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TL;DL (Too Long; Didn’t Listen):
A Redditor named ‘batbrat’ has been quietly solving mysteries for years — identifying everything from a Victorian mourning ring from the 1800s to a single bone of a deer — and others have started to take notice. "Who are you?," one Redditor asked. In today's Snacktime, we find out...
Thanks to Redditor u/50akaFerrari for this week's episode art, "Bat." You can find more of his work on instagram @Waynelaffitte.
This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text.
Amory Sivertson: I hear that golden bag sound.
Ben Brock Johnson: How about this sound? Anything?
Amory: Uh no.
Ben: Crunchy chickpeas.
Amory: Oh crunchy chickpeas. Alright, I have a snack.
Ben: Alright. Hit me.
Amory: It’s very quiet.
Ben: Raisins? Prunes?
Amory: It's a yucca fry. Or a yucca fry, depending on how you pronounce it. But it's from last night, so it's cold.
Ben: Last night's cold mushy yucca fry.
Amory: Which is why it doesn't make a sound, sneaky fry.
Ben: So yes it is Snacktime time, the version of the show where we eat some snacks and talk about interesting Reddit ephemera in-between our more heavily produced episodes.
Amory: OK. Today's Snacktime is a bit different. We're going to talk about someone who embodies the true Reddit heroism of just jumping into threads, answering peoples' questions, and then disappearing like a magic genie.
Ben: And this magic genie's user name is batbrat. Amory, how did we find out about her? A listener told us right?
Amory: Yeah. We got an email from a good samaritan named Nick Velarde.
Ben: Nick, love ya.
Amory: What a guy. And Nick pointed us to this thread that involved a Victorian mourning ring. Someone found a ring, a golden black ring, and posted it to, “What Is This Thing?”
Ben: Mm hmm.
Amory: And this user, batbrat, jumps in and says, “Oh that is a Victorian mourning ring. I believe it was produced during this time and here's what it means and blah blah blah.”
Ben: I didn't even know these things existed, obviously.
Amory: No, no. Only this user batbrat did. But Nick pointed us to a comment on that post from a user that goes by Ffffunk or there for f’s before funk. And this user said, “Dude in the last 24 hours you correctly identified a dog's breed, a cat's breed, a single deer bone, a very specific men's suit, this Victorian mourning ring, and gave well-founded advice on drawing tablets. Don't get me wrong, I'm very impressed but who are you?”
Ben: Who are you?
Amory: Exactly. So Nick sends this email and is like we got to know: who is batbrat?
Ben: Nick, good news. We now know. And without further ado, an interview about bits and bobs and solving mysteries with batbrat.
Batbrat: Well my name's Michelle and I'm from Erie Colorado. And my Reddit username is batbrat.
Amory: So we found out about you from another Redditor who noticed that you were solving a lot of little mysteries online. And they pointed us to this one Reddit comment in particular by the user. Ffffunk or something like that, and Funk says “Dude don't get me wrong, I'm very impressed. But who are you?”
Ben: So can you answer that for us?
Michelle: Just an average person.
Ben: It seems like it seems like most people think you're above average.
Michelle: Well, I do have probably an above average interest in certain things. I, of course like antiques and collectibles. And I watch a lot of Antiques Roadshow, so I know a little bit about a lot of different things that are collectible or antique, so I’m able to help there. And I obsessively watch old films so I can, you know, identify an era or a style by a certain date, look, that sort of thing.
Ben: What do you like about Antiques Roadshow?
Michelle: A lot of these people go through their everyday lives and they're around everyday objects or objects they're familiar with and they have just no idea what they are. No clue of their value or their history or anything like that. And that really fascinates me, that you can just be you know, sitting right next to something and never know it was something fascinating or important or valuable.
Ben: When that like, treasure sound happens on Antiques Roadshow. It's kind of like a treasure sound right? Do you have a Pavlovian response?
Michelle: It gets my attention. I certainly turn and look to make sure I'm seeing the numbers and everything. But yeah, I definitely notice it.
Ben: It’s like brrrring!
Amory: I loved, especially on that Victorian mourning ring when you figured that one out, there was like a whole string of comments from other Redditors theorizing about who you were and how you know this stuff.
