5 Amazing Things People Buried in the Desert


Heat, sand, and isolation make the desert a great place for treasure to hide.

1. A Fleet of Fighter Jets

Getty Images

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, one of the things that seemed curious was the enemy’s lack of planes. The American military knew that the Iraqis had air squadrons and just assumed they had stayed grounded because they knew a win against American and British firepower was pretty much impossible. But a few months later someone noticed a tailfin sticking out of the sand near a military base.

After a lot of digging, they found about 30 brand new planes buried under ten feet of sand. While the government was quick to emphasize that the planes were not actually weapons of mass destruction, Donald Rumsfeld pointed out the fact that thousands of troops had been within a “stone’s throw” of giant aircraft for three months and not noticed, which meant the WMDs they were looking for could still be out there.

2. Treasure Maps

Getty Images

The world famous Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1946 by a local shepherd. Over the course of the next decade, archeologists joined in the search of the surrounding desert caves for more ancient documents. In 1952, one team found two rolled-up copper scrolls. It took them five years to figure out how to unroll the scrolls without destroying them, but in the end they managed to cut the copper into 23 thin pieces. The researchers then put them back together and set about translating the Ancient Hebrew writing. While it was impossible to decipher the entire thing, we do know that the scrolls are directions on how to find a huge stash of treasure, “a money chest and its contents, of a weight of seventeen talents,” estimated to be worth millions of dollars today.

Unfortunately, the directions have lost their usefulness in the last 2000 years, so unless you can figure out where the “gutter” of the water tank is, and from there find the tunnel under the “second enclosure,” this treasure may remain hidden in the desert forever.

3. A Priceless Library

In the 1500s, Timbuktu was a thriving city on the edge of the Sahara Desert, and for 30 years was home to the University of Sankoré. For three decades the university’s founder, Mohammed abu Bakr al-Wangari, purchased books on African and Islamic history, the sciences, religion, and literature. But after his death in 1594, the library he built up was divided among his relatives in the city and forgotten about for centuries.

It was only in the last decade that a project to recover as many of the books as possible began. So far dozens of these priceless, hand-written texts have been found in caves, derelict buildings, underground chambers, and hidden away in chests. Many of the books are water-logged or have been virtually destroyed by termites, but others are in surprisingly good condition thanks to the dryness and heat of the desert. A project is now underway to preserve the books, which are unprecedented in their coverage of medieval West African history.

4. The World's Oldest Pot Stash

David Potter/NBC News

Back in 2008, archaeologists found almost two pounds of marijuana in a 2,700-year-old grave in the Gobi Desert. "It could have been for pain control," according to Dr. Ethan Russo, who wrote about the discovery in the Journal of Experimental Botany. "It could have been for other medicinal properties. It could have been used as an aid to divination." The deceased may have been a man of status. In addition to the cannabis, researchers found equestrian and archery equipment in the tomb.

According to Discovery News, the ancient stash is now at Turpan Museum in China.

5. Incriminating Documents


In 2003, Shell Oil was in a bit of a pickle. During the 1990s there had been an oil spill from one of their pipelines. Shell had since sold that pipeline to another company, which was being sued over well water contaminated by the spill. The current owner needed documents from Shell. And since Shell had absolutely nothing to hide, they took 190 boxes full of accounting ledgers and environmental reports from that time and buried them 40 feet deep in the New Mexico desert.

The documents were only discovered when a former employee admitted he knew where they were. And this wasn’t a simple misunderstanding. There was no landfill in the area, and as the state’s Attorney General pointed out, “It's just very unusual to bury records in the middle of the desert.” Shell tried to claim it was just “office refuse.”

9 Curses for Book Thieves From the Middle Ages and Beyond

It may seem extreme to threaten the gallows for the theft of a book, but that's just one example in the long, respected tradition of book curses. Before the invention of moveable type in the West, the cost of a single book could be tremendous. As medievalist Eric Kwakkel explains, stealing a book then was more like stealing someone’s car today. Now, we have car alarms; then, they had chains, chests … and curses. And since the heyday of the book curse occurred during the Middle Ages in Europe, it was often spiced with Dante-quality torments of hell.

The earliest such curses go back to the 7th century BCE. They appear in Latin, vernacular European languages, Arabic, Greek, and more. And they continued, in some cases, into the era of print, gradually fading as books became less expensive. Here are nine that capture the flavor of this bizarre custom.


A book curse from the Arnstein Bible, circa 1172
A curse in the Arnstein Bible
British Library // Public Domain

The Arnstein Bible at the British Library, written in Germany circa 1172, has a particularly vivid torture in mind for the book thief: “If anyone steals it: may he die, may he be roasted in a frying pan, may the falling sickness [i.e. epilepsy] and fever attack him, and may he be rotated [on the breaking wheel] and hanged. Amen.”


A 15th-century French curse featured by Marc Drogin in his book Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses has a familiar "House That Jack Built"-type structure:

“Whoever steals this book
Will hang on a gallows in Paris,
And, if he isn’t hung, he’ll drown,
And, if he doesn’t drown, he’ll roast,
And, if he doesn’t roast, a worse end will befall him.”


A book curse excerpted from the 13th-century Historia scholastica
A book curse from the Historia scholastica
Yale Beinecke Library // Public Domain

In The Medieval Book, Barbara A. Shailor records a curse from Northeastern France found in the 12th-century Historia scholastica: “Peter, of all the monks the least significant, gave this book to the most blessed martyr, Saint Quentin. If anyone should steal it, let him know that on the Day of Judgment the most sainted martyr himself will be the accuser against him before the face of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Drogin also records this 13th-century curse from a manuscript at the Vatican Library, as notes. It escalates rapidly.

