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610: Grand Gesture

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Prologue

Ira Glass

So Miki, this is your high school.

Miki Meek

This is my high school. And it's really weird to be here with you, even though I suggested this. Even though this was my idea.

Ira Glass

We're in Payson, Utah, a small town about an hour south of Salt Lake City. It's me and Miki Meek, one of the producers here at This American Life. She hasn't been back to her high school since she graduated, but says it looks the same. And same groups of kids too-- jocks, stoners, cowboys, regular kids.

Ira Glass

And which were you?

Miki Meek

I think I was a regular kid. Regular kid/county kid.

Ira Glass

OK, so you guys lived in the country.

Miki Meek

We lived in the country, yeah, yeah. Let's see, where are we are walking by now? Just walking through the hallway. This is the main hallway. Opening scenes of Footloose are right here.

Ira Glass

Oh, right. Payson High School is where they filmed Footloose.

Miki Meek

Yeah, the opening scene, so Kevin Bacon's first day of school. He walks past the cafeteria in this hallway, and a cowboy confronts him, right in this spot.

Ira Glass

Right in the spot where we're standing?

Miki Meek

Right in the spot where we're standing, yeah.

Ira Glass

I downloaded the film later. Totally true. But of course, America, everybody knows there's a time to be born and a time die, and a time to dance, and a time to talk about Footloose. And this is not that time.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

We are not here in Miki's school to talk about a movie about dancing. We're here to talk about real life dances at this high school, and more specifically, the way that the real life students ask each other to dances.

Miki Meek

You ask someone to a dance, you've got to go big. Which means you've got to leave something on someone's porch. You gotta decorate their car. You gotta break into their bedroom. You gotta send them on a scavenger hunt.

Ira Glass

Break into their bedroom and do what?

Miki Meek

Decorate it, trash it, leave a message.

Ira Glass

The very minimum anybody does is a bit of prop humor. You leave some object and then a pun written on poster board. Like Owen Grimshaw was just asked to the Sadie Hawkins Dance this way.

Owen Grimshaw

They had pants in a box. And they said "I'd ship my pants if you went to Sadie's with me."

Ira Glass

A senior, Ivan Webber, Told me about last year's Sweethearts dance, he took a laminated name tag, wrote a message on it, and then froze it in a block of ice, which he was very proud of.

Ivan Webber

I was just like, "Going to Sweethearts would be cool." And it was like, "it's pretty chill." Like, chill. OK?

Ira Glass

No, I get it.

Sometimes the props they use are living animals. And some of these kids have access to farms. Ivan's little sister Mariah left a pair of goats at a guy's house with a poster.

Mariah Webber

And it said, "I'm not kidding. I would love to goat to Sadie's with you."

Ira Glass

Slight variation on that, senior Alyssa Sutton left a guy a basket with four baby kittens and this message.

Alyssa Sutton

"I'm not kitten when I say I want to go to Sadie's with a cool cat like you."

Ira Glass

Senior Ashlynn Yul left a chicken for a guy who asked her to a dance, a live chicken and Starbursts. The message?

Ashlynn Yul

"I'm not going to chicken out on you. I've been bursting to say yes."

Ira Glass

The guy actually returned the chicken. The goat got returned too. The kittens stayed. Junior Caitlin Mitchell left a tree for her boyfriend.

Caitlin Mitchell

And I asked him, "It would be tree-mendous if you'd go to Sweethearts with me." And he answered back with "Needle-less to say, I'd be burning up if I'd said no." And he lit the trees on fire in my front yard.

Ira Glass

Wait. He set them on fire?

Caitlin Mitchell

Yeah. There was snow in my yard, so-- I mean--

Ira Glass

Saying yes, you're supposed to be as creative as the person who asked you. Tyler Johnson told me about the time that his sister had a neighbor help her out with that. The neighbor was a policeman, and she hid in the back of his police car as he spotted the guy who asked her to dance.

Tyler Johnson

So I pulled him over. And at the time, the kid had a few-- I don't know, the point system, where you can get your license suspended. He was really close to getting his license suspended, so I thought it'd be extra funny. And so he pulled him over. Officer told him all these things that he did wrong. And he was freaking out. And then the officer gave him a ticket, and the ticket just said "yes," and then my sister's name on it.

Ira Glass

Incredibly, the guy still took her to the dance. It can be a ton of work doing these things. The most elaborate one I heard about was I met this one couple, Tyler Batty and Liz Callahan. And Tyler kidnapped Liz, this elaborate kidnapping-- duct tape, blanket over her head. She knew it was fake, by the way. Was not scared.

Liz Callahan

There was three boys, and they were talking. They were trying to sound like they're terrorists kind of. They were trying to talk him in some weird language.

Tyler Batty

And we'd just kind of shout gibberish, just a mix of any foreign words we know from Japanese, Russian, Korean, kind of sticking to mostly like a Russian accent. Like this, deeper.

[SPEAKING GIBBERISH]

Just kind of random stuff like that.

Ira Glass

Give me a little more.

Tyler Batty

It's not logical. Just shout random words.

[SPEAKING GIBBERISH]

Just random syllables and funny stuff, goofy stuff, yeah. But I mean, if you were wrapped up in a blanket and someone's talking like that, you're more than likely to be scared.

Liz Callahan

I was like, I know it's you guys. And they were like, no you don't! What?

Tyler Batty

There's no way she could have known who it was.

Liz Callahan

So I was calling all their names out. I was like, I know you guys are right there.

Ira Glass

They threw her into the back of an SUV and then swerved around the roads, up into the mountains. And then Tyler staged a rescue in a Batman costume, supposedly saving her from the fake kidnappers.

Tyler Batty

I just start flinging open doors, kind of punching my buddies kind of hard, so it sounds realistic. Of course, it's not super hard punches, but just they're grunting, and uh, oh. They're yelling stuff. "Get him. Where is he?" So I throw open the back hatch.

Liz Callahan

He had his Batman mask on, and he has this Batman voice that he likes to talk in. And you can't really understand him.

Tyler Batty

And I said-- man, what did I say? "Don't move. I'm here to rescue you."

Ira Glass

We came to Payson High School because our show this week is all about grand gestures. And while you hear about schools where kids do these kinds of things for prom-- in fact, right now MTV is casting a TV show called Promposal-- here in Utah and a few other places around the country, they make the grand move every dance-- homecoming, Sweethearts dance, Sadie Hawkins, Winter Ball. And when I was going around meeting kids and I'd break the news to them that kids elsewhere do not do this, they were surprised.

