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The Terrifying Men, Women, and Children of Water Slide Patent Illustrations

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Even though water slides combine the essential and the unavoidable—water and gravity—our species' survival does not hinge on these fixtures of summertime amusement. This hasn't stopped humankind from exploring and perfecting the form, as a perusal through the U.S. patent office's extensive list of water slide patent applications will show.

Within these applications exists a surprising subset of American art: drawings of men, women, and children enjoying water slides. These haunting depictions are so evocative, they deserve to be isolated from the inventions they were created to accompany.

Here are thirteen terrifying examples.

1. The Ecstasy is Tattooed on His Face

Patent Number: US 5213547 A

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: The euphoric gentleman pictured above is enjoying the "Method and Apparatus for Improved Water Rides by Water Injection and Flume Design." This patent is for a nozzle (or series of nozzles) that shoots water in order to push water slide riders at a higher velocity. Clearly it's working: this man has achieved nirvana.

2. Gleefully Sacrificing Oneself To the Shark Gods

Patent Number: US 20100137068 A1

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: This is a diagram of a "Water slide With Three-Dimensional Visual Effects." The invention requires that the slider wear a pair of "three dimensional goggles" in order to fully achieve the desired effect of maritime catastrophe.

3. Flush The Featureless Creature. End Its Misery

Patent Number: US 6354955 B1

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: This is a "water slide bowl," and it's about to swallow that blank slate of a man whole. Who hasn't had this nightmare before?

4. No One Can Hear Your Screams—The Water Park Feeds On Fear

Patent Number: US 6375578 B1

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: The men in this illustration are dueling on the "Two-way Interactive Water Slide," which allows riders to trigger sensors that spray onlookers, who then return the favor with hoses from their adjacent stations. You see, water parks are twisted playpens of rage. The man on the left is clearly in pain, and his torturer's lack of mercy is frightening. This is a wet and wild version of the Milgram experiment.

5. This is What True Love Looks Like

Patent Number: US 4196900 A

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: This is a "simplified support construction" for water slides, sturdy enough to support Brad and his girlfriend Debbie. They've been dating for two years and still manage to keep things fresh thanks to their local water park.

6. No Matter How Many Times He Uses The Slide, He Can Never Get Clean

Patent Number: US 5839964 A

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: This "Water Toy Release Mechanism" works like the ol' bucket over the door trick, except it drenches you in perpetuity thanks to a garden hose attachment and self-righting trough. The child in the illustration cares not for historical droughts, and he wastes gallons of potable water for fun. He has never been happier.

7. "My God, It's Full of Stars"

Patent Number: US 20090111592 A1

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: This person is traveling through the "Amusement Slide with Lighting Effect," and he or she is so happy, he or she has reverted to his or her most elemental form. A return to the womb, if you will.

8. It Craves Velocity; It Can Sense You

Patent Number: US 20140135137 A1

What Exactly Is Going On Here?:The faceless creature is careening through a "Water Ride Attraction Incorporating Rider Skill." He can control his raft and maneuver around the slide to trigger sensors that transmit data to the handheld devices of nearby millennials:

The faceless man is like a king to them.

9. Those Brave Enough to Traverse the Lane May Claim the Bowling Pins

Patent Number: US 5101752 A

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: This illustration depicts a girl gracefully riding a body board. If she looks locked in deep concentration, it's because this isn't your average body board; it "conforms to the contours of a user's body having a generally frustoconical perimeter that circumscribes at least two chambers that are connected for pivoting movement with respect to one another."

10. Marxist Theory: Let the Machine Absorb You

Patent Number: US 1648196 A

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: The image above is from a very early water slide patent, filed in 1925. "While I am aware that slides are used by bathers and swimmers," inventor Gabriel E. Rohmer writes, "no apparatus has come to my attention which as a constant stream of water spraying the slide surface of the apparatus." We may have Mr. Rohmer to thank not only for water slides, but for water slide patent illustrations as well.

11. He Likes it Here. It Feels Safe

Patent Number: US 20060252563 A1

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: The "Water Slide Audio Visual Entertainment System," in which the above child is sitting, is a rather complicated invention. To confuse things even further, please look at this out-of-context image from the same patent application:

12. He's Been Doing This All Day. The Neighbors Are Concerned

Patent Number: US 6361445 B1

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: The design for this waterslide may be simple, but the man shown using it contains multitudes.

13. Walking is Hard, Sliding is Easy

Patent Number: US 3923301 A

What Exactly Is Going On Here?: A man with double-jointed ankles is taking a serene cruise down a waterslide built directly into a hill. The entire scene is rather beautiful—this should be hanging in a museum.

