The New Motor
A strange machine constructed in 1854 by Spiritualist medium
John Murray Spear in association with another medium,
Charles Hammond, at the instigation of the ‘‘Association of
Electricizers,’’ one of the bands of spirits by whom he was controlled.
The motor was to derive its motive power from the
magnetic store of nature and was therefore to be independent
of artificial sources of energy, like the human body. The machine
was hailed as the ‘‘physical saviour of the race,’’ and the
‘‘new messiah.’’ Mrs. Alonzo Newton, wife of one of Spear’s collaborators,
obeyed a vision by going to High Rock, Lynn, Massachusetts,
where the new motor was located, and for two hours
suffering ‘‘birth-pangs,’’ whereby she judged that the essence
of her spiritual being was imparted to the machine.
At the end of that time it was claimed that pulsations were
apparent in the motor. Newton continued to act as nurse to the
contraption for several weeks, but the only observed movements
seemed to be a slight oscillation of some of the metal
balls that adorned it. One disappointed Spiritualist complained
that the new motor could not even turn a coffee mill. Andrew
Jackson Davis visited the new motor at High Rock and expressed
the belief that the design was the work of spirits of a
mechanical turn of mind, but that the machine was of no practical
The new motor was finally smashed by a mob at Randolph,
New York, where it had been taken. In all it cost its builder
some two thousand dollars. In common fairness to the Spiritualists
it must be said that Spear was widely recognized as a kind
and honest man who had championed many liberal reforms.
His earlier experience of spirit messages was remarkable, resulting
in a healing ministry. It seems that he was deceived by
misleading communications from ‘‘the Association of Electricizers’’
(which supposedly included the spirit of Benjamin
It is possible that the new motor may have suggested a line
of research to John Worrell Keely (1837–1898), who claimed
the discovery of a new motive force in his invention of the Keely
motor. This force was said to be a ‘‘vibratory etheric force’’ or
cosmic energy. After the death of Keely, evidence of fraud was
From time to time since the new motor fiasco, Spiritualists
have constructed various apparatus to facilitate communication
with the spirit world, sometimes basing their constructions
on spirit messages. Among modern inventors who were more
successful than Spear were those comprising the group known
as the Ashkir-Jobson Trianion, ca. 1930, who built various apparatus
that seemed to work. The psychotherapist Wilhelm
Reich also claimed the discovery of a cosmic motor force in
what was termed orgone energy. (See also Communigraph)