a nuclear apocalypse.

  • Searching for Chicago’s Most Family-Packed Neighborhoods

    Mar 12 2017

    A prospective Chicago parent wants to know where he could be within door-knocking distance of other families with kids. So we mapped them.

  • Deconstructing The Chicago-Style Hot Dog

    Mar 05 2017

    Chicago-style hot dogs are a beloved culinary masterpiece: A snappy all-beef wiener, steamed poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, chopped onions, neon-green relish, two slices of tomato, a dill pickle spear, two sport peppers and a final whoosh of celery salt. But how did that unique mix of ingredients come to be? In a special Curious City presentation, Chicago’s premier hot dog expert breaks down the history of each ingredient. It’s a tale of immigration to Chicago’s Maxwell street neighbor...more

  • Out In The Cold: Where Do Chicago’s Homeless Go In The Winter?

    Feb 26 2017

    Coffee shops, hospital waiting rooms and train cars are a few of the places Chicago’s homeless go to escape the cold.

  • Chickens and Goats and Pigs, Oh My! Chicago’s Backyard Livestock Laws

    Feb 19 2017

    After her neighbor adopted five goats, Jeanne Cuff wondered about Chicago's livestock laws.

  • Red Line To Your Heart: What Makes Chicago's Dating Scene Distinct?

    Feb 12 2017

    We explore a phenomenon called “cuffing” and the (short) lengths Chicagoans will go for love.

  • 'Gratest' Fear: The Psychology Behind Chicago’s Sidewalk Grates

    Feb 05 2017

    Sidewalk grates make people feel uneasy. An anxiety expert said this uneasiness is rooted in something much deeper.

  • Korean Chicken Wings: Spicy, Crispy, Saucy And Totally Chicago

    Jan 29 2017

    Two Albany Park chefs fused Chinese and Korean flavors, giving birth to the chicken lollipop.

  • Signs Of The Times: How Chicago Bars Got So Many Old Style Signs

    Jan 22 2017

    We uncover the history and bask in the glow of a ubiquitous Chicago bar sign.

  • “Who’s Your Chinaman?”: The Origins Of An Offensive Piece Of Chicago Political Slang

    Jan 15 2017

    Complete with video and archival images, we track down the offensive phrase’s roots and consider whether it’s time to retire it.

  • Icebreakers Of The Chicago River: How Bubblers, Boats And Brawn Keep The City Safe Each Winter

    Jan 08 2017

    How bubblers, boats and brawn keep the city safe each winter. 

  • Curious City Live: This Show Was A Disaster!

    Jan 02 2017

    In this special podcast episode, Curious City presents three Chicago disaster stories as told at the Old Town School of Folk Music on March 30, 2016. Inspired by questions posed from Chicago-area residents, the tales range from the practically comical Loop flood of 1992, to a terrifying tornado that struck the region, to the city’s infamous Iroquois Theater fire. If you didn’t get your fill of disaster stories, Curious City’s collected even more!

  • O'Hare's Ghost: Whatever Happened to Terminal 4?

    Dec 25 2016

    The area’s premier airport sports Terminals 1, 2, 3 and ... 5. What gives?

  • The Willis Tower In 150 Years: Adapted, Demolished or Abandoned?

    Dec 18 2016

    What will happen to the Willis Tower in 150 years? In this special Curious City presentation, producer Jesse Dukes and the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Jen Masengarb envision three future scenarios for the iconic skyscraper, and for the Chicago of 2166. Click here for the full story. 

  • Christmas Tree Lots: Who Are The Folks Who Keep The Season Bright?

    Dec 11 2016

    Pop-up tree lots sprout up on every Chicago corner during the holiday season, only to disappear. Who are the people who make these happen and what's the business like? As one operator says it, "It’s fast, it’s furious and it’s over in about three and a half weeks."

  • When Church Meets State: Picking Apart Prayer in Aurora’s City Council

    Dec 04 2016

    Aurora leads council meetings with prayer, and it sometimes raises eyebrows. But would a judge ever smack it down?

  • City Beautiful? Why Some Chicago Neighborhoods Have Viaduct Art and Others Don't

    Nov 27 2016

    Murals beautify some viaducts, while others are left bare and dirty. Why the disparity?

  • Tips For Hunting Chicago’s Long-lost Recipes

    Nov 20 2016

    The city's top recipe sleuths share their secrets as we recreate a divine, but elusive, fried chicken dish.

