The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.
A haphazard look at inventions to trap bad guys
by Alice Shirrell Kaswell and Stephen Drew, Improbable Research staff
In AIR 20-1, we presented the first part of this collection of haphazardly selected inventions invented by persons who apparently believed themselves to be on the side of Good and who strove to try to make it easier and more technologically sweet for other Good persons to trap persons engaged in Evil.
1930: Shelby’s Supernaturalistic Bank Confession Apparatus
Helene Adelaide Shelby’s “Apparatus for Obtaining Criminal Confessions and Photographically Recording Them” (U.S. patent 1749090, granted 1930) tried to ensure that criminals, having been caught, would confess—and would do so in a manner that ensured they would be convicted and sent to prison:
The present invention relates to a new and useful apparatus for obtaining confessions from culprits, or those suspected of the commission of crimes, and photographically recording these confessions, in the form of sound waves, in conjunction with their pictures, depicting their every expression and emotion, to be preserved for later reproduction as evidence against them.
The primary object of my invention is the provision of an apparatus for the creation of illusory effects calculated to impress the subject with their being of a supernatural character and to so work upon his imagination as to enable an inquisitor operating in conjunction with the recording system to obtain confessions and graphically record them by light action under the control of electric impulses governed by varying intensities of sound waves....
Figure 1 is a side elevation illustrative of a structure divided into two chambers, one chamber of which is darkened to provide quarters in which the suspect is confined while being subjected to examination, the other chamber being provided for the examiner, the two chambers being separated from each other by a partition which is provided with a panel upon one side of which is mounted a figure in the form of a skeleton, the said skeleton having the rear portion of the skull removed and the recording apparatus inserted therein as shown;
Figure 2 is a front view looking into the enclosure in which the skeleton is mounted and as seen looking from the suspect’s examination quarters.
(Image credit: Flickr user arbyreed)
1931: Thibault’s Through-the-floor Burglar Trap
Alphonse J. Thibault’s “Burglar Trap” (U.S. Patent 1807944, granted 1931) improves on a long tradition of providing trap doors through which burglars could be made to plummet:
The trap appliance is... electrically operated by a switch under control of the cashier. The appliance includes a trap door in the main floor of the bank located directly above an imprisoning cage or trap, and the door is adapted to be dropped from set position to plunge the burglar into the trap or cage. The top of the cage or trap is normally open, and a horizontally slidable door or closure for the trap is automatically closed by the weight of the burglar after he is plunged into the trap. The sliding movement of the automatically operated slide door is instrumental in restoring the trap door, in the main floor, to normal set position flush with the main floor.
1972: Telephone-and-gas Airborne Crime Prevention System
Peter Boudreau’s “Crime Prevention System” (U.S. patent 3680499, granted 1972) assumed and took advantage of an airplane hijacker’s need to communicate telephonically:
A hijack prevention system for an airplane wherein a conventional appearing telephone is positioned outside the pilot’s cabin on the airplane. The telephone is provided with apertures for the emission of an incapacitating gas. The emission of the gas is controlled by the pilot or copilot from within the pilot’s cabin. When a hijacker identifies himself during flight, the stewardess requests the hijacker to converse with the pilot over the telephone. While conversing with the suspected hijacker, the pilot has a chance to determine for himself whether the person is really a serious hijacker. If the pilot so decides, he activates the hijack prevention system by releasing the incapacitating gas through the telephone. The hijacker is then taken into custody while he is under the influence of the incapacitating gas.
1974: Skyjacker Injection System
Jack Jensen’s “Airplane Hijacking Injector” (U.S. patent 3841328, granted 1974) allows a flight crew to have a chair take nearly complete charge of a hijacker:
Details from Jensen’s 1974 patent for a complex mechanism to immobilize an airplane hijacker, assuming the hijacker has not already left his or her assigned seat.
I have devised apparatus to be incorporated in each seat of an airplane such that the pilot or other crew member... can remotely actuate the disabling apparatus associated with the seat occupied by the airplane hijacker for disabling or killing the hijacker without endangering other passengers.The disabling apparatus comprises solenoid actuated seat belt locking means arranged to prevent the unlocking of a seat belt in combination with an infl atable seat back arranged to be to be actuated to prevent movement of a hijacker and a hypodermic syringe arranged to drive a needle through the seat cushion into the hijacker and to inject a sedative or deadly poison into the hijacker....
