The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

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Though small, and hidden in a mall, the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices is well worth an hour or two if you're in the Twin Cities. If you can't figure it out from the name, the museum is home to items that most modern, Western medicine frowns upon, in other words; items used for quackery. From drills for trepanation, to the Recto Rotor (yes, it is what you're thinking... a device to be inserted down behind in order to relieve piles, constipation and prostate trouble), there's a surprising number of items on display that are, when not downright unhealthy, of limited medical value. Of course, they failed to receive an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval - in those rare cases when it really was attempted.

The Exhibits

There are a surprising number of devices which exist solely for the purpose of applying electrical current to the genitalia, with seemingly no end to the number of things that this procedure could cure, including mental illness, insomnia, obesity, nervousness, and high blood pressure.

The 'Psycograph'

Perhaps the most interesting piece of equipment is the 'psycograph' (sic) an antique electronic phrenological device. Take a mechanical adding machine and a bunch of clockwork, and connect it via a shock of wires to what looks like an unholy marriage between a typewriter and a colander and you'll have the 'psycograph'.

The best part is that it still works and, despite how it looks, is still safe to use, at least by a trained professional. For a nominal fee, a trained professional1 will sit you in the device, lower the medusa's headpiece firmly onto your skull and let the machine do its thing. For a few seconds it will click and whirr and you'll get a crude and lengthy printout to take home and show your friends. It contains a customised and rather thorough personal readout for you and you alone based on the bumps on your skull. It will tell all from how aggressive and outgoing you are, to what kinds of people you like to hang out with.

Of course it's all hogwash, but it's a good bit of fun, and a more entertaining examination than most people typically get when they go to the clinic.

Some More Notable Exhibits

  • An eyeball massager called 'The Natural Eye Normalizer' advertised as a means to restore keen eyesight by gently massaging the eyes.

  • A foot powered breast pump, then sold for $9.95, which consists of the pump, two rubber caps and a few hoses and was supposed to enlarge women's breasts by the vacuum.

  • The prostate gland warmer of 1918 is a blue light bulb was used to create warmth in order to 'stimulate the abdominal brain'2.

  • A shoe-fitting X-ray box was a fully working X-ray tube which produces an image of the foot within a shoe in order to see whether they fit together. Featuring essentially no radiation shielding, these devices were forbidden by 1970 on account of the radiation hazards, and the last one was taken out of service in 1981.

  • Several devices which add 'much needed' radiation to drinking water. From the 1920s to the 1940s, quacks were still allowed to advertise radioactivity as beneficial to your health.

They even have a lie detector, which unfortunately you can't take for a test drive. They also have sample pamphlets (reprints) from across time and space advertising various quack cures and devices.

Opening Hours

They generally have limited hours, so check before you go. Don't expect to spend a day there, as it's not more than two rooms, but it has stuff you'll never see anywhere else and it is well worth a visit, even if you're not into medicine. Admission is free! Details about address and opening hours can be obtained from the Museum's Official Website.

1The person who did this Researcher's reading claimed he was trained only in the operation of the machine however, and was not trained in phrenology.2So now you know!

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