The Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Roger Chaffee Planetarium have come up with a delightful memento of Halley’s comet’s next swing through the skies of earth – comet pills.


            The idea was born 75 years ago during the comet’s last appearance on its regular, 75-year orbit through the solar system.  Cyanide gas had been discovered in the comet’s tail, and enterprising salesmen traded on fear and superstition by hawking comet pills guaranteed to protect the gullible from any and all evil effects.


            There are no evil effects, of course, and the Museum is selling the comet pills as a reminder of bygone days and as a way for individuals to support the Museum.


            The comet pills are actually a healthful snack of yogurt-covered sunflower seeds.  Each two-ounce jar is attractively packaged and bears a distinctive label filled with all sorts of Halley’s comet lore – fact and fiction.  Through an arrangement with the Grand Rapids Museum Association, Halley’s Comet Watch ’86 is offering the unique comet pills to its members at the price of $2.00 per bottle.


            Museum personnel have provided us with this colorful verse to promote their comet pills:


            Nineteen eighty-five is Halley’s comet year

            It’s only 1983, but Halley’s comet pills are here.

            Taken as the package directs

            They’ll ward off any ill effects

            That long ago touched off alarm

            In those who believed that comets caused harm.

            Earthquakes, eruptions, all manner of things

            Plagues, wars disasters, even deaths of kings

            Were by ancient men with comets associated

            Although such events were not comet-related


            Halley’s Comet’s appearance in 1910

            Set prophesiers of doom predicting again

            Foretelling that cyanide in the comet’s tail

            Would bring woes to earth in epic scale

            And one of the ways to avoid such ills

            Was to dose oneself with comet pills

            Against evil effects from fatal to vexatious

            The comet pills were guaranteed completely efficacious.


            Halley’s comet will next arrive

            In November of 1985

            And though we know it will cause no ills

            Why not be certain with Halley’s comet pills?

            So buy the pills, we do exhort

            Your Public Museum they will support.


The label on the come pill bottle reads:


In 1910, the earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet.  People were panic stricken because the comet contained cyanide gas.  While the amount of gas was harmless, some enterprising people saw an opportunity to sell anti-comet pills.


Halley’s Comet is due for another visit in 1986.  So to celebrate it return, and to commemorate those early days of naivete, The Grand Rapids Public Museum is offering these tasty, harmless little comet pills.


Enjoy these pills while you mull over these interesting facts about the worlds most famous comet:

*NOTE: Go to Volume 4, Number 1 (February, 1985) for an article entitled: "The Myth of the Excommunication of Comet Halley" by Joseph Laufer.


Copyright 1983: Grand Rapids Public Museum




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