Our 35 Most Popular Stories of 2017
From unsolved mysteries to feline flatulence, our readers' thirst for knowledge is wide and varied—and the same goes for our editors and writers. Need proof? Look no further than our 35 most popular stories of 2017. In case you weren't obsessively refreshing Mental Floss all year, here's what you missed:
1. Known Alias: How Stephen King Was Outed as Richard Bachman
For eight years, Stephen King's pseudonym went undiscovered. Then a bookstore clerk took a walk to the Library of Congress.
2. The True Identity of Jack the Ripper May Have Just Been Confirmed
Nearly 130 years after the infamous serial killer's gruesome murders cast a shadow over London, researchers believe they’ve uncovered the identity of their perpetrator.
3. The Hidden Room Behind Mount Rushmore
In the 14 years he spent planning the monument, artist Gutzon Borglum harbored a deep concern: that his creation would one day be shrouded in mystery. So he created the Hall of Records.
4. The Polish Doctors Who Used Science to Outwit the Nazis
The fake typhus epidemic staged by Eugene Lazowski and Stasiek Matulewicz during World War II saved thousands of lives.
5. 10 Things We Learned About Kim Jong-Un From His Classmates
The great agitator has always been known for being slightly temperamental. His love of the films of Jackie Chan was also well known.
6. Exhumation Confirms Gravesite of World's Fair Killer H.H. Holmes
For years, rumors have persisted that serial killer H.H. Holmes escaped the noose and got away with murder. But forensics told the real story.
7. Take a Look: An Oral History of Reading Rainbow
For 23 seasons, the LeVar Burton-hosted show taught generations of kids to love the written word. Here's how they did it.
8. Karen Wetterhahn, the Chemist Whose Poisoning Death Changed Safety Standards
She followed the safety protocol, but the mother of two was dead within a year.
9. 7 TV Characters Killed Off Out of Spite
Death is never easy. That’s especially true in television, where the demise of popular characters can alienate audiences and send a series into a tailspin.
10. When Did the Do Not Call List Stop Working?
There was once a time when picking up a call from an unfamiliar number didn’t guarantee you’d be talking to a robot. Then, at the turn of the decade, something changed. So what happened?
11. The Quiet Strength of Julia, the First Muppet with Autism
In April, Sesame Street viewers got their first glimpse of Julia, the first new Muppet cast member on the series in nearly a decade, who represented a significant milestone for the legendary show.
12. Opening Your Car Door Like the Dutch Do Can Save Cyclists' Lives
To prevent dooring accidents in the Netherlands, people rely on a simple practice that’s been dubbed the “Dutch Reach."
13. The Mysterious 19th Century ‘Princess' Who Fooled a Town
One day in 1817, a woman named "Princess Caraboo" appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
14. The Most Important Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of
Clair Patterson determined the age of the Earth—and then he saved it.
15. I, Darwin: An Oral History of the IKEA Monkey
The Japanese snow macaque managed to unlock a car door and stun bystanders at a Canadian IKEA. Things only got weirder from there.
16. 10 Award-Winning Optical Illusions and Brain Puzzles
Yes, your mind really is playing tricks on you. Learn how and why.
17. The Murderer Who Helped Make the Oxford English Dictionary
The OED’s most prolific contributor was a sex-addicted murderer who lived in an insane asylum.
18. Do Cats Fart?
Certain philosophical questions can invade even the most disciplined of minds. This is one of them.
19. Hollywood's Brief Love Affair With Young Einstein Star Yahoo Serious
The Australia-born "star" made just three films before vanishing from the public eye.
20. Researchers Discover New Species of Giant Spider
Tiny, dainty spiders no bigger than a Tic-Tac probably won’t send your blood pressure rising. But the 4-inch-long, red-fanged Sierra Cacachilas wandering spider is another story.
21. An (Almost) Comprehensive History of Rat Kings
A ball of furry fury, a rat king occurs when the tails of rodents become twisted, wrapped, and warped into a knot so impossible that not even the world's most loyal Boy Scout could untangle it.
22. Why People Walked Differently in Medieval Times
A whole lot about medieval life would feel foreign to us now. No indoor plumbing, no toilet paper, and a whole lot of blood letting. But you might not expect that you’d have to walk differently, too.
23. There's a Wire Above Manhattan That You've Probably Never Noticed
It's hard to imagine that anything literally hanging from utility poles across Manhattan could be considered "hidden," but throughout the borough, about 18 miles of translucent wire stretches around the skyline, and most people have likely never noticed.
24. An Ex-Google Engineer Just Reinvented the Measuring Cup
Recognizing a problem most people didn’t even know they had, former Google and Facebook software engineer Joshua Redstone has made a bold claim for his recent Kickstarter venture: He’s developed a better measuring cup.
25. Solved: A Jane Doe From Unsolved Mysteries Is Identified
For 27 years, investigators at California's Orange County Sheriff’s Department's Coroner Division would periodically pull out a case file that kept nagging at them. In 2017, their dogged pursuit of the victim's identity has finally paid off.
26. The Man Who Built a 40-Foot Spite Fence Around His Neighbor’s Home
When Nicholas Yung wouldn't sell his land to railroad baron Charles Crocker, Crocker built a 40-foot fence around his house and blotted out the sun.
27. Scientists May Have Found the Real Cause of Dyslexia—And a Way to Treat It
According to a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the so-called learning disability may actually start in the eyes.
28. Candy Crush: The Bizarre History of Those '90s Mentos Commercials
The series of slightly disturbing ads annoyed some, but paid off for the "Freshmaker" candy company.
29. How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map
The most anticipated eclipse in American history arrived in the summer of 2017. At the heart of it was Hopkinsville, which anticipated 100,000 visitors.
30. The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time
How do you narrow down the entire history of science fiction cinema into a list of only the 10 best movies? We're here to help.
31. What's the Purpose of the Diamond on the Front of Backpacks?
It's called a pig snout. And it's there for a reason.
32. The Men Who Volunteered to Be Poisoned by the Government
In 1902, 12 men agreed to take low doses of poison in order to test their efficacy as food preservatives. No one died. Basically.
33. What Did the Mob Think of The Godfather?
Before filming began, men with ties to organized crime made it clear that Paramount would need to meet certain demands—or else.
34. How 7 Wild Game of Thrones Fan Theories Panned Out in Season 7
The hit HBO series tied up a handful of loose ends in particularly satisfying fashion, but left just as many unanswered questions.
35. Can You Really Lose Weight by Pooping?
You can indeed see the effects of a truly satisfying bowel movement reflected on your bathroom scale. (Wash your hands first, please.)