Haunting and Beautiful Photos of Abandoned Churches Around the World | Reader’s Digest

Villers Abbey, Belgium

Villers-la-ville, BelgiumSergey Dzyuba/shutterstock

Constructed in the 12th century, this massive stone structure provides a fascinating look into the lives of monks that lived 900 years ago. This stunning cathedral dome is only one room of the enormous abbey, which stretches over nearly 90 acres of the Belgian village of Villers-la-ville. Today, visitors to the abbey can take a tour of the grounds, the ruins of the abbey, and the surrounding gardens. If intact churches are more your thing, check out these stunning photos of the world’s most beautiful stained glass windows (they’re actually not all in churches)!

Church of the Intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Russia

lipovka_abandoned churchesVladimir Mulder/Shutterstock

Even after years of disuse, this abandoned structure in western Russia still shows traces of the blue painted decorations that adorned its walls.

Abandoned church, southern Russia

russia_abandoned churchesAlina Glazkova/Shutterstock

Black-and-white photography makes the rising stone bell tower of this old church in the south of Russia look even more hauntingly beautiful. Here are some more eerie photos of real ghost towns.

Abandoned church, Russia, Tula region

tula region_abandoned churchAleksandr_Bereza/Shutterstock

The remains of old churches, Orthodox churches in particular, are scattered all throughout Russia. This one, situated in the Tula region, just south of Moscow, is becoming one with the landscape. The bright orange-red bricks provide a stark contrast with the verdant plant life encroaching on its walls and domed roof.

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Medieval church, Bawsey, England

bawsey_abandoned churchesThomas Youngman/Shutterstock

In the tiny village of Bawsey, located by the North Sea in England’s Norfolk County, this old church from the 11th or 12th century stands tall nearly a millennium after its construction. The church possesses a Stonehenge-like quality with its massive stone pillars, which stand strong against the wear of time and weather. Historians are unsure whether this church was named after St. Mary or St. James, but they do know that it’s the only remaining structure of what was once an immense medieval village. Get a look at some more of the British Isles’ most haunting sites with these amazing photos of Irish landmarks.

Blagoveštenje, Serbia

serbia_abandoned churchesDeStefano/Shutterstock

This monastery, whose name means “Annunciation,” sits tucked in the side of the Rudnik Mountain in central Serbia. It’s just one of several Orthodox sanctuaries scattered throughout Serbia’s Ovčar-Kablar Gorge, and it might be the most incredible, with its unique design that makes it difficult to tell where it ends and the mountain begins. Blagoveštenje monastery was built in the 1400s.

Falealupo church, Samoa

samoa_abandoned churchescanuckinoz1984/Shutterstock

The ruins of the village of Falealupo on Savai’i, the largest Samoan island, add a sobering serenity to Samoa’s tropical paradise. This village, located on a peninsula at the northwest of the island, was buffeted by back-to-back cyclones in 1990 and 1991, which destroyed much of it. Many of the inhabitants moved inland, leaving the peninsula mostly deserted. The Catholic church, however, remains standing, the sculpture over the central courtyard still in remarkably good condition. Check out some more haunting pieces of art located in the middle of nowhere.

Church of the Zhrebchevo Dam, Bulgaria

Zhrebchevo Dam_abandoned churchesGalina Zlatanova/Shutterstock

Incredibly, this thin arch of stone seems to defy gravity, rising above the ruins of the church of St. Ivan Rilski. This structure, located about three hours east of Sofia, Bulgaria, has been nicknamed “the submerged church” because of the floodwaters that often rush by it. In 1965, Bulgaria’s communist regime built the Zhrebchevo Dam, an industrialist move that spelled trouble for the nearby village of Zapalnya, situated in a deep valley. In spite of the beatdown the church continuously receives from wind and water, its tiny golden cross remains precariously perched atop its crumbling stone wall.

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Church of St. Nicholas, Cyprus

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For centuries, the village of Alassa thrived on the Middle Eastern island of Cyprus. In the 1980s, the construction of a massive dam forced the villagers to relocate, and they rebuilt a little higher up on the hill. Today, the modern village has a population of about 200 and is a quaint, beautiful tourist attraction for visitors to the island. The old village’s church, though, named after St. Nicholas, provides a sense of wonder all its own. This crumbling church, with its pristine white stone walls and magnificent tower, only adds to the stunning view of the Kouris Reservoir.

Kalacheevskaya Cave monastery, Russia

monastery russia_abandoned churchesVladimir Mulder/Shutterstock

This underground cavern located in the Voronezh region of Russia would be majestic and haunting even if it didn’t have a history as a space of worship. The Kalacheevskaya Cave is a massive, mostly man-made underground structure that was built in the 18th or 19th century for use as a monastery. This photo shows just the vast underground temple, but the cavern contains two separate levels of rooms and corridors that stretch for about a kilometer. The way the sun peeks in through the small holes in the walls creates an ethereal, almost sparkling look. Check out some more beautiful places that look straight out of a fairy tale.

