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15 Fateful Facts About Gilligan’s Island

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The 98th—and final—episode of Gilligan’s Island was broadcast on April 17, 1967. Though never a critical favorite, the show was still a solid ratings hit and the cast and crew had every expectation of returning in the fall for a fourth season. But at the last minute CBS needed to find some room on the schedule for Gunsmoke, the favorite show of Babe Paley, wife of network president William Paley. So Gilligan got the axe and, at least as far as viewers know, the cast is still stranded somewhere in the Pacific.

Forty-eight years after that final wrap party, however, Gilligan’s Island is still on the air. It was sold into syndication and has been broadcasting reruns continuously in 30 different languages around the world. Just sit right back and you’ll hear some tales of everyone’s favorite castaways.

1. IT WAS INTENDED TO BE A “METAPHORICAL SHAMING OF WORLD POLITICS.”

One day in a public speaking class at New York University, the professor had students compose an impromptu one-minute speech on this topic: If you were stranded on a desert island, what one item would you like to have? Sherwood Schwartz was a student in that class, and the question so intrigued him that it remained lodged in the back of his mind for many years.

After working for some time as a comedy writer for other shows, Schwartz decided to pitch his own idea for a sitcom. Thinking back to that desert island question, he thought it would make for an interesting dynamic to have a group of very dissimilar individuals stranded together and have to learn to live and work together. The island would be “a social microcosm and a metaphorical shaming of world politics in the sense that when necessary for survival, yes we can all get along,” Schwartz explained in Inside Gilligan's Island: From Creation to Syndication. Schwartz quickly discovered after his first few pitch meetings that words like “microcosm” and “metaphor” were not very helpful when trying to sell a comedy.

2. GILLIGAN’S FIRST NAME IS WILLY.

After getting a green light from CBS for the pilot, Schwartz went about assembling his cast. He chose the name of the bumbling first mate—Gilligan—from the Los Angeles telephone directory. Gilligan’s first name was never mentioned during the series, but according to Schwartz’s original notes, it was intended to be “Willy.” Yet Bob Denver always insisted that “Gilligan” was the character’s first name. “Almost every time I see Bob Denver we still argue,” Schwartz once admitted. “He thinks Gilligan is his first name, and I think it's his last name. Because in the original presentation, it's Willy Gilligan. But he doesn't believe it, and he doesn't want to discuss it. He insists the name is Gilligan.”

3. SCHWARTZ WANTED JERRY VAN DYKE TO PLAY GILLIGAN.

Jerry Van Dyke was Schwartz’s first choice to play the lead, but Van Dyke said that the pilot script was “the worst thing I’d ever read.” On the advice of his agent, Van Dyke accepted the lead in the short-lived (and critically panned) My Mother The Car instead. “I had a lot of problems with the agency, because they were trying to push me into taking [Gilligan’s Island],” Van Dyke recalled in an interview. “But that’s the joke: I turned it down and took My Mother the Car. But, again, it was really good, because I’d [have] been forever known as Gilligan. So that worked out, too!”

4. ALAN HALE GOT TO HIS AUDITION VIA HORSEBACK.

The Skipper was the toughest, and last, character to be cast. Schwartz auditioned dozens of actors (including Carroll O’Connor), but no one was quite right; he wanted someone strong and commanding, sometimes blustery and short-tempered, but able to show a genuine affection for Gilligan even when smacking him over the head with his hat. Alan Hale was filming Bullet for a Bad Man in St. George, Utah when he got the casting call for Gilligan and was unable to get time off for a screen test. So he had to sneak off set after a day of filming, which was no easy task. In Surviving Gilligan's Island: The Incredibly True Story of the Longest Three-Hour Tour in History, it was revealed that Hale made his way to Los Angeles to read a scene with Bob Denver via horseback, hitchhiking, airplane, and taxi cab. He reversed the process after the audition and made it back to Utah just in time to resume filming his western the next day.

5. THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK DELAYED PRODUCTION ON THE SERIES.

The pilot for the series was filmed over several days in November of 1963 on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. The last day of shooting was scheduled for November 23, 1963 in Honolulu Harbor for the scenes showing the S.S. Minnow embarking on its fateful three-hour tour. Late in the morning on November 22, a crew member ran to the set and announced that he’d just heard on the radio that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. As Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President, it was announced that all military installations (including Honolulu Harbor) would be closed for the next two days as a period of mourning. Filming was delayed by several days as a result, and in the opening credits—as the Minnow cruises the harbor—the American flag can be seen flying at half-mast in the background.

6. THE MILLIONAIRE’S WIFE REALLY WAS A MILLIONAIRE.

Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Lovey Howell—and allegedly only accepted the invitation to play Mrs. Howell because it meant a free trip to Hawaii to film the pilot—was a real-life millionaire. During her marriage to actor Louis Calhern, the couple had invested heavily in Beverly Hills real estate at a time when a house on Rodeo Drive could be purchased for $50,000.

