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In 1635, the acclaimed English architect Inigo Jones completed work on Queen's House in Greenwich. It was the first building in England designed in the pure classical style, with Jones boldly bringing the classical architecture of Rome and the Italian Renaissance to England. Inside the building was another first: the Tulip Stairs, an elegant staircase unlike anything previously built in Britain.
Technically speaking, the Tulip Stairs were the first self-supporting spiral stairs in Britain. The absence of a central support structure allows for an unobstructed view up through the center of the staircase. The design of the Tulip Stairs was inspired by a Venetian model. Cantilevers in the walls support the stairs, with each tread resting on the one below.
The sweeping elegance of the wrought iron structure is enhanced by the particular shade of blue paint on the bannister, which was made using crushed glass. The blue hue creates a striking contrast with the pristine white of the steps and walls, and stylized flowers in the balustrade give the staircase its name.
In 1966, the Tulip Stairs earned an altogether different kind of fame. The retired Canadian reverend R. W. Hardy and his wife were visiting Queen’s House and took some photos of the Tulip Stairs. Upon developing the photos on their return home, they discovered that one photo had captured a particularly chilling image. Now considered a classic paranormal artifact, the photo seems to show a shrouded spectral figure climbing the stairs, possibly in pursuit of a second figure.
The reverend and his wife asserted that no one was ascending the stairs when the photo was taken. An investigation followed to determine the nature of the image, including expert examination of the negative to rule out tampering, but nothing was found to explain the strange photo. The mystery remains unsolved.
Anyone alive today who grew up in Middletown, Rhode Island, probably ate at Tommy's Deluxe Diner. From 1953 to 2006, the iconic stainless-steel Americana food-temple served generations of good folks from the small New England beach town. If any Rhode Islanders care enough to wax nostalgic over the french fries and shakes of their youth, they'll now have to go to Oakley, Utah.
What's now the "Road Island Diner" was manufactured for and displayed at the 1939 World's Fair. Themed "The World of Tomorrow," the fair forecasted trends in home appliances, entertainment, and food service. The eatery, a 16-foot-by-60-foot specimen from the legendary Jerry O'Mahony Diner Company, featured green Italian marble countertops, Tiffany glass clerestory windows, and hand-laid quarry tile flooring. It was bought shortly after the fair and moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, where it served as a functioning diner for 14 years before being sold again and moved to Rhode Island.
In Middletown, the diner would stay in Greek immigrant Tommy Borodemus's family for four generations, becoming somewhat of a local landmark. When the family sold their property to a Tim Hortons in 2006, the diner changed hands again, though this time its new home wasn't just a state away.
In 2007, the diner was transported from Rhode Island to Utah. Due to its size, however, the haul was forbidden from interstate highways. The several-thousand-mile backroad journey entailed state police escorts and pilot cars, but upon arrival in a small Utah mountain town, the historic diner found a loving home without any damage to all of its beautifully maintained original furnishings.
The Road Island Diner now offers Utahns classic diner fare with an eye to the upscale. Standard burgers, fries, and shakes grace the menu, though Asiago dip, crab cakes, a codfish sandwich, and a trout almondine make comparatively star-studded appearances. "This Is Not A Fast Food Diner," reads the menu. It is, however, certainly a well-traveled one.
When visitors enter Beijing’s Nanhaizi Milu Park, they step onto a long wooden bridge that stretches over a marsh. It’s the perfect place to see a herd of odd-looking deer in the distance—large and tawny, with big hooves, branched antlers, long tails, and shaggy coats. On a gray and blustery November afternoon, the deer are spending their time leisurely, placidly kneeling near feeders stocked with grass
It’s a sight that wouldn’t have been possible 120 years ago. Though nearly 7,000 Père David's deer roam the wetlands of China today, the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1900. Its resurrection is due to an unusual event in the annals of conservation—an accidental tag-team collaboration between a French missionary-cum-zoologist and an English duke.
Fossil evidence shows that Elaphurus davidianus were prevalent in China some 2,000 years ago. But by the time Father (Père) Armand David, the deer’s French namesake, visited China in 1861, hunting had reduced the population to a single herd—the one kept under armed guard on the imperial hunting grounds near Beijing.
David—also credited as the first European to see a giant panda—had been sent to China to spread Catholicism, but he ended up spending much of his time there collecting biological specimens that were new to Western science.
After a few years of traveling in China, David got wind of the emperor’s captive herd. The private grounds were exclusive to the royal family, and David was forbidden from entering. But he managed to sneak an illicit peek, and described what he saw in a letter to a colleague.
