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Detroit: into the wild

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Being an unabashed fan of abandoned buildings, ghost towns and the middle of nowhere (a preoccupation evidenced by recent blogs), I was fascinated to discover that significant chunks of some Detroit neighborhoods have been more than just abandoned thanks to urban blight and suburban flight; they're being reclaimed by nature and slowly turning back into fields and forests. Excerpts from Detroitblog:

Whole neighorhood blocks cleared of houses by arson and bulldozers have reverted to urban prairies, visible in satellite photos as unusually large green patches in the middle of the inner city. Sidewalks vanish beneath creeping grasses, while aluminum fences between homes become entwined with the branches of dozens of saplings growing as high as the droopy utility wires. Animals normally scared out to the perimeter of the exurban rural areas are wandering back, sometimes finding more greenspace in parts of the city than they do in the increasingly developed parts of the exurbs like northern Macomb County.

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It's gotten to the point that various groups over the years have floated the ideas of turning some of the empty lots around the city into small farming plots for neighborhood residents to farm, reminiscent of Detroit Mayor Hazen Pingree's program that turned city plots into potato farms to feed the hungry in the 1890s. Abandoned industrial sites like the Fisher Body 21 plant, the Studebaker plant, the Continental Aluminum plant and the Detroit Screw Works plant have been overrun by trees growing through walls and roofs, impervious to the chemicals and toxins left behind.

"Roving packs of wild dogs"
Probably the most visible wildlife in the city are the roving packs of wild dogs in Detroit neighborhoods. Groups of usually four to seven dogs, each litter progressively wilder and stranger-looking than their predecessors, roam through even well-kept neighborhoods, occasionally making the news when they attack someone, usually children or mail carriers.

"Post-apocalyptic"
statefair22.jpgThe State Fair neighborhood has all sorts of different, unique pockets, but the common characteristic of the area remains the eerie, spreading countryside that replaced what was long ago a stable residential neighborhood, where people could walk to stores and restaurants and churches in safety and comfort. Today, the neighborhood is post-apocalyptic, having passed through the worst standard stages of neighborhood decline: falling housing values, longtime residents moving to the suburbs, crumbling properties converted to rentals, a growth of criminal activity, abandonment by anyone who can afford to leave, and finally the disappearance of the houses themselves.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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fun
How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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