When she died in 1991, Schafer bequeathed a large chunk of her fortune to her favorite teacup poodle (she had no children), with instructions for that money to be donated to the Motion Picture and Television Hospital after the pooch’s passing. Said hospital now has a "Natalie Schafer Wing." Rumor has it that Schafer also left a tidy sum to Gilligan’s Island co-star Dawn Wells (Mary Ann), who lived with and helped care for Natalie as she battled breast cancer.

7. DAWN WELLS STILL GETS PAID FOR GILLIGAN’S ISLAND.

All of the actors signed contracts that guaranteed them a certain amount of money per original episode plus a residual payment for the first five repeats of each episode. This was a pretty standard contract in 1965, when as a rule most TV shows were only rerun during the summer months as a placeholder between seasons.

Even though the word “syndication” wasn’t yet a standard term in the TV production glossary, Dawn Wells’ then-husband, talent agent Larry Rosen, advised her to ask for an amendment to that residual clause in her contract, and the producers granted it, never thinking the series would be on the air nearly 50 years later. As a result, the estate of the late Sherwood Schwartz (who reportedly pocketed around $90 million during his lifetime from his little microcosm-on-an-island show) and Dawn Wells are the only two folks connected to the show who still receive money from it.

8. RAQUEL WELCH AUDITIONED FOR MARY ANN.

The programming executives at CBS were underwhelmed by the pilot, but it managed to impress three different test audiences enough that they put the series on the fall schedule. But before filming for the first episode began, they had a few caveats—the first of which was replacing three cast members who had tested the “lowest” with audiences: John Gabriel, who played The Professor, a high school science teacher; Kit Smythe, who played Ginger as a secretary, not a movie star; and Nancy McCarthy, who played Bunny, yet another secretary. It was decided to make Ginger an actress, and Bunny was replaced by wholesome farm girl Mary Ann. One actress who auditioned for Mary Ann’s part was a young Raquel Welch, though something about her just didn’t scream “girl next door.”

9. THE SHOW’S STARS FOUND FANS IN THE STRANGEST PLACES.

Years after the show stopped filming (it’s never really been “off the air”), the cast members found fans in the most unusual places. For example, in 2001 Russell Johnson was asked to speak at a biochemical conference in San Francisco. “There were four or five hundred PhDs there, and every one of them was a Gilligan’s Island fan,” he recalled. Bob Denver took his wife to dinner at Chicago’s elegant Pump Room once and the trio of musicians immediately switched from playing their semi-classical chamber music to “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island.” Dawn Wells was vacationing in the Solomon Islands in 1990 when she and some friends canoed to a remote island in the area that had no running water or electricity. The visitors were ushered to a hut to meet the village chief, and Wells was stunned when “The chief's wife said, ‘I know you. In 1979, I was going to nursing school in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, and I used to come home and watch you in black-and-white!’”

10. THE SKIPPER BROKE HIS ARM FALLING OUT OF A COCONUT TREE.

Alan Hale was an old-school “the show must go on” kind of actor. In Inside Gilligan’s Island, Schwartz recalled chatting with Hale at the season one wrap party when the actor, as jolly and convivial as always, happened to comment that now that shooting was completed, he could take care of his arm. When Schwartz asked what was wrong with his arm, Hale nonchalantly replied: “Oh, I broke it a few weeks ago.” He went on to explain that three weeks prior he had missed the crash pads slightly when he fell out of a coconut tree for a scene and had smashed his right arm on the stage. He hadn’t sought medical treatment because he didn’t want to disrupt the filming schedule. Schwartz was dumbfounded; “How did you manage to haul coconuts and lift Bob Denver with a broken arm?” “It wasn’t easy,” Hale admitted.

11. NATALIE SCHAFER DID HER OWN STUNTS.

Even though Natalie Schafer was in her mid-60s when Gilligan’s Island was filmed, she insisted on doing the majority of her own stunts—and never complained about jumping into the lagoon or sinking in fake quicksand. In 1965, she told “Let’s Be Beautiful” columnist Arlene Dahl that she kept in shape by swimming in her backyard pool—in the nude—and by periodically following her special “ice cream diet,” which consisted of eating nothing but one quart of ice cream (spread out over three meals) daily. She would lose three pounds in five days following that regime.

12. THE MILLIONAIRE WAS A CHEAPSKATE.

Jim Backus, who played Mr. Howell, was beloved by his castmates. In addition to being the source of endless ribald jokes and a willing coach to the less experienced actors on how to ad-lib or deliver a punch line, he was also notoriously cheap. In What Would Mary Ann Do? A Guide to Life, Dawn Wells recalled how during the show’s first season he would often invite her and Natalie Schafer out to lunch … only to realize that he had left his wallet back at the studio when the check came. Before the cast departed for summer hiatus after the wrap party, Schafer presented Backus with a bill for a little over $300—the total he owed for all those meals.