Juddy Bear

Really?

Ira Glass

This is a junior everybody calls Juddy Bear.

Juddy Bear

No other states?

Ira Glass

Most places don't.

Juddy Bear

Wow. Well, that would be terrifying, because then she could say no to my face, rather than say no through a creative way.

Ira Glass

Alyssa Sutton knew the truth about how kids elsewhere ask each other to dances, but she had a special source that gave her insight into how people live outside of Utah.

Alyssa Sutton

I found that out from reading Harry Potter. When they just asked each other to the Yule Ball, I was like what the heck? Do people actually do that? And I was like, I thought it would just be so awkward, though, to walk up and be like, "Hey, so you want to go to the dance?" And then you wouldn't know. You don't have anything to post on social media and say like, "Oh, they asked me with kittens or on a scavenger hunt."

Ira Glass

The kids I talked to said this idea of just walking up to somebody out of the blue, and then just asking them to a dance, it seems lame. Like, where is the effort? If doing these elaborate schemes just sounds like so much work and so much fuss just to ask somebody to a dance, a bunch of kids told me, no, no, no. It's like this project. You draft your friends into it. The invitation is a whole activity itself.

Ivan Webber

She lives just over here, and there's a little park right next to her house. And that's where we're gonna bury it. Hopefully, she doesn't see us as we drive by.

Ira Glass

Case in point, one day after school, I joined Ivan Webber-- the kid who froze the laminated name tag and thought it was chill-- and his little sister Mariah, and his friends, Ezri, Max, and Kylie, to bury in the snow a little treasure chest-- actually an old wooden jewelry box Ivan got at a thrift store.

It has a note inside to the girl who asked Ivan to go to the Sweethearts dance, a note saying yes. We get to a little park about a block from his date's house. It's a bright, clear sky day. Ivan is like a skinny, teenaged Tom Hanks, wearing just a green t-shirt, even though it's freezing outside.

Ivan Webber

OK, we may have spray paint and a shovel, but we're definitely not going to be using them in a murder vandalism type way. Yeah, so the spray paint is to make the X for where we're going to bury the treasure chest in the snow. And the shovel is for her to dig it up. And this is where we have our note. This is our note. We're going to put it on the shovel and leave it at her doorstep.

It says "It would be neat if you went down the street. The X marks the spot. There may be treasure, or maybe not." That's pretty good in my opinion.

Ira Glass

We tromp around a little bit. The snow's maybe a foot deep.

Ivan Webber

OK, where do we want to bury this? We do it by one of these trees? We'll do it by that tree. OK, what if we just do it right there? That looks good. What if we just do it right there?

[SHOVELING]

Ira Glass

They put the wooden box in the hole, cover it over again with snow, pat it down.

Ivan Webber

Yeah, we're going to spray paint it now.

[SHAKING SPRAY CAN]

OK, drawing an X.

Ira Glass

What color is this?

Ivan Webber

It's the leftover stuff we had in our garage color. That pinkish, fleshy, salmon color.

Ira Glass

Ezri points out it's less pirate and more bladder infection. Our treasure marked and now buried in the snow, Ivan takes the shovel and the note and heads up the street one block to leave it on the girl's porch. Her name's Makadie. I pin a wireless mic to him.

Ivan Webber

OK, I'm now walking up to her doorstep. Just gonna set this here. OK. We've got a shovel set down by her door. I'm just gonna open up the glass thing, hit her doorbell, and knock. Now, I'm running, I'm running, I'm running, I'm running, running, running, running.

Ira Glass

Fast forward 36 seconds.

Ivan Webber

OK, in the car.

Ira Glass

There's a big SUV between our car and the path that Makadie's going to walk to the park. So if we all stay low, it's possible Makadie will not notice that we're here. And so we all crouch down, and we take turns peeking, to see if she's coming.

Ivan Webber

Oh, I see her. I see her. She's right there. Yeah, OK. She's leaving her house, isn't she? Yeah. Yeah, she's got the shovel. Oh, oh, yeah. Well, she's looking around. She doesn't know which way to go. Dang it. I hope she guesses right. She doesn't know which way to go.

Mariah Webber

Wait, we didn't include that in the note?

Ivan Webber

Well, it didn't rhyme, OK?

[LAUGHTER]

Mariah Webber

Wait, nowhere in the note did we say "go to the park?"

Ivan Webber

Someone send her a text. Ezri, send her a text. Just tell her, "go south." Oh, she's figuring it out.

Ira Glass

Makadie and her sister walk towards us and the park. They get closer and closer. We are all as low in the car as we can be.

Ivan Webber

Ira, think you have the best angle. Can you see? Is she there?

Ira Glass

I can't see if she's in the parking lot. So to see what's happening, Kylie, who's in the driver's seat, takes the little square mirror that she got at Walmart to check her eyebrows during the day, and thrusts it in the air like a periscope above the steering wheel, and then--

[HONK]

[SCREAM]

Ivan Webber

Kylie!

Ira Glass

Hits the horn.

[LAUGHTER]

Ivan Webber

Stay down, stay down.

Kylie

She's coming for us!

Ivan Webber

No, no. OK, Kylie, drive us away.

Kylie

She's coming for us.

Ezry

Get down, Ivan.

Ivan Webber

I'm down, I'm down. I'm hiding.

Ira Glass

We pull out past a very confused looking Makadie and her sister, cruise up the street. Kylie repeats how sorry she is in between laughing. Ivan looks out the rear window at the park.

Ivan Webber

Look, look, they're finding it. I think they're finding it.

Ira Glass

It this more fun than the actual dance?

Kylie

Yes. It really is. I mean, in this case, the dance is not going to compare.

Ivan Webber

This has been quite an experience.

Kylie

It's just so fun to get it together and then have all those embarrassing, scary, anxious moments. I don't know. It's fun. It's the best part.

Ira Glass

Other kids I talked to said the same thing. In fact, the elaborateness of these stunts does not necessarily mean that the kids feel strongly about the person the stunt is for. The guy who kidnapped the girl and dressed in a Batman costume to stage a fake rescue? She and he both told me it was not romantic between them. They don't even like each other as more than friends. He and his buddies just thought it would be cool to stage a kidnapping.

