Spend the Night in Paris's Bone-Filled Catacombs


Lodging website Airbnb isn’t hurting for unusual accommodations: Travelers booking rooms can arrange to stay in a teepee on Idaho’s Snake River, a treehouse in France, a cubehouse in the Netherlands, a seashell house in Mexico, and even a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. But none of these places packs the spook factor of Airbnb’s latest listing: Paris’s Catacombs.

Initially a series of stone quarries, the Catacombs became the final resting place to bones from several Parisian cemeteries beginning in 1786. Officials moved the bones there after overcrowding in cemeteries, combined with improper disposal techniques, led to the spread of disease in the city. The last bones were placed in the Catacombs in 1859. Today, the Catacombs are a macabre but popular tourist attraction, drawings thousands of people every year.

Airbnb Ireland is giving two lucky winners a chance to spend Halloween night among the bones of six million Parisians. The listing description promises “a dazzling culinary experience,” a personal storyteller who “will have you spellbound with fascinating tales from the catacombs, guaranteed to produce nightmares,” and a private concert “in the most incredible acoustics under the earth.” (This is a throwback—the underground crypts hosted small concerts in the late 1850s.) Finally, the winners will "enjoy dawn with the dead, as you become the only living person ever to wake up in the Paris catacombs."

But there are a few rules the winners must abide by, according to the listing:

No tricks. But plenty of treats.
Please respect the Catacombs as you would your own grave.
Be mindful of your Parisian neighbors, both the living and the dead.
No bobbing for apples in the Catacomb pools.
Don't forget your toothbrush and pajamas. Bonus points if they glow in the dark.

Does this sound like your ideal Halloween night? Then prepare a 100-word essay that explains why you deserve to stay in the Catacombs. (The originality and creativity of your story—"Does it surprise and delight us?"—is weighted 70 percent, while the remaining 30 percent is all about spirit: "How does your submission relate to the Paris Catacombs and Halloween?") Participants must be 18 years old and signed up with Airbnb. Entries are due by October 20; you can submit them here.

All images courtesy of Airbnb
The European Space Agency Needs Help Naming Its New Mars Rover

The European Space Agency is hosting a competition to find a snazzy new name for its ExoMars rover, Sky News reports. The rover will be deployed to Mars in 2020, so the winner would be playing a small role in the progress of space exploration.

At the contest's launch, British astronaut Tim Peake described Mars as a place where humans and robots will someday work together to search for evidence of life in our solar system. To this end, the ExoMars rover, which will land on Mars in 2021, will drill up to two meters into the planet’s soil and collect samples, the ESA notes. "The ExoMars rover is a vital part of this journey of exploration, and we're asking you to become part of this exciting mission and name the rover that will scout the Martian surface,” Peake said.

However, the agency is well aware of past public naming contests that have gone horribly wrong (we’re looking at you, Boaty McBoatface), so it’s rigged the rules to prevent such a spectacle. Instead of a public poll, suggestions will be submitted privately to the agency, which has created a panel of judges to choose the winning name.

The winner of the contest will also receive a trip to Stevenage, England, where they’ll get to see the Airbus facility where the rover is being pieced together. The contest is only open to citizens of the two dozen European countries that are partners in the ESA.

To enter, submit your name suggestion online before October 10, 2018, along with a brief explanation (under 150 words) of why your name should be chosen. Click the following PDF link to see the full terms and conditions [PDF].

[h/t Sky News]

Fearless Man Slices 26 Watermelons on His Stomach in 60 Seconds, Setting New Record

Ashrita Furman, a 63-year-old New Yorker who holds the world record for setting the most Guinness World Records, just achieved another one. This time, it was for the most watermelons sliced on top of his stomach in 60 seconds, Nerdist reports.

Furman came up with the idea for the record himself, and while he didn’t have any competition, Guinness stipulated that he had to slice at least 20 watermelons to be recognized. He managed to cut through 26 melons with his tool of choice, a katana, in less than a minute. (He walked away without a scratch.)

Check out this spectacle (and serious ab workout) for yourself:

“I’m really thrilled,” Furman told Reuters after pulling off the feat. “My first reaction is I’m relieved that I didn’t kill myself and the second is that I’m exhilarated because it is not only a skillful record, but also it’s something that I invented and now it’s out there and other people can challenge it.”

Furman, who has been called “Mr. Versatility,” currently holds more than 200 Guinness records. He set his very first record in 1979 after completing 27,000 jumping jacks, and he hasn’t slowed down since. In the past near-40 years he has set the record for—among other feats—the most knives caught in a minute (54); the greatest distance traveled while juggling on a pogo stick (4 miles, 30 feet); and most grapes caught in his mouth in one minute (86).

[h/t Nerdist]


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