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From partially-drawn presidential portraits to an entire castle that was never completed, this episode of The List Show is all about interesting projects that never quite came to be. You'll learn about the man who tried to give new meaning to the term "ghostwriting" and find out what happened to the Cincinnati subway.

Erin (@erincmccarthy) shares tales of unfinished novels, buildings, and more. Some projects still have hope of being completed, while others have been lost forever.

In case you forgot, The List Show is a trivia-tastic, fact-filled show for curious people. Subscribe here for new videos every week:

Did you know that the portrait used for George  Washington’s likeness on the one dollar bill comes from an unfinished painting?

Hi I’m Erin McCarthy,  editor-in-chief of, and welcome to the List Show, from my living room. The Athenaeum Portrait, as it’s known, was painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1796.

It was commissioned by Martha Washington, who had requested a portrait of herself as well. Stuart painted the faces of both of his subjects, and a bit of the shoulders and  brown background for George, but that’s about where he stopped. The  paintings were never delivered.

Stuart had reportedly kept the unfinished Washington  portrait for himself, and used it to recreate at least 75 replicas of the painting,  which he sold for a hundred dollars each. Upon Stuart’s death, the Athenaeum  Portrait was passed down to his daughter, and was eventually bought and given to the Boston  Athenaeum, hence the name it’s now known by. Years later, this depiction of Washington’s was  chosen for the engraving of the one dollar bill.

The image was flipped, but otherwise,  it’s the same George that Gilbert Stuart painted two hundred years ago, stopped part way  through, and then kept for himself for profit. Hey, gotta respect the hustle, I guess? And  Stuart’s Washington portrait is just the first of many interesting and oftentimes tragic unfinished  projects that I’m going to share with you today.

The Unfinished Portrait is another famous  painting of a president that was, well, unfinished. It was by Elizabeth Shoumatoff, and  she started working on it around noon on April 12, 1945. The subject?

Franklin D. Roosevelt. As he  was being served lunch, the president reportedly complained of a pain in the back of his head.

At  3:35 pm that day, he was pronounced dead by his doctor from a cerebral hemorrhage. Shoumatoff  did later make a new portrait of the president, but the original, unfinished one remains a partial  snapshot of Roosevelt, just moments before his passing. It currently hangs at FDR’s onetime  retreat, the Little White House in Georgia.

The Canterbury Tales is considered Geoffrey  Chaucer’s magnum opus, and one of the most influential pieces of English-language literature. Chaucer, however, never got around to finishing it. The story begins at the Tabard Inn with  30 travelers about to embark on a pilgrimage.

The innkeeper proposes a storytelling contest that  requires each pilgrim to tell two tales on the way up, and two on the way back. Quick math, that  should give us 120 tales by the end of the story, which would hypothetically end with the  winner of the contest being crowned. If you’ve read the Canterbury Tales, you know  there aren’t nearly that many.

There’s only 24 stories, and it doesn’t have a proper ending. Chaucer is thought to have been working on the manuscript for over a decade, up until his death  in 1400. The Tales were distributed posthumously, but most scholars believe he never had a chance to  properly conclude them.

Some blame Chaucer’s busy business life—at various times he worked at the  Port of London, moved to Kent to be the Justice of Peace, later became a member of parliament,  and then shuttled back to London as Clerk of the King’s Works. Moonlighting as a seminal  literary figure seems like an exhausting hobby. While some, like professor Michaela Paasche  Grudin, have argued that the Canterbury Tales were a deliberate attempt to challenge classic  narrative structure by not having a proper ending, it seems the general consensus  is that… Chaucer just couldn’t finish all 120 stories before his death.

Many other famous authors have left behind incomplete works. Jane Austen’s final novel was  a book that we now call Sanditon, but she stopped work on it in March 1817, just a few months before  her death. She completed 11 chapters of the novel, which takes place in the seaside town of  Sanditon, which most believe is based on Worthing, England.

Over a century later, the book was  published as is, though it was far from complete. And because of Austen’s legacy, it’s been  the subject of multiple continuations, where an author attempts to complete the novel  within Austen’s presumed vision and style. A Completion of Sanditon, A Return to Sanditon, and  Jane Austen’s Sanditon: A Continuation are just a few examples of attempts to finish what the famed  writer left behind.

There’s even a television series that first aired in 2019 called Sanditon. Charles Dickens’s final novel met a very similar fate. He completed just half of the twelve planned  installments of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," leaving the whodunit unsolved for generations  of readers.

What happened to Edwin Drood? Was it the butler? It’s always the butler…even if  there’s not actually a butler in the story, Just like with Sanditon, The Mystery of Edwin  Drood has been the subject of many continuations, including one by a man named Thomas P James  who claimed to have literally “ghost written” the novel.

