People have always used images to tell their stories. In Lascaux, France, prehistoric people painted a menagerie of wildlife on their cave walls. Ancient Egyptian tombs, illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, Industrial Revolution newspapers, and today’s emojis have used illustration to document scenes from our lives and create worlds from our imaginations.
Atlas Obscura often draws upon the magic of skilled illustrators to conjure up history, memory, the unknown—and sometimes, just plain cool stuff. While taking readers on a journey through our stories, we add a dash of creativity to make an interesting tale a distinctive treat for the eyes as well. Here are some of our favorite illustrated stories of the year, from the mystery of one man’s tattooed skin, to the significance of a Slovenian cookbook, to the mind games of hell banquets.
by Nathaniel Scharping
Illustrator Delphine Lee adds a face and some captivating linework, worthy of being permanently inked, to the story of the enigma behind a 19th-century Frenchman’s tattooed, preserved remains.
by Jessica Leigh Hester
The thin, delicate lines drawn by illustrator Carmen Deñó perfectly suit this thoughtful deep dive into the questionable origins of a dissected and preserved human nervous system on display in Philadelphia.
by Kaja Seruga
Illustrator Thumy Phan’s bright and luminous palette glows like a stained-glass window in this tale of a determined priest’s fight for the written expression of a Slovene national identity.
by April White, Senior Writer/Editor
Bold graphic shadows by illustrator Delphine Lee let us imagine the dark depths of this story’s “haunted house,” used to test agents joining the ranks of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to spy on Axis forces in World War II.
by Sara Murphy
For this story on the enthusiastic fan club of Aldi grocery store’s curious and quirky middle aisle, illustrator Stella Murphy charmingly and brightly rendered animated shoppers literally flocking together, delighting in their finds.
by Sam O’Brien, Senior Editor, Gastro Obscura
Illustrator Rodolofo Reyes plays with elegant kaleidoscopes of skeletons for this history of devious hosts of macabre banquets, who were more interested in terrifying and tormenting their guests than entertaining them.