Well, today on our program, we have stories of grand gestures, and so many of them are like that. They're an end in themselves. Even when they seem like they're trying so hard to say they're about love, and devotion, and some beloved person. From WBEZ Chicago. Oh wait, I do not need to say this myself. Can you say this for me? "From WBEZ Chicago?"

Batman

From WBEZ Chicago.

Ira Glass

It's This American Life.

Batman

It's This American Life.

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass.

Batman

I'm Ira Glass.

Ira Glass

Stay with us.

Batman

Stay with us.

Ira Glass

That was good. That was good. OK, we'll start the show right there.

Act One: Dr. Strangelove.

Ira Glass

Act one, Dr. Strangelove. OK, this first story is about a guy who goes so far in his grand gestures that I need to say before we start, this story is not for kids. OK? Here's Miki Meek.

Miki Meek

I have a pile of newspaper articles about the story I'm going to tell you. It's a love story from Florida in the 1940s. The papers went nuts for this story. It's about a man who loved a woman so much that he never got over her death. The Miami Herald at the time ran their love story across the front page.

The man's name is Carl von Cosel. There's a giant photo of him, where he looks charming and fragile in a white suit. Right next to that is a photo of Elena Hoyos in her wedding dress and a tiara. Her hair is in perfect black ringlets. She's beaming.

Elena died young. She was just 22. After her death, Von Cosel visited her grave every day and brought flowers. He built her a fancy mausoleum with a dome, surrounded by palm trees and flower pots.

And then this is the thing that made it a news story. Von Cosel stole her body from her grave, and then kept her in his house for seven years.

From the time von Cosel first met Elena, he launched into a series of grand gestures, each bigger than the previous, until he went too far.

They first met at the hospital in Key West. Von Cosel was an x-ray technician, and Elena was 20 years old and sick with tuberculosis. Back in the '30s, TB killed a lot of people. There was no cure.

I talked to a guy named Ben Harrison. He wrote a book about the two of them. He lives in Key West and got curious about the case when he moved there. He says that von Cosel fell in love with Elena right away.

Ben Harrison

She apparently was strikingly beautiful. He took a blood sample from her finger. Normally, he would take it from a patient's ear, but hers was far too lovely to mar.

Miki Meek

Is that what he said?

Ben Harrison

Yes these are in his journals, that he didn't want to in any way disfigure her beauty.

Miki Meek

This was the kind of guy von Cosel was. He wrote a memoir, where he said things like he didn't want to disfigure Elena's beauty, and that her voice sounded like a mockingbird's song in spring. He considered himself a scientist/inventor and claimed to have multiple university degrees in subjects like chemistry, philosophy, and physics, although Ben says he never could verify any of that.

He told me von Cosel's first grand gesture is telling Elena, sure, science hasn't developed a cure for TB, but--

Ben Harrison

Not to worry. He has revolutionary new cures, and he will cure her.

Miki Meek

And what were they? I mean, how was he going to cure her?

Ben Harrison

Well, he at first started radiation treatments there at the hospital. Then, as her illness progressed, he came by and started treating her in her home. He made this Frankenstein-ish electrical contraption.

Miki Meek

What did it look like?

Ben Harrison

It looked like a big globe, and it had sparks inside. And he put electrodes on her chest, and they would shock her. He claimed that this put thousands of neutrons in the air, billions of neutrons in the air. And these were going to help cure her.

Miki Meek

This gets weirder and weirder.

Ben Harrison

It was pure nonsense. It was just not going to work.

Miki Meek

Did she want the treatments, though?

Ben Harrison

I mean, there was just nobody else who offered any hope whatsoever. So this was her only chance, because he was the only one offering a silver bullet.

Miki Meek

Von Cosel was full of confidence about his own abilities. For example, he was trying to fix up a broken airplane he'd parked behind the hospital. It didn't have wings. He lived inside it. He was a German immigrant in his 50s, with a trim beard and wire-rim spectacles, walking around town, wearing all white, and carrying a cane.

So far, their story has the makings of a great tragic love story. He loved her on sight. She was sick with an incurable disease that he'd do anything to cure. But there's one detail most of the newspapers left out. She never loved him.

Elena was actually married to another guy. But after she got sick, he left her. So she moved back in with her family. They didn't have a lot of money.

Von Cosel pursued Elena with the same arrogance and optimism he did everything else, giving her gifts, jewelry, a catalog where he told her to pick out whatever she wanted. But Elena's sister, Nana Medina, says it wasn't mutual.

She gave a long interview to the Miami Herald, where she said, quote, "She never loved him. She was only nice to him because my mother told her she should be kind to those who were kind to her. She looked upon von Cosel as a grandfather. And when he proposed marriage, she always told him 'You are too old. Why, you are old enough to be my grandfather. What's more, I do not love you.' He became so persistent that we asked him to stay away from the house."

Elena died about a year and a half after she met von Cosel. When he heard the news, he rushed across town to be by her side. Here's how he wrote about it in his memoir.

Von Cosel

I went down to my knees before the bed. Elena's jaw had dropped, but her eyes were bright and clear. They had a faraway look. And as I gazed into those beloved eyes, they seemed to become deeper and deeper, like wells, which, with magnetic power, drew me in. I could not tear my eyes away from her. I could look forever. My poor, darling Elena.

Miki Meek

So many of Von Cosel's choices during this period of time illustrate just how thin the line is between romantic and creepy. Gestures that seem romantic when someone loves you immediately flip to disturbing when they don't. Von Cosel paid for Elena's burial and for a headstone, which did not include her married name on it. But it did have his name inscribed on the lower half. Again, here's Ben.

Ben Harrison

Because for one, her married name is Mesa, and he wasn't about to put her married name on a headstone that he had bought.

Miki Meek

On his daily visit to Elena's grave, von Cosel starts worrying about rainwater seeping into her casket, and convinces the family to pull it from the ground. He begins building a mausoleum.

Ben Harrison

Von Cosel talks to the funeral director, or the night watchman, or whoever, that he needs to come in and rebed her body.

Miki Meek

What does that mean?

Ben Harrison

She's been dead for long enough so that she's decomposing. And he is very upset, because he claimed the mortician didn't follow his instructions as far as embalming goes. And so he puts new cloth on it, and cleans up the casket, and he takes off the dress she was buried in.

Miki Meek

Man.

Ben Harrison

Because it's rotted, and replaces it with cloth, and I think he put some new felt underneath her. He loved her that much.

Miki Meek

That's one way to describe it.

Ben Harrison

Yeah. And he was becoming more and more delusional.

