Category:
Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains

Photographing a mule at the instant its head is blown off by dynamite

Advances in photographic technology that occurred in the 1860s and 70s led to the invention of plates that had exposure times of a fraction of a second. This allowed for "instantaneous photography," as it was called at the time. Moving objects could be frozen in time by the camera.

Researchers immediately used this technology to study bodies in motion. Most famously, Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 took a series of images to study the galloping of a horse. Similarly, neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot used instantaneous photography to study the muscular movements of his human patients.

A more unusual application of the technology took place on June 6, 1881, when Mr. Van Sothen, photographer in charge at the United States School of Submarine Engineers in Willett's Point, New York, took an instantaneous photograph of a mule having its head blown off by dynamite. The mule was apparently old and was going to be put down anyway, so it was decided to "sacrifice the animal upon the altar of science."

The resulting photo


Eugene Griffin, First Lieutenant of Engineers, described the details of the experiment in a letter to Lieut. Col. H.L. Abbot:

On the 6th of June, 1881, an instantaneous view was taken, by your direction, of the execution of a condemned mule belonging to the Engineer Department. A small bag containing 6 ounces of dynamite and a fuse was fastened on the mule's forehead, the wires from the fuse connecting with a magneto-electric machine. The camera was placed at a distance of about 47 feet from the mule and properly focussed; the drop shutter was held up by a string, fastened to another fuse, which was placed in the same circuit with the first, so that both were fired simultaneously and the shutter allowed to drop. The result was a negative showing the mule in an upright position, but with his head blown off. This photograph has excited much interest and comment in the scientific world. A very narrow slit was used in the shutter, and as nearly as can be estimated the time of exposure was about 1/250 of a second. A 10 by 12 gelatino-bromide instantaneous Eastman dry plate was used, with a 4 D Dallmeyer lens, using the full opening.

Several months later Scientific American published an account of the experiment, including several engravings showing before and after scenes:

Scientific American - Sep 24, 1881

Posted By: Alex - Fri Sep 02, 2016 - Comments (0)
Category: Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Photography and Photographers, Science, Experiments, Nineteenth Century

Top 20 Bizarre Experiments

After the publication of Elephants on Acid (around 2007), I decided that it would be a good idea to have a website to help promote the book. Something where I would feature some content from the book, as well as post new stuff related to weird science.

Most of the good domain names (including, at the time, ElephantsOnAcid.com) were already taken. So I ended up creating a site at MadScienceMuseum.com.

I added some content to the site, and then, after a while, I stopped. The site lay dormant, without updates, and largely without visitors.

Fast forward to the present. It recently occurred to me that it was stupid to keep paying to keep MadScienceMuseum.com online when hardly anyone visits it, and all the content on it would be perfectly appropriate for WU, which does have visitors.

So I'm getting rid of the "Mad Science Museum" and migrating all the content over to WU. It'll be a slow process, but if you notice me doing additional posts about weird science stuff, that's the reason.

The first thing I've migrated is my list of the Top 20 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Aug 30, 2016 - Comments (5)
Category: Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Science, Experiments

From Cretin to Genius

In the 1920s, Doctor Serge Voronoff famously decided that grafting monkey glands onto the testicles of human males would rejuvenate the recipients. His ludicrous failed experiments provided the punchlines for innumerable jokes thereafter.

But what I did not realize was that twenty years later, Voronoff was still at it. Now he claimed, in his book FROM CRETIN TO GENIUS, that transplanting monkey glands would alter the intelligence of the subjects. Below is the start of a review from 1943.

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Below: the Doc and Missus.

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Posted By: Paul - Mon Feb 15, 2016 - Comments (7)
Category: Animals, Eccentrics, Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Sexuality, 1920s, 1940s, Genitals

La Bruja

I regret that I cannot find a subtitled-in-English version of this Mexican film, where a mad scientist creates a formula that turns an extremely ugly woman into a beauty, as in the before-and-after pix below. But those of you who know Spanish--or who just want visuals--can enjoy the full movie.

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Posted By: Paul - Fri Jan 29, 2016 - Comments (2)
Category: Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues, Drugs, Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Movies, 1950s

The Strange Change Machine



You know, why isn't "mad scientist" an encouraged career path for kids anymore, like it was in the 1960s? I think the foreclosure of this option says a lot about our joyless and grim culture.

Posted By: Paul - Mon Nov 02, 2015 - Comments (3)
Category: Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Toys, 1960s

Tom Edison Jr.‘s Electric Mule

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This cover could hardly be improved upon for macabre glee and impartial offensiveness.

Read the story here.

Posted By: Paul - Fri Jan 02, 2015 - Comments (8)
Category: Animals, Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Stereotypes and Cliches, Science Fiction, Nineteenth Century

The Incredible Dr. Steel



I suspect that Dr. Steel, Big Jim and Big Jeff were just showing off for each other prior to a gay orgy of epic proportions.

And by the way: what parent would buy this toy based on the incredibly primitive drawing in the newspaper ad below? And why are the Doc's pants photorealistic, and the rest of him just like a stick figure?

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Posted By: Paul - Sat May 17, 2014 - Comments (2)
Category: Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Toys, Martial Arts, 1970s

Red Seal Comics

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Look at the characters featured in this single issue, and ask yourself if this is not the best comic in the history of the universe.

Read the whole issue here.

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Posted By: Paul - Fri Dec 13, 2013 - Comments (3)
Category: Detectives, Private Eyes and Other Investigators, Eccentrics, Literature, Superheroes, Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, Insane Villains, Comics, 1940s

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Who We Are
Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction books such as Elephants on Acid.

Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

Chuck Shepherd
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.

Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.

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