Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?

Video Tour the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum (Video) 29

Since he was a teenager, Jeff Behary's been interested in the work of Nikola Tesla, and has been collecting antique electric devices of a particular kind: ones that send electricity through the human body to effect medical benefits, many of which do so with the aid of Tesla coils. Tesla's not the only inventor involved, of course, but his influence overlapped and widely influenced the golden age of electrotherapy. Behary's day job as a machinist means he has the skills to rehabilitate and restore these aging beasts, too, along with a growing family of related devices. He's assembled them now, in West Palm Beach, Florida, into the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum. This is a museum of my favorite kind: home-based and intimate, but with serious depth. Though it's open only by appointment, arranging a visit there is worth it, whether you're otherwise part of the Tesla community or not. Behary knows his collection inside and out, with the kind of deep knowledge it takes to fabricate replacement parts and revamp the internal wiring. The devices themselves are accessible, with original and restored pieces up close and personal — you need to be mindful about which ones are humming and crackling at any given moment. (There's also an archive with books, papers, and other effects relating to Tesla and other electric pioneers, not to mention glowing tubes that predate the modern vacuum tube, and the oldest known surviving Tesla coils, recovered from beneath their maker's Boston mansion. Electrotherapy is the organizing principle, but not the extent of this assembly.) And while Behary isn't fooled by all the therapeutic claims made by some machines' makers about running current through your limbs or around your body, he also doesn't discount them all, either, and points out that some of them really do affect the body as claimed. Yes, he's tried most of the machines himself, though he admits he's never dared taking the juice of his personal Tesla-powered electric chair. View the first video for a tour of part of this astounding collection; the second video is an interview with Jeff Behary.

Transcripts of both videos - scroll down for the interview transcript


Timothy Lord: Right now I’m in West Palm Beach Florida, where Jeff Behary and his wife Rita have turned their home into a shrine to all kinds of electrotherapy devices. It’s The Turn Of The Century Electrotherapy Museum. They’ve got Tesla coils, they’ve got static electricity generators, they’ve even got an electric chair you can sit in. Hey, what are we looking at there?

Jeff Behary: You mentioned finding the earliest Tesla coils or high frequency coils. This was actually one of the prototype coils that Thomas Burton Kinraide made back in 1897. This actually led up to a commercial machine that was sold for x-ray use. It was the second commercial x-ray machine in the market in the U.S. and it’s a Tesla coil, and I had to do a complete restoration of it. The coils were burned out and typically they’re found in good shape, but this one was found in the top of a school and I have a feeling someone left it plugged in and just walked away from it for a long time.

And with that machine, at that time period, it was giving really fast exposures which you could make an x-ray in 5 seconds or 10 seconds. Now it sounds like a lot today because you are doing in 20th of a second or 100th of a second, but back then it wasn’t uncommon have a 15 minute exposure for standard sources.

Timothy Lord: That can’t be good for your health?

Jeff Behary: No, no, and unfortunately tens of thousands of physicians died in the U.S. from overexposure to radiation, and the sad thing is the dangers were known the first year of the discovery and a lot of people were so enamored with the invention that it just sort of blew them off, because it was too cool to see the invisible and

Timothy Lord: That temptation has got to be the cause a lot of deaths nowadays too?

Jeff Behary: Oh, it’s crazy. But that was one of the first commercial machines, and it still works and quite unofficially I’ve generated x-rays with it. I have held up a fluoroscope and seeing the bones of my hand with 50 watts of power. So the same power as a standard light bulb. It was a fully functioning x-ray machine back then.

Timothy Lord: Well, we’ve also got a what I think is a really fascinating device here. Can you talk about this – this is surgically used?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, this is a machine I’m in the process of restoring, it’s a Tesla coil that would only make about a one inch spark on high power, but the spark has a lot of current behind it, and you can regulate it down to like a fractional inch of spark. And what this was used for was mainly electro surgery and they found with cancerous cysts, in particular in the ‘20s, the only other option was a scalpel. So, they found that one of the aspects of high frequency electricity is that you could cook things. And in cancerous cysts, you could actually plunge electrodes in those cysts, coagulate it, and by changing the current, so we’re adjusting the spark gap, you could change the current from a coagulating or cooking current to a cutting current, then you can go in with basically a pointed electrode that would actually cut like a laser and you could remove a cyst with minimal bleeding.

Timothy Lord: Instant cauterization?

Jeff Behary: Instant cauterization, as you cut through the tissues the blood vessels would be sealed instantly.

Timothy Lord: What timeframe is this?

Jeff Behary: The earlier ones, you see here 1915, most of the technology you see in the ‘20s and ‘30s. And then, once you got to the ‘30s because the radio things changed, these machines were interfering with the AM radio band and they ended up switching the short wave using radio tubes. And then the sort of the techniques, actually as the technology improved, you could use less power with radio tubes, but because it was undamped oscillations coming from them. You didn’t have the control of it you did with one of these old spark gap machines. It’s amazing, you can adjust the spark gap few thousands of an inch and you can control the current as to – in old literature they would say, test it on steaks first. And, you can plunge these electrodes into a cut a beef and whether you cook it in 5 seconds or 30 seconds, it’s all an adjustment of a few knobs.

