Great American Quacks Bar


[From The Journal of the American Medical Association of various dates]


Dr. Albert Abrams of San Francisco is the latest rocket to blaze a somewhat polychromatic course across the firmament of pseudo-medicine. The stick will fall, anon. In the filed of diagnosis Dr. Abrams claims to have evolved a system of abdominal percussion, practiced in connection with certain apparatus that he has had made, from which he derives what he is pleased to term the "Electronic Reactions of Abrams" (abbreviated ERA). By means of this system it is claimed that Abrams "can diagnose the sex, race and disease" of a patient he has never seen.  All that he needs is a sample of blood from the individual. A few drops of blood, taken from a person while he is facing west but who may be a thousand miles or more away, are put on a piece of paper and the paper is placed in what Abrams calls his "Dynamizer."  This is connected with his "Rheostatic Dynamizer," from which, in turn, wires go to the "Vibratory Rate Rheostat" that is connected with the "Measuring Rheostat"! From the "Measuring Rheostat" comes a wire at the end of which is an electrode which is pressed to the forehead of a healthy individual (the subject) whose abdomen is being percussed.  The "subject" must face west and be in a dim light...

The nub of the whole matter is, however, that the alleged diagnosis is made by mapping out various areas of resonance and dulness [sic] in the "subject" who is being percussed.  Dr. Abrams claims to be able to tell by this means whether the individual whose blood is being "tested" is suffering from syphilis, sarcoma, carcinoma, typhoid fever, malaria, gonorrhea or tuberculosis and, if so suffering, where the diseased area is located!  He can also diagnose pregnancy by the same method!!

More wonderful still! Dr. Abrams now claims that, for the drop of blood, he can substitute the autograph of an individual, living or dead, and subject it to his tests and declare whether or not the individual is or was a sufferer from syphilis, etc.  He has, in fact, reported the results of subjecting the autograph of Samuel Pepys to his "electronic reactions" and finding that this famous diarist suffered from congenital syphilis; of finding the same for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and also for Edgar Allen Poe and, in the case of the latter, adding that he also got the "reaction of dipsomania." The autograph (written in 1775) of that stern old moralist Dr. Samuel Johnson gave the "reaction" for acquired syphilis and tuberculosis...

In the filed of treatment Albert Abrams claims equal marvels. He has discovered that every disease has its own vibratory rated and that all drugs that are specific in the treatment of disease have a definite vibration rate.  He has, therefore, devised another instrument which he calls the "Oscilloclast." This is capable, so it is claimed, of producing vibrations of various rapidities.  Instead of using a drug, one starts the "Oscilloclast" going, moves the indicator to the number corresponding to the vibration rate of the indicated drug and applies the instrument to the sufferer, who then gets, it is alleged, the therapeutic action of the drug in question.  The "Oscilloclast" is not for sale; it can be leased, to those who are willing to pay the price and sign a contract that they will not open it!


..According to our records, Albert Abrams, A.M., M.D., LL.D., F.R.M.S., was born in San Francisco in 1864. He was graduated in medicine by the University of Heidelberg, German, in 1882. Dr. Abrams has written voluminously. In 1910, his book on "Spondylotherapy" ("Physio-Therapy of the Spine") was reviewed in THE JOURNAL. "Spondylotherapy" is a neologic creation of Dr. Abrams. According to its disciples, it concerns itself "only with the excitation of the functional centers of the spinal cord" and has been called "the science of evoking the reflexes of the body both to diagnose and to cure disease." In bringing its review of Abrams' book on Spondylotherapy" to a close, THE JOURNAL said

" wonders whether this is an attempt to explain osteopathy and chiropractic to the understanding or the regular practitioner, or to exploit the very ingenious percussion devices of the author whether it is really true that medical men really know practically nothing about the cure of disease through treatment of the spine. Let us hope that it may be the latter and that a careful study of this unique volume may open new avenues heretofore undreamed of."

Between 1912 and 1914 Dr. Abrams gave "clinical courses" on Spondylotherapy" in various parts of the country-price $50...More recently, Dr. Abrams has advertised that he gives a "course" in Spondylotherapy in Stan Francisco, beginning on the first of each month.  The course lasts four weeks. "The honorarium for this course is $200.00"

In 1912 an organization was created devoted to this new therapeutic method: the "American Association for the Study of Spondylotherapy." Later Dr. Abrams was made Honorary President. Whether the organization is still viable we do not know.