Miki Meek

Elena, of course, didn't ask for any of this. She didn't love him. She's paradoxically at the center of this story and utterly left out. Still, von Cosel kept going. He put Elena in a double casket. That's one casket inside of another. He said he wanted to protect her.

Ben Harrison

I really don't think he accepted the fact that she was dead. I think he still felt she was alive, because I think he had valves on this thing.

Miki Meek

For what?

Ben Harrison

So he could speak with her directly into the casket.

Miki Meek

He wrote in his memoir that, to him, these weren't one way conversations. He would sit there in the mausoleum, and talk to her, and she spoke back to him, and sang.

Von Cosel

Ever since the moon began to wane, Elena had begun to sing in her casket with a very soft, clear voice, which became just a little stronger from night to night. It was always the same old Spanish song about a lover who opens the grave of his dead bride. I could distinctly hear and understand every word.

[SINGING IN SPANISH]

Miki Meek

The song is a Cuban bolero called "Black Wedding." Ben found out it was one of Elena's favorites after talking to her friends. Presumably, von Cosel knew this too.

[SINGING IN SPANISH]

I asked Ben to translate some of the lyrics for me.

Ben Harrison

A young man's lover died before their wedding. Without her love, he simply could not reason. At night, he would visit the graveyard and dream about the days she was alive.

His tears would fall upon her tombstone, the tombstone of the girl to be his bride. On a night when thunder roared and lightning flashed, he broke apart the tombstone of her grave. And with his hands, he dug into the earth, and in his arms, he carried her away. By a flickering funeral candlelight, on his bed that flowers covered, he gently laid the body of his sweetheart, and said his wedding vows to his dead lover.

Miki Meek

The song was written to be tongue in cheek, ironic and inappropriate, but von Cosel took it literally, as inspiration for everything he's about to do next.

Ben Harrison

According to von Cosel, this is her plea for him to please take her home with him, the same way the distraught lover does in the song.

[SINGING IN SPANISH]

Miki Meek

Von Cosel wrote that he waited for a new moon, got a wagon, and stole the casket. He brought Elena home, and tried to repair her decomposed body.

Ben Harrison

Her face was in such poor shape that he had to do something, and so he put on this gauze wax concoction, and fastened it to what was left of her face.

Miki Meek

He did this to the rest of her body too, inserted glass eyes and painted on eyebrows. Von Cosel hadn't been deterred by what Elena wanted back when she was alive. Now that he had her dead body in his home, he could play house, dress her up, have sex with her. And he did all of those things.

He wrote in his memoir that he made Elena breakfast, eggs and a cup of Lipton tea. He filled the vases next to her bed with flowers and sometimes just talked to her about the weather.

Ben Harrison

She was kind of his living doll, there in their little household. And they celebrated Christmas together, and he put a Christmas tree there, and put 13 candles and said he played his organ to her until the candles burned down.

Miki Meek

This went on for seven years. He also conducted experiments to try to bring Elena back from the dead. In his memoir, he wrote that he gave her radiation treatments, and submerged her in a tank filled with quote, plasma fluid.

Eventually, Elena's sister, Nana Medina, started to suspect that something was up. There were rumors. And she asked von Cosel to open Elena's mausoleum for her, but he refused. So one day, Nana showed up at his house.

Ben Harrison

Well, she walks in and sees this effigy, this Elena, in a sort of wedding, gauze wedding thing lying on the bed. I mean, as she describes it, it was the most horrific thing she'd ever seen in her life. But as upset as she was, she said, if you will take the body back and put it in there, we'll just let this go.

Miki Meek

Von Cosel didn't return the body, so she went to the Key West police. They arrived at his house in a motorcade, and von Cosel confessed immediately.

And that's when the gifts started arriving at the jailhouse. People brought him fruit, cookies, and hot tea. They serenaded him at night. A group of women from Tampa brought him money. Locals posted his bond. An attorney took on his case pro bono.

People were captivated by this story. A newspaper quoted von Cosel saying, "I did not want one so beautiful to go to dust." A radio station in Havana ran a soap opera about Elena and von Cosel's great romance.

Ida Roberts

He was in love with her? OK, he was in love with her and he wanted to make her better.

Miki Meek

This is Ida Roberts. Her mom was good friends with Elena, lived down the street from her. I talked to her for a while about this question. How could people see this as a romantic story?

Well, for starters, Ida's mom didn't know at the time that von Cosel was having sex with Elena's corpse. There were rumors, but the truth didn't come out for decades, when a doctor from her autopsy wrote about it in a medical journal. But still, that doesn't change the story so much for Ida.

Ida Roberts

My mother knew Maria Elena. And because she accepted him, my mother had no problem was with what he did.

Miki Meek

I mean, was your mom upset that he had had the body for so long?

Ida Roberts

No.

Miki Meek

Really?

Ida Roberts

She was not upset.

Miki Meek

But isn't there something also later? The autopsy report came out he was having sexual relations with her, or attempting to?

Ida Roberts

Well, I guess he was in love with her, and he made love to her. And he didn't care whether she was dead or not. In fact, he never-- he never wanted to think that she was dead. He wanted to think that she was coming back. She was asleep.

Miki Meek

I think, Ida, you are a very hard person to shock.

Ida Roberts

Yeah, mhm. Just remember, this was a very small town and very close. Everybody was very close. And I believe that's the way, laid back in Key West like we are, we just accept things.

Miki Meek

I heard this from a lot of people I interviewed down there-- live and let live. They take pride in their history of being home to people who didn't fit in-- bootleggers, drug smugglers, people who dropped off the grid.

But Ida's pretty straight. We talked in her office at a Catholic school in Key West. She's the director of Religious Education for kids there and looks like somebody's nice grandma.

Miki Meek

When you look at this story now, the story of von Cosel, I mean, do you view it as romantic or completely nuts?

Ida Roberts

I think it's a nice love story. I do. I wouldn't have any bad thing to say about him. [CHUCKLING]

Miki Meek

Why is that? Explain that.

Ida Roberts

Because he was in love with her. I mean, he was eccentric of course, you know crazy thoughts he had, but I mean, he wasn't there to abuse her or anything. You know, I mean--

Miki Meek

According the record, he was.

Ida Roberts

Wait, but he didn't chop her up and throw her in the ocean or anything, like a lot of people have done, you know? A lot of spouses. But he took good care of her. And he wanted-- he just didn't want to let go.

