Category Archives: Weird

Turkmenistan’s Door to Hell

Over forty years ago, Soviet scientists detected a large natural gas source in what’s now Turkmenistan.

They set up a rig and got drilling. Shortly thereafter, though, the rig collapsed and formed a giant crater.


The crater, moreover, was giving off large quantities of poisonous methane gas, threatening the lives of villagers in nearby Turkmen villages.

To solve the problem in one fell swoop, the scientists decided to burn off the methane gas and then resume drilling.


After starting the fire, it expanded to cover the entire crater, but the fire neither burned off the methane gas nor abated.

In time, it became just another forgotten failure and, before too long, became part of another country.

To this day, in the Karakum Desert, the methane still blazes in the crater, creating a tourist attraction dubbed the “Door to Hell.”



Everyday maps for the mildly paranoid

If you read my post on Alamere Falls, you’ll know that I spent most of the trip worrying about Poison Oak.

So I have to admit, I suffer from mild paranoia and hypochondria at times (not that I let it stop me from traveling), so I thought I’d share some everyday maps for people of a similar affliction.

1.  UV Radiation Map

The EPA posts updates on how strong UV rays are each day. I check this before deciding whether or not to use dreaded sunscreen or just put on my hat. All those news articles about the indisputable efficacy of sunscreen have made me faintly paranoid, since I rarely use or have used the stuff.

2. National Allergy Forecast

Everyone seems to suffer at least mildly from allergies. Mine have gotten worse of the years in the Bay Area. After learning that it was causing me yearly sinus infections, I became more paranoid about allergies, so much that I check this map nearly daily to see whether or not I have to take a Zyrtec. (Unlike most hypos, I hate taking stuff when I don’t have to.)

3. Crime Mapping

There isn’t much you can do about this one, except shutter up and make sure take a Maglite or Pit Bull on your evening stroll. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to know how much and what kind of crime occurs in your area. After learning my neighborhood was relatively safe, I stopped carrying my Maglite with me. As for the Pit Bull, there’s no way in hell I’d ever get one of those “pets.”

And, last, but not least . . .

4. Registered Sex Offenders in Your Neighborhood (CA folks only)

Nothing stokes your paranoia like knowing where your neighborhood pedophiles are. You might want to think twice before checking this one out. I’m not sure if there are non-CA equivalents, but if you’re in California it’s your right to know. As to whether you want to, that’s a different question.

Generally, that’s enough for me. But here’s some other ideas I’ve yet to venture into: earthquake and flood risk maps, traffic accidents per capita, and suspected haunted houses.

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Crime, Health, Maps, Weird


Joined the “Obscura Society”

So I’ve joined the so-called Obscura Society, which is devoted to exploring the curioser parts of the planet. From their About Us page:

In an age where everything seems to have been explored and there is nothing new to be found, we celebrate a different way of looking at the world. If you’re searching for MINIATURE CITIES,GLASS FLOWERSBOOKS BOUND IN HUMAN SKINGIGANTIC FLAMING HOLES IN THE GROUNDBONE CHURCHESBALANCING PAGODAS, or HOMES BUILT ENTIRELY OUT OF PAPER, the Atlas Obscura is where you’ll find them.

They write a lot of interesting travel articles on the odder places on the globe. The one that initially caught my eye was on Odessa’s Catacombs when I was researching the disturbing story of the girl who got lost somewhere in the 2,500 KM of underground tunnels:

On January 1st 2005, some Odessa teens decided to spend New Year’s night partying in the catacombs. However, in the drunken revelry a member of the group, a girl named Masha, became separated and lost in the catacombs. She spent three days wandering in the freezing cold and pitch black before she died of dehydration. It took two years before the police were able to locate her body and retrieve it from the catacombs.

Great story — I wish I’d got to it first.

Anyway, I haven’t yet gone on any of their trips. Although they look interesting there usual is a moderate cost. Depending on the tour, tickets are usually $20+ per person. I dunno, can anyone out there vouch for their SF tours? Am I missing out? Perhaps I’ll go and report back…

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Going out, Journalism, Weird