Lutheran church, Ukraine

ukraine_abandoned churchesA_Lesik/Shutterstock

Looking at this picture, you can almost see this empty space filled with pews and parishioners. Located in Ukraine, the building was once a Lutheran church. Its fall from grace came sometime in the 20th century, and now it sits desolate, a testament to times past.

Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Seiça, Portugal

portugal_abandoned churchesVector99/Shutterstock

Even the green tinge creeping up the walls of this old monastery from the encroaching plant life can’t diminish its beauty. Located in the municipality of Figueira da Foz in western Portugal, the monastery named in honor of St. Mary dates all the way back to the 1100s. In early 2018, the Municipality of Figueira da Foz requested that the monastery become a national monument, so its history and haunting beauty can be preserved for generations to come. Next, get a look at some forbidden places around the world that no one will ever be allowed to visit.

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The World’s Funniest Paintings | Reader’s Digest

“La Clairvoyance” — René Magritte, 1936

René Magritte

The funny, far-out visions of surrealists like René Magritte and Salvador Dalí influenced decades of graphic humor, from Monty Python to New Yorker cartoons and beyond. In this self-portrait, Magritte demonstrates his wit and forward-thinking by studying an egg to paint the bird-to-be.

“The Flatterers” — Pieter Brueghel the Younger, 1592

Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Pieter Brueghel the Elder was know as “Peasant Brueghel,” for all his chaotic scenes of lower-class life in the Netherlands; his first son, Brueghel the Younger, was known as “Hell Brueghel,” for all his depictions of, well, bleaker subjects. In “The Flatterers,” Hell Brueghel takes a break from the flames to show off his dark wit, and coins a timeless visual metaphor for suck-ups. Art museums are popular, but you’ve never heard of these weird museums you had no idea existed.

“The Experts” — Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, 1837

Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps

When the French Academy of Painting rejected several works by Decamps for being too experimental, he responded with this loving portrait. “The Experts” depicts several serious art critics in chimpanzee glory, over-analyzing a baroque landscape. This style, where monkeys ape human behavior, is called a singerie (literally “monkey trick”), and is apparent in art back to ancient Egypt. You’ll laugh out loud at these 16 cartoons that prove daily life is too funny to make up.

“Parody of the Fauve Painters” — Robert W. Chanler, 1913

Robert Winthrop Chanler

When the 1913 Armory Show brought work by Picasso, Duchamp, and Matisse to New York for their first major show, not all viewers appreciated their style. Robert Chanler, a local artist and hobnobber, took particular offense with Matisse’s bold, wildly-painted nudes and created “Parody of the Fauve Painters,” a singerie which casts Matisse as head chimp, surrounded by adoring students and controversial canvases. Subtle, no. But at least Chanler took his time to dig at Matisse with style.

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“Youth Making A Face” — Adriaen Brouwer, 1632 – 1635

Adriaen Brouwer

Dutch Golden Age artists loved kinetic scenes of daily life, some idealized, others…not so much. The crude, mocking boy in this mugshot by Adriaen Brouwer may stand in for a crude, mocking painter; Brouwer, notorious for his unkempt appearance, once bought a fancy suit for a wedding, showed up for dinner, and immediately started smearing pies all over his clothes. “Since it was the suit, rather than the man wearing it, that had been invited,” Brouwer announced, as cited by the National Gallery of Art, “it deserves to feast on the food.” Check out these pieces of hilariously cute art made by kids.

“Escaping Criticism” — Pere Borrell del Caso, 1874

Pere Borrell del Caso

Preempting the surrealists, Spain’s del Caso blurred the lines between image and reality with this bug-eyed boy’s desperate escape from gallery prison. Such a convincing trompe-l’oleil (that’s art-talk for “optical illusion”) may’ve baffled as many 19th century viewers as it amused, although modern internet users probably understand the need to flee from trolls. Learn about the street artist who turned everyday objects into hilarious designs.

“L.H.O.O.Q.” — Marcel Duchamp, 1919

Marcel Duchamp

Famous for once submitting a store-bought urinal to an art exhibition, prankster/painter Duchamp made waves with his satiric “readymades”: pre-manufactured objects slightly modified to take on new meaning. In “L.H.O.O.Q.,” Duchamp jokes about Renaissance values by penciling a Van Dyke onto Da Vinci’s masterpiece. As for the title? That’s a joke too: spoken aloud, the letters mimic the French phrase “Elle a chaud au cul,” which literally translates to, “She is hot in the behind.” Don’t miss these secret messages hiding in famous paintings—including the Mona Lisa.

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I’m a Telemarketer; Here’s How To Get Rid of Me. | Reader’s Digest

Even successful telemarketers have an estimated 96 percent chance of being turned down, says one company

close up working call center woman hand touching headset devices for talk with customer at operation office room,contact us conceptchainarong06/ShutterstockWith odds so low, out of sheer desperation, we will be relentless in trying to keep you on the phone. You can’t just screen my calls using caller ID. If you don’t pick up, I mark your lead (our lingo for file) as “no answer,” and the system programs another call for a few days later. If my company does not have a large lead pool, you may get called as soon as 12 hours later. If you’re dealing with this kind of aggressive campaign, it’s actually better to answer than to let the phone keep ringing.