In addition to "Spondylotherapy," Dr. Abrams has also evolved what he calls the "Electronic Reactions of Abrams." These are said to make possible long-distance diagnoses, it being necessary only to send a few drops of blood taken from the patient and allowed to dry on a piece of paper. There are, it seems, certain instruments and devices used in the performance of these diagnostic feats.  By means of the "Electronic Reactions" Dr. Abrams (while admitting the protective factor of vaccination against smallpox) has discovered that practically all the vaccines obtained from reliable firms yield the reaction ("electronic tests") of congenital syphilis, and that many of them also yield the reaction of tuberculosis and of streptococci and staphylococci. Further, "from the cicatrices of all vaccinated persons, one can always elicit a reaction of congenital syphilis and in early scars a tuberculous reaction." Dr. Abrams also declares that exposing vaccine virus for ten minutes to blue light will destroy the syphilitic, streptococcic and staphylococcic reactions and exposing it for the same period to yellow light will destroy the tuberculous reaction...


...what seems to be the outstanding piece of apparatus, devised or invented by Dr. Abrams, the piece de resistance, as it were, of physicoclinical diagnosis and treatment, is the "Oscilloclast."

This device is not for sale. It can be had only on lease after signing a contract not to open the device which is hermetically sealed.  The first payment is $200 or $250, according to whether it is wired for alternating or direct current. Then there is a monthly payment of $5. Dr. Abrams publishes a list of more than 130 men who have leased one or more"Oscilloclasts." Sir James Barr's name heads the list. According to Dr. Abrams, the "Oscilloclast" owes its conception to the therapeutic principles he advocates. These, in part, are

  1. Physiologic phenomena are manifestations of electronic energy.

  2. Pathologic phenomen are manifestations of perturbed electronic energy.

  3. The energy in health and disease has an invariable and definite rate of vibration (determinable by the electronic reactions).

  4. Specific drugs possess a like vibratory rate as the diseases for which they are effective. These like vibratory rates (homovibrations) of drugs owe the efficacy to their inherent radioactivity. Thus, an obsolete drug like gamboge painted on the chest in incipient tuberculosis will effect a symptomatic cure within a few weeks.  Gamboge possesses the same vibratory rate as tuberculosis. Our conception that drug action is dependent on direct cellular contact is thus demolished. . . .

  5. All forms of energy whether derived from heat, electricity of magnetism may be made to yield different rates of vibration and these rates corresponding to diseases are utilized for their destruction.

If one accepts one of Dr. Abrams' theories, the possibilities of such a piece of machinery as the "oscilloclast" would seem to loom large, not only in therapeutics, but also in economics.  All one needs to do, according to Dr. Abrams, is to ascertain"the vibration rate of a drug" and then to substitute the same vibration as produced by the "Oscilloclast." Thus, if one substitutes the "vibratory rate of atropin" for the drug itself "the mouth dries or the subject feels as if it were puckered." Conversely, if you switch the "oscilloclast" to the pilocarpin vibratory , there is a copious flow of saliva.


What some of the lessees of the Oscilloclast are accomplishing (if we are to believe the clinical reports published in Physico-Clinical Medicine [an Abrams publication]) may be gathered from the following quotations:

"Woman. Age 52-Diagnosis of acquired syphilis made by one of our most eminent clinicians. (?). Abrams test showed tuberculosis of the apex of the right lung. No syphilis. Fourteen treatments with the Oscilloclast at 5. Patient gained fourteen pounds in three weeks. Now in perfect health."

"Mechanic, Age 22.-Acute acquired syphilis. General eruption, throat, mouth symptoms and chancre. Thirteen treatments with the Oscilloclast at 3 and splenic sterilization only. Complete abatement of all symptoms."

"Woman, Age 42.-Strep infection of the second upper cuspid tooth of three years' standing. Well developed sinus. Regular discharge of pus. Eight treatments with the Oscilloclast at 2. Clinically cured."

"Cancer of the pylorus and pylorectomy executed at the Mayo Clinic. Later, vomiting, severe pains, loss in weight, etc. After the third treatment [with Oscilloclast]pains ceased and, after 14 treatments, she was well and continued so when I last saw her."

"Cancer of the uterus. Inoperable. Severe uterine hemorrhages. Electrode of Oscilloclast to cervix and hemorrhage ceased after second treatment. After 14 treatments the patient declared she was well. Another case of the same character was followed by equally good results."


It also seems to be a great business-getter, as the following testimonials published by Dr. Abrams show:

"The Oscilloclast has doubled my business."-S. King., M.D. (Pa.)."

"I am doing good work with the Oscilloclast in T.B. and when I get more room I shall want another machine."-H. Michener (Kas.)."

"We are swamped with work and our three cord Oscilloclast is working to full capacity. We are still astonishing the incredulous and keeping busy. We must have another Oscilloclast at once for there are so many here who demand treatment."-W.P. Myers, M.D. (Cal.)."

(From the Journal A.M.A., March 25, 1922)

More about Albert Abrams

See also Ruth Drown and Dr. Crum.



updated 4/13/2013