“This spring I was able to hoist myself onto the surrounding wall,” he wrote. “I had the good fortune to see, far from me, a group of more than a hundred of these animals.”
In Chinese, David wrote, the deer are known as milu or sibuxiang, meaning “not like the other four.” It’s an apt description for a visual frankenspecies, with the antlers of a deer, the head of a horse, the hooves of a cow, and the tail of a donkey.
After successfully bribing a few of the imperial guards, David managed to obtain a pelt and antlers, which he sent to the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. The specimens piqued the interest of the French scientific community, and in 1866 French and Chinese authorities negotiated the transfer of a handful of the deer to zoos across Europe.
It was lucky they did. In 1895, a dire flood ravaged much of the imperial hunting grounds, decimating China’s last population. A couple of years later, the few surviving deer in China were hunted down during the Boxer Rebellion, a civil uprising against foreign influence and the imperial elite.
Half a world away, Herbrand Russell, president of the Zoological Society of London and the duke of Bedford, heard about the species’ plight. He purchased the remaining 18 deer from the European zoos that housed them, and began raising them at his estate, Woburn Abbey.
“As a zoologist himself, Herbrand knew very well that the deer had no chance of survival with so few animals scattered around various zoos,” says Dominic Bauquis, who has worked to help conserve the species and is familiar with its history.* “While he did not know whether the species could be saved from extinction, he made a deliberate attempt to regroup them and give the Père David's deer a chance.”
All current populations of Père David’s deer are descended from the small herd kept at Woburn Abbey—a herd that barely survived the two world wars. In the first half of the 20th century, food restrictions and wartime diktats saw English straw reallocated to military horses, and a particularly harsh winter nearly depleted the already limited supplies. After almost losing the species during World War II, the later dukes of Bedford exported some of the deer to zoos around the world.
One of those dukes was Robin Russell, Herbrand’s great-grandson, who dreamed of returning the deer to their homeland. He got the chance in 1985. With an economically developing China starting to focus on conservation and international collaboration, Chinese officials approached Woburn Abbey to discuss cooperating on a reintroduction of Père David’s deer.
That year Robin Russell traveled to China, where 20 of the deer were returned to the exact location that the species had last lived—the imperial hunting grounds in Beijing, which had since become a public park (now renamed Nanhaizi Milu Park).
But the park, located in a sprawling Beijing suburb, is limited in space. So the following year, China’s Ministry of Forestry teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to transport another 39 deer to the Dafeng Milu Park on China’s eastern coast. The 300-square-mile reserve boasts coastal wetlands large enough to support populations in the thousands.
Conservationists at Woburn Abbey then worked to open another reserve in central China, where the deer would have historically roamed. In 1993, 34 deer were introduced to Shishou Milu National Nature Reserve.
In 1998, Père David’s deer were once again beset by severe flooding, this time at the Shishou reserve. The deer scattered into the surrounding forests. Instead of recapturing the animals, conservationists wanted to first see if the deer could survive in the wild.
To Bauquis’s delight, the deer thrived—back in the wild less than 20 years after being reintroduced in the country where they’d been extinct. “It’s a beautiful story on many levels,” says Bauquis, “and it shows what international cooperation can achieve.”
Today, Chinese researchers say there are roughly 70 parks with Père David’s deer, many successfully reintroduced to the wild. The Dafeng reserve is home to the largest population, with an estimated 6,000. Bauquis says the Shishou reserve supports between 600 and 1,000 deer, while Nanhaizi park is home to around 200.
Yuhua Ding, former director of the Dafeng reserve and a 30-year conservation veteran, describes the deer’s population recovery as “ideal”—meaning they’re breeding rapidly and, as of yet, not subject to disease—but notes that the species is still vulnerable. “Seven-thousand,” he says, “is a small number in terms of a species population.”
Monitoring the species’ genetics is key. Because these deer were brought back from such a tiny population, they’re at risk of what’s called inbreeding depression—adverse health effects caused by breeding between relatives. The smaller the population, the more likely the animals will be inbred. Given the minuscule starting point for Père David’s deer, it’s a small miracle that no signs have appeared.
But Ding says caution is warranted: The deleterious effects of inbreeding can take generations to manifest, making it imperative that wildlife managers keep close tabs on the current populations. To keep the deer healthy, conservation teams plan to transfer individuals between herds.
Researchers also want to know how the deer will adapt to their new habitats. These deer haven’t lived in the wild for ages, so scientists are curious to learn about their behavior in new surroundings—how they might respond to potential predators, such as tigers and wolves, what they’re eating, and how they’re mating.