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.
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History
Mütter Museum Showcases the Victorian Custom of Making Crafts From Human Hair
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

During the Victorian era, hair wasn’t simply for heads. People wove clipped locks into elaborate accessories, encased them in frames and lockets, and used them to make wreaths, paintings, and other items. "Woven Strands," a new exhibition at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, explores this historical practice by featuring dozens of intricate works culled from five private collections.

According to Emily Snedden Yates, special projects manager at the Mütter Museum, hair work—as it’s called today—was common in England and America between the 17th and early 20th centuries. The popularity of the practice peaked in the 19th century, thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s prolonged public mourning after her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861. People in both the UK and U.S. responded to her grief, with the latter country also facing staggering death tolls from the Civil War.

With loss of life at the forefront of public consciousness, elaborate mourning customs developed in both nations, and hair work became part of the culture of bereavement. "[The 19th century was] such a sentimental age, and hair is about sentiment," exhibition co-curator Evan Michelson tells Mental Floss. That sentimental quality made hair work fit for both mourning practices as well as for romantic or familiar displays of fondness.

Palette work culled from the collection of Evan Michelson and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Palette work from the collection of Evan Michelson
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Most hair artworks were made by women, and created solely for the domestic sphere or as wearable trinkets. Women relied on multiple techniques to create these objects, fashioning wreaths with hair-wrapped bendable wires—a process called gimp work—and dissolving ground hair into pigments used to paint images of weeping willows, urns, and grave sites. Watch fobs, necklaces, and bracelets were woven using an approach called table work, which involved anchoring hair filaments with lead weights onto a table and using tools to twist them into intricate patterns through a hole in the furniture’s surface. Yet another technique, palette work, involved stenciled sheets of hair that were cut into various shapes and patterns.

Hair work remained popular until World War I, according to Michelson, who co-owns New York City's quirky Obscura Antiques and Oddities shop and organized "Woven Strands" along with 19th century decorative arts expert John Whitenight.

“Women hit the workforce, and death occurred on such a huge scale that it really swept away the old way of mourning and the old way of doing things,” Michelson says. By the early 20th century, tastes and aesthetics had also changed, with hair work beginning to be viewed “as something grandma had,” she explains.

The Mütter’s exhibition aside, people typically won’t see hair work in major museums. Being a craft primarily performed by women at home, hair works were usually passed down in families and often viewed as worthless from a financial and artistic perspective.

“A lot of hair work was discarded,” Michelson says. Many owners repurposed the shadowbox frames often used to display hair work by removing and tossing the artworks within. Works stored in basements and attics also frequently succumbed to water damage and insects. Antique dealers today typically only see hair jewelry, which often featured semi-precious materials or was encased in a protective layer.

Sepia dissolved hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Sepia dissolved hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Yet examples of hair wreaths, palette work, and other delicate heirlooms do occasionally surface. They’re prized by a small group of avid collectors, even though other connoisseurs can be grossed out by them.

“People have this visceral reaction to it,” Michelson says. “They either gasp and adore it—like ‘I can’t get over how amazing it is’—or they just back away. There are very few other things where people are repulsed like this … In the 19th century no one batted an eyelash.”

“It’s a personal textile,” Snedden Yates explains. “It’s kind of like bone in that it doesn’t really decompose at the same rate as the rest of our bodies do. It’s not made of tissue, so if you keep it in the right environment it can be maintained indefinitely.”

Table work culled from the collection of Eden Daniels and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Table work from the collection of Eden Daniels
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

“Woven Strands” features examples of gimp work, palette work, table work, and dissolved hair work. It’s often hard to trace these types of artworks back to their original creators—they typically don’t bear signatures—but the curators “really wanted to find hair that you could connect to an actual human being,” Michelson says. “We chose pieces that have provenance. We know where they came from or when it was made, or who actually donated the hair in some cases, or what the family name was. We also picked out things that are unusual, that you don’t see often—oddities, if you will.”

Woven hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Woven hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Displayed in the Mütter Museum’s Thomson Gallery, “Woven Strands” opens on January 19, 2018, and runs through July 12, 2018. On April 7, 2018, master jeweler and art historian Karen Bachmann will lead a 19th century hair art workshop, followed by a day-long historical symposium on the art on Sunday, April 8.

Michelson hopes that “Woven Strands” will teach future generations about hair art, and open their minds to a craft they might have otherwise dismissed as parochial or, well, weird. “We hope that people see it and fall in love with it,” she says.

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