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Topic: Edison
Message: Posted by: petethecreeper (Dec 18, 2002 11:40AM)
I thought of something...How about a replicated wax cylinder recording of a turn of the century spiritualist (The Fox Sisters, D.D.Home, the list goes on...or make one up). The wax recording could begin with a seance opening schpiel. Then, after some rather scratchy recordings of ceremony...the recording clearly addresses an audience member's question or announces a predicted tarot card.

It would take some preparation,and the method seems simple.

I also seem to remember Thomas Edison once worked on a device to talk to the dead.

-P :devilish:
Message: Posted by: Dr Mage (Dec 18, 2002 12:04PM)
Didn't he also electricute an elephant publicly, to convince people that AC was safer than DC?

He was (I beleive) at odds with Nickoli Tesla in regard to this. They were both very interesting and controversial individuals.
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Dec 18, 2002 02:51PM)
Great idea Pete! Incidentally, you could easily run this 'live'. Lots of multi-effects units (many cheap), have vinyliser patches on them. A signal you pass through them sounds old and scratchy. You can add 'dust' and turntable noise to your sound source, too.

Laypeople are kind of familiar with the scratchy old movie look, but I'm wondering if they know you can plug a mic into a box and sound similarly ancient? Plug the signal into an old gramophone horn, and you'd fool many.

Finally, did you know that archaeologists have actually recreated the sound of ancient potter's wheels from the grooves in the clay? It's obvious really, that where styli were used, then a recording could have been made. And so there are still some three thousand year recordings out there. The X-Files got bizarre with this idea, and imagined a Lazarus bowl. This bowl was said to have been made when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. The awful necromantic words were recorded in the clay, and were played back, with unfortunate consequences.

There must be other situations in history, where an inadvertent recording would be a very useful thing for a bizarrist to have. A pot would make a nice artefact, too.


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: niva (Dec 18, 2002 03:06PM)
What is a wax cylinder??
Thanks :hmm:
Message: Posted by: petethecreeper (Dec 18, 2002 06:57PM)
To Niva: A wax cylinder was one of the earliest forms of recording sound (along with tinfoil). These cylinders would be coated in wax, and have sounds (picked up by a funnel-like microphone), literally cut into the wax. Watch the Francis Ford Coppola's version of Dracula...When Dr. Seward is recording notes on Renfield; he is using a wax cylinder recording device.

To Dr. Mage: Yes he did electrocute an elephant, much to my chagrin (I love elephants). The elephant was considered a nuisance by its owners, so they let Edison not only electrocute it, but film it as well!

To Caleb Strange: I love the idea of a Lazarus bowl!
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Dec 19, 2002 02:12PM)
Pete, you've got me thinking. What if..?

Archaeologists listening in to the sound of the potter's wheel is just the protruding toe of a concealed monster. Egytptian scrolls, often come stored in a tube. The scroll itself is wrapped around a cylinder, the name of which escapes me. See where I'm going? What if the Egyptians knew how to make simple recordings a la wax cylinder? What if such recordings were deliberately made? Maybe impressions were made in clay cylinders, and metal casts made to preserve the recordings long term. Recordings were made on the central spool, and on the protective tube. Obviously such technology was jealously guarded, and known only to the elite of the priest caste. And so the real secrets, the truly great secrets, were entrusted only to this medium, yet stored in plain sight. That would mean that the surviving material from the past is more extensive, and more magical than we think. Hang on in there, the effects are coming.

Now this technology was passed to the Greeks. The phrase 'Horn of plenty' is a cheeky esoteric code for the ivory horn and stylus used to do the recording and playback. It was truly a horn of plenty, if you knew how to use it. The secret passed through Judea, and although lost, was rediscovered by Muslim scientists in the 'Dark' ages. It was latterly known to a few alchemists.

Okay, now that's bunkum, unless it's not. In which case I've just won the Nobel prize for several catergories! But think of the bizarre possibilities. Recordings made throughout history. The youthful voice of King Tut. The Sermon on the mount in stereo. Great lost works restored to us through his master's voice! Now some effect ideas.

Your work as a folklorist has brought you in contact with the University, where you befriended a brilliant, but renegade archaologist. He/she has come up with this astounding deliberate recordings theory, and been ousted as a result. Together you've been checking out all the artefacts you can, and although work is at a very early stage, you've made some spectacular discoveries...

