Fool Me Once: TMSIDK Episode 6

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Stephen Dubner prompts a contestant to explain his IDK. (Photo: Lucy Sutton)

During the Second World War, the U.S. Army recruited artists and art students to join a top-secret unit, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. The unit had a very specific — and unusual — mission: to create illusions that would distract the Germans from where the Allies were preparing to invade.

In one instance, the unit positioned hundreds of inflatable dummy tanks as if the U.S. were amassing a huge force, while giant speakers played recordings of rumbling tanks and soldiers building bridges. With these carefully planned deceptions, 1,100 men seemed like a battalion of 30,000. The group became known as the Ghost Army and its members included Ellsworth Kelly and Bill Blass, before they went on to their illustrious careers as an artist and fashion designer, respectively.

This week’s contestants try to fool the panelists with missing hands, missing bodies, missing scientific evidence. This week’s contestants try to fool the panelists: Hannibal Buress, comedian and host of Handsome RamblerAnnie Duke, professional poker player and decision-making expert; and Father James Martin, S.J., Jesuit priest and best-selling author.

Our “Real-Time Human Fact-Checker” is Sean Rameswaram, who produces podcasts for WNYC Studios, including Radiolab’s Supreme Court spinoff, More Perfect.