Every Christmas for more than 30 years The Mad Wrapper brings an “escape room” style experience to our home. To open your gift, you must solve a puzzle, control a gadget, or find the secret of an optical illusion. The unveiling is just crazy. Read More

Raspberry Pi Marshmallow Smores

December 25, 2019
Raspberry Pi Marshmallow Smores

A roaring fire makes for a great excuse to toast a marshmallow on Christmas Day. I built a tiny fireplace complete with fire that is controlled by a Raspberry Pi computer. [Full details with complete instructions on how to build this are posted on Instructables: Raspberry Pi Marshmallow Smores.] At

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Bell Model 202 Bluetooth Telephone (1930-2018)

December 25, 2018
Bell Model 202 Bluetooth Telephone (1930-2018)

Using the magic of Arduino, I revived an antique Bell model 202 telephone and added Bluetooth capability to it. There are two parts to this. On one end I have an ancient phone from the 1930’s. On the other end, I have one of a dozen “name tags” with hidden

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Blockhead Augmented Reality

December 25, 2017
Blockhead Augmented Reality

  Use an iPhone Augmented Reality App to scan a QR code to find your gift.   2017 was an epic Mad Wrapper year of the magic of new technology. Download the free iPhone app on the Apple App Store. TMW Blockhead open the App Paint the table and the flour

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Message in a Tree

December 25, 2016
Message in a Tree

Guests encounter a 3-foot Christmas tree decorated in colored lights. Green letters are scrawled one at a time to form a message. The words arrive slowly: Ho Ho Ho The Mad Wrapper says hang your ornament here Under the tree lay identically wrapped packages. The only thing unique about each

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Scratch Hologram

December 25, 2015
Scratch Hologram

A scratch hologram is one of those “hidden in plain sight” tricks.  To see the message just angle the glass toward the sun and presto!  This is an excellent way to hide your secret message with an extra WOW factor.  It is surprisingly easy to make.  It’s inexpensive and relatively quick

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Cloak of Invisibility

December 25, 2014
Cloak of Invisibility

Hidden in plain sight, you will need a blacklight to read the invisible ink on the presents under the tree. This year folks found a bulk of packages under the tree wrapped 100% identically — no distinction whatsoever between one gift to any other. No distinguishing marks, no card, nothing special.

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3D Red and Blue

December 25, 2013
3D Red and Blue

Put on the special goggles and your name pops out of the paper.  Go ahead and open the gift! Presents under the tree include one with special goggles plus a gift for each person you’re giving a gift to, each of which has a label that lists all persons who

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Rock Paper Scissors

December 25, 2012
Rock Paper Scissors

Everyone gets a deck of rock-paper-scissors cards.  Play them in order.  Your gift is determined by how long you can stay in the game. Eight gifts are decorated with Ribbons: 1st, 2dn, 3rd, …, 8th.  Person to lose round one opens the last-place (8th place) gift.  Next person to lose

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Fire & Candles

December 25, 2011
Fire & Candles

Insert a message inside a candle.  As the candle burns, the message reveals itself. Warning! Use precaution when working with fire.  Make sure candles are not lit near flammable objects.  Also, be carful not to burn objects that might contain poisonous fumes.  Read the labels. Supplies for One Candle A sheet

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Spiderman Jigsaw

December 25, 2010
Spiderman Jigsaw

Put together a puzzle and discover that there are a few missing pieces.  The holes in the puzzle reveal a person’s initials.  If these are your initials go ahead and open the gift that was attached to the puzzle. It seems every deep-discount “dollar” store carries shelves of cheap low-piece-count

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Timex Ironman Watch

December 25, 2009
Timex Ironman Watch

In the mid-2000’s Timex sold the Ironman Datalink USB — a watch that you could program.  I reprogrammed the watch to help guests at the party find their gifts.  There is a different number on each gift.  Dial that number into the watch.  The person’s name is revealed after a

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Crystal Cube

December 25, 2008
Crystal Cube

Using layers of plexiglass write names such that each name is complete only when the cube is tilted in a special direction.

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Lenticular

December 25, 2007
Lenticular

The image changes based on the viewing angle. View the lenticular from the correct angle to find out if the gift is yours. The angle is defined by a special dongle attached to your gift under the Christmas tree.  Vertical lines block what you are not supposed to see.  The

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Bad Chess

December 25, 2006
Bad Chess

Play a bizarre game of bad chess indicated by moves on a card attached to a package.  The game ends when someone’s initial(s) are presented by the final standing pieces. Attached to each present is an envelope containing a card. The outside of the card shows a picture of a

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Monogrammed Toast

December 25, 2005
Monogrammed Toast

Put a slice of bread into the correct slot in a hacked toaster. Wait. Up pops toast monogrammed with your initials! Great fun and happy eating! Hack a toaster by inserting copper wires that mask the heat.  Shaping the wire into letters results in monogrammed toast.   Find a toaster

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Alignment of the stars

December 25, 2004
Alignment of the stars

Align two pieces of plywood correctly so drilled holes will line up to display a person’s initials.

