“Mushfaking” is prison slang for the construction of any contraband object made from whatever materials are at hand.
“Mushfake” is a very interesting word. It seems to have first appeared in underworld slang back in the early 19th century in England. “Mush” by itself was, in that period, slang for an umbrella, from its similarity in shape to a mushroom. The verb “to fake” during the same period was criminal slang for “putting something in shape to sell by covering its defects.” So a “mushroom faker” or “mushfake” was a con artist who repaired discarded umbrellas just enough to make them briefly functional and then sold them on the street, preferably during a downpour. Anyone who has ever bought one of those $3.00 umbrellas in a New York City rainstorm will recognize the racket. You’re wet again two blocks later.
Imported to America fairly quickly, “mushfaker” became hobo slang for an itinerant tinkerer or handyman. “Mushfakers” repaired pots and pans as well as umbrellas, but “mushfaking” was considered an occupation of last resort and “mushfakers” occupied the lowest rung of hobo society. By the 20th century, “mushfake” had become prison slang for making useful objects out of cast-off or less-useful materials. Ironically, a good “mushfaker” is probably a lot more popular in prison than on the street.
From a home made shotgun constructed out of bed posts to jail house hot plates made from a brick, below are some of the best mushfakes that we have uncovered over the past three years of running Criminal Wisdom.