Category:
1900s

The Prayer Duel

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LAYDEEZ 'N' GENNELMEN! On yer left, John Alexander Dowie, weighing in at 162 pounds with robes!

On yer right, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a trim 158 with turban wrapped tight!

Watch them in a prayer duel to the death! Mixed Martial Arts ain't got nuthin' on them!

As Dowie was an enemy of all religions but his own, it is not surprising he had no use for Islam — although the extent of his animus remains a point of controversy among various Muslim sects even today.

In the summer of 1903, this brought a well-publicized challenge to an Islamic prayer duel to the death, or Mubahila, from the Indian subcontinent: "Whether the God of Muhammadans or the God of Dowie is the true God, may be settled...he should choose me as his opponent and pray to God that of us two, whoever is the liar may perish first.... I am an old man of 66 years and Dr. Dowie is eleven years younger; therefore on grounds of age he need not have any apprehension.... If the self-made deity of Dr. Dowie has any power, he shall certainly allow him to appear against me and procure my destruction in his lifetime." Dowie's Punjabi challenger, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a remarkably well-matched opponent: he too had founded his own sect, Ahmadiyya, and believed himself a reincarnated prophet — in his case, Hazrat Eisa Ibne Maryam (a.k.a. Jesus Christ).

Whether the Almighty took any interest in their contest, its rules leave no doubt about the winner: in short order Dowie was deposed (amid rumors of sexual and financial malfeasance); suffered a stroke; and, in 1907, died — a year before Ahmad.

Posted By: Paul - Thu May 24, 2012 - Comments (11)
Category: Death, Eccentrics, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Religion, 1900s

Strange Iconography

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A Scottish child and a Native-American child pour hair tonic on the head of an elderly Anglo man and massage it in, while a child soldier out of some European comic opera stands by with sword upraised in tribute.

The only sensible part of this weird iconography is the Scottish kid. Once upon a time, right up to, oh, the 1960s, "anything Scottish = cheap and economical" was standard advertising shorthand.

Original ad here, with accompanying text.

Posted By: Paul - Mon May 07, 2012 - Comments (10)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Stereotypes and Cliches, Hair Styling, 1900s, Weapons, Hair and Hairstyling

O. J. Wangen, Evil Paint Seller

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It makes no difference whether you want your house painted or not; whether you want to use Sherwin-Williams or another brand; whether you plan to do it yourself or employ a different company. None of this counts in the face of O. J. Wangen's plan for world domination. "Let us have our way... We will have it, all or part of it in the end."

Original ad here. (Scroll down at link.)

Posted By: Paul - Sun Mar 18, 2012 - Comments (6)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Evil, Newspapers, Interior Decorating, 1900s

Long Lance



I'm trespassing on Alex's territory here, with an hour-length documentary on what was once a famous hoax.

Here's the story in a nutshell.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Jan 21, 2012 - Comments (2)
Category: Eccentrics, Hoaxes and Imposters and Imitators, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, North America, Nineteenth Century, Native Americans

The Vacuum Cap

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Original ad here. (Scroll down.)

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jan 16, 2012 - Comments (3)
Category: Business, Advertising, Products, Frauds, Cons and Scams, 1900s, Hair and Hairstyling

The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions

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I've just finished reading the fine book about weird fraternal lodge devices from a century ago. It would make a fine gift for any WU-vie.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Dec 10, 2011 - Comments (5)
Category: Clubs, Fraternities and Other Self-selecting Organizations, Inventions, Books, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, Pranks, Nineteenth Century

Dr. Olgierd Lindan’s Collection of Unusual Medical Devices & Antique Electronics

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WU-vies will find much to amuse them on this page of weird medical gadgets.

One of the prime charlatans whose stuff is on display was a fellow named Dr. Albert Abrams pictured to the right.

You can read a book he wrote here.

Posted By: Paul - Sat Nov 05, 2011 - Comments (5)
Category: Body, Frauds, Cons and Scams, Medicine, Body Fluids, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, Nineteenth Century

The Burgler’s Slide for Life

This is kind of boring--until the burglar goes out the window, and the guard dog follows!

Posted By: Paul - Fri May 08, 2009 - Comments (2)
Category: Domestic, Movies, Stupid Criminals, Dogs, 1900s

The Bicycle Shower


Combining your workout with a shower could save some time, I suppose. Though I'm not sure if that was the intended purpose of this invention. From the Chicago Tribune, Jan 18, 1903.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Apr 21, 2009 - Comments (14)
Category: Bathrooms, Exercise and Fitness, Hygiene, Inventions, 1900s

How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers

As children, my sibs and I were utterly fascinated by this weird little book. We studied the drawing for hours. Now you can too, thanks to the magic of the internet!

Posted By: Paul - Fri Apr 17, 2009 - Comments (2)
Category: Animals, Nature, Books, 1900s

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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, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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.

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