9 Monumental Facts About Chimney Rock

RobertWaltman/iStock via Getty Images
RobertWaltman/iStock via Getty Images

Standing around 325 feet tall from peak to base, Chimney Rock looms like a lighthouse on the Great Plains. One of the most cherished landmarks in the Nebraska panhandle, it greeted thousands of emigrants who risked their lives to travel westward. Oh, and it also graced one of the most popular video games of all time. Load up your wagon with more facts about Chimney Rock.

1. Chimney Rock is a reminder of America’s volcanic past.

Chimney Rock is a hoodoo, a vertical pile of rock layers (or strata). The oldest of these layers is roughly 34 million years old, while the youngest was laid down 23 million years ago. Volcanic ash was a key component in many of the strata. About 37 million years ago, a series of volcanoes began to emerge in Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. Ashy clouds unleashed by their eruptions covered the Great Plains, blending with sands, silts, and clays. After several million years, the surface of the plains became elevated. Erosion then broke down the strata, revealing Chimney Rock's current shape. A hard sandstone cap at the summit could be shielding the softer, more vulnerable layers below from eroding as rapidly as they otherwise might.

2. One of Chimney Rock’s Native American names translates to “elk penis.”

That particular name, used by the Lakota Sioux, wasn’t popular with early white settlers or explorers, who instead called it “Elk Peak,” “Elk Brick,” “Nose Mountain,” and “The Chimney.” Although written descriptions of this formation date all the way back to 1830, the “Chimney Rock” moniker didn’t appear in print until 1842.

3. Travelers on the Oregon Trail used Chimney Rock as a marker.

Over 2000 miles in length, the historic Oregon Trail ran all the way from Missouri to the Pacific Northwest. It’s been estimated that as many as 500,000 travelers took this arduous route (and similar trails) during the 19th century. For many of them, seeing Chimney Rock was cause for celebration because it meant that the first (and easiest) third of their hard journey was just about over. Accordingly, when historian Merrill Mattes reviewed 300 journal entries written by pioneers on the Oregon Trail, she found more references to Chimney Rock than to any other landmark.

4. The California and Mormon Trails passed by Chimney Rock, too.

Popularized during the Gold Rush of the 1840s and 1850s, the California Trail covered much of the same ground as the better-known Oregon Trail. So did the Mormon Trail, a 1300-mile pathway that linked Nauvoo, Illinois, to Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Both routes came within sight of Chimney Rock.

5. Pioneers used to carve their names on Chimney Rock.

“I saw hundreds of names out in the rock, some at a dizzying height,” wrote one traveler in 1850. “I wrote mine above all except two and theirs were about 8 feet higher than mine.” Weathering and erosion have long since destroyed most of this graffiti, although a few monogram-covered rock samples have been removed from the site and preserved for posterity.

6. Chimney Rock was designated a National Historic Site on August 9, 1956.

To see it in person, and learn more about the rich history of this region, pop into the Ethel and Christopher J. Abbott Visitor’s Center in Bayard, Nebraska. There’s a viewing area where you can enjoy the rocky tower in all its glory, as well as an interactive museum complete with a miniature Chimney Rock ring-toss game.

7. Chimney Rock is featured on the Nebraska state quarter.

In 1999, the United States Mint kicked off the 50 States Quarters Program. Hoping to promote coin-collecting, the agency released a series of limited-edition commemorative quarters whose flipsides featured artistic tributes to each U.S. state. Nebraska’s quarter, released in 2006, shows a covered wagon driving past Chimney Rock. Hand-picked by then-governor Dave Heineman, the design was chosen over a renderings of the state capitol in Lincoln, the human figure atop the capitol, and Ponca chief Standing Bear [PDF].

8. When Chimney Rock debuted in the Oregon Trail video game series, it beat out two neighboring attractions.

Oregon Trail was conceived by Minnesota history teacher Don Rawitsch and his roommates in 1971. But the earliest editions didn’t include any of the geographical landmarks that actual settlers would have seen along the Oregon Trail. Enter Philip Bouchard, a designer who was tasked with upgrading the game for Apple II in 1984. To improve the aesthetics, he threw in some real-life natural wonders. “Chimney Rock was one of the most famous of all, and therefore an obligatory inclusion,” Bouchard told the Scottsbluff Star Herald in 2019. Wanting to space out the game’s landmarks, he omitted two equally impressive formations that greeted travelers on the Oregon Trail: Scotts Bluff and Courthouse Rock. Since they’re both located in western Nebraska, Bouchard felt they were “too close to Chimney Rock for me to include them in the game.”

