Monday, August 22, 2016

Did This Mystery Artifact Catch Your Eye? Time to Reveal It!


Perhaps you guessed this one correctly, or perhaps you had no idea, but today we will be talking about this mystery artifact:

It’s a mousetrap! We got one guess of "animal trap" which was essentially correct! Hooray!

To be a little more specific, this kind of mousetrap is called a “delusion trap" and was invented in 1879. That name seems a little mean to me, but let’s look at exactly why they call it that. 

To start, we have to look at how exactly this trap works. The bait, usually cheese of course, is inserted  on the little ledge at the back of the left side of the trap. Then how are the mice trapped? The metal floor on the the left side is basically a see-saw. It is tilted towards the front normally, but as the critter walks toward its bait, the metal floor tilts toward the back of the trap, blocking the way back out. 

From there, they’d try to get out of the trap through a little hole to the side of the entrance, which can be seen in the photo below: 

They are then stuck in the left side of the trap for however long it takes for someone to notice they’re in there. Because the trap is set up like that, it’s possible for many mice to get stuck in the same trap. 

Or, here’s a much simpler description of what happens in this trap:

"The mouse goes in to get the bait,
And shuts the door by his own weight,
And then he jumps right through a hole,
And thinks he's out; but bless his soul,
He's in a cage somehow or other,
And sets the trap to catch another."

There is little information about what is done with the mice after they are stuck in the “holding area” in this trap. It seems there’s two ways the mice could be dealt with after being caught alive like this. One, the more humane way, is to let them go in the wild very far away from one’s home, so they can’t find their way back. However, there’s also the more permanent way of getting rid of these mice, by killing them. For the delusion traps, that was usually done by putting them in water so that the mice would die of drowning. 

Or something a little more unfortunate could cause the mouse's demise. As in the case of one particular catch-alive trap in a museum in England, it could get stuck in a mousetrap and be found a while later. How sad! This is a very strange story, you should check it out!

Thanks for reading about this Mystery Artifact! We'll be back soon with a new one. We'd love it if you came to visit to check out many of our previous mysteries in person, or just to have a look around the museum. The Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Water/Ways won't be around at our museum much longer so check it out while you still can! We are open 10 am - 5 pm Monday through Saturday, and 1 pm-5pm on Sundays. 

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