Our 40 Favorite Stories of 2022

Don't mess with this man's signs.
Don't mess with this man's signs. / (Colonel Sanders) Tasha, Flickr // CC BY 2.0; (Background) RobinOlimb/iStock via Getty Images
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Everyone has their own end-of-year traditions, and here at Mental Floss, ours include sharing our personal favorite stories that we’ve published over the past 12 months. From a gargantuan Titanic timeline to the reason why so many ancient statues feature young boys peeing, here are 40 of our staffers favorite stories from 2022.

1. Mental Floss Presents: Titanic Timeline

The Titanic Sails on the Ocean
George Rinhart/GettyImages

Putting this intensely detailed timeline of the Titanic, from its creation to its descent into a watery grave—plus all the recent news about the ship—was an all-hands-on-deck effort expertly coordinated by science editor Kat Long. We probably could’ve called it “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Titanic.” Some of the minute-by-minute breakdowns are so vivid, you’ll feel as though you’re living through the action. —Kerry Wolfe, Staff Editor

2. The Book That Seemingly Predicted the Titanic Disaster

The parallels between some of the events in the 1898 novel Futility and the 1912 Titanic disaster are downright spooky. In this piece, April Snellings digs into the background of Futility author Morgan Andrew Robinson, analyzes the similarities, and asks a maritime historian to get to the bottom of the mystery. —Erin McCarthy, Editor-in-Chief

3. History of Fun: Cooperative Board Games

A YouTube user by the name of Climate Town commented on this video to request “1000 more years of Justin [Dodd] describing board games, please!” and if I ran this joint I would work that into our business plan (also: what is a business plan?). Hearing someone who loves board games as much as Justin does explain why humans collectively love board games is a salve to my world-weary soul. —Ellen Gutoskey, Staff Writer

4. How Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” Inadvertently Became a Hollywood Soundtrack Staple

Nothing says “I’m watching a feel-good movie” quite like hearing the first few seconds of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” start playing. But how did the artist’s debut solo single, which was released in 1977, become a auditory beacon of rom-coms decades later? Ken Partridge investigates the long, strange trip that brought it there. —Jennifer M. Wood, Managing Editor

5. The Real Culture That Inspired Nickelodeon’s Gullah Gullah Island

A scene from 'Gullah Gullah Island.'
A scene from 'Gullah Gullah Island.' / Nickelodeon

I grew up watching Gullah Gullah Island, so interviewing Ron and Natalie Daise will go down as a career highlight for me. As a fan of the show, it was great to hear the behind-the-scenes context, like the fact that it was shot on location in the Sea Islands and featured real people from the community. Reporting this piece also reinforced my bias that ’90s kids shows were superior. —Michele Debczak, Staff Writer

6. Fast Feud: When Colonel Sanders Shot a Rival Gas Station Owner

We don’t often think of fast food mascots as capable of violence, which is why Ellen Gutoskey’s tale of a pre-KFC Harlan Sanders going John Wick on a business rival is such a treat. In the 1930s, Sanders was running a gas station when he became embroiled in a feud with a rival fuel stop. After tensions flared over an ad sign, Sanders found himself in the crossfire and ordered up a two-piece with a side of bullets. One can only wonder what kind of rap sheet Grimace is hiding. —Jake Rossen, Senior Staff Writer

7. The Rivals Who Cracked the Code of Ancient Egypt’s Hieroglyphs

With the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb this year, I asked freelancer Claire Cock-Starkey to tackle a related story that occurred exactly 100 years earlier: the rivalry between two scholars who sought to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. Cracking the code would reveal the written history of ancient Egypt, and both men wanted to be recognized as the one to do it. Claire dug into the scientific and political intrigues of the Napoleonic era and came up with a fun, fast-paced yarn that fit right in with Mental Floss’s other stories commemorating the Tut milestone. —Kat Long, Science Editor

