affix stamp here

About a decade ago, social scientists conducted an experiment to test the limits of the US Postal Service.

“We sent a variety of unpackaged items to U.S. destinations, appropriately stamped for weight and size, as well as a few items packaged as noted. We sent items that loosely fit into the following general categories: valuable, sentimental, unwieldy, pointless, potentially suspicious, and disgusting. We discovered that although some items were never delivered, most of the objects of even highly unusual form did get delivered, as long as the items had a definitely ample value of stamps attached. The Postal Service appears to be amazingly tolerant of the foibles of its public.


$1 bill. Sealed in clear plastic, with label attached with address and postage. Days to delivery, 6.

$20 bill. Days to delivery, 4.

Football. Days to delivery, 6. Male postal carrier was talkative and asked recipient about the scores of various current games. Carrier noted that mail must be wrapped.


Rose. Postage and address were attached to a card that was tied to the stem. Delivery at doorstep, 3 days, beat up but the rose bud was still attached.

Molar tooth. Mailed in clear plastic box. Made a nice rattling sound. Repackaged in padded mailer by unknown individual; the postage and address had been transferred to the outside of the new packaging. A handwritten note in a woman�s writing inside read, “Please be advised that human remains may not be transported through the mail, but we assumed this to be of sentimental value, and made an exception in your case.” Days to delivery, 14.


Sound-emitting toy. A monkey-in-box toy that, upon shaking, shouted, “Let me out of here! Help! Let me out of here!” Addressed in big letters to LITTLE JOHNNIE. Sound toy was equipped with a new battery. Delivery at doorstep, 6 days.

Hammer. Card was strapped to hammer handle; extra-large amount of postage was attached. Never received.

Feather duster. The card with postage and address was attached by wire to the handle. Days to notice of delivery, 6. Clerk at station commented that mail must be wrapped.


Ski. A large amount of postage was affixed to a card that was attached to the ski. The ski was slipped into a bin of postage that was being loaded into a truck behind a station (a collaborating staff member created a verbal disturbance up the street to momentarily distract postal worker’s attention). Notice of postage due received, 11 days. Upon pickup at the station, the clerk and supervisor consulted a book of postage regulations together for 2 minutes and 40 seconds before deciding on additional postage fee to assess. Clerk asked if mailing specialist knew how this had been mailed; our recipient said she did not know. Clerk also noted that mail must be wrapped.

Never-opened small bottle of spring water. We observed the street corner box surreptitiously the following day upon mail collection. After puzzling briefly over this item, the postal carrier removed the mailing label and drank the contents of the bottle over the course of a few blocks as he worked his route.

Helium balloon. The balloon was attached to a weight. The address was written on the balloon with magic marker; no postage was affixed. Our operative argued strongly that he should be charged a negative postage and refunded the postal fees, because the transport airplane would actually be lighter as a result of our postal item. This line of reasoning merely received a laugh from the clerk. The balloon was refused; reasons given: transportation of helium, not wrapped.


Street sign. Conceivably a stolen item, or illegal possession. Notice of attempted delivery received, 9 days. Handed over at station with comment that mail must be wrapped.

Box of sand. Packaged in transparent plastic box to be visible to postal employees. Sent to give an impression of potentially hiding something. The plastic box had obviously been opened before delivery and then securely taped shut again. Delivery without comment at doorstep, 7 days.

Deer tibia. Our mailing specialist received many strange looks from both postal clerks and members of the public in line when he picked it up at the station, 9 days. The clerk put on rubber gloves before handling the bone, inquired if our researcher were a “cultist,” and commented that mail must be wrapped.

walking stick

Large wheel of cheese. The cheese was already extremely ripe (rancid) at the time of mailing. Mailed in cardboard box. The cheese had oiled its way through the bottom of the cardboard box by the time of pickup, 8 days. The box had been placed in a plastic bag.

Dead fish, old seaweed, etc. Mailed in cardboard box. Notice to pick up at station, 7 days. The postal supervisor warned our mailing specialist that he could be fined for mail service abuse, even as a recipient, should this happen again.


Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 7:50 am  Comments (39)  
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louis louis louis

Louis Jullien was a French conductor and impresario who popularised promenade concerts in England through the 1840s and 1850s.

Louis Jullien

On entering the theatre, he would mount a red dais and swivel round so that his audience, especially the female members, could see how magnificent he looked. His glossy black moustache was described as ‘a startling novelty’ and he was renowned for waiting until he was on stage to don his conductor’s gloves which a servant presented to him on a velvet cushion.


When conducting Beethoven, he used a jewelled baton and when the funeral march movement of the Eroica Symphony was played, he changed his white kid gloves for black ones.

Near him on stage was a throne of gilt and red velvet. At the end of a piece (which he would conduct facing the audience instead of the orchestra), he would collapse dramatically upon it to demonstrate the emotional and physical effort he went to.