Still, things are looking up for Père David’s deer. Most species pushed to the brink don't have a resurrection story—a fact illustrated by the Nanhaizi Milu Park's macabre extinction graveyard. A winding series of marble tombstones there mark the dodo, the Tasmanian tiger, and, midway through the queue, an erroneous placard that reads “Père David’s deer, 1900 extinct in China.”
One hopes that that's the only premature gravestone at the site. The last tombstone in the series is marked “mankind." Time alone will tell if it's prescient or not.
* Update: This story has been updated to clarify a character’s involvement in the conservation process.
Earlier this week, the Australian capital of Canberra was pelted with hail the size of golf balls. Before the icy deluge, the city had been enveloped in smoke from the bushfires that scorched tens of millions of acres in New South Wales and beyond.
Australia is in dire need of precipitation, to end a drought that helped kindle the devastating fires. The landscape badly needs new growth, too: Vulnerable animal populations are currently grazing on human handouts. But hail? If anything, that’s more like “adding insult to injury,” says Kelly Mahoney, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory who studies extreme precipitation. Big, severe thunderstorms that drop hail, she says, are “adding additional destruction to a region that cannot take it right now.”
Hail is, of course, made up of frozen water, and when it melts it nourishes plants. But the hail poses a danger, too: When it crashes into the ground, it can thwack and maim seedlings, injure or kill animals, and destroy property. “The damage caused to vegetation by hail exceeds its benefit as a source of water,” writes Janette Lindesay, a climatologist at the Australian National University, in an email. “In the Canberra hail storm, leaves were stripped from trees and smaller plants were badly damaged. Most plants recover quite quickly after hail storms, but young and/or delicate plants could be damaged beyond recovery.”
A single powerful storm “is not sufficient to ameliorate the drying effects of years of below-average rainfall, above-average evaporation, and reduced vegetation cover,” Lindesay writes, and it could even do more harm than good. Fires lead to changes in the soil that create a temporary seal on the crust, Mahoney says. This eventually peels off, blows away, or is disturbed by humans or animals, she says—but while it’s in place, it’s difficult for water to get through. That means that a one-off downpour isn’t going to be helpful, especially if burned vegetation is no longer holding the earth in place. “Vast expanses of burned soil are ripe for things like landslides,” Mahoney says.
Instead of a dumping of hail, what the region needs are visits from “lovely, slow, soaking rains,” Mahoney adds. Over time, a little goes a long way. “A rainfall total resulting from numerous days with light to moderate rainfall is more likely to lead to water infiltrating into the surface and alleviating dry conditions by replenishing soil moisture, than the same total from just one or a few days of rain,” Lindesay writes. The recent storm only dropped about a quarter-inch of rain over Canberra, she says. To raise water levels in local storage dams, she writes, they're going to need at least four inches.
Tracie Baker wasn’t sure what tools she would need for the dissection. Baker, an environmental toxicologist at Wayne State University in Detroit, studies the presence and effects of toxins and endocrine-disrupting compounds in water. She’d cut up fish before, but never anything quite like the tangled mess of fats, oils, grease, and trash that had arrived in her lab. It was two 10-pound chunks of fatberg, taken from a massive sewer-clogging bolus. Baker figured she’d need gloves, probably the thick rubber kind people use for washing dishes, and elbow-length seemed safest. Beyond that, she says, “We weren’t exactly sure what was going to work.”
Baker and her colleagues were trying to learn as much as they could about the fatberg, which had been hauled from a sewer in Clinton Township, a suburban Michigan community about 25 miles northeast of Detroit in Macomb County, while it was still fetid and fairly fresh. When they were done, it would be enshrined in a new exhibit at the Michigan Science Center.
Crews from Macomb County Public Works encountered the fatberg during a routine survey. The situation wasn’t critical, but officials knew it needed to come out, says Dan Heaton, the office’s communications manager. Fatbergs are always unwelcome guests, and this one had really made itself at home. The 50-year-old sewer pipes are about 11 feet in diameter, and the fatberg was almost exactly as wide, six feet deep, and a startling 100 feet in length—same as two school buses. Its 19-ton bulk occluded the sewage pipe enough that officials worried it would mean a backup of hydrogen sulfide—“sewer gas”—that could corrode the pipes’ cement interiors.
It’s dangerous to send humans down into narrow, dark, gas-filled sewers, so crews generally enlist high-powered water jets first. These can be enough to get things flowing again—but they didn’t do much against the Macomb County monster. The public works team dispatched crews down into the belly of the system to attack it with hacksaws and axes. Little by little, the crew carved up the material and fed it into a wet-vac truck at street level. Extraction wrapped in September 2018, and in the light of day, Heaton says, the sopping slurry looked like an exceptionally unappetizing and “very thick stew.” The liquid portion of the blockage was sent on its “merry way to the treatment plant,” Heaton says, while the solids traveled to a storage area. A sample was calved for Wayne State researchers, and ultimately, traveled to the Science Center.
