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Boo-reaucrats: 8 Presidential Families—And Pets!—Dressed Up for Halloween

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Getty Images

Politicians have to dress the part. Before public appearances, they meet with image consultants to ensure that they're wearing the perfect power tie and accessorizing with American flag memorabilia that's noticeable without being ostentatious. But what might impress the average American even more than a tailored suit? An awesome Halloween costume. Hollywood celebrities aren't the only famous people who get dressed up on October 31. Sometimes politicians don wigs, makeup, and weird clothes to get their Frankenstein on. We bet they're pretty good at campaigning for candy, too. Plus, check out the festive pets that rub elbows—err, paws—with some very powerful political figures.

1. B-Arrrr-ack Obama

Long before the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), President Barack Obama was an old-school pirate. Lots of Halloween costumes are scary, but yes we can also appreciate one that's just plain adorable.

2. Halloween Obama-Rama

First Lady Michelle Obama changed into leopard spots at a 2009 Alice in Wonderland-themed Halloween event for the children of White House staff members and military families. Sasha wore a red gown, while big sister Malia cleverly dressed up as the Morton salt girl. Meanwhile, President Obama could've been anyone's dad in a sweater and oxford shirt.

3. Mr. and Mrs. President as Mr. and Mrs. President

Photo Courtesy of Our Presidents.

Bill and Hillary are an easy go-to couples costume—you can find vinyl masks of both of them at most Halloween stores. But the power couple channeled another president and first lady at the White House Halloween party in 1993. If you thought the Clinton White House was exciting, consider what fourth president James Madison and his wife Dolley went through. During the War of 1812 (which actually lasted from 1812-1815), the British invaded Washington and set fire to various government buildings, including the White House, United States Treasury, and U.S. Capitol. Fortunately, Dolley rescued original drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution from the blaze.

4. Al Gore's Fuzzy Mask


Should we blame it on global warming ... or the full moon? Former Vice-President Al Gore and then-wife Tipper were dressed to the canines at their 1997 Halloween party. But with a last name like Gore, we expected no less. (They've also dressed up as Beauty and the Beast, mummies, and Underdog and Sweet Polly Purebred.)

5. Scare-a-lot

The White House is probably one of the best places to go trick or treating, provided that the current health-focused administration hasn't completely phased out the candy. Back in 1963, John, Jr. and Caroline Kennedy made the rounds all the way to the Oval Office. Their dad's costume: most photogenic POTUS ever.

6. Bo(o) Obama

There's nothing scary about First Dog Bo Obama. His owners have joked that the four-legged fluffball is even more charismatic than the president. Still, Bo enjoys his privacy. This superhero doppelganger is only a statue that's decorated for each holiday at the White House.

7. Cowboy Dog-plomacy


Former First Dog Barney wasn't a favorite White House pet. The Scottish terrier got a lot of bad press, perhaps because he had a tendency to bite members of the media. Karl Rove called Barney "a lump," and Vladimir Putin said he was too small to befit a world leader. But his owners, former President George W. and Laura Bush, just think he's a loner cowboy—and dressed him accordingly in 2007. (India and Miss Beazley are dressed up as a wizard and a strawberry, respectively.)

8. May The Snark Be With You

Some critics of former Vice President Dick Cheney have called him "the Darth Vader of the Bush administration," a distinction he eventually embraced. In 2007, Cheney even dressed his black Labrador retriever Jackson as the Sith Lord. His other Lab, Dave, served as a heroic foil in a Superman costume.

Scientists Reveal Long-Hidden Text in Alexander Hamilton Letter

Age, deterioration, and water damage are just a few of the reasons historians can be short on information that was once readily available on paper. Sometimes, it’s simply a case of missing pages. Other times, researchers can see “lost” text right under their noses.

One example: a letter written by Alexander Hamilton to his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, on September 6, 1780. On the surface, it looked very much like a rant about a Revolutionary War skirmish in Camden, South Carolina. But Hamilton scholars were excited by the 14 lines of writing in the first paragraph that had been crossed out. If they could be read, they might reveal some new dimension to one of the better-known Founding Fathers.

Using the practice of multispectral imaging—sometimes called hyperspectral imaging—conservationists at the Library of Congress were recently able to shine a new light on what someone had attempted to scrub out. In multispectral imaging, different wavelengths of light are “bounced” off the paper to reveal (or hide) different ink pigments. By examining a document through these different wavelengths, investigators can tune in to faded or obscured handwriting and make it visible to the naked eye.

A hyperspectral image of Alexander Hamilton's handwriting
Hyperspectral imaging of Hamilton's handwriting, from being obscured (top) to isolated and revealed (bottom).
Library of Congress

The text revealed a more emotional and romantic side to Hamilton, who had used the lines to woo Elizabeth. Technicians uncovered most of what he had written, with words in brackets still obscured and inferred:

Do you know my sensations when I see the
sweet characters from your hand? Yes you do,
by comparing [them] with your [own]
for my Betsey [loves] me and is [acquainted]
with all the joys of fondness. [Would] you
[exchange] them my dear for any other worthy
blessings? Is there any thing you would put
in competition[,] with one glowing [kiss] of
[unreadable], anticipate the delights we [unreadable]
in the unrestrained intercourses of wedded love,
and bet your heart joins mine in [fervent]
[wishes] to heaven that [all obstacles] and [interruptions]
May [be] speedily [removed].

Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler married on December 14, 1780. So why did Hamilton try and hide such romantic words during or after their courtship? He probably didn’t. Historians believe that his son, John Church Hamilton, crossed them out before publishing the letter as a part of a book of his father’s correspondence. He may have considered the passage a little too sexy for mass consumption.

[h/t Library of Congress]

Scott Barbour/Getty Images
7 of History’s Most Unusual Riots
Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Some sociologists theorize that most rioters only join a crowd because the crowd is big enough to justify joining. But there’s always that one person who sparks the violence, and sometimes the reason for doing so can seem pretty baffling. Maybe a work of art scandalizes its audience, like the famous premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Or maybe it’s simply a notable act of disrespect, like history’s first recorded mooning (in Jerusalem in the first century CE). From balloonists to brown dogs to daylight saving time, here are seven weird reasons things just got out of hand.


The Darts Invitational Challenge, an international tournament held in Melbourne, attracted international gawking in January 2015 during the finals match between Michael "Mighty Mike" van Gerwen and Simon "The Wizard" Whitlock. The dart players weren’t making a scene, though: Rather, hundreds of spectators, many of them drunk and in costume, began throwing plastic chairs as they watched (pictured above). The reasons for the fight remain unclear; footage and photos show police trying to control adults dressed as Oompa-Loompas, numerous superheroes, and, in one instance, in a ghillie suit (heavy camouflage meant to resemble foliage).


In 1864, balloonists were the great daredevils of their time, and a major draw for eager audiences. That summer, Henry Coxwell, a famous professional aeronaut, was set to make an appearance for 50,000 paying ticketholders in Leicester, England. Unfortunately, a rumor spread that he hadn’t brought his biggest and best balloon to the event. After heckling from the crowd, Coxwell deflated his balloon, and attendees rushed it, ripping it to shreds, setting it on fire, and threatening to visit the same fate on Coxwell. Rioters even paraded the remains of the balloon through the streets of town, which briefly brought residents a new nickname: Balloonatics.


Toronto was still a pretty rough place in the 1850s, but not so rough that the circus wouldn’t come to town. As it turns out, circus entertainers were also a tough lot back then, so when a group of off-duty clowns spent an evening at a brothel popular with the city’s firefighters on July 12, 1855, tensions came to a head. Accounts differ as to who started the fight, but after one firefighter knocked the hat off a clown things escalated into a full-on rabble intent on chasing the circus out of town. Only the mayor calling in the militia put an end to the uproar, an incident Torontonians credit with kicking off much-needed local police reforms.


A painting by Charles Soubre of the Belgian Revolution
Charles Soubre, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Not many nations can claim their independence started with an aria, but for 19th-century Belgians sick of living under Dutch rule, an opera was just the right fuse for a revolution. To honor the birthday of King William I of the Netherlands, a theater in Brussels put on La Muette de Portici, about an uprising in Naples against Spanish rule. One song, "Amour Sacre de la Patrie" ("Sacred Love of the Fatherland"), aroused nationalistic passions so much that after the opera ended, the crowd began destroying factories and occupying government buildings. That was August 25, 1830; Belgium declared independence on October 4.


Hamilton fans, take note: Everyone’s favorite Founding Father once tried to quiet a mob bent on burning corpses. For centuries, anatomists and medical students relied on gruesome means to learn about the human body. Cadavers for dissection class often came from grave robbers, since the corpses of executed criminals were the only legal source—and they were in limited supply. In New York in 1788, rumors abounded that medical students were digging up paupers’ graves and black cemeteries. When one mob came after the doctors responsible, Alexander Hamilton tried, and failed, to restore the peace. The crowd swelled to about 5000 before militiamen intervened, leading to up to about 20 deaths.


Photo of an anti-vivisection demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London, to protest the removal from Battersea Park of the Brown Dog statue
The Anti-Vivisection Review, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Riots against the dissection of dead human bodies were not rare in the United States at one time. But on December 10, 1907, a thousand Britons marched in support of vivisection, or surgery on live animals. At the center of the controversy was a small terrier allegedly vivisected without anesthetic in 1903 during a class at London’s University College. Animal rights activists erected a statue to the dog in 1906, which enraged area medical students, and protesters tried to destroy the statue using crowbars and hammers. For the 1907 march, 400 mounted police were deployed to contain marchers. The statue became such a flashpoint (and an expense to local authorities) that in 1910, it was removed and melted down.


Palingtrekken (eel-pulling) was once a popular contest in Amsterdam, in which a writhing eel was suspended over a canal and hopefuls on boats would leap to snatch it as they passed beneath (usually landing in the water instead). However, “eel-pulling” was also illegal—the government deemed it a “cruel popular entertainment”—and in July 1886, police intervened at a particularly large gathering in the city’s Jordaan district. Civilians threw stones and bricks at police, and when some nearby socialist protestors joined them, a riot broke out that lasted for several days. The army finally intervened and opened fire on the protestors. All in all, 26 people died and 136 were wounded, but somehow, the eel itself at the center of the riots was allegedly saved and auctioned off in 1913.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.


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