Since he was a teenager, Jeff Behary’s been interested in the work of Nikola Tesla
, and has been collecting antique electric devices of a particular kind: ones that send electricity through the human body to effect medical benefits, many of which do so with the aid of Tesla coils. Tesla’s not the only inventor involved, of course, but his influence overlapped and widely influenced the golden age of electrotherapy
. Behary’s day job as a machinist means he has the skills to rehabilitate and restore these aging beasts, too, along with a growing family of related devices. He’s assembled them now, in West Palm Beach, Florida, into the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum
. This is a museum of my favorite kind: home-based and intimate, but with serious depth. Though it’s open only by appointment, arranging a visit there is worth it, whether you’re otherwise part of the Tesla community or not. Behary knows his collection inside and out, with the kind of deep knowledge it takes to fabricate replacement parts and revamp the internal wiring. The devices themselves are accessible, with original and restored pieces up close and personal — you need to be mindful about which ones are humming and crackling at any given moment. (There’s also an archive with books, papers, and other effects relating to Tesla and other electric pioneers, not to mention glowing tubes that predate the modern vacuum tube, and the oldest known surviving Tesla coils
, recovered from beneath their maker’s Boston mansion. Electrotherapy is the organizing principle, but not the extent of this assembly.) And while Behary isn’t fooled by all the therapeutic claims made by some machines’ makers about running current through your limbs or around your body, he also doesn’t discount them all, either, and points out that some of them really do affect the body as claimed. Yes, he’s tried most of the machines himself, though he admits he’s never dared taking the juice of his personal Tesla-powered electric chair. View the first video for a tour of part of this astounding collection; the second video is an interview with Jeff Behary.