Most war reenactors are older men, but 27-year-old Lillian Fehler stands out for designing uniforms that are historically accurate down to the tiniest details.

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Photo by Barry Kurek

Story by Rachel Veroff

On a sunny morning last September in the grassy hills of Governors Island, New York City, 27-year-old Lillian Fehler woke to the bright, warbling call of a military bugle. She sat up inside her camping tent (an authentic green cloth tent that soldiers actually used during World War I), and laced up her boots. The boots were authentic, too — impeccably restored to mint marching condition by Fehler herself, who studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology. …


A pair of talented stonemasons with a murderous feud gave Toronto’s oldest university its hauntingly intricate architecture — and its first grisly ghost story.

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Story & photos by Bradley Richards & Simon Willms

It was 1856 when two stonemasons, the Russian, Ivan Reznikoff, and the Greek, Paul Diabolos, were hired to carve the delicate reliefs of University College, the Norman Romanesque building at the heart of the University of Toronto. Reznikoff was an enormous and imposing man, coarse and rugged. Diabolos, a slight and pale fellow, was described as “young, handsome, and of a subtle nature” by Douglas Richardson in “A Not Unsightly Building: University College and Its History.”

As the story goes, the relationship between the two carvers was acerbic, beset by acrimony, bile, and relentless chiseling, of every kind. Diabolos taunted Reznikoff by carving baboon-faced Gargoyles in his likeness. Reznikoff, the inferior carver, plodded on, drunkenly etching pocked and grotesque visages of his own. …


Before his rapid rise to the top of the Catholic Church, Pius II had a secret passion for scandalous stories. And they may have been inspired by his own life.

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Illustration by plaest2k

Story by Julia Métraux

Aeneas Silvius Bartholomeus caught the attention of King Frederick III of Germany, the future Holy Roman Emperor, with his talent for words. King Frederick named Bartholomeus poet laureate in 1442 and commissioned him to write his own royal biography. The king may not have known that Bartholomeus had a far less regal side interest. According to Absolute Monarchs, by historian John Julius Norwich, over the next three years, while working in the royal chancery in Vienna, Bartholomeus wrote a large amount of “mildly pornographic poetry.” And then there was his magnum opus: The Tale of Two Lovers, or Historia de duobus amantibus, an erotic novel that he penned in 1444. …


I’m bipolar, and when I started to feel that familiar mix of attraction, infatuation and intensity, I had to stop and ask, ‘is this real?’

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Illustrations by Allyson Leigh Peck

Story by Katie Simon

As Barys and I stood chatting on the sidewalk outside my rental apartment in Minsk, I willed myself not to touch his plaid shirt, sure it was as soft as it looked. His warm brown eyes met mine, and I lost track of the conversation. I had just arrived in Belarus for work, and I’d met Barys only a few minutes ago, when he’d introduced himself as the translator for the manager of my accommodations. I already felt his pull on me — a pull stronger than really made sense.

“Do you want to go on a walk? I can show you the city.” I realized Barys was still talking to me, and I refocused my gaze on his lips. …


How an unexceptional vaudeville performer turned a lurid tabloid scandal into national fame and a lucrative personal brand.

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Illustration by Ellen Surrey

Story by Kat Vecchio

By all accounts Katherine Devine, a New York City vaudeville performer who went by the name “Little Egypt,” was not a great dancer. Nor was she particularly pretty, once described as having “jet black hair … sharp black eyes and a face ugly but pleasing.” And in her early thirties she was older than most women in her profession. But she had a reputation for giving the kind of dance many of her contemporaries would not. The kind that required less clothing than the law allowed. …


At home in the States I help displaced immigrants start anew. But it took a Mediterranean sojourn through the very waters where thousands risk their lives before I realized just how desensitized the rest of us are.

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Illustration by Janny Ji

By Kaitlin Barker Davis

Our bags were already on board, along with my in-laws. Someone in a cheesy naval outfit had whisked them all away as soon as we arrived at the cruise terminal in Barcelona. I’d insisted on bringing my backpack, not a roller suitcase, because I’m a backpacker at heart, skeptical and resistant to this other side of travel. The luxury of cruises makes me a little queasy, but that day in October I had an entirely different and less travel-snobby reason for my queasiness: Much of our Mediterranean itinerary would follow the same route as the mass migration of Syrian refugees. Our floating hotel would slice effortlessly through the same choppy waters as inflatable smuggler rafts. …


When I came out, I rejected the church before it could reject me. But an unlikely friendship formed over cash-stuffed briefs showed me a new way to have faith.

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Illustrations by Caroline Brewer

by Court Stroud

I stopped gyrating my hips and looked down at the tall, portly man before me. Pushed back in a boyish smirk, his apple cheeks seemed incongruent with the mop of gray hair matted against his forehead. He dangled a greenback in one hand.

“Nice beads,” he shouted, pointing to a string of giant purple and gold faux pearls swinging around my neck. I’d collected the prized baubles earlier that day while walking around the French Quarter during Mardi Gras festivities. “What’d you do to get ’em?” …


My first attempt to meet him turned out to be a cover story for my parents’ messy split. Thirty years later, I decided to find Pee-wee on my own terms.

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Illustration by Siah Files ·

by Angelina Drake

I can’t remember a time before Pee-wee Herman. This is true chronologically, as Paul Reubens began appearing exclusively as his most iconic character years before I was born, but Pee-wee has also been a constant in my family story. My first trip to meet him was a cover for my parents’ separation and the harsh means through which it was achieved. …


Growing up, I was embarrassed to be a part of this quirky family tradition. But the truth is, I love it.

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Photo: Read Photography

By Nikki Gloudeman

I’m lined up with my fellow barbershop quartet members, including my mom and my aunt, along the ramp leading to the competition stage. We’re waiting for the announcer to call our name, laughing anxiously about nothing in particular. “This is going to be fun!” we say, and we try to mean it.

My quartet, Anticipation, is competing in the Pacific Shores Region 12 female barbershop contest, against 23 other groups at the Nugget Casino Resort in Reno, Nevada. It’s our fourth competition together. You’d think we’d be used to this by now.

I hydrated relentlessly backstage, but suddenly my throat feels parched — and as I realize there’s no water nearby, panic sets in like a fog. What if I can’t hold my high hanger at the end of the uptune? What if my voice cracks in the low chorus? I picture myself on stage, making a mistake in excruciating slow-motion, undoing months of work as the judges scribble furiously, angrily, on their score sheets. I gulp, then remember that gulping is bad for the vocal cords and suppress a second one. …


How one scruffy, folk-singing hippie took on the political establishment in Trump Country… and won

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Photo: Craig Hudson

By Ky Owen

Standing before a crowd of over 1,000 sign-waving marchers outside the West Virginia Capitol, Delegate Mike Pushkin wears the standard legislator outfit — a pinstripe suit — but his ruffled dark hair and scruffy beard set him apart. Ribbons worn in support of teachers, service personnel, and public employees flutter on his lapel. With the gold-plated Capitol dome gleaming in the sunlight, Delegate Pushkin stops to attach a neck strap to his guitar before picking up the microphone.

Though the crowd showed up to protest an anti-abortion measure on this sunny March afternoon, Pushkin speaks to the issue suddenly galvanizing the state, as well as liberals across the country in 2018. “We’re all standing here in solidarity with the movement to give teachers a decent pay raise, to give service personnel a decent pay raise,” he opens. His voice grows more emphatic with each phrase and the applause grows louder. “We’ll take care of our other public employees while we’re at it.” …

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Narratively is a storytelling platform and production company that celebrates humanity through diverse, authentic, high-quality content.

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