Secret Keeping

Nearly three decades ago, Psychologist James Pennebaker discovered a shocking correlation between secrets and health outcomes – that people who kept more secrets were dealing with more health issues. Today, secrets are generally considered bad. But in today’s episode, we’re going to discuss creative secret keepers. These people use secrets to form relationships, to explore worlds they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access, even to build new lives for themselves until – well – the secret’s out. Today we’ll explore what opportunities open up when someone keeps a secret, and what happens when that secret is revealed.


Host: Chelsea Davis

Producers: Rosie La Puma, Eileen Williams, Will Rogers, Claire Schoen, and Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: James Pennebaker, Jackie Chan and Justin Krasner-Karpen. Thanks also to Preet Kaur, Natacha Ruck, Joshua Hoyt, Tess McCarthy, Alexander Muscat, Lilly Gill, Shara Tonn, Dustin Dienhart, Christy Hartman, Jake Warga.

Music used during transitions: Podington Bear, Revolution Void

Image via Flickr

Release Date: 21 October 2015


Intro Story: Unhealthy Secrets

Decades ago, James Pennebaker found that adults’ health problems are correlated with sexual trauma in early childhood. This wasn’t a surprise: everybody knows it’s not a good thing to be traumatized as a child. What surprised Pennebaker, though, in the health outcomes he saw, was how long people had kept these experiences secret, and what happened when they found ways to open up.

Producers: Preet Kaur, Natacha Ruck, and Will Rogers

Featuring: James Pennebaker

Music: Chris Zabriskie

Image via Flickr


Story 1: Call in the Night

Anonymity is a dangerous thing. Studies of online comment sections have confirmed what we all know: people are meaner when they are anonymous. One study even found that just wearing dark sunglasses resulted in people behaving less generously. But sometimes anonymity can foster intimacy rather than boorishness. Two Stanford students signed up for an experiment in talking to strangers. They were paired to receive a middle of the night phone call. What happened on the call was up to them. The call shows how keeping one’s identity secret makes it easier to share other secrets, and secrets, after all, are the currency of intimacy.

Producer: Joshua Hoyt

Music: Bensound (Jazz Comedy), The Suger Puckin Ganstarers (Cozad), Revolution Void (Scattered Knowledge)

Image via Flickr

Link: Documentary Theatre performance about the same story, written and directed by Xandra Clark


Story 2: Rescinded

Ashley Hart endured a rough childhood with an abusive mother after her father died. A tough upbringing turned into a dark nightmare when a judge found her guilty of manslaughter in the case of her mother’s death. As a minor, Ashley had the right to keep her name unconnected from the incident. No secret is truly safe though, and her fight to turn her life around is haunted by the secret of her past.

Producers: Tess McCarthy and Eileen Williams, original by Tess McCarthy, Lilly Gill and Alexander Muscat

Featuring: Tess McCarthy

Music: Kevin Macleod (Colorless Aura, Pepper’s Theme, Water Lily)

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Story 3: Frankly Emma

Since the day she was born in 1841, Emma Edmonds has felt betrayed by her gender. Inspired by a cross-dressing heroine in a novel, Emma decides to leave behind everything she’s ever known at the age of 17 and take on a new secret identity. Adventure with us through her amazing true life story – complete with pirates, romance, battles and spies – while Emma tries to determine exactly what it means to be herself.

Producers: Rosie La Puma and Shara Tonn

Featuring: Eileen Williams and Justin Krasner-Karpen

Sounds: Jury Duty (“Howling Wind”), Rosie La Puma (Birds at Munger), Mike Koenig (“Sniper Fire Reload”), TheMSsoundeffects (“Warfare sound effect 9 – Civil war battle – close”), The Best Thing Since Twinkies (“Record Scratch”), (“Peeper Frogs Near Lake”) Music: Chris Zabriske (Cylinder Two, Is That You or Are You You), Jason Shaw (Running Waters, Back to the Woods, Hoedown), Podington Bear (PrettyBuild, Climbing the Mountain, Hearts Affluter), Gillicuddy (Adventure Darling), Rosie La Puma & Deborah Wicks La Puma (“Military March”)

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Research References: The Mysterious Private Thompson: The Double Life of Sarah Emma Edmonds, Civil War Soldier by Laura Gansler and Memoirs of a Soldier, Nurse, and Spy: A Woman’s Adventures in the Union Army by S. Emma E. Edmonds

Additional Notes and Fun Facts:

You may have noticed in the story that Emma’s last name changes from beginning to end. Emma was born Sarah Emma Edmondson, but after she left the army, took on the name Emma Edmonds.

