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Stacy Conradt

Amelia Earhart

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Stacy Conradt

Every time we so much as touch a toe out of state, I’ve put cemeteries on our travel itinerary. From garden-like expanses to overgrown boot hills, whether they’re the final resting places of the well-known but not that important or the important but not that well-known, I love them all. After realizing that there are a lot of taphophiles out there, I’m finally putting my archive of interesting tombstones to good use.

It’s been nearly 80 years since Amelia Earhart and her Lockheed Electra disappeared from the face of the earth in 1937, but she remains one of America’s favorite missing persons.

There’s no shortage of theories on what happened to Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan. The most popular belief is probably the simple crash-and-sink theory. It's been well documented that Earhart and Noonan were having trouble with their communication instruments and couldn't locate the tiny island of Howland, which is only two miles long by half a mile wide. Unable to get good directions from the team waiting for them there, theorists believe that the duo flew around looking for a safe place to land until the Electra ran out of fuel.

Now, take the theory above and change the ending, and you have the Gardner Island theory. A group of people, including Earhart’s mother, believed that another, more visible island became the landing target when the Electra began to run low on fuel. Human remains were discovered on the island in 1940, but testing showed they belonged to a male. The bones went missing before researchers could get a second opinion. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has since discovered many artifacts on the island, now known as Nikumaroro, including a cosmetic jar that resembles the packaging for a well-known freckle-removing cream. Earhart had freckles and apparently disliked them.

Then there’s the theory that Earhart and Noonan were captured and executed by Japanese soldiers when they crashed on the island of Saipan. TIGHAR dismisses this theory, saying, “it was a physical impossibility for the Earhart flight to have reached territory controlled by Japan and, even if it had, there was nothing there to spy on in 1937, and no military to capture her for spying on something that wasn’t there.”

Amelia’s husband, George Putnam, personally investigated the theory that Amelia disappeared to become Tokyo Rose, the radio broadcaster who spouted Japanese propaganda during WWII. He flew to China to listen to audio files himself, and swore afterward that his wife’s voice was not among them.

If you think those last two theories are outlandish, this one’s a real doozie: Amelia Earhart didn’t die. She simply located to New Jersey (obviously) and resurfaced under the name Irene Bolam. The real Irene Bolam steadfastly denied this claim, and had plenty of proof that she was, and always had been, Irene—not Amelia.

Whichever theory is correct, one thing’s for sure: Amelia still hasn’t been found. So how do we have a Grave Sighting for a woman who hasn’t even been located, let alone buried?

Stacy Conradt

Well, despite her international popularity, no one loves Amelia more than the good people of her hometown, Atchison, Kansas. They’ve erected several memorials to her, including an earthwork in the middle of a cemetery and a statue in the adjacent International Forest of Friendship, “a living, growing memorial to the world history of aviation and aerospace.” The inset of the earthwork below, by the way, is how it appears on Google Earth. The bigger picture is how it looks from the viewing platform on a nearby hill. Either the Google Earth satellite is old, or the viewing platform is worthless, because from my view on the platform, it just looked like someone got a little overzealous with the Weed-B-Gon.

Stacy Conradt

If you ever find yourself in Atchison, you can also visit Amelia’s birthplace, now a museum maintained by the Ninety-Nines, an international organization for female pilots. Unless you have a trip to Howland Island or Nikumaroro planned, these tributes are the closest you’ll get to being able to pay your respects. Unless, of course, TIGHAR’s continued expeditions finally find the aviatrix and bring her home.

See all entries in our Grave Sightings series here.

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.


A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.


Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.


Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.


The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.


Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.


Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]


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