London Hotel Unveils Hogwarts-Themed Rooms Designed to Look Like Harry Potter’s Living Quarters

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If you’ve ever fantasized about living at Hogwarts Castle (as all Potterheads do), then here’s some good news for you. The Georgian House hotel in London is offering its guests a Harry Potter Hotel Package, with Hogwarts-themed bedrooms that are designed to resemble Harry’s fictional dorm room.

The Gregorian House is a four-star hotel built in 1851 and still run by the descendants of the original owners. While the hotel traditionally offers Victoria Classic and Belgravia Boutique rooms, they’ve decided to take full advantage of the renewed worldwide interest in Harry Potter, ever since J K Rowling released a new Harry Potter story on her website, Pottermore.

Aptly named ‘The Georgian House’s Wizard Chambers’, the two transformed rooms contain everything that a would-be wizard might need – four-poster beds, potion bottles, cauldrons, spell books, and even battered trunks. The interiors are done up with ‘Hogwartsian’ accents, perfectly capturing the essence of the Potter universe.

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Human Mole – The Man Who Spent 32 Years Digging a Tunnel to the Middle of Nowhere

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Somewhere in the Mojave Desert’s El Paso range there is a strange tunnel that traverses 2,087 feet of solid rock up in Copper Mountain. What’s strange is that it doesn’t lead to anywhere special. It simply emerges on the high ledge, in the middle of nowhere. The only reason it exists is because an eccentric man named William Henry ‘Burro’ Schmidt – a.k.a. the human mole – wanted it there.

Although he spent 32 years of his life single-handedly digging a half-mile long tunnel through a solid granite mountain, he never talked much about it. When questioned about his bizarre project, he simply replied that it was a shortcut. To where, no one really knows.

Schmidt first migrated to the California desert from Rhode Island in the late 19th century, in order to improve his health. He is believed to have started digging the tunnel in 1902, near the site where he had staked a mining claim. He carried out the excavation using picks, hammers, hand drills and explosives, and removed rubble with a wheelbarrow. At times, he even carried it out on his back. Eventually, he installed iron tracks and a mine car to transport debris.

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Man Completes Epic 26-year, 550,000-Mile Road Trip around the World in One Unbreakable Car

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When Gunther Holtorf set out on an 18-month road trip to Africa in 1988, he had no idea his journey would go on for almost three decades. Gunther ended up traveling a whopping 556,000 miles spanning 215 countries in his trusty old car – a Mercedes Benz G Wagon nicknamed ‘Otto’. That’s the equivalent of making two trips from the Earth to the Moon, and then some!

It all started in 26 years ago, when Gunther quit his 30-year service at Lufthansa, met his fourth wife Christine, and together they braved gravel-covered, pothole-ridden roads from their hometown of Bavaria, all the way to Africa. After driving over 62,000 miles across the continent and suffering five bouts of Malaria, they decided to just keep going.

The couple removed the two rear seats in the car in order to make room for a mattress and storage space for clothing, food, tools, spare parts and utensils. After that, there was just no looking back. They made their way through South America, North America, Asia, Australia and Europe, always taking Otto with them wherever they went. In fact, they looked upon their beloved car as the third member of their family.

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Live Out Your Own Horror Movie Inside the World’s Scariest Haunted House

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Imagine your worst nightmares, the scariest movies you’ve ever seen, and the most horrifying haunted houses you’ve been to. Put them all together, and you’re still not going to come close to the experience at McKamey Manor in San Diego, California. The place is so gut-wrenchingly terrifying that it can make the toughest of people cry out for their mommies.

The official McKamey Manor website describes the place as the ‘world’s only true interactive 4 to 7 hour extreme haunt experience’. “Be warned, this is not your standard haunted house,” the site reads. “This is an audience participation event in which (YOU) will live your own horror movie. This is a rough, intense and truly frightening experience.” And the entire experience is filmed, giving you a chance to star in your very own horror movie.

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Running Up 11,674 Steps in the World’s Longest Single-Staircase Race

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The world’s longest staircase is located on the face of Mt. Niesen in Switzerland, nicknamed the ‘Swiss Pyramid’ for its triangular shape. The 3.4 km staircase goes up the side of the mountain with 11,674 steps, ranging from an altitude of 700 m at the bottom (from the side of the Kander river in Mülenen) to 2363 m at the top (the terminus near the summit of the mountain). Its average gradient is a monumental 55%, with a maximum of 65%.

For safety reasons, the staircase is normally closed to the general public. But one day a year, in June, it is opened up for the world’s longest single-staircase race – the ‘Niesen Treppenlauf’, otherwise known as the ‘Niesenlauf’. During the course of this race, up to 500 participants get to climb the monster staircase at record-breaking speeds. The record for the event is 1 hour and 2 minutes for men, and 1 hour and 9 minutes for women – which is really quite remarkable, considering that reaching the top is the equivalent of climbing the Empire State Building more than 7 times.