Pieces of the fatberg were worth keeping around for analysis because “so few fatbergs have been characterized,” Baker says. With the exception of a handful extracted in London, studied with gas chromatography or forensically prodded in front of television cameras, the usual approach to them is, “Let’s get this out of here, throw it in the trash, and move on,” Baker says. Along with her Wayne State colleague Carol Miller, a civil and environmental engineer, Baker applied for National Science Foundation funding to take a closer look at the Macomb County fatberg. The team wanted to know exactly what the mess was made of and how it might affect the ecosystem both inside and outside of the sewer.
But there was a bit of a delay—a few months between the time public works extracted the fatberg and when the researchers got to work. During that period, the festering thing was placed in two 10-gallon aquariums, wrapped in garbage bags. Baker and Miller had wanted something they could see through, and someone from public works had a couple handy at home, Miller recalls. But the tanks had a problem: They made for an inescapably humid environment. When the researchers received the tanks in the lab, the chunks looked like “gooey blobs,” Baker says—midnight black and wriggling with worms and larvae. The smell was overwhelming. When the researchers first opened the tanks, “We were in a small room,” she adds, “and everyone’s eyes were watering.” The team hurried the samples to a fume hood and let them dry out for a few weeks at room temperature.
Once the fatberg was dry and as approachable as one could hope for, the team used a veterinarian's X-ray equipment to peer inside so they could see if there was anything sharp in there. “We obviously didn’t want to get poked by something metal that had been in the sewer,” Baker says. She then reached for tweezers, scalpels, tongs, and scissors. One aspect of the project involved disarticulating the trash matrix to see exactly what had gotten trapped in it. Baker found plenty of wet wipes—the kind often cavalierly labeled as “flushable”—as well as tampon applicators, lollipop sticks, plastic coffee stirrers, and cigarette butts, plus a mustard packet, Kit Kat wrapper, syringe, and pen cap.
The researchers also assessed the composition of raw sewage, fats, and oils throughout the sample, as well as the microbial menagerie living it up inside. They found oleic acid, commonly found in cooking oil, as well as some bacteria that isn’t typically seen in sewers or feces, Baker says. They’re hoping to take a closer look at those interlopers later. The research “confirmed some things that we intuitively knew,” Miller says, especially that “much of the problem associated with fatbergs is really human-created.”
Next time around, if there is one, Miller wants samples from different parts of a fatberg, such as along the pipe wall and in the fleshy middle, and from the upstream and downstream ends. And Baker would want to brave the stench and dig through a still-wet sample to see how bacteria get along in the fresh oils and greases.
The fatberg chunks spent several months stinking up Baker’s lab. By the time they’d finished the dissection on the one piece—some of which they've held on to for future study—the other one was nice and dry, too. The researchers sealed it up in a box for its journey to the Science Center, where it has been on view since December 2019. Inspired in part by the Museum of London’s 2018 fatberg display, it is equal parts educational, titillating, and icky. Miller, Baker, and other collaborators contributed to the exhibit's informative graphics and text about how ecologically troublesome fatbergs can be and how much they cost to remove ($100,000 in this case). And there is a simple request: Please, please, please, stop flushing trash down the toilet.
The segment on display is sealed in a cylindrical tube that looks like a sewer pipe, but clear, revealing the array of white and soot-gray gunk and the sprinkling of colorful trash inside. It looks a little like the jumbled contents of a vacuum-cleaner bag, or an oversized owl pellet.
As the exhibition evolves, Miller says, the organizers plan to add a game that some students at Lawrence Technological University* have devised. Players will be tasked with tidying up a messy apartment by deciding what goes in the trash and what can be flushed or washed down the drain. Players will also be able sift through a digital fatberg with a little “laser” to see where they went wrong, and where the trash wound up. The idea is to demonstrate, with a little scatological silliness, that if bad or uninformed choices can feed a fatberg, good ones can starve it.
In a way, the whole episode has turned Macomb County’s Clintondale Pumping Station into a fatberg field station. By examining the trash that’s intercepted there, the scientists are checking to see if the exhibit and other awareness campaigns are paying off in changing behaviors. They’re also examining patterns in where fats and wipes accumulate. Do they cluster near known restaurant corridors? Do wipes mound up near areas with a lot of little kids or elderly people, who may use many of the pre-moistened scraps? “We’re still doing a lot of sampling,” Miller says.
