September 29, 2021

How The Green M&M Got Sexy

by Not Past It

Background show artwork for Not Past It

The backstory of the M&M can be traced to the Spanish American War. On October 1, 1898, a coalition of diplomats met in Paris to negotiate a peace treaty between the U.S. and Spain, leading to a sugar rush across America’s new colonial territories. And eventually… domino-ing us into the modern day sex icon that is the green M&M.

Where to Listen


Simone: Hey, Not Past It listeners. It’s time for the return of the historical domino effect. You know, that thing where you line up a bunch of upright dominoes and then you tip over that first one and it hits the next one and the next one and the next one, and it goes like…

Simone: Well, in our version, each domino will be a mini history story that leads you to the next event in a chain reaction. And we'll end up at a completely different place than where we started.

Simone: From Gimlet Media, this is Not Past It. A show about the stories we can't quite leave behind. I'm Simone Polanen. 

Simone: On today’s episode, we’re going back 123 years ago this week—to October 1, 1898—the beginning of the end of the Spanish-American war. And we’ll snake our way through history to the creation of a modern day sex icon.  

Simone: The dominoes are all lined up. And we’ll knock over the first one…after the break.

Simone: Mary!

Mary Hallowell: Simone!

Simone: I'm so happy to have you back. 

Mary: I'm so happy to be back.

Simone: To join me on this historical domino effect journey, I invited my dear friend. When I need a good laugh, she’s the first person I call. I’ve known her since college. She’s back by popular demand—Mary Hallowell. 

Mary: I’m amazed that you would invite me back. I’m so happy.

Simone: A lot of people...I’ve gotten a lot of very positive feedback about the last time you were on the show. Just so you know.

Mary: Oh!

Simone: You’ve got fans.

Mary: Oh that makes me so happy. Oh my God. Okay. I'm buckling my seatbelt. I'm along for the ride. 

Simone: So, before I even get into it, this is gonna feel like a super random question, what's your, what's your feeling on candy? Are you a candy person? 

Mary: Ooh, can- okay. I'm not like a huge candy person. It’s like, candy is like, for Halloween and movies. Like Skittles—I would lay down my life for Skittles.

Simone: Oh, interesting. 

Mary: Yeah. Honestly, now that I'm saying it, it's like, yeah, pretty much any candy. (laughs)

Simone: I love that you’re like “candy is only for Halloween and movies” and now you’re like, “I love all of it.”


Simone: Well, that’s good to know. So tuck that away in the back of your brain for now. 

Mary: Okay. 

Simone: And let's start our little domino adventure.

[VO: Domino number one...]

Simone: We are actually going to begin our journey with the Spanish-American War. 

Mary: Oh my God. 

Simone: So you remember this from history class? 

Mary: The Spanish-American war was like before, even the Revolutionary War?

Simone: So the Spanish-American War was in the late, late 1800s. So like 1898. 

Mary: Oh my god.

Simone: So, you know, not quite. I don't, whatever, don't worry about it. It's fine. So, I would not have known had I not been rigorously prepped before this. 

Simone: So, we've got the Spanish-American war in 1898. 

Simone: And um, the war was fought between the US and Spain basically fighting over all of these island territories in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. So places like Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines. 

Mary: Mhmm. 

Simone: The narrative was that, you know, the US went into this war to liberate these colonies. But, you know, they also had a lot of economic incentives and, uh, military incentives to be in these places because they're excellent places to park your Navy in case you ever need to go to war, which, the US seems to love to do. Anyways! We don’t need to get into all of that. The thing that you need to know is that on October 1st, 1898, 123 years ago this week…

Mary: Mhmmm.

Simone: The first peace negotiations began between the US and Spain. In the peace treaty, the US gains all of these territories. They get possession of Puerto Rico and Guam, Spain relinquishes its claim to Cuba. And my question to you is, what do you think these territories may have had in common? 

Mary: You said it was Cuba. Puerto Rico? 

Simone: Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, the Philippines...they're, you know, doing their imperialism thing.

