A vintage jar opener, made in Western Germany
reddit | litudeva

20 Mysterious Objects People Turned To The Internet To Identify

Dan
June 17, 2022

If you've wound up here, it's probably because you have an insatiable need to know what the purpose of random objects might be.

The r/whatisthisthing subreddit is an incredible resource for identifying the many widgets, structures and assorted objects that would otherwise remain a mystery. So if you ever find yourself stumped by an item, snap a pic and post it. You'll almost certainly get an answer.

"Small, around 300 g, metal, not old. Red thing looks like a bullet. Screwed to my alley wall."

Tripwire-based shotgun shell security system
reddit | JakeNovitzkyDesign

This is a security system that's kind of scary, but ultimately harmless. Basically, if someone sets off a tripwire it'll set off a cartridge shell. It'll make a big bang, but won't shoot anyone.

"A grey metal square with 100 1 inch boxes on it, with numbers counting from 1 near the center and then counting in a spiral pattern that reverses once a square is made, the counting continues to 99 and then ends with 0 in the upper right corner."

Part of the board game 'Five Straight'
reddit | Jakalair

Unless this is a set of tiny mailboxes with a unique numbering system, it probably has something to do with the board game 'Five Straight,' since it uses the same numbering system.

"Pyramid shaped spoon object found in a velvet bag. Also not sure what it says."

A charosset spoon
reddit | ChriszLilSkeeto

The word reads 'charosset', which offers us a clue. Charosset is a mix of fruits and nuts eaten in the Seder, the Jewish meal that celebrates Passover. This is a spoon for serving up charosset.

"Old item - has a solid wood case with glass sides, toggle switches with jewel lights, dials, filled with Atwater Kent radio components."

An old build-your-own radio
reddit | hawxguy

This thing looks more complex than a radio, but that's all it is: a radio. It was likely ordered from a kit and was designed to be put together by the consumer.

"Clear round glass cap looking thing. About 1.5lb and looks like an old glass jar lid."

Glass insulator for power lines
reddit | Acti-Verse

You may have noticed that old-school power lines have thick glass at the top. The glass is for insulation, and that's exactly what this is: a glass insulator for old power lines.

"Outlet cover with two nipples (not buttons, not removable)."

Outlet cover for mounting a ceiling fan remote
reddit | Last_Available_Name_

Most houses have at least one weird, unexplained outlet cover. I've never seen one like this, but it's apparently a standard piece for mounting a ceiling fan remote. Compatible remotes will snap right into those two pegs.

"What is this metal object bolted onto this window frame?"

Mirrors bolted to a window frame
reddit | PhilHector2004

This is basically a low-tech security system. It consists of two mirrors, both mounted to the same rod, angled out in either direction. Anyone looking out the window will be able to see the entire alley.

"Cast iron, the handle on the left appears to move, and has dowels on the bottom."

Antique newspaper 'log roller'
reddit | intheplacetobe1

This is an old-timey something-or-other, but what's it designed for? Known as a 'log roller', it can create 'firewood' out of old newspapers. Just put some newspaper in and crank the handle.

"Part fell out of 2015 Honda Odyssey while driving. Power steering doesn’t work anymore."

Lower pulley for a car's serpentine belt
reddit | Norably

This person could drive to a mechanic and find out what the object is, but they don't have power steering. So they went to Reddit and found out that it's the lower pulley for a car's serpentine belt.

"Steel object I found in a kitchen. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to hang or be a shelf, or? There’s a flat metal piece with a circle indent in the middle, and a collapsible metal frame."

Small shelf for holding small pots in a pressure cooker
reddit | TerrariumOfThought

This is a shelf that's designed to be placed inside a pressure cooker. The idea is that small pots can rest on it instead of the bottom of the cooker.

"Concrete cylinders with pipes sticking out from them."

Truck carrying manhole vaults
reddit | Unhappy-Lion9736

These things — manhole vaults for sewer access — are incredibly commonplace, but we don't usually see them in this state because their entire purpose revolves around being sunken into the ground.

"What is this rounded circular indent for on this vintage cheese plate?"

Cheese board with indentation for a magnet to hold knives in place
reddit | innerpce

In this case, we know what the object is, but aren't sure what the purpose of its design is. It's most likely a divot that once held a magnet for securing a knife to the board.

"What is this clear housing with green, black, and blue gears in it? It came out of the trunk of a 2018 Corolla. Says 'CAUTION DO NOT REMOVE.' Numbers seem meaningless when googled. Fits in the palm of your hand."

A seatbelt tensioner
reddit | spongeboi-me-bob

OP didn't heed the 'do not remove' warning, but if they had, we wouldn't have the fun of identifying this thing. It's a seatbelt tensioner and should definitely be replaced if anyone's going to be sitting in that car.

"Box made of wood with a bunch of strangely shaped holes. Stands about 16” tall and is about 12” wide."

A vintage knife urn
reddit | TreeRingCircus

This fancy box is a knife urn. It sounds like they were popular in the 18th century for holding silver flatware and fancy silverware.

"What is this metal rod with alligator clips at each end? I found it in my garage and just have no clue."

A 'third hand' tool
reddit | shehastattoos

Anyone who does soldering or jerwelry work will immediately recognize this as a "third hand" tool — basically a little clip to help keep things handy.

"Found this at a thrift store and couldn't figure out what it was. Spiky end ratchets and turns clockwise."

A weed removal tool
reddit | ejwoeller

A commenter guessed that this was a weed removal tool. OP took it to heart and tried to do some weeding with it. Since it worked perfectly for the task, it likely is, in fact, a weed removal tool.

"I work in recycling, and have found multiple objects like this. It is made of some kind of silicone, it has a (weak) magnet in it, and it is kinda phallic. What is this thing?"

A magnetic bottle holder strap
reddit | shape_reality

This is actually an interesting little gadget. It's a magnetic bottle holder strap. Wrap it around a bottle and slap it on a metallic object and you've got a bottle holder.

"Signs on the truck say ‘Radioactive’. Metallic dumbbell-shaped container."

Radioactive waste transport cask on the highway
reddit | smellerr

If you saw this on the highway, you'd probably think that there's no way they're actually moving radioactive waste along the highway.

If you did think this, though, you'd be wrong. This is a transport cask for radioactive waste.

"Came across this cleaning today, its about 1” tall maybe the same in diameter, made of plastic, has holes all throughout and looks like it has grooves to stick into something, does anyone know?"

Part of a male chastity cage
reddit | dandydani2

This is part of a male chastity cage. We'd provide a link, but this is the kind of NSFW you'll have to Google on your own.

"Found helping a friend move, both of us have no clue! It can open and close on a hinge and it’s made in Western Germany."

A vintage jar opener, made in Western Germany
reddit | litudeva

We'll close things on a straightforward note. Most of us probably have something like this lurking somewhere in our kitchens. It's a simple jar opener.