Doctor Fenner’s Golden Relief

I got pretty lucky here this little box of snakeoil lies is completely unopened. It dates to right around 1920, and is fairly typical of snakeoil tonics of the day, the active ingredients being alcohol, ether, and chloroform, along with a variety of herbal oils, like camphor, and hemlock.

It’s not like Hemlock has ever killed anybody…

via Flickr

The Violet Ray? Invented by Tesla, perfected by porn.

I’m browsing this local antique shop, lookin’ for something neat, when out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of this weird mushroom shaped glass bulb that instantly reminds me of a tesla coil and one of those plasma balls, that draw glowing plasma to your hands when you touch the glass. So, I ask the lady what it is, and all she knows is that it’s a “quack medical device”. Ok, now I’m definitely interested. I decide I need to find out what it is, so I go home to do some googlin’.

It was originally invented by the One True Mad Scientist himself, Nikola Tesla. I already know if it works, I’m buying it. It *is* a tesla coil, and it *is* one of those little plasma ball thingies, but oh, it’s so much more. It was originally intended to be used therapeutically. Now, since this was invented by Nikola Tesla, you’d probably imagine that it has something to do with electrity, and lightning bolts shooting through the air. You would, of course, be right. It’s from the 1920s. It shoots lightning.

Fitzgerald Mfg. Co Violet Ray, c. 1925.

Fitzgerald Mfg. Co Violet Ray, c. 1925.

I immediately go back to the store to buy it. I try it out on the spot, and it starts making this really loud buzzing noise. Then the bulb starts glowing that familiar purple. As I turn it on, the ladies in the shop take a step backwards. They don’t really understand what this is, so they’re a little freaked out by the thing making the lightning. I grab the wand with one hand, reach my other hand over to it, and sparks start jumping half an inch or so through the air to my hand. I start laughing uncontrollably and saying “ow!ow!ow!” They take another step back , their eyes get really big, and for a moment I think they were actually concerned. I ask them if they want to try it, they enthusiastically refuse. I buy it for $50, and take it home. I think by now they’re probably just glad it’s leaving their store filled with mostly boring normal antiques.

This thing is painful but not intolerably so. It feels almost exactly like getting shocked when you touch a door knob on a windy day. It’s exactly like that, 50 times a second. I decide I need to learn more about my new toy.

It’s basically like a miniature version of one of those plasma balls x 1000. Instead of the plasma just moving to your fingers on the surface of the ball, lightning bolts shoot out from the surface of the ball to your hands, or whatever body part happens to be close enough. It utilizes a tesla coil built into the “wand”, which makes the bulb attachment do its magic. It’s very high voltage, about 50,000 volts, but extremely low current, so it’s not actually harmful. If you had a pacemaker, it might suck, but otherwise, yer aight. The very high frequency tends to make the electricity travel over the surface of your skin, rather than through your body. The neat thing is that if you hold onto the ball, you can use your other hand to reach out and shock people! 50 times a second! Problem is, much like the ladies in the antique store, people seem to naturally want to get out of arms reach the instant you turn this thing on. The shock they would receive is a bit weaker, so it’s not quite so fearsome, but it’s still not exactly weak. They can then reach out and shock someone else, slightly weaker still. When you hold onto the ball itself, with direct skin contact, you don’t feel the shocks anymore, it just feels slightly warm. Not hot, just barely warm. Perfect for zapping other people. Assuming they haven’t leapt backwards in fear the moment you turned it on.

What it was originally intended to do is cure damn near anything that ailed you, with the exception of cancer, and certain highly infectious diseases like TB. Anything else though, You bet! All you need is a little voltage, ok, maybe a lot of voltage, to get your vital fluids all charged up, and flowin’ freely.

I google a little more, and I discover something fascinating. It has another modern name. It’s called the Violet Wand. It turns out there’s all kinds of attachments for this thing. There’s a comb attachment so you can use it on your scalp. There’s a tongue attachment? That’s a little messed up. I don’t think I’d want this thing on my tongue. A spine attachment, shaped like a V to go on either side of your spine. Hmm, I dunno, I guess that could go either way, much like my probable spasming limbs. There’s a ton of these things for all sorts of body parts. The head, the back, the tongue, the nose, the gums, the ears, the anus. Wait, wut? You betcha, there’s an anal attachment. Now, why someone would want to shoot lightning up their ass, I have no clue, but it’s there. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. It’s described as being “good for inaccessible areas.” So, should you ever find yourself overwhelmed with a desire to access your inaccessible areas –with lightning– you know exactly where to go. You’re welcome. There’s even one called the “Fulgurator” that’s used for electrobranding. That’s right, branding. There’s one for your goddamned EYES. Now, naturally, you’re expected to close your eyes first, so you don’t get, you know, permanently blinded. Still, of the many places of my body I do not want lightning, my eyes are definitely top 5.

Yup, this quack medical device from the 1920s has morphed into a modern day extreme fetish sex toy*(I’ve since been informed that it’s not actually “extreme”. I’m just a wuss.) Holy shit. I’m so glad I bought this thing, but in all seriousness, what the fuck is going on here? As far as sex toys go, this has got to be the scariest, most intimidating thing I’ve ever seen. It just goes to show you, that you can pick up damn near anything you like, and there’s probably someone out there on the Internet that likes it in their ass. It turns out, there’s an entire genre of porn that focuses on these devices. That’s right, among the litany of fields Nikola Tesla has left his mark, you can include fetish porn. It ain’t my bag, but apparently some people really enjoy it. I’m half tempted to find someone who’s played with one, and ask them a bunch of questions in the Name of Science.

I tried to take pictures of it while I was shocking my hand, (my ass will remain a lightning free zone, thanks) but perhaps not all that surprisingly, my digital camera was not at all happy about being held at the same time as this thing was sending 50,000 volts through my skin. It just kept turning itself off and on, and doing random things about once a second. It occurs to me that slot machines in Vegas are specifically designed to defeat being attacked by this method. It’s kinda similar to a handheld taser, except it doesn’t knock you unconscious, or make you lose control of your bowels(no guarantees if you go with the anal one. You’re on your own, buddy.) There’s no reason it couldn’t be very portable, and in a loud environment like a casino, I can see how something like that would have worked for a while. Neat! From medicine, to sex toy, to unwitting prototype slot machine cheating device. My new goal is to find something that I can make my very own 5 Weird Connections within a single object.

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