Michelle: Yeah that was entertaining. People did speculate that I worked for Antiques Roadshow and they made comments about what type of work that I did based on identifying bones.
Amory: Let's talk about that for a minute. Identifying animal bones which, I've noticed you are quite good at. Where does that come from?
Michelle: Well, that comes from my artwork. I illustrate mostly animals. I do pet portraits and I do horse and dog illustrations from my previous jobs, veterinary stuff.
Ben: But you're not a witch, you're not a witch, right?
Michelle: No, no not a witch.
Ben: Okay okay.
Michelle: Although I probably know a few.
Ben: Some of my best friends witches!
Amory: The witches are down the street. Okay, but illustrating pets is one thing, but you know their bones.
Michelle: Yeah I did extensively study animal anatomy.
Amory: I'd love to know, kind of how you think about a mystery, when you see a new one pop up on Reddit, where do you begin?
Michelle: Yeah, I think it starts with just me being curious myself. I think I typically look at the style or the material that something is made of and can kind of guess a window of what time period it's from. So I can narrow a search down that way or you know that sort of thing. But there is one item that I personally own that I can't find anything else about and I’ll look for that forever.
Amory: What is that?
Michelle: And it's really not, it's not even that interesting it's a piece of pottery and it's art deco and it's a little, it appears to be maybe an ashtray or something along those lines. And it's in the shape of a horse, and the glaze on it, it was only made by a few different pottery companies so I figure it's probably one of those companies. But I can't find anything about it online. I can't find any evidence of it online anywhere. I've never seen another one except in a movie, a Shirley Temple movie about five or six years ago. I saw it sitting on a table. And I know it's not a one-off because it's a molded pattern, but I have no idea what it is, or where it came from, or who made it. And I know there's more out there. I just, I just can't find them.
Amory: I'm getting that stirring inside that I get when I get a new thing.
Ben: Amory is like, send us the picture, we’ll do it!
Amory: I do, I want to solve this! I get this little like stirring in my soul that says I need to know, and I mean is that what drives you to do this?
Michelle: Yes, yes that's exactly. You just nailed it. You just nailed it. You get a feeling that you know this is something that we need to find out, get to the bottom of as my dad used to say.
Amory: Oh, so this is this is a genetic urge for you huh?
Michelle: Probably. I just always kind of remember him knowing everything. He just was one of those people that my memory of him is that he just always had to always had the answer.
Amory: There was a miniature painting that that someone posted that I know was a story that, maybe was a little less obvious at first. Can you tell us about that?
Michelle: Well this was a website called collector weekly and this was one that I frequented before I was spending more time on Reddit, subreddits and stuff. And collectors weekly, people post something that they've recently purchased or found or whatever. And a woman had posted a photograph of a miniature portrait that she had, and I can't recall where she got it. And it was a tiny oil on ivory portrait painting. And I just was very drawn to that painting because the girl just looked, it was just very compelling, the girl was real pretty and nobody knew who it was and it had been signed on the back and dated. And so I spent you know, a good deal of time, I think probably several days or maybe even a week or so, and I didn't know much about portraits at the time, but what I found out when I was looking, was that people would have their portrait painted, a miniature portrait painted and they would give them to their friends. Kind of like how we gave wallet photos as children to our friends. Probably nobody does that anymore but, you would have one portrait done and then you'd have several copies made and then pass them out to all your friends and so forth. So I thought well there's a chance there's another one like this out there somewhere and eventually, sure enough, I found one and it turned out to be a portrait of Queen Victoria's sister in law. And so I was able to solve that one in and it was it that one was a lot of fun.
Ben: I feel like just talking to you, Michelle, is like we're doing that reveal on the Antiques Roadshow. We should make that sound because we're like talking to you! We get to talk to you you are the reveal, the person who's solved all these mysteries.
Michelle: I don't think I can. There you go.
Ben: Thank you so much for your time and for talking to us and also for your your nerd-ery which clearly makes many people happy.
Michelle: You're welcome. This has been fun. I've enjoyed talking to you both.
Amory: OK. That's it for now. Shout out again to Nick Velarde for suggesting we get in touch with batbrat a.k.a. Michelle. She's going to have a guest appearance in our next episodes by the way, we'll be showcasing one of her other talents. We'll be back next week. Stay frosty.
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