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Atlanta’s Controversial Church-Themed Bar

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Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium – otherwise known as ‘Church’ – is a controversial, one-of-a-kind bar in Atlanta. Located on Edgewood Avenue in Old Fourth Ward, the bar is famous for the religious art that covers its walls, a retrofitted confessional that serves as a photobooth, an organ for live karaoke, complimentary choir robes, and, oddly enough, ping pong tournaments. But the similarities to a real church end right there – instead of communion-sized glasses of grape juice, the Church serves up $3 beers in adult-sized glasses.

In the four years that it’s been open, the Church has seen tremendous success. Right from the opening night in 2010, the church bar has received national media attention. It is a popular tourist attraction in Atlanta, and a hotspot for hipsters and Hollywood stars such as Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, and Lady Gaga. “From Day One, it’s been a money-maker,” said artist and bar owner Grant Henry.

Henry, who previously worked as a bartender for 10 years, single-handedly created the 200-odd pieces of religious art that adorn the bar. He’s actually been making these eclectic pieces since the late 1990s, under the wacky pseudonym ‘Sister Louisa’. And it turns out that the Church is actually an excuse to showcase the work. “I did it more from an artistic point of view because I’m more of an artist than a bartender,” he admitted. “I turned it into a bar basically for my art. It’s more like an art gallery that sold alcohol.”

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The Double Tree of Casorzo – A Tree Growing on Top of Another Tree

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Located between the towns of Grana and Casorzo in Piemonte, Italy, is a very unique tree – well, they’re actually two trees, one growing on top of the other. Locally known as ‘Bialbero de Casorzo’ or the ‘double tree of Casorzo’, this natural oddity consists of a cherry tree growing on top of a mulberry tree.

No one really knows how the cherry tree managed to take root and survive in such a bizarre position. Locals believe that a bird might have dropped a cherry seed on top of the mulberry tree, which then grew its roots through the hollow trunk to reach the soil below.

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California Town Is Home to Hundreds of Free-Roaming Wild Peacocks

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The residents of Rolling Hills Estates, a small community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in southwestern Los Angeles, have been sharing their home with dozens of beautiful wild peacocks for almost 100 years. The exotic birds have always added a rustic charm to the upscale suburb, but as their population continues to grow uncontrollably, many residents now view them as a terrible nuisance.

For several decades, the people of the Peninsula have tried to keep their peace with the birds. The peacocks were actually an added attraction at one point, with buyers choosing homes specifically because they fell in love with the beautiful creatures. There were regulations, education programs and behavior modification in place, all in order to accommodate the lovely peacocks.

“Palos Verdes Peninsula has many sights to see – crashing waves, rolling hills and peacocks in the trees,” said Mary Jo Hazard, an author who lives in the Peninsula. “What fascinates me is – they’re so beautiful, they’re so exotic and I don’t think there’s anything more fascinating than seeing peacocks on the roofs, peacocks walking across the street.”

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The Confederate South Still Lives, in Brazil

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The Americana municipality, in São Paulo, Brazil, is home to a very unique subculture – the Confederados. The members of this culture are the descendants of 10,000 Confederate refugees who chose to leave the United States after they lost the American Civil War. Today, the Confederados make up 10 percent of Americana’s population; they’ve managed to preserve the unique culture and traditions belonging to the Confederate South of the 19th century.

When the war ended in 1865, many former Confederates were unwilling to live under the rule of the Union. They were unhappy with the destruction of their pre-war lifestyle that included slavery. So when Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil sent recruiters to the Southern States of Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas to pick up experienced cotton farmers, many disgruntled Southerners jumped at the opportunity.

Slavery was still in existence in Brazil at the time, which greatly attracted the Southerners. Combined with their humiliating defeat at the hands of the Union, many felt that moving out of America was the only option available to them. Dom Pedro, who wanted to encourage the cultivation of cotton, made an offer they could not refuse – he offered them a package of tax breaks and grants, as well as a section of the Brazilian forest that they could call home. It was more than they could ever ask for – a chance to start over and create a new community with Southern values.

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Ukai – The Fascinating Ancient Art of Fishing with Cormorants

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Ukai is a traditional Japanese method of fishing that employs trained cormorants to catch freshwater fish called ‘ayu’. For the past 1,300 years, fishermen along the banks of Nagara River have been spending the summer months catching fish with the help of the highly skilled birds. Some of the other rivers where ukai is practiced include the Hozu River and Uji River.

Fishermen who are skilled at ukai have patronage from the emperor. According to legend, samurai warlord Oda Nobunaga took the ukai fishermen under his wing, conferring upon them the official position of ‘usho’ (Cormorant Fishing Master). He is said to have enjoyed watching ukai in action and vowed to protect the art.

When the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho witnessed ukai fishing, he wrote a poem to honor the tradition: “Exciting to see/but soon after, comes sadness/the cormorant boats.” In modern times, the master fishermen are still the official Imperial fishermen of the emperor of Japan. The sweetfish (ayu) they catch are sent to the Imperial family several times a year.