Mary: Yes. I think just, I, I, feel like I'm cheating a little bit from our conversation earlier, but these all sound like very warm places and potentially places that are good areas to grow sugar. 

Simone: You are very smart, Mary. That is exactly what they have in common. So while sugar is not the, like, explicit reason why the US wanted to claim these territories, these were countries that had climates that were perfect for producing sugar. So now we’re in the early 1900s and in order to encourage sugar cane production, the US government actually gave all of these tariff preferences to these new territories. This meant that sugar could get exported to the States at really low prices. 

Mary: Mhmmm. 

Simone: This worked very well and sugar took off. And a bunch of US candy companies actually take advantage of this. One in particular goes so far as to set up shop in newly independent Cuba… 

Simone: Which brings us to…

[VO: Domino number two...]

Simone: Mr. Hershey bar himself, the Candymaker, Milton Hershey, lands in Cuba. So Hershey was a couple decades into his candy empire at this point… 

Mary: Oh wow. So, wait, Hershey's was started in the 1800s?

Simone: Yep.

Mary: Oh my gosh.

Simone: So you know, old school, old school American business.

Simone: So Hershey shows up in Cuba in 1916. And, like, immediately falls in love with the place. He, like, buys up, like, 10,000 acres of land. And the longer he stays there, the more invested he becomes. Um, to the point where he actually builds an entire Hershey village in Cuba, just like the one that he built back in Pennsylvania. 

Mary: Fascinating!

Simone: And in this Hershey Village he builds schools. He builds orphanages, movie theatres, um, baseball diamonds. He even builds an electric railroad. 

Mary: It’s an empire.

Simone: But the most important thing about all of this is that with this Cuban sugar mill, Hershey doesn’t just control candy manufacturing, he actually now owns a huge chunk of the supply chain. 

Mary: Wow. 

Simone: So he’s like on fire. There’s no stopping the man. And this success continues for the next several decades. 

Mary: Okay. 

Simone: And in 1939, he’s approached by another candy maker by the name of Forrest Mars. 

Mary: Ooohh, right. Mars bars!

Simone: Exactly! Thank you for such a beautiful transition into the next Domino! Hershey meets Mars. 

[VO: Domino number three]  

Simone: Do you know any of the Mars products?

Mary: I just know Mars bars, but the other ones, I don't know. 

Simone: Yeah. Mars bars. Milky Way is a Mars product. 

Mary: Okay. 

Simone: Oh, Snickers is a Mars product. 

Mary: Do we know how they came up with the name Snickers?

Simone: Snickers was apparently named after their family race horse. 

Mary: Oh my gosh. 

Simone: You know... 

Mary: Immortalized.

Simone: Rich people things. 

Mary: You know, candy empire things.        

Simone: You know, how we all have our family race horse. 

Simone: So this family of candy barons, the Mars family, the patriarch of this family is Frank Mars. He’s the one who actually founds the Mars company. But, I would say that in many ways it was actually revolutionized by Frank’s son, Forrest.

Mary: Oh, heir to the throne. Okay.

Simone: Yup, exactly. And Forrest is this, like, just like, fucking candy genius. Like, all those famous candy bars we talked about, Forrest had a hand in inventing all of them. 

Mary: Just like hit after hit after hit. 

Simone: Just fully, yeah, just fully crushing it. 

Simone: Unfortunately, Forrest and his father do not have the best relationship. Uh, Frank left Forrest’s mother when Forrest was just a child. Um and, the word “estrangement” has been used a lot to describe their relationship. They did reconnect when Forrest was 19 years old and began working together. But despite Forrest’s, you know, sort of the skill for candy business, their relationship deteriorated and Frank kicked Forrest out of the company in 1933. 

Mary: Mmm.

Simone: And Forrest decides to take his talents elsewhere. He moves to Europe, where the Spanish Civil War is taking place and he starts to notice that the soldiers are really into this one particular kind of candy. They’re like these little, bean-sized chocolates that are covered in a candy coating, which over there are called “Smarties.” 