13. THE PROFESSOR AND MARY ANN WEREN’T IN THE ORIGINAL OPENING CREDITS.

In the first season of Gilligan’s Island, the opening credits ended with a picture of Ginger as the singers crooned “the moo-vie star” followed by a hastily added “and the rest.” The text accompanying the photo proclaimed: “and also starring Tina Louise as ‘Ginger.’” (The only other cast member whose character name was listed in the credits was Jim Backus, a show business veteran and very recognizable character actor whose resume was longer than Ginger’s evening gown.) Louise had had it written into her contract that, along with the “also starring” billing, no one would follow her name in the credits.

Once the show was renewed for a second season, champion-for-the-underdog Bob Denver approached the producers and asked that Russell Johnson and Dawn Wells be added to the opening credits, stating that their characters were just as vital to the dynamic as any of the others. When the producers mentioned the clause in Louise’s contract, Denver countered by referring to a clause in his own contract which stated that he could have his name placed anywhere in the credits he liked. He threatened to have his name moved to last place, so an agreement was hammered out with Louise, a revised theme song was recorded, and Johnson and Wells took their rightful place in the opening montage.

14. THE LAGOON WAS LOCATED IN STUDIO CITY, CALIFORNIA.

The lagoon set was specially built for the show by CBS on their Studio City lot in 1964. They’d originally tried filming two episodes in Malibu, but they had a lot of downtime due to fog. Of course, filming at the studio had its own set of problems; sometimes filming had to be halted when traffic noise could be heard from the nearby Ventura Freeway. And the water temperature would hover around 40 degrees during the winter months, forcing Bob Denver to wear a wetsuit under his Gilligan costume. In 1995, the lagoon was turned into an employee parking lot.

15. THE MOVIE STAR WANTED TO BE THE TELEVISION STAR.

In the January 23, 1965 edition of TV Guide, an article about Bob Denver mentioned the on-set tension between Tina Louise and the rest of the castaways: “Denver will not say why he and the glamorous Tina [Louise] do not get along, nor will any of the castaways–they just ignore her, and she ignores them. Between scenes, while the other six principals chat and tell jokes together, she sits off by herself. And recently when Denver was asked to pose for pictures with her, he adamantly refused. Part of Louise’s dissatisfaction with the series was that she had expected to be the star of the show. (Her agent had allegedly pitched it to her as the story of an actress stranded on an island with six other people.)

Bob Denver eventually capitulated to network pressure and agreed to do a photo shoot with Louise for a TV Guide cover in May of 1965—but only if Dawn Wells was included. To his chagrin, Wells was cropped out of the final image.
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10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

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Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

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In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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15 Fascinating Facts About Amelia Earhart
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Amelia Earhart was a pioneer, a legend, and a mystery. To celebrate what would be her 120th birthday, we've uncovered 15 things you might not know about the groundbreaking aviator.

1. THE FIRST TIME SHE SAW AN AIRPLANE, SHE WASN'T IMPRESSED.

In Last Flight, a collection of diary entries published posthumously, Earhart recalled feeling unmoved by "a thing of rusty wire and wood" at the Iowa State Fair in 1908. It wasn't until years later that she discovered her passion for aviation, when she worked as a nurse's aide at Toronto's Spadina Military Hospital. She and some friends would spend time at hangars and flying fields, talking to pilots and watching aerial shows. Earhart didn't actually get on a plane herself until 1920, and even then she was just a passenger.

2. SHE WAS A GOOD STUDENT WITH NO PATIENCE FOR SCHOOL.

After working with the Voluntary Aid Detachment in Toronto, Earhart took pre-med classes at Columbia University in 1919. She made good grades, but dropped out after just a year. Earhart re-enrolled at Columbia in 1925 and left school again. She took summer classes at Harvard, but gave up on higher education for good after she didn't get a scholarship to MIT.

3. ANOTHER PIONEERING FEMALE AVIATOR TAUGHT EARHART HOW TO FLY.

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Neta Snook was the first woman to run her own aviation business and commercial airfield. She gave Earhart flying lessons at Kinner Field near Long Beach, California in 1921, reportedly charging $1 in Liberty Bonds for every minute they spent in the air.

4. EARHART BOUGHT HER FIRST PLANE WITHIN SIX MONTHS OF HER FIRST FLYING LESSON.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

She named it The Canary. The used yellow Kinner Airster biplane was the second one ever built. Earhart paid $2000 for it, despite Snook's opinion that it was underpowered, overpriced, and too difficult for a beginner to land.