Like any biography, this portrait of Emma is far from complete. Interested in learning, for example, why Emma was labeled a deserter and denied a pension? Check out Emma’s page on


Story 4: A Change of Heart

A star student attributes his high school success to a friend who inspired him to change his entire life. The catch? He’s kept it a secret from her the entire time.

Producers: Chelsea Davis

Featuring: Jackie Chan

Music: Podington Bear (The Window, Kid Is Frangin Tight, Kingbeat 9, Tribe, Old Skin, Odyssey, Hearts Aflutter)

Image via Flickr


We’ve come to think of healing in mechanical terms, as repairing something broken, like fixing a flat tire. But for most of human history healing has meant more than repairing the body. Healing has meant restoring a sense of wholeness to a person—or even a relationship or community. In today’s show we’ll hear two stories that explore this older sense of healing. First, a Bay Area woman diagnosed with breast cancer finds healing through a complementary medicine modality at Stanford Hospital called Healing Touch. Second, a Stanford student living with an incurable disease finds healing in an encounter with the ocean and one of its creatures. How do we heal when our bodies are irrevocably changed?


Host: Preet Kaur

Producers: Bonnie Swift, Christy Hartman, Taylor Shoolery, Preet Kaur, Alka Nath, Will Rogers, Julie Morrison, Mallory Smith, Natacha Ruck, Claire Schoen, Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Preet Kaur, Carolyn Helmke, Catherine Palter, Melissa Anderson, Rosa Fuerte, Marilyn Getas-Byrne, Anne Proctor, Laura Pexton, Margot Baker, David Wolf, Maggie Burgett, Maria Cacho, Katie Talamantez, Elizabeth Helms, Diane Wardell, Sue Kegal, Jim Batterson, Margaret Schink, and Mallory Smith

Release Date: 22 April 2015

Image via The Archeological Museum of Piraeus


Story 1: It Slows Way Down

When two of Carolyn Helmke’s friends got cancer, she knew she had to get a mammogram. We follow Carolyn’s journey through cancer treatment and her experience of Healing Touch at Stanford Hospital’s Center for Cancer Supportive Care Services. How does Carolyn find healing, not just from cancer, but from the trauma of fighting it?

Producers: Christy Hartman, Bonnie Swift, Taylor Shoolery, Preet Kaur, Alka Nath, Will Rogers, Julie Morrison, Claire Schoen, Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Carolyn Helmke, Catherine Palter, Melissa Anderson, Rosa Fuerte, Marilyn Getas-Bryne, Anne Proctor, Laura Pexton, Margot Baker, David Wolf, Maggie Burgett, Maria Cacho, Katie Talamantez, Elizabeth Helms, Diane Wardell, Sue Kegal, Jim Batterson, Margaret Schink

Special Thanks: Nina Weil, Nina Foushee, Josh Hoyt, Rachel Hamburg, Mallory Smith, Natacha Ruck, Eileen Williams, Rosie La Puma

Original Music: Man of Suit

image via flickr


Story 2: Salted Wounds

Mallory Smith was born with cystic fibrosis, an incurable disease with a median life expectancy in the late 30’s. The most serious complication of the disease is a vicious cycle of chronic infection, inflammation and scarring in the lungs that often leads to respiratory failure. As Mallory battles her illness through college, she comes to realize that, metaphorically speaking, the planet is diseased too. But nature speaks out through its own set of symptoms, unsettling signs that grow louder and clearer by the year.