When you answer, I’ll try to sell the product to you using the Three Noes rule: Don’t let the customer go until she has said no three times during the phone call. After the first two noes, the client becomes more likely to spend money. If you don’t purchase the item, I will log everything you’ve said and suggest calling you back another time. These are logged as “callbacks”—tiny gold nuggets for telemarketers to follow up on. And thus, the cycle continues. Now that you know how I work, here’s how to make me go away for good. Plus, learn some more ways to opt out of unpleasant things that seem inevitable.

Don’t immediately hang up

Young woman wearing hijab head scarf in city talking on cell phoneblvdone/ShutterstockIf you do, I’ll mark your lead as “no answer”—the same status as if you had never picked up in the first place. Then I will call you back until I have a conversation with you. And if you hang up mid-conversation without an explanation, I will most likely call you back and claim that you got disconnected. If you hear these four words when you pick up the phone, though, you should hang up immediately.

Don’t engage me in any way

African-american businessman driving car and talking on cellphonePressmaster/ShutterstockInteraction gives me the false hope that you may just need some convincing to buy my product. Do not ask any questions. Do not try to explain why you are not interested in the product. Do not show empathy, compassion, or any other human characteristic.

Stay cool—anger won’t help you

Businesswoman talking on cellphone and looking at laptop. Female executive working in office.Jacob Lund/ShutterstockRemember, the computer chose your lead—I didn’t. If you scream at me because you’ve gotten called before, it’s likely I’ll just put you back into the lead pool to torture you. If you think I’m being rude, you can ask to speak to a manager. Despite what I might say, every business has a supervisor in the call room. Watch out for these phone call scams that could steal your money.

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Say the magic words

Caring retired father sitting on sofa and calling his children, communicationMotortion Films/ShutterstockThe most efficient way to get me to stop calling you requires that you say one sentence: “Please put me on your do-not-call list.” If I ask why, be polite—but firm—and repeat, “I want you to put me on your do-not-call list.”

Seal my fate

Typing on laptopStock Rocket/ShutterstockSign up on the National Do Not Call Registry (donotcall.gov), which makes it illegal for companies to contact you more than once. Next, learn how to keep non-humans from calling you with these tricks to prevent robocalls.

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When Beasts Act Like Humans | Reader’s Digest

Cat guides blind dog

Wales News Service
After Terfel, an eight-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever in North Wales, U.K., developed cataracts in 2012, he began to bump into walls and furniture. Soon enough, the once-energetic dog was spending most of his time in his dog bed, unable to find his way around.

On a whim, Terfel’s owner Judy Godfrey-Brown let a stray cat, whom she named Pwditat (pronounced Puddy-tat), into her home. The feline made a beeline for the blind dog and began using its paws and head to herd Terfel into the garden. Now the unlikely friends sleep together, and Pwditat helps Terfel find his way everywhere. Check out these other sweet photos of unlikely animal friendships.

Bear does yoga

Meta Penca/BNPS
Santra, a female bear at Finland’s Ahtari Zoo, entertained visitors with a 15-minute “yoga” routine following a nap. Sitting upright, Santra used her front paws to grab her right back paw, then her left, stretching her legs as if doing a One-Legged Split. Next, she demonstrated the Open-Leg Seated Balance Pose with near-perfect form, pulling up both hind legs while keeping her balance. Meta Penca, who happened to be at the zoo and snapped photos of Santra’s performance, said the bear “looked focused and calm.” Don’t miss these other smart animal species that are true geniuses.

Dogs drive cars

Three New Zealand dogs recently navigated a specially modified Mini Cooper around a racetrack at about 20 mph. (Engineers raised the gearshift and pedals and added handles to the steering wheel.) The stunt was an effort by the Auckland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to show off canine intelligence and boost adoptions from animal shelters. After months of practice and, we’re guessing, many bags of treats, Monty, a giant schnauzer, Porter, a bearded collie mix, and Ginny, a bearded collie–whippet mix, followed trainers’ commands to put the car into gear, press the accelerator, and steer with their paws. Since a video of the test-drive appeared online in December 2012, all three dogs have been adopted. Learn some more amazing “superpowers” you never knew dogs had.

Lions care about their hair

Tim Flach/Abrams Books, AbramsBooks.com
According to Peyton M. West, PhD, an evolution and animal behavior expert, female lions actively court males that are more heavily and lushly maned, especially at night, which is reserved for socializing and grooming.

Of course, today such bald discrimination is frowned upon by men and women, but the big cats are content to be old-fashioned. When fights break out among members of the pride, lions with flowing tresses get preferential treatment.

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Whale says thanks

Michael Fishbauch
Each winter for nearly 20 years, Great Whale Conservancy codirector Michael Fishbach has traveled with other research scientists to the Sea of Cortez off Mexico’s west coast to study blue and humpback whales. In 2011, he and his team spotted a humpback whale trapped in a fishing net and spent an hour freeing it. Afterward, in an hour-long display of thanks, the whale swam near their boat and leaped into the air about 40 times. Check out these other amazing stories that prove that animals aren’t so different from us.

