Who Is John Frum?

In the 20th century, anthropologists fell over themselves to study the “cargo cult” phenomenon in the South Pacific. But was it really a new religion—or just a Western fantasy?

Source: Topic
Published: Apr 18, 2019
Length: 24 minutes (6,200 words)

The Mortician and the Murderer

An incredible photo essay in which both the images and words tell the crazy story of imprisoned mortician David Sconce (up for parole in 2022). In the ’80s, Sconce turned his family’s California funeral home into a mass crematorium and black market body part- and organ-harvesting business.

Source: Topic
Published: Mar 21, 2019
Length: 15 minutes (3,783 words)

In Bad Taste

“Garishly food-styled heads of hollowed-out iceberg packed with pimiento cheese, or baked beans in aspic, bolster our own superior sense of ourselves. Like the Instagram freakshake, they are fantasy transgressions against which we define our superior awesomeness.”

Source: Topic
Published: Mar 5, 2019
Length: 10 minutes (2,605 words)

The Color of Money

After her book, So You Want to Talk About Race, becomes a bestseller, Black author Ijeoma Oluo offers to build her white mother a home with her earnings and learns how race can affect the ways adult children care for their aging parents.

Source: Topic
Published: Feb 19, 2019
Length: 6 minutes (1,706 words)

The Big Money

Thanks to huge casino profits, the youth of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians receive a payment they call “The Big Money” at age 18 after graduating from high school. Payments — which were as small as $600 when the program started in 1996 — are now into six figures.

Source: Topic
Published: Feb 5, 2019
Length: 13 minutes (3,369 words)

The Mysterious Life (and Death) of Africa’s Oldest Trees

Baobab trees are as integral a part of the Botswana ecosytem as they are a part of local culture. Unfortunately, the scientists who discovered that ancient baobabs are dying have no clear explanation why.

Author: Jaime Lowe
Source: Topic
Published: Jan 7, 2019
Length: 23 minutes (5,763 words)

Life Lessons From the School of Phish

Jen Doll dives into the world of the band Phish and their followers, known as “phans.” She discovers a hippy-esque subculture of “you do you” people dedicated not only to a band renowned for live jams, but a shared appreciation for uninhibited drug consumption, joyful escapism, and making new Phish-following-friends at every show.

Author: Jen Doll
Source: Topic
Published: Dec 4, 2018
Length: 28 minutes (7,064 words)

The Two Faces of Lummie Jenkins

Like cowboys in westerns, sheriffs were icons in the 20th century. They were the law. No matter what white residents in Alabaman’s Wilcox County say, so-called good ol’ boy Sherriff Lummie Jenkins used his power to violently suppress black voters and battle the Civil Rights movement. He’s no icon.

Source: Topic
Published: Nov 26, 2018
Length: 20 minutes (5,131 words)

Mold Eats World

As climate change chugs on and coastal cities endure hurricane flooding year after year, mold is flourishing in the hot, damp aftermath, bringing complaints of mold-induced illness. But, is mold really what’s making us sick? Even scientist Joan Bennett — who has dedicated her life to studying fungi — was unable to prove that the mold farm that invaded her home post-hurricane Katrina caused her headaches.

Source: Topic
Published: Oct 12, 2018
Length: 15 minutes (3,982 words)

The Elevator-Phobes of a Vertical City

New York City has more elevators than Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington combined — and every day, dozens of people acutely afraid of riding them need to find their way up and down the skyline.

Source: Topic
Published: Oct 2, 2018
Length: 10 minutes (2,672 words)