Skepticism

The Wishing Machine

If only I had known years ago that stroking my stick plate would make wishes come true.

Thankfully, Joshua P. Warren is here to tell us all about stroking stick plates and more with what might be the most unintentionally funny video I have seen in a long, long time.

The video is a thing of hilarious beauty. I can not encourage you enough to watch it all the way through. The wobbly camera work, the background music, Mr Warren, the Wishing Machine itself, are all so completely fantastic together that one might think it is a classic skit from an SNL show or what might be a new episode of the Twilight Zone. But no, this is real life and an actual thing that someone is trying to sell you.

Stick plates and dials are the main mechanisms in a radiological (Is that the right term? Who cares!) Wishing Machine.

Maybe. Well, probably not. We aren’t really sure and neither is Mr Warren. But with quotes like these…

“We don’t know why they work.”
“It has nine knobs.”
“It has no battery.”
“This is a mind powered machine.”
“It has an input and output.”
“Again we don’t know how it works.”

…what’s not to love?

Here is the fabulous Mr Warren to tell us sorta, maybe, kinda, how a wishing machine maybe, might work!

Wasn’t it great! Didn’t you feel like a 1960’s horror movie was about to start? Did you laugh when he explained how to stroke the stick plate? Oh man, I love this video so much!

Anyway, what is the true story here, you ask, other than some accidentally clever filming with some very crafty and slightly Steam-Punk inspired wood and glue crafts?

It’s called Radionics and it has about a hundred year history of nonsense interwoven with pseudoscience. Radionics is a completely unscientific practice that combines the idea of energy treatments and healing along with the Ideomotor Effect where people make unconscious physical movements. It’s how dowsing claims to work, how a Ouija Board disc seems to move by itself across the board and how your finger will seem to stick on a plate. In a word, it’s bullshit, but over the years a lot of creativity has gone into convincing people that dials connected to nothing and magical boxes full of “intent’ can cure you, or somehow make your dreams a reality.


Big thanks to my friend Carrie Poppy for showing me this video. It really is a thing of beauty.

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Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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17 Comments

  1. Some random thoughts (randomness seems appropriate…):

    1) Intent IS magic. Take that, Will! :-)

    b) His knobs only go to ten. I have a much better machine with knobs that go to eleven.

    IV) This just a transmogrifier with very slightly more sophisticated construction extra knobs. Watterson should sue for patent infringement.

  2. But, but, but…

    If we are taking the compliment of “Joe without money”, wouldn’t that be “Not Joe with money”? So someone who is not Joe gets the cash.

    Also, if setting the first dial to 4 makes the stick plate stick, and you leave the dial at 4, wouldn’t the stick plate stick no matter what you set the second dial at?

    So much stupid.

    1. No. Because: Magic.

      Also, wouldn’t that be the contrapositive? (Okay, I know there’s no conditional in “Joe without money”, except the implied conditional “If reality exists …”, but if anyone makes that argument, my response is “You are erroneously applying logic to the universe in which this machine works.”)

  3. Oh, BTW, you were right. “Joe without money” can only mean “Joe and not(money)”. The complement of that is not(Joe and not(money)), which by distribution is not(Joe) and not(not(money)), or by reduction, not Joe and money. Split not-Joe’s cash 50/50, or would fairness require that we share it with all the commenters?

      1. I had to right down a truth table… I come out with not(joe) OR money,
        which is the same as your result. I almost resorted to Googling de Morgan, but that would have too much like work. Bah, who needs correctness (says the programmer.)

  4. I’m glad someone is talking about this because I could really use your help. My output plate stays smooth while I stroke it until I get to 5, then gets sticky at 5 every time. So all of my knobs are set to five. Ten minus five is still five so my counter frequency is the same as my current frequency. Does this mean my wishes won’t come true?!

    Also, the video reminds me of this scene from the IT Crowd: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sarJtKM-Ku4

      1. That’s because of Quantum. You have Schrodinger’s money (or happiness or whatever you wished for.) It both exists and doesn’t exist at the same time. He wants it back. Give to him or not. (There is no try…)

  5. Albert Abrams (who had a real MD degree) was the ‘father’ of radionics and a stalwart quack of San Francisco in the teens and 20s. He’s also quoted as an anti-homosexual ‘expert’ cited by the US army in the First World War (see Randy Shilts’ book ‘Conduct Unbecoming.’)

    There’s a reasonable Wikipedia article on Abrams and Morris Fishbein, Martin Gardner, and others have given him plenty of ink for someone who died in 1924. An English quack named Delawar (sp) relaunched the radionics mania in the 30s-50s. Evelyn Waugh was a patient, I believe.

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