Black Box
A general term for radionics devices used to diagnose disease.
These devices supposedly tap the unknown forces involved
in radiesthesia and dowsing, where instruments such as
water-witching rods or small pendulums test for sensitivity to
water, metals, or health conditions. The original ‘‘Black Box’’
was devised by Dr. Albert Abrams, an unconventional San
Francisco physician in the early twentieth century. It consisted
of a box, variously called the ERA or the Oscilloclast, with several
variable rheostats and a thin sheet of rubber mounted over
a metal plate. A blood sample from the patient would be put
into the machine, which was connected with a metal plate
placed on the forehead of a healthy person. By tapping on the
abdomen of this person, the doctor determined the disease of
the patient according to the ‘‘areas of dullness’’ identified by
dial readings on the apparatus. This strange procedure
brought together various techniques Auscultation is part of
normal medical practice, but the suggestion of a psychic relationship
between a patient and his blood sample, plus the indications
obtained from stroking the rubber sheet with the fingers,
involved the paranormal sensitivities used in water
witching with rod or pendulum.
Long after the death of Abrams in 1924, his theories and
techniques were developed by Dr. Ruth Drown in the United
States and George De la Warr in Britain. De la Warr devised
a black box that produced photographs relating to the individual
whose sample was placed in the machine. These photographs
were more like thought processes than normal images.
De la Warr claimed that they registered a radiation pattern related
to the shape and chemical structure of the radiating body,
and, given a suitable sample, the camera plate would register
not only regional tissue but its pathology.
However, the black box did not operate uniformly, and thus
it appears that the individual operators were greatly affecting
the results. The inability to standardize results would deny its
operation any scientific standing. One woman sued the De la
Warr laboratories because she was unable to obtain satisfactory
results. The case was dismissed on the grounds that there had
been no intent to defraud, although the judge severely criticized
the apparatus as bogus. Use of the black box is against the
Biscar, Jeanette Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
law in the United States. However, in a more sympathetic investigation
of the apparatus, Lucian Landau suggested that success
depended upon the special sensitivity of the operator. In
this respect, the apparatus would be related to the phenomenon
of thought photography as attempted by Ted Serios. For
a negative view of Abrams, see the volume by Gardner.
Abrams, Albert. New Concepts in Diagnosis and Treatment. Physico-Clinical,
Barr, Sir James. Abrams’ Methods of Diagnosis and Treatment.
London, 1925.
De la Warr, George, with Langston Day. New Worlds Beyond
the Atom. London Vincent Stewart Publishers, 1956.
Firebrace, R. C., and Lucien Landau. ‘‘The Delawarr Camera.’’
Light A Journal of Psychic Science 77, no. 3430 (March
Gardner, Martin. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science.
New York Dover Publications, 1957.
Radionic Therapy (leaflet). Oxford, England Delawarr Laboratories,