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Lyle Zapato

The Giant Mechanical Mosquitoes Of Dr. Gustav Luchy

Lyle Zapato | 2012-02-26.9850 LMT | Technology | Nature

In 1912, Royal Navy Captain Robert Falcon Scott led the Terra Nova Expedition in an ill-fated attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole. After reaching the Pole and learning they were beaten by Norwegians, his team's failed return trip ended with the death of Scott and his men.

Historians have long debated what could have been done differently to prevent that tragedy, and what still could be done to keep such a tragedy from repeating on future expeditions. In 1913, a Swiss inventor proposed a solution to the problem.

Naturally, it involved giant mechanical mosquitoes:

Luchy's Giant Mechanical Mosquito by Raymond Perry
(Click to enlarge...)

Picture Diagram Illustrating the Inventor's Idea of the Development of the Luchy Machine, Drawn from Sketches of the Small Working Model. The Essential Points of the Invention Can Be Grasped Easily by Study of the Carefully Worked Out Illustration. The Artist Has Shown the Machine at Work in the Antarctic, Boring Through the Ice Cap Down into the Internal Fires of the Earth. While the Inventor Has Suggested the Possibility of Tapping Earth's Heat in This Way, Other Scientists Believe Such a Development Highly Improbable. Not Only Would the Tools Have to Be of Impossible Length and Size, but It Would Not Be Possible to Generate Enough Power to Run Them. Besides, the Internal Fires, When Struck, Would Destroy the Tools Instantly. The Future of the Invention Lies, It Is Believed, in Smaller Machines Which Are Able to Carry Men into Places Inaccessible to Other Means of Conveyance and at the Same Time to Provide Shelter.

The above illustration by Raymond Perry is from an article in the March 9, 1913 Sunday Magazine section of the Salt Lake Tribune (again) about multistory, Diesel-powered, mosquitoform vehicles -- "Mechasquitoes", if you will -- proposed by Dr. Gustav Luchy for mining resources in hostile climates, patrolling desert and tropical colonies, and as engines of war.

This proto-Dieselpunk delight has too much tiny, Richard Scarry-esque detail -- such as the "sheath containing fully equipped ocean liner"! -- to display inside my blog layout, so either see the original scanned page or the cleaned-up version I made. I've transcribed the full article below with added links to interesting background info:

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Lyle Zapato

The Mammoth Eye Of Mars

Lyle Zapato | 2012-02-20.7190 LMT | Paraterrestrials | Nature | Random Found Thing

Everyone has heard of Percival Lowell's theories of Martian canals, but have you heard the theory of Mars' vast thinking vegetable and its mammoth eye?

The above is an artist's rendition of the eye of Mars. It's not a metaphorical depiction. What you see is exactly what the theory claimed: (from the caption) "A vast eye, upon a tenuous, flexible, transparent neck raises itself high above the surface of Mars and can watch the growth of its vegetable body upon any part of the surface." Its "vegetable body" is a Mars-hugging super-organism of intelligent vegetable life that creeps along the cracks left in the drying Martian surface (Lowell's erstwhile "canals").

The Martian Eye theory was put forward as an explanation for the shifting white patches just perceptible to telescopes, which less paranoid minds ascribed to mere seasonal snow.

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Lyle Zapato

Octopus Wristlet Fad Of 1915

Lyle Zapato | 2012-02-18.6599 LMT | Cephalopods | Fashion | Cascadia

I've mentioned the use of taxidermied tree octopuses as hat decorations and octopus-inspired hair-styles, now here's another example of octopuses as objects of fashion. From the April 23, 1915 edition of the Tacoma Times:

Beach Belle Uses Octopus As Wristlet In Weird Sand Dance

Los Angeles, April 23. — Probably the strangest pet ever adopted by the shrinking sex is the little octopus carried by Miss Diana Rico, a belle of the beaches here. Whenever she goes bathing or strolling along the sands Miss Rico carries the tentacled mascot wrapped about her wrist.

This weird creature of the deep gave Miss Rico an inspiration for a new tango step, "The Dance of the Octopus," which created a sensation when she first stepped its sinuous figures on the beach.

When not clinging to the arm of its mistress, the baby octopus creeps about a little tank built especially for it.

Diana Rico
Miss Diana Rico and Her Weird Pet.

While we're there, let's see what else was on the front page of the Tacoma Times that day...

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Lyle Zapato

Beating Sprayed-Vesicant-Protection-Bags Into Rain-Covers

Lyle Zapato | 2012-01-03.7880 LMT | Random Found Thing | Defensive Techniques | Fashion

Back in 2005 I posted a version of this image from a WWII pin-up calendar/poster:

Protection against SPRAY ATTACK
Miss November, 1944

Perhaps you wondered, "What did the Army do with all those Japanese-microplane-spray-attack-protection covers after the war?" Well, it turns out they sold the surplus to civilians as "Amazing All-Over Rain-Covers". Here's a 1948 ad extolling their (apparently 106) uses:


Click to see the full ad at the Digital Comic Museum...

Biggest variety of uses of anything you ever owned! Impress your date by picnicking and canoeing in the rain! Awkwardly shuffle through the rain-drenched masses like cocooned vermin! Never again suffer the embarrassment to your male ego of having your gal use a newspaper to keep her party dress unruined! Any rain-avoidance-based thing is possible with the Amazing All-Over Rain-Cover!

