Longreads

Sometimes our minds play tricks on us. We fixate on mistakes. We justify indulging cravings we can’t control. We think we hear the baby crying, but it’s just the breeze.

At The Believer, Barrett Swanson examines how he got lost in a maze of conspiratorial thinking after his high school friend Luke drowned in the Mississippi River. An accidental death seemed too unlikely a scenario to believe, but questioning that explanation opened grieving locals up to the possibility that predatory forces lurked around their town. Swanson was still mourning his friend while earning a PhD, and his academic training and solitary hours soon had him clinging to unnerving explanations and theories culled online. He had to examine his own mind to move through the paranoia and properly grieve.

When you’re supposed to be working on your dissertation—its own arduous search for meaning—your days are a wilderness: unscheduled, improvised, free…

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