As in, Dickens’s spirit was channeled  through him, and he finished the novel like a kind of literary prophet. Some, including Arthur Conan  Doyle, the author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, praised this version. Others, like scholar J.

Cuming Walters, said that the work was, quote   "self-condemned by its futility, illiteracy, and  hideous American mannerisms; the mystery itself becomes a nightmare, and the solution only deepens  the obscurity.” Ouch. Even Doyle eventually   “debunked” the ghostly Dickens authorship,  though his methods were a bit suspect. He wrote in The Edge of the Unknown that at a seance  he asked Dickens "Was that American who finished   "Edwin Drood" inspired?" To which Dickens’s  spirit responded “not by me.” Ghost burn.

Fun fact: Shortly before Edwin Drood was beginning  publication, Dickens sent an installment to Queen Victoria and commented that “If Her Majesty  should ever be sufficiently interested in the tale to desire to know a little more  of it in advance of her subjects” he’d be very pleased to help. Sadly, Victoria never  seems to have taken him up on the offer. One of cinema’s great boondoggles was Alejandro  Jodorowsky’s planned adaptation of Dune, Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel.

Jodorowsky  began production for his film in 1975. Obviously, the film was never made, but the stories  about it are the stuff of Hollywood legend. It was supposed to be more than 10 hours  long.

Jodorowsky’s storyboards were made up of over 3000 individual drawings. The would-be cast included Mick Jagger as Feyd-Rautha, Salvador Dali as Shaddam IV, and  Geraldine Chaplin (who, yes, was the daughter of Charlie Chaplin) as Lady Jessica. Orson Welles  was slated to play the villain, Baron Harkonnen   (a commitment Jodorowsky was only able to secure,  reportedly, by promising Welles that his favorite chef would make him food on set every day).

Dali  also, allegedly, demanded $100,000 per hour for his work, which Jodorowsky agreed to, with the  plan to only film with the famed surrealist for one hour. A mechanical mannequin would’ve  been used for the rest of production. The soundtrack?

Provided by Pink Floyd, of course. Even after millions of dollars were spent pre-producing the movie, with elaborate  costumes and set pieces already made, the film was scrapped. Dune was  eventually made into a film in 1984.

That version was directed by surrealist David  Lynch, while a new adaptation starring Timothee Chalamet is scheduled to come out in 2021. But it’s not just artists that don’t finish their work. The Cincinnati Subway is an abandoned  city project underneath the streets of the Ohio metropolis.

Construction began in the early 20th  century in an attempt to upgrade the city’s public transportation system, which at the time relied on  their above ground streetcar system. A few miles of tunnels were dug out and built, but unfortunately,  the cost of the project proved too great.   $6 million was allocated to the project, but  post-world-war-one-inflation increased the cost of production well past that budget. By the end of  the 1920s, the project was effectively abandoned.

A few people did have ideas on what the  tunnels could be used for. Meier’s Wine Cellars Inc. wanted to use it for wine storage and  production, but that didn’t pan out. In the 1970s, George Clooney’s father, Nick Clooney, wanted  to turn part of it into an underground mall and night club, but that fever dream of an  idea never came to fruition either.

Today, the tunnels are used partially to carry the city’s  water main and optical fiber cables, and is a frequent destination for urban explorers, though  those latter expeditions are generally illegal. Another incomplete structure is the Cathedral  of St John the Divine in New York city. The church is a landmark in the Morningside Heights  neighborhood of Manhattan.

Its construction began in 1892. Its original design was in the Byzantine  Revival and Romanesque Revival styles, but about 15 years into the construction, the architect  died, and the cathedral’s design eventually moved in a Gothic Revival direction. The nave wasn’t  completed until 1941 after various funding issues, and construction has been intermittent since  then.

A large fire damaged the cathedral in 2001, and it was reopened in 2008. Today, it’s estimated  that the church is only two-thirds complete, according to the original plan. It’s  still missing its spires, the poor thing.

Despite being unfinished, it is still one of the  biggest and most impressive standing cathedrals. Its floor covers 121,000 square feet and  its roof reaches 177 feet into the air, making it the 6th largest church in the world by  area. It not only serves as an Episcopal church, but is also home to various cultural  events, art showings and art showings.

Barcelona’s breathtaking Basilica de la Sagrada  Familia is another famously unfinished church. The cornerstone was laid well over a  century ago, but construction isn’t expected to be completed until 2026. The National Monument of Scotland has been referred to by locals as a “national  disgrace”.

