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In Search of the Real North Korea Beyond the Tourist Illusions

North Korea (photograph by Darmon Richter)North Korea might not be everybody's first choice of holiday destination. In fact, many remain oblivious to the fact tourism to North Korea is even a thing. In...

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A Brief Guide to Impractical Currencies

In modern economies, we use an agreed-upon medium of exchange, or currency, to trade with merchants, corporations, and our neighbors. Throughout history, this has most often been domestic animals,...

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Returning to the Fatal Shipwreck of the World's Oldest Computer

WHOI Diving Safety Officer Edward O'Brien "spacewalks" in Exosuit, suspended from the Hellenic Navy vessel THETIS during the 2014 Return to Antikythera project. (photograph by Brett Seymour, courtesy...

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Metamorphosis of a Dismal Frontier: The European Green Belt

National Park Neusiedler See-Seewinkel in Austria, part of the European Green Belt (photograph by Leander Khil/Wikimedia)Europe’s landscapes have been intensely impacted by human beings for thousands...

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Objects of Intrigue: The Trials and Terrible Tribulations of a 17th-Century...

Emblem from Daniel Cramer's 1624 "Emblemata Sacra" (all images via Internet Archive Book Images)An eagle sprouts from a heart and soars above severed hands and feet stamped with stigmata; a hand...

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Sex, Drugs, and Broomsticks: The Origins of the Iconic Witch

Luis Ricardo Falero, "The Witches' Sabbath" (1880), oil on canvas (via Wikimedia)Witches were almost always portrayed naked until the 1900s. In rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a pipe of...

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The Dyatlov Pass Incident

Photo taken from a roll of film found at the camp of the Dyatlov Pass incident (via Wikimedia)In January of 1959, 23-year-old Igor Dyatlov led a group of eight young Soviet hikers, comprising seven men...

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How Brooklyn Is Like Buenos Aires: Toward a Science of Cities

Location of the 131 cities in the study's dataset and geographical repartition of the different groups (via Royal Society Publishing) Marc Barthelemy and Rémi Louf, researchers at L'Institut de...

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Square-Dancing Fish and the World's Oldest Genitals

Mating female and male Microbrachius, by Brian Choo, Finders UniversityScientists have long believed that prehistoric fish all mated externally by releasing eggs and sperm into the water. But a new...

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A Condensed History of Quarantine's Success and Failure

Ebola facility in Sierra Leone, August 2, 2014 (©EC/ECHO/Cyprien Fabre)Death, disease, and fear ravage much the world right now, as thousands die of Ebola in West Africa, and hundreds of thousands...

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Roundup Obscura: October 24

For your Friday-afternoon pleasure, a new regular feature: Roundup Obscura, one photo and five links to fascinations around the world and the web. Photo of the week: "Cata Sopros," an interactive sound...

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The Best New Wonders of October

The foundation of Atlas Obscura is contributed by intrepid users around the world, out exploring the places no one else is noticing, or delving into history that's been all but forgotten. Here we are...

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Unicycle Spelunking, Sexy Mermaids, and Holes in the Head: Roundup Obscura...

For your Monday-afternoon pleasure, a new regular feature: Roundup Obscura, one photo and five links to fascinations around the world and the web. Photo of the week: "Cata Sopros," an interactive sound...

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Morbid Monday: The Macabre Romance of a Man and a Mummy

Carl Tanzler, aka Count Carl von Cosel, was a man of many talents. The German-born radiologist (who was most definitely not a count) claimed to have nine university degrees, be a former submarine...

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America's Abandoned Insane Asylum Cemeteries

From the 19th to mid-20th century, huge asylums were constructed around the United States that acted as their own closed communities, and often included separate cemeteries. Forgotten in life, the...

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Secrets Taken to the Grave

Greek Fire in action; its secret is now lost (via Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid)There’s long been a fascination with secret knowledge, passed down in the shadows of the world. Tales of hidden...

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Landscapes Made for Satellite Eyes: Calibration Targets, Resolution Tests,...

In 2011, when Google Earth hit the scene, armchair explorers began discovering all kinds of strange stuff scattered across the globe. Seen from space the planet could be very weird indeed. One category...

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In an Oklahoma Museum: All the Gory Details and Beetles of Skeleton Preparation

Bones in preparation (courtesy Skulls Unlimited)Have you seen the ghost of Tom? Long white bones with the skin all gone.Po-oo-or Old Tom! Wouldn't it be chilly with no skin on? This well-known...

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Ghost Islands: Eight of the Eeriest Abandoned Places on the Seas

In terms of abandonment, ghost towns get all the love — there are a spooky 160 of them on Atlas Obscura as of this writing. These gaping remains of human activity departed are both unnerving and often...

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Dracula’s Chamber: The Dark Legend of Buda Castle Labyrinth

Gargoyle under Budapest (via Labirintus)Carrying only a gas lamp, at the heart of the Buda Castle Labyrinth there is nothing except for slimy damp walls, darkness, and things that go bump in the night....

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