Electric lice

  • Six years before Benjamin Franklin's experience with kites and lightning, court electrician Abbé Nollet demonstrated electricity to Louis XV. Nollet lined up Carthusian monks to form a 900 foot line connected with iron wire. When the electrical current was passed through the wire, the monks jumped simultaneously. Nollet wrote: “The exclamations of surprise were simultaneous even though they came from two hundred mouths.” Before Nollet, Stephen Gray in 1720 used Charterhouse charity boys for electrical experiments. He would hang a boy with insulating cords, use rubber glass to electrify him and “draw sparks from his nose.” Swedish biologist Albercht von Haller had his electrified boys stand on pitch to insulate them. When a person approached, electricity would pass between the boy and the person. Both would experience a sharp pain. Source (p.63)

  • Lumberjacks in the 19th century had it hard. Here is an excerpt from Lumberjack Walker D. Wyman's diary from 1885: "One of the best ways to fool the lice was to turn your [long] underwear when you went to bed at night. The lice spent most of the night finding their way from the outside to the inside and didn't have much time left to do any biting." Source(p.70)

locked up

    Until 1772, British law required those accused of a felony to either enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. However, if a defendant refused to enter a plea, their estate passed to their family instead of to the crown as would happen if they were convicted. The law of Peine Forte et Dure was designed to try to force a plea out of the defendant. By 1406, if a defendant refused to enter a plea, they would be pressed until they died or entered a plea. A board would be placed across their chest and stomach and iron weights would be placed on top of the board, gradually increasing every day. In Nottingham, a mute man was pressed to death because he was unable to enter a plea. Source Source Source

    Prison reformer Jon Howard believed that silence would allow prisoners more time to consider their crimes and offer a greater chance of repentance. Coldbath Fields House of Correction in London attempted a silence-prison reform in 1834. At this time, the prison housed men, woman and children. Silence was strictly enforced and prisoners were not allowed to talk or congregate. In attempt to keep prisoners from recognizing each other, they wore masks or veils with numbered tags. In response to the harsh punishments (flogging, bread and water diet, confined to the "dark cells"), prisoners invented hand signals and tapped secret codes on the water pipes. Source Source Source

    In Tokyo, the restaurant Alcatraz ER provides a medical prison-themed dining experience. Upon arrival, you are handcuffed, mock injected, and locked in a cell. The food is served in metal surgical pans and cocktails are served in test tubes or plasma bags, sometimes with false teeth. If your cell door is “accidentally” left open, “your mission to go screaming around the restaurant in a wheelchair evading the outstretched hands of other prisoners.” A similar restaurant is The Lockup, with varying locations in Toyko. At one location, diners are placed in a dark room and left to find the hidden door into the restaurant. Source Source Source

no connection

When computer programmer Jerry Jalava had a finger amputated after a motorcycle accident, he acquired a prosthetic finger with a USB attached. When Jerry uses the USB, he removes the prosthetic finger. He currently has Billix, CouchDBX and Ajatus installed on the drive, but he hopes for his next prosthetic to have a removable fingertip and an RFID tag (tracking device that uses radio waves). His blog Pictures Source

Alan Titchmarsh, BBC TV gardener, has a waxwork at Madame Tussauds that is “one of the most fondled.” His waxwork is kissed so frequently that lipstick is washed off its face twice a week. Source Source

For the 1939 World's Fair, Joe Sprinz, a catcher for the San Francisco Seals, tried to catch a baseball dropped 1,000-1,200 feet by a blimp. While part of his mitt touched the ball, the ball hit him in the face. He spent three months in the hospital due to 5 knocked-out teeth and a jaw fractured in 12 places. Source Source


In No Man's Land (the western end of the Oklahoma Panhandle), the dust storms of the Great Depression “killed or forced out nearly one family in three.” This, however, was not as bad as the conditions in the Texas panhandle.

Caroline Henderson lived in No Man's Land and wrote letters that were published in the Atlantic Monthly. Here is an excerpt form her June 1935 letter: "Wearing our shade hats, with handkerchiefs tied over our faces and Vaseline in our nostrils, we have been trying to rescue our home from the accumulations of wind-blown dust which penetrates wherever air can go. It is almost hopeless, for there is rarely a day when at some time the dust does not roll over. 'Visibility' approaches zero and everything is covered again with a silt-like deposit which may vary in depth from a film to actual ripples on the kitchen floor.” By the summer of 1936, only 8 of the 136 homesteads in her township still had tenets.

