Category:
Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil

Breathing Balloon

"will develop your form, if that's what you want".

Mechanix Illustrated - Sep 1949

Posted By: Alex - Sat Aug 05, 2023 - Comments (0)
Category: Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues, Inventions, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1940s

Ann Wigmore’s Recipes for Longer Life

Ann Wigmore believed that the secret to good health and a long life was eating 1) a lot of wheatgrass and 2) only raw food. If those appeal to you, you'll find lots of recipes in her cookbook below, Recipes for Longer Life (published in 1978, available at archive.org).

Wikipedia says that she lived to be 84, which is a relatively long life, but not remarkable. She died of smoke inhalation from a fire. So maybe she would have lived much longer if not for that bad luck?

Wikipedia also says, "many of her claims were denounced as quackery, and her qualifications were never confirmed to be genuine."





I guess she wasn't keen on melons: "eat them alone or leave them alone".

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jun 16, 2023 - Comments (3)
Category: Food, Cookbooks, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Dieting and Weight Loss

Bust Cream or Food

If it doesn't enlarge your bust, you can serve it for dinner.

Source: 1897 Sear Roebuck Catalogue

Posted By: Alex - Fri May 26, 2023 - Comments (4)
Category: Body Modifications, Advertising, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Nineteenth Century

Zoom!

Before it was videotelephone software, Zoom was a bustline enhancer.

Cosmopolitan - Feb 1957

Posted By: Alex - Wed Apr 05, 2023 - Comments (2)
Category: Body Modifications, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1950s

Fat Distributor

"Mary Ellen Sage is using a gadget called a fat distributor."

The image appeared in the Oklahoma City Times (June 5, 1972), accompanying an article titled "Medical Gimmicks, Magic Potions Trap the Unwary." Unfortunately the article didn't elaborate on how exactly the fat distributor was supposed to work, beyond what the caption said. But I suppose it's self-evident. You rolled it over your body, and it distributed the fat!

Source: Oklahoma Historical Society

Posted By: Alex - Fri Oct 28, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1970s, Dieting and Weight Loss

The Cures of Albert Abrams

As his Wikipedia page tells us:

Albert Abrams (December 8, 1863 – January 13, 1924) was a controversial American physician, well known during his life for inventing machines, such as the "Oscilloclast" and the "Radioclast", which he falsely claimed could diagnose and cure almost any disease.[1] These claims were challenged from the outset. Towards the end of his life, and again shortly after his death, many of his machines and conclusions were demonstrated to be intentionally deceptive or false.[2]


He actually published a whole periodical devoted to his theories. Read an issue here.

Hugo Gernsback, the father of modern science fiction, was having none of this, running the expose below in a 1923 issue of his magazine SCIENCE AND INVENTION.





Posted By: Paul - Fri Oct 14, 2022 - Comments (3)
Category: Frauds, Cons and Scams, Hoaxes and Imposters and Imitators, Medicine, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1920s

Bernard Bernard’s Height Increaser For Short People

"The patient lifted himself by the chin which was cradled in a sling attached to ropes looped to an overhead beam."

In 1937, the American Medical Association warned the public that this device, despite being widely advertised, didn't actually work.

The Muncie Star Press - Apr 9, 1937



Update: The inventor of this device was a man named Bernard Bernard who was, himself, only 5 feet 1 inch tall. Details from Hygeia (May 1936):

Another scheme exhibited at the World's Fair was the "Height-Increaser," consisting of a self hanging apparatus with a place for the head and with handles to be gripped with the hands. Fixed to an overhead beam, it was guaranteed to add inches to the growth. The promoter, Bernard Bernard, wrote touching advertisements berating the life of a small man and pointing out that his height-increaser was the road to being a "he-man." He admitted that the apparatus cost him 75 cents, but he sold 3,000 of them for $8.75 each. Bernard, who is only 5 feet, 1 inch tall, explained he had never had the time to increase his own height through his device, although he was then 38 years old.

LA Times - July 31, 1932



LA Times - May 1, 1930

Posted By: Alex - Sat Jul 02, 2022 - Comments (8)
Category: Inventions, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, 1930s

Nose Writing

William Horatio Bates was a New York ophthalmologist who claimed that poor vision could be cured through eye exercises. He was quite well known in the 1920s and 30s.

One of his eye exercises was called "nose writing." Here it's described by Margaret Darst Corbett (an "authorized instructor" of his method) in her 1953 book How to Improve Your Sight:



Aldous Huxley was also a fan of the 'Bates Method' and of nose writing, which he described in his 1942 book The Art of Seeing:

Another excellent procedure, which is simultaneously an exercise in mind-body coordination, an imagination drill, and a small-scale shift, is "nose-writing." sitting down comfortably in an easy chair, close your eyes and imagine that you have a good long pencil attached to the end of your nose. (Lovers of Edward Lear will remember his pictures of the 'Dong.') Equipped with this instrument, move your head and neck so as to write with your protracted nose upon an imaginary sheet of paper (or, if the pencil is thought of as being white, on an imaginary blackboard) eight or nine inches in front of your face.

I don't think mainstream ophthalmologists have ever put any stock in the benefits of nose writing, but it still has promoters. See the video below.

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jun 24, 2022 - Comments (1)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil, Eyes and Vision

The ear as an inverted fetus

From Hugh Aldersey-Williams, Anatomies: the human body, its parts and the stories they tell (2014), p. 158:

Some people believe the outer ear may be significant other than as a sound-gatherer. In the 1950s, a French doctor and acupuncturist named Paul Nogier noted that it resembles a curled human foetus (the lobe of the ear represents the head and the interior fold known as the antihelix the spine of the foetus in this case). The scheme of alternative medicine that he devised based on this resemblance is known as auriculotherapy. The patient's ear is seen as a honunculus or map of the whole body, with stimulation at different points on it being used to treat ailments in corresponding parts of the body.

Tampa Tribune - Aug 13, 1973



More info: wikipedia

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jun 15, 2022 - Comments (2)
Category: Body, Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil

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Alex Boese
Alex is the creator and curator of the Museum of Hoaxes. He's also the author of various weird, non-fiction, science-themed books such as Elephants on Acid and Psychedelic Apes.

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Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.

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