The Violetta Violet Ray
Back before regulations on medical devices or ingestible medicine, pretty much anything was fair game as a cure-all. Some were relatively harmless, and in fact often benign to the point of uselessness, but others could cause serious harm. One of my favorite sodas, Moxie, originated this way, being sold by traveling salesmen before ultimately turning into a regional non-medical beverage. But while certain tonics could transition easily into a soft drink, devices were a little harder to retain after FDA crackdowns.
The set above is probably from the 1930's. The Energex brand was actually an offshoot by Sears after a buyout, but these devices were produced by plenty of others from the turn of the century into the 1940's. From the early 1900's when the Tesla Coil was invented, there was a desire to market the technology for various purposes. Skin ailments were a prime target, ranging from warts to dandruff. This led to the creation of an array of various attachments to treat each condition.
The default tip is a metal point which delivers a concentrated arc of electricity. This was mainly used on warts as it was supposed to kill the root. As part of my dedication to this article I've opted to get zapped by each of the attachments, since I certainly won't have a decent word count by the end. Hopefully the crudely animated GIFs will make up for it.
There's that arc of current traveling from the machine into anything that will facilitate its path. It's shocking at first, pardon the pun, but mainly feels like a sharp rubber band snapping over and over. However after a few seconds, it overstays its welcome and becomes very uncomfortable. That said I'm a stoical male and couldn't defile my dignity by asking it to stop, so I sat there until we grew bored.
Next up is a metal tube. I have no idea what this is for. It mainly works like the metal point, but I suppose could theoretically spread the current out. However as the arc tends to jump from the point of least resistance, it doesn't make much of a difference. If anything, it just keeps you guessing as to where you expect the jolt might appear.
The final attachments are a series of glass tubes containing argon gas. The current gives the pieces their signature violet plasma glow. Current will still jump out of the end, but greatly reduce in intensity. The flatter one here was for general skin conditioning. The rake was for dandruff, and the 'Y' shaped wand was for the neckline, to tighten up the jowls. Needless to say, none of these really did what they advertised.
So after the restrictions of the 1940's hit, most were destroyed, and none more were produced. Some survived overseas until the 1950's, but overall it quickly disappeared. That is until I started researching for this article (I use that term very loosely). I started seeing some images that looked downright modern. The individual attachments all appeared more or less identical though, right down to the rake and 'Y' wand. They even had the same metal base at the bottom of the glass tubes. This time around, it seems that they are geared towards the beauty market rather than the medical. They still don't do what they advertise, but that's an issue for the FTC rather than the FDA. I found sales on places like Alibaba, I imagine there's still some problems marketing them domestically.
Things took a weirder turn when I saw the images above. They seemed more like torture devices, and I couldn't quite figure out what was going on. It didn't take long before I naively realized that these were for the 'adult market', which is equally as horrifying. I have little to add to this, since I'm far out of my depth, but I have no idea what those things above are for. My only mental image is the device being used on the big worm at the end of Starship Troopers, and for all I know I'm not far off. So I guess as long as it doesn't claim to do something medical or unfounded, you can stick them in your bum or something. I don't know. Why did I even write this? I'll get back to junk food soon. I promise. I'm sorry.