Mary: So not like the powdery... 

Simone: Different from the American Smarties. Not the little fruity...

Mary: Flavored chalk, I think. 

Simone: Fruit chalk! 

Mary: Fruit chalk!

Simone: Yeah, it's not the fruit chalk. It’s these little, circular, candy-coated chocolates. So he brings that idea back to the US in 1939 and he’s looking for opportunities to make candy in America. And this is the point when he reaches out to his father’s rival, the Hershey company.

Mary: Oh my God. He crosses party lines.

Simone: Huge drama. Can you, like, going to his father's mortal enemy? This is like, you know, Shakespearian saga. 

Mary: This is Shakespeare. 

Simone: So Forrest travels up to Hershey, PA. Basically to be like, “Hey, I've got this idea for this candy. Uh, do y'all want to do a hot collab on this?” 

Simone: Um, but at the time of this particular visit, Milton Hershey was out of town. Um, I don't know, maybe chillin’ in Hersheytown, Cuba or something. And, so there are different, sort of,  versions of this story, but allegedly, instead of going to meet with Hershey himself, Forrest meets with the next best guy, who is the President of Hershey Corp, a man named William Murrie. And he pitches him these little candy-coated chocolate circle things. And Murrie is like, “Love the idea. Let's make a deal under one condition. My son, Bruce Murrie has to join in on the venture.” So Forrest is like, “Fine.” 

Mary: Another prince of candy?

Simone: These like...candy boys.

Mary: Is Bruce, as much of what, like ingenue as Forrest is? 

Simone: Bruce does not have the Forrest touch, unfortunately. What Bruce does have is the last name Murrie. And so Mars and Murrie together combine their last names and decide to name their hot new candy the M&M. 

Mary: M&M. 

Simone: Mars and Murrie. 

Mary: Oh my God. Wow.  

Simone: And so they patent this M&M on March 3rd, 1941. Which is very interesting timing because this is just 9 months before America would enter World War II. 

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. 

Simone: And what Mars and Murrie are able to do, is they snag a huge contract with the American military to basically include M&Ms as part of the soldiers' rations. 

Mary: Wow. 

Simone: So M&Ms are hugely popular because of World War II and they're available to the public for 5 cents a tube. So, you know, very affordable candy, as well. 

Mary: Mhm.

Simone: And Forrest sees an opportunity basically to consolidate control over M&Ms. So he makes a deal to buy out his partner, Murrie. We don’t actually know the details of this, they’ve never been revealed. Both Mars and Hershey are, like, very secretive about this. 

Mary: Oh wow. 

Simone: Um, and at this point this is just like, one feather in Forrest’s cap because he’s also been slowly acquiring a bunch of the Mars Corporation basically as members of his family die off. So that’s how Forrest operates.

Mary: Forrest is such a volatile character. 

Simone: Yup. So now, Forrest is in this very advantageous position where he owns the rights to, like, one of the most popular candies in America, the M&M. And now, he also owns one of the largest candy companies, the Mars company. 

Mary: Wow. He's sitting pretty. 

Simone: He's sitting pretty. And he ends up becoming the rival to his former partners over at Hershey. And this is where we have the beginning of this sort of epic battle between Hershey and Mars.

Simone: Who will win the battle for America’s hearts...and mouths? And, yes, I actually do mean it in the way you’re thinking. That’s after the break.

Mary: I’m really stoked for more royal family of candy info. 

Simone: Welcome back, my sugar babies. Before the break, we knocked over the first three dominoes. Mary, let’s recap. 

Mary: Okay. 

Simone: So domino number one: the Spanish-American War leads to the US sugar boom as they acquire a bunch of sugar producing territories in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Mary: Mmmm.

Simone: Then, domino number two: American chocolate titan, Milton Hershey, uses the new American dominance to expand his candy empire. 

Simone: And lastly, domino number three: Hershey is approached by Forrest Mars, the cast out son of the Mars Company. And he convinces Hershey to go in on a new candy—the M&M. But, their alliance wouldn’t last very long. Forrest Mars buys the Hershey company out of their M&M’s share, while also taking the candy throne atop the Mars empire. And, that’s how Candy Boy becomes Candy King. 