Russian State Throne

Altogether Louis had 36 Christian names including two Thomases and one Thomas-Thomas, as his godparents consisted of an entire orchestra, the members of which all claimed the privilege of passing on their names at the christening.


This excerpt published in a British magazine in 1880 paints a vivid picture of his personality

“In the year 1847, the management of the Drury Lane theater of London was assumed by a very eccentric and grotesque creature. It would be unfair to dismiss him as a mere charlatan;however empirical his proceedings, he was his own chief dupe. He was crazily vain, disorderly,tawdry and vulgar but he was humane; he was ingenious after a fashion; he was enterprising beyond all reasonable bounds; he possessed much natural wit; and he was animated by an enthusiasm unquestionably genuine, for all its comical and crackbrained modes of expression.

He possessed a certain instinct for new combinations of sound and delighted in orchestral uproar of a prodigious sort. He had a garden-roller dragged over sheets of iron to simulate the roar of artillery; pans of red fire were lighted at intervals so that while the sense of hearing was assailed by the strangest clangor and hubbub, the eyes and nose might be no less amazed by the flash and glare and pungent fumes of nitrate of strontium”

Published in: on May 1, 2010 at 7:04 am  Comments (36)  
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the little people who live in your head

Thomas Edison was a deep thinker who pondered on many different things

image found here

What I believe is that our bodies are made up of myriads of units of life. Our body is not itself the unit of life or a unit of life. We have myriads of cells, and it is the inhabitants in these cells, inhabitants which themselves are beyond the limits of the microscope, which vitalize and “run” our body.

more Horror Under the Microscope images found here

We do not remember; a certain group of our little people do this for us. They live in that part of the brain which has become known as the “fold of Broca.” Broca discovered and proved that everything we call memory goes on in a little strip not much more than a quarter of an inch long. That is where the little people live who keep our records for us.

more Tiny Plastic People found here

Some of the little peoples who enable us to remember things do nothing else during our entire lives but watch moving picture shows. The optic nerves bring the pictures through the small holes in the front of our skulls into our brains where the little peoples whose function it is to remember can see them. We do not remember everything we see because everything is not worth remembering. Little Peoples, like big peoples, are of various degrees of intelligence.

There may be twelve or fifteen shifts that change about and are on duty at different times like men in a factory. I infer this from the fact that we sometimes have to send for the particular ones that have the records we want.

We have forgotten a man’s name, for instance. We ask the shift of little peoples who happen to be on duty, “What is that man’s name?” They were not on duty when the name was given to them to remember and they don’t know. After a while, suggestion or something else summons the shift that has the name and they give it. I therefore take it that the possession of what is called a good memory really means the possession of the ability to summon the particular groups of little peoples who have the records we want.

Little People corkscrew collection found here

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 7:23 am  Comments (43)  
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toys of terror

We’ve talked about old anti-masturbation devices before at the gimcrack. Several of them are mentioned in this article which also features a couple that are new to nursemyra such as the inventions of Frank Orth and Joseph Lee

Frank Orth came up with this device, as bulky as a major kitchen appliance, which spoke directly to prevalent belief that as the body heated up under covers it became more sexually responsive.

The motor drove a fan that forced cooling air down a tube into rubber drawers fitted with circulation bladders.”

Orth also held a patent on a water-based cooling system. “Each of these thermal harness systems was installed permanently in the bedroom, like a piece of furniture. At night, the user would fit his body into the device and then, along with the trailing straps, wires and flexible pipes, slide under the covers.”

Mr. Joseph Lee engineered this beauty, a harness you wore to bed that sensed an erection, which activated an electrical circuit that could be hooked up to your choice of a phonograph, gramophone or graphophone and thus awaken the endangered sleeper with music or an inspirational talk.

Harnessing your family jewels to a gramophone might sound like a strange idea but at least it wouldn’t be as painful as some of the anti-rape devices mentioned in this article.  Ever mindful of my readers delicate sensibilities, I will only include a quote about the least terrifying.

The tamest, created by Joel D Rumph and Lynda K Warren, would inject the penis with a fast-working sedative. What you then do with the comatose attacker lying on top of you, the patent does not say. Indeed, all the designs display very basic problems, explaining why none seems to have been produced.

James H Bowen of Philadelphia came up with this bright idea in 1889

In the aesthetic design of his device, he appears to have drawn inspiration from the restraining mechanisms of horse bridles. A little metal hat was placed over the head of the penis, with small chains on either side dropping down to the end of spring-loaded clips. The clips were then securely clasped to tufts of pubic hair at the base of the penis.

When a nocturnal erection began, and the penis enlarged beyond the length of the chains, the pubic hair was pulled, causing the kind of pain guaranteed to wake the naughty dreaming sleeper who was, according to Bowen, “thereby enabled to prevent or check the discharge.”

Published in: on December 7, 2009 at 6:38 am  Comments (41)  
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