10 Things You Might Not Know About Walden

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Walden is one of the most quotable books in American literature. Henry David Thoreau filled the book with gems like, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Or, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” Or that old chestnut, “Simplify, simplify.” Of course, Thoreau’s account of his time in the woods is much more than just fodder for motivational posters—it’s a work of transcendentalist philosophy that shaped how people see the natural world today.

1. Before going to the woods, Henry David Thoreau started a 300-acre forest fire.

One windy day in 1844, Thoreau went fishing with a friend. On the way back, the duo stopped by the water in order to cook a meal. A spark from their campfire set a nearby patch of dry grass ablaze, resulting in a massive blaze spanning 300 acres. The fire was put out before it reached the town of Concord, but for years after that, people mocked Thoreau, calling him “woods burner.”

2. It was a friend who suggested that Thoreau build a cabin in the woods.


Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Although publicly he claimed otherwise, Thoreau felt lost. Wracked with guilt and struggling to overcome his damaged reputation, he tried to plot out his next steps. His friend, the poet William Ellery Channing, wrote to him in a letter: “I see nothing for you in this earth but that field which I once christened 'Briars'; go out upon that, build yourself a hut, & there begin the grand process of devouring yourself alive. … Eat yourself up; you will eat nobody else, nor anything else.”

Four months later, Thoreau was living in a cabin in the woods. His experiment was to “live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

3. Ralph Waldo Emerson owned Walden Pond.

A photo of Walden Pond
Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Poet and fellow transcendentalist thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson was also Thoreau’s champion throughout his lifetime, giving him shelter and work when he needed assistance, and helping him get published. Because of their bond, Emerson’s land beside Walden Pond was a natural place for Thoreau to try his experiment.

In Thoreau’s time, the local forests had been depleted by Concord’s rapid growth, the construction of the railroad, and the expansion of agriculture. Emerson purchased the land surrounding Walden Pond in an attempt to save the lot's trees. (Today, thanks to reforestation efforts, there are more trees around the Massachusetts town than there were in the 1840s.)

4. Thoreau's cabin cost him less than $30 to build.

Thoreau borrowed an axe and chopped down pine trees to clear a place for his house. Then he bought a shanty from another man and recycled the boards, pulling out nails and letting them bleach in the sun. He enlisted friends, including Emerson, Channing, and Louisa May Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott, to raise the frame and set the roof. The result was a shingled cabin, 10 feet wide by 15 feet long, boasting two windows, a garret, closet, and fireplace. Behind the house was an outhouse and a woodshed made from scraps. Thoreau used the pond as his bathtub and the spring for his drinking water. He calculated that the construction of his cabin cost him about $28.12.

5. Thoreau was not a hermit.

Though he escaped to the woods in search of a simpler life, Thoreau wasn't trying to drop out of society—far from it. Walden Pond was less than 2 miles from Concord, and Thoreau often visited family and friends, sometimes staying with them for days. He also played host. “It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain,” he wrote. “I have had twenty-five or thirty souls, with their bodies, at once under my roof.”

6. Thoreau lived in the cabin for two years, two months, and two days.


Wikimedia Commons // CC BY SA-3.0

Although Walden is divided into four seasons, Thoreau lived in the cabin for twice that long. He planted a garden and lived off its fruit and vegetables plus whatever he could gather from the woods. His days were spent tending his garden, chopping wood, swimming, rowing, fishing in the lake, playing flute, and meditating. He also wrote in his journal every day and completed his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.

7. It took Thoreau nine years to write Walden.

After leaving the cabin, Thoreau went through draft after draft of Walden. It finally hit shelves in 1854. His journal entry that day said simply, “Walden published. Elder-berries. Waxwork yellowing.” In the first year, the book sold 1744 of its initial 2000 copies—a vast improvement over A Week's measly 294—although it didn’t sell out completely until 1859.

8. Thoreau inspired the Conservation movement.

Thoreau was one of the first major thinkers to write about conservation issues. One of his disciples was John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, who in 1903 convinced Theodore Roosevelt to make Yosemite the first national park.

9. the eagles' Don Henley helped save Walden Pond from developers.