8. Why Medieval Artists Doodled Killer Bunnies in Their Manuscript Margins

illustration of a rabbit with a hatchet attacking a man
Beware of the medieval killer bunnies! / Courtesy of the British Library

Flip through a medieval manuscript (or, in most cases, browse scanned images of them online), and you’ll come across some very silly doodles. In this piece, Jane Alexander explores why so many of the bunnies scrawled on old texts are out to kill. It’s such a fun twist on typical rabbit-related Easter content (we ran the story back in April), and the images are utterly delightful. —KW

9. The Sexist History of Naming Hurricanes After Women Only—And How 1970s Feminists Fought to End It

In this feature story, Ellen Gutoskey sheds light on the once commonplace practice of naming hurricanes exclusively after women, which gained traction starting in the late 19th century, mainly due to British meteorologist Clement Wragge (who had a particular fondness for naming tropical storms after Polynesian women he lusted after). The piece further explores how this sexist system became a rallying cry for feminists by the 1970s, as well as the work they did to raise awareness and eventually help put a stop to it. Thoughtful and moving, the story serves as an important reminder about the power of activism and is definitely worth checking out. —Shayna Murphy, Staff Editor

10. The Paranormal Researcher Who Inspired Shirley Jackson

Fans of Shirley Jackson or her famous novel The Haunting of Hill House will want to read this fascinating piece by Michele Debczak about the real-life paranormal researcher whose cases influenced her work. —EMC

11. Dread by Dawn: How Midnight Movies Became a Cultural Phenomenon, According to Joe Bob Briggs

Film critic Joe Bob Briggs in an old TV set against a red background.
Staying up late to watch movies this Halloween season? / Courtesy of Joe Bob Briggs (main image); Tetra Images, Getty Images / Shutterstock, Maxx-Studio / Justin Dodd, Mental Floss (background)

An alternate headline for this piece as suggested by me right now could be “By the Time You Finish Reading This You’ll Pretty Much Be a Midnight Movies Expert; And You’ll Also Understand the Appeal of Joe Bob Briggs; And You’ll Also Be a Fan of Shayna Murphy, Because Boy Oh Boy Can She Weave Interview Into Narrative à la Rumpelstiltskin and the Whole Straw-Into-Gold Scenario.” But the headline she went with was probably better for SEO. —EG

12. From Motörhead to Mötley Crüe: A History of the Umlaut—Rock’s Most Peculiar Punctuation

Have you ever wondered how umlauts became associated with rock music? In his story, Jake Rossen traces the origins of Motörhead and Mötley Crüe’s distinct vowels to a German art commune. I highly recommend it to fans of 1980s metal bands—or exotic punctuation. —MD

13. The Locust that Ate the American West

early 1900s illustration of a Rocky Mountain Locust against an impressionist painting of a field
The Rocky Mountain Locust terrorized agriculture. / Julius Bien, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain (Rocky Mountain Locust illustration); Pobytov/Getty Images (background painting)

I love any and all environmental history stories. This one by writer Jackie Mead highlights how a tiny creature—or in this case, a giant swarm of tiny creatures—can have a massive effect on our planet. The article is a gripping blend of science, history, and narrative that makes me glad the locusts that caused all the mayhem mysteriously vanished. —KW

14. What’s He Doing Behind Me?!’: When Wild Ewoks Took Over the ’Today’ Show

One morning in 2009, the television happened to be on and something very strange happened: a couple of guys dressed as Ewoks were on the Today show wreaking absolute havoc—and humping Al Roker’s leg. It was a bizarre moment that I just happened to witness because I was running late. It’s a clip I’ve rewatched many times over the years when I need a laugh, and was thrilled when Jake Rossen pitched the idea of not just writing about it—but talking to the show’s producers to get to the bottom of what really happened. —JMW