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Lyle Zapato

"In The Lair Of The Space Monsters"

Lyle Zapato | 2011-03-28.7910 LMT | Cephalopods | Sasquatch Issues | Hollow Earth | Entertainment

What do you get if you cross a Sasquatch with a Tree Octopus? Perhaps something like this:

'Octopus-man' holding human aloft by the top of his head using a tentacle
"Agonizingly he was jerked in the air."
(Click for larger.)

This illustration is from the short story "In The Lair Of The Space Monsters" by Frank Belknap Long, published in the pulp magazine Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror #6 (Dec. 1932). (The first three pages of the story, including the illustration, are missing from the linked Google Books preview.)

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Lyle Zapato

Coiffure Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-01-26.7860 LMT | Cephalopods | Fashion

Mr. Punch's Designs After Nature. Great sensation for the aquarium -- Coiffure Octopus.

From the April 19, 1873 issue of Punch.

As innocent this may seem, the fashion of wearing one's hair in the form of an octopus -- popular among the London elite of the 1870s -- would later develop into the wide-spread use of taxidermied octopuses as decoration for hats, that would in turn lead to excessive poaching of the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, helping to bring about that species' endangerment.

Lyle Zapato

The Trail Of The Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-01-20.5300 LMT | Cephalopods | Entertainment

The Trail of the Octopus (1919)

Here's the first reel of The Trail of the Octopus, a pulpy serial photoplay from 1919. Watch as Carter Holmes (Ben Wilson), master criminologist, and Ruth Stanhope (Neva Gerber), niece of Dr. Reid Stanhope, the discover of the Sacred Talisman of Set (a.k.a. the Devil's Trademark), are drawn inexorably into the clutches of a sinister land octopus (who sadly is only symbolic of the plot and makes no appearance outside of the intro and an advert where he grabs the whole cast):

The 15-part serial follows Holmes and Ruth as they must track down nine daggers that will unlock a rock vault in which Dr. Stanhope hid the Sacred Talisman, which they want to destroy to stop a shadowy conspiracy of cultists and racist stereotypes from attempting to kill Ruth. From a review:

The producers [at first can't] seem to decide on whom they wanted the main villain to be. First it's a group of devil worshipers and their female leader, then we find out she works for this other guy, then we find out he is an agent for this other Arabic bad guy who lives in "the orient." Well that guy in the orient actually works for yet another guy over in the orient, who is a Fu Manchu knockoff. Perhaps he really is the final leader of all the bad guys? There is also a mysterious masked man known as Monsieur X who pops up in the story every so often, but he's someone else completely. Whew!

Serial Squadron, who are in the process of transferring the films to DVD from the only known prints, have a project overview. You'll have to wait until Spring to buy the DVD set if you want to see the semi-complete serial (episode 9 is lost). Here are some posters for the episodes:

The Trail of the Octopus, episode 9 The Trail of the Octopus, episode 10 The Trail of the Octopus, episode 15

Lyle Zapato

"The Octopus Cycle"

Lyle Zapato | 2010-10-22.2795 LMT | Cephalopods | Entertainment
Lyle Zapato

How To Defend Against A Charging Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2009-10-03.5440 LMT | Cephalopods | Defensive Techniques

An octopus running

The vulnerable portion of the octopus is the neck, and fishermen and others, who know their habits when attacked, always strive if possible to seize them by the throttle-valve, when they are easily killed. This is comparatively easy on land, but nearly impossible in the water. The locomotion of the devil-fish is as easy on land as in the water. They have been known frequently to run up perpendicular cliffs, two hundred feet high, as easily as the fly runs up a wall, the machinery of attachment being very similar. They are said to move on land as fast as a man can run, and frequently pursue their prey out of the sea, though on the land they are far more timid than in their marine haunts. [From World of Wonders (1881).]

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Lyle Zapato

Book Review: Drome

Lyle Zapato | 2009-09-19.0440 LMT | Cephalopods | Cascadia | Hollow Earth | Lost Worlds | Entertainment
Cover: 'Drome' by John Martin Leahy
But why had they set out on a journey so strange and so hazardous -- through the land of the tree-octopi and the snake-cats, through that horrible, unearthly fungoid forest, and up and up, up into the caves of utter blackness, across that frightful chasm, up to the Tamahnowis Rocks, into the blaze of the sunshine, out onto the snow and ice on Mount Rainier?

Drome, written and illustrated by John Martin Leahy, is a pulp story about a strange underground world, home to a lost civilization that may be the progenitors of ancient Greek culture. It was originally serialized in the Jan.-May, 1927 issues of Weird Tales, and republished as a book in 1952. I'm reviewing the book, which I believe has some differences from the pulp original (a preface, footnotes, and some casual references in the main text to atom-bombs and television that don't seem particularly 1920s-ish.)

The story has two elements of interest to me: 1) it starts in Cascadia (the entrance to the underworld is on Mt. Rainier) with references to regional history and culture and 2) it mentions Cascadian tree octopuses, albeit of an unusual and deadly subterranean variety. So naturally I had to acquire an original copy for the ZPi library and review it.

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