In 1989, rock star Don Henley was watching the news when he learned that 68 acres of Walden Woods was about to be bulldozed for an office complex and condominium. Henley, a Thoreau fan, launched the Walden Woods Project, a fundraising group whose aim was to stop development. Membership included everyone from Meryl Streep to John Kerry and Bonnie Raitt to Alex Haley. To date, 80 percent of Walden Woods is protected by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Walden Woods Project, and others.

10. There's a Walden video game.

The National Endowment for the Arts gave University of Southern California’s Game Innovation Lab a $40,000 grant to create a video game based on the book. Walden, A Game is a first person simulation of Thoreau’s time in the woods. Users can “follow in his footsteps, surviving in the woods by finding food and fuel and maintaining their shelter and clothing.” No word if you can stop by Emerson’s house for tea. It's currently available to play on Macs, PCs, and PlayStation 4 and will soon be available for Xbox users.

This story has been updated for 2019.

Swear Off Toilet Paper With This Bidet Toilet Seat That's Easy to Install and Costs Less Than $100

Tushy
Tushy

The recent coronavirus-related toilet paper shortage has put the spotlight on the TP-less alternative that Americans have yet to truly embrace: the bidet.

It's not exactly a secret that toilet paper is wasteful—it's estimated to cost 437 billion gallons of water and 15 million trees to produce our yearly supply of the stuff. But while the numbers are plain to see, bidets still aren't common in the United States.

Well, if price was ever the biggest barrier standing in the way of swearing off toilet paper for good, there's now a cost-effective way to make the switch. Right now, you can get the space-saving Tushy bidet for less than $100. And you'll be able to install it yourself in just 10 minutes.

What is a Bidet?

Before we go any further, let’s just go ahead and get the awkward technical details out of the way. Instead of using toilet paper after going to the bathroom, bidets get you clean by using a stream of concentrated water that comes out of a faucet or nozzle. Traditional bidets look like weird toilets without tanks or lids, and while they’re pretty uncommon in the United States, you’ve definitely seen one if you’ve ever been to Europe or Asia.

That said, bidets aren’t just good for your butt. When you reduce toilet paper usage, you also reduce the amount of chemicals and emissions required to produce it, which is good for the environment. At the same time, you’re also saving money. So this is a huge win-win.

Unfortunately, traditional bidets are not an option for most Americans because they take up a lot of bathroom space and require extra plumbing. That’s where Tushy comes in.

The Tushy Classic Bidet Toilet Seat.

Unlike traditional bidets, the Tushy bidet doesn’t take up any extra space in your bathroom. It’s an attachment for your existing toilet that places an adjustable self-cleaning nozzle at the back of the bowl, just underneath the seat. But it doesn’t require any additional plumbing or electricity. All you have to do is remove the seat from your toilet, connect the Tushy to the clean water supply behind the toilet, and replace the seat on top of the Tushy attachment.

The Tushy has a control panel that lets you adjust the angle and pressure of the water stream for a perfect custom clean. The nozzle lowers when the Tushy is activated and retracts into its housing when not in use, keeping it clean and sanitary.

Like all bidets, the Tushy system takes a little getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll never want to use toilet paper again. In fact, Tushy is so sure you’ll love their product, they offer customers a 60-day risk-free guarantee. If you don’t love your Tushy, you can send it back for a full refund, minus shipping and handling.

Normally, the Tushy Classic retails for $109, but right now you can get the Tushy Classic for just $89. So if you’ve been thinking about going TP-free, now is definitely the time to do it.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

25 Facts About Stanley Kubrick's The Shining for Its 40th Anniversary

Heeeeeere's Jack Nicholson.
Heeeeeere's Jack Nicholson.
Warner Home Video

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is widely considered to be among the best big-screen adaptations of a Stephen King story—and with good reason. (Even though King himself isn't much of a fan.) Even if you've seen the movie 100 times, there's still probably a lot you don't know about what went on behind the scenes.

1. Stanley Kubrick had an interest in horror long before he made The Shining.

Film director Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Stanley Kubrick is known for his forays into different genres—and horror was a genre that piqued his interest early on in his career. In the early '70s, he was in consideration to direct The Exorcist, but he ended up not getting the job because he only wanted to direct the film if he could also produce it. Kubrick later told a friend that he wanted “to make the world’s scariest movie, involving a series of episodes that would play upon the nightmare fears of the audience.”

