10 Strangest US Roadside Attractions

10 Strangest US Roadside Attractions



Roadside attractions have been a staple of American culture since the first mile of Route 66 was laid down. Fodder for postcards, novelty-seekers, and Instagram shots, these various noteworthy stopping points are often quite unique and bizarre.

While classics such as the World’s Largest Ball of Twine seem weird enough, an in-depth look reveals much stranger sights. Here are ten of the strangest US roadside attractions. (For those curious, the ball of twine is in Cawker City, Kansas.)

10Unclaimed Baggage Center

Born from the mind of a man named Doyle Owens in 1970, Unclaimed Baggage Center (UCB) is a secondhand store with a unique supply chain: US airline companies.[1] As of today, it is the only store in the country which sells lost luggage. The size of a city block, UCB has forged alliances with most major airlines, not only selling lost luggage but also random carry-on items which get left behind.

Originally sold on card tables in a rented house in Washington, DC, the nearly 7,000 new daily items were moved to their current home of Scottsboro, Alabama, by Bryan Owens in 1995. Thanks to the exclusive contracts signed with the major airlines of the US, UCB boasts more than a million visitors per year. In addition to their storefront, they also have a museum of oddities and curios, items which are not for sale. (An African djembe is one of the more unique exhibits.)

9Lucy The Margate Elephant
New Jersey

Photo credit: Naomi Love

Located just a short distance south of Atlantic City, a 20-meter (65 ft) building rises from the Margate sands. This isn’t your ordinary building, though; it’s in the shape of a large elephant, and its name is Lucy.[2] Since its construction in 1881, news of a giant elephant appearing to sailors began to trickle into various parts of the East Coast. Determined to uncover the truth, visitors began to flock to Absecon Island, shocked when they realized it was no mirage.

The brainchild of a man named James V. Lafferty, Jr., Lucy was eventually patented in 1882, with Lafferty receiving one for the invention of a “building in the form of an animal.” Later owners of the building eventually began guided tours, with such visiting luminaries as President Woodrow Wilson. At various times through its history, Lucy has been a summer home for an English doctor and his family, a tavern (which nearly resulted in it burning to the ground), and a tourist attraction, which it remains to this day.

8Wall Drug
South Dakota

Photo credit: Konrad Summers

Perhaps the most famous tourist trap in the entire country, Wall Drug got its start in 1931 on the edge of the South Dakota Badlands.[3] Using his last $3,000, Ted Hustead brought his wife and child to the small town of Wall and purchased a small pharmacy. Business was tough, and they struggled to make ends meet for years while the Great Depression rolled on.

However, to this day, their biggest draw might still be one of their first: free water. Hustead’s wife, Dorothy, had the idea come to her while she tried to sleep one hot July afternoon. Due to her idea, and a number of ingeniously placed billboards, people flocked to the store, filling up on ice water as well as the occasional ice cream cone. Today, more than two million people visit each year, bringing more than $10 million with them.

7Nicolas Cage’s Tomb

In a move which seems to solidify his eccentric reputation, Nicolas Cage purchased a tomb in an infamous New Orleans graveyard in 2010. Thanks to its below-sea-level elevation and numerous outbreaks of disease throughout its history, the city has strict rules about where cemeteries can be located, unless they’re aboveground. Those rules are what led Cage to purchase a 2.7-meter-tall (9 ft) stone pyramid in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

However, the exact reasoning behind the tomb’s purchase has been kept secret, though some locals are angry he was able to even get into the cemetery in the first place, going so far as to accuse the actor of knocking down much older burials in order to make room for the pyramid tomb.[4] The first New Orleans graveyard with aboveground burials, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is also the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the infamous voodooqueen of New Orleans.

6Airstream Ranch

An homage to Cadillac Ranch, an art installation using junked Cadillac automobiles, Airstream Ranch was located not far from Tampa, Florida, and used old RVs as its medium.[5] It was the pet project of Frank Bates, a man who, coincidentally, happens to run an RV dealership nearby. Controversial for much of its existence (such is the life of modern art), state courts reversed local orders to tear it down after Bates fought for nearly two years.

Created in 2007 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Airstream company, the ranch was originally intended to be built using brand-new RVs, but Bates ended up deciding to get one from every decade of the company’s existence (though he only managed five decades’ worth). Bates had hoped to add to the ranch, envisioning a future where his installation would have become a park, as well as a home for weddings. In the end, however, Airstream Ranch was torn down to make room for a new Airstream dealership in 2017.

Another roadside attraction reminiscent of Airstream Ranch is Carhenge, located in Alliance, Nebraska. It’s exactly what it sounds like: Stonehenge, made of cars.

5Cross Island Chapel
New York

Photo credit: Mapio.net

Otherwise known as The World’s Smallest Church, the Cross Island Chapel was built in 1989 in the small town of Oneida, New York. In addition to having been certified by Guinness World Records, it also sits on a small dock in the middle of a pond. Only big enough for three standing people (or two seated), the church has nevertheless served as the location for a number of weddings. On one such occasion, wedding guests had to anchor their boats nearby.

Though it lost its title of World’s Smallest Church only a few months after its certification (a Swiss church holds the record), the Cross Island Chapel still attracts its fair share of visitors, most of whom come to pray or just take a look.[6] Built to honor God, the building no longer sits on “Cross Island,” as the water level has risen, forcing a dock to be built to house the 2.7-square-meter (28.7 ft2) chapel.

