We all have them. Those internet rabbit holes you just can’t resist going down. Maybe it’s a topic that fascinates you, or one that infuriates you, or maybe it’s just one you know has enough content online that you can kill a bit of time when things are slow at work. Maybe you have a favourite topic that you check back on frequently in hopes of updates, even if the matter has been dormant for years. Maybe you and your friends share your findings back and forth, like my BFF and I do with bizarre advice column questions from sites like Ask a Manager and Dear Prudie.
Some rabbit holes are quite common: topics like unresolved true crime (who killed JonBenet Ramsey, who was Jack the Ripper) or cryptids (mythological—or potentially not mythological—beings like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster) have always piqued our interest and our imagination. The internet has facilitated others: it’s easy to get lost scrolling through satellite images on Google Earth or idly planning a dream vacation or dinner on Instagram. Wikipedia is the biggest conduit, with its infinite hyper links making it easy to move through a series of innocuous topics until suddenly it’s three hours later and you’re deep into a world of conspiracy theories and oddities. “What is the best internet rabbit hole to get lost down?” is a common question on AskReddit, and Slate has an entire series based around the idea.
As someone who is Extremely Online, I probably go down the rabbit hole more often than most. Let me bring you down a few of my favourites:
This is one of my most enduring rabbit holes, ever since I read The New Yorker’s Marathon Man, about a man who not only falsified his race results but in fact made up entire races in order to boost his fake stats! Now I devour other articles about running cheats like this one about an Ironman course-cutter and this story of a man attempting to break a record with the help of his team van. I check Marathon Investigation regularly for new tales and I marvel at the lengths that people go to; especially those who aren’t even winning. As despicable as it is to cheat your way into a Boston qualifier or podium place, the strangest stories are of folks who are nowhere near victory and yet still cut the course or lie about their results, either for social media clout or for some strange other reason. You’re only cheating yourself, and I love to read about it.
Everybody knows about Bloody Mary and Ouija boards, but there are actually dozens of games, some from all over the world, that purport to connect players with the spirit world and the creatures or being that may lurk there. Sites like The Ghost in My Machine, my favourite blog about the strange and unusual compile instructions and warnings for those who would dare to play The Elevator to Another World or One Man Hide and Seek, while subreddit R/ThreeKings purports to share actual experiences from attempting these rituals. While most of the posts on ThreeKings are clear works of fiction, others have a ring of truth about them. Obviously, your mileage may very about whether or not you believe in the truth of any of these accounts, but even if you’re a complete skeptic it’s still fun to give yourself a chill.
I have a lot of friends who are obsessed with the vastness unknown of space. Me, I prefer the dark depths right here on earth. I’ve always been fascinated by how little we know about the ocean, and the internet facilitates that with all the wikipedia pages I could ever want, about unexplained sounds emanating from remote sections of the sea, dinosaur-era creatures believed to have been extinct until they showed up in fishermen’s nets, and dangerous freak waves that appear at massive size and fall away just as quickly, leaving no trace. I’ve got a few half-written podcast episodes about the ocean that will likely never see the light of day, but I can tell myself I’m doing research when I go trawling through tales of the Mary Celeste or the Marianas Trench.
This is a relatively new obsession of mine. As if exploring the regular ocean wasn’t scary enough, then there are people who go into caves underwater, some never to return. A few weeks ago I read about the disappearance of Ben McDaniel, a diver whose body may (or, the mystery begins, may not) be in a cave in Florida and I was hooked. I found myself pages and pages into Scubaboard’s Accidents & Incidents forum, and I’ve been recommending this sad but poignant article about a recovery-turned-further-loss to everyone I know. It’s not all about death though, just the act of cave diving itself is thrilling to me (vicariously, as it’s not something I would ever want to do), although I have yet to make it through the whole of one of the many videos on youtube without claustrophobia kicking in.
What are your favourite internet rabbit holes?