An Egyptian cylinder has made clear some of the secrets of the pyramids. How organic material could be preserved, and conversely, destroyed. You bring out a strange looking pyramidal thing. Clearly technology of some kind, but not of this time. You show the hieroglyphic transcription made from the recording. You explain that by following the documented procedure, organic material can be made to decay. The host of the party is particularly scathing, and challenges you to prove it. So fruit is put in/under this appparatus, and the recording is played. Scratchy, unearthly, but a human voice is heard chanting something. There's a flash, and the fruit comes out rotten and decayed. The host says it's a trick, and before you can intervene, puts his/her hand into the pyramid. There is another flash. Maybe the lights go out. And a scream. And when the lights come back on, the host's hand is withered and, well, rotten. The stench of burnt and decaying flesh is overwhelming. Mine host panics, and there is a panicky scuffle. When order is restored, someone says that mine host has gone to hospital. The party ends...

Some more ideas: the secrets of Egytian necromancy have been discovered by you and your University chum. A stargate, a cosmic portal known to a couple of Egyptian priests is now yours to use. Things are apported. People disappear. Remote viewing is spectacularly successful.

Or, the Dead Sea scrolls reveal their true secrets, when you study the coptic jars that contained them. The Essenes recorded the true mission/words/ life of Jesus. The actually voice of Christ is heard. Or reprise the Lazarus bowl. Or learn the secrets of quelling storms or walking on water.

Or the true secret of the Holy Grail is in the grooves that surround it. Eternal life is yours. Or play up some bloodline of Jesus conspiracy theories.

The Ancient Greeks were expert sonic engineers. You have rediscovered their science of acoustics. Not only can you build theatres with fantastic sound. But you have also constructed a sound weapon. And you will demonstrate it. Things are smashed. People are incapacitated. Trivial things are obtained. Every red-figure vase has a recipe, hence the unusual food at your party, or a love potion. Etc, etc...

One more thing. You have studied the Nostradamus jars in the Bibliotheque Nationale en Paris. And you have discovered the lost quatrains of the great seer himself. None of this waffly, vague nonsense that infuriates Randi so much. No sir. Names, dates, the full works. So accurate in fact, that a sealed envelope of your translation is sent a month before the show, with a copy of the recording. When you play the eerie tape, and have the translation read out at the show, it clearly has predicted several major new stories. You throw out a few more headlines at the end of the show, and warn of even graver things. Friends see you stocking up on tinned food at the supermarket. You insist on being paid in advance for bookings after July 2004.

There must be a million ideas growing in this well-manured premise. I've not had time to tell you about the Paracelsus bowl, and how I can turn base metal into gold. Or the recipe for the elixir of life, easily made, from well known household ingredients. Let's have fun with this!


Caleb Strange.
Message: Posted by: Vilago (Dec 19, 2002 02:27PM)
To add to the Edison thread, Edison's successful electrocution of the elephant led directly to the invention of the electric chair.

He killed the elephant to show that Westinghouse's use of AC was dangerous (I think it was AC, I always get the two mixed up).
Message: Posted by: David de Leon (Dec 19, 2002 04:13PM)
Wow, love your ideas Caleb! I’ll try and get you the Nobel prize if I can. After all I’m Swedish, and a scientist to boot, so I should know which threads to pull. Whilst I’m at it I’ll try to get myself one. What for? Well, here’s an old idea that I once had about the voice of Jesus:

[i]Just as we are slowly adjusting our world view in response to the newly discovered recordings of the ancients, a colleague of the world famous Nobel prize winner Caleb Strange, Dr. David de Léon, demonstrated his discoveries yesterday of naturally occurring sonograms. His discovery is one that will surely shock the world, although some have resorted to name calling and are labelling him a hoaxer.

The sonogram (short for sonic hologram) has been a technique know for some time, though not commercially available to the public. The technique is similar to that used in creating holograms, or three dimensional pictures. A hologram, is we all know, is made by capturing an interference pattern created by light scattered off an object interacting with light from a reference beam. To see I hologram the reference beam is shone at the interference patter and an exact copy of the light coming off the original object is emitted. What is seen, of course, is a life-like three dimensional object which can be viewed from various angles.

The sonogram works in much the same way, but with sound instead of light. The technique was developed as an alternative to other recording mediums, but has never been developed into a viable product. Sound is recorded by having it pass through a semi solid together with a reference sound (a steady and unfaltering tone). The two sounds create an interference pattern (like the pattern created by two waves in a pond) that is preserved as the semi solid turns solid. Usually a material such as clay or plaster is used.

The astounding discovery made by Dr. de Léon is the existence of naturally created sonograms. In some rare cases two naturally occurring sounds can create an interference pattern if there is a suitable medium present. To further complicate matters the medium must be in the process of changing into a solid as the sound is passing through. Either of the two sound can then be generated by directing the other through the medium. Of course, the natural occurrence of these circumstances is very rare, and there is also the near impossibility of recreating the correct reference sound.