  • The Swinging Times of Chicago's Revolving Doors

    Nov 11 2016

    Tempted to ignore the revolving door? Here are the revolutions that made the city a magnet for this seemingly simple device.

  • Do Lotto Dollars Really Fund Education?

    Nov 06 2016

    Schools are really crimped for cash. Hold up, wasn’t the lottery supposed to help with that?

  • Second City: The Origins of Chicago’s One-way Rivalry with New York

    Oct 30 2016

    There was a time Chicago gave New York a run for its money. How did we end up the Second City?

  • Fighting For Scraps: What It Would Take For Chicago To Get Citywide Composting

    Oct 23 2016

    Minneapolis and San Fran do it. Even Oak Park’s got a program. What gives? Photos of how municipal composting works in Oak park, interviews and the prospects for change in Chicago.

  • From Rust to Repurposed: A Second Life for Chicago’s Abandoned Bikes

    Oct 16 2016

    That sorry-looking bike on the curb could end up in the hands of a local kid or even a family overseas. Full story with additional interviews and photos: http://wbez.is/2dgqDAf 

  • Daley vs. Little Italy: Did the Mayor Drop UIC on the Neighborhood Out of Spite?

    Oct 09 2016

    Why did Richard J. Daley push for the UIC campus to rise from the heart of a long-standing ethnic neighborhood? In this special Curious City presentation, reporter Monica Eng examines the pervasive suspicion that the mayor’s choice rose from a political spat or — even worse — from disdain for the Italian-American community. Click here for the full story.

  • From Rails to Trails: The Economic Impact of Chicago’s Repurposed Railways

    Oct 02 2016

    As The 606 stokes fears of economic displacement, the city wants to repurpose more rail lines. What's the state of research on this?

  • The Making Of Polish Chicago

    Sep 18 2016

    This Curious City special mini-documentary answers how the Polish became one of Chicago’s largest and most influential ethnic groups. And, come to think of it, is there anything to the claim that the city has the most Poles outside of Warsaw?

  • The Painters Who Give Chicago's Grocery Signs The Human Touch

    Sep 11 2016

    Craftsmanship and economics combine to keep the city's tradition of distinctive hand-painted signs alive in the digital age.

  • How Chicago Beaches Get and Keep That Nice Fine Sand

    Sep 04 2016

    Here’s why you shouldn’t  that "sand between your toes" experience for granted!

  • Displaced: When The Eisenhower Expressway Moved In, Who Was Forced Out?

    Aug 28 2016

    The Ike was the city’s first superhighway. In this special presentation, people affected open up about how it scattered ethnic neighborhoods and changed many lives forever. 

  • Why The 1992 Loop Flood Is The Most Chicago Story Ever

    Aug 21 2016

    How clout, corruption, and construction without permits led to half the Loop being evacuated.

  • Why Is Gambling Banned On The CTA?

    Aug 14 2016

    Commuters are regularly hit with the announcement “Gambling is prohibited on CTA trains.” We find the reason behind the rule and look for those who inspired it.

  • Zeppelin Poseurs: Why Chicago's Airship Dreams Never Took Off

    Aug 08 2016

    In the 1920s, the city was head over heels for airships. So why did it let this once-futuristic technology float away?

  • A Tale of Resale: How Big Chains’ Produce Ends Up in Local Grocery Stores

    Jul 31 2016

    When one Chicagoan found brand-name Brussels sprouts at a bargain produce market, she had to wonder: How did these get here? And why are they so cheap?

  • Why Chicago Lightning Bugs Light Up One Neighborhood But Not the Next

    Jul 25 2016

    A listener’s nostalgia for catching lightning bugs as a kid lead her to wonder: Are there any left these days? Our experts say they’re around, just really, really fickle.

  • The Heart Of The City: Finding Chicago’s Geographic Center

    Jul 18 2016

    It smells like garbage and gym shoes, but, surprisingly, the city’s geographic center says a lot about Chicago’s soul.

  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Inside Downtown Chicago's Windowless, Doorless Buildings

    Jul 10 2016

    Here’s a peek at what goes on inside some of these “mystery buildings” and how their architectural disguises have evolved over the decades.

  • Getting to the Bottom of Lake Michigan's Legendary 'Shark Attack'

    Jul 01 2016

    Rumor has it a young George Lawson was attacked by a shark while swimming at a Chicago beach in 1955. Is it true, or just a bunch of bull shark?

  • Stories Behind CTA ‘L’ Lines’ Strange Curves, Dips and Twists

    Jun 13 2016

    Here’s who and what to blame if you spill your coffee on your commute.

