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The Radio Disease Killer
ERA Quack Diagnostic Instrument

From American Artifacts No. 39

The Radio Disease Killer is one of the early ERA clones, meant to be used as a home treatment device. It has a meaningless assortment of electrical switches and the large diameter wire coils similar to other ERA instruments. A toggle switch labeled “patient/phone” simply sounds a buzzer in the “phone” position. The buzzer is hidden under a horizontal partition in the box and emits sound through a small opening on the right side of the box. An on/off toggle switch is provided and labeled “main switch, on/off”.

A push/pull switch labeled “interrupted/steady” causes the 3 colored lights to flash. The red, green and blue lamps are each located behind one of the three letters, RDK on the perforated front panel and the effect of these large glowing letters in a darkened room must have been mesmerizing to the hapless patient.

There are two identical 4 pin vacuum tubes and a circular wire coil variable resistance with a knob and dial labeled “decrease-increase”. Voltage at the electrode terminals labeled positive and negative can be adjusted roughly from 0 to 85 volts, and a maximum of 5mA. There is also a terminal labeled “foot plate”, which duplicates the negative terminal. The box is 12”x9”x10”, with a hinged lid that opens to access the 3 different colored lamps and the specimen holder and 2 vacuum tubes. Hidden underneath is a 3” cardboard tube with several wire coils and a radio transformer to supply the DC voltage to the electrodes.

The box is of veneered wood with a bakelite front panel and wooden hinged lid. The unit appears complete and semi-functioning. The vacuum tubes do not glow, but, this is said not to affect the function of such machines. The three colored lights and the buzzer do work, but the heater flasher does not. A brass tag inside the lid reads: “No. 1167, Volts - 110 A.C., D.C., R.D.K., Manufactured by the R.D.K. Corporation of America, Brooklyn - New York”.

I have found no references to this device other than a very well-researched and executed web site on the Jehovah’s Witness’s use of ERA devices, including the Radio Disease Killer in the mid-1920’s. Visit Ken Raines’ site at: The Radio Disease Killer . Apparently, the RDK was marketed to J.W.’s in their publication, The Golden Age. Ken has found an article in the Nov 17, 1926 issue of The Golden Age, by William Hudgings, stating that he had severed his relationship with the RDK Corp. of America, in order to be unencumbered in his service for the Lord and King. This is where he refers to the RDK as an electronic home treatment machine. The JW’s leadership appear to have been deeply involved with the ERA. as well as other quack devices and cures, as an alternative to immunizations, transfusions, and surgery.

RDK - lid open

inside the magic box (under the top plate)

RDK - view from underneath the instrument

The sample vial and electrodes in position

The sample holder and electrodes (removed from machine)

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© 1998, 1999, American Artifacts, Taneytown, MD.
Contact: Richard Van Vleck