4The Hobo Museum

Photo credit: Collectors Weekly

Located in Britt, Iowa, the home of the National Hobo Convention, an annual event which began in 1900, is the Hobo Museum, a building dedicated to the memory of hobos and their history. Housed in an old theater, the museumbegan its life with nothing more than a single box of random items. Today, the building is full, and exhibits extolling the origins and virtues of the hobo lifestyle are abundant. (To be clear, a hobo is a traveling migrant worker, whereas a tramp is a traveler who avoids work. A bum neither works nor travels.)

In 2008, students of various classes at nearby Iowa State University began work on getting the building onto the National Registry of Historic Places, as well as plans to remodel/restore the former glory of the theater.[7] Other sites throughout the city honor hobos, such as the Hobo Jungle and the Hobo Cemetery, a section of a larger graveyard reserved specifically for hobos.

3Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard

Photo credit: Ben & Jerry’s

Have you ever wondered what happens to discontinued ice creams, such as Festivus or Dublin Mudslide? Fear not, for they have gone to a better place: the Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard. A tongue-in-cheek place for a tongue-in-cheek company, the graveyard is not only a page on their website but a physical place, located at their factory in Waterbury, Vermont.[8]

Originally opened in 1997, the graveyard only consisted of four flavors, with many more added over the years (35 at last count). Most of the graves are empty, with the exception being What A Cluster, for which they held an actual funeral. (Whether or not the pint of ice cream actually made it underground is anybody’s guess.) While it isn’t the most popular attraction on this list, Sean Greenwood, Ben & Jerry’s head of publicity, says people do come to pay their respects to their favorite discontinued flavors, going so far as to leave flowers near the elaborate granite headstones erected there.

2The Octopus Tree

Photo credit: Flynn Kittie/Flickr

Bearing no relation to the mythical Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, the Octopus Tree of Oregon is an enormous spruce tree, notable for its branches, which resemble the tentacles of an octopus. Believed to be the largest Sitka spruce in the state, debate continues on the story of its origins, with Native American activity being the most likely.[9] Coastal tribes, such as the Tillamook tribe, were said to shape the trees as part of their ceremonial rites.

The idea behind the Native American theory is that the tree was used to hold cedar canoes, as well as other objects of ritual importance. As far as the Octopus Tree goes, it has been estimated to be hundreds of years old and has often gone by the name “The Council Tree,” as it was said that elders also congregated at it in order to make decisions.

1World’s Largest Collection Of World’s Smallest Versions Of World’s Largest Things

This one is going to take a little explaining. Intrigued by the great American pastime of creating the largest versions of things, artist Erika Nelson decided to riff on that idea. What sprung from her thought was a traveling attraction containing miniature replicas of said things. Extensive research on each and every exhibit is performed before construction, with precise measurements done on the originals.[10]

Appropriate materials are used whenever possible; for example, the World’s Smallest Version of the World’s Largest Ball of Rubber Bands was made using miniature rubber bands. In addition, a photo is taken of each exhibit sat in front of its original. While it is normally on the road, and best seen there, when the attraction is not traveling, it calls Lucas, Kansas, its home.

10 Most Outrageous Dowries Or Bride Prices



Dowries and bride prices have long been a feature of human civilization, utilized in virtually every culture. Dowries often served as protection for the wife, as she would be right to leave her husband and take the dowry back if he or his family treated her badly, an all too common occurrence.[1]

Dowries are now uncommon in Western cultures, and they are becoming increasingly outlawed in others. While dowries and bride prices (which is where the bride’s family is paid) are usually just a simple gift of money, history has a long list of more unusual examples. Here are ten of them.

10100 Philistine Foreskins
Bride: Saul’s Daughter, Michal

Photo credit: Jastrow

David, famous for slaying Goliath as well as being king of Israel, had to work pretty hard to get his first wife’s hand in marriage. A woman named Michal fell in love with the former shepherd and he with her; however, her father was Saul, king of Israel.[2] Her father, jealous of David’s growing fame, sought to have him die in battle and demanded the foreskins of 100 Philistines, the hated enemies of Israel.

David, ever the show-off, decided to bring back double that amount, just to show how much he really wanted Saul’s daughter. Nonsexual in nature, the bringing back of foreskins was to show David’s strength, as no man would part with that piece of himself without dying first. In addition, taking parts of a man’s body after battle as a sign of victory or a trophy has a long history in war. True to his word, Saul begrudgingly allowed David to marry his daughter.

9The Bride’s Weight In Shillings
Bride: John Hull’s Daughter, Hannah

Photo credit: Daderot

Born in the 17th century, John Hull was the originator of the first Massachusetts mint and was the first man in charge of running it. Hull created the silver pine tree shilling, and coins meant a lot to him, so much so that they were integrated into the bride price for his daughter when a man named Samuel Sewall asked for her hand in marriage.

After much negotiation, it was decided that the amount would be the equivalent of Hull’s daughter’s weight in pine tree shillings.[3] When the day came, Hannah was placed on a scale, and the displayed weight became her bride price. Though her weight was never listed, about 45 kilograms (100 lb) of silver in Hull’s day was the equivalent of roughly $1,600, and it can be assumed that her weight was relatively unremarkable, so the bride price was probably a relatively modest amount.

