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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.

Charles Dickens Museum Highlights the Author's Contributions to Science and Medicine

Charles Dickens is celebrated for his verbose prose and memorable opening lines, but lesser known are his contributions to science—particularly the field of medicine.

A new exhibition at London’s Charles Dickens Museum—titled "Charles Dickens: Man of Science"—is showcasing the English author’s scientific side. In several instances, the writer's detailed descriptions of medical conditions predated and sometimes even inspired the discovery of several diseases, The Guardian reports.

In his novel Dombey and Son, the character of Mrs. Skewton was paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak. Dickens was the first person to document this inexplicable condition, and a scientist later discovered that one side of the brain was largely responsible for speech production. "Fat boy" Joe, a character in The Pickwick Papers who snored loudly while sleeping, later lent his namesake to Pickwickian Syndrome, otherwise known as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

A figurine of Fat Boy Joe
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Dickens also wrote eloquently about the symptoms of tuberculosis and dyslexia, and some of his passages were used to teach diagnosis to students of medicine.

“Dickens is an unbelievably acute observer of human behaviors,” museum curator Frankie Kubicki told The Guardian. “He captures these behaviors so perfectly that his descriptions can be used to build relationships between symptoms and disease.”

Dickens was also chummy with some of the leading scientists of his day, including Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, and chemist Jane Marcet, and the exhibition showcases some of the writer's correspondence with these notable figures. Beyond medicine, Dickens also contributed to the fields of chemistry, geology, and environmental science.

Less scientifically sound was the author’s affinity for mesmerism, a form of hypnotism introduced in the 1770s as a method of controlling “animal magnetism,” a magnetic fluid which proponents of the practice believed flowed through all people. Dickens studied the methods of mesmerism and was so convinced by his powers that he later wrote, “I have the perfect conviction that I could magnetize a frying-pan.” A playbill of Animal Magnetism, an 1857 production that Dickens starred in, is also part of the exhibit.

A play script from Animal Magnetism
Courtesy of the Charles Dickens Museum

Located at 48-49 Doughty Street in London, the exhibition will be on display until November 11, 2018.

[h/t The Guardian]

NASA // Public Domain
On This Day in 1983, Sally Ride Made History
NASA // Public Domain
NASA // Public Domain

Thirty-five years ago today, on June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She flew on the space shuttle Challenger on a six-day mission. She had previously helped build the shuttle's robot arm, and now she operated it in space. Not only was she the first American woman to go to space, she was the youngest astronaut in space, at age 32.

(As with many space-related firsts, that "American" qualifier is important. The Soviet space program had sent two women cosmonauts into space well in advance of Ride. Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova flew all the way back in 1963, and Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982. They also sent various younger people to space, including Tereshkova.)

Ride represented a change in the previously completely male astronaut program. Although NASA had unofficially tested women in the late 1950s as part of the Mercury program, the idea of sending women into space was quickly discarded. NASA policy for decades was that only men would be considered as astronauts. It took until 1978 for NASA to change the policy—that year, six women became astronauts: Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Kathryn Sullivan, Anna Fisher, Margaret Rhea Seddon, and Shannon Lucid.

Ride and her colleagues were subject to an endless barrage of sexist media questions, curious how women might fare in space. They also encountered institutional sexism at NASA itself. Ride recalled:

"The engineers at NASA, in their infinite wisdom, decided that women astronauts would want makeup—so they designed a makeup kit. A makeup kit brought to you by NASA engineers. ... You can just imagine the discussions amongst the predominantly male engineers about what should go in a makeup kit."

Ride held a Ph.D. in astrophysics, two bachelor's degrees (English and physics), and had served as CapCom (Capsule Communicator) for the second and third shuttle flights, STS-2 and -3. She was an accomplished pilot and athlete, as well as a Presbyterian elder. She was closely connected to Challenger, performing two missions on it and losing four fellow members of her 1978 class when it exploded.

After her astronaut career concluded, Ride served on both the Challenger and Columbia disaster review panels. During the former, she leaked vital information about the Challenger disaster (o-ring engineering reports), though this wasn't broadly known until after her death. She wrote educational books and founded Sally Ride Science. She was asked to head up NASA by the Clinton administration, but declined.

Ride died in 2012 from pancreatic cancer. Her obituary made news for quietly mentioning that she was survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O'Shaughnessy. Although Ride had come out to her family and close friends, the obituary was the first public statement that she was gay. It was also the first time most people found out she'd suffered from pancreatic cancer at all; she asked that donations in her memory be made to a fund devoted to studying that form of cancer.


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