Mary: Yeah. Spreads his wings and flies. 

Simone: Exactly. But that, all that, was not enough for Forrest. He wanted more. Which leads us to… 

[VO: Domino number four...]

Simone: So, Mars is still competing with Hershey for market dominance. And in the 1950s, Mars launches a new weapon: television ads. So I don't know if you're aware, Mary, but Mars has had some pretty classic campaigns for M&Ms..

[ARCHIVAL, Man: Which hand has the M&Ms chocolate candy? Not this hand, that's ordinary chocolate candy. It's melted. But this one -- there's no chocolate mess because M&Ms milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.]

Mary: Very specific on the melting location. 

Simone: Yeah, exactly. So they come up with this phrase, “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” Um, aAnd another thing that they sort of contribute to this ad campaign, is they create these M&M cartoon characters. So they have a Mr. Plain and a Mr. Peanut.

[ARCHIVAL, Man: M&M's plain and peanut chocolate candies. The good guys!]

Simone: And they are, you know, M&M's with arms and legs and smiles.

Mary: Plain is the red one and peanut is the yellow one?

Simone: Yeah, yeah. And these are sort of like early versions of those characters. They don’t really have, like, fleshed out personalities or anything. They’re basically just, like, mascots. Empty shells if you will.

Mary: Laughs.

Simone: You don’t have to laugh at that, that’s okay. But, this ends up working very well for Forrest and The Mars Company. And by 1956, M&Ms was the number one candy in the US. 

Mary: Oh wow. 

Simone: Like, wildly popular. So over the next several decades, Hershey and Mars are in this, you know, this, like, back and forth of, like, who has the most market share. And, Mars is coming out ahead, like, pretty consistently. By 1979, Mars held 36% of the chocolate bar market, Hershey only held 29%. 

Mary: Oh wow.

Simone: Yeah. Mars definitely owned the market, you know, compared to Hershey. 

Mary: Yeah. 

Simone: Until 1988. Hershey acquires Cadbury Schweppes, which is another large candy and food manufacturer... 

Mary: Cadbury and Schweppes were together?

Simone: They were. 

Mary: Like, this is like celebrity gossip. Like, “They were together at that time? Wow.”

Simone: Cadbury and Schweppes?

Mary: Seen canoodling.

Simone: Spotted. So, after Hershey acquires Cadbury Schweppes, they sort of take over Mars and now they own the dominant share of the candy industry in the US. 

Mary: Okay. 

Simone: And so over the next, like, several years, the pressure keeps building and eventually the Mars Company is like, we need, like, a totally new advertising strategy. We're going to start working with a new creative agency to come up with some kind of grabby ad campaign for our products. 

Mary: Okay.

Simone: And this brings us to an incredible woman named Susan Credle. And the thing you need to know about Susan, is that people call her “the real Peggy Olson,” like the Mad Men character.

Mary: Ohhh yeah.  

Simone: Which that’s pretty accurate, honestly. She actually, I don't know if you're familiar with these, but she came up with the Mayhem commercials, which was the Allstate Insurance commercials. Do you know what I'm talking about? 

Mary: Yeah. The guy, so the guy who's like Liz Lemon's boyfriend in 30 Rock

Simone: Yep, Dennis from 30 Rock, uh huh.

[ARCHIVAL, Mayhem: And, if you’ve got cut rate insurance you could be paying for this yourself. So get Allstate…]

Mary: That's Credle? That's a Credle joint? That’s Susan?

Simone: That's a Credle joint. That’s all Susan.

Simone: So we actually got in touch with the Susan Credle because we wanted to, we just wanted to why? Why? Like, why?

Mary: Wait wait wait! This is a legitimate, never-before-heard interview with Susan Credle? 

Simone: Yes, this is, this is a Not Past It exclusive. 

Susan Credle: The product M&M's is so beautiful. I mean, the circle, the colors, so beautifully crafted. 

