The Unbelievable Truth. David Mitchell. Copyright: BBC / Random Entertainment
The Unbelievable Truth

The Unbelievable Truth

  • Radio panel show
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2006 - 2021
  • 159 episodes (26 series)

David Mitchell hosts this Radio 4 panel game built on truth and lies. Contestants must try and smuggle truths into lie-filled speeches.

Episode menu

Series 20, Episode 1

John Finnemore, Henning Wehn, Lou Sanders and Graeme Garden are the panellists obliged to talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as police, submarines, books and spiders, alongside host David Mitchell.

Further details

The Truths

John Finnemore - The Police

- Gambling dens once employed someone whose only job it was to swallow the dice in the event of a police raid. In America, this practice resulted in the expression: "No dice." Found by Graeme.

- The Japanese police carry large futons to roll up drunks in. The way the police deal with a drunk or violent person is to deescalate the situation, which they do by rolling up the offender in the futon, like a human burrito, and then carry them to the police station to calm down. Found by Graeme.

- Horses can be borrowed from the Metropolitan Police. The most famous example of this was when former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks borrowed one for two years. Successfully smuggled.

- In 2013, the Maldives Police Department detained a coconut on suspicion of vote rigging. According to The Guardian: "The coconut, described as, 'young', was found near a school that will be used as a polling station. A magician, summoned by police, established that the coconut was innocent, local officials have said." Successfully smuggled.

- Riot police were deployed when the first ballpoint pen was released in the United States. At Gimbels Department Store in 1945, the Reynolds Rocket sold for $12.50 each, around $166 today. Despite the expense, the store was stormed by around 5,000 shoppers, and riot police had to be sent to control the crowds. Successfully smuggled.

Henning Wehn - Submarines

- French nuclear submarines have officers rooms decorated with panelled wood and have a fish tank in them. British nuclear submarines meanwhile have officers rooms covered in Formica because it's less of a fire risk. Found by John.

- Russian submarines have saunas and plunge pools in their officers rooms. They have the longest submarines in the world, and one even had a zoo. However, birds did not cope well with being submerged. Found by Lou.

- The best naval battle from a German point of view was the Battle of May Island of 1918, where two British submarines sank each other and three were badly damaged, without the Germans even being there. Five collisions occurred between eight vessels that confused each other for the enemy. Two subs sank, three subs and a light cruiser were damaged, 104 men died, and no enemy forces were there. Found by John.

- The German submarine U-118 was still killing Britons after it was beached in Hastings. When the submarine washed up on the beach in 1919 thousands turned up to see it. The Admiralty allowed the town clerk to charge a fee to allow visitors to climb on the deck. Two members of the coastguard were tasked with showing important visitors inside the submarine, but both men fell ill and died from chlorine gas poisoning caused by the submarine's batteries. Found by John.

- The first submarine was built in 1620, was propelled by six oars and was waterproofed using greased leather. It was built by Cornelis Drebbel and it could stay underwater for 3 hours at a depth of 15 feet in the Thames. Successfully smuggled.

Lou Sanders - Books

- Books have been bound by human skin. This is known as "anthropodermic bibliopegy" and was popular in the 19th century. Found by both John and Graeme.

- George W. Bush said that his favourite childhood book was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but it was not released until he was 23. In 1999, Pizza Hut canvassed America's 50 governors for the titles of their favourite childhood's books. Bush offered more titles than any other governor. note]Found by Graeme.[/note]

- Essex has more books clubs than anywhere else in the UK. Essex libraries climb to support over 700 clubs, resulting in one book club for every 2,500 people. Found by John.

- During the 18th century, books that were considered bad were sometimes whipped. These books were often later burned. This was most common in puritan communities in New England. Successfully smuggled.

- There is a book called The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories. One Amazon review reads: "Not as arousing as the title would have you believe. Plus it is no larger than a regular sized book of lesbian horse stories." Successfully smuggled.

Graeme Garden - Spiders

- In Kentucky, a folk remedy for constipation is to eat spiders "in handfuls" on bread-and-butter. Found by Henning.

- Spiders can pluck the strings of their webs to tune them. As most spiders have poor sight, they use sound to help navigate around. Found by Lou.

- Spiders evolved 100 million years before flies. Successfully smuggled.

- The male scorpion fly has no fear of predators as he can swat away spiders with his penis. Successfully smuggled.

- UK house spiders include the pink prowler. It is one of the few spiders that are exclusive to houses. Successfully smuggled.


- John Finnemore: 5 points
- Graeme Garden: 3 points
- Lou Sanders: -5 points
- Henning Wehn: -11 points

Broadcast details

Monday 2nd April 2018
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 8th April 2018 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 9th April 2018 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 9th April 2018 5:30pm Radio 4 Extra
Monday 9th April 2018 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Tuesday 10th April 2018 5:30am Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Graeme Garden Guest
Henning Wehn Guest
John Finnemore Guest
Lou Sanders Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Richard Turner Producer

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