Automatic Tarot Machine

Invented in the late 1970s by Vincent Siano and his cousin Nicholas Piazza. They named it the Tarottells Machine. However, it doesn't seem to have ever made it onto store shelves. So, for now, tarot readers remain unthreatened by the automation that has swept other industries.

Nicholas Piazza with the Tarottells Machine

Some details about the Tarottells Machine from an AP News story by Kay Bartlett (June 11, 1978 in the Allentown Morning Call):

Siano and Piazza have high hopes for their Tarottells Machine, an invention that so excites Vinnie, the spokesman, that he likes to take off his jacket and stand as he describes it.

Siano, an artist at Grumman Aircraft and a textbook illustrator, rises to lyrical heights demonstrating his machine: "This is the first time in the history of the world — the first Tarot machine. Automation has come to Tarot..."

The machine, with cursor and compass, has a custom carrying case. The game is made of black plastic and bright orange Tarot cards and measures some 27 inches square.

You get the cards' message by pressing a lever to cut the cards three times to the left — mandatory procedure in Tarot. Then they spin around until another lever activates a silver pointer that singles out the card.

"We have also incorporated astrology to get the best possible reading," says Siano, whipping out a tray of beautifully drawn figures of the Zodiac. "And we have also adopted ESP into this machine.

"You'll get a better answer from this than any Ouija Board. What we need is a dynamic corporation that has the guts to turn this thing out."

Siano says a big toy manufacturer had the machine in its vaults for six weeks, but the man who thought it a good idea was fired and the machine was returned.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Mar 23, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Inventions, Predictions, Technology, 1970s

Worst bus service

The following story appeared in The Book of Heroic Failures by Stephen Pile (first published in 1979):

Can any bus service rival the fine Haley to Bagnall route in Staffordshire? In 1976 it was reported that the buses no longer stopped for passengers.
This came to light when one of them, Mr. Bill Hancock, complained that buses on the outward journey regularly sailed past queues of up to thirty people.
Councillor Arthur Cholerton then made transport history by stating that if these buses stopped to pick up passengers they would disrupt the time-table.

Versions of the story have subsequently appeared in other books, and have circulated online. However, all these other versions seem to rely on Pile's reporting.

And when I searched newspaper archives I couldn't find any confirmation that this incident happened. Which makes me wonder if it really did.

Of course, it might have been reported in a local paper that was never archived online. But some searching around the Internet reveals that I'm not the only one to have wondered if the story might not be true. Check out this comment by "skifans" in the CasualUK subreddit:

it would be great if anyone can prove me wrong but I can't find any record online of councillor Arthur Cholerton existing - let along from that area in that time frame. If you google the name all the results return varieties of this story, there isn't any other record of what they did other then this.
This PDF of Staffordshire County Council elections also makes no mention of anyone of that name. A Cholerton stood (and won) a seat in 1973, 1977, 1981 and 1985 - and did not stand in future elections. The seat they stood in for the first to is Stoke On Trent No. 19 (9630), maybe someone knows how to work out where this is but I can't, but for the last 2 it's called Great Fenton - thats in Stoke but not the right area for a route between Hanley and Baghall, on Google maps Great Fenton looks to be just south of the city center and Hanley just to the north, with Bagnall being a small village further to the north east. But the bigger problem, Councillor Cholerton has the first initial F, not A.
There was also an Arthur Cholerton in Stoke, but not as a counciler. Someone with that name was Lord Mayor - but they held the position between 1971 and 1972. ( Alternatively maybe F. Cholerton and Arthur Cholerton are the same person? Between 1981 and 1989 Frederick Arthur Cholerton held the position of chairmen of Staffordshire county council, may they have gone under both names?

Posted By: Alex - Wed Mar 11, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Mass Transit, 1970s, Bus

The screaming baby in the classroom prank

I don't think this would go over well nowadays. From the Iowa City Press-Citizen - May 12, 1975:

As a pediatrician [Dr. Charles Johnson of the Iowa Medical School faculty] gives a lecture on child development. It’s scheduled for 1 p.m. The students are sleepy, not only because the subject doesn’t send them but because they’ve just finished lunch.

