Keely, John (Ernst) Worrell (1837–1898)
Founder of the Keely Motor Company, formed to promote
his inventions powered by energy claimed to be derived from
‘‘vibratory etheric force’’ or cosmic energy. Keely was born in
Philadelphia on September 3, 1837, the son of a musician. He
worked as a carpenter before developing his famous inventions.
The Keely Motor Company was incorporated April 29,
1874. The company spent $60,000 on experimental work on
Keely’s first engine, called ‘‘the Multiplicator.’’ The company
attracted investment, which Keely spent on research, but he
had no practical motor to show for the money.
In 1881 the managers threatened Keely with imprisonment
if he did not disclose his secret. He did in fact spend a brief period
in jail, but was befriended by Clara Sophia Bloomfield
Moore, a Theosophist, who provided further funds for Keely’s
experiments and defended him from criticism. She wrote a stirring
defense of his work Keely and His Discoveries (1893).
In addition to the famous motor, Keely also demonstrated
other devices, including a ‘‘compound disintegrator,’’ a ‘‘musical
ball,’’ a ‘‘globe engine,’’ a ‘‘pneumatic rocket gun,’’ and a
model airship, all powered by the same mysterious etheric
force. He wrote articles purporting to explain this force, but
they were shrouded in such resounding pseudotechnical jargon
that they only deepened the mystery. For example, he spoke
of ‘‘Vibro-Molecular, Vibro-Atomic, and Sympathetic VibroEtheric
Forces as applied to induce Mechanical Rotation by
Negative Sympathetic Attraction.’’
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Keely, John (Ernst) Worrell
There was no doubt about the startling demonstrations of
force given in his laboratory in Philadelphia, however, and
many scientists, professors, and businessmen were greatly impressed.
After Keely’s death on November 18, 1898, startling evidence
of fraud was uncovered, and it has since been assumed
that all his inventions were fraudulent. The real motive force
seems to have been compressed air, concealed in cylinders in
a secret basement and conveyed to each apparatus by thin hollow
wires. In spite of these findings, many individuals even
today believe that any fraud Keely committed may have been
merely because of the intense pressure to show practical results
and that there may have been some genuine basis to Keely’s
lifework. However, there is no evidence that Keely ever discovered
a more powerful force than the inspired jargon of his theoretical
A similar mysterious motor was built by John Murray Spear.
Moore, Clara Sophia Bloomfield. Keely and His Discoveries.
London, 1893. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University
Books, 1972.