15. Wack Slacks: When the Media Fell for a Grunge Slang Hoax

Kurt Cobain, Nirvana
KMazur/GettyImages

This story—of how high-profile publications printed a bunch of made-up grunge slang terms—has everything: subtext about the cultural currency of youth, the phrase cob nobbler, and a photo of Eddie Vedder that will prompt you to revisit Pearl Jam’s 1992 MTV Unplugged performance in full. Jake Rossen is no lamestain. —EG

16. The Unlikely Origins—And Rapid Rise—of Chili’s Iconic “Baby Back Ribs” Jingle

As sorry as I am for putting this jingle in your head, I won’t apologize for recommending you click the link above and read Ellen Gutoskey’s deep dive into this now-iconic jingle—the one that played an integral part in Michael Scott and Jan Levinson’s toxic affair on The Office. —JMW 

17. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Opened a Psychic Bookstore

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Artist: Anonymous
Heritage Images/GettyImages

It’s well known that Arthur Conan Doyle was a devout Spiritualist. It’s probably less well known that he once owned his own bookstore-slash-museum dedicated to the religion. In this piece, Jake Rossen expertly tells the story of Doyle and his bookshop, a money-losing business that Doyle believed had an important mission. —EMC

18. Secrets of Celebrity Publicists

Being a celebrity publicist seems like it would be a giant ball of stress, a concept Michele Debczak explores in this intriguing behind-the-scenes peek at the working lives of Hollywood propagandists. If your favorite star seems unblemished, it’s probably due to the work of their reputation-saving guardian angels. —JR

19. Lifting the "Curse of the Ninth:" How AI is Helping to Finish Unfinished Symphonies

Pixelated image of Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven, originator of the "curse." / Illustration: Justin Dodd; portrait: Keith Lance/iStock via Getty Images

Freelancer Qinang Wang proposed a story idea that I found irresistible: What if 21st-century AI could complete the 18th and 19th centuries’ most famous unfinished symphonies? Would the mashup of technology and humanity result in a masterpiece or a mistake? She explored the similarity between the repeating motifs in a symphony and the ways neural networks "learn," and I loved the prospect of AI lifting the "curse" that left so many composers’ pieces incomplete. —KL

20. How the Victorian Era’s ’Night Soil Men’ Kept London From Going to Waste

Ever wonder how folks dealt with poop back in the days before widespread indoor plumbing and public sewage systems? In this fascinating read, writer Jake Rossen plunges into the thankless toil of the "night soil men," the moniker given to workers tasked with collecting and disposing of Victorian-era London’s ever-mounting piles of feces. Given that so much of 19th century England is romanticized—particularly the culture and the fashion—getting a down-and-dirty look at just how filthy living conditions would have been for the average Joe makes this story all the more captivating. —SM

21. 8 Supposedly Cursed Books

Few things captivate people as much as tales of curses—except, maybe, tales of cursed books. In this piece, April Snellings delves into the stories behind supposedly cursed texts and whether or not there’s any truth to the rumors. —EMC

22. Mental Floss’s Literal March Madness

Mental Floss Literal March Madness Announcement
Who's the maddest of them all? / Chihuahua – JodiJacobson/Getty Images (chihuahua); Ethan Miller/Getty Images (Gordon Ramsay); RyanJLane/Getty images (baby); Epsilon/Getty Images (shoebill stork); Kevin Winter/Getty Images (Larry David); Roy Rochlin/Getty Images (Brian Cox); Drakuliren/Getty Images (swan); Chesnot/Getty Images (Twitter icon); Gilmanshin/Getty Images (Zeus); Kevin Winter/Getty Images (Sam Kinison)

A silly idea I came up with mere minutes before a pitch meeting led to a fun social media campaign last spring. Literal March Madness pitted the world’s angriest things (both real and fictional) against one another. We took to Twitter to see who would be crowned the maddest of them all—I was quite pleased the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, who I had been rooting for all along, came out on top! —KW

