Now I know what you’re thinking, but this is honestly not what it looks like. Or at least not totally. It IS however a funky way of inhaling drugs, just not drugs of the illegal variety. Ozone with a side of menthol for the lungs anyone?
A door-knocking crackpot pseudoscientist claimed it was a high frequency electronic all ’round health-promoting wonder machine when he sold it to my poor old Grandpa in 1940s Brisbane.
It came with all of these disturbing-looking, glass attachments, each one shaped for the convenient application of a neon electric current to a different part of the body.
The manual has some fluffy descriptions of how it ‘works’, mostly referring to increasing blood flow and thus hastening healing. It is also full of testimonials about the device curing arthritis, rheumatism, sore throats, gout, sciatica, ear infections, back injury, recurring heart attacks, influenza, headaches, gastroenteritis, cancer, baldness, lacerations, low energy levels, anxiety, paralysis, colds, angina, trench feet, maleana, nose bleeds, high blood pressure, blood clots, blindness, deafness, indigestion, dermatitis, fractures, insomnia, lung problems… I could go on, but wow. Why?
I can’t help but be reminded of a character in Patrick Suskind’s ‘Perfume’ who is… imaginative with his expensive, French, 18th Century cure-alls. This machine did after all cost my Granddad 86pounds, which I’m guessing was an enormous amount back then for a cobbler.
It amazes me the things that people were so ready to believe in the not so distant, less educated past. There is this one verse somewhere in Hebrews (in the Bible) that just casually mentions how water being bitter will cause disease. I can see how that would have been a natural way to explain things at the time, but it just seems silly now. Just like an all-purpose, glowy, medical zappinator.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m sure it does have effects of some kind. A lot of the Electrical Stimulation and pain relief machines (not to mention Ultrasound) which have been proved effective through comprehensive clinical trials are based on similar ideas to this. The difference being, I suppose that they are much more specific to particular conditions, we know how and why they work, and they are far less discombobulatingly bright, miraculous and shiny.
Anyhoo, here are some pretty pictures of the old weird and wacky make-wellinator. I’m so glad my Granddad kept it all this time. I sure do love playing with it and showing it to people.