The dust from different states were different colors. Kansas dust was black, eastern Oklahoma dust was red, Texas dust was yellow. When these mixed in dust storms, it sometimes tinted the sun light green.

Many normal activities were made dangerous. Trains had to stop to prevent their passengers from choking and to allow them to scoop dust out of the cars. One Kansas train ran into a few-hours-old dust drift and was stuck. School was frequently canceled as well. In April 1932, a dust storm shattered all the windows in a schoolhouse and covered the school and children with dust. Even hospitals had to pause due to their inability to keep the surgical wards dust-free. Another side effect was that “[m]en avoided shaking hands with each other because the static electricity was so great it could knock a person down” Cars drug grounding-chains behind them as well.

The dust and drought brought in many animals in huge numbers, including tarantulas, centipedes, spiders, black widows and grasshoppers. Towards the start of the depression, rabbit drives were started to combat the booming rabbit population. Using clubs, people trapped rabbits in fences and clubbed them to death. In some places, rabbit drives were weekly events and up to 6,000 rabbits could be killed per afternoon per square mile. Towards the start of the depression, attempts were made to send the rabbits to be canned for the city folks, but the bodies ended up being left or buried. By 1935, the rabbits were canned and eaten. The people were already forced to pickle tumbleweed, so the rabbits would not go to waste.

Dust pneumonia affected those who breathed in the dust, as well as sinusitis, laryngitis and bronchitis. Dust pneumonia caused coughing, body aches, shortness of breath and nausea. “By the mid 1930s . . . [dust pneumonia] was one of the biggest killers.” The Red Cross distributed masks designed to filter out the dust, but the masks often turned black in under an hour. The dust, only 63 microns small (a period at the end of a sentence is 300 microns), got everywhere. One man cut open the stomach of a dead cow only to find its stomach so packed with dust that it blocked the passage of food.

In May 1934, the east coast got a taste of the dust bowl when a large dust storm blew across. The Statute of Liberty could hardly be seen, and it dusted the White House and covered ships out more than 200 miles from shore. “People in the cities wondered why the plains folks could not do something to hold their soil down. One man suggested laying asphalt over the prairie. Another idea was to ship junked cars to the southern plains where they would be used as weights to hold the ground in place.”

The pictures are of the Black Sunday dust storm of April 14th, 1935. The dust storm produced enough electricity to power New York. The Black Sunday dust storm destroyed “one-half the wheat crop in Kansas, one-quarter of it in Oklahoma, and all of it in Nebraska—5 million acres blown out.” Twice as much dirt as removed for the Panama canal was carried in the dust storm.

Source: The Worst Hard Time (information and quotes from p.304, 257, 234, 221, 175, 173, 153, 116). Source Source


This 1963 patent gives detailed plans on "facilitating the birth of a child by centrifugal force."

Because "civilized women" are less active during their pregnancy than "primitive women," they often have more trouble with childbirth. In attempt to create "less stress to the mother," the mother is strapped into the device (above) and spun around to create centrifugal force to propel the baby out. The "infant reception net" is padded with cotton and the baby's weight may be designed to to "activate an electric bell, announcing the event." Source

Three forms of an anti-eating mask was patented in the 1980s. One patent suggests the use of the mask by housewives to prevent them from nibbling while cooking meals. Another patent laces elastic lines through two plastic strips adhered on the user's mouth. "In essence, my invention stimulates the idea of sewing the user's lips together, but it does so in a manner that permits speech plus limited food and liquid intake." The device, however, is claimed to be more of an emotional reminder than a physical deterrent. Source Source Source

This 1989 patent details the specifics of a smoker's hat. The hat covers the smoker's head and returns purified air to environment. Uses suggested for this hat include use on airplanes, transit systems, and for smokers whose job requires them to interact with the public. "Because of the evolving social changes in our society, there is a need for a device to put the smoker and the non-smoker on equal footing. The present invention fills that need." Source