Pandas like to cavort

Tim Flach/Abrams Books, AbramsBooks.com
Is there anything cuter than a baby panda, except maybe a human baby? Even the word panda is cute. In fact, cubs sometimes behave like human babies: They sleep in the same positions and value their thumbs (pandas use theirs for holding the bamboo they munch on all day). Pandas are shy by nature (the Chinese have nicknamed the animal “Miss Panda” for its coy behavior such as covering its face with a paw or ducking its head when confronted by a stranger).

They’re also playful. According to one Chinese travel site, pandas have been known to wander inside mountain homes and get into the pots and pans. And although they grow into solitary adults who roam alone and mate just once a year, they also like to snuggle. If given the chance, they’ll sleep side by side with domestic animals. Just like us! Here are more animals that stick with their mates for life.

Horses are picky eaters

Tim Flach/Abrams Books, AbramsBooks.com
Horses have an even keener sense of taste and smell than humans do, say equine scientists. When horses wrinkle their noses and flare their nostrils, they’re activating their vomeronasal organ, which allows them to sense smells we can’t detect. Horses also have taste buds on the back of their tongues and the roofs of their mouths, which might explain why they reject stale water and meticulously move around meadows, grazing on only the tastiest herbs, experts say.

A cat honors its owner

A sprig of acacia, paper towels, and a plastic cup are just a few of the gifts that Toldo, a devoted three-year-old gray-and-white cat, has placed on his former owner Iozzelli Renzo’s grave in Montagnana, Italy, every day since the man died in September 2011. Renzo adopted Toldo from a shelter when the cat was three months old, and the two formed an inseparable bond. After Renzo passed away, Toldo followed the coffin to the cemetery, and now “stands guard” at the grave for hours at a time, says Renzo’s family.

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Pigeons serve their country

Tim Flach/Abrams Books, AbramsBooks.com
Pigeons’ speed and navigational skills made them prized military messengers in World Wars I and II and the most decorated animals in military history. Thirty-two messenger pigeons have received the Dickin Medal, a British award that honors the gallantry or devotion of animals in war. At the moment, pigeons are resting on their laurels. They’ve fallen out of military favor and are no longer used—for now. Check out these other stories of inspiring animals that changed history.

Monkeys do math

Tim Flach/Abrams Books, AbramsBooks.com
If capuchins ran the world, we might have avoided the recent banking crisis. In an experiment conducted by Keith Chen at Yale, capuchins demonstrated an understanding of pricing and budgeting, as well as a desire to avoid losses when required to buy food with tokens. Makes sense—this one looks like it’s checking its stock portfolio on a smartphone. Think that’s impressive? Check out these animals that actually ran for political office.

Camel eats breakfast with people

The first time Joe dined with British farmers Nathan and Charlotte Anderson-Dixon, he was uninvited. The four-year-old Bactrian camel stuck his head through their open kitchen window in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and proceeded to empty the contents of a fruit bowl. Now the couple, who rent out reindeer, camels, goats, and other creatures for television shows, movies, and photo shoots, set a place at their table for the assertive double-humped creature, where he munches on cereal and his favorite: bananas on toast.

Marmots befriend a boy

Caters News Agency
A colony of marmots in the Austrian Alps has embraced eight-year-old Matteo Walch, whose family vacations there in summer. The Alpine marmots are the largest of their species, sometimes reaching 15 pounds. Typically, they beat their tails, chatter, and whistle to warn other marmots of danger, but with Matteo, they behave much differently, allowing the boy to feed, pet, and even touch noses with them. “Watching them makes me feel a connection with nature,” says Matteo. Matteo’s mother, Michaela, has taken photographs of her son’s interaction with the marmots since he was four years old and a lot closer to the same size as the furry creatures. How sweet! You’ll definitely want to check out these adorable animal photos guaranteed to make your day.

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Are You Smarter Than You Were in High School? | Reader’s Digest

1. What does “umbrage” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: resentment
B: bright sunshine
C: utter confusion

2. What does “sobriquet” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: nickname
B: tight bandage
C: barbecue coal


Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[A] nickname. Say, Paul, how did you get the sobriquet Grumpy?

Aced this question? Hooray! Now take this Mensa quiz to find out if you’re a genius.

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3. What does “feckless” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: bold and daring
B: of clear complexion
C: weak and ineffective


Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[C] weak and ineffective. In formal debate, “Oh yeah?” is a rather feckless rebuttal.


4. What does “bailiwick” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: special domain
B: holiday candle
C: dugout canoe


Word-Power--Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-School-Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[A] special domain. “ask me anything about grammar,” the curmudgeonly copy editor said. “That’s my bailiwick.” (That copy editor also wants you to know that you’re using these 70 words and phrases wrong.)

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5. What does “onus” mean?

Word-Power--Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-School-Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: proof of residency or status
B: burden
C: unique entity


Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[B] burden. “The onus, Mr. Peterson barked, “is on your boys to fix my broken window.”

6. What does “ductile” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: of plumbing
B: easily shaped
C: weak and ineffective


Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[B] easily shaped or influenced. Decisive? No. Tara’s opinions are sometimes as ductile as Play-Doh.

