8 Fabulous Facts About Shopping Malls

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Few places encapsulate American consumer culture as well as the shopping mall. The “shop 'til you drop” craze may have reached its peak in the 1980s, but enclosed malls have been a part of the country’s landscape for more than 60 years. In the latest title in Bloomsbury’s Object Lessons series, author Matthew Newton covers the storied history of the mall, from its birth in 1950s suburbia to its modern appeal for urban explorers. In honor of the release of Shopping Mall, we’ve selected some fascinating facts from the book that will put you in touch with your inner mallrat.

1. THE ORIGINAL MALL WAS INSPIRED BY EUROPEAN MARKETS.

When visionary architect Victor Gruen was first commissioned to design a shopping center in Edina, Minnesota in 1952, he looked to his home city of Vienna for inspiration. According to Shopping Mall, Southdale Center was America’s first example of a large-scale indoor mall, with nearly 75 shops filling two levels of retail space. At the center of it all Gruen built his version of a European piazza: an indoor court complete with fountains, goldfish ponds, sculptures, and plant life. That addition helped sell Southdale as a place not only to shop but to relax and socialize. The idea of a mall of as a social hub gained popularity when Gruen’s design was used as the model for more malls across the country. You can watch footage of Southdale from the year it opened above.

2. FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT HATED THE FIRST ONE.

Southdale was met with mostly glowing reviews when it opened in October 1956, but it had one notable critic. After visiting the site in November of that year, famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright expressed his distaste to the Star Tribune. “You’ve got a garden court that has all the evils of the village street and none of its charm,” he said. “Who wants to sit in that desolate-looking spot?”

3. THE DESIGNER DISOWNED HIS CREATION.

Victor Gruen lived long enough to see the shopping mall transform American culture in the late 1970s, and what he saw deeply disturbed him. The spirit of architectural innovation and community he built into Southdale had been sanitized from the facsimiles that popped up around the nation, Newton writes in Shopping Mall. Instead, developers chose whatever design maximized profit, and once open the mall functioned as a “gigantic shopping machine,” as Gruen put it. Dismayed by the phenomenon he had helped father, he announced in a 1978 speech, “I refuse to pay alimony for those bastard developments.”

4. THE MALL OF AMERICA CONTAINS AN AMUSEMENT PARK, AN AQUARIUM, AND FLIGHT SIMULATORS.

Inside of Mall of America.

Tim Bartel, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Since it opened in Bloomington, Minnesota in 1992, the Mall of America has held the title of largest shopping mall on earth. The sprawling complex comprises 530 stores spread out over 4.9 million square feet, according to Shopping Mall. In addition to the attractions listed above, the mall is also home to a comedy club, a children’s museum, a mirror maze, and a mini golf course.

5. THEY INSPIRED GEORGE A. ROMERO.

Shopping malls have provided the settings for a handful of horror movies, including Chopping Mall (1986), Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge (1989), and Eight-Legged Freaks (2002). But the first director to highlight the creepy atmosphere of an empty shopping mall was horror auteur George A. Romero. After directing the classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968), Romero headed to the shopping mall for his sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978). As he told the BBC in 1997, the choice to set a zombie movie there was very intentional. “Right then it was just really the beginning of that mall culture where you went there and you hung out all day. My impression of walking through there, going through this sort of ritualistic, unnatural, consuming experience, was that we really do become zombies in here.”

6. THERE’S A NAME FOR THAT HYPNOTIC EFFECT MALLS HAVE.

Have you ever lost your sense of time and geography while wandering around a shopping mall, only to realize it didn’t seem to bother you? That feeling of pleasant disorientation is what’s known as the “Gruen Transfer,” a phenomenon named for the original mall’s creator. Like casinos, malls are laid out in a way that invites consumers to consume endlessly without offering them a clear way out. As Newton explains, this can corrode a shopper’s self-control—after walking around the windowless maze of stores for a while, they forget what they’re looking for and give in to impulse buys more easily.

7. THEY PAY THEIR SANTAS HANDSOMELY.

Santa Claus is a major draw for shoppers with kids around the holidays, and malls make sure to pay their most famous employee what he’s worth. As Mental Floss has previously revealed, being a mall Santa is a salaried position, and those who pursue it can take home a generous five-figure paycheck for six weeks of work. That's somewhat less surprising when you consider that many Santas earn a degree from Santa University before taking the gig.

8. AMERICA IS HOME TO HUNDREDS OF “DEAD” MALLS.

Interior of dead mall.

Ashley Diener, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The shopping mall was one of the many industries disrupted by the rise of the internet. Hundreds of malls have shuttered in the past few decades, and hundreds more are expected to close in the next five years. While some “dead malls” have been reinvented into spaces such as churches, indoor farms, and apartment complexes, others sit abandoned, only to be visited by the occasional urban explorer. There’s even an entire website, deadmalls.com, dedicated to documenting these modern ruins. For his book Autopsy of America, photographer Seph Lawless chose dead malls as some of his primary subjects. You can check out highlights from his work here.