Miki Meek

I mean, definitely selfish, though. In a lot of ways, I mean, he's doing what he wants to do, and not necessarily what the family would have wanted her to do-- wanted him to do, or even Elena.

Ida Roberts

Love is like that. Love is kind of selfish, isn't it? When you find somebody you want, you want them regardless.

Miki Meek

Love is an excuse for all sorts of behavior. I can understand why so many people wanted to believe this version of the story. It's much easier and nicer to see this as a grand gesture of a lovesick man than the abuse of a delusional pervert.

In the end, the charges against von Cosel were dropped. The court looked into whether he was insane and decided no. They called his obsession with Elena a quirk.

Even when the public was presented with physical proof, Elena's body, they chose to see the story this way. After police took Elena's body from von Cosel, the funeral home, incredibly, put her out on display, probably without the family's permission.

Don Carbonell

It was a big crowd that day, I think, and we just followed the crowd.

Miki Meek

That's Don Carbonell. He was a kid at the time and lived across the street from the funeral home. There's actually a photo of Don in the newspaper spread, standing in a big crowd right behind Elena's body.

Don Carbonell

I might have even been playing in the yard with Frank, whose father owned the funeral home at the time. And they opened the embalming room doors.

Miki Meek

And how close did you get?

Don Carbonell

I was probably six to ten feet away from the table that they had her laid up on.

Miki Meek

And what do you remember? Do you remember what she looked like?

Don Carbonell

Yeah, vaguely, I remember. She had glassy eyes, and she just-- she didn't look real. She didn't look real. Looked like maybe somebody made up a body. That's the way she had impressed me. You'd say a big, overgrown doll.

Miki Meek

The newspaper articles quoted people who said she looked beautiful. "Von Cosel did such a good job preserving her." One woman wrote a letter saying, "they should enclose Elena in a glass case and turn her into a Sleeping Beauty attraction." Which is basically what's happened to Elena and her story today.

Key West Tour Guide

All right, our story takes place here in 1930, and involves this young girl right here.

Miki Meek

This is from a trolley tour of Key West for tourists these days. All the disturbing facts of the story are now out. And our ideas about sex and men and women are dramatically different. But listen to this. They still tell this story as a romance, for the same reason people did in the '40s. They like it.

Key West Tour Guide

Well, I thought we'd discuss a love story, an undying love story, a story that involves grave robbing and a corpse bride. Who's interested? All right, good.

Miki Meek

And here's another.

Key West Tour Guide

By show of hands, how many of you believe in true love? Just trying to set up this next tale-- this is a tale of true love, Key Weird style with a twist. It starts with a gentleman by the name of Count Karl von Cosel. Enter into the picture a beautiful Cuban girl. Her name is Elena.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Ira Glass

Miki Meek, Payson High School class of none of your business, is one of the producers of our program. John Ellison Conlee read the excerpts of von Cosel's memoir. Ben Harrison's book about von Cosel is called Undying Love.

Coming up, what happens when sky writers make mistakes, and a few grand gestures that actually go right. That's in a minute from Chicago Public Radio when our program continues.

Act Two: Say It Out Cloud

Ira Glass

It's This American Life. I'm Ira Glass. Each week on our program we choose a theme, bringing you a variety of different stories on that theme. Today's show, as we watch Valentine's Day recede into the rearview mirror of our lives, our theme is grand gestures, stories of people who go all out, and what it means when they do. We've arrived at Act Two of our program. Act 2, Say It Out Cloud.

One of our producers, David Kestenbaum, spoke with some people who are in the grand gesture business. I'm talking about sky writers.

David Kestenbaum

Every sky writer I talked to you had a story of some odd message they'd put in the sky. Someone paid for a cartoon cloud to be drawn in the sky, with little lines for rain. And then there was the message that was just numbers, 3.1415 etc. Get it? Pi in the sky.

The comedian Kurt Braunohler recently hired a pilot to put up the skywriting message over Los Angeles that he'd always wanted to see. "How do I land?"

Even a simple message can cost a couple of thousand dollars. And it doesn't last very long. Basically, as soon as it's written, it starts to fall apart. So a lot of the time, it's people with a pretty big emotion who want to write something in the sky.

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

It was the woman that contacted me, and she couldn't-- it was a very secret love affair.

David Kestenbaum

This is Suzanne Asbury-Oliver. She's a longtime sky writer.

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

And it couldn't be known that this relationship was happening.

David Kestenbaum

Wow.

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

But she really wanted to express her commitment, almost in a public way that she couldn't in any other way. You know, shout out to the world "I love you and I'm with you forever." But nobody else can know.

David Kestenbaum

The message? A heart. No name, just initials, in the sky over a lake.

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

It was just kind of sad and romantic all at the same time.

David Kestenbaum

Were they having an affair?

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

Well, that was my guess.

David Kestenbaum

Yeah. How did it feel doing that one?

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

Yeah, it was nice, you know? Letting somebody express a huge emotion.

David Kestenbaum

In clouds of smoke.

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

Yeah, mile-high letters, 10,000 feet above the Earth.

David Kestenbaum

Sky writing seems to satisfy some very basic urge. Essentially, as soon as we figured out how to fly, someone was like, "You know what? I'm gonna write giant letters in the sky." The first pilot did it in the 1920s, maybe even earlier. And the vast majority of personal messages seem to be essentially the same thing over and over.

"Marry me," or "I love you," or a heart, or "I heart you." Here in New York, the usual spot is over Central Park. And it seems to be mostly guys who want to put messages of love in the sky. The male sky writers I talked to didn't have a lot of theories about why that was. But Suzanne did.

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

Maybe men have a harder time expressing themselves? And want to say "I really, really, really do love you. I really, really do want you to marry me" in a really big way.

Jim Record

This is it. These are our airplanes.

David Kestenbaum

Only a handful of people in the world do sky writing. It's this weirdly technical piece of flying. I went to visit Jim Record he's a pilot with a company called Skytypers out on Long Island. It was snowing out, so we weren't going up. But he showed me one of the planes.

Jim Record

OK, this is our lead airplane.

David Kestenbaum

How do you get in? Climb up on the wing?

Jim Record

[INAUDIBLE] yeah.

David Kestenbaum

The plane looks like he stole it from a museum. It's a World War II plane, built in 1940. Imagine someone wearing goggles and a long scarf flying it, trying to shoot down another pilot. There's a spot on the wings where the machine guns would have been mounted. He let me climb in.

