Quack Cures and Radionic

Ouija Boards


Ken Raines


[From JW Research Journal, vol. 3, #2, Spring, 1996.
Updated August 27, 1999.]



In 1953, the Watchtower Society (Jehovah's Witnesses) ended their endorsement of the "electronic reactions of Abrams" or the E.R.A. They claimed that radionics, as it was now called, was medical quackery. In 1962 and 1963 they said the E.R.A. methods were psychic and spiritistic in nature. No mention was made in these articles that they had been heavily involved with this "spiritism" since the early 1920s.




The Jehovah's Witnesses endorsed the "Electronic Reactions of Abrams" or ERA methods of diagnosing and treating disease from the early 1920's through the 1940's. Dr. Albert Abrams, the inventor of this method is considered one of the "most notorious quacks" of the 20th Century. The Watchtower Society however believed Dr. Abrams had discovered a way to diagnose and cure all known diseases. In the early 1920's, the second president of the Society, J.F. "Judge" Rutherford instructed the doctors at "Bethel" (the Society's name for their headquarters in New York) to travel to San Francisco to learn the methods from Abrams himself. The Society's literature such as The Golden Age magazine (now called Awake!) contained articles favorable to the ERA, including endorsing at times some of it's strange occult and psychic methods an connections. [1]

One JW, Doctor R.A. Gamble, even invented an ERA machine that JWs could use to diagnose and treat their diseases from the comfort of their homes. [2] This was announced as an "epoch making discovery" in a full length article in The Golden Age. An ad for the device, the "Electronic Radio-Biola," was included in the magazine for JWs to order the gadget. [3] Other JWs well known among those in the movement endorsed other ERA devices. This included William Hudgings who wrote the book, Dr. Abrams and the Electron Theory which promoted the ERA. He was associated with the ERA treatment device known as the Radio Disease Killer. [4] One well known JW, Roy Goodrich, however believed the ERA methods were quackery and the devices such as Abram's osciloclast were nothing more than a glorified Ouija Board. He complaind to all who would listen, including finally getting into a shouting match with Rutherford himself. He was allowed to write an article in The Golden Age explaining his views and experiences with the ERA. [5] The Golden Age subsequently published an article by a "Bethel" doctor, Mae Work in response, declared the matter closed, and continued using and endorsing the ERA.[6] Goodrich, after hearing the ERA was still used at "Bethel" in the early 1940's, once again began complaining that his fellow JWs were getting involved with quackery and "demonism." After this second campaign by Goodrich the Society disfellowshipped(excommunicated) him. [7]


The Watchtower ends their endorsement

In the September 22, 1953, issue of Awake!, the article "Quack Cures and Food Fads" appeared, officially ending their endorsement of the ERA. [8] On page 21 they mentioned "electronic" machines that were advertised to cure all known diseases. One machine they mentioned was a "Radioclast." This was nothing more than an updated version of Albert Abrams' Oscilloclast the Jehovah's Witnesses had been promoting and using for decades. That the Radioclast was basically the same as the Oscilloclast and was based upon the same ideas, can be shown from the article itself. They quote an unidentified radio engineer as saying:

"One of these electrical gadgets supposedly was based on a theory that disease causes the body to radiate electrical energy at some specific frequency peculiar to that disease. The same machine diagnosed and likewise treated all diseases."

The article then said:

This machine, called Radioclast, was investigated by the Police Bureau of a large city. And a reliable magazine (Radio Craft, February 1944; now called Radio-Electronics) published the results of this investigation,... and the reasons why the claims made for it could not be true.

They then described how the machine was used to diagnose disease by saying:

The patient holds an electrode in his hand, and the doctor, with one hand, rubs his fingers over a little glass plate and turns dials and knobs with the other. When the doctor "tunes in" to the disease, he is supposed to feel some resistance to his stroking, due to the effects of the "vibrations" on the glass plate.

This is clearly the E.R.A (see previous articles). They also mentioned the "Spectro-Chrome" machine. This was another E.R.A. take-off of the Abrams' Oscilloclast that used colored lights like the BDC Vagal Reflex method. (pp. 21-22.)