Simone: So in 1995, when this big M&M’s account was up for grabs, Susan was working at this big ad agency called BBDO. And so, Susan and her colleagues went over to the Mars Corporation to pitch an idea for an idea for a new ad campaign. And, Susan was like, you know those old characters from the 50s, you know we mentioned, Mr. Plain and Mr. Peanut—she was like, “I think it’s time that M&Ms moves beyond, you know, this like old basic characterization, and, you know, and try something new.”

Susan: You know, maybe there's something else we can do that makes us a more sophisticated choice. And I remember he looked, he said, “I appreciate your passion trying to get me to do something new, but we're not getting rid of the characters.” And, he saw my face and he goes, “what's wrong?” And I said, “Well, they're just kind of...they're empty. You know, they're not interesting.” 

Simone: And she was like, “you know what? We're going to take these M&Ms character that y'all been fucking with since the 50s, and we're going to actually make them interesting for once.” These are, these are, definitely not her words. This is my, my interpretation of what she did. 

Mary: Dramatic reenactment. 

Susan: And he goes, “Okay, here's the deal. You go, tell me what I should do with these characters that would make them interesting and that you would want to write for them. And, I promise, I'll try to give you the chance.” 

Susan: So Steve and I went back and we're like, you know, there's six colors in the bag. And, if you think about six, that’s kind of the perfect comedic ensemble number of characters.  

Simone: She comes up with this idea of like, alright, let's give each of these different colors of M&Ms distinct personalities, um, you know, different characteristics. 

[ARCHIVAL, Red M&M: I’ve had three people try to eat me today. Three!]

Simone: And she fleshes them out into these full characters.

Susan: Red is the blustery know-it-all. Yeah. And he has first child syndrome ‘cause he was the first M&M ever created. 

[ARCHIVAL, Red M&M: Anyway, sometimes I wish I were human.]

Susan: Yellow is kind of the, I would say, idiot savant. He doesn’t take life too seriously. He doesn’t overthink anything. 

[ARCHIVAL, Yellow M&M: Haha. I have no idea what you’re saying. But, count me in!]

Susan: Blue was the next one we developed. The backstory on Blue is that America voted for Blue to become one of the colors. 

[ARCHIVAL, M&M: Hey! You must be the new, blue M&Ms.]

Susan: We turned orange into the more Woody Allen-ish type. 

[ARCHIVAL, Orange M&M: I don’t care if I’m the new spokescandy for pretzel M&Ms. There is no way...]

Susan: And then, and then there was green. 

Simone: The Green One. We know her ‘cause she is that bitch. You know, she’s the sexy one and she's also the first female M&M. 

Susan: We wanted her to be a confident, strong, sexy, so we said, “Let's let her own it. You know, let's let her be sexy.” And that we did a campaign for her. I think she came after oOange, but it was just called “What is it about the green ones?” 

[ARCHIVAL, Dennis: Questions sugar.]

[ARCHIVAL, Ms. Green: Yes, Dennis.]

[ARCHIVAL, Dennis: Is it true what they say about the green ones?]

[ARCHIVAL, Ms. Green: That is an ugly rumor. It’s a lie. How did this thing get started?]

[ARCHIVAL, Dennis: Okay, so you’re not lime.]

[ARCHIVAL, Ms. Green: Lime? Where do you get your gossip?]

Susan: And it was all innuendo. We never flat out said it, but it was just, you know, let's lean into the urban legend.

Simone: Yeah, and that urban legend—Susan remembers hearing about it back in the 70s when she was a teenager.

Susan: When I was in high school, there was a myth in the seventies about the green ones made you horny. And, I can smell my high school carpet. And I can see benches, where I was sitting with the guys who, you know, we were all just starting to think about what was happening hormonally with us. And I just remember him going, “Ahh! you ate a green one. You ate a green one!” And I'm like, “what, what?” And in fact, I went to a conservative school, so it was the green ones made you pregnant, which I love that we went straight from horny to pregnant.