Timothy Lord: What are the knobs in the side of this machine? What do those change?

Jeff Behary: Well, inside there were several electrical outputs, but the main idea, you can control the frequency, you can control the amount of current flowing through the whole machine and then by the spark gap adjustment you could control the voltage of the spark itself, so whether if you are doing minor surgery you might want like a 16th of an inch spark, whereas if you were – the other aspect of this was heating. For rehabilitation, you could heat the body from the inside out, in that case you’d use higher voltages.

Timothy Lord: Again, that sounds really dangerous.

Jeff Behary: Yeah, yeah, if you don’t know what you are doing, you could cook yourself.

Timothy Lord: You’ve also got the sparks over here, could I trouble you to turn that on again?

Jeff Behary: No, not a problem.

Timothy Lord: I’ll see what the mic thinks of it.

Jeff Behary: This was a therapeutic Tesla coil. It was actually three coils in one box. And it demonstrates ______5:30, in no ways is this therapeutic, but you could tell on a fairly low power setting. The heat generated in that, just to take that, even the 2 inch spark, I can feel heat all the way up my arm. So there are definitely physiological effects, whether they were applied legitimately or through semi quackery aspects, is a good question. But we do know that ironically this electric chair next to the machine legitimately worked. There is a sheet of metal underneath, ebonite or a hard rubber cushion and there is a third coil that produces less voltage than on the mat, about 50,000 volts and you would attach one end of that coil to a binding post that led to this metal plate and then, the other one would attach to an arm rest, and you’d sit here and you’d become a human capacitor. And usually, this would lower your blood pressure. In 15 minutes, your blood pressure was lowered significantly. And before medications, it was actually a way that they used to lower people’s blood pressure. Now, it wasn’t permanent. It would normally -- the next day it would be high again. If you had severe conditions, you’d have to go back to the doctor several times a week.

Timothy Lord: If I had the switch in my hand right now, would you mind?

Jeff Behary: I don’t trust the insulation in this chair. Though I have tried the effects before and it’s something with high frequency. If you’re not careful, you may be drawing sparks off that and then you may walk away a little bit lightheaded sometimes. And it’s actually the same effect, I mean, physiologically they are definite effects, even though the frequency is higher, your nerves don’t feel it, but there are things that happen inside that you still have to be careful of.

Timothy Lord: As far as you know, this was a relatively safe thing. I mean this chair in particular has killed anybody?

Jeff Behary: No, no. No cases that I know of; worst may be an accidental spark or something. But they did have to monitor the blood pressure because you didn’t want to lower it too much. But of course, they did during the treatment, before and after during the treatments. And unusually, I mean, it looks like something out of Frankenstein, but it was definitely a real treatment, and it was phased out during the ‘30s when they moved the radio tubes. Physiologically you didn’t really have the same effect. It went from lowering your blood pressure, then when you started to have continuous waves it would actually produce a fever effect in the body. And a few people did die from that. Experimentally they would try to induce fevers in the body, to say, okay, if you get a fever and it kills infection, then we can do it on demand with these machines and unfortunately a few people didn’t make it through those treatments.

Timothy Lord: You’ve got a lot of things here that certainly, let’s say, predate Tesla or unrelated. This was actually -- this is a Tesla related device here. It has got a couple of Tesla coils into that?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, in fact three and it’s something that who knows if he – I’m sure he witnessed a lot of these machines in his lifetime. I know he made some wisecracks later on that if he were to receive a penny royalty for each one of them that were sold, he’d have been rich. And, yeah, it’s true. I mean, it’s unreal how many Tesla coils, especially the smaller kind of quackery machines. They were sold. There were 50 manufacturers of one type of machine. They were more common on toasters I’m pretty sure at one point in time. And they were made into the hundreds of thousands. It’s unbelievable how many were manufactured.

Timothy Lord: And that they have ended up here in this space, in this room, it’s kind of a fascinating lifespan for these devices.

Jeff Behary: Yeah. Unfortunately over the years, they were something. Because they were related to quackery, a lot of institutions didn’t want them because they feared they were protecting the public from not knowing about them, but at the same time, if you try to hide history, no one is going to learn from it, so.

Timothy Lord: Well, speaking of, like the span of the history and where these things come from, you got over here, you mentioned Frankenstein in your ______9:44, what’s the Frankenstein connection over here?

Jeff Behary: This is something really priceless for me. There’s a transformer here, this is actually an adjustable capacitor that was used for tuning, and it was handmade by Kenneth Strickfaden and Ken did the special effects for Frankenstein and over 100 films for Universal Studios. And all of the effects in the Frankenstein films were real. If you saw that 12-foot arc across the stage and passing by actors’ heads, it was real. There was nothing fake at all. And many times, there were wide x-ray transformers, 100,000 volts AC being used in some of these brilliant machines that this man did. And these are artifacts, his personal artifacts that were given to me by a friend of his and it’s amazing the, just that they’re still existent for many people, especially during the ‘30s and ‘40s. That was their experience with Tesla coils as being frightened, unbelievably by these films.