The monument was supposed to be a recreation of the Parthenon in Greece. As you  can see, it never quite got there. The Foundation Stone had been laid in 1822, and by 1829, just 12  columns had been put up.

Nearly 200 years later, that’s still the most complete this monument has  ever been. It was meant to commemorate Scots who died in the Napoleonic wars, but the organizers  only received about half of the funding needed. In the years since, various proposals have been made  to reinvent the monument, such as turning into a monument for Queen Victoria, or transforming  it into the Scottish National Gallery.

None of those plans took either, and  Scotland’s Folly, as it’s sometimes known, still stands as an unfinished relic. Reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is one of the most infamous  structures in recent history. There, in the early hours of April 26 1986, disaster struck, causing  lasting damage for generations.

But did you know that at the time of the Chernobyl disaster,  there were two other reactors being built? The new reactors were to be built about 1km  away from the old site. Reportedly, the 286 construction workers at reactors 5 and 6 continued  to work through the night of the disaster.

It wasn’t until the following morning that  construction was officially halted. Only a few months later, construction resumed, until it was  halted again in April 1987. In 1989, the Soviet Council of Ministers made the official decision  to abandon the construction of both reactors.

The 5th reactor was 70% complete at the time, and  is now an eerie piece of incomplete history. If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic,  there’s a good chance I would be at a karaoke bar this weekend singing my lungs out. And while  I personally would stick to one of my go-to’s like Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” or  Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” I’m almost positive that I would hear someone’s  slightly off-key rendition of The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes by the end of the night (or,  god forbid, the Limp Bizkit version).

But did you know that the song was originally  written as a part of an unfinished sci-fi rock opera? Yeah, you heard that right. If you’re a fan of the English rock band The Who, you’ve likely heard of Lifehouse.

It was supposed  to be the follow up to the 1969 album Tommy, but it never quite came to be. Lifehouse was  intended to be a multimedia project that included an album, a sci-fi film, and an experimental live  concert experience that involved music based on individual audience members. All pieces of the  project were based on a futuristic story that Townshend had conceived, and ideas inspired  by the Indian spiritual master Meher Baba.

Townshend described the plot as, quote, "a  fantasy set at a time when rock ’n’ roll didn’t exist ... The enemies were people who gave us  entertainment intravenously, and the heroes were savages who’d kept rock ‘n’ roll as a primitive  force and had gone to live with it in the woods. The story was about these two sides coming  together and having a brief battle." The idea never came to fruition, and The  Who instead released Who’s Next in 1971, which would go on to become known to many as their greatest album.

But that didn’t mean Townshend  gave up on the idea. He continued trying to bring Lifehouse to life for the next four decades. A radio play was produced based on Townshend’s original concept, which was released on BBC in  1999.

In 2007, Townshend released a website called The Lifehouse Method which was able to, in a way,  bring part of his futuristic concert to life. The Lifehouse Method would have users sit down for  a “musical portrait” that would be composed by a program based on information they enter  about themselves. Over the course of 15 months, the site generated around 10,500 musical portraits  before it was closed.

An album was later released of music based on songs created by the Lifehouse  Method. It was also reported that a graphic novel would be released based on the Lifehouse story,  but a release date has yet to be announced and its eventual publication seems far from certain. Let’s end this episode with a love story: The story of Boldt Castle.

Fair warning, it’s  a bit tragic. On Heart Island, which is located in the St Lawrence river in New York, there  lies a castle. Its construction began at the turn of the 20th century by millionaire George  Boldt.

Boldt was a hospitality mogul of sorts, running multiple luxury hotels. Around 1900, he  began an ambitious project, to construct a huge six-story estate on a private island. It was  meant to be a gift to his wife, Louise.

A monument to his love for her. He hired hundreds of  workers to build the castle, which had 120 rooms, a drawbridge, its own tunnel system, and  a polo pitch. Talk about a great present.

In early 1904, Boldt telegraphed the island  with the order to “stop all construction.” Louise had suddenly passed away. Boldt  abandoned the castle, and reportedly never stepped foot on the island again. For  73 years, the structure stood incomplete, an unfinished love letter to a lost lover.

Don’t  worry, there’s a sort of happy ending. In 1977, The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority purchased  the island (and the nearby Boldt yacht house), with the promise that all revenue gained from  the castle would be put toward renovation and upkeep of the castle for future generations. Today, you can visit Heart Island by ferry and explore the castle.

Make sure to check out  the bowling alley in the basement and the epic stained glass ceiling. I think Louise and George  both would be quite happy with how it turned out. Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube.

If you want to learn more fun facts, subscribe to the channel for new videos every  Wednesday at 3 pm. We’ll see you next time.