  • What Killed The Cook County Fair?

    Jun 06 2016

    Before it fizzled out, the summer shindig’s blue ribbons, plump pumpkins and animal shows united a large, diverse county.

  • The Killing Of Fred Goree: A White Cop, A Buick And Segregation In The Age Of Negro League Baseball

    May 30 2016

    Sisters seek details about their grandfather’s Chicago baseball team, and his killing by a white police officer in 1925.

  • Escape From Chicago: How Long Would It Take to Evacuate?

    May 23 2016

    The city’s cagey on estimates, but suggests you bring your best walking shoes.

  • Mixed Signals: Do Chicago's Crosswalk Buttons Actually Work?

    May 16 2016

    The city’s pushing pedestrian-friendly design, but it’s left one consideration at the curb.

  • Why Chicago BYOBs Like Nobody’s Business

    May 09 2016

    Combine gangster-era liquor laws with a twist of modern creativity, add a dash of laid-back spirit, and you’ve got a cocktail that makes Chicago the BYOB capital of the country. 

  • Chicago’s Killer View: The Skyline’s Toll On Migratory Birds

    May 02 2016

    Each migratory season leaves a flurry of birds dead at the feet of skyscrapers. But does that make a dent in the bird population?

  • Chicago’s Tornado-Proof Delusion

    Apr 25 2016

    Yes, tornadoes can hit Chicago. Why do so many people think otherwise?

  • Illinois Has No Budget, So Where Do State Tax Dollars Go, Anyway?

    Apr 11 2016

    The answers are crazy. We’ll have fun looking. But you’ll probably be pretty mad by the end. Things are worse than you thought. The bad news: We’re paying out billions more than we take in. Just without setting priorities.The state comptroller — who makes the payments — calls it “ad hoc” and “ridiculous.”The worse news: We’re still letting billions of dollars in services go totally unfunded.And: We’re breaking the non-profits that provide those services. Full story, complete with charts.

  • Little Eddie's Field Trip: The Union Stock Yards Through the Eyes of an Eighth Grader

    Mar 28 2016

    Decades ago, Chicago’s  Union Stockyards were the source of meat for the country, jobs for the city and ... field trips for Chicago Public School children. Really. (Related to a Curious City story about meatpacking in Chicago.)

  • Not in Your Front Yard: Why ‘For Sale’ Signs are Banned in Oak Park

    Mar 21 2016

    The village insists a decades-old rule to fight blockbusting continues to protect a precious suburban commodity: diversity. 

  • Have We Hit Peak Mattress? Why Chicago Has So Many Mattress Stores

    Mar 14 2016

    If this retail mystery’s keeping you up at night, here are answers. Plus: Have we hit peak mattress? Warning: More puns ahead! 

  • Chicago Architects: Why the City’s New Buildings Don’t Look Like Its Classics

    Mar 07 2016

    Today’s Chicago architects answer why they build the way they do, and to what degree their inspiration comes from the city’s past. Full story, with photos and additional interviews from Chicago architects and developers.  

  • Icebreakers of the Chicago River: How bubblers, boats and brawn keep the city safe each winter

    Feb 12 2016

    How bubblers, boats and brawn keep the city safe each winter. 

  • What Happened to Chicago's Rifle Ranges?

    Feb 05 2016

    Rifle sport shooting was once so popular in the city that even ComEd and schools had competitive teams. Today, there's not a range in sight.

  • That Time Chicago Sent a Trainload of Snow to Florida

    Jan 15 2016

    How one girl’s dream for a snow day came true during the infamous blizzard of 1967.

  • The Fall of Chicago's 'Porkopolis' and the Rise of Niche Meat

    Dec 23 2015

    The city was once the nation’s meatpacking powerhouse. What, if anything, is left?

  • Curious City: The Mystery Collection

    Dec 18 2015

    Answers to listeners' questions about the mysterious side of Chicago that lies beyond the soaring skyscrapers and the sheen of the Bean.

  • Ferry-tale: Could a Chicago-to-Michigan Ferry Return from Extinction?

    Dec 11 2015

    Lake Michigan was once a passenger steamer superhighway. Could a Chicago-to-Michigan route make a comeback?

  • The Swinging Times of Chicago's Revolving Doors

    Dec 04 2015

    Tempted to ignore the revolving door? Here are the revolutions that made the city a magnet for this seemingly simple device.

  • Half Day Road and the Origins of a Semantic Slip-up

    Dec 03 2015

    A half day from ... what? Why this suburban myth is not even half true, and why the same mistake was made again 600 miles away.