Timothy Lord: On the other – I mean that’s into the recorded cinemetry, that’s pretty recent.

Jeff Behary: Yeah.

Timothy Lord: The other end of that history, you got an artifact from Benjamin Franklin.

Jeff Behary: Yes.

Timothy Lord: How did that come to be and tell us what that is?

Jeff Behary: I can grab it here. We have a magazine. It is a gentleman’s magazine. It sounds like something else. But it actually was a common sort of “what’s going on in the times” magazine. It’s from August 1759 and it has a remarkable article in it.

Timothy Lord: And you’re holding the original. This is not a reproduction of that magazine.

Jeff Behary: Yeah. Ironically, the paper from the 1700s, it’s better than the paper in the early 1900s. There is an article called – it’s an extract from philosophical transactions in account of the effects of electricity in paralytic cases, and Ben Franklin 20 years before Declaration of Independence goes on to describe treating paralytics to see if this electricity could affect their limbs. And he was saying, my method was to place the patient first in a chair or an electric stool, and draw a number of large strong sparks from all the parts affected. And he is describing using a two 6 gallon glass jars. br />
Now, these were Leyden jars and I can tell you that a pint sized Leyden jar will knock you on your rear-end if you take a spark from it, 6 gallons is just cruel at that time. But he documented that after a day of these shocks through these limbs that someone completely unable to move their arms were able to lift their hands gradually off their knees and by the third day they were able to take off their hat. Now, after the fourth day it completely regressed back to how it was originally, but Franklin said hey, maybe if doctors studied this something would come of it because he was just doing it for fun.

Timothy Lord: This wouldn’t pass an Ethics Board right now?

Jeff Behary: No, no, and what’s funny, he was experimenting with electricity and people were sending people to him, saying, hey shock my uncle, shock my see what you can do. And Franklin being Franklin, he was, I think, game for anything. It was an invention actually of Sir William Crookes. It’s called a railway tube. This is something typical Tesla would have had it in one of his lectures. It shows how electrons in a vacuum can actually affect things mechanically. There is a two glass rails and a small fan. And the fan is made of mica and it’s painted with phosphorescence stones. And when you energize this, it actually moves the fan back and forth, little bit of an incline here, but this is the type of thing that was [wooing off] people in 1890s. And wealthy people would buy these tubes as sort of status symbols. And whenever they’d have a party, they’d invite people over to see this technology up close and some of the tubes got very [ornate]. Many of these tubes lead up to the discovery of the x-ray.

Timothy Lord: What are the years on this device? When did these first come to be?

Jeff Behary: They started off 1880s. They did have tubes as early as 1860s but they were more plain back then. This is something from the 1890s. Today we have compact fluorescent lights being.

Timothy Lord: Yeah, for all the kids you want to try this at home. What’s your powers up there?

Jeff Behary: This is an induction coil which is similar to a car ignition coil, only it’s putting out about four times the voltage. But you can actually do a lot of these experiments with just small spark coils, even small Tesla coils will light up a lot of these tubes. But here you can see the Victorian equivalent of a compact fluorescent.

Timothy Lord: Or close to that.

Jeff Behary: Yeah.

Timothy Lord: And what is the actual gas inside?

Jeff Behary: The gas, it’s just normal air, what’s interesting about these tubes, they didn’t refine me on an argon in these gases very well back then, but they found out that if – depending on the amount of air removed from the tube, you would get different colors in the same way.

Timothy Lord: Did you build the rig outside of the actual 12 volt supply here, did you build?

Jeff Behary: This induction coil, no, this was actually a commercial one from the ‘30s. If I grab another coil here, this is something we don’t get to see. This is a good example just to show what is this. Speaking of quackery before, I think this one will work, show an aspect of quackery and then something legitimate, so I have to plug it in over here. This was a typical 1920 Tesla coil. It was used for sort of cosmetics and ironically these are still being made today. Women can pay to receive treatments in the spa. They call them high frequency now. There is no connection with Tesla anymore, but it’s 100% a Tesla coil and they made these glass electrodes.

Timothy Lord: I think that’s going off the mic.

Jeff Behary: Oh. They made these glass electrodes to conform to just about every body part imaginable and then quite a few you wouldn’t dream of using, but that type of small 20 watt machine, we can light up a very subtle lamp. One of the Tesla’s concepts was a single electrode light, a one wire light.

Timothy Lord: Can you bring that up to the lens a little bit? Show that off a little bit. Okay.

Jeff Behary: And this is real subtle but most of Tesla’s experiments were subtle. It’s a very, very subtle effect.

Timothy Lord: It’s very visible. I mean, it’s not that subtle.