David Kestenbaum

This just got super real.

Jim Record

Oh, it's real. Yeah, this got super real in a hurry.

David Kestenbaum

And where's the button for the smoke?

Jim Record

Right here.

David Kestenbaum

Can I press it?

Jim Record

Sure

[CLICKING]

David Kestenbaum

There's a very small fire extinguisher here.

Jim Record

That fire extinguisher, if you can't put it out with that thing, then you jump out of the airplane.

David Kestenbaum

Jim's a former Navy pilot. He once applied to be an astronaut. Every skywriting job, he and the other pilots, they call it a mission.

From his perspective, the key to a successful marriage proposal is pre-mission planning. Because in order for the message to look right from the ground, he has to write it backward. That's how it looks to him up there. He's looking down, and everyone else is looking up. The order of the letters is backward for him, and the letters themselves are backward.

Jim says he tries not to think about that. It's just too confusing. So he'll break it down into a series of moves that he can just execute.

Jim Record

M's are tough, because there's so much involved in an M. There's actually four different strokes in an M. And then the R's aren't all that easy either, because you do an R, and then you have to come around and go here, and you've got to come up and it comes down here again.

David Kestenbaum

"Marry me." Two M's, two R's. Jim will climb into this tiny plane with me "Marry me" or whatever mapped out on a piece of paper on a clipboard. When he's in the right spot, he makes sure the Arm Smoke switch has been flipped. Then he presses that little button under his thumb on the stick, and streaming out behind him is this giant tube of perfectly white, billowy smoke.

To make sure the letters are the right length, he counts.

Jim Record

Smoke on, thousand one, thousand two, thousand three, thousand four. I start tightening the turn ups. Five, six--

David Kestenbaum

He's describing how he draws a heart here, one side at a the time. He'll start at the top, where the two halves are going to come together, turning, turning, almost in a circle, then straightening out.

Jim Record

15, 16, smoke off.

David Kestenbaum

Since his plane is, in effect, the tip of the pencil, Jim can't actually see how what he's writing looks. So when he's done half the heart, he'll pull back on the stick, and shoot up higher into the sky, to the point where the airplane almost stalls. He says at this point, he's upside down, looking down at the message, which, remember, is backward. Then he'll basically dive bomb back down and do the other half of the heart.

David Kestenbaum

Are there are a lot of tight turns? Would I get sick?

Jim Record

It's all tight turns. Yes, you would get sick. It's not normal. You spend a lot of time upside down and backwards.

David Kestenbaum

Do you ever screw up?

Jim Record

Oh, yes. Unfortunately, I have.

David Kestenbaum

One time-- he knows this is silly. One time, he made a mistake, and then went back to cross it out-- like flew across the whole message and laid down another line of smoke through what he'd written.

Greg Stinis, another sky writer, told me he once mixed up two marriage proposals. He can't remember the names, but it was like, he wrote "Marry me, Sue," and the woman below was named Tabitha, and vice versa.

Another time, he did this happy face over the Macy's Day parade in New York City. It looked great, but then the wind started to twist the face until it looked like a creepy demon. He flew back and forth through it, to try to get it to disperse, but it hung around for a long time.

There are darker emotions people sometimes want to put in the sky. One pilot told me about a woman who thought her boyfriend was cheating on her. She wanted to write "I'm watching you" above his head. And Suzanne Asbury-Oliver, whose company, by the way, is Oliver's Flying Circus, told me about this request she got just last month.

Suzanne Asbury-oliver

Yeah, I got a request, actually they wanted it over the inaugural. And it was "[BLEEP Trump."

David Kestenbaum

She said no. And for all the marriage proposals sky writers get, Jim says there is also this one.

Jim Record

We've done one divorce. And the divorce message was, "She got it all."

David Kestenbaum

That seem sad to you?

Jim Record

No no. I can't say it did, since I've been divorced before. Everybody says the happiest times of a boat owner-- the day they buy it, and the day they sell it. I would think maybe a marriage would be like that-- the day you get married and the day you finally are not married.

David Kestenbaum

Can you imagine the guy looking up and being like, I did it.

Jim Record

It's a defiant stand. It's like, yes, but the last $5,000 you didn't get, because I put it into this message.

David Kestenbaum

One emotion did seem kind of absent in all the stories I heard, for reasons that I totally get, because it's hard enough to do this in letters that aren't a mile high, which is to say "I'm sorry."

Jim's boss, Larry Arken, did remember one like that. It was from years ago, but it stuck with him. The message "Pooh Bear, come home." They wrote it in two or three spots around New York.

He thinks some guy's girlfriend or wife had left him. He doesn't know how it turned out. But I have a guess. I think when you are to the point of writing something like that, with giant letters in the sky, you are probably past the point where giant letters in the sky can help you.

Ira Glass

David Kestenbaum. [MUSIC PLAYING - "SKY WRITING"]

Act Three: It’s Gesture Imagination

Elna Baker

I believed that it was the surest way to show someone you love them or to win love.

Ira Glass

And a grand gesture could be, like, what?

Elna Baker

A declaration of love, like a speech, but in a very public manner. A giant cardboard sign. Showing someone that you especially knew them through a very special gift.

Ira Glass

Elna grew up Mormon. And talking to her about how she loves grand gestures made me think of those kids from Payson High School. Remember them? We started today's program with them. Lots of those kids are Mormon. And the way they ask each other to dances at that school happens all over Utah. And it occurred to me, is there something about being young and Mormon and grand gestures that go together?

And this isn't something you could prove one way or another, but just to say it, you have these kids who are forbidden to drink or have sex. Maybe that's one reason that their feelings for each other play out with these elaborate schemes, right? And that made sense to Elna.

Elna Baker

Yeah. No, I definitely-- once I started having sex, I stopped doing grand gestures. Because I was like, oh, turns out you can just-- [MUMBLING] You know? You could just have sex with someone.

Ira Glass

That made it weird dirtier, the way you just said that.

[CHUCKLING]

Elna Baker

OK.

Ira Glass

OK.

Elna Baker

And I grew up on grand-- like my parents, the way my parents got together was-- I grew up on stories of grand gestures.

Ira Glass

Oh, is that true?

Elna Baker

Yeah.

Ira Glass

Like what?

Elna Baker

My dad and mom dated for about two and a half weeks. And my dad went to the Mormon temple, and he was just praying to see if he should date this woman. And he said that he heard the voices of his future children, like me and my brothers and sisters, and we were like, hurry, go, do it. Like, we want to be born.

