Have you ever found your house and property infested with hordes of rats or other noxious vermin? If so, perhaps these 19th century methods of ridding oneself of rats could help.
Back when most houses were poorly constructed and made primarily out of wood, rats would find a nice chink in the wall in which to chew a hole, through which it would scamper in, in search of shelter, and out, in search of your food.
The rats made a point of either being safe in your walls or under some furniture if you came snooping about, so catching them by hand, or scaring them away would be wasted effort. Average rats 200 years ago were the size of large melons (or so the housewives tell us), so the nimble cats that you keep around the house would be of little use, and if they were slow cats, rat food.
The problem was solved when one particularly astute individual made the connection that if Potash (now known as Lye or Potassium Hydroxide) would make his hands sore when it was handled, it just might do the same to the paws of the rats running amok in his house. So this person did this: He spread a layer of wet Lye around the rat holes in his house. This not only caused the rats to vacate the premises but it had the added benefit of keeping the children from exploring these rat-caverns, as they were so fond of doing back then! The reason that the rats would leave is that when they would walk over the damp Lye, their feet would become sore, so, being a normal red-blooded mammal, they would lick the afflicted parts, and, lo and behold, their mouth would become sore too! This was too much for the poor rats, so they would immediately communicate to their families that it was time to move on to a bigger, better, and more well stocked house. Now the rats have completely vacated, without any bloodshed or missing children. Just don't be startled if all your neighbors start complaining about rats...
"But that method doesn't work for me!" you say, angrily clutching the last remains of your undoubtedly delicious birthday cake, left on the table unattended for mere moments. The problem sir, isn't the rats, it is the 15 children you have managed to father over the last 8 years. They get hungry you know.
Assuming that you don't have a horde of ravenous children scavenging through your house for foodstuffs, and you still have a problem with disappearing food and magical pitfalls that seem to appear in your floorboards overnight, the problem is almost always rats (or ghosts, but that is another node). If you live in a time or place that doesn't have access to large amounts of lye (it does come from wood ashes though, I should have you know) then perhaps this method is for you:
You procure a long board, some bacon grease, some stiff paper, string, some water, a large rock, and a nice, large bucket or barrel (be sure to plug the bunghole). Once these items are gathered, you make a ramp with the long board from the rat hole to the top of the bucket. The rock is placed in the bucket, then water is added until there is only the smallest place on the top of the rock left above the water. The bucket is capped with the stiff paper and the string is used to secure it, as is done on a percussion drum. The bacon grease that you have is smeared from the rat hole, up the board and all over the stiff paper. The last step to this ingenious trap is cutting an X in the stiff paper with a knife.
Now your work is practically done, all you have to do now is wait overnight (no you can't watch, rats get self conscious when they are being watched and spend all day in their den putting on rouge and fixing their hair instead of getting caught in your traps). What happens is the sensitive noses of the rats pick up the scent of the bacon grease coming from the entry of their lair, so they venture out, up the grease-laden board right onto the apparently stiff paper covered barrel, then they, if you remember, fall through the X you cut so skillfully right into the water. They find the rock and stay there. Then the process is repeated for all the other rats, because if one rat has left to find food and he doesn’t come back, that must mean that he found a bag of groceries or a tub of butter, so all the other rats follow the trail to the bacon-grease-covered-barrel and fall in. Since there is only room for one on top of the stone, the other rats are forced to either swim in circles until they drown, or they are forced to fight to the death to be king of the proverbial hill. When you wake in the morning, you will come across a barrel full of a dozen or so rat corpses, and one battle-scarred and weary rat, which will be quite a bit easier to easy to dispatch than a dozen would have been. Hell, all you need to do is remove his precious stone, though that would be pretty cruel, after all, it is his rock, fair and square. If you have a sense of humor you can name the rock Golgotha.
"But I'm a sadistic bastard, and I want to hear about cannibalism!" you exclaim with eagerness. Well sir, that is where the last method comes in... please don't hurt me!
The procedure for this way of getting rid of rats is a bit more time consuming. You must collect at least a dozen healthy rats, from your property, preferably, and keep them all in a nice large cage without food and water. Self preservation is a rather important factor in the actions made by lowly creatures like humans, err, rats, and because of this, they will attack, kill, and consume the bodies of their kind when they get hungry and thirsty enough. If you are that kind of person, you might enjoy watching one, particularly large (and now well-fed) rat terrorize his emaciated brethren, feasting upon their mangled bodies, bathing in their blood. It is an orgy of death and torturous cruelty, and you like watching it? To each his own I guess.
Once the large rat has finished off the last of the weaker rats, he will have acquired an insatiable desire for rat flesh, and will no longer prey upon your stores of grain, birthday cakes or bacon grease; He wants rat-meat. So what you do is let this rat loose in your house. Almost immediately you will hear sounds of a mass exodus of rodents as far away from that God-forsaken rat-demon as is possible. Legends of this fiend will be passed down to the future generations of the survivors, and not even the bravest rat will return to the domain of the scourge of Rat-Dom until long after his death.
Good luck with those rat problems!