Kineticist Bill McHugh's Inventions Enthrall Humans and Critters Alike

With names like Twirl-A-Squirrel and Squir-Rel-A-Tor, McHugh's machines serve the dual purpose of feeding backyard creatures and entertaining neighbors.

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McHugh with one of his pterodactyls. (Photo by Jared Castaldi)Bill McHugh is at a crossroads of sorts. The Narberth kineticist always thought his machines were novel—until squirrels used his 2004 Lexus SUV as a feeder. Apparently, when they exhausted the peanuts in McHugh’s Twirl-A-Squirrel, the critters caught a whiff of the 50-pound sacks of nuts he was storing in his Lexus. “They ate my truck,” he says.

They even gnawed away at the wires leading to his gas-tank cap, tripping McHugh’s “check engine” light. Seven hours later, at $105 an hour, mechanics finally figured it out.

Now he’s not sure what he’ll do. “To feed or not to feed?” McHugh poses. “I’ve created a monster. I feel badly because I put them into action, and I’ve always felt like I need to keep them running.”

On and off for the past four decades, the retired mechanical contractor has built an amusement park for squirrels and birds out of aluminum and steel. He calls his diversion “Back Yard in Motion.”

And there’s always motion—even if he leaves the food chambers empty for weeks. The Twirl-A-Squirrel alone has gone through at least a million peanuts during its 10-year existence. When everything’s running, McHugh needs a 50-pound sack every three weeks.

When anyone asks if he likes squirrels, he doesn’t hesitate: “Not really.”

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