Dr. de Léon, a renegade Cognitive Scientist form Sweden, has spent several years in a cave near Jerusalem investigating a series of clay pools. The dried pools have previously been shown, through carbon dating, to be contemporary with the life of Jesus Christ. Ultrasound scanning of the pools has also revealed some interesting and intricate patterns in several of the pools that lead Dr. de Léon to centre his efforts here. The site is well known and has previously been pinpointed by professor Walter Greuber as the actual location of the last supper.

Dr. de Léon used a computer to synthesise various sounds that would have been common at the time of Jesus, animal sounds and everyday human dialogue, in the hope that these might act as the proper reference sounds for the sonic treasures believed to be trapped in the clay. Directing these sounds at the pools did elicit various strange sounding speech-like sounds, but nothing that language experts could identify. It was when recordings of reconstructed instruments from the period were aimed at the clay pools that the first naturally occurring sonograms were discovered. Years of painstaking trial and error generated the recordings about which there has been so much controversy of late.

Although Dr. de Léon’s team is still collecting and analysing data, a couple of recordings have been released to other researchers. Much of the controversy is over the recording of one of the speakers who is addressed by several others as Jesus. It is not so much the content of the recording that has shocked researchers (the phrase has been roughly translated as ”Judas would you please pass me the salt”), but the quality and tone of the voice. Could this high pitched man with a stammer really be the son of God? And if this is a hoax, what could be the motivation for Dr. de Leon to portray him in this manner? Of course the outrage at the recordings is not universal. Some say that this only shows Jesus to have been more human and fallible. We can only wait to see how this develops and what other scientists have to say as more of the recordings are subsequently released.[/i]
Message: Posted by: Caleb Strange (Dec 19, 2002 04:52PM)
David, what a fantastic idea, and beautifully told. I swear I saw those shallow pools, and heard the chatter of the feast.

I like the issues a stammering high pitched Jesus raises. The Sufi challenge to not 'mistake the container for the contents' comes to mind. How appropriate that our respective labours have found a stable, and been fruitful this Christmas.


Caleb Strange.

P.S. a cup many scholars have identified as one belonging to Plato, in fact the one reputedly given his friend and mentor Socrates for his last drink, has just now produced recordings that will shift paradigms the scientific world over. All I'll say is remember that Plato once mentioned the lost kingdom of Atlantis...
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Dec 19, 2002 10:56PM)
Petethecreeper writes: "I also seem to remember Thomas Edison once worked on a device to talk to the dead."

He did, indeed.
But that's no big deal.
What WOULD be a big deal would be to get the dead to talk back to him!
Message: Posted by: Necromancer (Dec 20, 2002 09:40AM)
A further note about Edison: ever the accomplished publicist, Edison waged an elaborate campaign to have his major competitor's current (DC) used in the electric chair, thereby showing the world how unsafe it was compared to his own (AC). And since there wasn't a widely accepted word for execution by electric chair, he suggested his own: Westinghoused.

(For more about this and other fascinating topics, I highly recommend the book, "An Underground Education." It's a marvelous resource of anecdotal history.)
Message: Posted by: Dr Mage (Dec 20, 2002 09:45AM)
Yes, Necromancer, that's how I remember it. I recall Tesla being involved in some way as well. He was an eccentric fellow (to say the least).
Message: Posted by: petethecreeper (Dec 20, 2002 11:08AM)
Another eccentric of the time was Henry Ford. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe I once heard an anecdote that Henry Ford was so obsessed with Edison, that he paid a great deal of money to Edison's heirs to bottle the inventor's dying breath. The anecdote continues with a claim that when Henry Ford died, among his possessions was a little glass vial, sealed with a cork and wax, and stored in a protective case. There was nothing in it but air!

For those of you interested in the sound quality of a wax recording device, visit this web site:


You may need a real media player to hear the samples.


For you Houdini fanatics out there, perhaps a routine in your future could be a mixture of a Houdini self-unlocking padlock and the sound of Houdini's voice. One of the few traces of Houdini's voice was made on an Edison wax recording. Visit this web site, and take a listen:


These are .wav files, so for those of you who don't really like the real media player (I know you're out there), here's an interesting alternative.

Message: Posted by: Reg Rozee (Dec 20, 2002 01:40PM)
Just a little correction about Tesla and Edison - Tesla was the one championing AC, Edison was pushing DC. Vilago has it right, Dr. Mage and Necromancer have them backwards. Tesla was a true reclusive eccentric genius, and the "tesla coil" is named after him (think of those big things you see in old horror movies with lightning bolts arcing from them - that's a Tesla coil). He had a laboratory named Wardenclyffe in Shoreham, Long Island NY where he built generators that could supposedly produce _millions_ of volts of power. Many people today build home Tesla coils capable of generating well over 10,000 volts. I remember hearing there is actually a cult of Tesla based in the US that believes he was an alien. There are a lot of other extremely strange details about the man, which could provide a lot of fuel for bizarre ideas. He is reported to have transmitted _voice_ over radio to a distance of 30 miles before Marconi had sent his first trans-atlantic Morse code signal. He also had some ingenius designs for pumps and engines (bladeless turbines) that were ignored for almost 80 years before being rediscovered in the 1980's. Here is a faq page about him:

Message: Posted by: Bill Fienning (Dec 20, 2002 05:10PM)
Edison favored DC as a method of distributing electricity. His company (which eventually became General Electric) originally worked with DC. Unfortunately, DC electricity cannot be transmitted over long distances without large losses of power. (I will explain if someone is interested.)