8A Magical Pear
Bride: Margaret Giffard

An old Scottish legend dating back to the 13th century, the Colstoun Pear was said to have been originally picked by a local wizard named Sir Hugo de Giffard. His daughter was marrying into the de Broun family and wanted to present them with a special gift. Giffard told his daughter’s future family that, as long as she kept the pear from harm, it would ensure their safekeeping and the safekeeping of their descendants.[4]

The legend continued in 1692, when one of Giffard’s descendants, Lady Elizabeth Mackenzie, had a dream that she took a bite of the pear. The servants rushed to the silver casket where the family kept it and found it untouched. However, shortly after this event, Mackenzie’s husband fell deep into debt and sold the pear to his brother Robert, who subsequently drowned, along with his two young sons.

7$65–130 Million (With A Catch)
Bride: Gigi Chao

Photo credit: CBS News

Here’s a relatively recent story: Gigi Chao is a lesbian and the daughter of Cecil Chao, a Chinese billionaire. Unable to come to terms with his daughter’s lifestyle, as well as the embarrassment he felt from it, Cecil put out an offer: If a man could convince Gigi to marry him, thereby renouncing her lesbianism, he would give them a dowry of $65 million.[5] He later offered to double the amount.

However, Gigi remained steadfast, proclaiming her marriage to her partner Sean Eav to be real and urging her father to treat Eav like “a normal, dignified human being.” Though a flood of proposals came Gigi’s way, Cecil eventually retracted his offer, saying if being a lesbian was his daughter’s choice, there was nothing he could do. He stated that the money was going to stay “in his pocket.”

6The Bride’s Weight In Soap
Bride: M. Le Blanc’s Wife

Early in the 20th century, a Frenchman named M. Le Blanc married an unnamed daughter of a Parisian man. The bride’s father was a hairdresser, and a well-to-do one at that, as he provided his daughter with two dowries. The first was traditional, a large sum of money, but the second was quite unique.

Wishing to shower his future son-in-law with the promise of cleanliness, the bride’s father gave him his daughter’s weight in soap as the second dowry.[6]Seeing as her weight was given as a healthy 64 kilograms (140 lb), it can be assumed that the newlyweds were never left wanting for soap.

5A Million Facebook Likes
Bride: Salem Ayash’s Daughter

In 2013, Salem Ayash, a Yemeni poet by trade and a popular Internet figure in his home country, decided to have his prospective son-in-law prove his worth as a future husband, rather than simply pay him a bride price. To show that he was hardworking and capable of providing for his wife, the man, identified only as Osama, was given a month to accumulate one million likes on a Facebook page set up for the engagement.

Ayash had become fed up with bride prices spiraling out of control, especially concerning young people who are often ill-equipped to afford them, and intended the like requirement as a critique on modern bride prices. Oftentimes, entire neighborhoods might join together to raise the needed money to meet the bride price; to combat this, various attempts have been made over the last few years to set a maximum legal amount.[7]Unfortunately, there is no longer an active Facebook page, leaving the outcome a mystery, though Ayash said he would consider lowering the request.

4Much Of Southwestern France
Bride: Eleanor Of Aquitaine

Photo credit: Frederick Sandys

Eleanor of Aquitaine was one of the most powerful women in Europe during the 12th century, eventually becoming not only the queen consort of France but of England as well. Her father died when she was 15, making her the duchess of Aquitaine, and Louis VI (“the Fat”) was made her guardian. He immediately commanded her to marry his own son, who took the throne just a few months later, as Louis VI died of dysentery. As a dowry, Eleanor brought with her the duchy of Aquitaine.

After 15 years of marriage, and a lot of bitterness (she claimed he was like a monk), King Louis VII and Eleanor had their marriage annulled.[8] Thanks to some shrewd maneuvering on her part, the queen managed to retain all her land, in exchange for allowing the king to keep the children. She married Henry Plantagenet a short eight weeks later, bringing the land to him as a dowry. (He was crowned King of England less than two years later.)

3The Greatest Qing Dynasty Sculpture
Bride: Guangxu Emperor’s Consort Jin

Photo credit: peellden

An extremely well-crafted piece of art, the Jadeite Cabbage is exactly what its name implies: a piece of Chinese cabbage carved from jadeite, one of two minerals recognized as the gemstone jade. Most likely created sometime in the 19th century by an unknown artist, the piece is believed to have been a dowry gift for Consort Jin, as a symbol of her purity. The association with purity is said to come from the white body of the cabbage.

In addition, the two insects, one a katydid and the other a locust, are said to be good luck charms designed to represent “the blessing of giving numerous children.”[9] This stems from the fact that the female insects lay many eggs at once, with the locust laying as many as 1,500 eggs. Now housed in Taiwan’s National Palace Museum, it has become the most popular artifact there, drawing huge crowds whenever it is loaned out.

2$156 Million
Bride: Wu Ruibiao’s Daughter

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Wu Ruibiao is an extremely wealthy Chinese kitchen and tile magnate and has a daughter who got married at the end of 2012. In a move that some cynics have called nothing but “self-publicity,” Wu decided to gift his daughter with a rather large dowry: more than one billion yuan ($156.37 million).[10] Made up of a number of different gifts, including four boxes of gold as well as a Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, the dowry’s most valuable piece was five million shares in Wu’s company, Wanli, estimated to be worth as much as $15 million.

