Note: This is a version of my personal newsletter, which I send out via Ghost, the open-source publishing platform. You can see other issues and sign up here.
The last remaining member of an uncontacted indigenous group in Brazil has died, officials say. The man, whose name was not known, had lived in total isolation for the past 26 years. He was known as Man of the Hole because he dug deep holes, some of which he used to trap animals while others appear to be hiding spaces. His body was found on 23 August in a hammock outside his straw hut. There were no signs of violence. He is thought to have died of natural causes.
This Dutch city has the world’s smartest traffic lights
Hidden down at the southern end of the Netherlands lies a small city of 150,000 with, quite possibly, the world’s greatest traffic lights. Doesn’t sound like particularly high praise at first, but the more you learn about the traffic lights in the town of Hertogenbosch, the more you wish you had them. Because these signals go out of their way to make everyone’s lives better—from bus riders to bicyclists to automobile drivers.
When every ketchup but one went extinct
Around 1900, G.F. Mason, manager of the H.J. Heinz Company’s research laboratory, conducted a series of experiments on ketchup. Each of his carefully bottled, preservative-free samples kept for about 60 hours until, one by one, the corks popped out and the contents spoiled. Still, Mason was on the verge of a breakthrough: a ketchup that—after achieving victory in an all-out catsup war—would come to dominate America’s taste buds, leaving a wasteland of forgotten ketchup flavors in its wake.
The architect who became the king of bank robberies
George Leonidas Leslie led a double life: By day, he was a distinguished architect who hobnobbed with New York City’s elite denizens; by night, he was one of history’s most prolific bank robbers. He studied the anatomy of locks, drafted up blueprints of banks, and invented mechanical safe-breaking devices. During his “career,” authorities estimated that his exploits accounted for 80% of all bank robberies in the entire US during his active years of 1869-78. Altogether, he stole at least $7m ($200m in today’s money)
Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret
Atwood on all things evil
If you google “female authors,” two of the first names that pop up are Margaret Atwood and Joyce Carol Oates. Oates’ new novel Babysitter toes the line between fiction and true crime, placing Hannah Jarrett, a privileged married woman who begins a dangerous affair, in the center of an affluent Detroit suburb plagued by a real-life serial killer. To mark its release, Atwood and Oates took some time to chat about witches, lobotomies, and why they’re not giving up on America.
Why were Norse warriors so vicious? One theory says they were high
On a cold battlefield in Scandinavia sometime around 900 A.D., legend has it that a Norse Viking Berserker Warrior, adorned in nothing but a severed Bears head repurposed as a helmet, devoured the edges of his shield before gulping down fiery coals and snatching live embers with his mouth. He howled and made loud animal noises. He entered a trance-like state. His demonic-like rage would result in the brutal killing of six of his foes. What turned the Norse Viking Berserkers into crazed killers? One theory is a psychoactive plant called ‘Henbane.’