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7. What does “troglodyte” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: cave dweller or reclusive person
B: bird of prey
C: know-it-all


Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[A] cave dweller or reclusive person. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Jerry a troglodyte,but he’s definitely on the shy side.

8. What does “paean” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: fervent prayer
B: lowly worker
C: song of praise


word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-school.jpgTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[C] song of praise. Let us raise a toast and a rousing paean to Jay and Cathy’s wedding!

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9. What does “sangfroid” mean?

word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-school.jpgTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: snooty attitude
B: coolness under pressure
C: French chef


word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-school.jpgTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[B] coolness under pressure. With unrelenting sangfroid, Andrea remained a pro at the poker table despite the high stakes.

10. What does “redoubtable” mean?

word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-school.jpgTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: bold and daring
B: of clear complexion
C: weak and ineffective


word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-school.jpgTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[C] formidable. The pitcher shuddered as the redoubtable Albert Pujols strode to the plate.

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11. What does “imprecate” mean?

word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-school.jpgTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: accuse
B: famous
C: pester or distract


Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[B] curse. Before being banished, the witch ominously threatened to imprecate the town for give generations.

12. What does “modicum” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: small portion
B: middle path
C: daily dosage


Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[A] small portion. All I ask is a modicum of cooperation with the housework.

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13. What does “somnambulist” mean?

Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: a sleepwalker
B: hypnotizer
C: historian


Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[A] sleepwalker. For a somnambulist, Lady Macbeth is rather talkative.

14. What does “restive” mean?

word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-schoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

A: comfortable
B: leftover
C: fidgety


word-power-are-you-smarter-than-you-were-in-high-schoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[C] fidgety. Peter got so restive during the SAT, he chewed his pencil almost to the lead.

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Word-Power-Are-You-Smarter-Than-You-Were-in-High-SchoolTatiana Ayazo/Rd.com,shutterstock

[C] social instability. Apparently there’s too much anomie in Congress for the bill to be passed.

How did you do?  9 and below: Neophyte; 10-12: Apprentice; 13-15: Mastermind

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Craziest Airline Passenger Stories | Reader’s Digest

Naked guy testing the limits

Alex Malikov/ShutterstockOn a flight to Hong Kong, a flight attendant informed the pilot, Dan Boland, that a passenger had taken off all his clothes and was sitting buck naked in his seat. Boland instructed the flight attendant to tell the passenger he’d be arrested if he didn’t get dressed at once. The passenger called their bluff, waiting until landing to get dressed. Although he wasn’t arrested, we don’t suggest trying this yourselves.

Nice guys, but do we need to see that?

Boxer shortsEvikka/ShutterstockReddit contributor hubberbubber recalls a story his pilot father told him about the time he was flying an Australian rugby team back to Australia after a championship match. “They rented out the entirety of first class, and the moment the flight reached cruising altitude, stripped down to their boxers.” Apparently, they were some of the most polite passengers hubberbubber’s dad had ever seen—albeit almost naked.

An emotional support slippery slope

Miniature poodle in stand on white backgroundJagodka/ShutterstockA former pilot, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells Reader’s Digest of a passenger who brought his emotional support dog on the plane. So far, so good, right? The thing was, the emotional support dog, a sturdy German Shepherd, required his own emotional support dog: a fluffy toy poodle mix. This was, of course, unprecedented… and, therefore, permissible. Don’t miss these ridiculous requests people have actually made on airplanes

Emotional support… squirrel?

Eurasian red squirrel isolated on white background.Tsekhmister/ShutterstockSpeaking of animals on board, Reddit contributor jbOOgi3 heard from his grandfather, a flight attendant, that one time, a passenger was suspected of having an unauthorized pet in the cabin with him. When Grandpa went to investigate, the passenger was gently petting the small animal, which Grandpa assumed would be a teacup-sized Yorkie or kitten.

Nope. It was a squirrel.

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A dubious back-story

ambulance stretcher white backgroundJavier Crespo/ShutterstockBoland, founder of the travel site Holidayers, recalls a passenger who refused to move his seat to the upright position before landing, claiming his back hurt. Although the passenger relented, he cried out in pain as his seat back went up and demanded an ambulance to help him disembark. After all the other passengers were gone, Boland and his crew watched the man being stretchered off the aircraft. Later on, the medics told Boland they suspected the man was attempting to pull an insurance scam.

Sleep-walking passenger

Asian middle age woman who gets tiredmiya227/Shutterstock

“About two hours into a flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, a passenger came up to a flight attendant in a complete panic because she’d left her husband behind in the airport in L.A.,” Boland tells Reader’s Digest. While the befuddled crew was checking the passenger manifest for the husband’s name, the passenger completely snapped out of her panic. Turned out she’d been sleepwalking. Her husband was right on the plane, thankfully, Boland adds, “because even if it had been true, we couldn’t have turned back for him.” You’ll also want to read these things flight attendants won’t tell you.