The bride, who has remained unnamed, was married to her childhood sweetheart after an eight-day wedding banquet. A newspaper in Hong Kong was quoted as saying that marrying a girl from Jinjiang, an entrepreneurial city on China’s southern coast, is “better than robbing a bank,” as the billionaires of the city have been in a metaphorical arms race over who can provide the largest dowries.

1The Cities Of Bombay And Tangier
Bride: Princess Catherine Of Braganza

Photo credit: Peter Lely

Catherine of Braganza was a 17th-century Portuguese princess who ended up marrying Charles II of England and becoming the queen. Often mistakenly credited with introducing tea to Britain, she nevertheless had much to do with making her homeland’s custom fashionable. While that can be seen as her greatest gift to the country, she also brought with her two cities when she married Charles II: Bombay (now called Mumbai) and Tangier.

Tensions soon arose in Tangier, with the Portuguese residents accusing the British troops of looting and rape and abandoning the city en masse.[11] The city was eventually abandoned by the British as well after years of siege at the hands of Ismail Ibn Sharif. Bombay lasted under British rule quite a bit longer, only changing hands when India gained its independence in 1947.

From another of my Fav Newsletters – The Skeptics


Dr. Tali Sharot — The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others

The Influential Mind (book cover)

In her new book, The Influential Mind, neuroscientist Tali Sharot takes readers on a thrilling exploration of the nature of influence, so she and Shermer start the conversation by discussing how we can influence, for example, climate deniers to accept climate science, anti-vaxxers to accept vaccines, and creationists to accept evolution. As Sharot shows in her research, merely presenting people with the facts will not change their minds. There are other forces at work, which she reveals in this conversation and in more depth in her book. It turns out, for example, that many of our instincts—from relying on facts and figures to shape opinions, to insisting others are wrong or attempting to exert control—are ineffective, because they are incompatible with how people’s minds operate. Sharot shows us how to avoid these pitfalls, and how an attempt to change beliefs and actions is successful when it is well-matched with the core elements that govern the human brain. Sharot reveals the critical role of emotion in influence, the weakness of data and the power of curiosity. Relying on the latest research in neuroscience, behavioral economics and psychology, she provides fascinating insight into the complex power of influence, good and bad. Since she grew up in Israel, she and Shermer discuss the role of religion in terrorism and politics along with health and happiness.

Tali Sharot is a Professor of cognitive Neuroscience at University College London where she directs the Affective Brain Lab. She combines research in psychology, behavioural economics and neuroscience to reveal the forces that shape our decisions and beliefs. Dr. Sharot is the author of The Influential Mind and The Optimism Bias. Her papers have been published in top scientific journals including NatureScience and Nature Neuroscience. This work has been the subject of features in many outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the BBC and others. She has also written essays for Time (cover story), the New York Times, the Guardian among others. She was a speaker at TED’s annual conference 2012 and a British Academy and Wellcome Trust fellow. She received her Ph.D from New York University.

Listen to Science Salon via iTunesSpotifyGoogle Play MusicStitcheriHeartRadioTuneIn, and Soundcloud.

This remote Science Salon was recorded on August 17, 2018.


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Top 10 Worst Instances Of Inflation

Top 10 Worst Instances Of Inflation



Venezuela recently introduced a new currency to replace its already battered money.[1] For some years now, the nation has been experiencing serious hyperinflation that has totally rubbished the value of its currency, the bolivar. The government introduced the new currency, the sovereign bolivar, hoping it will curb the effects of the inflation.

Judging from what you will find out from this list, this is unlikely. The sovereign bolivar is just the removal of five zeros from the old bolivar, and it will most likely go the route of its predecessor if the economic factors responsible for the inflation are not addressed. That said, Venezuela is hardly the only country to have suffered hyperinflation. Several other governments, including ancient Rome, have suffered even more disastrous cases of inflation and hyperinflation.

10Federal Republic Of Yugoslavia

Photo credit: Narodna Banka Srbije

The Yugoslav dinar suffered an inflation of five quadrillion percent (five with 15 zeros) between October 1993 and January 1995. Years before the inflation, the cash-strapped Yugoslavia had been printing more money to maintain its budget. The government was also borrowing money from its citizens. The government did not beg citizens for their money outright. Rather, it made it difficult for them to make withdrawals from government banks.

As the inflation worsened, the government responded by fixing prices and running businesses that sold below the fixed prices. The government-owned businesses failed, while the private businesses could not sell at the fixed prices. Citizens could not afford to fuel their cars and opted for public buses. The Belgrade Transit Authority (GSP) could not fuel its buses, either. The limited buses in service were so crowded that ticket collectors could not collect fares, causing the cash-strapped agency to lose more money.

In October 1993, the government introduced the new dinar, which was equal to one million old dinars. It quickly became a victim of the inflation. The government responded by introducing the new new dinar that was equal to one billion old dinars. It, too, went the way of the new dinar, leading to the introduction of the super dinar in January 1994. One super dinar was equal to ten million new new dinars. In the meantime, businesses and later the government had switched to using the German Deutsche Mark.[2]

9Ancient Rome

The fact that serious inflation has been fingered as one of the causes of Rome’s collapse is enough evidence that inflation is not a modern phenomena. The inflation started around AD 200, when the Antonine Plague wiped out a huge chunk of the Roman population, leading to scarcity of workers and rapid increase in wages. This, in turn, led to an increase in the price of goods.