Jeff Behary: Yeah, it’s visible. It’s artistic in a certain sense. And these types of lamps, I mean, if you have a strong enough electrical field, you can just have them sitting on your table and turn on the switch, electrify the room and you have light, probably not the safest thing from today’s standards but

Timothy Lord: That one as well, just a vacuum inside?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, just a vacuum. It’s a similar vacuum as what will be in a neon lamp, only it’s just normal air. It’s taken slightly beyond that and you’ll see the nice phosphorescence. This one doesn’t produce x-rays but a lot of Tesla’s experimental lamps did produce x-rays and they didn’t mention that back then, but single filament lamps, for example, if you put a single tungsten filament, you can light them up with high frequency. And it’s beautiful.... lamps... but the filaments are lighting because of molecular bombardment. It’s lighting from x-rays being focused on them. So that’s another experiment that, I mean, as a teenager I replicated some of the stuff, not knowing that, hey I am x-raying myself doing some of these things.

Timothy Lord: With all the dangerous things you are surrounding yourself with here, what’s next on the list? Is there anything, is there a big fish you’d like to find?

Jeff Behary: Well, there is always hope to find an original Tesla coil made by him. I mean, you see pictures in his labs of tabletop coils sort of littering the space and yet we don’t know if any of it exists. Stuff turns up everywhere though. If we can find in an 120-year-old home relics that were in rooms that the owner didn’t know about, then I think anything is possible as far as

Timothy Lord: You know, it seems like really the last may be just for things like this, and burning them. You’re in sort of a Tesla 2 renaissance right now?

Jeff Behary: Oh, yeah, it’s known everywhere. This is one of the few commercial products you’ll see with Tesla’s name on it. This is a Tesla turbine that was sold as a speedometer and the unfortunate part about being a historian of these things when you try to learn the truth, sometimes you learn too much and we actually found out that someone else patented this before Tesla and we don’t know the politics involved

Timothy Lord: That sounds like the absolute coolest speedometer in the world.

Jeff Behary: Oh, it’s very neat and ironically the Tesla community doesn’t seem that interested in these, the antique car community go nuts because speedometers were optional during that time period, there were an add-on, not something required and so the car

Timothy Lord: These were mass produced?

Jeff Behary: They were mass produced and unfortunately the people that own these old cars want the speedometers not caring who actually made them or what the value is.

Timothy Lord: Just want the authenticity.

Timothy Lord: Yeah, yeah, they want something original. And this has a space for – this was made by Waltham Watch and it has a space for a clock and clocks were also optional at that time. So, a strange piece of history. Of all of Tesla’s accomplishments you wouldn’t think a speedometer being the only thing you see with his name on it these days.

Timothy Lord: This is an amazing collection you’ve got. I want to ask you one final question, what is the device you got over there underneath the tube [over there]?

Jeff Behary: This came in actually, it’s very stringy. One of the oldest x-ray companies in the U.S. gave us their archive a few years ago. And this cabinet was in there, it electrically does nothing, I mean, it was a legitimate company that made all this stuff. Why this was in their archive, I don’t know. And it has the name General Electric on it, which is ironic to find a almost useless device and the only thing I can think is that it may have been just used in a trade show to represent something that was about to happen.

Timothy Lord: So this is a non-electric General Electric device?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, I mean, there are a few wires and coils in it, but it’s pretty much just switches at a pilot lighting timer. I should probably show you a couple of the electric images on glass because that’s something that, as far as we know, we are the only ones with these relics do this. This is one of the most beautiful here. This looks a plume. It’s actually a negative discharge of electricity. The way that was made, this glass plate, the photographic plate was balanced on top of this coil and then the apparatus was manipulated to produce this specific type of spark and you turn on the coil and for a split second the light from that would expose it, you could develop it and you end up with this image. Now what’s unusual, you see very strange images across the wall. Then they are all very unlike each other and they are unlike most sparks that you see from coils today. And we’ve been able to replicate all these sparks by taking Mr. Kinraide’s work and building reproductions of it from patents and any notes we found and all the historic artifacts. And what’s incredible, you have a 100-year-old field of Tesla coiling and you introduce some very simple aspects to it and suddenly you have really new fields of exploration. Kinraide used these as art work in the early part of the century and then everyone said, well, it’s really nice, it’s cool, but that’s it. They didn’t look at it from a scientific point of view and now we find that there are similarities to like upper atmosphere lightening, you see different charges forming in the aerial, you see positive and negative, united back to back, a lot of strange things that you don’t normally witness and it’s all done with Tesla coils and a little bit of strange manipulation of the components.

Timothy Lord: So you’ve been able to go really from just a hobby interest to you expanding the state-of-the-art?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, yeah. And that’s where it has been really fun, because it’s nice to be able to see through some of these inventors eyes and if you’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of Tesla coils and suddenly you see something completely different to all the rest, it’s just amazing. I mean, it’s an experience to live for really.



Timothy Lord: What is electrotherapy?