9. Chimney Rock is still eroding today.

People have been questioning the rock’s stability for the better part of two centuries. “I am very sure it cannot stand many years before large flakes will slide to the ground if all does not come down in a general crash,” wrote emigrant Israel F. Hale in 1849. More than 150 years later, in the early 2000s, some critics said Chimney Rock didn’t belong on Nebraska’s state quarter because it’s eroding. The precise rate of erosion has never been determined—so it’s hard to know how much longer Chimney Rock will exist. But despite 15 decades of doubt about its future, this icon of the West still stands.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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15 Creepy Facts About Carrie

Sissy Spacek stars in Carrie (1976).
Sissy Spacek stars in Carrie (1976).
Scream Factory

Brian De Palma has never met a genre he can’t tackle. Throughout his 50-plus-year career in Hollywood, he has famously dabbled in action films (Mission: Impossible, Snake Eyes), crime dramas (Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables), psychological thrillers (Raising Cain, Body Double), film noirs (Black Dahlia, Femme Fatale), and expletive-filled gangster movies (Scarface). But to this day, Carrie—his 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel—remains one of his most impressive achievements. And not just because it still manages to scare the bejesus out of audiences, even if they know what’s coming next. Here are 15 things you might not have known about the Oscar-nominated horror film.

1. Carrie was Stephen King's first big-screen adaptation.

Scott Eisen, Getty Images for Warner Bros.

Carrie marked a number of firsts for the soon-to-be bestselling author: In addition to being his first published novel, it was also the first of his stories to be made into a film. In the more than 40 years since the book’s release, King’s work has formed the basis for more than 100 movies, television movies, series, and episodes.

2. Stephen King was paid $2500 for the film rights to Carrie.

While speaking at a book event in Fort Myers, Florida, in 2010, King recalled that he was paid just $2500 for the movie rights to Carrie—which may seem like a pittance, but he has no regrets. “I was fortunate to have that happen to my first book,” King said.

3. Stephen King thought Brian De Palma handled Carrie in a "more artistic" way than he had.

Five years after the film’s release, King praised De Palma’s adaptation, noting that:

"De Palma's approach to the material was lighter and more deft than my own—and a good deal more artistic ... The book seems clear enough and truthful enough in terms of the characters and their actions, but it lacks the style of De Palma's film. The book attempts to look at the ant farm of high school society dead on; De Palma's examination of this 'High School Confidential' world is more oblique ... and more cutting.”

More than a quarter-century later, in a 2007 interview with Nightline, King seemed slightly less enthusiastic when he said that, "Carrie is a good movie. It hasn't aged as well as some of the other ones. But it's still pretty good."

4. Stephen King's name was misspelled in the Carrie trailer.

King was such a newcomer at the time of Carrie's release his first name was actually misspelled in the movie's trailer (it was written as Steven, not Stephen).

5. The stars of Carrie could have been the stars of Star Wars.

Brian De Palma ended up casting for Carrie at the same time his good friend George Lucas was doing the same for a little sci-fi film he was making called Star Wars. So the two made the rather unorthodox decision to hold joint auditions, which ended up becoming a bit confusing. De Palma liked Amy Irving for the lead in Carrie, but she was also considered for Princess Leia in Star Wars. William Katt also auditioned for Star Wars, alongside Kurt Russell.

6. Carrie stars Amy Irving and William Katt had dated in real life.

Before being cast as Sue Snell and Tommy Ross, Bates High School’s golden couple, Irving and Katt had actually dated. “It was like a year before we tested for Carrie," Irving explained. "We were only together for a short time and then we became friends. Suddenly, we were tested for this film together. We tested with a scene that wasn't in the film, one of our big scenes that was cut out. It was in the back seat of a car and it was very physical. We were lucky because we'd been through that; we were very comfortable with each other, it was easy. We didn't end up having much together in the final print."

There was another personal connection within the film for Irving: her character’s mother in the film was played by her actual mom, Priscilla Pointer.

7. Brian De Palma didn't see Sissy Spacek as Carrie.

Though De Palma was a fan of Spacek’s work, he was convinced that he had already found his Carrie in another actress. His decision to let Spacek audition at all was mostly out of courtesy to her husband, Jack Fisk, the film’s art director. "He told me that if I wanted to, I could try out for the part of Carrie White,” Spacek recounted to Rolling Stone. "There was another girl that he was set on and unless he was really surprised, she was the one. I hung up and decided to go for it."