At the same time, the Roman military was rapidly expanding, and Rome was investing money to build infrastructure in its new territories. The government decided to debase its silver coins by mixing them with impurities. This allowed it to mint more coins it normally could have. Citizens later discovered the silver coins were not pure and increased the prices of their goods to cover for the loss.

Debasing continued with the change of emperors, worsening the inflation. Between 200 and 300, Roman coins inflated at 15,000 percent. At one point, the inflation was so severe that Emperor Diocletian (284–306) responded by fixing prices, which only succeeded in sending merchants to the black market.

Other emperors continued with the price fixing, sending more merchants into the black market. At the time of the empire’s collapse, the inflation was so severe that the government could not pay the army, even though taxes were at a record high. The rebellious army turned against the empire, leading to its collapse.[3]


Between 1919 and 1923, Germany faced the worst hyperinflation in history. Its currency, the Papiermark, lost so much value that workers rushed to markets to buy the items they needed immediately after they received their pay. The government itself did not even bother adding anti-counterfeiting measures to its new super-high denominated notes since the cost of counterfeiting exceeded their face value.

At the height of the inflation, Germans dealt with so many zeros that they started suffering from a unique mental disorder called zero stroke. They dreamed of zeroes and counted everything, including their ages and children, in zeros. It was normal for someone to say he had three million children or that he was 40 billion years old.

The hyperinflation was the result of Germany printing money to finance World War I and the consequent reparations it needed to pay to the Allies after losing the war. The government responded by printing more money until the inflation became hyperinflation. By November 1923, one US dollar was worth 4.2 trillion Papiermarks. The hyperinflation ended after a new government negotiated a repayment deal with the Allies. The government also introduced the Rentermark to replace the already useless Papiermark.[4]

7United States

Photo credit: Beyond My Ken

The 13 colonies that would later form the United States introduced the Continental to fund the Revolutionary War against Britain. The money was backed by nothing other than the promise to pay. This caused inflation, since many citizens were not confident in the government’s ability to repay. The inflation was so terrible that American citizens preferred selling supplies to the British, who paid in gold and silver, than to Congress, who paid with what they considered worthless money.

The effects of the inflation were worsened by the British government, which had taken to printing counterfeit Continentals and sending them into the colonies. The colonies-issued Continentals were of exceptionally low quality. The signatures and serial numbers were handwritten, and the currency had little or no anti-counterfeiting measures. The British counterfeits were more original than the colonies-issued Continentals. Most of the time, people recognized the fake because it was exceptionally better than the original.

The British sometimes gave the counterfeits to captured or deserted American soldiers before sending them back into areas controlled by the colonies. The British also took out adverts in newspapers, requesting for people interested in taking counterfeit notes into the colonies. Meanwhile, Congress continued printing more money to fund the war. The inflation was so severe that it left many deep in debt long after the war was over. The debts later led to Shay’s Rebellion and the creation of the US Constitution.[5]


Hungary has experienced two terrible instances of inflation in its history. The first followed the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I, while the other started toward the end of World War II. Following World War I, the new government started printing money to finance its budget. The ensuing inflation ended with the country abandoning the kronen (aka korona) for the pengo in 1926.

A second inflation started in 1944, when most of Hungary’s infrastructure was destroyed by Germany and Russia. Russia also made Hungary pay reparations. The cash-strapped Hungary responded by printing more money. Hungary printed so much money that inflation rose 150,000 percent a day.

The government even introduced the milpengo (one million pengos) and the bilpengo (one billion pengos) notes to handle the excess zeros, but they were almost useless, since they, too, quickly gathered zeros. By July 1946, a US dollar was worth 460 trillion trillion pengos, versus five pengos in 1941. On August 1, 1946, the government abandoned the pengo altogether and replaced it with the forint.[6]


Photo credit: Economics Help

Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation in 2008 is the one of the worst ever recorded. At its height, prices of goods doubled every day, and unemployment was at a world record of 80 percent. Money lost value so much that the government introduced the Z$100 trillion note.

In the 1990s, President Robert Mugabe seized lands from experienced white farmers and redistributed them to inexperienced black farmers. This led to a loss of production, causing farms and later factories to default on their loans and shut down. The government itself was in debt and in need of more money. With the economy in a downturn and with no viable source of income, the government responded by printing more money.

Excess money in circulation, failed debts, closed factories, unemployment, and low exports are the perfect recipe for inflation. Instead of tackling the root problem, the government responded to the inflation by printing more money and fixing the prices of goods, which only worsened the situation. The cost of producing goods increased so fast that companies were selling their products at a loss.

Inflation rose steadily, reaching 1,281.1 percent in 2006, 66,212.3 percent in 2007, 2.3 million percent in July 2008, and a record high of 79.6 billion percent in July 2009. By this time, basic necessities like bread were sold for billions. Merchants even refused to accept Zimbabwean notes, opting for currencies like the US dollar. The government itself soon caught on the fad and abandoned its own dollars for the US dollar, which remains the official currency of the country to this day.[7]


Austria became independent again following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its neighbors, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, which were also part of the empire, imposed anti-trade policies on it soon after its creation. Inside Austria, different regions also introduced anti-trade policies against other regions.

