Bathing in Cold Fire - Hugo Gernsback's Attempts to Replicate Nikola Tesla's Electrical Bath Experiments - An Engineer's Aspect


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bathing in Cold Fire - Hugo Gernsback's Attempts to Replicate Nikola Tesla's Electrical Bath Experiments

The author of this article, written in 1920, reports about another article he read in The Electrical Experimenter by Hugo Gernsback.  

Gernsback, an American inventor born in Luxembourg, became fascinated by Nikola Tesla's electrical experiments and tried to duplicate Tesla's electrical bath.  He had some success replicating the experiment using a rabbit, but couldn't obtain permission from his laboratory to try it on a human.  

Hugo Gernsback is quite noteworthy in his own right.  He was a writer, editor and magazine publisher.  He published the first science fiction magazine and is sometimes called "The Father of Science Fiction," along with H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.  The annual Science Fiction Achievement awards are named the "Hugos" in honor of Hugo Gernsback (The Science Fiction Hall of Fame).

Apparently, Mr. Gernsback had conversations with Dr. Tesla and snippets of those conversations are included in this newspaper article along with the details of Gernsback's own experiments.

The Register, Sandusky, Ohio, Sunday, May 9, 1920, Page 9.


in the Ultra-Modern BATHROOM?

The ultra-modern bathroom may not need a drop of water. For scientists now see the possibility of making electricity taking the place of water. In other words, you may soon be enabled to bathe in "cold fire" by charging your body with high frequency currents of electricity.

In fact, scientists have already announced that the results of taking a dry bath with cold fire by shooting millions of volts of electricity through the body are as efficacious for cleanliness as soap and water. It is claimed that the currents throw off all dead skin, scale and dirt clinging to the skin and leave the bather feeling highly invigorated with his skin rosy and tingling as if he had just had a cold shower.

Writing in the Electrical Experimenter, H. Gernsback explains how Dr. Nikola Tesla, inventor of electrical devices, pointed out that he had indeed performed many such experiments in his Colorado laboratory. "The currents which Dr. Tesla then used were far greater and higher than those produced anywhere now," says Mr. Gernsback. "Thousands of horsepower were used by him at that time.

"Dr. Tesla explained that he frequently stood upon one pole of his mastodonic coils while the full current was on. Of course, he had to stand upon a metallic plate, but he had to be careful so that no sparks jumped from his body to other objects or to the ceiling. This would have meant instant electrocution. Dr. Tesla pointed out that as the human body has a certain capacity, it radiated a good deal of energy into the surrounding air. Due to the tremendous current the sensation

was anything but comfortable. The current heating the blood vessels raised the bodily temperature, and the experiment for this reason alone

could not be extended for any great length of time." 

During the experiments sparks and long spark-streams enveloped the inventor's entire body. At the extremities, elbows, knees, hip bones, nose, ears, etc., the spark display was most pronounced. Streams five to ten feet long would shoot out from the extremities with a crackling noise. Due to the exceedingly high frequencies used, however, the sparks did neither sting nor burn the flesh. In the inventor's own words, his body, indeed, was enveloped in "cold fire."

Dr. Tesla also explained that during the experiments his hair would rise on end, producing the same effect as if a large static machine had been used, with the well known result on the hair.

Mr. Gernsback describes how he endeavored to repeat these experiments by using one of the most powerful high frequency machines in the country. Although but a pigmy alongside of Dr. Tesla's Colorado thunderers, Mr. Gernsback says that the machine used gives 500,000 volts and uses 20 kilowatts. The transformer is sunk into oil, and when the full load is on throws streams six to seven feet long. The noise of the tremendous sparks can be heard for blocks.

"We first took a rabbit and placed him upon the metal plane of the 'high' terminal of the transformer," says Mr. Gernsback. "At first he was much frightened and jumped off the plate at

Caption:  In Taking a Dry Bath with "Cold Fire" Millions of Volts of Electricity Are Shot Through the Body. The Currents Throw Off All Dead Skin, Scale and Dirt Clinging to the Skin. The Treatment Is Said to Be Invigorating, Leaving the Skin Rosy and All a-Tingling.

about five kilowatts. Long sparks had shot out from his nose and above his eyes and at the end of the ears. So the writer wetted the platform with water, because he thought that sparks might be jumping into the rabbit's stomach and legs which insulated the fur part of his body, giving rise to stinging sparks.

"An improvement was seen immediately. The rabbit now held perfectly still for about 20 seconds, taking the full charge of 20 kilowatts at 500,000 volts. Long spark streamers, four or five feet long, shot from brer rabbit's nose, ears and back and, curious to note, immediately above the eyes. Here the sparks were so hot that they singed the hair. So the writer wetted the spots above the eyes, and after that the rabbit took the full charge, never moving once for 20 seconds at a time. Long streamers came principally from the nose. After awhile the rabbit seemed to enjoy the performance, and right after his seance he was as lively as ever, eating a big carrot at once. He is still well and about now.

"We next wished to try a human being instead of the rabbit, but the management of the laboratory, due to possible danger, would not grant permission. It was explained that the frequency of the big machine was too low for the experiment, which had never been tried before on a human being, so we desisted."

Mr. Gernsback describes another experiment that was made with a regulation coil of a very high frequency, but of comparatively low power. Only one kilowatt was used. The subject, Mr. Gernsback says, experienced hardly any sensation worth mentioning. Only at the extremities, such as the ears and the nose, a slight prickling sensation, not at all uncomfortable, was felt. The feet were wetted with salt water to insure perfect contact.

As to the value of these experiments Mr. Gernsback has this to say:

"As Dr. Tesla points out, if these machines come into daily use, and duly invade our homes, it will be possible for us to have a dry bath, more sanitary and infinitely better than our present water baths. If the current conditions are right, the body will throw off scale, dead skin, dust and dirt particles, hurling them far from the body. For it should not be forgotten that the currents travel mostly over the skin, ridding it of all impurities. But that is not all. The unquestioned therapeutical effects on the human body are of great value, not only to the muscles, but to the entire nervous system. The currents, by softening the arteries, make the old feel younger and the young younger and more aggressive. Women, particularly, should derive great benefits from future high frequency dry baths."