2. The Shining was inspired by an episode of Omnibus.

In 1952, Kubrick worked as the second unit director on one episode of the television series Omnibus. But it was a different episode, about poker players getting into a fight, that inspired parts of The Shining.

"You think the point of the story is that his death was inevitable because a paranoid poker player would ultimately get involved in a fatal gunfight," Kubrick said of the episode. "But, in the end, you find out that the man he accused was actually cheating him. I think The Shining uses a similar kind of psychological misdirection to forestall the realization that the supernatural events are actually happening.”

3. Stanley Kubrick didn't even read the screenplay that Stephen King wrote for The Shining.

 Horror writer Stephen King attends a signing session for his new novel 'Lisey's Story' at Borders bookstore on Oxford Street on November 7, 2006 in London, England
Jeremy O'Donnell, Getty Images

According to David Hughes, one of Kubrick’s biographers, Stephen King wrote an entire draft of a screenplay for The Shining. However, Kubrick didn’t even deem it worth a glance, which sort of makes sense when you consider that the director once described King’s writing “weak.” Instead, Kubrick worked with Diane Johnson on the screenplay because he was a fan of her book, The Shadow Knows. The two ended up spending eleven weeks working on the script.

4. But Stanley Kubrick still had questions for Stephen King about The Shining.

A now-legendary story that King reportedly still tells at some of his book readings goes like this: Stanley Kubrick called him at seven in the morning to ask, “I think stories of the supernatural are fundamentally optimistic, don’t you? If there are ghosts then that means we survive death.” When King responded with the question of how hell fit into that picture, Kubrick simply responded, “I don’t believe in hell.”

5. Stanley Kubrick was surrounded by family on the set of The Shining.

The executive producer of The Shining was Kubrick’s brother-in-law, Jan Harlan. Christiane Kubrick and Vivian Kubrick—Stanley's wife and daughter, respectively—helped with both the design and the music, though Vivian might be more well-known for the on-set documentary she made titled, The Making Of The Shining. The 30-minute film, which aired on BBC, was a very rare look into Kubrick’s directing styles. (You can watch it above.)

6. Stephen King was "disappointed" in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of The Shining.

In 1983, King told Playboy, “I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat.”

One thing King didn’t like was the casting of Jack Nicholson. “Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part," King said. "His last big role had been in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and between that and the manic grin, the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene. But the book is about Jack Torrance’s gradual descent into madness through the malign influence of the Overlook—if the guy is nuts to begin with, then the entire tragedy of his downfall is wasted.”

7. Stanley Kubrick wasn't around for location shoots on The Shining.

Kubrick hated to fly and refused to leave England toward the end of his life, so he was not in attendance when the opening credits of The Shining were shot. A second unit crew headed to Glacier National Park in Montana, where they filmed from a helicopter.

8. Room 217 was switched to Room 237 for The Shining at the request of the Timberline Lodge.

The Timberline Lodge, as seen in 'The Shining'
The Timberline Lodge played the part of The Overlook in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).

In the book, the spooky events are set in Room 217, not Room 237. Oregon's Timberline Lodge, which was used as the hotel’s exterior for some shots, is to blame for this swap. The Lodge’s management asked for the room number to be changed so that guests wouldn’t avoid Room 217. There is no Room 237 in the hotel, so that number was chosen. The website of The Timberline Lodge notes , “Curiously and somewhat ironically, room #217 is requested more often than any other room at Timberline.”

9. "All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy" has many different translations.

The iconic sentence actually changes meaning for foreign translations of the film, at Kubrick’s request. In German versions, the phrase translates to: “Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” The Spanish translation is: “Although one will rise early, it won’t dawn sooner.” In Italian: “He who wakes up early meets a golden day.”

10. Rumors abound that Stanley Kubrick actually typed up all of those "All Work" pages.

No one is quite sure whether Kubrick typed 500 pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Kubrick didn’t go to the prop department with this task, using his own typewriter to make the pages. It was a typewriter that had built-in memory, so it could have turned out the pages without an actual person. But the individual pages in the film contain different layouts and mistakes. Some claim that it would have been characteristic of the director to individually prepare each page. Alas, we’ll never know—Kubrick never addressed this question before he died.