Austria soon went to war against Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia over its borders. Austria’s government started printing money to finance the war, increasing the notes in circulation by 14,250 percent between 1919 and 1923. Inflation followed. In 1919, a US dollar was worth 16.1 crowns. By 1923, it was worth 70,800 crowns.

Government presses worked at full capacity throughout the inflation, churning out new notes day and night, even though most industries had shut down. The inflation came to an end in the late 1922 and early 1923, when the League of Nations gave Austria a loan. The crown itself was replaced with the schilling. Austria never fully recovered from the inflation before it was occupied by Germany during World War II.[8]


Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis

The Greek inflation of 1941 to 1944 was the result of the German and Italian occupation of the nation during World War II. The Greek drachma started depreciating when Germany attacked in April 1941. Traders, fearing a defeat and occupation by Germany, started hoarding goods. The ones who sold demanded payment in gold. Their fears became true when Germany won and occupied Greece, leading to further depreciation of the drachma.

Germany and Italy used Greece’s money to buy products from Greek merchants and finance the North Africa campaign. When they exhausted the money, they just ordered the Bank of Greece to print more. The drachma soon became useless, as there were too much of it in circulation, leading to inflation. Germany and Italy remained unbothered. They just ordered the Bank of Greece to print more money.[9]


Photo credit: The Bank of China

China’s hyperinflation from 1937 to 1949 was the result of the government printing money to fund wars. The first was the Second Sino-Japanese war and the other was the Chinese Civil War that followed. In 1937, one US dollar was worth 3.41 yuan. In 1945, it was worth 1,222 yuan, and in 1949, it was worth 23.3 million yuan.

Before the inflation, individual banks were responsible for issuing their own money. In 1927, the Chinese Nationalist Party came into power and started funding its budget by borrowing money from these banks. The banks later refused to loan the government more money over fears it could not repay. The government responded by creating the Central Bank of China to issue bonds to the banks in exchange for money.

In 1931, the bonds lost half of their value after Japan annexed Manchuria. When the banks refused to buy more bonds, the government passed a law demanding that banks buy bonds with 25 percent of their deposits. The banks still refused to buy the bonds. The Bank of China even sold the bonds in its possession at a loss. This culminated in the government takeover of the Bank of China and the Bank of Communications, which were the two biggest banks at that time, and every other bank thereafter.

More problems followed for China when the US Treasury started buying silver. A huge chunk of China’s silver was smuggled out of China and sold to the US, leading to a fall in the yuan. This culminated with the government taking China off the silver standard in 1935. With the country off the silver standard and the government in total control of the banks, the government started printing money. It printed so much money that its presses could not keep up, and some printing was contracted to England.

The severe hyperinflation was the reason Chairman Mao Tse-tung of the Chinese Communist Party won lots of supporters during the Chinese Civil War. The war ended with the Nationalists fleeing to Taiwan, while the Communists took control of the country. The Communists replaced the old yuan with the new yuan at the rate of three million to one.[10]


Poland became independent again in 1918 and was still unstable when it went to war with Russia. With no other viable source of income, the government started printing money to finance the war. The government printed so much money that its currency became unstable and crashed in 1923. At the end of May 31, 1923, a dollar was worth 52,875 Polish marks. By the end of December, it was worth 6.4 million marks, and on January 10, 1924, it was worth 10.3 million marks.

Industries shut down, as most people could not afford their goods. The few that did not shut down reduced the number of times a worker could come to work in a week.[11] At the height of the inflation, the government issued a 50-million-mark note. The 100-million-mark note was planned but not issued.

From my Fav Newsletter Brain Pickings

 This is the Brain Pickings midweek newsletter: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my twelve-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as a timeless pick-me-up for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival piece – the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on how to love and mastering the art of “interbeing” – you can read it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
FROM THE ARCHIVE | The Day Dostoyevsky Discovered the Meaning of Life in a Dream
dostoyvesky_awritersdiary.jpg?w=195One November night in the 1870s, legendary Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky (November 11, 1821–February 9, 1881) discovered the meaning of life in a dream — or, at least, the protagonist in his final short story did. The piece, which first appeared in the altogether revelatory A Writer’s Diary (public library) under the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow” and was later published separately as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, explores themes similar to those in Dostoyevsky’s 1864 novel Notes from the Underground, considered the first true existential novel. True to Stephen King’s assertion that “good fiction is the truth inside the lie,”the story sheds light on Dostoyevsky’s personal spiritual and philosophical bents with extraordinary clarity — perhaps more so than any of his other published works. The contemplation at its heart falls somewhere between Tolstoy’s tussle with the meaning of life and Philip K. Dick’s hallucinatory exegesis.
Portrait of Fyodor Dostoyevsky by Vasily Perov, 1871
The story begins with the narrator wandering the streets of St. Petersburg on “a gloomy night, the gloomiest night you can conceive,” dwelling on how others have ridiculed him all his life and slipping into nihilism with the “terrible anguish” of believing that nothing matters. He peers into the glum sky, gazes at a lone little star, and contemplates suicide; two months earlier, despite his destitution, he had bought an “excellent revolver” with the same intention, but the gun had remained in his drawer since. Suddenly, as he is staring at the star, a little girl of about eight, wearing ragged clothes and clearly in distress, grabs him by the arm and inarticulately begs his help. But the protagonist, disenchanted with life, shoos her away and returns to the squalid room he shares with a drunken old captain, furnished with “a sofa covered in American cloth, a table with some books, two chairs and an easy-chair, old, incredibly old, but still an easy-chair.”
As he sinks into the easy-chair to think about ending his life, he finds himself haunted by the image of the little girl, leading him to question his nihilistic disposition. Dostoyevsky writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI knew for certain that I would shoot myself that night, but how long I would sit by the table — that I did not know. I should certainly have shot myself, but for that little girl.