Producer: Mallory Smith

Music: The Album Leaf (Blank Pages, A Day in the Life, Perro, Summer Fog, Shine), The American Dollar (Anything You Synthesize), This Will Destroy You (I Believe in Your Victory), Maneli Jamal (Us Against Them), Antoine Dufour & Tommy Gauthier (Solitude), and Josh Woodward (Together on Our Own)

Image via One Love

An earlier version of this piece aired on Green Grid Radio


In this show, we are talking about a very special kind of belief—belief in something. Often considered a defining human characteristic, like language, belief shapes our lives. We put our confidence in something that is unseen; we understand the world in terms of a bigger, unknowable framework. This ability may not be unique to humans, but it does appear to be a very special talent. Today, we want to find out what this specific type of believing means for our lives. How are we changed by belief? What does it do to us? Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically: what can believing do?

Host: Eileen Williams

Producers: Eileen Williams, Rosie La Puma, Will Rogers, Claire Schoen, and Jonah Willihnganz

Featuring: Beth Duff-Brown, Krista Tippett, and Carol Dweck. Thanks also to Lora Kelley, Louis Lafair, Sonia Gonzalez, Natacha Ruck, Madeleine Chang, and Lisa Hicks.

Music used during transitions: Broke for Free (XXV, A Beautiful Life)

Image via wikimedia


Intro Story: The Secret to Survive

Viktor Frankl lived through one of the worst atrocities ever perpetrated by mankind. He survived when most did not. How and why was he able to persist? What made him special? As a psychologist and psychiatrist, Frankl himself has written on the subject extensively–according to him, he lived because he believed.

Producer: Eileen Williams

Music: Podington Bear (Minor Stretch)

Image via wikimedia


Story 1: A Journey of Belief

As a reporter, Beth Duff-Brown learned to rely on verifiable facts and scientific data to make sense of the world. She’s traveled through war-torn Africa and contracted Malaria. She’s written many important and well-received articles. But despite her academic success and accomplished career, she always felt that something was missing. This all began to change in a tiny village called Camponde. It was there she began to open her heart to belief, and the results were astounding.

Producer: Lora Kelley

Featuring: Beth Duff-Brown, Caitlin Duff-Brown

Music: “Muad’dib” by Greater Than or Equal To, “Nostalgia of an ex-gangsta-rapper” by Deef, “Village Party” recorded by Beth Duff-Brown, “Long White Cloud” by Krakatoa

Image courtesy of Beth Duff-Brown


Story 2: On Krista

In this story, we hear from a woman whose career has been largely dedicated to belief. As Krista Tippett tells her story, she explains what she learned growing up–and how her belief system has evolved. This is a story about how beliefs can change, and how this change can profoundly impact the way we live. In Krista’s case, it allowed her to form personal connections to help her through hard times.

Producer: Eileen Williams

Featuring: Krista Tippett

Music: Podington Bear (Blue, Dramamine, Gentle Chase, Solidarity, Sry, Dark Matter, Light in Branches), Timbre (Hammerklavier Gospel)

Image via flickr


Story 3: Belief vs. Action

Are humans driven by our need to believe or our need to act? Producers Maddie Chang and Rosie La Puma battle their way to a better understanding. Along the way, they explore the forces that motivate their own lives and share stories that bridge the gap between belief and action.

Producers: Maddie Chang and Rosie La Puma

Special Thanks: Lisa Hicks

Image via wikimedia


Story 4: Malleable Mindsets

In sixth grade, Carol Dweck’s teacher arranged her classroom according to IQ. The teacher believed that everyone is born with a set number of capabilities. But are we? Or do we develop through hard work and perseverance? Carol Dweck has spent her life exploring what she has termed “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset”: how our belief in potential affects our potential.

Producers: Louis Lafair, Sonia Gonzalez, and Natacha Ruck

Featuring: Carol Dweck

Music: Podington Bear (Button Mushrooms, Deep Pools, The Window, Orange Juicer, By Grace)

Image via flickr


Story 5: Finding a New Rapture

As a teenager, Will stopped believing in the rapture, the idea that Jesus could come back at any moment. In the absence of this belief, doom and gloom set in, and Will moved to an ecovillage in the mountains to reconcile his life with this new worldview. It was there that he encountered a new belief, something very different from and very similar to his belief in the rapture, and it’s this belief that he carries with him today. This story was told at a gathering of friends.

Storyteller: Will Rogers

Editor: Eileen Williams

Links: True Story Podcast

Image via wikimedia