The brain simply needed
a means to express itself,
perhaps via unconscious
muscular movements of
the type that old-fashioned
water diviners had applied
with a yew twig.
ing to achieve. I asked my father if he knew of any
underground objects buried outside the house, but
he said he didn’t. So I rode my bicycle to the home
of a friend whose father was an electronics engineer
in the Air Force.
My friend and I took turns holding the rods while
we walked to and fro across his backyard. The rods
swung in our hands, and we started drawing a map
of underground objects. The objects formed an X-shaped pattern, linking opposite corners of the yard.
But what, exactly, were we mapping?
We turned to my friend’s father, who had been
watching us with interest. “Is there something under
your lawn?” I asked.
He nodded very seriously, although he seemed to
be having trouble repressing a smile. “There are two
drains,” he said. “They run from corner to corner.”
My eyes widened. “In an X-shaped pattern!”
“Absolutely right,” he said.
PSIONIC DETECTION DEVICE
Well, after that, John W. Campbell was more than
just a guru to me. He acquired godlike status. In
a previous issue he had published a piece about
a “psionic detection device.” This had seemed an
overly ambitious project at the time, but I was willing
to work a little harder, now, as a foot soldier in the
resistance movement against blinkered orthodoxy.
The psionic device had been invented by a lone
experimenter named Thomas G. Hieronymus who
claimed that it could detect “eloptic radiation,”
emitted by every object in the universe. (He received
U.S. patent number 2,482,773, and although he is
no longer alive, his legacy lives online at sites such
58 Make: Volume 09
DIVINING RODS: Bend two pieces
of wire, insert them in two lengths
of tube, hold one length of tube
in each hand, and you’re ready to
go searching for any underground
pipe, cable, or conduit.
The Hieronymus Machine featured a tuning dial
coupled to a prism that would refract the eloptic radiation, feeding it through an amplifier to an output
coil. To use the device, you placed your hand on a
“sensor plate” above the coil and rotated the tuning
dial. When the machine resonated with matter in
front of the prism, the sensor plate would feel sticky
to the touch (although some people described it as
hot, or cold, or oily).
Campbell built his own version of the machine
and announced, with utter certainty, that it worked.
Six months later he came up with a creative modification. If he was correct that psychic phenomena
were inherent in the brain and merely needed an
output device to express themselves, the choice
of raw materials in a Hieronymus Machine was no
more important than the type of metal you used to
make a divining rod.
Why not reduce the electronic components to a
symbolic level? If you merely printed them on paper,
they should still work (if they worked at all), in the
same way that other psychic phenomena worked
symbolically. For instance, some people claimed you
could kill pests in a field by dripping a chemical on
a photograph of the field, while others believed you
could induce pain in a person by sticking a pin in a
doll. Supposedly the symbol enabled expression of
a latent mental power.
Campbell duly published a circuit diagram, advised
his readers to add a symbolic prism and sensor plate,
and told them to let him know what happened.
The more I thought about it, the more I wanted
a Hieronymus Machine. I craved it with the same
intensity that I craved Lucilla Stanley, a golden-haired, freckle-faced goddess who sat opposite me