The inflatable seat back comprises a solenoid actuated valve arranged to release pressurized gas, such as carbon dioxide, into a bag concealed in the back of the seat for suddenly urging the head and shoulders of the hijacker toward his knees while his hips are maintained against the back of the seat by a locked seat belt.
A hypodermic syringe is disposed under the seat of the airplane and is pivotally mounted on a frame such that a first solenoid actuated apparatus will drive the needle of the hypodermic syringe through the bottom seat cushion and into the hijacker at which time a second solenoid actuated device will automatically inject a strong sedative or poison for incapacitating the hijacker.
1976: Drive-up Teller Goo Sprayer
Mike Hall’s “Drive-up Teller Window Protection Apparatus” (U.S. patent 3956997, granted 1976) sprays and dribbles goo on a drive-up bandit’s vehicle:
In the event of an attempted holdup of the teller manning the drive-up window 12 from an automobile positioned in front of the drive-up window 12, the teller may close the switch 74 to actuate the solenoid 66 and open the valve 54. When the valve 54 is open, the pressurized fluid or compressed gas in the source of pressurized fl uid 48 is applied through the valves 54, 56, and 58 and the conduit 52 to the pressure relief valves 60.... When the pressure of the liquid chemical agent 37 applied through the outlet conduit 32 to the pressure relief valve 40 exceeds a predetermined opening pressure of the pressure relief valve 40, the pressure relief valve 40 opens permitting the liquid chemical agent to fl ow therethrough through conduit 42, one-way check valve 44, conduit 46, fluid distribution system 28, and the downwardly extending nozzles 26 thus spraying the liquid chemical agent 37 on the front and rear windshields and side windows of the holdup vehicle thereby immobilizing the vehicle and leaving the holdup man without means for escape.
1989: Walk-up Teller Goo Sprayer
Louis J. Marcone’s “Dog-tracking Scent Dispensing System for Apprehending Burglars and the Like” (U.S. patent 4867076, granted 1989) sprays and dribbles goo on a miscreant who is standing at a bank teller’s window:
A theft deterrent system for discharging a dogtracking liquid chemical scent composition in spray form on a person engaged in attempted robbery, illegal entry or manipulation or the like...
The spray discharge unit 10 is mounted immediately below the counter 50 of a bank teller’s station
or window 52, by supporting the housing 12 on the lower wall portion 54 of the teller’s window with the discharge nozzle of the spray head 30 aligned with an opening 54a and the lower wall 54 positioned so as to spray the chemical scent composition onto the clothing on the lower body portion of the bank robber or burglar. The switch 38 may be either a hand operated or a foot operated switch of conventional construction, for example placed on the floor 56 below the counter 50 at a convenient location to be foot-actuated by the teller when needed. The spray is a misted scent composition especially designed to enable trained police dogs to respond to the scent and track the suspect from the scene of the crime to apprehension. The chemical scent composition is preferably a colorless, odorless and harmless liquid material especially formulated to facilitate detection by trained police dogs. One satisfactory example of the chemical scent composition is as follows:
• 2 parts sharks liver oil,
• ten parts vegetable oil,
• 2 parts pylam LX5880,
• 2 parts pylakrom oil fluorescent,
• one part butyric acid
2005: Miscreant Strapping
Philip David Jones, Alan Hickling, and Ruth Marjorie Hickling’s “Soft Restraining System” (U.S. patent
application 20050240132, G.B. patent application 211771) restrains, softly:
A device for restraining a miscreant includes a bell shaped tubular body adapted to envelop the torso of a miscreant. Openings at each end allow the body to be passed over the head to surround the torso of the miscreant. Restraining straps are each adapted to encircle one half of the tubular body. Each end of each of the straps may be locked at two diametrically opposed locations on the body. To deploy the device, it is held generally above the head of the miscreant and pulled downwardly over his head and torso. When the upper opening has passed the head of the miscreant to encircle his neck, one free end of each strap is pulled manually to cause lockable tightening thereof around the body of the device, thereby restraining the miscreant.
The article above is from the September-October 2014 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!
Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.