I hope you’ve all been enjoying my Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction treatment of Carrie L—‘s Reboot fanfic “Breaking the Barriers”. I want to put that on pause, though, to bring you something more seasonal.
“Safe Fun For Halloween” was an essay published in Popular Mechanics 85 years ago. It’s got a staggering variety of activities, all billed as safe, all of which seem to involve electrocuting your friends. So I’m giving you the chance to enjoy these wild and, the magazine insists, safe pranks with homemade electrical-shock devices.
In the early part of the last decade ModernMechanix.com had a regular feature of showcasing odd stuff from old magazines. Sometimes it was fascinating, like 1960s plans for the city of tomorrow. Sometimes it was hilarious, like advertisements for potato-peeling machinery that supposedly would net you money. And sometimes it was an article like this that makes you wonder the heck was going on in 1936 anyway.
I meant this to be a low-key piece, which is why there aren’t even Mads sketches. Just a simple introduction and closing sketch. I published it near the end of the year and got a fair bit of mileage out of using that fact.
The whole of this MiSTing should be available at this link when I post it all>. And if you want to see all of the MiSTings I’ve posted, they’re here. And I’ll get back to “Breaking the Barriers” in November.
[ SATELLITE OF LOVE. The Desk. The decor is “several days past Christmas” with lingering wrapping and such cluttering the set; wrapping paper even covers the movie/commercial sign lights. TOM and CROW are behind the desk; MIKE is off-stage. ]
TOM: [ Eagerly ] Mike! Hey, Mike!
CROW: [ Gleeful ] MikeMikeMikeMikeMikeMikeMike!
TOM: C’mon, Mike, it’s important!
[ MIKE, carrying some plastic electronic gizmo that’s not working, and a screwdriver which will not improve matters, saunters on screen. ]
TOM: Mike! Mi–
CROW: [ Still calling ] MikeMikeMikeMike!
[ MIKE puts a hand on CROW’s shoulder, making him stop. ]
TOM: Okay. Mike —
CROW: [ Quickly ] Mike!
TOM: Have you given any thought *what*soever into plans for our Halloween party for this year?
MIKE: It’s December 29th.
CROW: Exactly! We have to hurry!
MIKE: The 29th day of *December*.
TOM: Yes, yes, your true love gave to you and stuff. But we can’t just stand in an awkward line in front of haphazardly strewn decorations and call that a party.
CROW: [ Calling ] Mike!
MIKE: Two days to New Year’s.
CROW: So, *MIKE*, we called Pearl —
[ MIKE groans. ]
TOM: Yeah! And she promised to send us a bunch of fun ideas!
[ MIKE groans louder. ]
CROW: And, ah, it’s going to be from a _Popular Mechanics_ article from, like, the Great Depression.
[ MIKE covers his head as he groans. ]
TOM: Plus we have to get into the theater and read it when movie sign goes off or else and you know what else that else is or of.
[ MIKE, face-covered, groans and doubles over. ]
CROW: And, ah, Movie Sign went off like five minutes ago so we’re in *real* trouble.
[ MIKE puts the gizmo down and pulls the wrapping paper off the signs, which start flashing MOVIE SIGN. General alarm among the BRAINS. ]
ALL: MOVIE SIGN!
[ 6… ]
[ 5… ]
[ 4… ]
[ 3… ]
[ 2… ]
[ 1… ]
[ THEATER. All file in. ]
MIKE: Haven’t I told you about having ideas without me?
CROW: Well … no.
TOM: You should tell us about it sometime.
> SAFE FUN for HALLOWEEN (Nov, 1936)
CROW: Halloween in November! The best time of year.
MIKE: December 29th.
> Source: Popular Mechanics ( More articles from this issue )
TOM: Well, I hope so.
MIKE: There’s just the one article, thinnest edition they ever printed.
> Issue: Nov, 1936
CROW: Halloween ran a month late in 1936 because of the Depression.
MIKE: 29th day of the twelvth month.
> SAFE FUN for HALLOWEEN
MIKE: New, joy-less fun occupies time while leaving spoilsport parents secure.
> UPON arriving, every member of this Halloween party must be
> fingerprinted and “mugged” as regular routine for
> identification records in the archives.
TOM: Well! Already it’s a merry time.
MIKE: Last party I have planned by J Edgar Hoover and Meyer Lanski.
> The newcomer presses
> the thumb of his right hand down on the “ink pad,” for which
> purpose ordinary carbon paper will do.
CROW: Alternatively, ink pads may be used as ink pads.
TOM: Crow, that’s mad talk!
MIKE: You know, they were hard years, we had to make a single ink pad last through four years of Halloween safe fun!
> This is pasted to a
> piece of sheet metal on a small box which contains two dry cells
> and a Ford vibrating coil,
MIKE: A vibrating coil?
TOM: Man, these Model A’s were *kinky*!
> connected together as shown in Figure
CROW: Figure omitted for clarity.
> The “guard” presses a push-button switch
TOM: Shouldn’t he *push* a push-button switch and *press* a press-button switch?
> the moment the
> guest touches the carbon paper and has his left hand on the
MIKE: Oh, did I mention you need a table?
> directly over another sheet-metal plate also wired up as
CROW: A table and *another* sheet-metal plate? Man, fun is too complicated, this is why I like boring.
> The result is a sudden shock which is surprising but
> not harmful.
MIKE: B F Skinner sez, “That’s the Halloween for me!”
[ To continue … ]