12 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Easter Bunnies

This child clearly can't get enough Easter Bunny in her life.
This child clearly can't get enough Easter Bunny in her life.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Every year, thousands of families, church groups, and event planners enlist entertainment companies to dispatch a costumed bunny for their Easter celebrations. These performers often endure oppressive heat, frightened children, and other indignities to bring joy to the season.

It can be a thankless job, which is why Mental Floss approached several hares and their handlers for some insight into what makes for a successful appearance, the numerous occupational hazards, and why they can be harassed while holding a giant carrot. Here’s a glimpse of what goes on under the ears.

1. They might be watching netflix under the mask.

Has a bunny ever seemed slow to respond to your child? He or she might be in the middle of a binge-watch. Jennifer Ellison, the sales and marketing manager for San Diego Kids’ Party Rentals and a bunny wrangler during the Easter season, says that extended party engagements might lead their furry foot soldiers to seek distractions while in costume. “We book the bunny by the hour and he is often booked for multiple hour blocks,” she says. “Listening to music definitely helps the time pass.” One of her bunny friends who does a lot of shopping mall appearances has even rigged up a harness that can cradle a smart phone. “It sits above the bunny's nose, resting right at eye level for the performer inside, easily allowing the performer to stream Netflix, scroll through Facebook, or check emails.”

2. They can’t walk on wet grass.

Bunnies that appear at private functions, like backyard parties or egg hunts, have to maintain the illusion of being a character and not a human in a furry costume. According to Albert Joseph, the owner of Albert Joseph Entertainment in San Francisco and a 30-year veteran of Easter engagements, one of the cardinal rules is never to set foot on wet grass. Why? “They wear regular shoes under their giant bunny feet,” he says. “If they step on wet grass and then walk on cement, they’ll make a human foot print, not a bunny print.”

3. There’s a reason they might not pick up your kid.

Bunnies might be amenable to posing for a photo with your child on their lap, but they’re probably not going to grab the little tyke and sweep them off their feet. According to Steve Rothenberg, a veteran performer and owner of Talk of the Town Entertainment in Rockville, Maryland, deadlifting a kid is against the rules. “The last thing you want is to lift them up and have them knock off your head,” he says.

4. Giant carrots will invite inappropriate behavior.

A person dressed as the Easter bunny.
As the 3-foot-long carrot proves, adults are easily the least mature guests at a child's Easter party.
lisafx/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Joseph’s warren of party bunnies usually come equipped with a 3-foot-long giant carrot as a prop. While children are amused by the oversized vegetable, the adults at the parties usually can’t help making observations. “Practically every visit, there’s always someone saying, ‘My, what a big carrot you have,’” he says.

On one occasion, Joseph attended a function at a retirement home. One of the women, who he estimated to be in her 80s, commented on his big feet in a lascivious manner. “She told me she was in room 37.”

5. Clothes make the bunny.

Easter bunny at the White House.
Every year, a well-dressed Easter bunny visits Washington, D.C. for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

While “naked” (i.e., unclothed) bunnies remain popular, Ellison’s lineup also includes Mr. Bunny, a “classy lad with a top hat and vest,” and a Mrs. Bunny sporting a purple dress. Why would kids care if a bunny has sartorial sense? “Kids can probably better relate to a giant, furry character if it's dressed like a human,” Ellison says. “[And] we just thought the costumes looked cute.”

6. They can’t wear dark clothing underneath.

If a bunny wants to wear a black shirt under his or her fur, it stands to reason there wouldn’t be any issue: It's all hidden from sight. But Joseph insists that his cast stick with white apparel only. In addition to being cooler, it serves a practical function. “There’s always an opportunity to see a little something around the neckline or near the feet,” he says. Light clothing helps preserve the character.

7. They use an upholstery cleaner for their heads.

Most bunny costumes can be tossed in any regular washing machine, with the feet going in a larger commercial-use unit. But the heads, which are typically massive and unwieldy, get special attention. “You know those upholstery cleaners you can rent from a grocery store?” Joseph asks. “We use those. There’s a wand attachment to it for cleaning carpet.”

8. There’s a trick to keeping cool.

Costumes made of fake fur in the spring can be a recipe for disaster—or at least some lightheadedness. While none of the bunnies we profiled had experienced fainting spells, Ellison says that the trick to staying cool is actually adding a layer underneath the outfit. “Light, breathable clothing underneath the suit usually does the trick, but some people choose to wear an ice vest under the suit as well.”

Many bunnies also work in intervals: 45 to 50 minutes “on,” and 10 to 15 minutes in a private area to cool off and drink water. “Clients are usually understanding and sympathetic of the bunny and will allow even more breaks if necessary,” Ellison says.

9. Mints are essential.

Bunnies may favor carrots and grass, but their human operators need something other than that in order to deal with the humidity. Rothenberg says that his bunnies usually nibble on mints while working a crowd. “They’ll typically chew gum or have some kind of mint to keep their throat from drying out,” he says.

