19 Aug: The Whole Truth

Court witnesses have promised to tell ‘the whole truth’ since the 13th century; but, on 19th August, 1992, the U.S. Appeals Court permitted Wallace Ward to stand trial under his own oath – pledging not ‘truth’, but ‘fully integrated honesty’.

Ward, the president of a Nevada-based mail order company, had coined the phrase himself when he devised Neothink, a cultish belief system structured around charging hundreds of dollars for self-help advice.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly weigh up whether Ward’s bizarre convictions really were equivalent to religious faith; trace back the origins of oath-taking in English-speaking courtrooms; and uncover the surprising history of raising your hand when swearing to tell the truth… 

Further Reading:

• ‘United States of America, Plaintiff-appellee, v. Wallace Ward, Defendant-appellant, 973 F.2d 730 (9th Cir. 1992)’ (Justia): https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/973/730/386559/

• ‘How the courtroom got its oath’ (Slate, 2004): https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2004/04/how-the-courtroom-got-its-oath.html

• ‘Secret society mailing mysterious invitations’ (Good Morning Maryland, 2020):

… And, if you enjoyed this episode, there’s an additional three-and-a-half minutes of material about oath-taking available to our supporters, in which the Retrospectors discuss the strangest books that have been used as a prop, and reveal the times when it wasn’t a book at all, but a saucer, a candle, a dog, or a chicken! To unlock this content – and a bonus bit like it each week – subscribe to the show via Apple Podcasts, or support our Patreon: https://patreon.com/Retrospectors