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Google Patents/Erin McCarthy
Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

6 Weird Halloween Patents

Google Patents/Erin McCarthy
Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

Since at least the early 1900s, inventors have been trying to make Halloween even scarier through technology. 

1. Jack-o’-Lantern Helmet

Toledo resident John J Du Ket patented this invention in 1903. He described it as “a simple and inexpensive device of the kind that may be worn on the head in parades, masquerades, and the like,” and said he would construct it so that “the parts are readily separable and laid flat for shipment and as readily assembled in form for wear and use.” It's not entirely clear why they decided to illustrate someone in a Rorschach-like mask wearing the device, but once you've assembled it, you're supposed to put a candle in it and wear it on your head, which sounds totally safe.

2. Jack-o’-lantern

Why carve a pumpkin when this freaky human-faced monstrosity, designed by Marcia I. Barnes and patented in 1903, was available? The device was comprised of “an ovalescent shell … ribbed in the form of a pumpkin.” On the front were a pair of eyes, a nose, and a mouth, "one or more of the members being movable and operated manually when desired.” Creepy!

3. Face Mask

This invention, patented by Rudolf Mafko in 1952, doesn’t just look creepy. In addition to "impart[ing] not only an amusing, comical and sometimes grotesque appearance," it also allows the user "to move and/or distort one or more simulated anatomical features on the face of the mask, such as the nose, the tongue, a tooth or a mustache" for laughs and/or gasps of terror. 

4. Combination Headdress and Facemask

Made entirely of paper, cardboard, or some other inexpensive material, Ruth M. Jarvis’s invention, patented in 1960, made causing terror easy no matter what your income. The mask was “slit that it can be expanded into a head-embracing or headband portion with a depending face mask portion at the front." The headband has vertical slits on one edge to accomodate heads of various sizes, and the face mask “is slit transversely to obtain a grotesque effect as well as to provide openings for the eyes, nostrils, and mouth." An opening for the chin anchors the face mask in place, and the rear headdress portion, the patent notes, is perfect for advertising.

5. Caricature Costume

This invention, patented in 1965, was comprised of a giant hat that fit over the head and all the way down to the shoulders with a transparent strip for seeing. The second part of the costume was "an enlarged false face piece depicting a representation of a human face secured to the hat ... [the] face piece [is] dimensioned such that it will cover a substantial abdominal portion of the wearer from about the shoulders to the waist.” Weird, but still better than a lot of the sexy costumes you see nowadays! 

6. Toy Mask

This device, patented by Harrison D. Sterrick in 1906, is another mask with movable features designed to delight and terrify. It could be made "of papier-mâché or any other material desired," while the features, including the eyes, ears, nose, and lips, were made of "thin folded paper or thin flexible rubber or any other suitable material and normally lie retracted in the openings."  Any of these paper features can be attached to a pipe "which may be inserted in the mouth of the wearer and by blowing through the pipe the feature will be protruded through the opening in the mask so as to expand it." I imagine the effect would be reminiscent of that scene in Total Recall

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Food
How Mammoth Poop Gave Us Pumpkin Pie
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When it’s time to express gratitude for the many privileges bestowed upon your family this Thanksgiving, don’t forget to be grateful for mammoth poop. The excrement of this long-extinct species is a big reason why holiday desserts taste so good.

Why? Because, as Smithsonian Insider reports, tens of thousands of years ago, mammoths, elephants, and mastodons had an affinity for wild gourds, the ancestors of squashes and pumpkin. In a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Smithsonian researcher and colleagues found that wild gourds—which were much smaller than our modern-day butternuts—carried a bitter-tasting toxin in their flesh that acted as a deterrent to some animals. While small rodents would avoid eating the gourds, the huge mammals would not. Their taste buds wouldn't pick up the bitter flavor and the toxin had no effect on them. Mammoths would eat the gourds and pass the indigestible seeds out in their feces. The seeds would then be plopped into whatever habitat range the mammoth was roaming in, complete with fertilizer.

When the mammoths went extinct as recently as 4000 years ago, the gourds faced the same fate—until humans began to domesticate the plants, allowing for the rise of pumpkins. But had it not been for the dispersal of the seeds via mammoth crap, the gourd might not have survived long enough to arrive at our dinner tables.

So as you dig into your pumpkin pie this year, be sure to think of the heaping piles of dung that made the delicious treat possible.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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Animals
Atlanta Shelters Give Pups a Temporary Home for the Holidays
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The holidays are looking a little brighter for adoptable dogs from two animal shelters in Atlanta, Georgia. As ABC News reports, a new program called Home for the Pawlidays is providing temporary homes to longer-term residents of Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services for the week of Thanksgiving.

The initiative was organized by Atlanta's LifeLine Animal Project, a local group dedicated to providing healthcare and homes to shelter dogs. The dogs that were chosen for the project may be older, have special health needs, or other issues that make it more difficult to find them forever homes.

But from November 18 to 25, the dogs are getting to spend time away from the shelter and in the homes of loving foster families.

“We were thinking, everyone gets a break from work, and they should get a break from the shelter,” LifeLine’s public relations director Karen Hirsch told ABC News.

Some caretakers have already fallen in love with their four-legged house guests. Foster Heather Koth told ABC that she hadn’t been considering adoption, but after meeting Missy the shelter dog, she now plans to foster her until she has a permanent home or possibly adopt the dog herself.

And for the dogs that can’t be kept by their temporary owners, just a week of quality playtime and sleeping in a real bed can make a huge impact. You can check out photos of the pets who are benefiting from the program this week below.

[h/t ABC News]

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