Tag Archives: Atlas Obscura

Send Us Your Ideas for Dealing with Minnesota’s Rogue Bog


Minnesota has a bog problem. After we ran writer Andrea Appleton’s story about “The wild beast of North Long Lake,” a four-acre, floating peat bog that has been causing havoc recently, our readers were eager to offer some ad hoc solutions for how to deal with the troublesome natural phenomenon. And we want to hear more!

The giant roving island naturally detached from its former home, bound to the shore near a summer camp, and has bounced around the lake. At nearly 30 feet thick in places, it destroyed residential docks and boat lifts. Though it has come to rest back at the summer camp’s swimming beach, the bog requires a more permanent solution, before it drifts off to cause more damage.

“I come right out … Read the rest

The ‘Pedestrian’ Who Became One of America’s First Black Sports Stars


On April 10, 1880, New York’s original Madison Square Garden was packed with sports fans. Men in the arena roared. Ladies waved their handkerchiefs. A band struck up “Home Sweet Home,” the classic 1823 American folk ballad. They had come to see Frank Hart, one of the best “pedestrians” of his day.

“I’ll break those white fellows’ hearts!” Hart, an immigrant from Haiti, vowed before the race. “I will—you hear me!”

Eighteen men competed in the race. Three of them were African Americans, including Hart. After Hart crossed the victory line, fans showered him with bouquets of flowers. His trainer handed him a broomstick to hold the American flag aloft during his victory laps.

Hart had won a “six-day go-as-you-please” endurance race. “The rules were simple,” … Read the rest

Do You Order the Second-Cheapest Wine?


What’s both a punch line and a wine-ordering strategy? The second-cheapest wine.

If you enjoy wine but don’t know too much about vintages and varieties, you may have fallen into the following logic: You’re not sure whether you want wine with “hints of cherry”; you don’t know whether 2015 was a good year for Argentinian wine; and you think Pinot Noir is the type of wine you like, but you don’t quite remember. Honestly, apart from red vs. white and sparkling vs. not, you don’t think wines taste terribly different. So why not just order the cheapest wine? Or, if that feels a little cheap and too obvious, how about the second-cheapest one?

People often joke about ordering wine this way, usually while making self-deprecating jokes … Read the rest

How a Gang of Thirsty Thieves Stole Over $500,000 Worth of Wine


One December night in 2014, a group of wine aficionados congregated in front of Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry restaurant. They hadn’t called ahead to see if the Yountville, California, institution, which has an infamous, months-long waitlist, could accommodate them. Since it was Christmas night, the restaurant wasn’t even open.

Regardless, the crew got what they came for. They broke in and walked out with over $500,000 worth of wine, including some of the most coveted bottles in the world.

Nearly four years later, investigators have recovered all but a handful of the 110 missing bottles. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice released a statement confirming that two of the thieves—Alfred Georgis and Davis Kiryakoz—also conspired with others to steal and transport fine wines from … Read the rest

How Better to Protest Federal Policy Than With an Embroidered Scorpion Demon?


If you want to register dissatisfaction with a piece of legislation, you’ve got a few options. You can contact your local representative. You can join a protest or campaign. Or—if you want—you can embroider the most frightening creature you can imagine onto a piece of satin, and stitch the name of said legislation underneath it, as above.

This creature was embroidered by Eleanor B. Roosevelt—not to be confused with the other, more famous Eleanor Roosevelt, who probably would have represented the New Deal in a very different way. Eleanor B. was married to Theodore “Ted” Roosevelt, Jr., the oldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. Both Eleanor and Ted were staunch Republicans: When Ted’s fifth cousin, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, won the Presidency in 1932, Ted resigned … Read the rest

The Desert Architecture School Where Students Build Their Own Sleeping Quarters

The first thing Lorraine Etchell sees each morning is the sun rising over the Sonoran Desert and illuminating the iconic Camelback Mountain. She doesn’t even have to leave her bed to become one with the desert: From her mattress, she can see the horizon stretching out before her and watch groups of Gambel’s quail scuttling around the cacti and creosote bushes.

Her view is uninterrupted by city high-rises and accompanied only by the sounds of quail calls and shrieking hawks.

That’s because Etchell is a resident of one of the world’s most unusual dorms. The second-year graduate student at the School of Architecture at Taliesin (SOAT) in Scottsdale, Arizona, lives in a desert shelter, carrying on a tradition started by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1937.… Read the rest

These Literary Vending Machines Serve Up Short Stories


In Grenoble, France, the short story addict doesn’t have to go far to get their fix. Across the seven square miles of the central city, 14 orange-and-black machines are dotted like Easter eggs in train stations, municipal buildings, and even the local museum. At the push of a button, each one will unspool a little piece of literature, printed on a long strip of paper, like a grocery store receipt. You can select for length—one, three, or five minutes—but precisely what you’ll be served up is in the hands of the gods. These are story dispensers, built by Grenoble-based publishing company Short Edition.

When the company began producing the machines in 2015, they were hardly set on global domination. But today, they are found around … Read the rest

See Yourself As You Truly Are in This Mysterious Metal Mirror


In Aranmula, Kerala, a heritage village on the banks of the Pamba river, a group of skilled, metal-casting artisans spend their days in hot and dusty workshops, crafting metal mirrors, a tradition that goes back 500 years.

For centuries, the craftsmen, who belong to the Vishwakarma community, have been working in the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. It is one of the oldest temples in South India, dedicated to Lord Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Originally, these artisans were known for creating exquisite bronze idols of deities. But around 500 years ago, they handcrafted a special mirror known as the Aranmula kannadi, which surpassed the idols as their most famous product. The mirror is made from a copper-tin alloy with trace elements. To … Read the rest

The Art of Dressing Mannequins in Rare and Historic Garments


In Gallery 899 on the second floor of The Met Fifth Avenue in New York City stands a headless mannequin dressed regally in a late 18th-century French sack-back gown. Also known as a robe à la française, the silk, champagne-pink gown is patterned with intricately sewn flower petals and leaf designs across the conical bodice all the way down to edge of the rectangular skirts. The skirts are lined with fly fringe trim and laced with embellishments of the same soft pinkish color. The delicately woven ribbons line the bodice and the skirts, almost like a ceramic tiled mosaic. Clasped in the mannequin’s white hands is a printed fan that matches the dark sea-green color of the bodice.

The beautiful and intricate garment captivates … Read the rest

Show Us What Makes Your Favorite Local Bookstore Special


For all the convenience of ordering online, nothing beats getting lost in the rows and shelves of a local bookstore. The personalized service, the atmosphere, the sheer element of discovery—these are the qualities that keep us coming back despite all the alternatives. It’s no secret that many independent bookstores are in a battle for their lives, and that just makes the ones that remain all the more precious.

Independent Bookstore Day is coming up on April 28, and we want to see what makes your favorite local bookstore special. Maybe it’s a private alcove that’s perfect for reading, or a friendly staffer who’s always ready with a great recommendation, or even a plucky shop cat that prowls the stacks. Whatever it is, every independent bookstore has … Read the rest