Jeff Behary: Well, the origins date back to 1700s. And one of the first experimenters was actually the forefather of the country, Ben Franklin. 20 years before Declaration of Independence, he was experimenting on paralytics by discharging capacitors into their affected limbs and he noted that there was limited movement after some of these experiments. In the late 1700s, they were experimenting static and that was sort of the birthplace of this idea that maybe electricity could be used to cure certain diseases or to treat them.

Timothy Lord: Okay. You really turned your home into a museum that’s about electrotherapy in general?

Jeff Behary: Yeah. Well, it started off sort of just documenting sort of quackery and then it grew into something huge after that.

Timothy Lord: How did that come to be, what background of yours led to this?

Jeff Behary: Well. Earliest on I was a junk collector. My dad got me interested into collecting and we used to collect coffee grinders and espresso machines. And we go to shows and there’d always be these strange little boxes that no one could explain what they were and a lot of times it’d have blown glass tubes and they looked really interesting. And, finally, one day I bought one, and we had a large machine and the only thing it said was the words [???] And I brought it home, I had no idea what it would do, plugged it in and the TV started going brrrrrrrrr across the room. So, I said, oh, maybe I better unplug it. And when I went over to unplug the TV, it was already unplugged. So, for me that was a instant hit. I said, I don’t know what’s happening here but this thing can affect that thing over there.

Timothy Lord: So how long have you been collecting these things now?

Jeff Behary: Oh, it’s over 15 years now.

Timothy Lord: Okay. And you call this The Museum of Turn of The Century Electrotherapy, why that in particular?

Jeff Behary: Well, the most common devices you kind of find from the 1890s, 1920s, kind of industrial revolution spawned all of these different technologies. And it’s only the last few years I’ve realized that that this stuff existed since even late 1600s, early 1700s.

Timothy Lord: What kind of things do you find from that far back?

Jeff Behary: Well, it’s amazing. Some of the earliest surprises were 1705: Francis Hauksbee who was an experimenter. He actually built probably the second electric machine, it was a static electric generator and he was experimenting with mercury and vacuums, and vacuum pump was a relatively new invention. And he made electric lights back that early and he even made machines that were frictional static machines, that would have vacuums inside of these glass globes, and as you turned the crank, you would actually generate electricity that would in turn generate light through the vacuum, and something that I – now when I think of fluorescent lighting, I think of Edison, Tesla and the 1890s.

Timothy Lord: Did they have a practical application or was it purely for just to demonstrate that this phenomenon was possible?

Jeff Behary: Well, at that time Hauksbee, I think, was generally interested in making artificial light. He published amazing articles and it’s just like nothing happened with them. And it was another 50 years before Franklin come around and Covolo and Pressley and some of these great experimenters that took off with static electricity, but it’s amazing that 50 years prior someone had did groundwork that was really not experienced until the, at least 1860s after that as far as lighting goes.

Timothy Lord: Okay. Now where does Tesla enter the picture; because he’s not the first to notice or to describe static electricity volts?

Jeff Behary: No, and he actually comes – the biggest achievement was early on with the motors, he had came up with the idea of alternating current. And, of course, he developed the whole system of distribution from power generation to distribution to local use, AC motors, synchronous motors, polyphase, three-phase. That was sort of the origins of him and everything we still use today. I mean, it’s almost identical to what he’d come up with originally. But then, the sort of grand use of electricity came in 1890s when he was developing ideas of wireless, telegraphy and transmissions of power and basic high-frequency induction experiments that are well known.

Timothy Lord: So before we even started the camera going, we were going around your house and looking at some of the artifacts you have here, and you mentioned that patents have actually played an interesting role in determining what things got built and how, can you talk about that a little bit?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, yeah. Well, especially with the quackery, it gets interesting because there were a lot of devices that maybe they were sold for medical use, and they might have been completely worthless, for anything medicinally or therapeutically even. But, in order to avoid patent infringements and vendors has got real clever in how they designed something as simple as a circuit breaker or a style of winding a coil. And a lot of times these devices even if they’re worthless for one thing, scientifically they were used in different ways, a lot of pseudo-quackery medical devices turned into, say telegraphy relays or radio components later on. And over the years, sort of, this idea of avoiding patent infringements, come up with a lot of clever designs of things and new discoveries just based on accidentally experimenting down the road that you probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.

Timothy Lord: Just to get it past the examiner’s office?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, yeah.

Timothy Lord: Okay. What sort things, what sort of ailments or conditions was electricity used to treat because you’ve got a house full of devices, what sort of illnesses would somebody going in, a doctor would end up using some sort of electrical device on them?

Jeff Behary: Well, early on in this, especially 1700s, it started off more or less with nervous disorders and arthritis, rheumatism and that sort of thing. And if you tried them, it’s true, it does get rid of pain, it does have a placebo effect, it definitely takes your mind off of the things. The idea of electrotherapy, it’s not shock therapy where you think of something more or less brutal happening to the patient. A lot of times these treatments were kind of relaxing. They found that it was mainly in the late 1800s they started experimenting more clinically just to see the results. By that time they were using sort of pulse currents, they were experimenting with muscle stimulation, things that you would see in a chiropractor’s office today. By the turn of the century then in conjunction with the x-ray, they were actually able to, especially like stomach disorders, they were able to apply one form of electricity and actually take x-rays and see if the digestion really did improve, being able to see internally. So, then with the invention of the Tesla coil, it switched to surgical use, and there was a lot of – early on they were used for skin conditions, germicidal effects of sparks on ozone, and that sort of semi-legitimate, semi-questionable. But today they’re still using; in the treatment of skin conditions they still have Tesla coils and used not so much in professional field but more in the aesthetics field. But by the 1920s, the surgical tools.

