With a city as old as Philadelphia, you are bound to find some weird history, mysteries and artifacts through the years. It’s no wonder that the unofficial encyclopedia of oddities, “Atlas Obscura,” has several entries featuring the City of Brotherly Love in its latest print edition.
“Atlas” co-author Ella Morton says some of the places are holdovers from the first edition while others are brand new to this edition.
“We actually put some new ones in for the updated version, the classic one that we had in there before was the Mütter Museum. It’s an amazing place, you know, the skulls, the specimens of different parts of humans and even a giant paper mache colon. So the Mütter was a classic that definitely had to go in there again. One that we’ve added for the new edition is these Toynbee tiles, which are mysterious things. They started appearing in Philadelphia back in the 1980s. They’re these little mosaics that you can find on streets that have strange messages on them. One says something about resurrecting the dead on the planet Jupiter. Weird. They have these incomprehensible messages. There are all these theories about who made the tiles, what they might mean and how they actually got that on the street but no one’s actually figured it out. They seem to have originated in Philadelphia, so we felt that that definitely had to include them,” Morton said.
Philadelphia definitely has it’s share of interesting places and things but what makes something worthy to go in the atlas of the obscure? Morton explains that many of the places in both the first and second edition came out of suggestions from the online Atlas Obscura community.
“We’re very fortunate to have a huge community of people around the world that submit ideas. Many of them are places that they’ve been to, maybe in their childhood that they remembered or places that they fumbled upon that are a local phenomenon that isn’t more broadly known. We use this book as the greatest version of the Atlas Obscura website, which has about 20,000 different places listed,” Morton said
With over 20,000 places listed, you can imagine the number of suggestions they get on an average day. It has to be hard to narrow down enough to fit in a book. Morton says the process can get pretty treacherous.
“We make a list. And then we have a lot of fights. We all end up getting our way and losing in various matters. It was a really long process of having to balance not just the individual merits of each piece, but the way that they fit into the entire list. So, we will get notes from our editor like, ‘Look, you have too many museums devoted to rare skin diseases. You know, you need to narrow that down to one.’ So that would be an argument you actually had to have,” Morton shared.
For more information on Atlas Obscura or its upcoming book tour, visit atlasobscura.com.