23. Fu-Go Fire Balloons: Japan’s Last-Ditch Effort to Win WWII

Alma Katsu’s The Fervor—which covers the period during World War II when Japanese people in America were forced to live in prison camps—is a fantastic read, and I was thrilled to have her write a piece for Mental Floss that allowed her to do a deeper dive into a plot point from the novel: the Fu-go, or fire balloons, that Japan sent to the U.S. in an attempt to incite both harm and panic. —EMC

24. Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and the Great Dinosaur Utopia of Victorian England

Jake Rossen introduces us to "the Steven Spielberg of his time": Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, a Victorian artist who created the first scientific sculptures of dinosaurs. For London’s Crystal Palace Park, Hawkins not only sculpted the monumental beasts, but set them in a prehistoric, geologically accurate landscape—a proto Jurassic Park. Jake describes the difficulty of imagining extinct reptiles based on a handful of bone fragments and illustrates Hawkins’s genius for publicity. I love this unexpected angle on the intersection of history, science, and art. —KL

25. The 30 Best Slasher Movies of All Time

Mia Goth is pictured in a publicity still from the movie 'X'
Mia Goth in 'X.' / A24

I’m a sucker for any sort of “best of” horror list idea—especially when it involves working with Matthew Jackson. He does not take stories like this lightly, and I love that his picks always surprise me (and give me something new to watch).

26. 8 Compelling Facts About The Devil in the White City

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City is one of my favorite books, so it’s no surprise that this list of facts about its creation is one of my favorite things I read (and edited!) this year. One of the many fascinating things you’ll learn? How Juicy Fruit—that’s right, gum—helped lead to the book. —EMC

27. An Empty Boat in the Grand Canyon: The Mysterious Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

The Hydes' homemade scow as found by searchers.
The Hydes' homemade scow as found by searchers. / Grand Canyon National Park, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

You don’t have to be a true crime buff to get swept up in a cold case, especially one as mysterious as this. Writer Michele Debczak takes a look at the unsettling disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde, a newlywed couple who disappeared without a trace in the late 1920s during their honeymoon trip on the Colorado River. Only the duo’s homemade scow and supplies were found, but decades later, the cold case would take a turn for the strange. If you’re in the mood for something spooky, this cryptic tale will definitely hit the mark. —SM

28. Take a Ride Through the Scandalous History of the Tunnel of Love

All of us here at Mental Floss—writers and editors—have some very niche interests, whether we realize it or not. I have come to believe that now-defunct amusement park rides are one of Michele Debczak’s soft spots, as this surprising history of the Tunnel of Love proves. —JMW

29. 10 of the Greatest Puzzles in History

A Rubik's cube on a blue background
gd_project (Rubik's Cube), Shutterstock; Iryna Sklepovych (background), iStock via Getty Images Plus

We got the skinny on the greatest puzzles in history from author A.J. Jacobs, including a wild Rubix Cube, the most difficult jigsaw puzzle ever, and a cipher so challenging not even the FBI can solve it. Jacobs knows what he’s talking about: His book The Puzzler, which he spent three years researching and writing, came out this year. —EMC

30. A Very Irish Scandal: The Gay Rumors Behind the Unsolved Irish Crown Jewels Heist of 1907

A brazen jewel heist, a famous polar explorer’s ne’er-do-well brother, an underground gay scene in Ireland’s government—this feature has everything. Freelancer Brigit Katz lays out the evidence in the still-unsolved case of the stolen Irish Crown Jewels, connecting the dots among aristocrats with secrets to hide, bribery schemes, Irish nationalists, and murder. With each development in the case more bizarre than the last, I couldn’t put down this true crime caper. —KL

31. Slow Burn: How Elton John’s "Candle in the Wind ’97"—the Best-Selling Single in Music History—Became a Royal Relic

Elton John
Anwar Hussein/GettyImages

Whether you’re more familiar with the original 1973 version or the 1997 reworking that Elton John performed at Princess Diana’s funeral, everyone knows the song “Candle in the Wind.” It’s still the best-selling single in music history, but Jon O’Brien’s story about how the tune just sort of vanished following that initial buzz is a fascinating piece of history (and trivia). —JMW

