Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions: awesomely dangerous pranks from the age of fraternal lodges

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16 Responses to “Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions: awesomely dangerous pranks from the age of fraternal lodges”

  1. Rasputin says:

    Human Centipede. Ahrm.

  2. Robert Cruickshank says:

    Some jokes never get old. Electric shocks will never be not funny. (if you doubt this, just enter the word “shocking” as a search term on the site of a certain well-known Chinese on-line gadget retailer.  

  3. jeligula says:

    The Human Centipede.  Yes.  Nothing says fraternal lodge initiation like a fertility killing shock to the scrotum.  Quite handy as the lodge gene is not passed on to future generations. I think we can safely say this is the reason why interest in them waned.

  4. pgt says:

    I’m a Mason, and a Past Master of a lodge. I’ve heard of such things, but their use was confined to ‘side degrees’; extra events that a member could partake in, but in which they were certainly not required to participate. None of the items I’ve seen would be relevant in any way in actual Masonic ceremonies, and they’d be considered an odd anachronism even in side degrees today.

    Googling “Demoulin Brothers” shows that there is a collector’s group, and a museum in Greenville, Il.

    The company is still around; now it makes marching band uniforms.

    • Stefan Jones says:

      ” . . . now it makes marching band uniforms.”

      With electric crotches!

    • Thanks for the info, pgt!  I live down the road from Greenville and may check it out.

    • Scott says:

      I’m a Past Master too, and these types of pranks were never used in Masonic Lodges, but they were (and sadly, still occasionally are) used by Square Clubs, or other social clubs that are offshoots of Lodges, but unsanctioned and unaffiliated with any Grand Lodge.

      Still, these types of pranks were far more common in the more socially-oriented fraternal organizations of the 1800s and early 1900s, of which only a few are still around today.

  5. Bobsyeruncle says:

    Good thing nobody had pacemakers back then.  Ouch!

  6. Bob Eckstein says:

    This book looks so cool.

  7. GrumpySteen says:

    I must admit that I was horrified at what the “human centipede” might be after having seen the movie of the same name.  It was a relief to see that it only involved electrical shocks to the groin.

  8. CP-S says:

    I think it would be great to take that camel on wheels and mod it into a bike.

  9. Christ, people are assholes.  

  10. Mark Hewitt says:

    Awesome post :) Not to defend the vicious practical jokes they devolved into, but originally these type of ordeals in fraternal organisations – particularly the simulated execution – had a purpose beyond the amusement of other members. 

    The initiate was taken to the brink of death, to face his own mortality and come back with a revelation about the world and a new purpose. It’s a revelatory practice that goes back to the earliest known spiritual paths, and for many it was their most secret and powerful “magic” . Trying to think of a good source but The Golden Bough is the only one I can think of and it’s pretty heavy going :)

  11. goatmuseumguy says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.  Julia has put alot of time and painstaking research into this project.  For anyone who wants to see the real thing, the DeMoulin Museum in Greenville, IL has 16 lodge initiation devices on display including the Electric Branding Iron (which still works and is occasionally “tested” on visitors).  We also have numerous photos posted on the DeMoulin Museum Facebook page.  It’s difficult for folks of today to understand why grown men at the turn of the century did this stuff…but it was 100 years ago when our society didn’t take itself so seriously, wasn’t as lawsuit happy, and lodges provided the only social/recreational outlet for men (and later women as auxiliary chapters were added.)

  12. Jonathan Moy says:

    I love the electric cane!  Early prototype for the taser.

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