  • Fare Game: When do CTA Buses Break Even?

    Nov 20 2015

    A look at how many riders it takes to make a bus profitable.

  • Mold-A-Rama-Rama! The Secrets Behind Chicago's Plastic Souvenir Empire

    Nov 13 2015

    How a Chicago-area famiHow a Chicago-area family turned cheap plastic souvenirs into a nostalgia empire.ly turned cheap plastic souvenirs into a nostalgia empire.

  • Blacksmiths: The 'Plastic Surgeons' on Chicago's Payroll

    Nov 06 2015

    The City of Chicago employs 20 full-time blacksmiths. But what do they do? And what's with the ancient job title?

  • 'Poland elsewhere': Why So Many Poles Came to Chicago

    Oct 30 2015

    How generation after generation of Polish families made the city into a 'Poland elsewhere.' 

  • Can Chicago Brag about the Size of its Polish Population?

    Oct 26 2015

    A Grabowski team of demographA Grabowski team of demographers help us test the city’s claim of having the most Poles outside Poland.ers help us test the city’s claim of having the most Poles outside Poland.A Grabowski team of demographers help us test the city’s claim of having the most Poles outside Poland.

  • Don't Believe the Height! Why Chicago Suburb Names Flat Out Lie about their Elevation

    Oct 16 2015

    From Chicago Heights to Mount Prospect, here’s why Chicago suburb names flat out lie about their elevation.

  • Shadow City: How Chicago Became the Country's Alley Capital

    Oct 10 2015

    How Chicago became the alley capital of the country and why so much of the rest of the region is conspicuously alley-free.

  • Nice Pipes: The Inner Workings of Buckingham Fountain

    Sep 04 2015

    The lowdown on how the fountain shoots water so high, and why it was built to impress in the first place.

  • Beyond Deep-Dish: Exploring Chicago's Other Native Foods

    Sep 02 2015

    A list of meaty, messy and often obscure city originals that's meant to get you out of your comfort zone.

  • Mystery Boat: Alone and Idle in a Waterlogged Corner of Chicago

    Aug 26 2015

    Ever see this rusty old freighter off the Bishop Ford Expressway? Its backstory says a lot about the Great Lakes shipping industry.

  • Are there fallout shelters left in Chicago?

    Aug 19 2015

    There are plenty, but let’s just say they’re not ready for a nuclear apocalypse.

  • Where are Chicago's Poor White Neighborhoods?

    Aug 12 2015

    Poverty touches all races in Chicago, but it's more visible among blacks and Latinos. Here's why that happens and why it matters.

  • Shoes on a Wire: Untangling an Urban Myth

    Aug 05 2015

    From teenage mischief to possible drug markets, a search for the real reasons sneakers end up on power lines.

  • Chicago's Best Stargazing Spots

    Jul 22 2015

    Chicago’s notorious light pollution hides the stars, but here’s where you have a fighting chance to peek at the heavens.

  • Here's Harold! (The Robot Edition)

    Jul 15 2015

    The DuSable Museum says — creepy or not — its Harold Washington robot will teach you a thing or two about the city’s first African-American mayor.

  • What Really Happens to Chicago's Blue Cart Recycling?

    Jul 01 2015

    The program is no sham, but a good number of recyclables still head to landfills.

  • In Chicago, Eternal Rest Ain't So Eternal

    Jun 18 2015

    How often do the dead make way for planes, parks and other local development? More than you'd think.

  • Beyond The Rattle And Clatter: When The CTA 'L' Is Your Neighbor

    Jun 10 2015

    Living near the CTA means life in a rattling fishbowl, but some Chicagoans adapt.

  • The unsung hero of urban planning who made it easy to get around Chicago

    May 20 2015

    Unsung urban planning hero Edward Brennan tamed a chaotic 19th-century street-numbering system.

  • Were Chicago's Public Schools Ever Good?

    May 13 2015

    We start an era-by-era search for the district’s ‘golden age’ and wonder: Could it be right now?

  • The Legacy Of Michael Jordan In Chicago

    Apr 01 2015

    The city rode high when ‘His Airness’ played for the Bulls. But what did he leave behind?

  • Chicago's forgotten Civil War prison camp

    Mar 11 2015

    Camp Douglas’ deadly reputation was kept in shadows but now there’s a surprising movement to bring it to light.

  • Building Skyscrapers on Chicago's Swampy Soil

    Mar 04 2015

    Engineers once compared Chicago’s soggy soil to jelly cake. How did they build a forest of skyscrapers on it? 