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Card Tricks

December 25, 2003
Card Tricks

Each gift comes with a deck of marked cards. Put the cards in order to reveal a name spelled out on the edge of the deck.  If is your name, go ahead and open the gift.  It’s yours! Here is a fairly easy Mad Wrapper set of gift tags. All

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Plasma Ball

December 25, 2002
Plasma Ball

Every gift comes with an ornament attached.  Place the ornament against a Plasma Ball to find out whose gift it is. Warning Warning.  Be careful.  Never leave plasma ball unattended.  You could actually start a fire! If you follow the steps that the Mad Wrapper used you will probably violate

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Magnetic strip

December 25, 2001
Magnetic strip

Gifts are tagged with a very long thin magnet.  The magnet is embedded with a message decoded by magnetic decoding film.  Very easy to make. Cheap magnets often found attached to refrigerators across the globe can also be purchased in long strips.  It turns out that you can use a

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Monogrammed Pancakes

December 25, 2000
Monogrammed Pancakes

Turn the crank on a giant machine and stop in the right position.  place you pancake into the slot and sprinkle it with powdered sugar from a sifter.  Monogrammed pancake!  If the pancake has your initials, go ahead and eat it while opening your gift!  

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HitClips

December 25, 1999
HitClips

In 1999, Tiger HitClips were all the rage with the kids.  I modified a set of these to play a TWM message instead of the usual Britney Spears or NSYNC song of choice.  If the message is director to you, then the gift is yours.    

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Braille

December 25, 1998

The gifts came with cardboard tags.  Glued to the tags are rhinestones positioned to spell out a person’s name in braille — lettering for the visually impaired.  

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Beads

December 25, 1997
Beads

Beads are stacked on pegs to spell out a person’s name.

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Golfball Xylophone

December 25, 1996
Golfball Xylophone

Place 3ft rails on a pegboard according to instructions on a gift. Roll a golf ball down the ramps. The bin it drops into is labeled with a name.  If it’s your name, open the gift — it’s yours! Leaning against the wall next to the tree sits a 8

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GPS Road Trip

December 25, 1995
GPS Road Trip

Insert a floppy drive into your computer, connect up another computer and run DeLorme GPS software to simulate a trip across America.  If the destination town matches your name (or close enough), the gift is yours! At the Mad Wrapper’s house, packages scattered about the tree are labeled with green,

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Paint by number

December 25, 1994
Paint by number

All shapes on a sheet of paper attached to a gift are numbered.  Each number matches a crayon color.  Fill it all in with the correct colors to reveal the name of a guest  of Christmas day. Every present from the Mad Wrapper was marked with a piece of paper

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Stereograms

December 25, 1993
Stereograms

Hidden in plain sight! Early in the 1990s Magic Eye Stereograms were at the height of popularity.  Each gift is labelled with a stereogram of a person’s name. Cross your eyes and stare long enough at it will pop out from the surface of the paper it is printed on.

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The Great Marble Sort!

December 25, 1992
The Great Marble Sort!

Attached each gift is a marble. Yup.  That’s it! On closer inspection, each marble is a different size. Drop yours into the marble sorting toothpick machine. Where it lands determines who gets the gift. This ranks near the top of best Mad Wrapper contraptions of all time.  Great fun!  

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POV Midair Magic

December 25, 1991
POV Midair Magic

Wave the magic wand and chant “Umba gadda boomba, …” in a dark room.  A person’s name is spelled out in mid air. Persistence of vision has become a fad that seems to be lasting.  The Mad Wrapper was ahead of the times on this one. In 1991 few people

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Remote Control Car

December 25, 1990
Remote Control Car

An electronic circuit controls the remote on a remote-controlled car.  A person’s initials are spelled out as the car drives around the “track”. I hacked the remote adding a connector for a circuit that automates the joysticks.  It worked ok but required a lot of intervention.  Without feedback on actual

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Stretched perspective

December 25, 1988
Stretched perspective

Hidden in plain sight! Labels on gifts a completely distorted beyond recognition.  Significantly tilt the package to read the message. Once you know how to read the message you will forever wonder why you couldn’t see it in the first place. It’s all about your Perspective Here is puzzle to make

