Plucked from Obscurity: Killer Clothes

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

Inventive, yet under-publicized devices
by Marina Tsipis, Improbable Research staff

U.S. patent #2033357 was granted to Norman D. Riker of Plandome, New York on March 10, 1936 for an “apparatus and process for killing human and animal vermin.” It is intended, he writes, “for killing human and animal vermin such as Pediculus capitis, Pediculus pubis, and Pediculus corporis.” Mr. Riker clothes the infested human or animal in a special garment which bathes the individual in a pest-killing chemical solution.



Norman D. Riker invented this special “gas-tight” clothing, and a method for using it to kill vermin on a person or an animal.

In his patent, Riker writes that “It very frequently happens that persons, particularly men, coming into hospitals, night lodging houses, and missionary settlements, are infested with vermin..., and it is the principle object of my invention to provide apparatus and a process for treating these persons and exterminating the vermin in a highly expeditious and not at all uncomfortable manner. Animals may be treated in a somewhat similar manner.”



The design features a convenient way to insert poison-soaked pads into the garment, as is evident here in Riker’s Figures 3 and 4. As his Figure 5 makes clear, the design can be adapted to produce suitable vermin-killing garments not just for people, but also for many species and sizes of animals.

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This article is republished with permission from the March-April 2016 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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