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The Jolt's on You: Turn-of-Last-Century Prank Machines Reveal "Shocking" Hazing Practices [Slide Show]

A new book curates pages from a series of mail-order prank catalogues published between 1896 and 1930, when American men played hair-raising jokes on initiates of their fraternal lodges

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HORNETS' NEST:

Hornets were then, as now, a lethal nuisance, often killing mules and people who couldn't outrun an angry swarm. This was a perfect prank to give spheksophobiacs nothing but a "swell" time.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC SEA SERPENT:

Sea serpents, mermaids, petrified men and the like were reported with some frequency in newspapers of the era. Such unexplained phenomena gripped the public's imagination and tended not to let go. In one sea monster sighting, witnesses claimed to have observed flashes of electricity emanating from the leviathan's body.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC RAZOR:

This barber's dream tool was perhaps reserved for the most annoying customers.....[ More ]

BRANDING IRON:

The electric shock from this contraption delivered a hot sensation to fool a social club candidate into thinking he was being branded with a real cattle brand.....[ More ]

MAGNETOS:

These hand-cranked electrical generators replaced the dry cell batteries used in the earlier pranks, and allowed the user more control.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC HAMMOCK:

This device shows up in only one of the DeMoulin Brothers' prank catalogues. Apparently it was not that popular; most lodges did not have conveniently spaced trees growing through the hall floors.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC CANE:

Although reminiscent of electric cattle prods used by cowboys in the 1890s, and of the prods used at the time on prisoners in Ohio and New York State penitentiaries, this cane was purely for laughs.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC CARPETS:

These rugs packed a wallop. They symbolized the rocky road of life, and often succeeded in bringing grown men to their knees. A Seattle jail from the early 1900s was documented using an electric carpet during some interrogations.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC BENCH:

A few old newspaper accounts tell of pranksters wiring up the whittlers' bench in front of the local tonsorial parlor—a "current" trend.....[ More ]

ELECTRIC CHAIR:

Although far less lethal than the chairs at Sing Sing, this seat nonetheless got a rise out of its victims.....[ More ]

FUZZY WONDER GOAT

DeMoulin Brothers made more than 13 "species" of mechanical goat. All could be ordered with electric stirrups, for a "wild and woolly" ride.....[ More ]

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