Timothy Lord: When you say aesthetics field, can you expand on that a little bit?

Jeff Behary: Aesthetics, thinking more in the smallest terms like massage parlors, but in the larger field, the scope of like spas, people go for like microdermabrasion, Botox, all these sorts of treatments. They have electrical treatments too including high-frequency Tesla coil treatments.

Timothy Lord: In your estimation do you think that’s actually beneficial or is that more sort of modern day quackery?

Jeff Behary: Well, in that specific field, typically, I mean, it was mild things like treating acne, for example. Most of the time people have oily skin and these currents are known to have desiccation properties or dehydrating the skin, so you apply these sparks through electrodes to the skin, the first thing you notice is it sort of dries the surface and for something simple like that it definitely does the trick.

Timothy Lord: Okay. What of these therapies do you think that many of them actually had legitimate therapeutic benefits or were they also dangerous, what are they for?

Jeff Behary: In the early days, most of the time the original experiments were legitimate or at least sincere in efforts of trying to bring them forth. Afterwards to avoid or rather to promote one product over another, they tended to get ridiculous with the claims. And what would start off as more or less legitimate treatments would end up being two or three legitimate treatments and then 50 completely bogus ones. And that’s typically the course of events. Then the FDA got involved, things were banned, taken off the market and then they were typically brought back on the market with less claims until they kept them, ball rolling again and put more claims, got taken off the market again. But, typically they started off legitimately and normally things got safer as time progressed, so that’s why a lot of these things were phased out.

Timothy Lord: You got a big interest in Nikola Tesla but you’ve also got things around your house that predate Tesla’s work?

Jeff Behary: Yeah.

Timothy Lord: You got some static electricity generators and hopefully we will show some pictures of it separately, but what were they for, why do you have giant static electricity generators and how were those used originally?

Jeff Behary: They were typically used, especially in Europe, they were used for therapeutics, but in a really strange sort of way, if anything it was the greatest placebo ever as far as taking a treatment. You will be charged by these machines that could in some cases produce 6 to 12 inch sparks, some of them. You’d stand-on a glass-legged stool to insulate yourself. You’d become charged with one pole of the machine and typically the first thing you’d feel is almost like a euphoric sensation of, as all the hair raises on and then you almost feel like weightless to a certain extent. I mean, physiologically you feel a lot of different when you’re charged and there were electrodes that were brought in proximity with parts of your body. And let’s say if you had like a sore shoulder, by bringing a row of needles towards the shoulder, you would feel this intense cold breeze bombarding your skin. And whether it had any real effects, who knows, but it was definitely relaxing sort of a sedation effect.

Timothy Lord: You sound like someone who has actually experienced these things?

Jeff Behary: I’ve tried them all.

Timothy Lord: Have you tried all of your machines.

Jeff Behary: Most all, not all of them, most all of them, because some of them got a little too strange. But, yeah, if you bring the electrode closer still, your muscles start contracting in the same way is if you had like a muscle stimulator.

Timothy Lord: Do you think that any of devices that you’ve got, that were intended as therapeutic, are any of them really dangerous if they are not used carefully?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, most of them. Best case scenario, you can get a really nasty shock from them. Worst case scenario, you accidentally cook something you’re not supposed to. Some of these machines, you can do internal damage and not know it. In the case especially with high frequencies, especially with later machines where they were powered by radial tubes and so forth, you feel heat, but you may not appreciate how much heat you’re feeling and then it may feel great as, oh boy I’m feeling

Timothy Lord: Right, sure, I mean, you have heat therapy.

Jeff Behary: Oh, yeah, this is relaxing, but it’s not like putting on a heating pad, I mean it’s heating you from the inside out, so you could be in a sense coagulating something or

Timothy Lord: That sounds like a pretty bad side effect to discover?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, there are ultrasonic machines later on that were used for the same effect then. They are particularly dangerous because if you keep them in one spot, you feel this heat, but what they can actually do is pulverize the bone inside, and completely oblivious to what you are doing.

Timothy Lord: You’ve also got these devices from various areas, and really you described that things going 1980, 1990s and even far before that, where do you get those, I mean what is the – like if someone wants to collect interesting scientific apparatus, where do they start?

Jeff Behary: The strange thing is these days I don’t have to look, they seem to find me, but it’s bizarre where they turn up. Now I think people are more aware, they’re looking in their attics. I mean, I can’t image living in a house and not looking in the attic. But a lot of people are looking in their attics discovering things that were there. eBay has been a huge source for all these machines. People have been found them remodeling their homes and discovering like sectioned off areas, and they open a wall and suddenly find a machine in there, I mean there is no telling.