"The finished book before you lies;
This humble scribe don’t criticize.
Whoever takes away this book
May he never on Christ look.
Whoever to steal this volume durst
May he be killed as one accursed.
Whoever to steal this volume tries
Out with his eyes, out with his eyes!"


A book curse from an 11th century lectionary
A book curse from an 11th century lectionary
Beinecke Library // Public Domain

An 11th-century book curse from a church in Italy, spotted by Kwakkel, offers potential thieves the chance to make good: “Whoever takes this book or steals it or in some evil way removes it from the Church of St Caecilia, may he be damned and cursed forever, unless he returns it or atones for his act.”


This book curse was written in a combination of Latin and German, as Drogin records:

"To steal this book, if you should try,
It’s by the throat you’ll hang high.
And ravens then will gather ’bout
To find your eyes and pull them out.
And when you’re screaming 'oh, oh, oh!'
Remember, you deserved this woe."


This 18th-century curse from a manuscript found in Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, is written in Arabic: “Property of the monastery of the Syrians in honorable Jerusalem. Anyone who steals or removes [it] from its place of donation will be cursed from the mouth of God! God (may he be exalted) will be angry with him! Amen.”


A book curse in a 17th century manuscript cookbook
A book curse in a 17th century cookbook

A 17th-century manuscript cookbook now at the New York Academy of Medicine contains this inscription: "Jean Gembel her book I wish she may be drouned yt steals it from her."


An ownership inscription on a 1632 book printed in London, via the Rochester Institute of Technology, contains a familiar motif:

“Steal not this Book my honest friend
For fear the gallows be yr end
For when you die the Lord will say
Where is the book you stole away.”


One of the most elaborate book curses found on the internet runs as follows: "For him that stealeth a Book from this Library, let it change to a Serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with Palsy, and all his Members blasted. Let him languish in Pain, crying aloud for Mercy and let there be no surcease to his Agony till he sink to Dissolution. Let Book-worms gnaw his Entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not, and when at last he goeth to his final Punishment let the Flames of Hell consume him for ever and aye.”

Alas, this curse—still often bandied about as real—was in fact part of a 1909 hoax by the librarian and mystery writer Edmund Pearson, who published it in his "rediscovered" Old Librarian's Almanack. The Almanack was supposed to be the creation of a notably curmudgeonly 18th-century librarian; in fact, it was a product of Pearson's fevered imagination.

5 Things We Know About Deadpool 2

After Deadpool pocketed more than $750 million worldwide in its theatrical run, a sequel was put on the fast track by Fox to capitalize on the original's momentum. It's a much different position to be in for a would-be franchise that was stuck in development hell for a decade, and with Deadpool 2's May 18, 2018 release date looming, the slow trickle of information is going to start picking up speed—beginning with the trailer, which just dropped. Though most of the movie is still under wraps, here's what we know so far about the next Deadpool.


The tendency with comic book movie sequels is to keep cramming more characters in until the main hero becomes a supporting role. While Deadpool 2 is set to expand the cast from the first film with the addition of Domino (Zazie Beetz), the return of Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and the formation of X-Force, writer Rhett Reese is adamant about still making sure it's a Deadpool movie.

"Yeah, it’ll be a solo movie," Reese told Deadline. "It’ll be populated with a lot of characters, but it is still Deadpool’s movie, this next one."


Fans have been waiting for Cable to come to theaters ever since the first X-Men movie debuted in 2000, but up until now, the silver-haired time traveler has been a forgotten man. Thankfully, that will change with Deadpool 2, and he'll be played by Josh Brolin, who is also making another superhero movie appearance in 2018 as the villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. In the comics, Cable and Deadpool are frequent partners—they even had their own team-up series a few years back—and that dynamic will play out in the sequel. The characters are so intertwined, there were talks of possibly having him in the original.

"It’s a world that’s so rich and we always thought Cable should be in the sequel," Reese told Deadline. "There was always debate whether to put him in the original, and it felt like we needed to set up Deadpool and create his world first, and then bring those characters into his world in the next one."

Cable is actually the son of X-Men member Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey named Madelyne Pryor (that's probably the least confusing thing about him, to be honest). While the movie might not deal with all that history, expect Cable to still play a big role in the story.


Although Deadpool grossed more than $750 million worldwide and was a critical success, it still wasn't enough to keep original director Tim Miller around for the sequel. Miller recently came out and said he left over concerns that the sequel would become too expensive and stylized. Instead, Deadpool 2 will be helmed by John Wick (2014) director David Leitch. Despite the creative shuffling, the sequel will still feature star Ryan Reynolds and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick.

“He’s just a guy who’s so muscular with his action," Reynolds told Entertainment Weekly of Leitch's hiring. "One of the things that David Leitch does that very few filmmakers can do these days is they can make a movie on an ultra tight minimal budget look like it was shot for 10 to 15 times what it cost,"


No, this won't be the title of the movie when it hits theaters, but the working title for Deadpool 2 while it was in production was, appropriately, Love Machine.


The natural instinct for any studio is to make the sequel to a hit film even bigger. More money for special effects, more action scenes, more everything. That's not the direction Deadpool 2 is likely heading in, though, despite Miller's fears. As producer Simon Kinberg explained, it's about keeping the unique tone and feel of the original intact.

"That’s the biggest mandate going into on the second film: to not make it bigger," Kinberg told Entertainment Weekly. "We have to resist the temptation to make it bigger in scale and scope, which is normally what you do when you have a surprise hit movie."


More from mental floss studios