On page 22 of the article they mention the use of testimonials by "quacks" to lend credence to their claims. They made the following comments about this:

How are they obtained? Many testimonials are bought outright. It is simply your signature for cash.

The only "proof" many quacks give for their views and devices are "testimonials" of satisfied customers. This is what Dr. Gamble did when he tried to reassure his fellow JWs of the efficacy of his Electronic Radio Biola. It wasn't until 1953 apparently that the Jehovah's Witnesses finally wised up to this fact.


E.R.A. spiritism

The Watchtower Society really began to sound like Roy Goodrich by 1962. In an article in The Watchtower magazine that year titled, "Protecting Yourself From 'Wicked Spirit Forces'" they dealt with radiesthesia. They defined radiesthesia as "sensitivity to radiations." One form of radiesthesia they discussed was radionics, which is the current name for the E.R.A. They said:

Radiesthesia, which is now very widespread, is believed by many to be a form of psychic healing.... If the "psychic" element seems predominant in radiesthesia, what about radionics? This is the term used to denote a branch of radiesthesia in which the water-diviner's pendulum is replaced or incorporated into an elaborate machine. What do the machines do? Some practitioners claim amazing results by "tuning in" to the radiations or wave lengths of diseases. The problem here is that radio engineers and others who have tested some machines cannot find any reason why they should work. One radio engineer could not determine "any kind of energy or vibration frequency on the detector plate" of an elaborate machine. [9]

The article then quotes an Electronic Industries article from its July 1962 issue about radionic machines being banned by the Federal Court of the United States as they were deemed fraudulent. This included the "Radioclast Model 40." The Watchtower article questioned whether there is a scientific basis to radionics or if it is simply quackery, or if it is the result of "gifted" individuals who are sensitive enough to perceive some sort of unknown (occult) forces. They say:

The issue is fiercely controversial. Emerging from the controversy are indications of the psychic element.

They then quote from the book, The Extra-Sensory Mind by Dr. Kenneth Walker to this effect. They also quoted Walker's statement that radionics and radiesthesia use the same principle as ancient sympathetic magic. The Watchtower article then concluded by saying:

Though every operator of a machine used in radionics cannot be said to be psychic, it appears that some are. Because of this link with ESP, the true Christian would not want to risk playing into the hands of demons, and thus wisely refrains from any manner of diagnosing or healing that arouses suspicions of spiritism.

For the sake of protection, then, the true Christian will want to avoid all those things that not only lack a known scientific basis but do have a known link to ESP or spiritism. Seek Jehovah with your whole heart, never denying his power by disobedience, so that you may have divine protection from "wicked spirit forces." [10]

Now they were saying radionics was not only quackery, but could involve a "true Christian" with "wicked spirit forces," that is, demons! The Society, to my knowledge, never offered an apology to the now disfellowshipped, but apparently "true Christian" Goodrich who was excommunicated for saying the same thing; nor did they offer to reinstate him after realizing he was simply trying to "protect" himself and fellow JWs from this "demonism."

Those mysterious radionic ouija boards

In 1963, the Awake! magazine printed the article, "Those Mysterious Radionic Machines" which updated the controversy over radionics or the E.R.A. It was mainly a look at a recent British court case involving radionics. It directly related the modern radionic movement with its founder Dr. Albert Abrams and noted its similarities with primitive ouija boards.

The article began by saying that many persons either consider radionic machines a fraud or a mystery as it apparently works for some individuals and not for others. They then comment:

Both those who call radionics quackery and those who call it a mystery point to Dr. Albert Abrams and his strange "Abrams' Box," said to be based on his theory that each disease has its own vibratory rate or its own radiation and that each drug possesses the same radiation as that of the disease it cures. [11]

Abrams' method of diagnosis from a blood or handwriting sample is then described. The article then documents the views of those who believe radionics is scientifically absurd and thus quackery. Quoted is D.H. Rawcliffe's book, Illusions and Delusions of the Supernatural and the Occult. Rawcliffe was a materialist who believed all supernatural and occult phenomena are not real, but are the result of "illusions and delusions" of the human brain. The comments by Rawcliffe quoted in the Awake! article chalked up radionics to a method for quacks to "fraudulently" separate people from their money. In the case of radionic operators and patients who believed in the E.R.A., it was a case of operators perceiving 'vibrations' or 'reactions' and patients being healed due to "expectations and suggestions." (the Placebo effect)

Next the "fraud" view is looked at by examining a recent fraud case in Britain brought before a court involving a 'De la Warr' radionics device. (pp. 12-14) The case involved a woman who bought a De la Warr device, but discovered the claims for it were fraudulent. She said it didn't produce any "rays or radiation... as I was assured of when I bought it."