11. There's a hidden Playgirl magazine in The Shining.


Warner Home Video

Kubrick is famous for being a particularly detail-oriented director. So when Jack Torrance is seen reading a Playgirl in the lobby of the Overlook before he gets hired, it’s probably not meaningless. There is an article in the issue about incest, so the most common theory is that Kubrick was subtly implying that Danny may have experienced sexual abuse. Another article advertised on the cover is “Interview: The Selling of (Starsky & Hutch’s) David Soul.” Perhaps Kubrick was throwing in some extra foreshadowing. Regardless, no normal hotel leaves copies of Playgirl lying around, so the magazine serves as an immediate red flag in the film.

12. The Shining was Danny Lloyd's only movie.

The Shining seemed to introduce a promising child star in Dan Lloyd. He ended up having a role in a TV film two years later, but that was the extent of his acting career. “We kept trying for several years ... until I was in high school and I stopped at about 14 with almost no success," he told the New York Daily News. Lloyd did, however, have a brief cameo as a spectator in Doctor Sleep, Mike Flanagan's 2019 sequel to The Shining.

13. Danny Lloyd didn't know he was making a horror movie while shooting The Shining.

Danny Lloyd in 'The Shining' (1980)
Warner Home Video

To protect Lloyd, who was 5 years old when he made the film, Kubrick told him that they were filming a drama. He didn’t even see the actual film until he was 16. “I just personally don’t find it scary because I saw it behind the scenes," Lloyd later said. "I know it might be kind of ironic, but I like funny films and documentaries.”

14. Jack Nicholson improvised The Shining’s "Heeere's Johnny" line.

Jack Nicholson is responsible for the only line from The Shining to make it onto AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes. While filming the scene in which Jack breaks down a bathroom door with an ax, Nicholson shouted out the famous Ed McMahon line from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The catchphrase worked and stayed in the film. Some behind-the-scenes footage (which can be seen above) shows Nicholson’s Method acting before filming the iconic scene.

15. Jack Nicholson wrote a scene for The Shining.

In addition to improvising one of the most famous lines of the film, Nicholson actually wrote an entire scene. He felt a particularly deep understanding of Jack Torrance's berating of his wife while he is trying to write.

“That’s what I was like when I got my divorce," Nicholson explained in an interview with The New York Times. "I was under the pressure of being a family man with a daughter and one day I accepted a job to act in a movie in the daytime and I was writing a movie at night and I’m back in my little corner and my beloved wife Sandra walked in on what was, unbeknownst to her, this maniac—and I told Stanley about it and we wrote it into the scene.”

16. Stanley Kubrick did not get along with The Shining star Shelley Duvall.

Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, and Danny Lloyd in The Shining (1980)
Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Jack Nicholson star in The Shining (1980).
Warner Home Video

Though Kubrick had a good relationship with Nicholson, the director was notoriously brutal on Shelley Duvall during filming. In her words, “From May until October I was really in and out of ill health because the stress of the role was so great. Stanley pushed me and prodded me further than I’ve ever been pushed before. It’s the most difficult role I’ve ever had to play.”

The scene in which Wendy is swinging a bat at Jack is an example of this pushing. The scene actually made it into The Guinness Book of Records because it took 127 takes, the most for a scene with spoken dialogue.

17. Slim Pickens was offered the role of Dick Hallorann in The Shining.

Slim Pickens had already worked with Kubrick before. He played Major T. J. King Kong in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Regardless, he was a particularly strange pick for the role of Dick Hallorann because the character is black in the book. Pickens chose to not work with Kubrick again, as he did not like the strenuous Dr. Strangelove shoots. The role then went to Scatman Crothers.

18. The Overlook Hotel doesn't make sense from a spatial perspective.

Rob Ager, an observant fan of The Shining, noticed that there are many aspects to the set of The Overlook Hotel that make no sense. For example, Ullman’s office has a window to the outside, but there are rooms surrounding the office, making that window impossible. This is the case for many of the windows in the film—they don’t work in context. There is also a hallway in the Colorado Lounge that essentially appears out of nowhere. Ager created a video (which you can watch above) in which he maps out the nonsensical visuals.

