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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

e-meter A device consisting of a sensitive electric meter, a battery, a “resistor bridge,” and two metal handles. These are connected in parallel so that touching the handles together causes a maximum deflection of the meter, indicating a resistance of zero. In effect, when the handles are held by a subject, one in each hand, the device measures the resistance of his body. The reading will decrease or increase depending on the pressure of the grip and the moisture present, as well as the emotional state of the subject, via a phenomenon known as “galvanic skin effect.”
      Another version of this idea attempts to be a diagnostic tool. In this mode, one electrode is “grounded” to the arm of the patient, and the other is a probe that is used to explore the hand, which serves as a homunculus, the thumb representing the head and neck, the index finger the right arm, etc. The harder one presses down on the probe, and the damper the precise spot on the hand, the lower the resistance reading.
      In 1950, Volney Mathison demonstrated a “galvonomic box” to later-Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard. (Interestingly enough the patent number stamped on that machine turned out to belong to a variety of threshing machine patented in 1860 with the U.S. Patent Office.)
      A Dr. Reinhold Voll of Germany claims to have discovered the principle of using the “galvanic skin effect” as a diagnostic tool. Dr. Ernst Roscher of Frankfurt also claimed to have invented a slightly different version of this diagnostic application designed to determine whether medicine would be effective for a patient. An attempt by Roscher to market his Probe in the United States through JS&A Products was made in 1983.
      In all of these applications the “galvanic skin effect” is ineffective in determining anything except skin resistance.

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