Absurd patent of the month: an apparatus for obtaining criminal confessions

Le brevet insolite du mois : l'appareil pour obtenir des aveux
Absurd patent of the month: n°US 1 749 090
Publié le 28 March 2023

Yet another gem this month with this scary US patent. This is a skeleton-shaped extractor, definitely not for juice (oh wait, that could be an excellent idea for next Halloween…) but for confessions and intended for use with hardened criminals.


To replace it in its context, the patent application was filed in 1927, at a time when forensic technology was only at its beginning.


The patent protects an “apparatus for obtaining criminal confessions and photographically recording them”. A real revolution at a time when it was common to refute one’s confession by accusing the police of intimidation… without proof to the contrary! But with this patent application, Mrs Shelby, the inventor, goes even further…

Absurd patent of the month: an apparatus for obtaining criminal confessions

First, the suspect is isolated from his “inquisitor”, each being in a different space separated by a divider. On this divider is fixed… a skeleton! Don’t worry, this is not a real one, but the idea is to be able to create illusionary effects to depict a supernatural character and impress suspects.
Imagine: the room is brought into darkness; suddenly light bulbs installed under and above the skeleton are lit and make it look like an “apparition” or an astral body. Other bulbs, of blue and red, are located in the eyes of the skeleton, with the red ones aiming to give the skeleton an “unnatural ghastly glow”. To add a little to the horror: the bulbs blink while the suspect is interrogated! No doubt, suspects will break down!


The most ingenious aspect is the camera hidden in the skeleton skull, which visually records confessions (through the nose), as well as an advanced audio recording system based on light: when the suspect speaks, it produces sound waves that make vary the intensity of the blue bulb, and voilà! (Note that, by the time the invention is disclosed, the talking movies had not appeared yet)!


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