World’s Strangest

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Tituba, the Early American Witch

Barring fictional characters, a slave named Tituba is America’s most famous “witch.” She was there at Ground Zero in the case of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. But because she was a slave, her documented biography is sparse compared to other accused witches of Salem. Photograph by Flickr user ISD 191 Performing Arts Programs. Samuel Parris [...]

Your Favorite Authors Are Frauds: 6 Famous Ghostwriters

It’s almost like learning the truth about Santa Claus: Once you know, it’s so obvious, but you’re still a little heartbroken when you discover that your favorite author didn’t really pen most of the work with his or her name on the cover. Take comfort, though, in the knowledge that many of those ghostwriters [...]

Alternate Histories: 7 More Ways the World Could Be Completely Different

We covered some of the many alternate histories out there. Here are seven more intriguing ways the world could be completely different. 1. What if the Romans won the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest? Effect: No one would speak English. Explanation: In What If? (1999), edited by Robert Cowley, historians pondered what would happen if historical events had [...]

At the Libraries: Help a Library in Need

Each week Miss Kathleen provides links to a variety of stories about libraries, authors, and books. If there’s something noteworthy going on in your local library, leave us a comment! Guys, we have a library in severe need — their AC unit was stolen, but you can help them buy a new one. Every dollar counts! * It’s [...]

10 Famous Literary Characters Based on Real People

“Write what you know,” they say. So it makes sense that many authors take a good look around at friends and family when creating characters for their books. 1. Mark Twain once admitted that he wasn’t terribly creative in creating Huckleberry Finn – he based the character almost precisely on his childhood friend Tom Blankenship. From [...]

30 Famous People With Law Degrees

Law degree image via Shutterstock Second-guessing your career choice? You’re not alone. Even people who put themselves through many extra years of schooling sometimes end up changing their minds. That’s the case with many of these people, who ditched their law degrees in favor of other pursuits — quite successful ones at that. Authors 1. Washington Irving. The [...]

The Time Groucho Marx Did the Charleston on Hitler’s Grave

© Bettmann/CORBIS Groucho Marx is unmatched in wit and humor. But one of his most poignant moments wasn’t remotely funny, nor was it caught on camera like so many of his one-liners and zingers. During the summer of 1958, Groucho and his You Bet Your Life director and close friend Robert Dwan toured Europe for six [...]

15 Memorable mental_floss Moments of 2011

A lot of exciting things happened in the mental_floss universe in 2011. Here are the 15 we could remember. 1. We Helped Solve a Back to the Future Mystery Back in August, we threw out a question for discussion: “Is it ever explained why Marty hangs out with Doc Brown? He’s just in Doc’s house to start [...]

14 Literary Settings Inspired by Real Places

At the end of a good book, don’t you just sometimes close the back cover, sigh, and think, “I wish I could be there.” Good news: in some cases, you can. While you’re probably never going to make it to Narnia or Hogwarts (I know – I’m disappointed, too) here are a handful of “fictional” [...]

NYC Cabbie also Works as a King in Africa

Isaac Osei started out driving a taxi in New York City when he immigrated to the US about thirty years ago. He has built up that business into a fleet of fifty cars operating day and night. But that’s not his only occupation. When his older brother in Ghana died, Osei took his place as [...]