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The 25 Most Popular Atlas Obscura Stories of 2016

Don’t worry; none of Atlas Obscura’s most popular stories of 2016 had to do with the U.S. presidential election. Of course, we did write about the never-ending race, but more often than not our readers...

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How One Man Used a Deck of Cards to Make Parapsychology a Science

In terms of visual design, the cards are simple: Five different shapes—a five-pointed star, a circle, a square, a cross, and three wavy lines—printed in black on a white background, with an abstract...

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The Inuit Love Affair with Black Velvet Painting

Black velvet requires darkness. In sunlight, it fades.The dark of Northern Canada is unlike any other dark in the world. The deep darkness—“noon-moon” as it’s called—lasts for months, yet the black...

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The Highbrow Struggles of Translating Modern Children's Books Into Latin

According to conventional wisdom, Latin is a dead language. But a simple Amazon search shows that it still has a surprisingly active life not just in medical and law terminology, but also in children’s...

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See the Nighttime Acrobatics of Montana’s Flying Squirrels

After listening all day to relentless warnings of “severe winter weather” and poring over equipment manuals to determine the lowest operating temperature for various pieces of photographic gear, I...

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Romans Used to Ward Off Sickness with Flying Penis Amulets

Centuries ago, before modern medicine, in a time when humans fought disease and sickness in more, uh, mystical ways, ancient Romans centered on a solution that today might get you reported, or at least...

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Found: A Hand Grenade Disguised As A Nutcracker

It's the holiday season, and sometime over the course of the past few days, odds are good that you cracked some nuts. Maybe you used a simple metal nutcracker. Maybe you used one of those fancy ones...

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A Freak Storm Created a Bunch of Rare Waterfalls on Australia's Uluru

Uluru, in Australia, is one of the wonders of the world: a massive rock in the middle of pretty much nowhere that is sacred to indigenous peoples and very hot all of the time.It also doesn't rain very...

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The FOIA Request That the CIA Didn't Touch for Six Years

A version of this story originally appeared on Muckrock.com.Back in 2011, MuckRock user Jason Smathersfiled a FOIA with the CIA for all responses they had sent to requesters containing the term “record...

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The Last Place To Experience 2016 Will Be An Abandoned Island Full Of Bird Poop

As 2016 draws to a close, just about everyone is thinking the same thing—boy, are we going to miss it! Every year must end, but something about this one was special: maybe the unceasing political...

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Found: Viking Jewelry Sent to a Museum by an Anonymous Donor

Anonymous donor of NMI artefacts & #treasure sought to help determine where these were found. #InformFutureResearchhttps://t.co/LEgo3mjos3— Archaeology @ITSligo (@ITS_Archaeology) December 28,...

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Watch a Bird Trick Meerkats Out of Their Food

Sometimes in nature, it’s not about who works the hardest, but who cons the smartest. Such is the case in the complicated relationship between drongo birds and meerkats in the deserts of Southern...

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San Francisco Was Just Subjected to a Mysterious, Gross Smell

It did not come from a gas leak.It did not come from the refinery.It did not come from the sewer system.But it came from somewhere. Around 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, residents of San Francisco...

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Happy New Year! You Are Now a Year Older in Korea

The New Year might be the worst time to have a birthday. A birthday party in the early days of January struggles to attract attendees, you probably get combined holiday and birthday presents, and...

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Why Fighters Stare at Each Other So Intensely at the Pre-Bout Weigh-In

On the night of December 30, millions of mixed martial arts (MMA) fans around the world will watch fighters "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey and Amanda "Lioness" Nunes pummel the living daylights out of each other...

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A Visual History of the Rise—and Demise—of Rasputin

All artwork comes from the webcomic Rasputina, by Darmon Richter and Diana Naneva. Read more at Rasputina.net.

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A Giant Ball Isn’t The Only Thing Being Dropped On New Year’s Eve

On New Year’s Eve, Times Square and its giant ball have seemingly monopolized the dropped-at-midnight industry. However, there are objects dropping simultaneously all over the country as the calendar...

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In England, You Can Camp in Abandoned Medieval Churches

Throughout Southeast England, a small batch of modern pilgrims have been traveling to visit and sleep in ancient churches. They’re not necessarily seeking a religious experience—rather, they are part...

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Visiting Disney World is the Modern Version of Making a Medieval Pilgrimage

At Walt Disney World, the weeks around Christmas are one of the most crowded times of the year: from all over the country and all over the world, families flock to Orlando to be in this special space...

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Watch Paper Masterpieces of China's Forgotten Tribes Unfold in Pop-Up Books

When you open the cover of a pop-up book, components of the story spring to life. While they may often be associated with children's books about monsters and fairy tales, artist and photographer...

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