The trial was covered in the June 28, 29, 30, and July 1, 6, and 19, 1960 London Daily Telegraph and Morning Post. The Awake! article quotes from these newspaper articles on the trial. It was claimed the devices could cure animals and humans of diseases over large distances. One practitioner from Dublin diagnosed from a hair sample instead of blood. The defendant's wife testified that she uses the machine to tune into the "force fields" (aura) that surrounds living things.

One radionic "doctor," who claimed to be a mystic, testified that the theory behind the devices was an "application of Einstein's unified-field theory." (Einstein never produced such a thing, though he did try to work one out.) The judge in the case after listening to all this, claimed that "nobody has suggested they knew how it works" and thus:

"It does not seem to matter at all how you use it. For contact with the patient, blood could be used, hair, a signature. More remarkable of all, according to one practitioner, 'It doesn't matter if you have got the wrong blood....'" [12]

Some of these clearly wacky claims and testimony led the judge to conclude the claims for the devices were extravagant and exaggerated. Despite this, the judge dismissed the charges against the defendant. The reason was the claimant clearly contradicted her claim that she couldn't get the device to work in the manner it was supposed to. She admitted that "One day the box would come alive and I would get a real stick," but on other days, cold whether would cause it to "stick" only rarely. A "stick" was when the finger would stick to the glass plate when rubbed to get the electronic "reactions."

The Awake! article next quoted the judge's comment that the De la Warr device was similar to a "rubbing board" used by "some wild tribe in the Sudan." The Awake! article commented that:

The inventor denied, however, that his idea came from a 'rubbing board oracle' used by the medicine men and witch doctors of the tribes of the Sudan. Nonetheless, there is some resemblance to African-style ouija boards.[13]

These "African-style" ouija boards are limited to answering "yes" and "no" questions. "There is more than a reference to African ouija boards," the article claimed. ESP is also connected to radionics. They quote the London Daily Telegraph for June 28, 1960 that quoted the "manufacturer" of the De la Warr device who said it was "more akin to clairvoyance and telepathy and extrasensory perception than anything else."

The article closed by saying:

Though it cannot be dogmatically said that all radionics practitioners are mystics, extrasensory perceivers or mediums, there is sufficient evidence to warn the Christian that the "mystery" behind radionics may well be spiritism. The "practice of spiritism," whether for diagnosing or healing or anything else, is condemned by God's Word, the Holy Bible.&endash;Gal. 5:19-21; Deut. 18:9-14. [14]


Yoga and the E.R.A.

The next mention of the E.R.A. and associated devices came a couple of months later in an Awake! article on Yoga. The article mentioned a relationship between Yoga and a De la Warr radionic device called the Coloroscope. By the name of the device it will be apparent it was a variation of E.R.A. like the BDC Vagal Reflex method that used colored lights for curative purposes. The article said:

In harmony with Yoga theories is the practice of healing by colors and radiations. In fact, one yoga book tells about a radionic-like device manufactured in England: "De la Warr has devised a treatment instrument called the Coloroscope, which actually radiates curative wavelengths at the patient.... The wave-forms are projected at the patient by using a coloured ray of light as a carrier." [15]

The article also says that the book mentions a camera developed by De la Warr that took photographs of diseases of patients "many miles distant" from a sample of blood. It also supposedly photographed thoughts of individuals through telepathy!