5. AMY EARHART ENCOURAGED HER DAUGHTER'S PASSION. HER FATHER, ON THE OTHER HAND, WAS AFRAID OF FLYING.

Earhart's mom used some of her inheritance to pay for The Canary. She was a bit of an adventurer herself: the first woman to ever climb Pikes Peak in Colorado.

6. EARHART HAD A LOT OF ODD JOBS.

In addition to volunteering as a nurse's aide, Earhart also worked early jobs as a telephone operator and tutor. Earhart was a social worker at Denison House in Boston when she was invited to fly across the Atlantic for the first time (as a passenger) in 1928. At the height of her career, Earhart spent time making speeches, writing articles, and providing career counseling at Purdue University's Department of Aeronautics. Oh, and flying around the world.

7. SHE WASN'T SURE ABOUT MARRIAGE, BUT SHE DEFINITELY BELIEVED IN PRE-NUPS.

When promoter George Putnam contacted Earhart about flying across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, it was her first big break ... and the beginning of their love story. The two began a working relationship, which soon turned into attraction. When Putnam's marriage to Dorothy Binney fell apart, he eventually proposed to Earhart. She said yes, albeit reluctantly.

Earhart wasn't worried about safeguarding financial assets so much as she wanted the two of them to maintain separate identities. Earhart asked Putnam to agree to a trial marriage. If they weren't happy after a year, they'd be free to go their separate ways, no hard feelings. He agreed. They lived happily until her disappearance.

8. SHE WROTE ABOUT FLYING FOR COSMOPOLITAN.

In 1928, Earhart was appointed Cosmopolitan's Aviation Editor. Her 16 published articles—among them "Shall You Let Your Daughter Fly?" and "Why Are Women Afraid to Fly?"—recounted her adventures and encouraged other women to fly, even if they just did so commercially. (Commercial flights date back to 1914, but they wouldn't really take off until after World War II.)

9. FIRST LADY ELEANOR ROOSEVELT WAS SO INSPIRED BY EARHART THAT SHE SIGNED UP FOR FLYING LESSONS.

The two became friends in 1932. Roosevelt got a student permit and a physical examination, but never followed through with her plan.

10. EARHART WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO GET A PILOT'S LICENSE FROM THE NATIONAL AERONAUTIC ASSOCIATION (NAA).

That was in 1923, when pilots and aircrafts weren't legally required to be licensed. Earhart was the sixteenth woman to get licensed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), which was required to set flight records. Still, the FAI didn't maintain women's records until 1928.

11. SHE ACCOMPLISHED A LOT OF "FIRSTS."

Earhart eventually became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger (1928) and then solo (1932) and nonstop from coast to coast (1932) as a pilot. She also set records, period: Earhart was the first person to ever fly solo from Honolulu to Oakland, Los Angeles to Mexico City, and Mexico City to Newark, all in 1935.

What do John Glenn, George H.W. Bush, and Amelia Earhart have in common? They all earned an Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross. But only Earhart was the first woman—and one of few civilians—to do so.

12. SHE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST CELEBRITIES TO LAUNCH A CLOTHING LINE.

Amelia Earhart Fashions were affordable separates sold exclusively at Macy's and Marshall Field's. The line's dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats were made of cotton and parachute silk and featured aviation-inspired details, like propeller-shaped buttons. Earhart studied sewing as a girl and actually made her own samples.

13. THE U.S. GOVERNMENT SPENT $4 MILLION SEARCH FOR EARHART.

At the time, it was the most expensive air and sea search in history. Earhart's plane disappeared July 2, 1937. The official search ended a little over two weeks later on July 19. Putnam then financed a private search, chartering boats to the Phoenix Islands, Christmas Island, Fanning Island, the Gilbert Islands, and the Marshall Islands.

14. THE SEARCH ISN'T OVER.

There are several theories about what happened to Earhart's plane during her last flight. Most people believe she ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Others believe she landed on an island and died of thirst, starvation, injury, or at the hands of Japanese soldiers in Saipan. In 1970, one man even claimed that Earhart was alive and well and living a secret life in New Jersey.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) has explored the theory that Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan lived as castaways before dying on Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro, in the western Pacific. Over the years, they've found a few potential artifacts, including evidence of campfire sites, pieces of Plexiglas, and an empty jar of the brand of freckle cream that Earhart used.

In early July 2017, a photo surfaced that seemed to confirm the theory that Earhart and Noonan crashed and were captured by Japanese soldiers, but that photo was quickly debunked.

15. TODAY, ANOTHER AMELIA EARHART IS MAKING HISTORY.

In 2014, another pilot named Amelia Earhart took to the skies to set a world record. The then-31-year-old California native became the youngest woman to fly 24,300 miles around the world in a single-engine plane. Her namesake never completed the journey, but the younger Earhart landed safely in Oakland on July 11, 2014. We think "Lady Lindy" would be proud.

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