10. They use bunny handlers to prevent knockdowns.

A person dressed as the Easter bunny.
An Easter Bunny makes a young girl's day.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Any professional bunny knows that having an assistant watching their back is the best way to ensure an appearance goes smoothly. “Your vision is limited and you can’t really look to the left or right,” Rothenberg says. “Having an assistant prevents kids from running up behind you.”

11. They have damaged butts.

In order to ease apprehensive kids, Joseph advocates for his bunnies to squat near a child rather than bend over. “It gets them at a child’s level so they can touch and feel for themselves,” he says. “But a bunny that does a lot of squatting winds up needing their [costume] butts re-sewn. I’ve repaired a lot of them.” Joseph will also invite mothers to sit on the bunny’s lap so fearful children are more likely to approach. “You don’t want to prod the kid,” he says.

12. They’re not just for easter.

While bunny costume season is a fleeting few weeks, companies are happy to roll out their rabbits for other occasions. Once, Ellison sent out a bunny for a customer’s Alice in Wonderland-themed gathering. “The client wanted the White Rabbit, so we dressed up our bunny in a vest and top hat and gave him an over-sized pocket watch. It worked out great.”

This piece originally ran in 2017.

The 48 Most Frequently Banned Wedding Songs

Bogdan Kurylo/iStock via Getty Images
Bogdan Kurylo/iStock via Getty Images

Who among us hasn't attended a wedding and cringed at the playlist? In 2017, stats/polling site FiveThirtyEight asked more than two dozen professional DJs who had DJ’d around 200 weddings what songs couples ban from their weddings and, after surveying 182 wedding playlists, came up with a list of 48 songs. They gave each song a percentage, which represents the share of weddings that banned the song.

The first 10 on the list represent silly dances people like to do but shouldn’t do, like The Chicken Dance, The Macarena, and The Electric Slide. After that, the list starts to see overplayed songs like “Don’t Stop Believin',’” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Dancing Queen,” and “Sweet Caroline,” and call-and-response songs like “Shout.” The list contains a mix of new and old hip-hop, R&B, and pop hits, and several songs ended up tied.

Interestingly, a few songs from FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 ultimate wedding playlist also appear on the banned list, including “Hey Ya!,” “Uptown Funk,” “Sweet Caroline,” and “Call Me Maybe.”

You may or may not agree with this list, but don’t feel bad if you decide to ban any of these songs from your own wedding playlist—chances are, someone out there agrees with you.

  1. “The Chicken Dance”

  1. “Cha-Cha Slide” // DJ Casper

  1. “Macarena” // Los Del Rio

  1. “Cupid Shuffle” // Cupid

  1. “YMCA” // Village People

  1. “Electric Boogie (Electric Slide)” // Marcia Griffiths

  1. “Hokey Pokey”

  1. “Wobble” // V.I.C.

  1. “Happy” // Pharrell Williams

  1. “Shout” // Isley Brothers

  1. “Love Shack” // The B-52's

  1. “We Are Family” // Sister Sledge

  1. “Blurred Lines” // Robin Thicke

  1. “Celebration” // Kool & The Gang

  1. Cotton Eye Joe” // Rednex

  1. “Dancing Queen” // ABBA

  1. “Don’t Stop Believin’” // Journey

  1. “Single Ladies” // BeyoncÉ

  1. “Sweet Caroline” // Neil Diamond

  1. “Turn Down for What” // DJ Snake & Lil Jon

  1. “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” // SilentÓ

  1. “Hot in Herre” // Nelly

  1. “Mony Mony” // Billy Idol

  1. “All About That Bass” // Meghan Trainor

  1. “Baby Got Back” // Sir Mix-a-Lot

  1. “Booti Call” // Blackstreet

  1. “Gangnam Style” // Psy

  1. “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” // Big & Rich

  1. “Stayin’ Alive” // Bee Gees

  1. “Sweet Home Alabama” // Lynyrd Skynyrd

  1. “Uptown Funk” // Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars

  1. “Wagon Wheel” // Nathan Carter

  1. “What Do You Mean?” // Justin Bieber

  1. “All of Me” // John Legend

  1. “Bohemian Rhapsody” // Queen

  1. “Brown Eyed Girl” // Van Morrison

  1. “Call Me Maybe” // Carly Rae Jepsen

  1. “Footloose” // Kenny Loggins

  1. “Get Low” // Lil Jon

  1. “Hey Ya!” // Outkast

  1. “Hotline Bling” // Drake

  1. “I Will Survive” // Gloria Gaynor

  1. “My Heart Will Go On” // CÉline Dion

  1. “SexyBack” // Justin Timberlake

  1. “Shake It Off” // Taylor Swift

  1. “Sugar” // Maroon 5

  1. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” // Bonnie Tyler

  1. “You Shook Me All Night Long” // AC/DC

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