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Morse Code

December 25, 1988

Plug a computer chip into the connector.  LEDs slowly blink out morse code that spells a person’s name. The first of a series of electronic Mad Wrapper schemes showed up on Christmas 1988. The party became very excited yet baffled, by the pile of presents tagged with a simple computer

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Jigsaw Names

December 25, 1987
Jigsaw Names

A homemade jigsaw puzzle is attached to each gift under the tree.  Put the puzzle together to find out who the gift is for.  All puzzles are identical but a different name is written on each completed puzzle. Most craft stores sell blank puzzles.  You can buy a set of

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Mobius strip

December 25, 1982
Mobius strip

To/From message on gift tags is written on a mobius strip — a never-ending “one-sided” shape. Take a long thin sheet of paper about the size of a bookmark. Put one twist in the paper and glue the two ends together.  Write whatever message you want.  Make it long enough

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Origami Doughnut

December 25, 1981
Origami Doughnut

A present arrives topped with a 3 dimensional mechanical doughnut made from cardboard. It’s sort of a gear which continuously folds into itself. Open a flap and discover the words: “To Sara, Merry Christmas”. Actually, the story of this chapter occurs many years before, when I was young, attending my

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paper fortune

December 25, 1980
paper fortune

Messages “To/From” are written on grade-school folded-paper Fortune Teller. Directions on the sequence to follow are written on gifts. Nearly any grade school child, if asked, will gladly tell your fortune from a homemade fortune telling device built entirely from a simple folded square of paper. If you listen carefully

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Tinker Toy Sign

December 25, 1979
Tinker Toy Sign

Straddling a gift under the tree is a giant tinker-toy contraption.  At the top of the contraption sits the label “To Eric, From The Mad Wrapper”.  You can turn the crank to make the label spin. My tinker toy windmill (or sign) was not a puzzle, riddle, calculator, or illusion.

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Balloon Pop

December 25, 1979
Balloon Pop

A balloon holds the gifts from view.  Pop the balloon and the gifts come tumbling out! Kind of silly but perfect as a Mad Wrapper attention-grabbing gag to give Linnea some nice kitchen utensils.    

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Lover Doll

December 25, 1974

Under the tree is a doll.  In the locket on a chain around the doll’s neck is a picture of Eric.  That’s it. Very subtle.  The doll “obviously” has proclaimed that it belongs to Eric by carrying his picture always close to her heart. This one is probably too subtle

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To Eric From Mozart’s Movement

December 25, 1972

“To Eric From Mozart’s Movement” found its way on a card in 1972. A year of especially great potty humor (in the eyes of a highly impressionable early-teen). There were various other similarly bad-humored tags placed under the tree but no documented reference to The Mad Wrapper that year.  

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To Don From Beethoven’s 10th

December 25, 1971

No known TMW occurrence was ever documented in the year 1971.  The Mad Wrapper possible took a vacation. But some other strange tags did appear.  Such as: “To Don From Beethoven’s 10th”  

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To Eric From Ms. Claus’s Husband’s wife

December 25, 1970

On Christmas of 1968, a tag showed up: “To Eric From Ms. Claus” – my mother’s handwriting is unmistakable. The following year a gift showed up under the tree: “To Eric From Ms. Claus’s Husband” – my father was not to be bested. The handwriting and ink-color on the second

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To Mike From the Mad Wrapper

December 25, 1970

“To Mike From the Mad Wrapper” was written on a tag on a package Christmas in the year 1970. This seems to be the earliest known reference to The Mad Wrapper. (Note the typo his first name “The” is not capitalized. (The first of many fundamental mistakes The Mad Wrapper

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To Eric From Ms. Claus’s Husband

December 25, 1969

On Christmas of 1968, a tag showed up: “To Eric From Ms. Claus” – my mother’s handwriting is unmistakable. The following year a gift showed up under the tree: “To Eric From Ms. Claus’s Husband” – my father was not to be bested. The handwriting and ink-color on the second

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To Eric From Ms. Claus

December 25, 1968

On Christmas of 1968, a tag showed up: “To Eric From Ms. Claus” – my mother’s handwriting is unmistakable. The following year a gift showed up under the tree: “To Eric From Ms. Claus’s Husband” – my father was not to be bested. The handwriting and ink-color on the second

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“To Linnea From Seven Toes”

December 25, 1963

The Mad Wrapper has roots that go back at least as far as 1963.  Probably farther back than this. “To Linnea From Seven Toes” was on a tag from Don to his lovely wife Linnea.  

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