Aokigahara: the Japanese Suicide Forest called “the perfect place to die”.

Aokigahara is known throughout the world as the “Suicide Forest”, and is a 35-square-kilometer spot located at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest, called “the perfect place to die,” contains a large number of icy rocky caverns, some of which are popular tourist destinations. Locals say they can easily spot the three types of visitors to the forest: trekkers interested in scenic vistas of Mount Fuji, the curious hoping for a glimpse of the macabre, and those souls who don’t plan on leaving! The thicket of…

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La Madone de São Paulo, Brasil: the giant mural in memory of our mortality.

We are in Brazil, in São Paulo’s city center: this giant mural of Santa Muerte reminds passersby of their own mortality. Painted on the side of a building in downtown of the brazilian city, this elegant and fantasmagoric mural representation of Santa Muerte, aka Our Lady of Holy Death, confronts you with your mortal destiny and your short time on Earth. The genesis of this unusual contemporary memento mori, titled La Madone de São Paulo, came in 2015 through an artistic collaboration between the Puerto Rican artist Alexis Diaz and…

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Abandoned Canada: Parkhurst Ghost Town~

British Columbia is a province known for its natural beauty and thriving western seaport. In this region for visitors it is not common to talk about ghosts or abandoned places, and locals are usually only haunted by poor drinking decisions and the current state of the housing market. However, for people brave enough to venture past the safety of the city lights there are some interesting abandoned places to explore. An interesting area to hike and explore is the abandoned logging village of Parkhurst, located in the woods near a…

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Roter Franz, the Mummy with Hair, Beard and Red Eyebrows

Roter Franz is the mummy of a young man found in the Bourtanger swamp, on the border between Holland and Germany, in 1900. Also known as “Neu Versen Man”, the nickname derives from the color of beard, hair and eyebrows, completely red, coloring due to the presence of acids in the peat bog. The man, who died between 25 and 32 years of age, lived between 220 and 430 AC, when he was killed by a deep cut in the throat, of which the signs remain in the soft mummified…

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The flight of the Angel: a centuries-old tradition that officially opens the Venice Carnival.

“Il Volo dell’Angelo” (the flight of the angel), which took place today in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, is considered the opening ritual of the Venice Carnival, a celebration famous all over the world. This is a tradition born in an edition of the Carnival in the mid-sixteenth century, when an extraordinary event took place: a young Turkish acrobat managed, with the only help of a barbell, to reach the San Marco bell tower walking, in the din of the crowd below in delirium, over a…

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The sad History Of John Pemberton, The Man Who Invented Coca-Cola

Coca Cola is undoubtedly the most popular non-alcoholic beverage all over the world, both for the drink and for the famous glass bottles (then replicated in plastic) with rounded shapes. Coca Cola, along with other few multinational companies, was one of the negative symbols of globalization during the late 80s and 90s, a huge colossus able to reach every latitude and sell its drink to (almost) anyone. The company today has over 130,000 employees and an enormous billed, but no lot of people know that its history began in a…

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The Mystery of the “Fool’s Cap Map of the World”.

The symbol of the fool or joker, or the court jester, inspired the figure of the Joker in the card decks, but also many other images. One in particular, called Fool’s Cap Map of the World, arouses curiosity, because it remains a mystery to historians and cartographers: we do not know where, why and by whom it was made. In fact, who created the map is still a mystery. One of the names on this cartouche may be the illustrator’s, however, the identity of the mapmaker is another unsolved mystery.…

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Trenton Psychiatric Hospital: the “madhouse of horrors” in New Jersey

Founded on May 15, 1848, It was called New Jersey State Lunatic Asylum, then it was renamed Trenton State Hospital and, after a few years, it took on the simplest name of Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. It is located in Trenton and Ewing, New Jersey, and this last name leaves no room for doubts about the intended use: it was a madhouse, but with lot of peculiarities surely not nice. Not an asylum like many others in the world, it was the first structure built in the USA according to the…

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Anatori Burial Vaults: A tragic story of Khevsureti’s village.

The Anatori Vaults are a number of square slate structures located in a remote area in Georgia near the border of Chechnya, a land surrounded with lot of mysterious legends and folklore that captivate every visitor. This area of Georgia is wild and remote. Pagan “Ram’s Head” churches can still be found in this area and its proximity to Chechnya, a Russian republic, only adds fuel to the story’s fire…. We are in high mountains region Khevsureti, in the North direction from Tbilisi near the border of Russian republic. Distance…

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La Bertagnetta: inside the former pneumological Hospital.

