Two separate sources this weekend led me to the amazing and disturbing Demoulin Brothers catalog of initiatory prank equipment for North American fraternal lodges, published in 1930.
These lodges - the likes of the Elks, Moose, Woodmen, Odd Fellows, Red Men, and avowedly unserious outfits like the Hoo Hoo and E Clampus Vitus - outdid each other in prankish initiation rites, aided and abetted by the electric shock gadgetry and "burlesque costumes" of the Demoulin Brothers.
Having already remarked the similarities between the levels and titles of Dungeons and Dragons, and those of a fraternal order, I can't help but wonder if the spirit of the basement initiation rite also lives on in the tricks and traps of the "gotcha!" dungeon. In the DeMoulin catalogue, as with the Dungeon Master's catalogue, nothing is certain, safe things are dangerous and dangerous things safe. Even the famous imperceptibly sloping corridor of Greyhawk Castle has its precedent in the "balloon ride" gag shown below, visibly hoisted and imperceptibly let down.
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