Today we look at some fascinating–
( and completely worthless ) vintage medical devices–
the Zerret Applicator,
Drown Radio-Vision Therapy,
and the Dentaphone.
You mighta have noticed that I’m interested in the subject of spurious technology.
To me, it’s bad enough that much of the stuff that actually does work,
doesn’t really improve your life,
or at least half as much as it improves the bottom line.
But when you’ve been suckered into buying something that is all sizzle,
—and no steak, well…
It’s enough to make a man mad.
MmmmM M A D DddddD.
Hide the cleavers.
The truth is,
As bad as it is today,
with all our:
‘as seen on TV’,
‘sprinkle this on your french fries and lose weight’
‘boost your testosterone naturally with the latest herbal placebo’,
‘get one free when you pay double the exorbitant shipping charges’ culture….
It was much worse seventy five years ago.
Let’s have a look , shall we?
Now, being over 29 by some years — we won’t discuss by how many….
I know that hearing loss can be a real phenomena of aging.
And if I look like an idiot asking folks to repeat themselves, well, I’m ok with that.
But this device here — hmmmm.
It’s called a “Dentaphone”.
Basically, it was a round flat case using a thin diaphragm in the shape of a flat cone to pick up sound.
The user held the case out towards the sound he wanted to hear, and then placed the reed-like device in his mouth.
When sound was picked up by the diaphragm, it was supposed to vibrate the sound into the reed and then on into the teeth, via a piece of silk-covered wire.
Not only would you feel foolish because of how silly the thing looks,
But you’d be uncomfortable because your teeth would be rattling somethin awful.
And you’d still have to take the thing outta yer mouth to ask them to repeat themselves.
Assuming you really could hear through your teeth, how are you supposed to hold a conversation wearing it?
Interestingly enough, I guess, the Washington University School of Medicine says this type of gizmo is actually ” a bizarre, yet effective device that used bone conduction to transmit sound” — so, there you are.
I’d rather have an amp that went up to eleven.
Now, if you’re anything like me,
you were a bit disappointed with that last device….
I like to talk about stuff that has ABSOLUTELY NO REDEEMING VALUE at all ,
……… and that one seemed to have a little tiny bit.
Although I still don’t see the practicality of a Jimi Hendrix solo rattlin’ yer molars.
But we won’t get mired down with any notions of practicality with this next device.
And it’s a doooozey.
Hurry, hurry, hurry….
Step right up my friends….
(Don’t crowd, now, plenty for everybody…)
Step up and witness a medical miracle marvel that will revolutionize the treatment of any and all diseases, maladies, syndromes, ailments, aches, pains, and yes, even heartache.
Step right up and meet the Zerret Applicator.
As advanced and high falootin an impression as the snappy name makes,
Even more wizz-bang is the technology involved.
Consisting of two plastic globes, filled with a mystical fluid — Zerret Water —
And infused with a powerful substance called Z-RAYS….
…………………. “a force unknown to science”.
Sounds spiffy so far…. tell me more.
According to it’s instruction manual:
” When you hold the Applicator, it works on your life current, expanding the atoms of the same.
As this takes place, it expands all atoms of your being. Expansion of your atoms produces what is commonly called relaxation. ”
I think I heard of that…..
Now, it’s also important–
— with something this powerful —
that you use it properly.
The manual instructs the user to hold it in both hands, uncross your legs, and make sure all your fingers were in contact with the device.
It was to be used for 15 minutes, 3 times daily.
Ok… so … you ask….
just how effective was this thing?
Well, a whole mess of ’em were sold in the 1940’s and 50’s for fifty bucks a piece.
Until an analysis showed that the device was nothing but plastic and Chicago city tap water.
a William Ferguson, of Chicago,
( surprise, surprise ) was eventually sentenced to two years in jail.
However, I must tell you,
that despite the fact that most of the Zerret Applicators were destroyed,
there still are some out there….
SO if you find one,
do be careful of them powerful Z-Rayz.
You can never be too careful, ya know.
The brainchild of one Doctor Ruth B. Drown of Los Angeles, this next mechanical marvel was called:
“the Drown Radio-Vision Instrument“……..
And it is described as : “…. the only known method by which pathological and histological cross sectional photographs of the soft tissue and hard tissue of the human body may be obtained.”
Alrighty then… about how it works.
The “Humanitarian Research Foundation”, which continues to pitch these machines even today, explains it’s operating principles this way:
” Fundamentally, the theory is based on the fact that everything having form in the physical world is made up of molecules. The molecular arrangement establishes the outer form of the substance. These molecules consist of whirling particles of electricity. This motion produces a definite emanation from all physical substances, which may be brought under direct observation through the specialized use of pinacyanole bromide filters and screens. ”
Pinacyanole bromide filters and screens… got it.
Ok… then what?
“... a blood crystal from a human being, held in a piece of blotting paper, carries the complete energy pattern of the owner’s body. The blood crystal is perpetually resonant to the owner, no matter where on earth the owner may be. The blood crystal is the visible end of an invisible line connected to the owner as long as he lives, and for a short time afterwards. “
So… once you’ve got a sample of blood on a piece of blotting paper, you put it in the machine, and it can make pictures of all your organs based on it.
No need for you to even be in the same state as the good Doctor — as long as they got your blood sample, they can use the vibrations from it to tell you what’s wrong with you….
…………. Even if you’re dead.
Hell, they didn’t have stuff this advanced on Star Trek.
I bet you’re wondering just how intricately delicate and electronically sophisticated this thing musta been……
“The Drown Diagnostic Instrument is a very simple impedance rheostat, consisting of nine dials, each of which can select ten tuning stubs by its rotation. Each dial is numbered from 1 to 10, each dial position making contact with a stub. The possible combinations permitted by this arrangement exceed two billion”.
More light on the subject comes from an article written by Drown disciple Trevor Constable who explains:
” The Drown Instrument is analogous to any other instrument used for the reception and detection of a broadcast. It must have an antenna. In fact, the whole Drown Instrument is nothing but a tunable antenna, so simple in layout that electronics experts have been deceived into thinking that it is nothing but a straight wire, electrically speaking. ”
While it would seem that a big old box full of rheostats and wires going nowhere wouldn’t be much good for stuff like diagnosing illnesses and all, Doctor Drown was very persuasive, and several thousand of the devices between 1929 and 1960 were produced and sold — at $3000 a pop.
Some would say it was all relatively harmless…
A couple thousand gullible-but-wealthy rubes taken for a ride on a harmonic frequency generated by a blood crystal.
But these things were mostly sold to Doctors, as diagnostic systems.
Which means it was used on heaven knows how many patients.
It was said to be good for diagnosing everything from cancer to kidney stones, from flu to flatulence.
The first time I remember hearing about the thing was in a lawsuit case regarding the death of a patient with breast cancer, who had deferred treatment on the advice of a Drown practitioner….
A study in 1941 at the University of Chicago showed just how silly the whole thing could get —
One of the test subjects, an elderly female, subjected to a Drown diagnosis, was reported to have “ a normal function of the uterus and the prostate “.
Just think of the fun she coulda had,
……………… if she’d known about THAT sooner.