Cockpit-toilet confusion

Open toilet bowl isolated on white background. File contains a path to isolation.HomeArt/ShutterstockFirst-time fliers often have no idea where anything is located on the plane, Boland tells Reader’s Digest. Sometimes, when trying to locate the lavatory, they’ll knock on the cockpit door. “The funny part is that we have a camera with multiple angles in the forward galley and in front of the cockpit door that we can watch from the cockpit. So it’s always hilarious to watch them slowly figure out they were knocking on the wrong door instead of the toilet.”

Predictable drunk

Bottle of beer with drops isolated on white backgroundyingtustocker/ShutterstockReddit contributor Vrael22 is a ground agent for an airline where he observes first-hand the passengers that are most likely to cause trouble. “We can tell from the moment they check in at the counter if they are going to be an issue and are oftentimes not proven wrong.” In one such case, a passenger who was obviously drunk at the gate, was even drunker when boarding, and before the flight had even taken off, had peed himself in his seat. “We had to deplane him and he was about to have a go at my manager before he saw the port security casually saunter over.”

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Where’s this guy been for the past 50 years?

Chicken breast sandwich isolated on whiteY_L/ShutterstockVrael22 also recalls a passenger who seemingly hadn’t flown since the 1970s (when food and beverage service was offered even on the shortest flights), because he asked for a sandwich and a root beer on his 45 minute commuter flight and became belligerent when he was told these items weren’t available on the short hop. In fact, the passenger insisted he was being lied to and threatened to sue the airline if he didn’t get his sandwich and root beer. It wasn’t a pleasant flight for anyone, but at least it was short.

The logical alternative to a cramped bathroom

Magazines isolated on whiteAfrica Studio/ShutterstockWhen passengers complained of a terrible odor emanating from somewhere near their seats, it turned out that a mom had instructed her son to “go number 2” on the carpet, rather than in the lavatory, and then attempted to conceal the mess with magazines and airsick bags. Turned out the mom felt her son “couldn’t relax” in the tiny airplane bathroom. In the end, the cabin crew had to clean up the mess with saw-dust (normally used for vomit clean-ups) and a full can of bathroom spray.

How you can tell your plane is flying on an angle

Airplane isolated on white backgroundphive/ShutterstockFormer flight attendant and current Reddit contributor runLikeYerBeingChasd recalls the time she had a school group of young children sitting in the front of the plane. On takeoff, one little boy leaned over into the aisle and threw up. The puke rolled and splashed down the aisle almost all the way to the back galley. Here are some more crazy-but-true stories from aviation professionals.

This couldn’t happen nowadays, could it?

MSSA/ShutterstockReddit contributor how_bout_knope‘s grandma was a flight attendant during the 1960s and ’70s, long before the TSA enacted strict rules about what you can and can’t bring on board an airplane. “About 40 years ago, she had a passenger carry on a large garment bag, which they later discovered had a dead body in it when it fell and partially unzipped.”

It wasn’t a murder victim, which was everyone’s first thought. It was a woman’s body being transported for her funeral. The family apparently was trying to save money by not shipping it in cargo.

While all of these stories are true, you definitely don’t want to fall for these airplane myths everyone should stop believing.

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Walt Disney World Tips | Reader’s Digest

Stay on site at a Disney hotel

iStock/Jodi Jacobson

Staying on site can be a timer saver, says Shani Wolf, a travel consultant specializing in Disney vacations. Not only can you use Disney’s transportation to get from park to park, purchases made in the parks can be delivered to your room and Disney’s Magical Express will transport you from Orlando International Airport to your hotel—you don’t even have to wait for your luggage. There are hotels at every price range from the budget Disney’s All-Star Sports Resorts to the luxury Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Take advantage of early Extra Magic Hours


Another advantage to staying at a on-site hotel: you’ll have access to Extra Magic Hours at select parks on certain days. Although these hours can be in the morning or evening, Tom Murray, a 20-year Disney travel expert, says that it’s best to go in the morning. “Guests have the flexibility of moving at a slower, more relaxed pace and can then save their FastPass+ reservations for later in the day when the crowds and wait times increase,” he says. Before the park opens to the general public, you’ll have already experienced Space Mountain or Rockin’ Roller Coaster (where wait times can normally exceed two hours) and can enjoy a leisurely breakfast while the masses charge at rope drop.

Eat at unusual times


Eating your mid-day meal at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. can pay off. Sure, you’d rather eat lunch at noon, but so would everyone else. Wolf suggests eating at non-peak times to cut down on time spent waiting in line to order your food. (Related: Trying to stick to a diet on your vacation? Try these 20 tricks to eating healthy while eating out.)

Miss a fireworks show or two


Fireworks and parades are something special at Walt Disney World, however if you’re willing to miss one or two, Murray says show times are the best time to check out popular rides. “These are key opportunities to get in line for your favorite attractions, since most guests will be gathering to see these events,” he says.

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Don’t follow the crowd


The excitement of entering Epcot or the Magic Kingdom for the first time might lead you to the closest ride right away. Of course, that’s where everyone else is headed, too. Instead, Wolf suggests walking a bit further at the beginning of the day. “Earlier in the day, it’s a good idea to start visiting the attractions in the back of the park and work your way forward,” he says. (Related: Learn 20 more secrets amusement parks won’t tell you about saving money and avoiding crowds.)

