6 Weird Halloween Patents

Google Patents/Erin McCarthy
Google Patents/Erin McCarthy / Google Patents/Erin McCarthy

Since at least the early 1900s, inventors have been trying to make Halloween even scarier through technology.

1. Jack-o’-Lantern Helmet

Toledo resident John J Du Ket patented this invention in 1903. He described it as “a simple and inexpensive device of the kind that may be worn on the head in parades, masquerades, and the like,” and said he would construct it so that “the parts are readily separable and laid flat for shipment and as readily assembled in form for wear and use.” It's not entirely clear why they decided to illustrate someone in a Rorschach-like mask wearing the device, but once you've assembled it, you're supposed to put a candle in it and wear it on your head, which sounds totally safe.

2. Jack-o’-lantern

Why carve a pumpkin when this freaky human-faced monstrosity, designed by Marcia I. Barnes and patented in 1903, was available? The device was comprised of “an ovalescent shell … ribbed in the form of a pumpkin.” On the front were a pair of eyes, a nose, and a mouth, "one or more of the members being movable and operated manually when desired.” Creepy!

3. Face Mask

This invention, patented by Rudolf Mafko in 1952, doesn’t just look creepy. In addition to "impart[ing] not only an amusing, comical and sometimes grotesque appearance," it also allows the user "to move and/or distort one or more simulated anatomical features on the face of the mask, such as the nose, the tongue, a tooth or a mustache" for laughs and/or gasps of terror. 

4. Combination Headdress and Facemask

Made entirely of paper, cardboard, or some other inexpensive material, Ruth M. Jarvis’s invention, patented in 1960, made causing terror easy no matter what your income. The mask was “slit that it can be expanded into a head-embracing or headband portion with a depending face mask portion at the front." The headband has vertical slits on one edge to accomodate heads of various sizes, and the face mask “is slit transversely to obtain a grotesque effect as well as to provide openings for the eyes, nostrils, and mouth." An opening for the chin anchors the face mask in place, and the rear headdress portion, the patent notes, is perfect for advertising.

5. Caricature Costume

This invention, patented in 1965, was comprised of a giant hat that fit over the head and all the way down to the shoulders with a transparent strip for seeing. The second part of the costume was "an enlarged false face piece depicting a representation of a human face secured to the hat ... [the] face piece [is] dimensioned such that it will cover a substantial abdominal portion of the wearer from about the shoulders to the waist.” Weird, but still better than a lot of the sexy costumes you see nowadays! 

6. Toy Mask

This device, patented by Harrison D. Sterrick in 1906, is another mask with movable features designed to delight and terrify. It could be made "of papier-mâché or any other material desired," while the features, including the eyes, ears, nose, and lips, were made of "thin folded paper or thin flexible rubber or any other suitable material and normally lie retracted in the openings."  Any of these paper features can be attached to a pipe "which may be inserted in the mouth of the wearer and by blowing through the pipe the feature will be protruded through the opening in the mask so as to expand it." I imagine the effect would be reminiscent of that scene in Total Recall