The Heidelberg Electric Belt or Weird Things People Did To Their Bodies
I saw many strange and disturbing things at The House on the Rock, one of which was this Heidelberg Electric Belt.
This fascinating item was sold by Sears Catalog in the early 1900s for many reasons, not the least of which was to “overcome what were perceived to be masturbation’s depletingeffects.” (From Oxford Journals.org)
From digital history.uh.edu :
“Sears even sold an electrical contraption called the Heidelberg Electric Belt, designed to reduce anxiety by sending electric shocks to the genitals …”
Yeah, wow, that does sound relaxing.
Toward the end of the 19th century, a New York neurologist named George M. Beard coined the term “neurasthenia” to describe a psychological ailment that afflicted a growing number of Americans. Neurasthenia’s symptoms included “nervous dyspepsia, insomnia, hysteria, hypochondria, asthma, sick-headache, skin rashes, hayfever, premature baldness, inebriety, hot and cold flashes, nervous exhaustion, brain-collapse, or forms of ‘elementary insanity.'”
Basically this belt can solve all of your problems. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than whatever those creepy Zoloft balls want to do to you (make you one of them?).
Here’s the Sears ad – I know I’m sold!
If you like reading about the weird things people did to their bodies at the turn of the century in pursuit of health, I encourage you to read the novel The Road To Wellville by T.C. Boyle. There is also a movie version that features Matthew Broderick wearing the belt (they call it something else – Duesenberg? Duesseldorf?). As much as I adore Matthew Broderick and John Cusack, I really can’t recommend the movie. The tone is similar to the book, but the plot is shredded past recognition. I can only imagine the look of pain on T.C. Boyle’s but face when he found out what they were doing to the ending. Perhaps similar to activating the belt.
Entry filed under: Adventures, Uncategorized. Tags: 1900s, Electric Belt, Heidelberg Electric Belt, masturbation, medical, neurasthenia, The House on the Rock, The Road To Wellville, weird, Wisconsin.