The executive producer of The Shining, Jan Harlan, has stated that this was intentional. “The interiors don’t make sense," he said in 2012. "Those huge corridors and ballrooms couldn’t fit inside. In fact, nothing makes sense.”

19. Much of The Shining’s set burned down.

Toward the end of shooting, a fire broke out and destroyed multiple sets. According to the set still photographer, “It was a huge fire in there one night, massive fire, we never really discovered what caused that fire and it burned down two soundstages and threatened a third at Elstree Studios. It was an eleven alarm fire call, it was huge.” The rebuild of one of these soundstages cost an estimated $2.5 million.

There’s a famous picture of Kubrick laughing in front of this wreckage. Perhaps he’s laughing because he knows the novel ends with The Overlook Hotel burning down.

20. The Shining required 900 tons of salt.

And that was just for the final scene! At the end of The Shining, Jack chases young Danny through a snow-covered hedge maze before finally dying. To create the elaborate, wintery maze, it took a lot of salt and crushed Styrofoam.

21. The Shining took five years to make.

Kubrick was notorious for his lengthy film productions. Sources differ on how long shooting itself lasted, but it probably went on for almost a year. Around the time he was making the film, Kubrick said, “There is a wonderful suggestive timeliness [that the structure] of making a movie imposes on your life. I’m doing exactly the same as I was doing when I was 18 and making my first movie. It frees you from any other sense of time.”

22. The original ending to The Shining is different from what you probably saw.

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980).
Warner Home Video

It’s not uncommon for a film’s ending to change in post-production, but Kubrick changed the ending of the film after it had been playing in theaters for a weekend. The film version is lost, but pages from the screenplay do exist. The scene takes place after Jack dies in the snow. Ullman visits Wendy in the hospital. He tells her, “About the things you saw at the hotel. [A lieutenant] told me they’ve really gone over the place with a fine tooth comb and they didn’t find the slightest evidence of anything at all out of the ordinary.” He also encourages Wendy and Danny to stay with him for a while. The film ends with text over black, “The Overlook Hotel would survive this tragedy, as it had so many others. It is still open each year from May 20th to September 20th. It is closed for the winter.”

Roger Ebert deemed the cut a good decision. According to him, “Kubrick was wise to remove that epilogue ... it pulled one rug too many out from under the story.”

23. The Shining was the follow-up to Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick's worst-received film.

Things weren’t looking good for Kubrick after Barry Lyndon was released in 1975. Film reviewer Tim Robey noted, “It was not the commercial success Warner Bros. had been hoping for.” The film cost $11 million to make and earned $9.5 million in the United States, though it did have a good life in foreign box offices. According to Hughes, the film would have had to earn $30 million to be profitable.

The Shining did a lot better financially. The film cost $19 million to make and it went on to earn $47 million in the United States. It was one of the top 10 highest-grossing films of 1980.

24. The Shining has inspired many conspiracy theories.

So many film theorists have their own takes on The Shining that these conspiracies star in their own film: the documentary Room 237. One theory is that Kubrick helped to fake the moon landing and The Shining is his confession. Another claims that the film is truly about the genocide of Native Americans. Yet another theory reads the film as a story about the Holocaust and concentration camps.

Leon Vitali, Kubrick’s personal assistant during filming, has since denied these theories. “I was falling about laughing most of the time," he said of the documentary. "There are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash.”

25. The Shining’s most famous fan site is run by the director of Toy Story 3.

Lee Unkrich runs The Overlook Hotel, which contains tons of pictures and behind-the-scenes information about the film. “I started the site purely for selfish reasons," Unkrich told Vulture in 2013. "I’ve been collecting stuff from The Shining over the years, and I just wanted to have one place where they could be organized.” Unkrich was also one of the people who helped fund the Room 237 documentary.

But, undeniably the most fun part about Unkrich's obsession with The Shining is finding the hidden references in various Pixar films, including Toy Story 3: Sid’s carpet is very similar to a carpet in the Overlook Hotel. A garbage truck’s license plate reads “RM237.” And Trixie chats online with a dinosaur toy down the street who happens to have the screen name “Velocistar237.”