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Did You Know Japan Has a Quirky Shrine Dedicated to Curing Hemorrhoids?

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Weird shrines are not uncommon in Japan. In the past we reported about Karube Shrine, where people go to worship breasts, and the Shinto shrines where they bury broken needles in tofu. But the weirdest one we found so far has to be the Kunigami Shrine, in Tochigi Prefecture, that allegedly prevents and cures hemorrhoids.

So how does a shrine manage to cure a painful medical condition? Well, our guess is as good as yours. All we know is that according to an ancient tradition, people who wash their backsides at a nearby river and eat egg offerings are completely cured of hemorrhoids.

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Abandoned Bangkok Shopping Mall Houses the World’s Most Amazing Accidental Fish Pond

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From the outside, this four-storey, roofless, dilapidated structure located on a busy Bangkok intersection looks pretty much worthless. But the ruins of the once-vibrant New World Mall now house a different world within its crumbling walls – a unique indoor pond full of exotic fish.

Constructed in 1982 by the Kaew Fah Plaza Company, the 11-storey New World Mall enjoyed a brief period of success. It was shut down just 15 years later in 1997, when the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) realized that the owner had obtained permission to construct only four storeys. Seven upper levels were destroyed, and a subsequent fire in 1999 left the mall roofless.

Without a roof, rainwater filled the basement and this pool of stagnant water soon became a breeding place for mosquitoes. Annoyed, the vendors in the neighborhood got together and released a few fish into the water, to get rid of the pesky mosquitoes. The fish multiplied quickly, and soon the building became home to a 500-square-meter miniature ecosystem for thousands of koi and catfish.

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The Eerie Smoked Corpses of Papua New Guinea

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For centuries, the Anga tribe of Papua New Guinea’s Morobe Highlands have practiced a unique mummification technique – smoke curing. Once smoked, the mummies aren’t buried in tombs or graves; instead, they are placed on steep cliffs, so that they overlook the village below. The very sight of a string of charred, red bodies hanging off the mountains might seem quite grotesque, but for the Anga people, it’s the highest form of respect for the dead.

The process itself is carried out carefully and thoroughly by experienced embalmers. At first, the knees, elbows and feet of the corpse are slit, and the body fat is drained completely. Then, hollowed-out bamboo poles are jabbed into the dead person’s guts, and the drippings are collected. These drippings are smeared into the hair and skin of living relatives. Through this ritual, the strength of the deceased is believed to be transferred to the living. The leftover liquid is saved for later use as cooking oil.

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World’s Largest Snake Gathering Turns Canadian Wilds into a Slithering Sea

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Every spring, the Canadian wilds of Manitoba become a sea of nightmarish writhing snakes. A tangled mass of thousands of red-sided garter snakes come together in what is considered the largest snake-gathering in the world. After spending the long winter months in hibernation, they all come out for a bit of a breather, to frolic in the sun and perform their mating rituals.

The fascinating event takes place at the Narcisse Snake Dens, a few kilometers north of Narcisse, in Manitoba province. What makes Narcisse the ultimate rock-concert equivalent of the snake world? Well, the answer to that question dates back to the Paleozoic era, when the area of Manitoba was covered by an ancient ocean. The water doesn’t exist anymore, but the ocean bed still does – layer upon layer of thick limestone rock covers the region, with thousands of natural crevices, tunnels and caves. Rainwater seeps through these cracks and when the rock gives way near the surface, the resulting collapse forms a sinkhole.

The cold-blooded snakes happen to love these sinkholes, which are perfect for hibernation during the harsh Canadian winter with temperatures reaching 50 degrees below zero. So they migrate from far and wide and settle into the sinkholes, putting a good distance between themselves and the frost line. Because there’s a limited number of sinkholes, also known as den sites, all the snakes in an area have to go to the nearest den site. So there are literally tens of thousands of snakes crowded into just one sinkhole the size of the average living room.

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Nepal’s Worshiped Child Goddesses Whose Feet Cannot Touch the Ground until Puberty

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Nepal is a land of mysticism, where a select few pre-pubescent girls from the Newar clan are worshiped as ‘Kumari Devi’ or ‘Virgin Goddess’. According to tradition, Durga (the Hindu goddess of destruction) herself is incarnate in young girls belonging to the silver and goldsmith community. Until they attain puberty, Kumaris are worshipped as deities and deemed protectors by thousands of adoring Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal.

To prove that she is the chosen one, a prospective Kumari must go through over 30 tests. Initially, high priests choose girls based on their physical characteristics – with a slender neck like a conch shell, gentle eyes like a cow, and other special traits. In the next stage, the girl must pass through a series of unusual trials. In one test, she is placed in a darkened room with severed animal heads and hideously masked dancing men, while her reaction is observed. In another test, she must correctly identify the items worn by her predecessor (similar to the ritual used in Tibet to choose a new Dalai Lama).

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