From rabbit hole to raging success

Neuroscience grad plumbs Wikipedia’s looniest realms

Annie Rauwerda

Annie Rauwerda, BS ’22. (Image: Depths of Wikipedia.)

Buttered Cat Paradox. Spaghetti-Tree Hoax. Body Farm.

Baffled? Don’t be. Annie Rauwerda, BS ’22, will explain. As host of the insanely popular Depths of Wikipedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, this neuroscience grad scours the internet’s free encyclopedia for its wackiest pages, takes screenshots of them, and shares them with her 1.5 million followers.

“I only post if something’s really zany,” says the Grand Rapids native. Of her 3,000 online discoveries many have gone viral. One of her favorites was about the Greek philosopher Chrysippus who died of laughter after he saw a donkey eating his figs.

“You just had to have been there, I guess,” says Rauwerda.

She broke the internet a second time when she ferreted out this Wikipedia gem — a bar joke from ancient Sumeria: “A dog walked into a tavern and said, ‘I can’t see a thing. I’ll open this one.’”

“People were losing their absolute minds trying to figure out what it meant. I had Sumerian scholars doing linguistic analyses,” she says.

‘Weird headspace’

Rauwerda’s exploits began in March 2020 as a stress-relieving time-killer during the early days of COVID-19. She was working night shifts as a nurse’s aide at a Grand Rapids assisted-living home, and she found her job doubly challenging, because only residents with dementia and the coronavirus lived in her ward.

“You can only clean the toilets so many times before the manager tells you you can sit down,” she recalls.

The facility wanted to keep her isolated from non-COVID residents. So, she had time to study for a physics class and surf the net.

“I was in this very heavy atmosphere in this very weird little hall,” she says. “I was in a very weird headspace, and then I was on Wikipedia, and I saw the world was so big out there, and yet so much of it was closed, but it was still out there.”

Not alone

Guerilla Gardening wikipedia entry

After discovering “guerilla gardening,” Rauwerda told WGN it is the “most wholesome form of vandalism” out there. (Image: Depths of Wikipedia.)

At first only her friends saw her posts. Drake George ’22, who says Annie is a “cool, humble person,” realized his former housemate was onto something big when her TikTok post on ‘Anti-Barney humor’ (about the purple dinosaur in a 1990s children’s TV show) hit 3 million views.

“She has the most incredible stories to tell,” says George. “I’ve never met anyone like her.”

Early on, Rauwerda plumbed Wikipedia’s loonier realms by following its hyperlinks and leaping down rabbit holes that tempted her. Such research is less taxing today because fans send her tips.

“I still see things in the wild all the time, but it’s a lot easier now that I have a million people who think of me when they see something funny on Wikipedia,” she says.

Trivia buff

Trivia has always fascinated Rauwerda. When she was in elementary school, she watched “Jeopardy,” devoured Ripley’s Believe It or Not books, and loved the magazine National Geographic Kids. “I would instantly go to its ‘Weird But True’ department. I would read things like ‘Did you know there are 200 seeds on a strawberry?’ and I would be, like, ‘Whoa!’” she recalls.

Annie Rauwerda on the morning news in Chicago

Rauwerda is becoming increasingly media savvy, as her profile gains traction. Here, she speaks to WGN-TV in Chicago.

Only 14 months older than Wikipedia itself, Rauwerda grew up admiring that ever-expanding global compendium of knowledge. At last count it had some 6,524,306 articles in English alone. “On the surface, I’m posting goofy things from Wikipedia, but I hope the breadth of Wikipedia inspires people,” she says. “It’s one of the remaining pillars of the internet at its best.”

The Wikimedia Foundation is grateful she spreads ‘the Wiki love,’ and she says she has made two dozen contacts there. Andrew Lih, a Wikimedian-at-large at the Smithsonian Institution who is helping migrate its resources to Wikipedia, says, “She’s a perfect ambassador between the quirky world of Wikipedia editors and what exists on Wikipedia and the general population. More power to her.”

On the road

A depths of wikipedia post about the "hellbender"

A typical ‘Depths of Wikipedia’ Instagram post may introduce you to the Hellbender. (Image: Depths of Wikipedia.)

Well on her way to conquering the internet, the entrepreneurial Rauwerda is expanding her personal brand. Besides selling merchandise based on Depths of Wikipedia, her literary agent is shopping a book proposal about her exploits to publishers. She is also a budding comedian with a theatrical agent. This past spring, she appeared three times at the club Caveat on Manhattan’s Lower East side in a production called “Wikipedia Live” with other performers. Now Rauwerda plans a six-city fall solo tour.

Though she found being on stage “nerve racking,” she liked the attention fans gave her. After one New York appearance, sidewalk diners who had been in the club saw her walk by. “They were, like, ‘Thanks for the show, Annie!’” she says. “I felt as though on one single block in New York City for a half hour I was an A-Lister with paparazzi. People were, like, ‘Can I take a photo?’ That part was fun.”

Get smart

Rauwerda’s entrepreneurial zeal, web-surfing wizardry, and intellectual reach may come from her parents. Her mother gave up her job as a school teacher to become a physician. Her father, who was also a teacher, went back to school as well and became an adjunct professor.

Fearing her meme-hunting exploits would baffle or disappoint them, she kept her pastime secret at first. “I don’t think they thought it was that cool until The New York Times did an article about me,” she says. “Then they were, like, ‘Whoa! It sounds like her little hobby is more impactful than we realized!’”

Today Rauwerda has no plans to look for a 9-to-5 job and has “very, very low anxiety,” about what the future holds, though cancel culture troubles her. “I can imagine posting something stupid without really thinking, and it ends up being offensive,” she says.

Wolverine wiki

Wikipedia entry of a healthy cow lying on her side

Wikipedia will tell you that this image inspired Annie Rauwerda to launch her ‘Depths of Wikipedia’ social media channels. (Image: Depths of Wikipedia.)

So far, her posts about her home state and the University of Michigan have been well received. She gave a shoutout to the Apollo 15 astronauts — all went to Michigan and founded an alumni chapter on the Moon. Ypsilanti’s Water Tower a few miles from campus got her attention for winning a “most phallic architecture” competition. The imaginary towns of Beatosu and Goblu on Michigan’s official highway map also caught her fancy. They take a poke at the iconic football rivalry, thanks to an alum who chaired the state highway commission.

Rauwerda is espeically fond of a post about Japanese professor George Sugihara, ’73, who majored in natural resources. His Wikipedia page, among other things, says, “He did something after graduation.”

So did Rauwerda — something weird and wonderful.


  1. Mary Sheila Garin - ‘81 UMF-BBA

    Thanks, George Spencer for bringing Annie to us!
    Wow. Annie Rauwerda is a gift to humanity. Her offerings bring happiness, lighten the daily load, and help us find universal truths! This article made my day.
    Thank you, Annie.


  2. Monique Betty - ‘96, MBA

    Thanks, George for sharing Annie’s delightful story. I’m headed over to Instagram to follow her as she meets my 3-point qualifiers: 1. Positive 2. Informative 3. Witty
    Thank you!


Leave a comment: