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This video is sponsored by CuriosityStream and by my Nebula Original. More on that later.
Also, the shots are going to look a little weird, a little wide,
because it is the start of September 2020 as we record this,
and we're following all the UK industry regulations for filming COVID-safe.
All right. Enjoy the show!
In 1927, Helene Adelaide Shelby of Oakland, California, applied for a patent:
"An apparatus for obtaining criminal confessions and photographically recording them."
It was basically a lie detector.
If you "knew" the suspect was guilty, but you couldn't prove it,
you would use a device like this,
which as far as I know was never built and never used, until now.
I have commissioned my friend Charles to make one.
We've updated some of the technology —
we're using a modern camera instead of bulky reel-to-reel film —
but this is as true to the patent as we could make it,
and we're going to test out Ms. Shelby's lie detector for the very first time.
Daniel, Tom, Chloe, thank you very much for coming along.
We're going to test a 1927 lie detector today.
Sure. 'Cause why not?
I haven't told you all anything else.
There's a lot of trust in this room, isn't there(?)
I'm not feeling it!
I hope it's not based on heart rate, 'cause I am anxious now!
Here's the plan: there is a cookie on the table, just here.
I'm going to leave the room. One of you steal the cookie.
I miss him already.
There was never any doubt in my mind that it has to be you.
Oh no, not all of you— You are the best liar out of us.
Alright, so the cookie's gone, and you all have water bottles now.
Which, I feel like one of you went to get some water after eating the cookie,
and then the other two were like, "We should all have water now."
It's an interesting theory, Watson.
I'm not Holmes here — Watson.
The sidekick who doesn't know anything. Thank you(!)
All right, I'm gonna start over here. Chloe, did you take the cookie?
...Tom, did you take the cookie? No.
I don't know why, for some reason, I didn't believe that, but okay.
Daniel, did you take the cookie? No.
Okay, so Chloe I believe immediately.
On no evidence. How dare you!
I'm not even gonna try and do an official guess here.
My gut reaction is that it's one of you two. Possibly both of you two.
Maybe you split it to try and trip me up, I don't know.
So Chloe, would you please come join me at the 1927 lie detector?
I'd love to.
We put Daniel and Tom in a separate room,
so they couldn't hear Chloe's reaction to... whatever was inside the box.
Oh, there's two covers, okay.
With both those curtains closed, it was pitch black inside.
Oh, very dark.
There was an infrared camera in there, but Chloe genuinely could not see anything.
So it's probably a good time for earlier-me to tell you what she's about to face.
Although if you've seen the title of the video...
you've probably worked it out.
The problem is that this lie detector is ridiculous.
The patent uses very long and flowery language, but in short...
[whispers] there is a skeleton hidden at the end of the box!
A curtain rises to reveal it, and the suspect will be startled,
convinced by this genuine supernatural apparition from the beyond,
which for some reason will make them confess the truth
as their interrogator asks questions from behind the box in a spooky voice.
I'm not kidding. That's the patent.
Ms. Shelby, whoever she was, never lived to see her invention made real,
and perhaps that's for the best.
Because patents don't have to be good. They just have to be new.
But with that in mind, let's try it anyway.
Chloe's first reaction was probably not what the box's inventor would hope for.
Oh—Oh no.
Oh god, it can read into my soul.
AS SKELETON: ~Did you take the cookie?~
No. I'm sorry. Was I meant to?
~A-A-Are you— Are you sure?~
Yes. Unfortunately, yeah.
~Thank you. You— You may leave the box. Woooh!~
Oh, okay. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.
No confession so far. So how about Tom?
Tom later told me that he has a phobia of theme park characters and things like this.
Oh god, oh jeez!
And as he entered the box, he realized that he'd read about the crime skeleton somewhere.
Oh, I know what this is. I'm so upset.
So first of all, brave!
Oh, there you are! I knew it.
~Did you take the cookie?~
I did not, mister spooky scary skeleton.
~Confess!~ I didn't, I promise!
~Are you sure?~ I sure am!
~'Cause that's what Chloe said as well.~
Is this one of those, like, if I absolve myself, she goes to jail?
'Cause yeah, she did it. She totally did it.
~Thank you for your time. You may leave the box.~
Thank you. ~Oooooh!~
You're actually quite nice. I was quite worried when we met.
But you're surprisingly hospitable.
~Please leave the box.~ Okay.
~Please.~ I'm trying!
That was horrible.
Two down, one to go. Oh god.
Dan was...worried.
Oh my god, I hate every second of this.
Ugh. Oh, my god.
Although I didn't expect the full-on yell of terror.
Oh my god!
~Did you take the cookie?~
~Are you sure?~
I am certain that I didn't take the cookie.
~B-Because that's what everyone else said. Oooooh!~
Hmm. ~You definitely didn't take the cookie?~
Was it your cookie?
'Cause you are looking a little bit like you could do with a good dinner.
~Please leave the box.~ Okay.
H-How do I get out of the box?
~There's curtains you can open.~
You better not've talked.
So, uh, that didn't work!
That doesn't work at all! What?
It could have. There was a moment in there where I'd have admitted to anything.
Was it the moment before you saw the skeleton?
Yeah, the second the skeleton happened, I was like, "Oh it's fine."
Yeah, it was a lot scarier before the skeleton showed up.
No, it didn't work. No. I have no idea.
So based purely on, like, initial reactions,
I don't think it was you.
If you two didn't split it...
then I think it's Dan.
Whoever stole the cookie, stand...
I was right about one thing: Two of them had split the cookie.
But it was Dan and Chloe.
This invention does not work,
just like every other lie detector.
I've got a Nebula Original with five creators that you might recognize,
competing for real money.
But it's not just me.
You know Real Engineering? Nebula Original.
Alex from Technicality, who had a guest video on my channel years ago?
Nebula Original.
Wendover Productions: two Nebula Originals.
MinutePhysics, well, MinuteBody is their Nebula Original.
Plus loads of other single and collaborative series and ad-free podcasts.
And you can get it for free when you join CuriosityStream,
a subscription streaming service with
thousands of big-budget documentaries and non-fiction titles.
CuriosityStream is just $2.99 a month,
including access to Nebula and all those series,
and right now, you can get 26 percent off an annual plan
by going to
If you have three dollars going spare, go check it out.
Thank you so much to Daniel J. Layton, to Thomas 'tomska' Ridgewell,
to Chloe 'scarfdemon' Dungate.
All their channels are linked around here somewhere.
And thank you in particular to Charles Yarnold,
who built the amazing crime-detecting skeleton.
That's it. Happy October, everyone!
[Caption+ by JS*]