Meanwhile, Heaton says, the county will pilot a fatberg prevention project that’s a little like an IV drip of a substance similar to dish soap. The idea is that it could help prevent fat and grease from building up in the first place. “As interesting as a fatberg is,” says Heaton, “the goal is to never have another one.”
*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that game was designed by students at Wayne State. It was designed by students at Lawrence Technological University.
“A Very Gay Meat Loaf” requires several key ingredients. First, wrote Michael Goldberger, a gay activist and neuroscience researcher, combine ground beef, pork, and veal with spices. Then, add partially-cooked spinach and—if you have the money—mushrooms, taking care not to overmix. Hard-boiled eggs and sour cream top it off.
Goldberger adapted the recipe from gay New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne and lesbian icon Alice B. Toklas, and included it in the 1976 People’s Philadelphia Cookbook. The book was compiled and published by the People’s Fund, a grassroots organization founded in 1971, with recipes from member organizations that included the Black Panther Party, the United Farm Workers, the Gay Activist Alliance of Philadelphia, and more.
Now, thanks to an enterprising historian, a flea market, and Twitter, The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook has a new life online. It's a record of an optimistic era, when activists believed that the elimination of racism, homophobia, and capitalism was just around the corner. While the revolution would not be televised, it would certainly be well-fed.
Stephanie McKellop wasn’t looking for cookbooks when she went browsing in Philadelphia’s Uhuru Flea Market one spring morning in 2018. An independent historian, McKellop and her partner David Ryskalczyk enjoy combing Philadelphia’s sidewalk sales for quirky documents, especially those related to marginalized histories.
At first glance, the cookbook was unremarkable: a stack of old papers that a man had found in his recently deceased relative’s attic. “I looked through this box and it was all moldy and stinky, and I thought, ‘I shouldn’t,’” McKellop says. She kept walking. But the historian in her couldn’t resist. “I ran back and I was like, ‘I need to know more about this People’s Cookbook!’”
Almost two years later, to the joy of her online followers, McKellop and Ryskalczyk have finally posted the digitized book. “Maybe it’s not usually what I dig out of people’s trash, but it’s a wonderful piece of Philly history,” McKellop says.
Casey Cook agrees. “The people who made these cookbooks were working in a moment that felt like a crisis and an impending revolution,” says Cook, executive director at Bread & Roses Community Fund. The People’s Fund changed its name to Bread & Roses Community Fund in 1977, when it got tax-exempt status.
For Ann Marie Doley, who worked at the People’s Fund from 1976 to 1988, the cookbook represents a pivotal moment in her life.
In 1976, Philadelphia was celebrating the nation’s bicentennial. For Doley and her fellow organizers, however, the work for freedom and equality was far from over. The Vietnam War had just ended, thanks in no small part to anti-war activism, and Nixon had been impeached. But in Philly, the struggle continued. Frank Rizzo was mayor, and he often targeted the city’s poor, people of color, and leftist activists.
Doley had moved to Philly in 1967, to attend college at the University of Pennsylvania. She was quickly politicized by anti-Vietnam War protests. “I had friends who were in that war and who died in that war,” she says.
She moved to a collective house in Powelton Village, “a real hotbed of radicalism,” and took a part-time job for $3,000 a year at at the People’s Fund. Doley, pregnant at the time, recalls climbing the stairs to the Fund’s fourth-floor walkup on Walnut Street, then staying put for the day; just weeks before her due date, the steps felt like Mount Everest.
The People’s Fund represented a new kind of philanthropy: change, not charity. Member-funders from community organizations had equal say in where the money went, whether they gave one dollar or one thousand. They funded organizations that conventional philanthropists wouldn’t touch. When one of the founders expressed hesitance about giving money to the Black Panthers, Cook says, another asked, “Well, if we don’t fund the Black Panthers, what makes us different than anyone else?” The Panthers were included in the group’s membership.
As with most democratic experiments, raising money for the fund was a continuous scramble. Members sold wontons from a cart on the Ben Franklin Parkway. They threw a benefit headlined by folk singer Bonnie Raitt. And, in 1976, they published a cookbook.
Forty years later, The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook is a snapshot of an era: turbulent, and contentious, but also generous and nourishing. The range of groups represented in the book—from the Black Panthers to the Grey Panthers, an anti-ageism organization—demonstrates an age of interconnected movements. “The People’s Fund optimistically hopes that those who like each other’s food will learn to like each other,” reads the book’s epigraph.