Ira Glass

Really?

Elna Baker

Yeah. And he rushed out of the temple, went and found my mom, knocked on her door, brought her outside of her dorm. And in front of the dorm, there was a rock, like a big rock. And he made her stand on top of the rock. And then he knelt down and said, "Will you marry me?" And she said yes.

They'd been dating for two and a half weeks. They've known each other for four weeks. And my parents actually are very in love, and very happily married. And so I believed that love was like hearing a voice that basically told you this was right. And then you would do anything for that voice.

Ira Glass

And that's the attitude towards love Elna carried into adulthood. When she would talk to our friends about their romantic lives and situations, at some point, Elna would tell them, OK, here's what you have to do. You have to go big. And she'd give advice that, today, she thinks was totally wrong headed. Up until her 20s, she had no experience in love, had never had a real adult relationship, was completely naive about all of it.

But she still cheerfully jumped in with her advice. She encouraged her friend Nick to move to New York City to prove his love for a woman who had broken up with him and did not want his love. She convinced your friend Allie to give a guy that she'd just started seeing this giant birthday crown, homemade with fur and feathers and a star with his picture that kind of jumped off the crown. He never went out with Allie again.

When Elna's friend Louise regretted breaking up with her boyfriend, Gabe, and decided she wanted Gabe back, Elna suggested a gift. She remembered that a couple months before they had found this vintage 1970s-era McDonald's uniform in his exact size. And he'd had all these stories of working at McDonald's in high school. So Louise bought this thing for him, to give as a present on Halloween, but never gave it to him.

Elna Baker

So he got it from the closet, and I was like, what you have to do is go over to his apartment and leave it at his door. He'll get it. He'll know that you get him, and you love him.

Ira Glass

Now, when you suggested this to her, what was her attitude about it?

Elna Baker

That's a terrible idea. She was very, very resistant. But then this thing happens when you're with me, apparently, where I just got her all spun up into the idea.

Ira Glass

Your air of confidence drew her in.

Elna Baker

Totally. It's like I put her in a box and shook the box, and then-- or when a kid is going to play pinata, and you turn them around and then push them in the direction--

Ira Glass

Of the pinata. That's what you did to her.

Elna Baker

That's what I did to her, where she eventually just started getting excited about the gesture itself.

Ira Glass

Which is key. It became about the bold thing that they were doing, versus how Gabe would feel. And it worked out about as well as you would expect. Louise left the box with the gift for Gabe, with no note-- just left it in his building.

Elna Baker

And so they met up and had this huge blow out fight, where she was like, how come you didn't thank me for the gift? And he was just like, you totally broke my heart. You crushed me. And it actually is offensive that you think that this gift could just instantly make up for all of that.

Ira Glass

Were you surprised?

Elna Baker

Shocked. I was waiting like a puppy at the door for her to come in and tell me, thank me.

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Elna Baker

And she walked in, and she was crying, and totally devastated, heartbroken.

Ira Glass

Elna didn't just organize these kinds of schemes for other people. She did them herself. Like, one time, she was taking tickets as a page for The Letterman Show and met this random guy.

Elna Baker

He was in line to see the show, and we talked very briefly. And I thought I heard a voice that said, "This is who you are meant to be with."

Ira Glass

She knew, of course, from her parents to trust that voice. So she gave this guy her number and dated him for a month and a half, and it went nowhere. Then, two years later, still hung up on this guy, who'd moved to Zambia, she wrote him an email.

Elna Baker

Which I have here. Do you want me to read the email I wrote?

Ira Glass

Totally.

Elna Baker

All right. "I don't know if you're still in Zambia, but my girlfriends and I are going to South Africa in the spring to visit some family friends of mine. I'm not sure how far Zambia is from South Africa, but if it's close, I'd love to come up and say hi. It'd be fun to see you. It's been a while. I hope you're well. X, Elna."

But OK, I did not have a trip to Africa planned.

Ira Glass

Do you have some sort of friends in South Africa?

Elna Baker

No, made that up entirely.

Ira Glass

And then "I don't know if Zambia is near South Africa." Did you actually look on a map?

Elna Baker

Yeah.

Ira Glass

Yeah, OK.

Elna Baker

But that's why I chose South Africa.

Ira Glass

She roped two girlfriends into this trip, spent all her money, thousands of dollars on plane tickets. They stayed at this guy's little studio apartment, and on the very first night of a 10 day visit, she snuck over to his sleeping bag, woke him up, and tried to kiss him.

Elna Baker

And he said, I think this is a bad idea.

Ira Glass

And so what were the next nine days like?

Elna Baker

Really uncomfortable. Yeah.

Ira Glass

And then there was the time that Elna tried to drag her friend Heather into pursuing a guy with one of these capers. Heather was one of the friends that Elna took on that trip to Africa. She was a page at The Letterman Show. And Elna would sometimes ask her--

Elna Baker

Who do you like? Or tell me about your relationships. And she was always really vague about it. And she would just say that she'd been in love before, but it just hadn't worked out.

And so I kept fishing for details. Eventually, after a few months, I got out that they were college sweethearts. They'd been together about five years. And it just hadn't worked out.

And so I kept trying to strategize. I was like, OK, well, we gotta-- if you still love him, we're going to make this work out. What can we do to show him how you feel?

Ira Glass

What did you suggest that she might do?

Elna Baker

Well, I asked well, when are you planning a trip home? Can you see him? No, I can't see him. Well, why not?

And then after, maybe six, seven months of this, one day she said, "Look, I feel really bad for not having told you this, but the reason it didn't work out is that he died in a forest fire." And yeah, and they were planning on getting married. He was her whole life, her whole future. She imagined having kids with him.

Although I will say in retrospect, I was like a goldfish. I blinked my eyes, and I was like, well? Like, I took the information, and I was like, well, have you liked anyone since?

[CHUCKLING]

Ira Glass

Very sensitive.

Elna Baker

Yeah, I asked her if, in the time since-- which I think had been about two years.

Ira Glass

And the answer was yes, one guy. It was before she moved to New York. She was working at a little puddle jumper airport in Idaho, and was checking in this guy for a flight. And they started talking, had this really nice talk for 45 minutes.

Elna Baker

When he was on the airplane, she looked up the roster, found his name, and found that in a week, he was going be flying back through the same airport. So she changed her schedule, made sure she was working at that time, got all dressed up, waited a whole day. He didn't fly through. That was it.

