Obscura Day — A Call for Explorers

I don’t spend nearly enough time on Atlas Obscura, but have long appreciated its existence. The site riffs off 19th and early 20th-century “books of wonder,” those compendiums of the bizarre that thrilled our ancestors long before the internet was invented. But instead of relying on one person’s idea of what is strange or marvelous, Atlas Obscura is user-generated, a wiki of location-based curiosities. In their own words:

The Atlas Obscura is a collaborative project with the goal of cataloging all of the singular, eccentric, bizarre, fantastical, and strange out-of-the-way places that get left out of traditional travel guidebooks and are ignored by the average tourist. If you’re looking for miniature cities, glass flowers, books bound in human skin, gigantic flaming holes in the ground, phallological museums, bone churches, balancing pagodas, or homes built entirely out of paper, the Atlas Obscura is where you’ll find them.

Last year, Atlas Obscura organized a wonderful event called Obscura Day, wherein people all over the world went off on the most interesting field trips you can possibly imagine. I lived in New York at the time, and was sorely tempted to explore Dead Horse Bay and the Atlantic Subway tunnel, except that I had a fever or couldn’t be bothered to leave the house or something. Anyway, now I live in Seattle, where people are a little less excited about curious ruins and a little more Scandinavian. And yet. I know there are some brilliant minds here who would love to lead walking tours about psychedelic history or show off their fossil collections or at least share stories about the jade snuff bottles at the Asian Art Museum. So I’m trying to help organize a Seattle event for Obscura Day 2011. (They know what I’m up to, don’t worry.) I’m told an event is already being planned at the Old Curiosity Shoppe, which is fantastic, but surely this city of weirdos can support more than one outing?

What I need now is ideas. I’ve only recently returned to this city after spending most of my adult life away, and I just know there are secret corners of this city waiting to be explored. Touring with the ghosts of Pike Place or the Underground is an obvious choice, and maybe that would be fun. But ideally, I’d like to go a little father afield (but not as far as, say, Sequim). If you have an idea for an event, please drop me a line at besslovejoy at gee male dot com, or comment, or send a carrier pigeon to Capitol Hill.  For ideas, browse the listing of events from last year. Think about the places you’ve always been curious about but never had a chance to visit. Ask some of your nerdiest friends. And tell me what you come up with!

UPDATE 2/9: The folks at Atlas Obscura have confirmed that Obscura Day 2011 will be on April 9th. A tour of the international district with a local expert is currently being planned, with stops to potentially include the Panama Hotel and INScape building. Stay tuned for details, and if you have further suggestions, please send ’em in!

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