Puerto Rican Socialist Party activist Rafaela Colon Rivera included her sofrito recipe. “Like no Puerto Rican can give you how many teaspoons of this and that. When I’m cooking, I’m hyper; it’s like a bee,” she said, in the interview that accompanied her recipe. She had just moved to a new house, in a whiter part of town, she explained. “We make ourselves at home. The FBI does too; they found me—two days after we moved in—knocking at the door.”
People’s Fund employees and community activists collected the recipes and drafted the interviews. “Our political lives and our personal lives were pretty much all connected,” says Dina Portnoy, now a retired school teacher, then a full-time activist living in a commune in Powelton Village. She interviewed her housemate, Rosemari Mealy, for the book.
Mealy is one of the few African-American voices featured prominently in the first edition, a fact that didn’t escape notice. When the People’s Fund sent the first edition to Chuck Stone, a local columnist, he refused to review it. “He was really mad about the book and said he wouldn’t write about it because it didn’t have enough African-American recipes in it,” says Doley. “He was right.”
The Fund included more African-American cooking in the book’s second edition, and Stone reviewed it in 1977. “The People’s Cookbook is an epicurean must for any kitchen that digs people, food, democracy, human togetherness, and one world,” Stone wrote.
The same year, the People’s Fund changed its name to Bread & Roses Community Fund when it applied for nonprofit status so it could fundraise at a larger scale. Becoming a nonprofit didn’t blunt the group’s radicalism. In its original application to the IRS, Bread & Roses’s stated goals included “overthrowing the U.S. government.”
“They really thought overthrowing the U.S. government was possible,” says Cook.
“And tax-deductible,” adds Caitlin Quigley, Bread and Roses’s director of Communications and Development.
When McKellop posted a digitized version of the cookbook on Twitter, the response was enthusiastic: a thousand likes and hundreds of retweets in a matter of weeks. She says the book’s appeal rests in both its historical specificity, and its relevance to a society that continues to contend with what it means to live, and eat, in diverse communities. “A lot of the quotes from this book sounds like the discourse of today,” McKellop says.
While McKellop is as eager as anyone to recreate the very gay meatloaf, the importance of The People’s Philadelphia Cookbook goes far beyond the kitchen. “The recipes were the least important part of the book,” she says. “It was more about the people.”
This unusual and historic cinema was once an early 19th century farmhouse, before being converted into a recreation and entertainment center serving the nearby Victoria Hotel. After the hotel was destroyed by fire, the building was converted into the 68th cinema in Britain, opening in 1922. It was originally dubbed the "Pavilion Cinema."
However, upon completion headroom inside didn't allow for a normal projection system, so a back-projection system was installed. The cinema's first showing was a film by Charlie Chaplin, after a reel featuring, The Lion Eaters failed to arrive in time for the premiere. The cinema now includes two screens, with the back projection system still operating on screen one, the original auditorium. The Kinema in the Woods is believed to be the only cinema in the United Kingdom to still utilize a back-projection system.
Until 1953, the original auditorium had traditional tip-up seats, except for the first six rows. They were occupied by deck chairs and fetched a premium price from moviegoers.
Captain Carleton Cole Allport, was responsible for this amazing conversion and retained ownership until 1973. The new owner, James Green installed a historic three manual Compton Kinestra theater organ in 1987. Organ performances remain popular events at the venue. During weekend showings, the organ is often played during intervals.
This modernist movie theater was once the jewel of a bustling downtown in pre-war Beirut, but today it is full of bullet holes. The district is a short walk from the rocky Mediterranean coast, and was once dotted with cinemas. The Egg, which was officially part of the never-finished Beirut City Center complex, was one of the most unusual. It was popular among Beirut residents until civil war broke out in the 1970s, and the building suddenly found itself on the front line separating the West and East.
The structure was built in 1965 by Lebanese architect Joseph Philippe Karam, part of a golden age of construction when modernist designers were commissioned to experiment with new ideas and materials across the city. Karam envisioned two large towers on either side of the cinema. Only one was built, and it didn’t survive the war. What did survive years of fighting was the distinct, egg-shaped shell of the cinema—with the scars to prove it.
The Egg remained off-limits to the public as downtown Beirut was razed and reconstructed after the war. For years, it remained a curiosity to a generation of Lebanese with no connection to the old downtown area. Only after massive protests swept the country, beginning in October 2019, were the barriers torn down. Protestors flooded the building, decorating it with art and holding raves and film screenings inside. Now, any passerby is welcome to explore the building and witness an iconic piece of Beirut’s history.
Dragsholm Castle was built around 1215 by the Bishop of Roskilde. Located in the north of Zealand, it was originally built as a palace but was later fortified. It was the only castle on Zealand not to be taken during the Count's Feud, a war of succession that raged across Denmark from 1534 to 1536.