Simone: And, in the years since this, you know, caricature was born, The Green One has actually really blossomed into quite the seductress. 

[ARCHIVAL, Ms. Green: Mmmm. Introducing Raspberry Almond M&Ms Premiums, rich premium chocolate with luscious almonds and the sweet taste of raspberries. It's your heart's desire...]

Mary: Oh, I don’t know you guys. Like, maybe we should just all pack it up and go home. 

Simone: I also just, I love the little details that they give her. The fact that she has, like, these little high heels and these lash extensions. 

Mary: Yes, the lash extensions, like she's, she's looking good. That's the thing is, like, she's doing great. She's got her go-go boots on. She's kind of an empowered M&M, but at the same time... 

Simone: She always has, like, a, like, bevel in her leg, you know what I mean? 

Mary: Yes, she knows her angles. 

Simone: Her read is very much like, “There are live, sexy singles waiting now for your call.”

Mary: Oh my God! The voice! Yes, no, the voice is pornographic. Like, what is wrong with us that we need a hot, like a sex icon M&M.  

Simone: Why do we do this? Like, why do we gotta sexualize candy to sell it? 

Mary: It is, like, clever in its own little way, but it's also, it's just like making a joke out of the way that women have always been perceived as sexual objects.

Susan: I mean, first of all, she's an M&M. I mean, it's like, she has no female parts, she doesn't have sex, she can't have sex, you know, she's just sexy and she owns it. And, you know, I like that Green is sexy and comfortable with her, with that in her. And, it sounds like I'm talking about really serious stuff right now. (laughs) It's like, every once in a while, I’m like, “this is, just stupid.” But yeah, so I don't, you know.

Simone: Okay. I saw you throwing your head back in exasperation when you were listening to that. Please tell me more about that, that reaction.

Mary: I don't, I don't know if the argument that, like, she doesn't have sex organs is, like, relevant. Is it? 

Simone: Well, it actually might be weirdly relevant in some way. 

Mary: Okay.

Simone: Okay. 

Mary: Wait. 

Simone: We are taking this one step further, Mary. 

[VO: Domino number five...]

Simone: Let me take you to June 28th, 2015. 

Mary: Okay. 

Simone: Which is, you know, during pride month. Uh, the M&Ms official Twitter account tweeted a picture of Ms. Green, the Green M&M, and Ms. Brown, the Brown M&M, who was the other woman M&M. 

Mary: The one with glasses. 

Simone: The one with glasses. One has eyelashes, one has glasses. The two ways women can be in the world. Um, and they tweeted a photo of these two M&Ms holding hands on a beach. Uh, and the quote on the tweet, which was attributed to Ms. Green said, “It's rare Ms. Brown and I get to spend time together without some colorful characters barging in.” And so the internet took that image and they were like, “Oh, Ms. Brown and Ms. Green are dating. And Ms. Green is not only a woman, but she’s also a lesbian M&M.”

Mary: Okay.

Simone: ‘Cause we’re bringing in gender and sexuality to these candy's lives.

Mary: So, oh my gosh. All right. First of all, beautiful. So now we know that the M&Ms have relationships. 

Simone: They have relationships, they have gender identities, they have sexualities.

Mary: Okay. If I can be, like, a little cynical. 

Simone: Yeah.

Mary: Is this not perhaps an instance of a corporation in the 1990s tapping into, like, rampant male gaze and sexism, and then a short twenty years later being like, “Hm, maybe we can just turn this little train around and tap into like a new, like a more…”

Simone: Like a rainbow washing basically?

Mary: Yeah. Yeah.

Simone: “Hey, you guys just so you know, these M&Ms are also gay! Happy Pride!”

Mary: “Happy Pride! Buy M&Ms!” I don't know. Is that too cynical? 

Simone: Um, no, that feels, that feels pretty spot on to me. Does that mean they're not worthy of celebration? That's a separate question.

Simone: That is actually not the end of the Green M&M’s backstory.

Mary: Further redemption?

