This week in 2019, the president of Turkmenistan got the world’s attention with a very unusual drive.

There were rumors that Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov had died, which he blamed on the critics of his authoritarian regime.

To prove them wrong, he started releasing videos showing him… doing stuff.

State-controlled media broadcast videos of the leader performing a rap song with his grandson, playing with cats, bowling – all strikes, of course – and then driving doughnuts in an off-road vehicle next to a giant flaming crater in the ground.

Now if you’re saying “wait, what?” to that last bit, yes, there is a giant flaming crater in the ground in Turkmenistan.

It’s been burning for decades, and, somehow, this bizarre site known as “the Door to Hell” or the “Gates of Hell” has become a tourist attraction.

The site is also known as the Darvaza gas crater, because it’s in the desert near a town called Darvaza, and the flames come from burning natural gas.

The fire is not natural; it was set in 1971, when Turkmenistan was part of the Soviet Union.

Geologists were drilling for natural resources and they accidentally caused a natural gas cavern to collapse.

They figured the best way to keep the natural gas from spreading and potentially causing a big hazard was to light it on fire.

It was supposed to go out after a couple days, but here we are a half century later, and no.

A 230 foot wide, 100 foot deep hole that’s on fire is not everyone’s idea of a fun holiday visit.

But the crater has had its fans over the years and it’s become a recognizable symbol around the world of an often insulated country.

That said, it’s also a big environmental problem.

US officials say Turkmenistan is one of the world’s top emitters of the greenhouse gas methane.

The country’s regime has been talking with the US and other countries about finding a way to put the gas fire out.

This is not the first time there’s been talk of this, but even if the fire continues, you should know that there been times when the authorities have tried to close the crater to visitors.

So, before you go, ask around to make sure that the Door to Hell hasn’t already been shut.

This week in 2018, Clara Edwards of Oklahoma placed an unusual ad.

“Wanted: to BORROW an orange cat for 24-48 hours, to have a lasagna dinner with Garfield-loving 4-year-old and 2-year-old children.”

She added that the cat would not be required to eat lasagna if it wasn’t good for them.

And she found what she asked for!

Turkmenistan’s leader does doughnuts next to flaming crater to prove he’s not dead (ABC Australia)

U.S. in serious talks to close Turkmenistan’s “Gates of Hell” (Mercury News)

This mom needs to borrow an orange cat for the most hilarious reason (USA Today)

Keep this show hot as a backer on Patreon