This abandoned pneumological hospital was built between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The area chosen, at the time, was isolated and quiet, but still rather close to the city. At that time the hospitals were less numerous today and people went to such facilities only for very serious illnesses. After all, in the 1940s, pneumonia was a common cause of death, and so many were the sick people who passed through these corridors. The hospital was in fact pneumological, or specialized in…

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Dargavs Village: City of the Dead

We are in Russia’s North Ossetia, hidden in one of the five mountain ridges that cross the region. Reaching this interesting and unusual destination requires a three-hour drive, taking you down a dangerous and hidden road, really what could be expected from a trip to the city of the dead! The foggy mountain weather certainly doesn’t help. The village of Dargavs, friendly know as the City of the Dead, has an ancient cemetery where people that lived in the valley buried their loved ones along with their clothes and belongings.…

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Matera, Italy: Chiesa del Purgatorio

We are in Matera, the capital of culture 2019: skulls and skeletons are omnipresent in this church dedicated to souls trapped in purgatory. The Church of Purgatory, in italian “Chiesa del Purgatorio” was built between 1725 and 1747 and It, like other “purgatory churches,” was constructed as a place for people to pray for the souls trapped in limbo between heaven and hell. Located just outside the iconic Sassi di Matera, this 18th-century baroque church is curiously adorned with numerous skulls, skeletons, and other death-related decor. On the upper part…

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New Mexico: a view from Cabezon Peak~

With an elevation of nearly 2500 meters, Cabezon Peak is the largest of over 50 volcanic formations that dot the otherwise barren and otherworldly desert shrubland of the Rio Puerco Valley, in New Mexico. It is a steep-sided and symmetrical basalt volcanic plug that formed during the eruptions of the Mount Taylor volcanic field millions of years ago. The basalt monolith is one of the most prominent landmarks in northwestern New Mexico, dominating the landscape. This area badlands, canyons, and a diverse flora and fauna, and It is also here…

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The Dark Origin of Valentine’s Day.

We all know that Valentine’s Day is considered the day of lovers practically all over the world, with a consumerism that often reaches levels to say the least embarrassed. However, the origins of this festival of consumerism, false lovers, cupids and hearts are actually dark, bloody and a bit muddled. The origins are very old, certainly pagan, and are rooted in Roman times. From February 13 to 15 in fact the Romans celebrated the festival of Lupercalia, which had the function of purifying man and blessing the arrival of the…

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This photo of 1925 testifies the First Selfie-Stick of History?

Is the “selfie stick” really a modern gadget? This photograph, published by the English freelance journalist Alan Cleaver, dates back to 1925 and shows his grandparents who are taking a picture with the aid of a long pole, what today is called “selfie-stick”. The photo was taken in Rugby, Warwickshire (central England) just after his grandparents Arnold and Helen Hogg got married. However, in one of preparatory shots, Arnold inadvertently immortalized the pole used to shoot the photograph from a distance, leaving us with a testimony that would prove, almost…

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The Temple of Pitons in Benin.

We are in Benin, where dozens of snakes are housed and worshipped within the walls of this Vodun temple. The Temple of Pythons is a site of historical and modern symbolism and spiritual practice in the city of Ouidah: here a tangle of snakes lies in the corner of a nondescript indoor pit, while other serpents slither around them. Probably it’s an intimidating sight for many people, however, in this African temple the pythons aren’t feared but instead revered and worshipped and it’s considered a sign of good fortune should…

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The Casalegno Orphanage

The former orphanage “San Giuseppe”, is more commonly know as “Il Casalegno” because it was built at the behest of Monsignor Casalegno. Giuseppe Casalegno was born near Turin in 1839 by a family of merchants and since childhood showed a generous and helpful spirit to help others. On May 22, 1864, the Feast of the Holy Trinity, he was ordained a priest and over the years founded several humanitarian institutions. The construction of the Casalegno Orphanage dates back to 1877 to host the children from Trino Vercellese and Lucedio (where,…

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The “spartito del diavolo” and the mysteries that surround Lucedio Principality. Truth or legend?