  • The Rise of Casimir Pulaski Day

    Feb 25 2015

    How Chicago’s Polish community won a Revolutionary War hero a holiday ... in a state he never stepped in.

  • No Conspiracy Required: The True Origins Of Chicago's February Elections

    Feb 18 2015

    Sure, the timing’s awful for campaigning and voting, but it wasn’t some trick concocted by the Democratic Machine. In fact, it was meant to empower voters.

  • When Will Chicago Get Its Next Supertall Skyscraper?

    Jan 28 2015

    A Chinese developer wants to alter the city skyline and break a dry spell in a field we once dominated.

  • When is Chicago-area Traffic the Worst?

    Jan 09 2015

    Let our info about the Let our info about the worst hours, days and seasons for road congestion steer you clear from a traffic-induced personal hell. 

  • Wherefore art thou Romeoville?

    Dec 29 2014

    The Chicago suburbs of Romeoville and Joliet were once named Romeo and Juliet. We explored why.

  • Weird And Wonderful Things You Might Not Know About Chicago

    Dec 23 2014

    What associations do you make with Chicago? Da Bears? Shady politics? Wacky weather? If you feel that list is getting stale, here’s a list of new ones to consider!

  • Could Truant Officers Return To Chicago Public Schools?

    Nov 13 2014

    A state task force likes the idea, but one former officer says the proposed job description could be a bit too much.

  • Campus police: real deal or rent-a-cops?

    Nov 05 2014

    Our case study: The U of C, where a private force polices 65,000 Chicagoans on and off campus.

  • We Ain't Afraid Of No (Chicago) Ghosts!

    Oct 30 2014

    What makes these notable ghost stories tick? Even if you don’t believe them, you’ll never forget them.

  • Real Estate And Religion: The Tale Of Seventeenth Church Of Christ, Scientist

    Oct 22 2014

    How a modest congregation at Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist built and maintained an improbably cool concrete oasis in such an improbable location.  

  • Chicago Without The Fire

    Oct 06 2014

    Historians consider our “what-if” scenario about a city that escaped the 1871 blaze. Would the Loop be a livable neighborhood? Would the skyline be so strident? And would there be such a thing as the Chicago spirit?

  • A Second Act For The Uptown Theater?

    Sep 19 2014

    As Chicago's former grand movie palace turns 90, the question remains: What can be done to restore it? 

  • Two neighboring states, one big financial gap

    Aug 28 2014

    Illinois struggles with debt and unpaid bills, while Indiana is sitting pretty with a surplus topping $2 billion. What’s behind the fiscal gap between these two neighbors?

  • A Shot Of History: Ingredients Of The Chicago Speakeasy

    Aug 07 2014

    The faux speakeasy is popping up everywhere these days, but what made the original Prohibition saloon work?

  • So, why did it take so long for it to be Mayor Jane Byrne's turn?

    Jul 25 2014

    It took decades for Chicago's first and only female mayor to land an official honor from City Council. Is there a reason it took so long? 

  • Compare: Illinois Governor Candidates' Views On Concealed Carry

    Mar 13 2014

    A concerned citizen poses questions about violence and the state’s new law allowing people to carry concealed guns. We find a surprising lack of consensus among the candidates and researchers, too. 

  • How Much Road Salt Ends Up In Lake Michigan?

    Mar 05 2014

    Now that our wicked winter’s ending, we look at whether there’s any fallout from flinging so much salt around.

  • Just How Bad Is This Chicago Winter?

    Feb 05 2014

    This winter has felt like one for the ages, but is it really one of Chicago’s worst? 

  • Gulp! How Chicago Gobbled Its Neighbors

    Jan 27 2014

    Our animated map shows how Chicago grew from lakeside outpost to booming metropolis over the course of a century.

  • Hosting the enemy: Our WWII POW camps

    Dec 10 2013

    Daring escapes, unexpected romance and more true stories from German prisoners held in our area.

  • Neon No More: Lincoln Avenue's Motel Row

    Oct 31 2013

    Here’s the evolution of the Lincoln Avenue motels, from sensible to seedy to retro spectacle.

  • Who's Behind Those Eyes?

    Oct 09 2013

    The Chicago International Film Festival’s logo has intrigued movie buffs for decades. But is that Charlie Chaplin? Liza Minelli? Here’s the backstory. 

  • Should We Use The 'L Word' For Jane Addams?

