6 Historical Methods for Contacting the Dead (and Their Drawbacks)

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

'Tis the season for getting in touch with the spirit realm. (This applies no matter what month we're in right now; 'tis always high time to get your séance on.) But there are several different ways you can go about it. Do you Ouija? Should you go wandering around a haunted house? No, you should probably pick up the psychic telephone.

Lapham's Quarterly helpfully charted out some of historical ways you could (supposedly) go about contacting the dead, from Chinese Fuji writing—a method that's kind of like a Ouija board, but using a stylus to make letters in sand instead of a board—to past-life regression via hypnosis. The chart lays out how each ghost-whispering concept works, and its theoretical drawbacks. Because there are always drawbacks.

Transfiguration, for instance, lets you see a spirit's face through the body of a medium, but that's a whole lot of hard work for your medium. You can listen for electronic voice phenomena via a recorder, but you have to buy the recorder first. F. R. Melton's 1921 invention, the balloon-powered psychic telephone, was a great option—except when his son George wasn't around to work it. And past-life regression, as you might imagine, holds “potential for new levels of self-hatred." No one wants to find out that their past self was a total jerk.

There are plenty of scientific and cultural explanations for seeing ghosts that don't involve the actual spirits of the dead returning to the Earthly plane, but if you're into the history of the occult, this is a great primer on spirit-conjuring traditions.

[h/t Lapham's Quarterly]

9 Vintage Thanksgiving Side Dishes We Shouldn’t Bring Back

We all have that aunt—the one who’s been bringing her Miracle-Whip-bound pimiento-pea salad to Thanksgiving dinner since time immemorial. Although you may swear she got her recipe straight from the devil, it turns out that cheese-and-lime-Jell-O salads and their ilk were all the rage in her day. So it’s not (totally) her fault! To cut her a little slack, here are some examples of vintage Thanksgiving-themed recipes that will make her salad look like a perfectly golden-brown turkey.

1. CRANBERRY CANDLE SALAD

Best Foods Mayonnaise Ad 1960s with Jello Molds

Nothing complements the tart, refreshing flavor of cranberry sauce like some gelatin and salty, eggy mayonnaise. If that weren’t weird enough, this recipe also tells you to shove a real candle in there and then light it. Ostensibly, you’re supposed to eat around the melted wax, but we can’t be sure—maybe it’s considered a condiment.

2. CANDIED SWEET POTATOES WITH ANGOSTURA BITTERS

This recipe for candied sweet potatoes, which involves baking them in a mixture of butter, sugar, and angostura bitters, is probably either really good or really bad. It sort of makes sense, adding bitters to cut down on the sugar factor. Alternatively, you could just not make a candied version of something that already has the word sweet in its name.

3. CREAMED ONIONS

This once-popular Thanksgiving mainstay has been neglected over the last century, for perhaps obvious reasons. In some households, the idea was to pour creamed onions over the turkey, like gravy, to add a little moisture. Or possibly because eating a chunky mouthful of pearl onions and cream sauce by itself is gross.

4. TURKEY AND STUFFING ON JELL-O

Thanksgiving Jello Ad

There’s not much to this one, is there? It’s a pile of turkey and stuffing dumped on top of a cranberry orange Jell-O ring—sounds delicious!

5. WINTER CORN

This mixture of corn, sour cream, and bacon is sometimes found on Midwestern Thanksgiving tables. It’s mostly off-putting because its main ingredient is creamed corn. That said, creamed corn really needs all the help it can get, so adding bacon can only improve it.

6. SWEET AND SOUR TANG POPCORN (A.K.A. ASTRONAUT POPCORN)

Reportedly, this was a popular Thanksgiving dessert in the ’70s. The idea seems to be an offshoot of caramel corn, but … with Tang powder.

7. HOT DR. PEPPER

You gotta give the good folks at Dr. Pepper a few points for at least trying here. They noticed that soda was not often considered a cozy, comforting holiday drink, and they stepped up to the bat undaunted. Bold move.

8. FROZEN JELLIED TURKEY-VEGETABLE SALAD

There’s only one way to improve a dish as alluring as Jellied Turkey-Vegetable Salad, and that’s to stick it in the freezer. From the sound of the recipe—which combines cream of celery soup, salad dressing, diced turkey, vegetables, and gelatin—this is basically the inside of a turkey pot pie if it was served frozen. And also if it was square.

9. JELL-O FRUIT CORNUCOPIA

Sure, cornucopias were for holding food in olden times, but don’t you wish you could eat one? Well, guess what—your years of longing are finally over, because someone has made a Jell-O version of one with fruit trapped in it. You don’t even have to take the fruit out of the cornucopia this time—you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Dreams do come true.

10 Great Subscription Boxes for Everyone On Your Gift List

The Go Love Yourself Box, Cratejoy
The Go Love Yourself Box, Cratejoy

Most people have at least one person on their gift list who’s a little difficult to shop for. Whether they’re male or female, young or old, a beer lover or bookworm, you can probably find something they’ll like on Cratejoy.

Billing itself as the world’s only marketplace for subscription boxes, Cratejoy is an online retailer with over 1600 options to choose from. You can narrow down your search by clicking the "women," "men," or "kids" tabs at the top, among others, or by searching for specific interests. There’s something for foodies, fashionistas, bibliophiles, gamers, fitness enthusiasts, art lovers, pet owners, and more.

The subscription boxes, which charge by the month, vary widely in price. Some boxes charge as little as $6 per month, while the Robb Vices Membership (think fine wines, cigars, and gadgets) is one of the most expensive offerings at $159.95 per month. You can also choose whether you want to subscribe for one, three, six, or 12 months.

Ready to give a gift that keeps on giving year-round? Check out a few of our favorite options below.

1. Coffee and a Classic ($28.99): Comes with a classic novel, bookmarks, “bookish treats,” and some sort of beverage (you can choose coffee, tea, or cocoa).

The book Matilda with related merchandise
Coffee and a Classic, Cratejoy

2. Pooch Perks Premium Customized Dog Boxes ($19.99): Comes with five or six toys and treats for your pup.

3. Wonderkin ($39.95): Includes nature-based books, activities, and learning materials for children aged 3-8.

4.The Go Love Yourself Box ($30): Includes a self-help book, self-care items, and additional resources (like journals and webinars).

5. Matter ($40): Billed as “part museum, part lab project,” each box includes a variety of scientific objects and natural history specimens.

6. GeekGear (About $32; ships from UK): Includes 6-10 pieces of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts merchandise, including a monthly T-shirt, accessories, wall art, and more.

7. Skulls Unlimited International, Inc. ($24.99): Their “Bonebox” comes with various animal bones, teeth, and claws—great for science teachers or collectors!

8. Finders Seekers Mysteries ($30): Filled with fun puzzles, mysteries, and cryptic messages for you (or your gift recipient) to solve.

A mystery box with various clues and puzzles inside
Finders Seekers Mysteries, Cratejoy

9. First Sip Brew Box ($24.99): While no beer is actually included (for legal reasons), each box comes with various merchandise from a different craft beer company.

10. MexiCrate ($5.99): Includes 10-15 items of Mexican candy and snacks.

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