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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Abrams, Dr. Albert (1863-1924) The consummate quack, Abrams was a medical graduate of the University of Heidelberg (in 1893) who moved to the United States to become a professor of pathology at Stanford University, a post he held for five years. Then he developed a diagnostic idea he called “spondylotherapy” which consisted of striking the vertebrae with a hammer. This rather alienated him from his colleagues at Stanford, and perhaps from some of his patients as well.

Dr. Albert Abrams, the “dean of twentieth century charlatans.”

      Abrams left Stanford and began teaching spondylotherapy to other physicians for a fee of $200. Next he originated the idea of diagnosing disease by means of a sealed, scientific-looking black box he called the Dynamizer. This device, he said, worked at any distance by analyzing a drop of the patient's blood and, he said, could even determine the religious affiliation of the patient! Many persons, including some doctors, believed him.
      Soon, for a healthy fee, Abrams was broadcasting cures to his patients by radio waves through another quack device he called the Omnipotent Oscilloclast. Other varieties of these boxes were named the Biodynamometer and the Reflexophone. His customers actually took all this seriously and paid well for his services.
      Abrams's various boxes were available for rental by would-be instant healers, but were thoroughly sealed up. The agreement was that the renter could not examine the innards of the device. When a few skeptics did open the boxes, they found simple wiring, a few resistors, a small motor that only made a humming noise, and nothing that could in any way perform a diagnosis or “broadcast” or even produce radio waves.
      Investigators even sent Abrams drops of red ink in place of blood, but he was still able to find human diseases in the samples. A spot of chicken blood brought back a diagnosis of cancer, malaria, diabetes, and two different venereal diseases. The chicken, it appeared, had gone through an unusual existence in its life of just less than one year.
      The American Medical Association called Abrams the “dean of twentieth century charlatans.” He died wealthy in 1924, leaving an estate of millions of dollars.
      See also George De la Warr and Ruth Drown.

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