June 15, 1982, Watchtower

In 1982, The Watchtower magazine carried an article that dealt with medical treatment. It commented that medical treatment has been subject to popularity and fads at times. Many things once thought useful are now known to have adverse side-effects. Even doctors schooled in the "scientific method" have been influenced by "prevailing opinion" that was promoting some fad. They also said:

Other "cures" that became popular actually were totally ineffective because they were frauds.* They were promoted by men happy to separate sick people from their money. And of great concern to Christians, some of the popular treatments seem to have involved 'uncanny powers' or spiritism, which the Bible condemns.[16]

The asterisk in the above quote referred to a note at the bottom on page 25 of the article that said:

A museum in St. Louis, Missouri, has a display on such frauds. Included are radionics machines, colored lights to "cure" patients as they lay with their heads pointing northward, devices that supposedly transmit "cosmic energy" and others that involve diagnosis or testing based on mysterious "body forces."

[Note: the St Louis Museum mentioned here, which is called "The Meseum of Questionable Medical Devives" is now located in Minnesota. Their web page is located here.]

Most of this the Jehovah's Witnesses were involved in. Radionics machines, colored lights to "cure" patients as they lay with their heads pointing northward, "uncanny powers" or spiritism, etc. I guess this made Bethel doctors such as Work and Howlett quacks who "were happy to separate sick people from their money." About lying with your head pointing north, The Golden Age suggested this for proper sleep. In a health article, The Golden Age in 1929 said:

Sleep on the right side or flat on your back, with the head toward the north so as to get the benefit of earth's magnetic currents. [17]

In Mae Work's 1930 Golden Age article on the E.R.A. in response to Goodrich she said:

... the lines of magnetic force will go in the direction they prefer. It is for this reason that it is better to sleep with the head to the north, when that is possible. [18]

The E.R.A. used "uncanny powers" and spiritism according to the Society. They have never mentioned they were involved in this as well. They also mentioned the use of "mysterious body forces" in medicine. Does this refer to Chiropractic and its reference to a "life force" that is used to cure? The Society, as we will see later promoted this. They still talk about a "life force" in humans. The Bible nowhere mentions such a thing. Where did they get it then? Chiropractic? The occult? Spiritism? Each of them used the term.

In a footnote on page 26 of the 1982 article The Watchtower magazine stated:

Occasionally, persons will inquire of the Watchtower Society as to whether a form of diagnosis or treatment involves fraud or spiritism. We are not in position to do research and judge the numerous "treatments" used earth wide.

Obviously! They have a lousy track record of doing this, and persons would have been better off not following their advice and endorsements on medical matters throughout their history.

The above 1982 article did put forth more "reasonable" advice on health issues than in the past. They again mention the unreliability of "testimonials" as they did in 1953. They mention the "placebo effect" as well. They then have a subheading dealing with seeking "qualified help," that is, those who are experts in their field and who have had good training.



The Watchtower Society's leaders traditionally have not had any good, qualified training in the medical field. Their history well testifies to that fact. [19] Their endorsement of the "electronic reactions of Abrams" and its associated occult and psychic practices is just one example of this. They endorsed this for decades after it was deemed useless by scientific investigators and experts in the medical field.

The number of "doctors" in the Watchtower Society who used, promoted and even invented E.R.A. machines and techniques and the numerous high Watchtower officials treated with it indicates the depth of involvement of the Watchtower with the E.R.A. Here is a list of individuals associated with the Society that were involved with using the E.R.A. techniques and devices:








It took the Watchtower Society 40 years to reach the same conclusions about the E.R.A. Roy Goodrich made in a few hours. If both Goodrich and now the Society are right about the spiritistic or demonic nature of the E.R.A., the Watchtower Society's leaders were involved in medical spiritism for several decades, along with many of their followers.

This endorsement of quackery put the physical, and perhaps spiritual, health of many in jeopardy. Their uninformed opinions continue to put at risk the health and lives of millions. Their most recent medical position in this regard is their current ban on blood transfusions. Yet, they continue to condemn others for putting their follower's lives unnecessarily at risk. They say this makes them "bloodguilty" before God. The Watchtower Society has continually been guilty of the same thing throughout their history.