And so she finishes the story, and I was like, this is the worst story I've ever heard. That was it?

Ira Glass

This is the most tragic. Right, because it seemed like true love to you?

Elna Baker

Oh, yeah.

Ira Glass

Because, just to review, you hadn't been in love yourself yet?

Elna Baker

Yeah, but I'd been in love at a glance.

[CHUCKLING]

Ira Glass

That's as far as you had gone.

Elna Baker

Yeah, and it feels-- ah.

Ira Glass

And then Heather admitted she'd googled the guy, found that he worked at a river guiding company. He was in a picture on their website. And every now and then, she would look at the picture. And Elna, of course, was like, great. You know his name. You know where he works. Time to act. Heather responded in the way I think most rational people would.

Elna Baker

She was like, this dude does not remember me. Like, I'm sure this dude doesn't remember me. It had been like a year and a half since they'd spoken once for 45 minutes. And I was like, well, you never know unless you try. And so I kept at her for, I think, like four months or so, I just kept being like, just write the letter, write the letter.

Ira Glass

Then one day, Heather was visiting Elna's apartment, and Elna pulled out a box of fancy stationery.

Elna Baker

And I was like, OK, I know we're not going to send this letter, but if we did send it, what would we say? And so I gave her--

Ira Glass

So sly.

[CHUCKLING]

And did she see through your clever stratagem?

Elna Baker

Well, she played along.

Ira Glass

Then Heather was like, how do you get over the problem that I'm writing a letter to this guy a year and a half after we met each other totally out of the blue? Well, here's the letter Elna wrote.

Elna Baker

"Hey, um, you probably don't remember me. We met at the airport. And I made a misstep, missed the opportunity to connect with you then, and it just so happened a year and a half later my younger brother is thinking of being a river guide. And we were looking on sites of river guides, and I came across this picture. And I was like, wait, how do I know that guy?

Well, I saw him at an airport a year and a half ago. And I thought, wow. I missed that chance then. Let me write him a letter now. So I just wanted to say hello, and you know, here's my email if you ever want to connect."

The part that was a lie was her brother wasn't interested in being a river guide.

Ira Glass

Also, of course, the whole rest of it, stumbling across this picture accidentally, the whole thing. Over the next few months, they drafted and redrafted this letter. And it was like a game. They would show it to people. They would get edits and suggestions.

Then one day, Heather calls Elna and tells her she sent the letter. And really, for the first time, Elna realized, oh wait, maybe this is a bad idea.

Elna Baker

I don't know. It hit me in that moment that sending the letter would mean that Heather was going to get hurt. And I felt really nervous.

Ira Glass

Yeah. Because every other time you've tried this, it's failed.

Elna Baker

Exactly.

Ira Glass

And suddenly you realize, oh, she's going to be hurt, and she was feeling OK, and now I got her hopes up.

Elna Baker

Yep.

Ira Glass

And she's going to feel bad, and it's my fault.

Elna Baker

Exactly. Yeah, but then at the same time, I also felt proud of her. Because this was the first-- I felt like she put her heart out again. I guess the consolation in that moment was, this probably isn't going to work out, but she showed the universe, or whatever, that she's willing to try again.

Ira Glass

Well, she showed herself that she's willing to try again after all the sadness that she'd had with her boyfriend. So does she end up getting a boyfriend after that?

Elna Baker

Well, so two weeks later the guy who got the letter wrote back.

Ira Glass

Mhm.

Elna Baker

And it was actually pretty short and friendly. He remembered meeting her, and she left an impression on him too. And they started dating. And they dated for seven years, and now they're married.

Ira Glass

What?

Elna Baker

Mhm.

Ira Glass

Wait, that's the end of the story?

Elna Baker

Yeah, they actually got together.

Ira Glass

What?

Elna Baker

I know. I gave a toast at their wedding, where I told this story of writing the letter. It's kind of the most magical thing that I've ever helped facilitate.

Ira Glass

OK, so that worked with her. Do you think these kinds of things are a good idea?

Elna Baker

Grand gestures?

Ira Glass

Yeah.

Elna Baker

No, not anymore. And actually, I think it worked--

Ira Glass

Wait, wait, I'm confused now. Why are they a bad idea?

Elna Baker

It seems false. It's not really how you show someone you love them in the way I thought it was. I feel like it has more to do with you than the other person.

Ira Glass

She actually hasn't done this stuff now in almost a decade, doesn't miss it. And when she looks back on it, she thinks she was doing those big gestures because she was so unsure of herself.

Elna Baker

I was afraid that they wouldn't like me, if I just was like, hey, I'm interested in you. This is who I am. I thought maybe you like construction paper, and giant signs, and hot glue gun art.

Ira Glass

Uh-huh.

Elna Baker

And if I'd show you all of that and I'm standing behind it, then if I'm not enough, at least you'll like that, and you'll say yes.

Ira Glass

It's scary being real with another person. And there are so many ways to avoid it. This is just a particularly splashy one.

Our program was produced today by Miki Meek. Other staff, Susan Burton, Zoe Chace, Dana Chivvis, Sean Cole, Neil Drumming, Karen Duffin, Stephanie Foo, Chana Joffe-Walt, David Kestenbaum, Seth Lind, Jonathan Menjivar, Robyn Semien, Matt Tierney, Nancy Updike, and Diane Wu. Research help today from Christopher Swetala and Michelle Harris. Music help from Damien Graf.

Students Ivan Webber, Ezri Staheli, and Max Bennion helped with reporting at Payson High School. Thanks to them. Special thanks today to Jesse Sorenson, Clint Peery, Kurt Braunohler, Lauren Cook, Robin Moore, Enrique Lamadrid, Key West Ghost & Mysteries Tour, Clinton Curry at Ghosts & Gravestones, the Diaz-Ayala Collection at Florida International University, and Heather Wright.

Our website-- thisamericanlife.org. This American Life is delivered to public radio stations by PRX, the Public Radio Exchange. Thanks as always to our program's co-founder, Mr. Torey Malatia, who has been wiretapping former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn's telephone for months now, and finally today is releasing the audio to the public. We have a clip.

[SPEAKING GIBBERISH]

Michael Flynn

Just shout random words.

[SPEAKING GIBBERISH]

Ira Glass

I'm Ira Glass, back next week with more stories of This American Life.

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