Our 35 Most Popular Stories of 2018

iStock.com/titiya
iStock.com/titiya

From understanding weird pet behaviors to learning the proper way to wipe your butt, our readers have a thirst for all sorts of knowledge. Fortunately, so do our editors and writers. For proof, look no further than our 35 most popular stories of 2018. In case you weren't obsessively refreshing the Mental Floss website all year, here's what you missed:

1.New Guidelines Redefine Birth Years for Millennials, Gen-X, and 'Post-Millennials', by Jay Serafino

2. The Mysterious Bronze Objects That Have Baffled Archaeologists for Centuries, by Tom Metcalfe

3. The Pasta Sauce Hailed as the World's Best Is Surprisingly Easy to Make at Home, by Shaunacy Ferro

4. The Fascinating Reason Why There Are No Mosquitoes at Disney World, by Madeline Raynor

5. The Best Way to Wipe Your Butt, According to the Experts, by Alvin Ward

6. The Real Reason Costco Employees Check Receipts at Exits, by Jake Rossen

7. Where Did the Ex-Confederate Leaders Go After the Confederacy Was Defeated by the Union?, by Jay Bazzinotti

8. The Key to Robert E. Lee's Puzzling Death Might Be Hidden in a Photo of His Earlobe, by Evan Lubofsky

9. 14 Haunting Facts About the Winchester Mystery House, by Kristy Puchko

10. Why Is the American Flag Displayed Backwards on Military Uniforms?, by Jake Rossen

11. George RR Martin Confirms Popular Fan Theory About Game of Thrones's White Walkers, by Mason Segall

12. This Beatles Poster Breaks Down the Instruments Played in Every Fab Four Song, by Madeline Raynor

13. How the World’s Only Feudal Lord Outclassed the Nazis to Save Her People, by Lucas Reilly

14. 15 of the Most Successful Products from Shark Tank, by Jake Rossen

15. How Much You Need to Make to Afford a Home in Each State, by Michele Debczak

16. Traumatic License: An Oral History of Action Park, by Jake Rossen

17. 12 Facts About the Penis, by Jordan Rosenfeld

18. The 10 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now, by Jake Rossen

19. 12 Facts About Evil Genius, Netflix’s Addictive New True Crime Series, by Jennifer M. Wood

20. 15 Old Things In Your House That Are Worth a Fortune, by Jay Serafino

21. The Surprising Reasons Your Dog Curls Up in a Ball Before Going to Sleep, by Natalie Zamora

22. The Easy Way to Reduce Robocalls on Your Smartphone, by Jake Rossen

23. 'Bizarre as Hell': The Disappearance of the Yuba County Five, by Jake Rossen

24. Authorities Have Cracked a Bizarre Cold Case That Could Have Ties to the Zodiac Killer, by Bess Lovejoy

25. The Best Scary Movies on Netflix Right Now, by Jake Rossen

26. These Are the World's 10 Most Expensive Cities, by Shaunacy Ferro

27. The Only Way to Answer ‘What Is Your Greatest Weakness?’ In a Job Interview, by Jake Rossen

28. We've All Been Threading Needles Wrong This Whole Time, by Michele Debczak

29. 15 EGOT Winners (and 20 Almost-EGOTS), by Jennifer M. Wood

30. Why You Should Stop Washing Your Clothes in Warm Water, by Shaunacy Ferro

31. The Quest to Break America’s Most Mysterious Code—And Find $60 Million in Buried Treasure, by Lucas Reilly

32. 10 Science-Backed Tips for Getting a Cat to Like You, by Mikel Delgado

33. The One Harry Potter Character JK Rowling Regrets Killing Off, by Natalie Zamora

34. Why You Sometimes See Black Tubes Stretched Across the Road, by Michele Debczak

35. 9 Bizarre Facts About Nicolas Cage, by Jake Rossen

10 Killer Gifts for True Crime Fans

Ulysses Press/Little A
Ulysses Press/Little A

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Humans have a strange and lasting fascination with the dark and macabre. We’re hooked on stories about crime and murder, and if you know one of those obsessives who eagerly binges every true crime documentary and podcast that crosses their path, you’re in luck—we’ve compiled a list of gifts that will appeal to any murder mystery lover.

1. Donner Dinner Party: A Rowdy Game of Frontier Cannibalism!; $15

Chronicle Books/Amazon

The infamous story of the Donner party gets a new twist in this social deduction party game that challenges players to survive and eliminate the cannibals hiding within their group of friends. It’s “lots of fun accusing your friends of eating human flesh and poisoning your food,” one reviewer says.

Buy it: Amazon

2. A Year of True Crime Page-a-Day Calendar; $16

Workman Calendars/Amazon

With this page-a-day calendar, every morning is an opportunity to build your loved one's true crime chops. Feed their morbid curiosity by reading about unsolved cases and horrifying killers while testing their knowledge with the occasional quizzes sprinkled throughout the 313-page calendar (weekends are combined onto one page).

Buy it: Amazon

3. Bloody America: The Serial Killers Coloring Book; $10

Kolme Korkeudet Oy/Amazon

Some people use coloring books to relax, while others use them to dive into the grisly murders of American serial killers. Just make sure to also gift some red colored pencils before you wrap this up for your bestie.