For example, how many JWs died trying to be cured of serious diseases by submitting to Watchtower authorized treatments with Gamble's Electronic Radio Biola? How many JWs were treated at Bethel for their cancer with Mae Work's oscilloclast? I seriously doubt the Radio Disease Killer actually "killed" any diseases. JWs may have died prematurely by relying on it. If so, perhaps it should have been called the Radio JW Killer.






1. See, A.P. Pottle, "The Power of the Mind," The Golden Age, February 25, 1925, pp. 332-4; R.A. Gamble, "Automatic Electronic Diagnosis," The Golden Age, April 22, 1925, pp. 451-455; William F. Hudgings, "Waiting for the Great Physician," The Golden Age, September 17, 1926, p. 113; "Camparative Value of White and Brown Sugar," The Golden Age, November 30, 1927, pp. 138-139; Roy D. Goodrich, "Ouija-Boards, Small and Large," The Golden Age, March 5, 1930, pp. 355-362; M.A.Work, "What is E.R.A?" The Golden Age, April 30, 1930, pp. 483-488; Dr. Mae Johnson Work, "Cancer--Why the Increase?" The Golden Age, February 18, 1931, pp. 338-342.

2. R.A. Gamble, "Automatic Electronic Diagnosis," The Golden Age, April 22, 1925, pp. 451-455. In the article, Gamble said of his invention, "I have named this new discovery, which I believe will be epochal in the history of the treatment of disease, and which I am exclusively announcing in THE GOLDEN AGE prior to its general publication elsewhere, The Electronic Radio Biola, which means life renewed by radio waves or electrons. The Biola automatically diagnosis and treats diseases by the use of the electronic vibrations. The diagnosis is 100 percent correct..." (p. 454)

3. The Golden Age, April 22, 1925, p. 479.

4. William F. Hudgings, "Waiting for the Great Physician," The Golden Age, September 17, 1926, p. 113.

5. Roy D. Goodrich, "Ouija-Boards, Small and Large," The Golden Age, March 5, 1930, pp. 355-362.

6. M.A.Work, "What is E.R.A?" The Golden Age, April 30, 1930, pp. 483-488.

7. See the previous article, Roy D. Goodrich and the ERA Ouija Board, JW Research Journal, Spring, 1996, pp. 17-20. Goodrich's account of his blowing the whistle on the Society's endorsement of the ERA and his being dissfellowshipped over the issue is recorded in his book, Demonism and the Watchtower, 1969.

8. This 1953 Awake! article was the first official Society rejection of the ERA in print. I do not know when JWs stopped using the ERA and associated devices. One well known ex-JW, professor M. James Penton, author of Apocalypse Delayed The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses, claimed to have been treated with the Electronic Radio Biola by another JW in the year 1949 (JW Research Journal, Winter, 1997, p. 29). After this and subsequent watchtower articles against the ERA and Radionics, one assumes most JWs forsoot such treatments. On the other hand, I have heard reports of JWs to this day seeking out "electronic" treatments (JW Research Journal, Jan.-June, 1999, pp. 35-36).

9. The Watchtower, November 15, 1962, pp. 679-680.

10. Ibid., p. 680.

11. Awake!, January 8, 1963, p. 12.

12. Ibid., p. 13, quoting the London Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, July 19, 1960.

13. Ibid., p. 14.

14. Ibid., p. 14.

15. Awake!, March 22, 1963, p. 18.

16. The Watchtower, June 15, 1982, pp. 25, 26.

17. The Golden Age, November 13, 1929, p. 107.

18. The Golden Age, April 30, 1930, p. 484.

19. Most of the "doctors" involved in the JW movement through the years have been doctors of Osteopathy, Chiropractic and other "alternative" healthcare philosophies. These have traditionally been viewed as "cults" by the "orthodox" medical community. There has been much quackery and occultism in these systems which the Watchtower Society itself endorsed. The ERA is just one example. This series of Journals on the Watchtower and Medicine will examine these different systems and the Watchtower's involvement in them.

20. Scientific American, March, 1924, p. 159.

21. Roy Goodrich, Demonism and the Watch Tower (Ft. Lauderdale, FL.: The Bible Way Publications), 1969, pp. 10-11.






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