However, AC can be efficiently transmitted. However, to do this, and to build AC motors, requires considerable mathematical talent. Edison was an experimentalist, not a mathematician. Charles Proteus Steinmetz (Proteus really was his middle name) at Westinghouse solved the AC problems mathematically, and so that is why we are now using the more efficient AC electrical distribution system.
Message: Posted by: Necromancer (Dec 20, 2002 06:49PM)
Wow, you guys are all over this topic!

Back to the wax cylinders: I agree, they could be fantastic in the context of a seance. If only the players weren't so expensive.

It's nearly $400, and hasn't even hit the reserve yet. And then, you've got to get the cylinders. And move it all to a venue. Oy.
Message: Posted by: Dr Mage (Dec 21, 2002 01:05AM)
I don't think you'd need an actual "real" wax cylinder player. You could find something that looked appropriate (or even make something).
Message: Posted by: Peter Marucci (Dec 21, 2002 05:44AM)
Yes, Ford was such a "fan" of Edison's that, when Ford decided his family should spend winters in Florida, he got a very small (for him) cottage in a Florida backwater. The only reason he went there was because Edison had the cottage next door.

Consider the following Edison joke an early Christmas present:

Edison calls a press conference to show off a new invention that he says will revolutionize the world.
He ushers the gang of reporters into a dark room. On a table in the middle of the room is a glass globe with a filament in it.
When everyone is assembled, Edison flicks a switch and the globe starts to glow, filling the room with light.
"Wow!" say the reporters. "That's wonderful. That will truly change the world. Mr. Edison, you're a genius."
"No, no," says Edison. "That's not it! Watch."
And he leans over the glowing globe and shouts:
"Hello? Hello?"
Message: Posted by: petethecreeper (Dec 21, 2002 02:10PM)
To Necromancer: I agree with Dr. Mage. There's a place near where I live that has several antique edison players. They ARE pricey! Making one would take some time and resources, but it would still be cheaper to build...and easier to gimmick.

To Peter (and anyone else interested): Here's another tidbit from an article found in a copy of the IBM's Linking Ring Magazine...from 1929!

Apparently Okito, then travelling with the Thurston show, found himself in Norfolk Virginia. They were staying in a hotel, and weathering out an dull Sunday afternoon by performing for each other in the lobby. By the time they were finished they had drawn quite a crowd. One of them, an unconventional looking old man in an old cap and his vest covered in tobacco crumbs, approached Okito at the end of the impromptu performance. The old man began to ask a series of questions of Okito; Where he was from? What towns had he visited? What did he do before becoming a magician? etc. The questions seemed endless. Finally, Okito become bored with this, and tried to escape the old man. The old man asked if magic was in his blood. Okito replied positively, and that his family had known five generations of magicians. The old man asked him if Okito still wrote to his father. Okito, rather terse at this point, replied that he did, and turned to leave. The old man grabbed him by the coat tail and finished the conversation with:

"Well, my boy, the next time you write to your father tell him Thomas Edison said his son is very clever."

Before Okito could recover from his surpise and reply, the old man winked and disappeared. :bwink:
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (Dec 31, 2002 02:26AM)
On 2002-12-20 18:10, Bill Fienning wrote:
Edison favored DC as a method of distributing electricity. His company (which eventually became General Electric) originally worked with DC. Unfortunately, DC electricity cannot be transmitted over long distances without large losses of power. (I will explain if someone is interested.) [/quote]

very, very interesting thread! an aside note
The "tesla Cult" is called Unarius and is based just a couple of blocks from my home in El Cajon, CA... Very eccentric bunch but nice custumes <G>... It's led by a woman whose name escapes me.
Slim Price
Message: Posted by: Thoughtreader (Dec 31, 2002 12:57PM)
The very first machines were actually "tin cylinders" not wax. My late Uncle had one of the very first. Edison origianlly intended it as a dictating machine. There has also been much talk between biographers that Edison "stole" many ideas from his employees - they invented it working for him BUT he took the credit. I mention this as it could be a great idea in a seance - a disgruntled employee of Edison coming back from the grave.
PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat