Conflict of Interests


The Atlas Obscura

Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras are cataloging the world's weirdest places to foster a new age of curiosity. An enormous concrete dome that seals...

Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras are cataloging the world's weirdest places to foster a new age of curiosity.

An enormous concrete dome that seals off the crater left by an atomic blast. The ancestral home of a nearly forgotten Kentucky family, which had four children born with bright blue skin. The hiding place of a memoir written by an infamous 19th-century fugitive-and bound in his own skin.They're all real places you can visit. And they're all collected at Atlas Obscura, a new website which aims to be a "compendium of the world's wonders, curiosities and esoterica," founded by Joshua Foer and Dylan Thuras.You know Foer's family: His brother, Franklin, edits the New Republic; his other brother, Jonathan Safran Foer, wrote some books you might have read. The youngest Foer is hyper-successful as well: Later this year, he'll publish Moonwalking with Einstein, a chronicle of the time he spent competing in the National Memory Championships (he won). Thuras, a film editor and budding graphic novelist, co-founded one of the best antiquarian sites on the web, Curious Expeditions. The two of them met through Foer's own site (which is on hiatus), The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, and began working on the Atlas Obscura not too long after.Obviously, they both share a fascination with the world's moldiest, weirdest corners. But the sensibility, if anything, is ancient, harking back to Wunderkammern, or Wonder Cabinets-personal collections of bizarre and mythical artifacts, which became a fad among rich men in 16th century, and eventually evolved into the first modern museums. GOOD asked Foer and Thuras a few questions about the Atlas and the insider's tours they plan on offering of some of the places it includes.GOOD:How did each of become so consumed by hidden places? How, or why, did you come by your antiquarian sensibility?Dylan Thuras: I grew up in the Midwest, which has a disproportionate amount of oddities to population (serial killers too). Something about all that flat land I think. When I was about 12 my family went on a road trip, and we saw a place in Wisconsin called the House on the Rock, a huge complex packed with curiosities, including the world's largest carousel. Those Midwest oddities began my fascination. When I met Josh, I began pursuing them actively.Joshua Foer: I'm pretty sure it happened in college. One summer, when I was 19, I spent two months driving all over the lower 48 states trying to find all of the most bizarre places in America. It was an incredible trip, but it was also a real pain in the ass. They're hard to find. I had a half dozen guidebooks open on the passenger seat of my car, each of which was good but not great. That's when I realized that there needed to be a single online resource where people could share their knowledge of these sorts of obscure places.G:What do you think they reveal about the people that created them? Could you highlight some favorites?

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