Book a breakfast reservation before park opening


Several restaurants inside the Magic Kingdom open an hour earlier than the park for breakfast. Some even offer character breakfasts, which Murray says can save your family time later because you’ll already have that much-needed autograph and won’t need to wait in line to meet Cinderella or Minnie Mouse. This trick works for the other parks, too. Do note, though, that reservations at popular breakfast places (like Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom) can be booked up weeks or months in advance, so it’s best to make your dining reservation as close to the allowed 180 days out as possible. (Set up an account at Disneyworld.com to make reservations.) (Related: Headed to Anaheim? Find out 24 mind-blowing facts about Disney Land.)

Use the services of a Disney vacation consultant


You might be used to traditional travel agents who charge fees, so here’s a surprise: “Authorized Disney vacation consultants such as myself do not charge a fee for their services,” Wolf says. “Disney makes sure I get compensated so that their guests are not out a cent.” Using an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner can save you time because they can make reservations, help with special needs, and walk you through technology like the My Disney Experience app.

Take a break


Your Disney vacation shouldn’t be all go, go, go. In fact, you should try to go back to your hotel for a swim or rest mid-day, Wolf says. This tip might seem counterintuitive if you really want to get the most out of your vacation, but it makes sense. Wolf says you’ll return to the parks feeling refreshed and able to stay through until closing, long after many guests have left, thus leaving rides with shorter wait times.

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A Judge Sentenced a Fellow Vet to Jail—Then 
Joined Him in His Cell for the Night | Reader’s Digest

FEA_Judge-and-Vet_US180408Courtesy Jud Esty-kendall/storycorps

The minute Joe Serna walked into the Veterans Treatment Court in Fayetteville, North Carolina, he could feel his shoulders tense up, hear his stomach growling. He had come to turn himself in.

Six months earlier, Serna had been arrested for impaired driving. As part of his sentence, he was required to report to Judge Lou Olivera’s court every two weeks to take a urine test and prove he hadn’t been drinking.

Serna had passed every biweekly screening—until the week before. Positive. He decided to try to bluff his way out of trouble. “I never had a drink, Judge,” he told the court. “Honest.”

If Judge Olivera suspected anything, he didn’t let on. Both men were veterans, and Olivera had come to know and admire Serna as he participated in the court’s program to help vets with drinking and addiction problems. Though their lives had gone in opposite directions since they’d left the military, they were still connected by their service. And that was what ate at Serna, what had brought him back to Olivera’s court a week after his lie. This guy is a fellow soldier, he told himself. I need to make this right. So Serna stood before Olivera and admitted quietly, “I lied.” As beads of perspiration rolled down his forehead, he said, this time a bit louder, “I lied, Judge. I was drinking.”


(This is what American troops wish you knew about their jobs.)

After three tours of duty in Afghanistan, countless combat missions, two Purple Hearts, and the memories of way too many “best buddies” losing their lives, 39-year-old Joe Serna left the Army in 2013 with 18 years of service. By 2016, he was living in Fayetteville with his wife and three children and studying for an accounting degree at nearby Methodist University. But in truth, he had never really left the Army, and it certainly had never left him. The memories would lie low for a while, like a hidden enemy, only to reemerge in a nightmare or a tormenting flashback.

His wife, Rocio, had learned the warning signs: his cold sweats, the way he would tense his shoulders or cry out in the night. She was rarely surprised when he woke her up, thrashing in bed and whispering, “Bad guy … Bad guys.” Sometimes he’d kick and shout, “IED!” Then, “No! No!”

The flashbacks emerged, seemingly, from a thousand points of darkness. There was the time during Serna’s first tour in Afghanistan, in 2006, when his convoy was ambushed. Or the time when he threw a wounded comrade over his shoulder and carried him through heavy fire. As he would later explain, “He was my brother in arms. We never leave each other behind.”

Once, while he was interrogating 
a local Afghan with an interpreter, 
he suddenly heard a metallic click, followed by a telltale ping as something hit the floor. A suicide bomber had detonated a grenade that sent shrapnel through much of Serna’s body and face and knocked out his teeth. “If I had been a foot closer to the grenade, it would have killed me,” he recalls.

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Yet it was another incident that caused most of his nightmares. As part of a convoy, he and three other Special Forces soldiers were inside a 19-ton RG-31 mine-resistant truck, driving through Kandahar, Afghanistan, to recover a fallen brother who had died after stepping on a mine. Just after midnight, as they were driving along a pitch-black dirt road that was flanked by a canal, the narrow road gave way. The massive armored vehicle fell sideways, slipped down the bank, and toppled into the canal.

“The truck started filling with water, and I couldn’t release my seat belt,” remembers Serna. Helpless, he felt the water rising over his feet, then up to his knees, then his chest. His heart pounding, he heard his team members screaming for help as the water swallowed them up. This is it, he thought as he struggled to free himself. I’m going to die.

But then one of his brothers came to the rescue. “When the water had reached my chin, I felt a hand come down and unfasten my seat belt and release my body armor,” Serna says. “Sergeant James Treber picked me up and moved me to a pocket of air.”