To liven them up Johnson does this:

“I start the lecture by playing a stereo recording from Sesame Street, which awakens about a third of the audience. I briefly outline the two-hour lecture and then, on cue, in comes the first patient... a newborn in a wheeled isolette pushed by a nurse.

“For the pediatrician,” I announce, “this is where it all begins.”

The baby then starts to scream. As it gets louder and louder Johnson becomes more and more annoyed.

At first he rocks the isolette gently, then with more vigor. Finally, in a fit of anger he flings open the glass top, seizes the infant, and throws it out into the audience.


“When the hysteria dies down I state: ‘Infants are helpless parasites. They can be and are battered.’

“Most of my other pearls are soon forgotten, but rarely does the student forget the ‘helpless parasite’ flying into the audience. All that’s needed is a straight-faced nurse, a good tape recording of an infant yelling — and a life-size doll.

Posted By: Alex - Sat Mar 07, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Babies, 1970s, Universities, Colleges, Private Schools and Academia, Pranks

Grins & Smiles & Giggles & Laughs

Posted By: Paul - Fri Feb 28, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Food, Humor, 1970s

World’s Largest Yo-Yo, 1974

Back in 1974, MIT Professor James Williams led students in creating the world's largest yo-yo. From the MIT Black History site:

When the 35-pound contraption, made of two bicycle wheels, was ready, Williams took it to the roof of a 21-story building at MIT. He anchored the cord to an I beam, hooked up a motor which jerked the line rhythmically like a finger and let the yo-yo drop. The wheels, revolving up to 1,000 times a minute, reached a speed of more than 80 miles an hour. Then, the yo-yo climbed more than two-thirds of the way back up the 400-pound-test-weight nylon cord...

Williams was offered $5,000 for the yo-yo by a Las Vegas casino (“I feel sensitive about selling it”), and laughed off suggestions that he drop it from Canada’s tallest structure, Toronto’s 1,800-foot Canadian National Tower. “There were all sorts of radio and TV offers,” he says wearily.

Arizona Daily Star - Feb 5, 1974

The record no longer stands. According to Guinness, the current record holder is Beth Johnson who, in 2012, successfully tested a yo-yo measuring 11 ft 10.75 in diameter and weighing 4,620 lb.

Posted By: Alex - Mon Feb 24, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: World Records, 1970s

Does holy water help radishes grow better?

In 1979, researcher Sandra Lenington of the University of Santa Clara set out to answer this question. Her curiosity had been sparked by learning that Canon William V. Rauscher had reported that “canna plants given holy water left over from use in religious services grew more than three times higher than canna plants which were not given holy water.” She decided to try to duplicate his observations under more rigorous conditions.

She watered one group of radishes with regular water, and a second group with holy water. After three weeks, she concluded that there was “no significant difference in the growth rates of these radish plants given holy water versus radish plants given tap water.” She published her results in the journal Psychological Reports (1979, 45, 381-382).

However, she noted that Canon Rauscher believed in the power of holy water, whereas she didn’t, and this may have affected the outcome of her study: “There are numerous documented studies showing that positive or negative belief will either benefit or adversely affect plant growth.” She suggested that future studies might try to better control for this variable.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

Posted By: Alex - Sat Feb 01, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Religion, Science, Vegetables, 1970s

Fire Alarm Trapper

False alarms are a big problem for fire departments, but Vincent DiPaula figured he had a solution. In 1973, he invented a fire alarm ‘trapper’. It looked like a phone booth. If someone wanted to pull the fire alarm, they first had to enter the booth and close the door. Then, when they pulled the alarm, they would be locked inside the booth until the fire department arrived.

DiPaula figured this would deter pranksters. The obvious problem (which, I assume, is why his invention failed to be adopted) is that in the event of a real fire, it would also trap a legitimate alarm-ringer inside the burning building.

Fremont News-Messenger - Nov 27, 1973

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jan 27, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Inventions, 1970s

Follies of the Madmen #461

Most hideous and amateurish product mascot ever?


Posted By: Paul - Mon Jan 13, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues, Business, Advertising, Corporate Mascots, Icons and Spokesbeings, 1970s

Chest Wig

Looks more like a chest carpet than a chest wig.

Marshfield News-Herald - July 22, 1975

Posted By: Alex - Tue Dec 31, 2019 - Comments (2)
Category: Fashion, Hair Styling, 1970s

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Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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