If I were to throw the word ‘electropathy’ at you, what would your first reaction be? What would you think it to mean? Would you assume it to be the science of understanding electricity’s path to the earth, or perhaps a study of the nature of electricity, or being it’s personal biographer? If I said, ‘electrotherapy’, would understanding dawn? The practice of using electricity as a tool for diagnosing and treating an illness – often unknown? If there really was a ‘magic suit’ we could dress ourselves up in that promised perfect health – would we want to? Would we even believe it? Would you be caught dead walking down the street dressed like this?
These garments promise ‘cures [to] every other form of disease’. I understand, this was 1900 or so, but ironically enough people still seek out cures like this today. Before we understood what magnets were, we thought they created electricity and could pull at the iron in our blood (they do create a weak field of force but it is not necessarily the same thing as ‘electricity’), thereby increasing circulation and general health. Administering electrical shocks – electrocuting ourselves! – was considered the ‘cutting edge’ of medicine and used to address everything from arthritis to ‘hysteria (aka being horny) to weakness and everything in between.
In addition, ‘quack’ psuedo-medicine did not bother to differentiate between ‘electro’ and ‘magnetic’ for consumers – making products sound extra wonderful and magical by dint of using a science we had not yet fully grasped or understood. Honestly, to this day, the ‘medical benefits’ of magnetism are still not truly documented or well understood. To quote a brilliant line from the Skeptic’s Dictionary,
Many trust testimonials over scientific studies, especially if the stories are told by celebrities. Furthermore, the mass media often distort or falsify scientific studies, providing the general public with a misunderstanding of both the actual results of the studies and of the way science works.
In this day and age, we can Google ‘how stuff works’ and yet these kinds of misconceptions still exist, people still distrust ‘modern medicine’, and are completely willing to accept a long list of ‘alternative’ medicines with no basis in reality; imagine how much more confusing this must have been in the Victorian era when we didn’t really understand either magnetism or electricity.
Quite frankly, the worst part of all of this is that we do subscribe to these kinds of notions – and that we just haven’t quit. Home Shopping Network, late night TV, and the aisles of your local big box store are full of things that promise relief from everything and anything bothering you with no real documentation, medical history, or evidence of effectiveness.
We would call it quackery or chicanery today if doctor’s told us to take baths in freezing water carrying electrical currents – but once upon a time, whole institutions were built upon treating people with ‘galvanic baths’. As if electricity wasn’t bad enough, we know now that water + electricity = death; back then we used it to treat everything from autism to zygomycosis. Children and adults alike got to indulge in the cold, soothing waters of electrified tubs. Eventually, we moved away from full-tub immersion and into electrified limb-baths, which seems even weirder to me.
However, people still get ‘galvanic baths’ today – although we now do it in a more ‘scientific method’, involving oppositely charged metal plates and spa-like environments, complete with people in fancy white lab coats. You can also still enjoy a limb-only bath, if that is your preference.
We have been obsessed with looking better, more attractive, and more ‘fit’ since … well, I think the invention of the looking glass. Face it – we are obsessed with the aesthetics of things, and not just the world around us but ourselves, as well. Thanks to this unhealthy obsession with looking ‘healthy’, we commit ourselves to all kinds of torturous contraptions – electrical, or otherwise.
We have done some weird things with electricity over the ages – intentionally using it to electrocute ourselves in the name of beauty and health has got to be without a doubt one of the weirdest ones. Electrocuting ourselves in the name of beauty in the 1940s, I could see, maybe… But this infamous device was still pushing itself well through the 70s!
And yet here it is in 1990, and movie stars are trying to sell us this stuff all over again! Do you remember Linda Jackson, the movie star, pushing her face-revitalizing ‘Rejuvenique’ mask on late night TV and infomercials?
Even weirder still? We still subject ourselves to these kinds of weird treatments today! Just remember folks – as weird as the things we’ve done in our history are, we still are believers and practitioners of alternative medicines (defined as practices without the benefit of evidence gathered with the scientific method) such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, energy medicine, various forms of acupuncture, Traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and Christian faith healing. Whether you agree with them or not, please at least approach them with a modicum of common sense! Remember that electricity and water don’t mix, and that beauty will never be worth the risk of electrocuting ourselves!
If this article tickled your fancy, be sure to check out this nifty book on ‘The Medical Electricians’, by Robert K Waits, or Quack!: Tales of Medical Fraud from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices by Bob McCoy.
Also – don’t forget: It is voting time for Best of the Springs 2015! Every vote is needed and YOUR VOTE COUNTS! Voting goes until February 15th, 2015!
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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