    Sep 05 2013

    The Progressive Era activist was many things: a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a social reformer, a feminist. But what about ... a lesbian? And, just why should we know in the first place?

  • Where Have All The Old-School Doughnut Shops Gone?

    Aug 21 2013

    Curious City finds the city’s best doughnut spot, while Dunkin’s former CEO spills the secret to the chain’s growth here. 

  • The Sweet Spot At The Top Of Chicago

    Jun 28 2013

    The area’s so flat that every bunny hill seems a candidate. But it’s sweet (literally) to find the real deal. 

  • Pregnancy Tests? Pigeon Poo? What Chicago Aldermen Really Do

    Jun 11 2013

    Sure, they pass laws and vote on city budgets. But there’s so much more. Think: Pregnancy tests and pigeon poo.

  • Working For Change On Chicago’s Sidewalks

    Jun 06 2013

    Curious City tracks down the average wages of panhandlers and street performers in Chicago.

  • Being A Breadwinner On $8.25 An Hour

    May 21 2013

    A listener who hustles to make ends meet wants us to think about people who hustle for even less.

  • So, What’s (Still) Made In The Chicago Area?

    May 20 2013

    Sure, we have fewer industrial giants in our area these days, but if you know where to look you can find the beating heart of industry.

  • Chicago Diners, Side Of Extra Crispy Stories

    May 14 2013

    You’d think food blogger Louisa Chu would be stuffed after this assignment. Nope. Pass her the syrup, she says. She wants to stay and hear more stories.

  • The Story Of Dunning, A 'Tomb For The Living'

    Apr 30 2013

    In both life and death, the people who ended up at the notorious asylum and poor farm were some of Chicago’s least fortunate residents.

  • Did a WWII nuclear experiment make the U of C radioactive?

    Apr 17 2013

    Our Geiger counter couldn’t detect any radiation footprint from the site of the first sustained nuclear chain reaction. (Whew!) But, was safety first and foremost when scientists ran their WWII nuclear experiment in Chicago?

  • Laugh Your Troubles Away

    Feb 19 2013

    A Curious Citizen’s question becomes your ticket to our multimedia playground, where you can relive the sometimes joyful, sometimes disturbing, and often unnerving stories of a Chicago amusement park.

  • Hmmm ... If Only Our Curiosity Had An Anthem

    Feb 13 2013

    A Chicago transplant asked what — if anything — is unique to Chicago. Answers were slippery, but our songster grabbed the best and wrote a song.

  • What Happened to Nike Missile Sites Around Chicago?

    Jan 22 2013

    Cold War Chicago was once peppered with nuclear missiles ready to thwart a Soviet attack.

  • Is Construction Work A Boon For Chicago's Urban Archaeologists?

    Jan 16 2013

    Curious Citizen Linda Rudy wondered when ground is broken for building or repairs, is anyone there to look for treasure? We catch up with local archaeologists who’ve scoured everything from construction sites, to the White City, to ... grandpa’s outhouse.

  • Who settles refugees on Chicago's North Side?

    Jan 08 2013

    Rogers Park resident Lowell Wyse noticed how diverse his neighborhood is, and wonders whether the city helps place international refugees there. If City Hall’s not, who is?

  • How Much Of The Field Museum’s Collection Is Actually On Display?

    Jan 03 2013

    The bulk of its objects are out of sight, but not necessarily out of mind. Start with our behind-the-scenes view, and stick around for a surprising international backstory.

  • Why Ban Pickups from Lake Shore Drive? Where Can They Park in Chicago?

    Jan 01 2013

    History suggests a Victorian-era prejudice against commercial traffic in Chicago parkways lurks behind a ban against pickup trucks on Lake Shore Drive. Should truck owners worry? And, where can they park, anyway?

  • How Has Chicago’s Coastline Changed Over The Decades?

    Dec 11 2012

    Curious citizen Miriam Reuter wondered how Chicago's coastline has changed over the decades. We learn that from nature to industry and back again (sorta), the lakefront’s changed so much that city founders wouldn’t recognize it.

  • Where’s Chicago's Biodiversity Hotspot?

    Nov 07 2012

    The city's home to more wildlife than the usual suspects. (We're talking 'bout you, Mr. Squirrel.) Lace up your boots, folks. To find lizards, osprey and cactus, we’ll be heading far off the Mag Mile.

  • Chuh Kaw Go, What Do You Really Sound Like?

    Oct 23 2012

    What is a Chicago accent and what do Chicagoans really sound like? Sound off with your phone and become part of the linguistic record.