Simone: So, in addition to Ms. Green, I guess coming out, there's also this other piece of Internet lore that has not been officially confirmed by M&Ms either way, but people noticed that prior to this, like, 1990s revival of these M&Ms characters, uh, before we were introduced to Ms. Green, the Green M&M’s character was a male peanut M&M. 

Mary: No way. Wait, so...

Simone: So, people believe that Ms. Green is also trans. 

Mary: Oh, okay. Wait, so initially she was like male-presenting and now is female. And is in a loving... 

Simone: So the Green M&M is actually a trans-lesbian icon.

Mary: This is like the most triumphant possible final domino.

Simone: She's been on a real journey, but it feels like she's landed somewhere where she feels really comfortable with herself, and with her life, and with the love that she’s sharing. 

Mary: Yeah. Good for her living her true, beautiful M&M truth. 

Simone: Good for her.

Mary: Good for Ms. Green. 

Simone: I just think it's so special that we started off in, you know, imperialistic war and ended up with a trans-lesbian icon. 

Mary: Yes. 

Simone: Even if she is a candy, you know.

Mary: Honestly, especially if she's a candy, like, good for her.

Mary: Yeah. 

Simone: Candy rights.

Simone: Not Past It is a Spotify Original, produced by Gimlet and ZSP Media. This episode was produced by Julie Carli. 

Simone: Last time we did a history domino episode, we started off with a Nazi invasion and ended up with the ABBA-inspired musical, Mamma Mia. If you haven’t heard that one, go back and listen. It’s a doozy. We linked it in the show notes. 

Simone: Next week, spooky season officially begins! And we've got the first episode in a month-long series of true-life scary stories pulled right from history.

Karen Dybis: They think that she was killing these tenants. She wears black a lot. She has these light grayish eyes and she holds your stare. She is known as the witch.

Simone: The rest of our team are producers Kinsey Clarke and Sarah Craig. Laura Newcombe is our intern. The supervising producer is Erica Morrison. Editing by Maura Walz, Andrea B. Scott, and Zac Stuart Pontier. Fact checking by Jane Ackerman. Sound design and mixing by Matt Boll. Original Music by SaxKixAve, Willie Green, J Bless, and Bobby Lord. Our theme song is Tokoliana by KOKOKO! With Music supervision by Liz Fulton. Technical direction by Zac Schmidt. Show art by Elise Harven and Talia Rochemann. The executive producer at ZSP Media is Zac Stuart Pontier. The executive producer from Gimlet is Abbie Ruzicka. 

Simone: This episode wouldn’t exist without April Merleaux’s book Sugar and Civilization: American Empire and the Cultural Politics of Sweetness. If you want to learn more about the connection between the Spanish American war and the sugar boom in the early 20th century you should check it out.

Simone: And, in the event that the drama of the Mars family sparked your interest, check out Susan Benjamin’s book Sweet as Sin: The Unwrapped Story of How Candy Became America's Favorite Pleasure. Susan helped us navigate the sticky family history and we’re sure you’ll love her work. 

Simone: Special thanks to Jake Maia Arlow, Brandon Cooke, Angelina Franco, Joelle Hutcheon, Jackie Leardi, Melanie Mitchem, Lydia Polgreen, Dan Behar and Clara Sankey, Emily Wiedemann, Liz Stiles, and Nabeel Chollampat.

Simone: Follow Not Past It now to listen for free, exclusively on Spotify. Click the little bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes.

Simone: Hey, and do you have any burning questions about the past? Maybe a story you want us to dig into? A history mystery you've always wondered about?  Send us an email to or leave us a voicemail at 646-504-9252

Simone: You can follow me on Twitter @SimonePolanen. Thanks for hangin’. We’ll see you next week.

[Rugrats, Suzy: Hi! My name’s Suzy, what’s yours?]

[Rugrats, Tommy: Tommy.]

Simone: The green M&M is also Susie from Rugrats

Mary: Well, that's one of the more disturbing things I'm going to have to, like, work into my understanding of this Earth.

Simone: We all have our shadow sides. You know.