The truck’s hydraulic system had been knocked out, so the doors wouldn’t budge. The soldiers were trapped. Because there was not enough space for both of them in the small air pocket, Treber dived into the water to find a larger one. Suddenly some fuel cans broke and contaminated Serna’s air pocket with gasoline. He passed out.

“I thought I’d died,” says Serna. “Someone pulled me out of the truck. When I came to, I saw three bodies lying on the ground. Everyone else in the truck, including Sergeant Treber, had died.” To this day, being stuck in a confined space can trigger flashbacks for Serna.


He was still in the military when doctors suggested to him that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He wanted to keep it quiet. He was a Green Beret, among the best of the best, and Special Forces types don’t like to admit weakness.

In truth, he was scared, afraid that the diagnosis could end his career. He turned to drink to quiet his demons.

Still, he never gave up the fight, and Judge Olivera knew that. On the day when Serna stood in the courtroom to admit he had lied about drinking, the judge wasn’t angry. He was moved.

“One of the main aims of the Veterans Treatment Court is to build trust and relationships with the veterans who appear before us,” Olivera says. “We are one big team—we are all ­veterans—and when one of us screws up, the rest of the team says, ‘You have to square yourself away.’”

He listened to Serna’s confession that day and decided on the punishment: one night in the Cumberland County jail.

The next afternoon, Olivera got a text telling him, “FYI, Joe Serna is reporting to jail today.” Olivera crossed the street to wish Serna luck. He found him highly agitated, his white T-shirt soaked with sweat.

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“You OK?” asked Olivera.

Serna, his eyes locked on the floor, mumbled an answer. Suddenly Olivera remembered the story of Serna’s rollover and the lingering claustrophobia it had caused. The judge asked the jailer whether he had an open cell, one with bars instead of cinder blocks and a door. He didn’t.

The judge turned to Serna and asked him, “Do you trust me?”

“Yes, sir,” said Serna.

“Then get in my car,” Olivera said.

He drove Serna to nearby Lumberton, North Carolina, where he knew the local chief of police.

An hour later, Joe Serna, dressed in a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, walked into a ten-by-seven-foot one-person cell in the Robeson County Detention Center. As the heavy steel door slammed behind him, Serna sat on the hard steel 
cot. He felt his shoulders tightening, his heart beating faster. He tried to fight the familiar feeling 
of dread, but as his body tensed, the gunmetal-gray walls began to close in on him.

He knew he would soon be flashing back to that armored truck, feeling helpless as the water rose up to his chin, reliving the horror of that night. His mind was racing. How do I get out of here? he thought. There is no way out!

Then the door jangled as the jailer unlocked it. Standing in the open doorway was Judge Olivera, carrying two dinner trays.

“OK, Joe, are you ready?” Olivera asked.

“Where are we going?” asked Serna.

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Olivera said. “We are staying here.”

Serna was confused. But a few minutes later, after the jailer brought in a two-inch-thick foam mattress and once again locked the heavy steel door behind him, Serna understood. The judge, a fellow veteran, realizing that this cell was no better than the first one, had decided to spend the night with a comrade in arms.

Olivera’s compassion nearly drove Serna to tears. But he managed to regain his composure enough to beg Olivera to take the cot and let him sleep on the floor.


“Judge, I can’t give you the floor,” he said.

“Call me Lou, Joe. And I have slept on the floor before. In fact, you and I have slept in worse places.”

They traded war stories as they tucked into jail-issued meat loaf and mashed potatoes. “Nasty stuff, isn’t it?” joked Olivera, cutting the tension in the cell. Serna told the judge about the day he was almost blown to bits by the Afghan suicide bomber, and he found himself actually laughing as he described the ping he’d heard when the grenade pin had hit the floor. Olivera laughed, too, sharing in a shade of black humor only a fellow veteran would understand.

The two talked for hours about their service, their families, and their hopes for the future. At around one in the morning, Olivera heard Serna’s breathing get deeper, and he eventually began to snore. He will be OK now, the judge said to himself as he rolled up his shirt into a makeshift pillow. He’ll be fine.

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Serna is due to graduate from Methodist University this May. Afterward, he will move to California with his wife and their children, Matthew, Efrain, and Andrea, to run his father’s construction company. (Matthew is named after the man who saved Serna’s life: Sgt. James Matthew Treber.)

For his part, Judge Olivera insists that any veteran would have reacted to Serna’s plight just as he did. He is fond of telling a story he once read about a veteran who was suffering from PTSD: “The veteran was in a deep hole. First his family threw down a rope, but he wouldn’t come out. Then his therapist threw down a rope, but again he didn’t come out.

Then his minister, with the same result. Finally, a second veteran came by, and he, too, threw down a rope. But this time, he climbed into the hole with the first vet. ‘What are you doing down here with me?’ the vet with PTSD asked. The second vet answered, ‘I’m here to climb out with you.’

“I’ve never forgotten that story, and I know that there are many veterans who would have done the same. These are our brothers. We never leave each other behind.”

Next, try these simple, but powerful ways that you can support veterans.

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