Timothy Lord: You described to me a sort of almost like an archeological find.

Jeff Behary: Oh, yeah.

Timothy Lord: Can you talk about that a little bit?

Jeff Behary: There was one inventor that was actually arrival of Tesla’s to a certain extend named Thomas Kinraide. And he was an early electrical experimenter, an early x-ray pioneer. And he was one of the first people to patent high frequency coils. It was him, Tesla and Elihu Thompson were the first three. And I was interested in this man and could never find any information. I read a sentence in a book when I first started collecting and for no apparent reason, I thought I wonder who this guy was. And 10 years later I found myself at his home. And through a lot of kind of unusual events, I bought one of his patent applications and it was an English patent, and in England if you are an American filing a patent, you put your street address in it. Where in American patents or U.S. patents you put just the county. So, I scheduled a trip to Boston which I knew it was from, and I had no idea where and I got this patent that said, Spring Park Avenue to make a plane. I looked up the address, I rung up the house and said, sorry. Strange question, but do you know the name Kinraide? He said “Oh, yeah, he built this house.” So, he was a legend in town, but no one knows who he was. And this man let me in his home, and I went exploring. It was a 25 room mansion. And in the basement there was what looked like a small closet door. And I went in the closet and when I looked around I realized that it wasn’t a small closet, but it was actually rooms encircling the whole house.

Timothy Lord: Wow, okay.

Jeff Behary: And very bizarre, they were blown out of concrete, he actually used dynamite to create the rooms, they were blasted out of rock.

Timothy Lord: This was at basement level.

Jeff Behary: Basement level and below even. And in these rooms are laboratories of this man that I read about when I first started collecting. And the artifacts were pretty much abandoned there. So, we have the earliest Tesla coils in existence that we know of 1897 prototypes that this guy built.

Timothy Lord: And you knew what you were looking at?

Jeff Behary: I knew what I was looking at, the owner was so nice. He said Jeff, it’s meant to be, take them. We found something significant, hundreds of glass plate photos. That’s something I can show you of electrical discharges and that’s something that Tesla did many lectures talking about sparks of different types, but you never actually see the exact sparks. And this was something that really captivated me because I found all these kind of real artifacts of electricity from the earliest days, trying to decipher what this electricity is. And the sparks were nothing like anything I’ve seen, I’ve seen and owned 350 Tesla coils in those years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. And I showed it to some peers in the Tesla community and they said, “They’re faked.” I said “No, not faked, they’re glass plate negatives.” Well, it’s the speed of the film back then, you don’t get an accurate portrayal of what the sparks look like, and they then said, “Oh, it’s maybe plausible, but still there are so many designs I’ve never seen,” and it was only until a last few years I’ve replicated this man’s work. And I’ve seen the sparks first hand. And what’s incredible is these sparks have correlations, they’re like upper atmospheric lightening, let’s say. And there’s whole new fields of study from something that someone was doing in their basement in the 1890s.

Timothy Lord: When you say you replicated his work, is it different type of coils, is it different ways they were wound or is it

Jeff Behary: Different ways they were wound, it was different ways that they were actually operated. What’s unusual and this is something that I don’t think anyone would expect a Tesla coil. There is only a few components, there is capacitors, spark gap, some source of high voltage and then a coil to discharge it through, but if you vary the parameters to the extreme you can get different effects. And one of the most fascinating ones are instead of producing sparks, you are able to produce the events that lead up to sparks and normally you don’t see. And that’s something analogous to let’s say Aurora.

Timothy Lord: How did it first manifest, how do you know what you are seeing there?

Jeff Behary: I discovered them by accident to start off, and then spent a few years developing. My background is a machinist, so something simple like a spark gap where it’s just two electrodes spaced apart like a spark plug in a car. I said, well what if you vary this mechanically, first five materials that are superior, so tungsten was the best metal, because it has the highest melting point and then mechanically make, in machinist terms a dividing head, so I’m able to adjust the spark gap in say several millions of an inch. And suddenly these discharges appear at certain intervals and there is a – right now we have no explanation as to why; just know that if you do this, this happens.

Timothy Lord: You mentioned or you used the phrase rather, the Tesla community.

Jeff Behary: Yeah.

Timothy Lord: Have you demonstrated it to others who are also really fascinated as you are by Tesla?

Jeff Behary: Yeah, mostly people that have come here, there were some lightening experts in Mid Florida that saw them that are

Timothy Lord: The state probably has the biggest concentration of lightening experts.

Jeff Behary: Oh, yeah. Well, there’s some amazing guys in Melbourne, Florida that have documented like x-rays produced by lightening, for example. People have kind of had an idea that this happened, but these guys actually documented a 100% for 10 years they’ve been studying this.

Timothy Lord: That’s a fairly recent knowledge.

