MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 3 of 4)


I hope you continue to enjoy this Mystery Science Theater 3000 fanfiction. Those who’ve missed the end of Carrie L—‘s “Reboot: Breaking the Barriers” have not; I figure to get back to that in November. For now, I want to finish off looking at a Popular Mechanics article from 1936, “Safe Fun For Halloween”.

If you don’t want to go back and re-read the whole thing, here’s what you’ve missed: a lot of stunts to shock, embarrass, or humiliate partygoers visiting your house for what will be the last time. It only feels like all these stunts are about getting your friends to touch exposed electrical wires. There’s also ones about getting lampblack around their eyes or pretending to take a picture and instead blasting a cap gun at them. Fun!

Uneeda Biscuits, mentioned here, were the first big hit product for the newly-formed National Biscuit Company. Say the name aloud and you get the advertising hook for them. Also now if you encounter an early-20th-century humor piece and someone talks about having a Ueata Meal or buying a Udrivea Car or something, now you know what they’re riffing on. Nabisco was still making Uneedas through about a decade ago. They were kind of an extra-thick club cracker. Not quite salty enough to my taste but, I could get it. Cottolene was a brand of shortening and one of the first mass-produced alternates to lard. So these references are well-researched to this article’s original publication and are therefore funny.


>
> Figure 4 shows an elaboration of the popular “grab-bag” idea.

CROW: So we just jumped out of order for Figure 11?

> In this case a large carton is equipped with three shelves,
> which fold up against the sides of the box, giving free access
> to the favors for guests in the bottom.

TOM: Ah, the giddy fun of playing The Refrigerator Game.

MIKE: Now that your friend’s inside the cardboard fridge, close the door up and abandon him in a junkyard to suffocate!

> Lights are arranged so
> that the inside of the box is dark.

CROW: Arrange the lights so they’re not on the inside. Got it.

> After two or three
> merrymakers have drawn prizes from the box, an attendant “in
> the know” lets down one of the shelves by means of a concealed
> string.

MIKE: Dropping a 16-ton anvil on your so-called friend.

> This shelf may have on it a shallow pan of lard, or a
> sheet of paper coated with lampblack or graphite and oil,

TOM: Whale blubber and bauxite.

CROW: Uneeda biscuits and cottolene!

MIKE: Greased slime and detonator caps!

> or red
> grease—anything that will not flow when the shelf is in the
> vertical position.

MIKE: What do you have in congealed blood?

> In the laughter which follows the victim’s
> predicament,

CROW: The shrieking, howling laughter of the mad.

> the attendant draws up the shelf and another guest
> is invited to draw from the box,

MIKE: He tears out a fistful of hair.

TOM: Maybe rip off a nose or two.

> this one of course brings out a
> favor.

CROW: A nose or two?

> Eventually the other two shelves are let down to provoke
> more laughter.

TOM: This is in case your parties don’t end in enough brawls.

>
> A collapsible chair can easily be made from a common kitchen
> chair,

MIKE: And set up above your conveniently available tiger pit.

> and, if others of the same design are placed in the room,
> the tricky one will not be noticeable.

TOM: Apart from how everyone who has dinner with you, dies.

> Remove the legs and
> round off both ends as in Figure 6.

CROW: Figure 5 was lost in a tragic “collapsible Linotype” prank.

> They are then joined in two
> pairs consisting of one front and one back leg connected with a
> rung.

MIKE: The rung snaps open, releasing cyanide gas.

> Coil springs, concealed inside of thin tubes are
> substituted for the front and rear rungs.

TOM: Sure, for *this* we have springs.

>
> The tubes should fit into the holes formerly occupied by the
> rungs, and are painted to resemble them.

MIKE: You sneer, but this is how the Italian resistance
got Mussolini.

> As soon as a guest
> sits on the chair the tubes pull out and the chair sprawls.
> Strong tension springs should be used.

CROW: Grab a tube and beat your friend even more senseless!

>
> A most surprising effect is afforded by the “X-ray” helmet
> shown in Figure 7.

TOM: Here, we put 500,000 roentgens into your friend’s brain.

> This, briefly, is a cardboard box with two
> mirrors arranged to throw the vision directly behind.

MIKE: Painted with radium.

> The user
> of the helmet will have the strange sensation of seeing what
> appears to be the foreground receding from him as he progresses,

CROW: He’ll never suspect unless he’s ever looked at a thing before.

> and although there may appear to be an open door ahead, more
> likely he will fetch up against a wall.

TOM: Cover the wall in foot-long pointed daggers.

MIKE: ‘Fetch up’? Did people back then just not know what words mean?

>
> For a confetti blizzard,

CROW: Only at Dairy Queen.

MIKE: The best 15,000 calories of your between-meal snacks.

> an electric fan is rigged as shown in
> Figure 8. This also can be operated by an extension switch.

TOM: Jab your friend’s fingers into the spinning blades.

> Make a large cardboard cylinder to fit over the fan frame,

CROW: Man, you could do everything with cardboard in the 30s.

MIKE: Also cylinders.

> paste
> a disk of tissue over the front end, just enough to hold it
> until the blast strikes it,

MIKE: Stand out of the way of the shock waves.

> and then fill the space half full of
> confetti.

TOM: No, no, only half. Six-elevenths would be too much!

> When the unwary guest steps in front of the fan, he
> is deluged with a shower of confetti.

CROW: So, this article. Here. This explains the irony of people who read _Popular Mechanics_ magazine not being popular, right?

TOM: Also not being mechanics.

MIKE: Also not being magazines.

CROW: Yeah, that … what?

[ To continue … ]

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

2 thoughts on “MiSTed: Safe Fun for Halloween (Part 3 of 4)”

  1. A section on springs and no Coily call backs? I salute your discretion..like when the Brains had a Robert Reed experiment and deliberately limited themselves to just four Brady Bunch refs. Good show,old chap.

    Like

    1. I refrained from explicitly mentioning Coily — figured anyone reading would have their own — but there is a line somewhere in there about “for this, we have springs”. Couldn’t resist entirely, not and be true to the source material.

      Like

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