Article Thomas Edison and his Spirit Phone
Summary: Thomas Edisons interviews with American Magazine and Scientific American perpetuated a rumor that he was working on a machine that communicated with the dead.
Posted by: Elliot Feldman
In the October 1920 issue of American Magazine, writer B.C. Forbes (later the founder of Forbes Magazine) wrote the article Edison Working on How to Communicate with the Next World. In the article, Forbes reported that Thomas Edison, long known for being an agnostic, had revealed that he was working on an electrical device that will communicate with the dead.
Not long after B.C. Forbes American Magazine article, Scientific American Magazine ran their story on Edisons interest in life after death accompanied by a photograph of the inventor at work in his laboratory. The photos caption read Thomas A. Edison - the worlds foremost inventor who is now at work on an apparatus designed to place psychical research on a scientific basis.
This so-called revelation of a newly religious Thomas Edison evoked an outpouring of support among conservative Christians of the time. Edison played along and this quote became widely distributed: if we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.
The New York Times
In 1921, The New York Times reported that Edison was working on a machine to measure one hundred trillion life units in the human body that may scatter after death. In the article, the writer A.D. Rothman, however, stated that Edison emphatically denied any link with his experiment and the spiritual. According to Rothman, the great inventor repeatedly stated in the interview that I do not know what the word spiritual means. Also according to the reporter, Edison refused to discuss the details of the machine itself, but was very willing to discuss death and life after death only in terms of chemistry, which was what he believed his theory of life units to be.
Modern Mechanix Magazine
A 1933 Modern Mechanix Magazine article went even further, reporting on a secret gathering in 1920 of Edisons intimates in his laboratory to witness a machine that made contact with the spirits. According to the article, the machine was a photo-electric cell that produced a beam of light that revealed the spirits. Of course, after a half hour, no spirits were ever conjured during this gathering. Was all of this just an extension of Edisons prank on B.C. Forbes? Or was Thomas Edison beginning to believe his own hype, particularly since he was in his seventies when these magazine articles began appearing.
Professor Bert Reese
More evidence that Edison had gone from agnostic to spiritualist was his endorsement of the psychic powers of one Professor Bert Reese, who had later been exposed by magician Harry Houdini as a mind-reading trickster that wasnt a professor at all. In fact, Edison had even invited Reese to perform at his laboratory in New Jersey in front of his assistants. When a New York Times reporter questioned Reeses legitimacy in an interview with Edison, the inventor defended the tricksters powers.