After the Count's Feud and the ensuing Reformation in Denmark, the crown took control of Dragsholm Castle. For more than a century, Dragsholm was used as a prison for noble and ecclesiastical prisoners. Depending on the severity of their crimes, these prisoners were kept in conditions ranging from reasonable comfort to abject misery.
The most famous prisoner to be held in its walls was James Hepburn, the fourth Earl of Bothwell. Lord Bothwell was a man with a certain charm and a talent for finding trouble. By his mid-30s he had racked up a string of scandals including multiple marriages, adultery, divorce, and bankruptcy. Most notably, he was the third and final husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was also widely believed that Bothwell had murdered Mary's previous husband, Lord Darnley. This caused a rift in the country that came to a head at the Battle of Carberry Hill.
Bothwell lost the battle and promptly fled to Denmark, where he was detained and eventually imprisoned in Dragsholm. By all accounts, he was kept in truly awful conditions: For the last 10 years of his life, he was chained to a pillar half his own height, unable to stand upright. The pillar can still be seen at Dragsholm, surrounded by a circular groove dug in the floor by the enchained Lord Bothwell's shuffling. Bothwell died in the castle in 1578.
During the Dano-Swedish War of 1658–1660, the Swedish king Charles X Gustav tried to blow up Dragsholm Castle. While not entirely destroyed, the castle was badly damaged and lay in ruins for a number of years. The king later gave the castle to a nobleman and grocer named Heinrich Müller, and in 1694 it was sold to the nobleman Frederik Christian Adeler. These two men restored the castle in the Baroque style of their time, creating the castle that we see today (at least on the exterior; the interior has been modernized to some degree).
Today, Dragsholm Castle is a tourist attraction, and home to a hotel and restaurant. But the past still clings to it—especially if you believe in ghosts. Many paranormal enthusiasts consider the castle one of the most haunted places in Europe, and it is supposedly home to around 100 different ghosts.
Phantasmal residents are said to include a woman in white, believed to be the ghost of Celina Bolves, who was allegedly sealed inside the walls by her father as punishment for a dalliance with a common laborer. The Grey Lady, meanwhile, is a friendly ghost who in life was done a great favor (what that favor was varies depending on the source) and now wanders Dragsholm as a happy spirit.
Then, of course, there’s the ghost of Lord Bothwell, which has been spotted multiple times. Most famously, witnesses claim to have seen Bothwell riding through the castle courtyard with full horse and carriage, perhaps still trying to escape from the decade-long torment he suffered at Dragsholm Castle.
The platypus—furry-sausage body, duck bill, beaver tail, venomous heel spurs—lives what might be considered a cryptid lifestyle. The semiaquatic, egg-laying mammals are notoriously hard to spot, skulking around in Australian streams at night. They’re predictably hard to catch, and escape easily from the conservationists trying to track them, including Josh Griffiths, an ecologist with Cesar Australia, an environmental consulting firm, who has studied the creatures for 12 years. On a typical survey night near Melbourne, which lasts anywhere from 14 to 16 hours, Griffiths might catch two or three of the strange, slippery creatures.
The recent Australian bushfires, which have burnt tens of millions of acres* and killed approximately a billion animals, have spotlighted the plights of certain species, from koalas to the lesser-known Kangaroo Island dunnart (a mouse-size marsupial). But there has been little news about how the platypus has been faring, in part because their status is still largely a mystery to science. After all, they’re incredibly hard to spot even when there aren’t raging bushfires. “The short answer is that we simply don’t know,” Griffiths says. “The scale of the fire we’ve got at the moment is unprecedented." All the sites he usually monitors for platypuses have been declared emergency zones and are inaccessible. “It’s one more nail in their coffin,” he adds.
In 2008, after bushfires and floods swept through Victoria, the Australian Platypus Conservancy conducted a survey of the creatures, according to Geoff Williams, a conservancy biologist. At the time, they found little relationship between platypus populations and local bushfires. Temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit can be lethal to platypuses, so they retreat to underground burrows when things get too hot. These may have provided a critical refuge—one that more terrestrial or arboreal animals such as koalas often desperately need—according to Tom Grant, a biologist who has spent nearly 50 years studying the platypus. (Grant wrote the definitive book on them, and Griffiths calls him “the Godfather of platypuses.”) And in times of drought, platypuses move into the refuge pools that persist in many dried-out streams. These strategy are how platypuses have survived for as long as a million years, Williams says.
But those studies focused on smaller, localized fires. “These most recent catastrophic fires present a different situation, where the vegetation consolidating the banks, in which they dig their resting and nesting burrows, has been devastated,” Grant writes in an email. He predicts that when rain does finally fall in these areas, the banks will erode, degrading water quality and stifling the small, bottom-dwelling invertebrates that platypuses depend on.