Spacek showed up at her audition in an old dress she hadn’t worn since grade school and with her hair slicked back with Vaseline. When she was done, she waited in the parking lot while her husband reviewed her audition with the rest of the production team. After Fisk came out to tell her that the part was hers, “We sped off before anybody could change his mind,” Spacek said.

8. Carrie was John Travolta's first movie.

Scream Factory

Travolta’s star was on the rise because of his role in Welcome Back, Kotter, but Carrie marked his big-screen debut.

9. Piper Laurie thought Carrie was a satire.

Piper Laurie, who earned an Oscar nomination for her role as Carrie’s fanatical mother, was all but retired when she agreed to play Margaret White (her last feature had been The Hustler in 1961). But her interpretation of the script was quite different than De Palma’s intention—which she didn’t realize until filming began.

"Once De Palma revealed that he didn’t want a satirical approach and said, ‘You’re going to get a laugh if you do that,’ I realized that he didn’t want laughs, at least not in our conscious performing,” Laurie told HollywoodChicago.com in 2011. "I just fully embraced the reality of what I was playing. I must say that I enjoyed having the childlike freedom to play act and be the evil witch. It was very freeing and fun to do."

Nancy Allen, who played mean girl Chris Hargensen, also believed that she and Travolta were there as a sort of comic relief; it wasn’t until she saw the final cut that she realized they were actually the villains.

10. Sissy Spacek kept in character as Carrie by keeping to herself.

In order to fully embrace the alienation her character faces, Spacek spent most of the production isolated from the rest of the cast. In a 2013 interview with Vulture, co-star P.J. Soles recalled how on "the first or second day, Sissy came over to a group of us, maybe at lunch, I don’t remember, and said, ‘I love you guys, we’re going to have a great shoot, I’m very excited to be working on this. But I just want to let you guys know, I’m going to alienate myself from you. I want to feel that alienation. But I really like you and afterwards we’ll party and we’ll have a great time. But don’t take it personally. I just want to let you know I’m doing it on purpose because I want to get into the part.’ We all really respected her for that, and that made us even more eager and able to be as mean as we could to her, because we knew it was going to help her."

11. Spissy Spacek was a high school homecoming queen.

Scream Factory

Okay, so maybe “Prom Queen” holds more clout. But somewhere in Spacek’s teenage possessions is the glitzy headgear she sported when she was crowned homecoming queen at Quitman High School in Texas.

12. Sissy Spacek was adamant that her own hand appear in the final scene of Carrie.

Though De Palma wanted to get a stunt person for the final scene, where Sue Snell visits Carrie’s grave, Spacek insisted that it needed to be her hand that was shown, which required her to be buried in the ground. “I laughed about that,” Spacek told NPR. "I do all my own foot and hand work, and always have."

13. Sissy Spacek loved to witness moviegoers' reactions to Carrie's ending.

“When I was in New York, and Carrie came out, I would go to theaters just for the last five minutes of the film to watch everyone jump out of their chairs,” Spacek recalled. “People are all relaxed. The music is really beautiful and relaxing, and all of a sudden that comes up, and people just go crazy.”

14. Carrie contains nods to Psycho.

Though De Palma had hoped to convince Bernard Herrmann to score the film, the legendary composer—who was best known for his collaborations with Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock—passed away in 1975, before Carrie went into production. But his influence is still felt throughout the film.

"When we originally put temporary music tracks on the film, we used a lot of Herrmann's music,” De Palma told Cinefantastique. "In the end, we used a very famous Italian piece of music for the processional walk to the grave—Albinoni I think it was … The flexing sound is very Psycho. I put in a temporary track and for all the flexes I put in a Psycho violin. We couldn't find the right sound, but anyway, it worked. Bernard came up with it, and Bernard, I'm glad we used it again!"

Carrie’s school, Bates High School, is yet another nod to Hitchock’s 1960 classic.

15. Stephen King would have loved to see Lindsay Lohan play Carrie.

When word first spread in 2011 that a remake of Carrie was in the works, King was surprised: “Why, when the original was so good? I mean, not Casablanca, or anything, but a really good horror-suspense film, much better than the book.” But when it came to recasting the lead and choosing a new director, King had some ideas—specifically, “Lindsay Lohan as Carrie White… hmmm. It would certainly be fun to cast. I guess I could get behind it if they turned the project over to one of the Davids: Lynch or Cronenberg."