You see: though it was all the same to me, I felt pain, for instance. If any one were to strike me, I should feel pain. Exactly the same in the moral sense: if anything very pitiful happened, I would feel pity, just as I did before everything in life became all the same to me. I had felt pity just before: surely, I would have helped a child without fail. Why did I not help the little girl, then? It was because of an idea that came into my mind then. When she was pulling at me and calling to me, suddenly a question arose before me, which I could not answer. The question was an idle one; but it made me angry. I was angry because of my conclusion, that if I had already made up my mind that I would put an end to myself to-night, then now more than ever before everything in the world should be all the same to me. Why was it that I felt it was not all the same to me, and pitied the little girl? I remember I pitied her very much: so much that I felt a pain that was even strange and incredible in my situation…

It seemed clear that if I was a man and not a cipher yet, and until I was changed into a cipher, then I was alive and therefore could suffer, be angry and feel shame for my actions. Very well. But if I were to kill myself, for instance, in two hours from now, what is the girl to me, and what have I to do with shame or with anything on earth? I am going to be a cipher, an absolute zero. Could my consciousness that I would soon absolutely cease to exist, and that therefore nothing would exist, have not the least influence on my feeling of pity for the girl or on my sense of shame for the vileness I had committed?

From the moral, he veers into the existential:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIt became clear to me that life and the world, as it were, depended upon me. I might even say that the world had existed for me alone. I should shoot myself, and then there would be no world at all, for me at least. Not to mention that perhaps there will really be nothing for any one after me, and the whole world, as soon as my consciousness is extinguished, will also be extinguished like a phantom, as part of my consciousness only, and be utterly abolished, since perhaps all this world and all these men are myself alone.

Beholding “these new, thronging questions,” he plunges into a contemplation of what free will really means. In a passage that calls to mind John Cage’s famous aphorism on the meaning of life — “No why. Just here.” — and George Lucas’s assertion that “life is beyond reason,” Dostoyevsky suggests through his protagonist that what gives meaning to life is life itself:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngOne strange consideration suddenly presented itself to me. If I had previously lived on the moon or in Mars, and I had there been dishonored and disgraced so utterly that one can only imagine it sometimes in a dream or a nightmare, and if I afterwards found myself on earth and still preserved a consciousness of what I had done on the other planet, and if I knew besides that I would never by any chance return, then, if I were to look at the moon from the earth — would it be all the same to me or not? Would I feel any shame for my action or not? The questions were idle and useless, for the revolver was already lying before me, and I knew with all my being that this thing would happen for certain: but the questions excited me to rage. I could not die now, without having solved this first. In a word, that little girl saved me, for my questions made me postpone pulling the trigger.

Just as he ponders this, the protagonist slips into sleep in the easy-chair, but it’s a sleep that has the quality of wakeful dreaming. In one of many wonderful semi-asides, Dostoyevsky peers at the eternal question of why we have dreams:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngDreams are extraordinarily strange. One thing appears with terrifying clarity, with the details finely set like jewels, while you leap over another, as though you did not notice it at all — space and time, for instance. It seems that dreams are the work not of mind but of desire, not of the head but of the heart… In a dream things quite incomprehensible come to pass. For instance, my brother died five years ago. Sometimes I see him in a dream: he takes part in my affairs, and we are very excited, while I, all the time my dream goes on, know and remember perfectly that my brother is dead and buried. Why am I not surprised that he, though dead, is still near me and busied about me? Why does my mind allow all that?

In this strange state, the protagonist dreams that he takes his revolver and points it at his heart — not his head, where he had originally intended to shoot himself. After waiting a second or two, his dream-self pulls the trigger quickly. Then something remarkable happens:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI felt no pain, but it seemed to me that with the report, everything in me was convulsed, and everything suddenly extinguished. It was terribly black all about me. I became as though blind and numb, and I lay on my back on something hard. I could see nothing, neither could I make any sound. People were walking and making a noise about me: the captain’s bass voice, the landlady’s screams… Suddenly there was a break. I am being carried in a closed coffin. I feel the coffin swinging and I think about that, and suddenly for the first time the idea strikes me that I am dead, quite dead. I know it and do not doubt it; I cannot see nor move, yet at the same time I feel and think. But I am soon reconciled to that, and as usual in a dream I accept the reality without a question.