To make matters worse, January and February are the time of year when, baby platypuses tend to emerge from their mothers’ burrows, Grant says. “They will be attempting to find their own food in streams devastated by the fires and in many cases reduced to disconnected refuge pools by the current severe drought,” he says. He predicts many of these platypus young will die this season.
The 2008 study also examined stable rivers and streams that still held a substantial water after the fire had passed. But the country’s extreme, ongoing drought has taken a toll on refuge pools, Grant says. And according to Griffiths, the small creeks that once connected habitats have gotten vaporized by the current bushfires, further fragmenting platypus habitat and maybe putting distant remnant pools off-limits. Travel over land to get to these places would expose them to predators, and lingering heat, even at night, could prove fatal. It is, perhaps, a perfect storm, and Griffiths, Grant, and Williams all see the possibility that local populations may go extinct.
In some places, conservationists air-dropped food, such as carrots, to help some stricken wallabies, but that's not an option for the more finicky platypus. “We can’t do food drops because they only eat live prey,” Griffiths says, including waterbugs and yabbies, a type of freshwater crayfish. “And we have to be careful when spreading live organisms around.” Williams says he’s heard of some prior attempts to feed vulnerable platypuses live earthworms and yabbies, but that there was never any evidence that the food was actually eaten. Plus, this solution is simply not scalable in a crisis like this, he says.
Another option could be to capture and care for some platypuses, but that’s also proven tricky. “You can’t just put in cave traps, you have to use highly specialized nets that can only be used in shallow waterways,” Griffiths says. And the species consumes at least 15 percent of its body weight per day in live prey, making it a huge drain on resources for any zoo or facility, most of which are already stressed to their limits, according to a statement from the Australia Platypus Conservancy. Relocation is also a bad option, since any surviving rivers likely also hold surviving platypuses and other species, competing for the same meager habitat and resources, Williams says. The only thing that might make this possible, as it did following a 1983 bushfire, would be to move surviving populations into places where others had died out. It’s a long-term plan, though, and biologists still have limited access to the survey sites they’ve been studying.
When the state of emergency passes, Griffiths says, he will return to his monitoring project, a collaboration with the San Diego Zoo called the Great Australian Platypus Search. The project relies on environmental DNA, or eDNA, the genetic traces platypuses leave behind. But the bushfires might have thrown a wrench into this project, too. When Griffiths surveyed a site near Melbourne after Australia’s 2009 Black Saturday Fires, he found charred soil; the fire had burnt off the eDNA. And any samples he finds now might be from platypuses that did not survive all the environmental stress.
Though the bushfires are a serious, recurrent problem, the real menace to platypuses is likely to remain the drought. Since European colonization of Australia, the species has lost nearly half its historic population across the eastern part of the mainland and Tasmania, according to Gilad Bino, a researcher at the University of New South Wales Centre for Ecosystem Science. “There’s been a change in what we call the shifting baseline, a change in our collective memory,” he says. “When we see two platypuses in a pool, we think that’s a lot of platypuses, but it’s a fraction of what it used to be.” Bino published a paper modeling the platypus’s future decline, and potential extinction, in the February issue of Biological Conservation. His research identifies a toxic soup of factors beyond fires that threaten the strange mammals’ future, including prolonged drought, climate change, land clearing, and the construction of dams that break up habitat.
The platypus is such an iconic species that it’s almost surprising its decline has happened without much fanfare. European scientists first encountered the platypus in 1791, but argued over its anatomy for nearly a century, according to a 2019 paper in the Journal of Mammalogy. Aboriginal people, who called the platypus mallangong, tambreet, gaya-dari, boonaburra, and lare-relar, among other names, had developed a deep ecological understanding of the creatures, though European scientists characteristically ignored this knowledge, suspecting the specimens they saw were some kind of elaborate hoax.
Bino hopes his paper will lead to a national risk assessment of the future of the species. “There’s a desperate need for more information, and for government funds to monitor platypuses,” he says. “Not knowing what’s going on is not an excuse to assume everything is fine.” And if you are in Australia on a midnight stroll and happen upon a platypus, consider marking it in platypusSpot, a citizen science project Griffiths helps run.
Meanwhile, researchers continue to toil away for long nights in pursuit of the elusive animals. “The more data we’re getting points to that they should be at least listed as vulnerable, or endangered,” Griffiths says. “At least then, people would have to pay attention to them.”
* Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the recent bushfires have burnt two million acres. They have burnt tens of millions of acres.