32. Mike the Headless Chicken: How a Botched Beheading Birthed a Sideshow Celebrity

Sometimes real life can be stranger than fiction. Case in point: The all-too-true story of Mike, a seemingly ordinary chicken that somehow managed to survive being beheaded, then subsequently became a roving sideshow attraction. In this feature, writer Ellen Gutoskey uncovers not only how he survived the initial blow, but also what happened to him after (spoiler alert: it’s not pretty). But if discovering weird, forgotten stories from history is a big part of why you love Mental Floss, this absolutely bizarre (but gripping) tale is sure to become one of the most memorable you’ve ever encountered on the site. —SM

33. 15 Books That Are Basically Unreadable

From literary classics to journals written in code to tales written in tiny text, Lorna Wallace has put together a truly entertaining list of books that are nearly unreadable. She followed it up with a list of books that are actually impossible to read, featuring such tomes as The Voynich Manuscript, the Codex Seraphinianus, and a book made of cheese (yes, you read that right). —EMC

34. Let’s Talk Strine: How Charles Dickens’s Great-Granddaughter (Inadvertently) Named the Australian Accent

A photo of Monica Dickens inside Australia
Monica Dickens was just as prolific as her more famous relative. / Hulton Archive/Getty Images (Monica Dickens), bgblue/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images (Australia)

This fascinating story by V.M. Braganza about how the name for the Australian accent came into being is so fun and fascinating that it feels like the kind of tale I’ll definitely be retelling at a cocktail party one day. —EMC

35. If You Knew: The Short, Brilliant Life—and Lasting Legacy—of Jeff Buckley

Anyone who knows me knows my deep and abiding love for Jeff Buckley. Ken Partridge kindly indulged my affinity for the artist on the 25th anniversary of Buckley’s death to write about his all-too-short life and tragically short career.

36. The Mysterious Origins of the Phrase ’The Whole Nine Yards’

There’s nothing I love more than when Ellen digs into the obscure histories behind commonly used phrases, and the journey she takes us on in this piece about the origin of the phrase the whole nine yards is so fascinating I wouldn’t be surprised if it inspires you to do some research yourself. —EMC

37. 14 Chicago Slang Terms You Should Know

A Chicago L, or elevated train, inside a speech bubble on a blue background
This L is going to da Loop. / Ajwad Creative (speech bubble), Mlenny (train) // iStock via Getty Images Plus

As a person who hails from an area of Pennsylvania, where water is pronounced “wooder,” I love to learn about the linguistic idiosyncrasies of cities around the U.S.—and this list of slang terms from Chicago is one of my favorite we published this year. (Honorable mention to Michele’s list of Philly slang, which covers everything from hoagie to jawn to, yes, wooder.) —EMC

38. Why Are There So Many Ancient Fountains Featuring Little Boys Peeing?

The title of this story really says it all. And it’s a story pitch that could only come from the mind of Mike Rampton. —JMW

39. Pack of Lies: The Enduring Legacy (and Mystery) of Phil Collins’s "In the Air Tonight"

Phil Collins
Aaron Rapoport/GettyImages

When Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” went viral earlier this year, it felt like the perfect opportunity to investigate the many urban legends that popped up around the song in the ’80s. Like that it was about how Collins saw a man drowning and didn’t save him. When, in reality, even Collins doesn’t really know what the hell the song is about. —JMW

40. 10 Surprising Facts About Jennifer Coolidge

Skylar Baker-Jordan’s list of fun facts about Jennifer Coolidge came in just under the wire for 2022. The fact that she used to pretend to be a lesser-known Hemingway sister, “Muffin,” in order to get into clubs makes me love her even more. —JMW

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