In the village of Ponar, in present-day Lithuania, occupying Nazis shot nearly 100,000 people, then exhumed and burned the bodies in an effort to remove all traces of the atrocity. The prisoners forced to dig up and burn the bodies of their countrymen knew there was only one way to get out alive: escape.
In 1931, the historian James Truslow Adams defined the American Dream as “a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable.” His book, The Epic of America, may have popularized the term, but the dream dates back at least to […]
My boyfriend and I share a love of cryptozoology and hidden places. For Valentine’s Day, he bought us matching “explorer” jackets with Nessie and Mothman patches affixed to the sleeves. We have standard hobbies, too—reading, writing, listening to music—but podcasts about Bigfoot and poring over Atlas Obscura is where things get a little weird. In this collection, you’ll meet folks who look at planes, at compasses, at building blocks and at each other (in full Civil War uniform, no less).
Inside Harvard historian Karen King’s discovery of an ancient papyrus fragment that includes the phrase, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife’”: What it does seem to reveal is more subtle and complex: that some group of early Christians drew spiritual strength from portraying the man whose teachings they followed as having a wife. And not […]
Inside 19th Century London’s sewers with “toshers,” who made a living by scouring for trash and waste to be resold: They were mostly celebrated, nonetheless, for the living that the sewers gave them, which was enough to support a tribe of around 200 men–each of them known only by his nickname: Lanky Bill, Long Tom, […]
Tracing the modern Olympics back to their origin in rural England, where there was a very different set of competitive events: Ah, but in Much Wenlock, the Olympic spirit thrived, year after year—as it does to this day. Penny Brookes had first scheduled the games on October 22, 1850, in an effort ‘to promote the […]
On June 10, 1912, a family was brutally murdered in a small Iowa town. The murders remain unsolved: The Moores were not discovered until several hours later, when a neighbor, worried by the absence of any sign of life in the normally boisterous household, telephoned Joe’s brother, Ross, and asked him to investigate. Ross found […]
Clarke, who served three presidents as counterterrorism czar, believes that the United States was probably behind the cyberattack on Iran—and the U.S. is now vulnerable to having it turned back against it: ‘I think it’s pretty clear that the United States government did the Stuxnet attack,’ he said calmly. This is a fairly astonishing statement […]
They helped overthrow Qaddafi, and now “women want what is due to them”: Until the war broke out, women generally were forced to keep a low profile. Married women who pursued careers were frowned upon. And Qaddafi’s own predatory nature kept the ambitions of some in check. Amel Jerary had aspired to a political career […]
In 1908, teams from four countries — the United States, France, Germany, and Italy — raced from New York to Paris by driving across the American west, and the frozen Bering Strait: The contestants represented an international roster of personalities. G. Bourcier de St. Chaffray, driving the French De Dion, once organized a motorboat race […]
The early origins of separation of church and state in America. Williams was a Puritan minister, banished from Massachusetts, before creating the settlement Providence: He bought the land from the Narragansett Indians and wrote that “having, of a sense of God’s merciful providence unto me in my distress, [I] called the place PROVIDENCE, I desired […]
A brief history of the many attempts during the 19th Century to build a tunnel under the Thames River in London: Another bridge was out of the question—it would deny sailing ships access to the Pool of London—and ambitious men turned their thoughts to driving a tunnel beneath the Thames instead. This was not such […]
Over the past decade or more, Shanghai has grown like no other city on the planet. Home to 13.3 million residents in 1990, the city now has some 23 million residents (to New York City’s 8.1 million), with half a million newcomers each year. To handle the influx, developers are planning to build, among other […]
Within the past five years, museums have returned to the Italian and Greek governments more than 100 artifacts worth nearly $1 billion. The Met gave back 21 pieces, including its celebrated Euphronios krater, a Greek vessel dating to about 515 B.C., which the museum had acquired in 1972 for a then-record $1 million. The Boston MFA […]
John Howard Griffin had embarked on a journey unlike any other. Many black authors had written about the hardship of living in the Jim Crow South. A few white writers had argued for integration. But Griffin, a novelist of extraordinary empathy rooted in his Catholic faith, had devised a daring experiment. To comprehend the lives […]