Buy it: Amazon

4. The Serial Killer Cookbook: True Crime Trivia and Disturbingly Delicious Last Meals from Death Row's Most Infamous Killers and Murderers; $15

Ulysses Press/Amazon

This macabre cookbook contains recipes for the last meals of some of the world’s most famous serial killers, including Ted Bundy, Aileen Wuornos, and John Wayne Gacy. This cookbook covers everything from breakfast (seared steak with eggs and toast, courtesy of Ted Bundy) to dessert (chocolate cake, the last request of Bobby Wayne Woods). Each recipe includes a short description of the killer who requested the meal.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Ripped from the Headlines!: The Shocking True Stories Behind the Movies’ Most Memorable Crimes; $15

Little A/Amazon

In this book, true crime historian Harold Schechter sorts out the truth and fiction that inspired some of Hollywood’s best-known murder movies—including Psycho (1960), Scream (1996), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), and The Hills Have Eyes (1977). As Schechter makes clear, sometimes reality is even a little more sick and twisted than the movies show.

Buy it: Amazon

6. The Deadbolt Mystery Society Monthly Box; $22/month

CrateJoy

Give the murder mystery lover in your life the opportunity to solve a brand-new case every single month. Each box includes the documents and files for a standalone mystery story that can be solved alone or with up to three friends. To crack the case, you’ll also need a laptop, tablet, or smartphone connected to the internet—each mystery includes interactive content that requires scanning QR codes or watching videos.

Buy it: Cratejoy

7. In Cold Blood; $10

Vintage/Amazon

Truman Capote’s 1965 classic about the murder of a Kansas family is considered by many to be the first true-crime nonfiction novel ever published. Capote’s book—still compulsively readable despite being written more than 50 years ago—follows the mysterious case from beginning to end, helping readers understand the perspectives of the victims, investigators, and suspects in equal time.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide; $13

Forge Books/Amazon

Any avid true crime fan has at least heard of My Favorite Murder, the popular podcast that premiered in 2016. This book is a combination of practical wisdom, true crime tales, and personal stories from the podcast’s comedic hosts. Reviewers say it’s “poignant” and “worth every penny.”

Buy it: Amazon

9. I Like to Party Mug; $12

LookHUMAN/Amazon

This cheeky coffee mug says it all. Plus, it’s both dishwasher- and microwave-safe, making it a sturdy gift for the true crime lover in your life.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Latent Fingerprint Kit; $60

Crime Scene Store/Amazon

Try your hand (get it?!) at being an amateur detective with this kit that lets you collect fingerprints left on most surfaces. It may not be glamorous, but it could help you solve the mystery of who put that practically empty carton back in the refrigerator when it barely contained enough milk for a cup of coffee.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 20 Most Valuable Companies in the World

The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
The Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Laurenz Heymann, Unsplash

It seems like the most valuable companies should be those whose products and services we use on a near-daily basis. And according to Forbes’s most recent list, they are: The top five highest-valued brands in the world are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook.

The annual study is based on a complex mixture of metrics that cover revenue and earnings, tax rates, price-to-earnings ratios, and capital employed. Since the data is from 2017 to 2019, the list doesn’t reflect how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the companies in question. That said, it does reflect what many have long assumed: that Big Tech is running laps around all the other industries. The top five are all considered technology companies, as are four others in the top 20 (Samsung, Intel, Cisco, and Oracle). Other companies aren’t in the technology category, but they own lucrative offshoots that are. Disney, in seventh place with an estimated value of $61.3 billion, falls under the “leisure” umbrella—but Disney+ itself would likely be marked “technology.” (Netflix is.)

The list isn’t completely devoid of time-tested classics that don’t involve software or hardware. Coca-Cola edged out Disney by about $3 billion to take sixth place; Toyota placed 11th with a brand value of $41.5 billion; and McDonald’s just cracked the top 10 with $46.1 billion. Louis Vuitton, Nike, and Walmart all also made the top 20.

Just because a brand ranked high on this year’s list doesn’t necessarily mean it’s doing well (and vice versa). Facebook, for example, suffered a 21-percent decrease in brand value compared to Forbes’ 2019 list—the largest loss of all 200 companies included in the study. Netflix’s brand value, on the other hand, jumped a staggering 72 percent from 2019 to 2020. With an estimated $26.7 billion value, it still missed the top 20 by six spots.

See Forbes’s top 20 below, and check out the full list here.

  1. Apple // $241.2 billion
  1. Google // $207.5 billion
  1. Microsoft // $162.9 billion
  1. Amazon // $135.4 billion
  1. Facebook // $70.3 billion
  1. Coca-Cola // $64.4 billion
  1. Disney // $61.3 billion
  1. Samsung // $50.4 billion
  1. Louis Vuitton // $47.2 billion
  1. McDonald’s // $46.1 billion
  1. Toyota // $41.5 billion
  1. Intel // $39.5 billion
  1. Nike // $39.1 billion
  1. AT&T // $37.3 billion
  1. Cisco // $36 billion
  1. Oracle // $35.7 billion
  1. Verizon // $32.3 billion
  1. Visa // $31.8 billion
  1. Walmart // $29.5 billion
  1. GE // $29.5 billion

[h/t Forbes]