Quack: Tales of Medical Fraud from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices / Edition 1

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In Quack! Tales of Medical Fraud from the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices, curator Bob McCoy shares his collection of the hilarious, horrifying, and preposterous medical devices that have been foisted upon the public in their quest for good health. From the Prostate Gland Warmer to the Recto Rotor, from the Nose Straightener to the Wonder Electric Generator, these implements reveal the desperate measures taken by the public in their search for magic cures. With period advertisements, promotional literature, and gadget instructions, this book offers a wealth of past—and present—medical fraud. For instance, you'll learn about:

Albert Abrams, the "King of Quackery," who believed that all that was needed from a patient for diagnosis was a drop of blood, a single hair, or even a handwriting sample as these would give off the unique "vibrations" of that individual. His theories were so popular that none other than Upton Sinclair promoted them in an article for Pearson's magazine.
Wilhelm Reich, the groundbreaking psychiatrist who, in the latter portion of his storied career, discovered "Orgone"—the energy supposedly released during sexual orgasm. According to Reich, absorbing large quantities of Orgone through his Orgone Energy Accumulator would make a person healthier.
Dr. Albert C. Geyser, whose Tricho machine for removing unwanted hair through x-ray depilitation resulted in thousands of women contracting hardened and wrinkled skin, receded gums, never-healing ulcerated sores, tumors, and, of course, cancer.

And if you think quackery is a thing of a past, a sampling of late night television commercials advertising everything from fat burners to magnetic and/or copper pain relievers will cure you of that notion. In fact, in the mid-1990s, a product called "The Stimulator" was advertised on television as a "cure" for pain, menstrual problems, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. The commercial—featuring Evel Knievel as its spokesperson—was so effective that over 800,000 Stimulators were sold for $88.30 before the FDA shut the company down. Still, the owners made quite a hefty profit on what was simply a one dollar gas grill igniter!

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Quack!: Tales Of Medical Fraud From The Museum Of Questionable Medical Devices is an informative and fascinating compendium of quaint, preposterous, and occasionally horrifying medical devices foisted upon the public by calculating charlatans and misguided medical practitioners. Some of these purveyors held the public's rapt attention for a time (Albert Abrams, who believed that all that was needed from a patient was a drop of blood, a single hair, or a handwriting sample which gave off a "vibration" that could be used for diagnosis and treatment, was promoted by Upton Sinclair in "Pearson's" magazine), while others were simple snake-oil vintage conmen whose tactics were to "hit and run". Profusely illustrated with photographs of odd medical mechanism, period advertisements, and newspaper clippings of the day, Bob McCoy (curator of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices) offers a full-spectrum, very highly recommended survey of American medical quackery from the Prostate Gland Warmer to the Recto Rotor, the Nose Straightener to the Wonder Electric Generator.
New York Times Book Review
"A stunning testament to the myriad ways people have tried to make money off the eternal ills of humankind.
Time Magazine
Snake oil salesmen, beware!
American Medical Association News
The country's largest assemblage of medical bunkum on display to the public . . . Bob McCoy is a barker for common sense in a carnival of medical quackery.
Late Night with David Letterman
An assortment of medical devices that will at once amaze, entertain, and inform you!
Good Morning America
P.T. Barnum once said there's a sucker born every minute. Bob McCoy would quickly add there's a quack born every hour to take advantage of that. Good Morning America
USA Today
If you're ill (curator) Robert McCoy just might have a machine designed to make you better. Unfortunately, it probably won't work.
The Today Show
You should have your head examined!
Men's Health
Whether you want to regrow hair or regenerate a limb, the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices has something to heal all buffoons.
Chicago Sun Times
The dim sum of dubious medical parts from the early 18th century to the present.
People Magazine
Bob McCoy's museum boasts a charlatan's web of medical chicanery . . . [a] monument to medical mountebankery . . .
Suzy Hansen
This is a bizarre and enthusiastic book, perfect for anyone who savors the intersections of human folly and wierd science.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781891661105
  • Publisher: Santa Monica Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 8.41 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob McCoy is the founder and curator of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis. This is the nation's largest public display of "quack" medical devices and was founded in 1987. Mr. McCoy's past occupations include soap salesman, mill steel salesman, and family planning clinic administrator. He is a hobby printer, licensed humanist minister, and a member of the Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. It is as a skeptic that McCoy has worked to expose health fraud, and the museum is an entertaining and informative means of doing just that. He has been awarded the Special Citizenship award from the FDA for his work in exposing health fraud. McCoy is married with three grown children and five grandchildren.
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