Now I am being buried in the earth. Every one leaves me and I am alone, quite alone. I do not stir… I lay there and — strange to say — I expected nothing, accepting without question that a dead man has nothing to expect. But it was damp. I do not know how long passed — an hour, a few days, or many days. Suddenly, on my left eye which was closed, a drop of water fell, which had leaked through the top of the grave. In a minute fell another, then a third, and so on, every minute. Suddenly, deep indignation kindled in my heart and suddenly in my heart I felt physical pain. ‘It’s my wound,’ I thought. ‘It’s where I shot myself. The bullet is there.’ And all the while the water dripped straight on to my closed eye. Suddenly, I cried out, not with a voice, for I was motionless, but with all my being, to the arbiter of all that was being done to me.

“Whosoever thou art, if thou art, and if there exists a purpose more intelligent than the things which are now taking place, let it be present here also. But if thou dost take vengeance upon me for my foolish suicide, then know, by the indecency and absurdity of further existence, that no torture whatever that may befall me, can ever be compared to the contempt which I will silently feel, even through millions of years of martyrdom.”

I cried out and was silent. Deep silence lasted a whole minute. One more drop even fell. But I knew and believed, infinitely and steadfastly, that in a moment everything would infallibly change. Suddenly, my grave opened. I do not know whether it had been uncovered and opened, but I was taken by some dark being unknown to me, and we found ourselves in space. Suddenly, I saw. It was deep night; never, never had such darkness been! We were borne through space and were already far from the earth. I asked nothing of him who led me. I was proud and waited. I assured myself that I was not afraid, and my heart melted with rapture at the thought that I was not afraid. I do not remember how long we rushed through space, and I cannot imagine it. It happened as always in a dream when you leap over space and time and the laws of life and mind, and you stop only there where your heart delights.

The 1845 depiction of a galaxy that inspired Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night,’ from Michael Benson’s Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time
Through the thick darkness, he sees a star — the same little star he had seen before shooing the girl away. As the dream continues, the protagonist describes a sort of transcendence akin to what is experienced during psychedelic drug trips or in deep meditation states:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSuddenly a familiar yet most overwhelming emotion shook me through. I saw our sun. I knew that it could not be our sun, which had begotten our earth, and that we were an infinite distance away, but somehow all through me I recognized that it was exactly the same sun as ours, its copy and double. A sweet and moving delight echoed rapturously through my soul. The dear power of light, of that same light which had given me birth, touched my heart and revived it, and I felt life, the old life, for the first time since my death.

He finds himself in another world, Earthlike in every respect, except “everything seemed to be bright with holiday, with a great and sacred triumph, finally achieved” — a world populated by “children of the sun,” happy people whose eyes “shone with a bright radiance” and whose faces “gleamed with wisdom, and with a certain consciousness, consummated in tranquility.” The protagonist exclaims:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngOh, instantly, at the first glimpse of their faces I understood everything, everything!

Conceding that “it was only a dream,” he nonetheless asserts that “the sensation of the love of those beautiful and innocent people” was very much real and something he carried into wakeful life on Earth. Awaking in his easy-chair at dawn, he exclaims anew with rekindled gratitude for life:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngOh, now — life, life! I lifted my hands and called upon the eternal truth, not called, but wept. Rapture, ineffable rapture exalted all my being. Yes, to live…

Dostoyevsky concludes with his protagonist’s reflection on the shared essence of life, our common conquest of happiness and kindness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAll are tending to one and the same goal, at least all aspire to the same goal, from the wise man to the lowest murderer, but only by different ways. It is an old truth, but there is this new in it: I cannot go far astray. I saw the truth. I saw and know that men could be beautiful and happy, without losing the capacity to live upon the earth. I will not, I cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of men… I saw the truth, I did not invent it with my mind. I saw, saw, and her living image filled my soul for ever. I saw her in such consummate perfection that I cannot possibly believe that she was not among men. How can I then go astray? … The living image of what I saw will be with me always, and will correct and guide me always. Oh, I am strong and fresh, I can go on, go on, even for a thousand years.


And it is so simple… The one thing is — love thy neighbor as thyself — that is the one thing. That is all, nothing else is needed. You will instantly find how to live.

A century later, Jack Kerouac would echo this in his own magnificent meditation on kindness and the “Golden Eternity.”
A Writer’s Diary is a beautiful read in its entirety. Complement it with Tolstoy on finding meaning in a meaningless world and Margaret Mead’s dreamed epiphany about why life is like blue jelly.

Weekly Character Goal Generation : Creativity Activity : Jay Mentor Thursday

Set a Weekly Character Goal from the Randomly chosen ones below.

  1. Escape their destiny.
  2. Explore the oceans.
  3. Be respected.
  4. Overcome mockery from the past.
  5. Overcome mockery from the past.
  6. Better themselves.
  7. Appease the gods.
  8. Create a utopia.
  9. Satisfy their curiosity.
  10. Find a cure.

You can join two or three sentences and later make them crisp, short or replace the words in the goal statements above to your taste and choice.

See the outcome and if it makes you happy. If not, wait till next Thursday. 🙂

RAK Movement- Thursday Random Acts of Kindness – Jay Parkhe

  1. Feed a stray animal if you spot one
  2. Surprise your parents with flowers
  3. Buy more ethically sourced foods
  4. Surroundings looking messy? Tidy up the area around you
  5. Say good morning/afternoon/evening to a stranger
  6. Help a younger student with their work
  7. Make someone a cup of coffee
  8. Send a thank you card to someone who has made a difference in your life (a friend, family member, teacher etc.)
  9. Make amends with someone you may have wronged
  10. Someone looking lost? Help them with directions