Jeff Behary: Yeah, yeah. And even these men haven’t seen that and even they had to admit, okay we weren’t expecting that. So when you can get people of that level interested and curious that’s always good. And the Tesla community, it’s rough because there are lot of extremes, let’s say, in the eccentric community like that. There’s people that are looking for untapped power sources that pretty much don’t exist. They are pulling at straws and then there are people that have just been buy the book, build a coil in this way because mathematically this is what you should do to build a coil, and.

Timothy Lord: It sounds like you come at it from kind of a skeptical perspective?

Jeff Behary: Yeah.

Timothy Lord: You used the word quackery and that’s usually a tip-off.

Jeff Behary: Yeah, yeah. I’ve gone from the point of view as a machinist more than anything because back in the early days everything was mechanical anyway. And I know these medical coils, that there were a lot of variations you could see where unfortunately the modern definition of Tesla coil for the last 20 years has been pretty much the same thing. You can make a coil that makes a 10 foot spark or a 6 inch sparker, but they all look the same. By sort of thinking outside the box and looking through some of these old patents, you say, well, why would they do that, doesn’t make sense. Well, let’s try it anyway and see. And a lot of times you find accidentally these sort of curiosities that come with it.

Timothy Lord: As a machinist you have got the background actually to construct things.

Jeff Behary: Yeah, I’m lucky there.

Timothy Lord: Had you had to do a lot of reconstruction of the devices that you found over the years?

Jeff Behary: Yeah.

Timothy Lord: Like do they mostly come out in okay shape?

Jeff Behary: Most of them if they are, I would say anything from 1890s or anything from the 1800s in general is normally perfect. Everything was made to such a high standard back then. We have one of the first induction coils ever made 1857. In 1857 it cost $257. So, you could imagine, that’s probably like $10,000 back then for someone to pay for an electrical coil.

Timothy Lord: Lot of it really looks like fine furniture.

Jeff Behary: Oh, yeah, it’s incredible.

Timothy Lord: It’s finished, it’s got edges, it’s got _____23:21 and this is not – it wasn’t made just to be workman like.

Jeff Behary: Right. And in those time people are making every nut, bolt, screw, I mean everything was handmade at that time. In the 1920s most things work, by the 1930s the only issues, typically late 1930s you have the depression and a lot of times inferior materials were used by the second war to help not deplete the war effort, a lot of very inferior materials were used before they had nickel plated brass and then they change to, let’s say, steel because they didn’t want to deplete ammunition.

Timothy Lord: Do you concentrate then on things that are prior to that era?

Jeff Behary: Well, I try to get whatever I can because there were still a lot of interesting things during those transitional period, especially the ‘30s and ‘40s right when radio tubes come into play. For manufactured equipment, there was a lot of interesting things.

Timothy Lord: One thing you pointed out to me before is that these hand crank devices were used sometimes to generate electricity for x-rays?

Jeff Behary: Yes.

Timothy Lord: I mean that’s pretty incredible.

Jeff Behary: It’s amazing. One static machine we restored, it’s roughly 6 foot tall, 7 foot across, 4 foot deep.

Timothy Lord: It’s a walking model.

Jeff Behary: Just about weighs over a ton because there’s 24/30 inch glass plates that would actually revolve in this thing, giant 1 inch steel axle. But it was designed for homes or specifically institutions without electricity, namely hospitals. You could get enough current to make a chest x-ray out of this machine just by turning the crank by hand, and you are turning to maybe 200 rpm, it doesn’t take a lot of effort. And you turn the crank and you get a 12 inch flame across the front of it. And it’s incredible to think that it’s just raw materials that are doing that.

Timothy Lord: Manual labor to get an x-ray.

Jeff Behary: Yeah.

Timothy Lord: That’s really interesting.

Jeff Behary: Yeah. And the machine itself was incredible. I mean, it still functions even in Florida in high humidity. We can still get a 10 inch discharge out of it.

Timothy Lord: Okay. I guess it has to be somewhere, but it’s kind of interesting to me it we were at a beach town near the extremity of the country, it is not where I would have expected to find artifacts from people like Tesla.

Jeff Behary: No.

Timothy Lord: It’s pretty incredible.

Jeff Behary: And it’s now in the sort of the museum sort of eccentric community in our home, it’s the large institutions; unfortunately, there is a lot of scraping going on over the years and a lot of the best examples was probably the earliest Tesla motor in existence was sold at a flea market for $0.25.

Timothy Lord: Recently.

Jeff Behary: 35 years ago.

Timothy Lord: Wow, that’s recent in these terms, right.

Jeff Behary: Yeah, and it was something that the school, it was given for the school by Tesla before he even filed a patent saying, hey guys check this out. And it was a two phase motor which is something two phase you don’t hear of today, you have three phase. But two phase was something that existed a very short while, and what’s interesting about the two phase system, you can reverse the wires like DC and change the rotation in the motor.

Timothy Lord: Interesting, okay.

Jeff Behary: But it was something that the school went, hey we need make room for the kids art work and get rid of some of this scrap....

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Tour the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum (Video)

Comments Filter:

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker