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ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Sunday is the 16th Annual No Pants Subway Ride

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ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

If you're heading out on Sunday and don't know what to wear, stop thinking. January 8th is the 16th annual No Pants Subway Ride, the one day each year when the metro system is clothing-optional.

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Organized by Improv Everywhere, the first No Pants Subway Ride was in 2002 and featured seven pantless participants. According to the group, tens of thousands of people in more than 60 cities and 25 countries left their pants at home last year.

Getty Images/New York

What are the rules? According to Improv Everywhere, "Random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter without pants. The participants behave as if they do not know each other, and they all wear winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. The only unusual thing is their lack of pants."

HENRY ROMERO/Reuters/Landov/Mexico

Though the event began in New York, people in cities from Portland to Paris to Prague are planning to participate this year. See the complete list.

ALY SONG/Reuters/Landov/China

In previous years, it has even spread to China—though it doesn't look like anyone told this guy's fellow passengers.

JOHN ANGELILLO/UPI/Landov/New York

GLEB GARANICH/Reuters/Landov/Kiev, Ukraine

BIMAL GAUTAM/Barcroft Media/Landov/London

FABRIZIO BENSCH/Reuters/Landov/Berlin

Getty Images/Berlin

Getty Images/New York

Chad Nicholson for ImprovEverywhere.com

Chad Nicholson for ImprovEverywhere.com

Here's a recap of 2016's No Pants Subway Ride festivities:

Portions of this post appeared in 2015.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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iStock

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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Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
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Courtesy Chronicle Books

Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

"This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
Courtesy Chronicle Books

There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
Courtesy Chronicle Books

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