Radio Dise@s3 K1ller
The Radio Dise@s3 K1ller is definitely one of the weirder devices I have come across. While flashing its multicolored lights (eerily shining through hole is the front cover), and creating a horrible racket with an internal buzzer, the machine would deliver a low voltage (but quite painful) electrical shock to who ever was unlucky enough to be hooked up to it. This device is most likely an E.R.A (Electronic Reactions of Abrams) clone. In the early 1900s, Dr. Albert Abrams developed the idea that all parts of the body, including diseased body parts, had a specific vibration rate. He said that if the vibration rates of the diseased part could be determined, then that same frequency could be sent back into the body and cure the disease. Of course Dr. Abrams was kind enough to make the machinery required to do this diagnosis (The Reflexophone) and treatment (The Ocilloclast) available to practitioners, for a rather hefty sum.
Like other E.R.A (Electronic Reactions of Abrams) devices this one also includes a collection of parts that don’t really do anything. This includes parts that were normally used in radios such as radio tubes and coils. These parts were undoubtedly included to make the patient believe that it was transmitting “healing” radio waves into their body. Also like other E.R.A devices this one has a test tube with two wires going down into it. Usually the patients blood or urine (or even a hand writing sample) was put in this tube and a “diagnosis” of the patients’ problem was made. Of course the doctor was always able to offer the patient, for a price, a guaranteed cure for said ailment. Interestingly enough patients were frequent diagnosed with syphilis, ghoneria or some other embarrassing venereal disease. The idea was that the patient would be too humiliated to go for a second opinion, and find out the diagnosis was probably incorrect, and just pay the doctor what ever they wanted for the cure.
The front panel of the R.D.K controls consist of an “ON/OFF” switch, a “PHONE/PATIENT” switch (in the phone position the buzzer is turned on and in the patient position the buzzer is turned off), binding posts to connect the attachments to (labeled “FOOTPLATE”, NEGATIVE and POSITIVE), an INCREASE/DECREASE knob (which allows the voltage to be adjusted from 0 to 85 volts (5ma)) and the INTERRUPTED/STEADY push pull switch (which allows the power to the device to be automatically turned on/off about once a second).
The top of the box lifts up to reveal a brass tag which reads “No. 1225, Volts- 110 A.C., D.C., R.D.K., Manufactured by the R.D.K. Corporation of America, Brooklyn – New York”. A look inside the device (from the top) reveals three 10 watt colored lights (red, green and blue), two 201-A radio tubes and a mysterious test tube with a copper and aluminum wire protruding into it (these wires are attached to binding posts labeled “A” and “B”). Other E.R.A. boxes have receptacles in which to analyses bodily fluids or even handwriting samples and I am assuming the test tube is for a similar purpose.
A look into the interior of the box (from the bottom) reveals a large collection of switches, a buzzer, tube sockets, a transformer, a large coil and other assorted parts.
As far as I can tell, the coil, the tubes and the test tube (and its probes) serve no purpose in the working of the device, and were most likely included to look impressive. A clue as to why the coil and the tubes were included can be found by looking at the time period at which the device was sold. Judging by the type of tubes it uses, the device was most likely sold in the late 20s early 30s. This was the time when radio was becoming popular. By including the coil and the tubes, which were the most distinctive features of a radio, the makers of the device were clearly trying to associate the device with the “magical” and “mysterious” powers of radio waves. Clearly the device’s name “Radio Disease Killer” was also an attempt at this. As far as the test tube and its wires are concerned, it turns out that the wires are connected together therefore rendering it totally useless, except of course to give the devices some sort of “scientific” credibility.
I have two different models of the R.D.K a “Deluxe” and a “Regular”. The “Deluxe” model is actually quite beautiful with its dark mahogany wood (solid and veneer) and its simple shiny Bakelite front. The “Regular” version is not so stunning with its cheaper wood and paper labels, but it does have a rather nice red finish. Electronically, the only difference I can see between the two is that the “Deluxe” provides the option to have steady or interrupted (automatically turned on/off) power, whereas the “Regular” model only has the option to run on interrupted power.
I have been able to find very little information on this device except from Ken Raine. Ken Raine’s Internet describes the Jehovah’s Witness’s involvement with E.R.A equipment including the R.D.K. Apparently the Jehovah’s Witness’s were, and still are, against things such as transfusions and surgery. Because of this in the early 1900s they were supporters of all sorts of strange “alternative” medical practices. Unfortunately, neither of these sources indicates how the device is supposed to be used. For instance is it both a device for treatment and diagnosing? Any further information on this device would be greatly appreciated
One last note on getting these to “work”. I had to try a couple different sets of good 201-A’s before the box worked properly so apparently the condition of the tubes does make a difference. Also, don’t use anything higher than a ten watt 10 watt bulb. Higher wattage bulbs draw excessive current through the tubes. The automatic interrupt switch works by heating up a contact switch with a heating wire until it expands to the point where the switch breaks contact (the switch and heating wire then cool down and reconnect). This heating wire tends to break, so on some of the R.D.K.’s I have seen, the intermittent function does not work.