As we all know, at the base of every legend there is (almost) always something true, and that human imagination has no limits: it is enough to tell, for example, dark stories of ghosts, witches, curses, infernal rites, to give veracity to events happened (perhaps) a few centuries before. Thus, the presence of a strange musical score frescoed in an Italian church, according to research done by me and another collaborator, would seem something unique: here music assumes demonic valences, in which the notes, depending on the sequence in which…

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Colossi of Memnon: the huge statues that sang at dawn

Standing on the west bank of the Nile, opposite today’s Luxor, two huge stone statues with a few disquieting appearance have been observing for millennia the slow flow of the river, with its gaze turned towards the rising sun: they are the Colossi of Memnon. The twin statues depict the pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned in Egypt during the Dynasty XVIII, about 3,400 years ago. The sovereign is depicted in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards towards the river sacred to the…

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Basílica del Voto Nacional: the largest neo-Gothic church in the Americas.

We are in Quito, Ecuador: constructed on San Juan Hill, the Basilica del Voto Nacional looms over the city and can be seen from anywhere in Quito, and it is the largest neo-Gothic church in the Americas. According to a local legend, the world will end if construction of the basilica is ever officially completed. In 1883, Father Julio Maria Matovelle, after years of persuasion, began drumming up support for the construction of a massive basilica in the heart of Quito. The president was enthusiast the project, and Congress designated…

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The castle that dominates the Italian city of Este.

The Castle that dominates the city of Este, near Padova, in Northern Italy, consists of large towers and a mighty city wall, about one kilometer long, which embraces the extreme southern extension of the Euganean Hills. This building testifies to the role of primary importance that the Este territory played in the Middle Ages. The oldest part of the current fortification consists of a circle of walls with the remains of a small church and the foundations of a small tower, probably dating back to the 6th century AD. The…

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Shanell Papp: The artist who created a life-sized skeleton in crochet.

A life-size skeleton, complete with organs that faithfully reproduce the original ones. If you thought you saw (and realized) everything, you are wrong! The creation, somewhat bizarre, is made by a real crochet artist, Shanell Papp, author of many other works, from masks to pools of blood, but his skeleton is certainly one of those that has aroused more stir. In 2005 she created a whole crocheted cadaver, creating bones and woolen organs to fill the full-size skeleton. Nothing is missing: a soft crocheted heart, ten hollow phalanges, lungs, liver,…

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Casa do Penedo: A small Portuguese cottage formed between boulders in the countryside.

There has been controversy since the first photos of the “Casa do Penedo”, emerged on the internet. The Portuguese cottage seemed too unlikely to be real and doubters immediately thought that the home as a photoshop hoax. Sandwiched improbably between two boulders in the midst of majestic Portuguese countryside, the Stone House is a wonder. According to Daily Mail, the construction was inspired by the Flintstones. The “Casa do Penedo”, also known as “Stone Castle”, is an architectural monument located between Celorico de Basto and Fafe, in the north of…

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Pitos e Ganchas, the portuguese sweet that oozes sexual allusions.

Here we are: We are in Northern Portugal’s city of Vila Real. Here, in December and February, a curious annual tradition begins on December 13, during the feast of Saint Lucia (Santa Luzia). Girls present boys with pumpkin jam: filled pastries folded into square parcels, known as pitos de Santa Luzia. Nuns living in the local Santa Clara convent, established in 1602, are thought to have been behind the treat, blending lots of cinnamon and sugar into the pumpkin filling. On February 3, the feast of Saint Blaise (São Brás),…

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Execution with the Cannon: terrible capital punishment until the nineteenth century

Execution by cannon was a method of execution in which the victim was tied to the mouth of a cannon which was then fired. The cannon has been one of the main protagonists of the war scenes for many centuries, and from the fifteenth century until the Second World War it was perhaps the decisive weapon of the outcome of most land battles. The prisoner is generally tied to a gun with the upper part of the small of his back resting against the muzzle. When the gun is fired,…

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Stuffed Camel Spleen~

Here we are: If I say Camels, you think about the animal of the great caravans that transversed the great trade routes of the deserts and they are still bred and traded at livestock markets from the Atlas Mountains to souks of the Saharan towns. However most Camels in Morocco, which you encounter in any great number, are destined for the dinner table and always have been! For example, in the old Moroccan city of Fes, giant logs of offal become tasty street sandwiches: here, among the chaos of the…

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