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The Cadaver Synod: When a Pope's Corpse Was Put on Trial

Basilica of St. John Lateran (via Wikimedia)Roman churches usually aren’t shy about their macabre histories. At Santa Maria dell’Orazione e Morte a nun will be happy to let you photograph their crypt...

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From Ocean to Ornament, the Most Extraordinary Victorian Seaweed Scrapbook

"Seaweeds," 1848 (all images courtesy the Brooklyn Museum Libraries Special Collections)The Victorian period had a particular flourish for domesticating the wildness out of nature. From taxidermy...

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Bastards of the Bestiary: Eight Mythological Creatures Too Gross, Sad, or...

Grotesques from Reims, France, photographed by Joseph Trompette (ca. 1870-90) (via Cornell University Library)Mermaids, unicorns, and fairies have been romanticized through the ages, but what about the...

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Relics of the World's Fair: Seattle

Preparing for the Seattle World's Fair (via Seattle Municipal Archives) After visiting Paris, Chicago, Barcelona, New York City, Montreal, St. Louis, and Melbourne, Atlas Obscura's next stop in our...

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The Deep Sea Diving Suit That Could Change What We Know about the Ocean

The Exosuit (courtesy Nuytco Research, Ltd)The depths of the ocean still remain one of our planet's great mysteries, despite our world mostly being water. A new atmospheric diving suit — the Exosuit —...

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Tanuki the Tipsy Trickster: Why a Well-Endowed Raccoon Dog Is Big in Japan

A Tanuki far from home, in Brisbane, Australia (photograph by the author)The signs and symbols of Japan can be disorientating, as Western signage such as the striped barber's pole and the green/red man...

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Photo of the Week: Graffiti and Beer

In the Photo of the Week feature, we highlight an exceptionally amazing photograph submitted by an Atlas Obscura user. When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans with flooding and destruction, one of...

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Delivering Accordion Music to a Siberian Ghost Town

all photographs by the authorOn the northeast margin of Lake Baikal in Siberia, a scattering of log buildings fills the narrow strip between shore and mountain. Blue and turquoise window frames sport...

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Inside the Forgotten Ghost Stations of a Once-Divided Berlin

Potsdamer Platz ghost station (Max Gold / Futurerhythm, via YouTube)The old adage of “what you see on the surface tells only part of the story” couldn’t be more true for a city like Berlin.Having...

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Washington Irving Bishop: The Magician Killed by an Autopsy

Detail of a 1523 anatomical illustration by Jacopo Berengario da Carpi (via Wikimedia)In Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, on a well-worn headstone, you can barely make out the inscription "The Martyr"...

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Instruments Played by the Ocean

Image from the 1884 "Atlantic Ocean Pilot" (via British Library) The ocean has a rich rhythm, but it's something that's hard for us humans on land to connect with. Yet in three different places we can...

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Give My Body to the Birds: The Practice of Sky Burial

A vulture at a sky burial in 2013 for a Tibetan monk (photograph by Chensiyuan, via Wikimedia)Sky burial isn’t a burial at all, of anything. It’s the act of leaving a corpse exposed to the elements,...

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A Guide to Six Strange Ocean Phenomena through a 19th Century Text

Curious things happen out on the ocean. Some of these natural phenomena are illustrated in detail in Philip Henry Gosse's compendium The Ocean from 1854. As part of their recent releasing of more than...

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The Anatomy of a New York Subway Tunnel

The three inch ledge lining the express track tunnel between 7th and Church Avenue on the F line in Brooklyn is an excellent place to listen to Pink Floyd. Trains occasionally clatter by on the local...

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Vikings from a Mass Grave and Their Warship Storm London

The Lewis Chessmen, berserkers. Late 12th century, Uig, Lewis, Scotland. Walrus ivory (© The Trustees of the British Museum)The longest Viking ship ever discovered and the recently unearthed remains of...

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Photo of the Week: Creepy Unicorn Carnival

In the Photo of the Week feature, we highlight an exceptionally amazing photograph submitted by an Atlas Obscura user.Full of creaking 19th century carousels in a dimly lit gallery, Paris's Musée des...

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Life After Lights-Out: Ten Adaptive Reuses for Lighthouses

Sunset at a lighthouse (photograph by Deb Nystrom)They’re picturesque, they’re historic, they’re functional — they’re lighthouses. And in many places, thanks to changes in guidance technology like GPS...

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Four Practical Posthumous Uses for Human Bones

"Memento Mori" engraving by Simon van der Passe after Crispyn van der Passe the Older (1612) (via Museum Boijmans-van Beunigen, Rotterdam)The human skeleton is the most enduring part of the human body;...

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Curious Fact of the Week: The Nightly Flight 1.5 Million Bats from an Austin...

This month marks the return of one of the most startling spectacles of the natural world: the 1.5 million bat colony that migrates to an urban bridge in Austin Texas.From mid-March through November,...

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Before the Garden Gnome, the Ornamental Hermit: A Real Person Paid to Dress...

An English hermitage illustrated in "Merlin: a poem" (1735) (via British Library)While some gardeners might now throw in a gnome statue among their flowers and shrubberies, back in the 18th century...

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