From Jon Schuppe for NBC: "The unclaimed dead of Hinds County, Mississippi, are buried along a dirt road on the grounds of a jail work farm, their graves marked with just a metal rod and a number. For centuries, the solemn duty of burying people who died with no money or known family has fallen to local governments. Some coroners and medical examiners conduct exhaustive searches for surviving family members, scouring the internet and government databases for clues. But others do not. In several cases, people were buried in the pauper’s field even though their families were looking for them."
The strange story of government-funded propaganda comic books
From Jon Keegan: "In 1954, the United States Senate held hearings to deal with a raging menace that it feared was fueling a nationwide crisis of juvenile delinquency – the comic book. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover said comic books “may influence the susceptible boy or girl who already possesses definite antisocial tendencies.” But elsewhere in the U.S. government, taxpayer dollars had been funding the creation of a wide variety of government published comic books. Government comics have taught Americans how to prevent forest fires, survive a nuclear blast, learn about the dangers of illegal drugs, and how soldiers should handle homosexuality in the military."
The Oreo cookie started as a knockoff of a much more popular cookie
From Mark Dent at The Hustle: "Audrey Peard is searching for an elusive, chocolatey piece of Americana: a package of Hydrox cookies. She’s visited multiple grocery stores near her home in the Bronx, followed a Facebook group, and even talked to a manager at a production facility in El Segundo, California, about supply shortages. Hydrox was the original chocolate sandwich cookie, predating Oreo. With a mildly sweet creme and a crunchier cookie that has a darker chocolate taste, Hydrox developed a reputation as the dessert of the discerning eater. It was, according to food writer Calvin Trillin, a superior cookie. But Oreo eventually took over and is now 10% of all cookie sales."
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That time the US government wanted to flood the Grand Canyon
From Livia Gershon for JSTOR Daily: "The channeling of the Colorado River to irrigate farmlands and provide water to cities across the southeast has been a complex, contentious issue for more than a century. One chapter in that story was the federal government’s plan to build two huge dams in the Grand Canyon. In the 1960s, western politicians and federal bureaucrats were formulating what would become the Central Arizona Project, which brings water from the river to central and southern Arizona. To provide the power needed to move the water, they proposed the construction of two hydroelectric dams in the Grand Canyon. The reservoir created by one of the dams would have flooded a significant part of Grand Canyon National Park."
Bill Murray was the first person to say that someone was toast
From Giant Freakin Robot: "Bill Murray changed the English language forever when he ad-libbed the words, “This chick is toast,” in 1984’s Ghostbusters. The actor’s improv didn’t just become a quotable line from the movie. It also turned “toast” into an idiom that is still used almost 40 years later. Referring to someone who is doomed as “toast” was traced to the scene in which the famed parapsychologists battle Gozer. In the original script, Peter Venkman was supposed to say, “That’s it! I’m gonna turn this guy into toast.” By the time the scene was shot, Gozer was played by model Slavitza Jovan, so Murray improvised the line “This chick is toast,” which made it to the movie’s final cut."
A British man filmed a mouse cleaning up his workbench every night
From Charlie Moloney for The Guardian: "Wildlife photographer Rodney Holbrook noticed that objects he left out of place were being mysteriously put back where they belonged overnight. Holbrook, from Builth Wells in Powys, Wales, set up a night vision camera on his workbench to find out what was happening, and captured footage reminiscent of the 2007 animated movie Ratatouille. Night vision footage showed the seemingly conscientious rodent gathering clothes pegs, corks, nuts and bolts, and placing them in a tray on Holbrook’s workbench. Holbrook even experimented with leaving out different objects to see if the mouse could lift them, and the creature was seen carrying cable ties to the pot."
In Australia, the real danger of skydiving comes after you land
From Internet Hall of Fame on Twitter
Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipty engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me.