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The Most Unforgettable Feature Stories Of 2016

Mysterious maladies, Montreal melons, Munchausen's and matricide, music mavericks, momentous mass murders, and more of our favorite stories from the past year.

Clockwise from top left: Clay Rodery; Lisel Jane Ashlock; Joe Jaszewski; Getty Images; Marc Aspinall; Oliver Hibbert/Jared Harrell

2/26: The Oral History — Charlie Warzel

Alex Eben Meyer

From two llamas escaping an Arizona retirement community to fashion’s most notorious optical illusion, February 26, 2015, was the day that everyone — everyone — came together online to cheer, then argue. One year later, the people who accidentally created a phenomenon remember the internet’s perfect storm and what it wrought.

Attack of the Killer Robots — Sarah A. Topol

Clay Rodery

Forget about drones, forget about dystopian sci-fi — a terrifying new generation of autonomous weapons is already here. Meet the small band of dedicated optimists battling nefarious governments and bureaucratic tedium to stop the proliferation of killer robots and, just maybe, save humanity from itself.

The Story Behind The Deadliest Prison Bus Crash In Texas History — Albert Samaha

BuzzFeed News

In January 2015, a prison transport carrying 15 men — three guards and 12 chained-together inmates — ran off the road. It was one of the bloodiest days in the history of Texas prisons.

Is Empty Nose Syndrome Real? — Joel Oliphint

Mauricio Alejo

This medical mystery — a byproduct of common nasal surgery — has stumped many doctors and scientists, some of whom suspect the suffocating condition may just be imaginary. But that isn’t making the people who feel suicidal over its horrific symptoms feel any better.

Dee Dee Wanted Her Daughter To Be Sick, Gypsy Wanted Her Mom To Be Murdered — Michelle Dean

Corey Brickley

Dee Dee Blancharde was a model parent: a tireless single mom taking care of her gravely ill child. But after Dee Dee was killed, it turned out things weren’t as they appeared — and her daughter Gypsy had never been sick at all.

An Idaho Town Makes The Case For Guns In School — Anne Helen Petersen

Joe Jaszewski

During the winter, it can take 45 minutes for police to arrive at Garden Valley High School — one of several reasons the district trains teachers to use guns stored in their classrooms. To some outsiders, it’s foolish. But to the people who live here, the solution meets the challenges that distinguish their home.

The Rise, Fall, And Almost Rise Again Of The Caviar Of Cantaloupe — Tori Marlan

Lisel Jane Ashlock

During the early 20th century, the Montreal melon was a culinary delicacy and an agricultural moneymaker. But as industrial farming took hold, the hard-to-grow fruit went the way of the dodo bird. What one farmer’s attempt to revive it says about taste and technology.

Inside The Fraternity Of Haters And Losers Who Made Donald Trump — McKay Coppins

Getty Images

From political power brokers to the entire island of Manhattan, a varied cast of taunting insiders has inadvertently driven Donald Trump’s lifelong revenge march toward the White House. This is what it’s like to be one of them.

Would You Give This Man $100 Million? — Matt Stroud

Laura Heald

To investors who lost millions of dollars, Brent Brown is a con man who used a restaurant franchise as his personal piggy bank. But Brown defiantly insists he’s been wrongly vilified and just needs a little more time to make everything right, he swears.

How An 1891 Lynching Tried To Make America Great Again — Adam Serwer

Getty Images / Via Ge

In the hysteria following the murder of a New Orleans police chief, 11 Italian-Americans were lynched by a vigilante mob angry about the city’s influx of immigrants. Here’s how the past and future of American nativism may not be that different.

The Unsung Heroes Of The Streaming Music Boom — Reggie Ugwu

Aaron Fernandez

At the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley, small teams of anonymous, hardcore music fans race to solve the record industry’s toughest problem.

Massacre On Ninth and Main — Sarah Weinman

Marc Aspinall

On August 13, 1903, Gilbert Twigg opened fire during a concert in Winfield, Kansas, killing nine and injuring dozens. There was no motive, and no one had ever seen anything like it before, or for decades after. Yet it’s the archetype for the kind of tragedy we see so frequently now.

The True Story Of The Fake Zombies, The Strangest Con In Rock History — Daniel Ralston

Oliver Hibbert/Jared Harrell

In 1969, the Zombies had a huge hit single, despite having broken up two years earlier. To meet the unexpected demand, one promoter did the only sensible thing: Hire four kids from Texas to tour America pretending to be a defunct British psych-rock band.

Standing Up To Sexual Harassment And Assault In LA’s Comedy Scene — Katie J.M. Baker

BuzzFeed News

The exclusive story of how female comedians decided to take matters into their own hands and kick alleged assaulters and harassers out of their community — and the scandal that followed.

The Hunt For Poland's Nazi Gold Trains — Sarah A. Topol

Raymond Biesinger

Last summer, explorers in Poland claimed to have discovered tunnels built for trains carrying plundered Nazi gold, only to be debunked a few months later. But for the true believers who’ve been hunting for this treasure for decades, this merely proved what they’ve thought all along: Inside these mountains are secrets and stories that some would rather stay buried.

American Girl: How Young Is Too Young To Be Transgender? — Azeen Ghorayshi

Ilana Panich-Linsman

Clinics are popping up across the country to help kids as young as 3 who might be transgender, but some say it’s too much, too soon. While doctors argue, families like Nicole’s don’t have time to wait.

America's Whites-Only Weed Boom — Amanda Chicago Lewis


Black Americans were disproportionately targeted in the “war on drugs.” Now state laws and steep regulatory costs have left them far more likely to be shut out of America’s profitable marijuana boom.