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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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music
Everything You Need to Know About Record Store Day
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The unlikely resurgence of vinyl as an alternative to digital music formats is made up of more than just a small subculture of purists. Today, more than 1400 independent record stores deal in both vintage and current releases. Those store owners and community supporters created Record Store Day in 2007 as a way of celebrating the grassroots movement that’s allowed a once-dying medium to thrive.

To commemorate this year’s Record Store Day on Saturday, April 21, a number of stores (a searchable list can be found here) will be offering promotional items, live music, signings, and more. While events vary widely by store, a number of artists will be issuing exclusive LPs that will be distributed around the country.

For Grateful Dead fans, a live recording of a February 27, 1969 show at Fillmore West in San Francisco will be released and limited to 6700 copies; Arcade Fire’s 2003 EP album will see a vinyl release for the first time, limited to 3000 copies; "Roxanne," the Police single celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, will see a 7-inch single release with the original jacket art.

The day also promises to be a big one for David Bowie fans. A special white vinyl version of 1977’s Bowie Now will be on shelves, along with Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78), a previously-unreleased, three-record set. Jimmy Page, Frank Zappa, Neil Young, and dozens of other artists will also be contributing releases.

No store is likely to carry everything you might want, so before making the stop, it might be best to call ahead and then plan on getting there early. If you’re one of the unlucky vinyl supporters without a brick and mortar store nearby, you can check out Discogs.com, which will be selling the special releases online.

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Big Questions
What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
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Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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