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Samantha Hunt's Notable Walkers

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I'm pleased to present a very special guest column this week by one of my new favorite authors, Samantha Hunt. First up, a mini-profile of K. Veerabadran, who holds world records for both continuous walking and continuous backwards walking. Be sure to tune back in tomorrow for Samantha's pieces on Arthur Blessit (who holds the distinction of being arrested 24 times for walking), and the following day for notable mid-19th century walker Jules Bourglay.

And now, without further rat-a-tat, I turn the post over to Samantha.

I once met a man who had tried to walk across the state of Iowa carrying a ladder on his back. I can't remember what the ladder was supposed to symbolize but I do recall that he didn't make it very far.
My career as a long distance walker has been even shorter-lived. I dream about taking week-long walks but I've had trouble getting started. The instructions are simple enough: one foot in front of the other, and yet, the one walk I've always wanted to take -- from my house in Brooklyn to the house in Westchester County where I was raised "“ eludes me. There's many a deterrent: traffic, trucks, diesel fumes. The danger and dirt have kept me home.
Walking out of New York City is no the ramble through the countryside. At times, in certain directions, it's not even possible. We are, in a way, trapped. Highways, bridges with no pedestrian lanes block our ways. It's so tough to be Johnny Appleseed nowadays that even the senseless words of homicidal madman Theodore Kaczynski begin to make some sense. "A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations"¦Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed"¦the walker's freedom is now greatly restricted."
I originally wrote these stories about notable walkers in 2002 but as the weather warms here in New York I begin, once again, to plan and scheme my pedestrian escape.

veerabhadran.jpgK . V E E R A B A D R A N ,
N O T A B L E W A L K E R .


Despite walking 137 kilometers backwards in twenty-four hours, world-record breaker K. Veerabadran moved into the future.

K. Veerabadran, in most photos, looks sad and small. His pants are too wide for his thin waist, and he curves his shoulders in towards his heart. His appearance does not reflect his success as an athlete. Though he has had no formal athletic training and waited until he was in his forties to begin his athletic ventures, Veerabadran holds records for both continuous walking and continuous backwards walking.

When Veerabadran is not walking he is an officer in the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Handlooms and Textiles. He is also a manager at the Loom World Showroom in Anna Nagar and he is the father of three children.

Veerabadran once walked continuously for five days and five nights. In this time he covered a distance of 573.4 kilometers, surpassing the previous record holder, an Englishman named Tom Benson's distance by a mere 2.4 kilometers. On the fifth day of this walk, the last, Veerabadran was weary from no sleep and little food. He passed through a field where onions and chilies were growing. Starved he began to eat the vegetables raw, voraciously. As Veerabadran reported to Joseph Pradeep Raj R of, "The result was that whatever sleepiness I was feeling went away with the fiery taste. With eyes streaming tears, I completed the run. I kept eating the onions and chilies and it was like petrol for me, at the end of which my mouth itself was blistered."

To break the world's backward walking record once held by American David Arnold, Veerabadran walked 137 kilometers, backwards, in twenty-four hours. Since then Veerabadran has three times attempted to break his own record. On his third bid he was struck by a truck on the road from Bangalore. Veerabadran was knocked unconscious and has, at least for now, sworn off future backwards walking record breaking endeavors.

Samantha Hunt's most recent book is The Invention of Everything Else, a novel about the life of Nikola Tesla.

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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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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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