Be Wary of Radionics Devices

Stephen Barrett, M.D.
December 27, 2011

Radionics is a pseudoscience based on the notion that diseases can be diagnosed and treated by tuning in on radio-like frequencies allegedly emitted by disease-causing agents and diseased organs. The theory behind it originated with Albert Abrams, M.D. (1864-1924), who developed thirteen devices claimed to detect such frequencies and/or cure people by matching their frequencies. Abrams made millions leasing his devices and was considered by the American Medical Association to be the “dean of gadget quacks.” He claimed:

  • All parts of the body emit electrical impulses with different frequencies that vary with health and disease.
  • Illnesses—as well as age, sex, religion, and location—could be diagnosed by “tuning in” on patient’s blood or handwriting samples with one of his devices.
  • Diseases could be treated by feeding proper vibrations into the body with another of his devices.

Abrams made a fortune by leasing the device rather than selling it. Users were qequired to sign a conract that said they would not open the box, which was said to be hermetically sealed. During the 1950s, an FDA investigation showed that some of Abrams’s devices produced magnetism from circuits like that of an electric doorbell, whereas others had short-wave circuits resembling those of a taxicab transmitter [4]. Similar devices have been produced by many others and are still marketed today.

One of Abrams’s many imitators was Royal Raymond Rife (1888-1971), an American who claimed that cancer was caused by bacteria. During the 1920s, he claimed to have developed a powerful microscope that could detect living microbes by the color of auras emitted by their vibratory rates. His Rife Frequency Generator allegedly generates radio waves with precisely the same frequency, causing the offending bacteria to shatter in the same manner as a crystal glass breaks in response to the voice of an opera singer. The American Cancer Society has pointed out that although sound waves can produce vibrations that break glass, radio waves at the power level emitted a Rife generator do not have sufficient energy to destroy bacteria [1]. The bottom line is that radionics devices have no value for diagnosing or treating anything.

More Recent Government Actions

In the mid-1990s, Pascal Ballistrea of Williamsville, N.Y., and Michael Ricotta of Orchard Park, N.Y., received prison sentences and Brian Strandberg of Portland, Oregon was placed on probation for marketing REM SuperPro Generators with claims that they could cure cancer and many other serious diseases [2].

In 1998, the Attorneys General of Wisconsin and Minnesota stopped stop an unlicensed woman, Shelvie Rettmann, of Prior Lake, Minnesota, from representing that she can could cancer with a Rife Frequency Generator [3,4].

In 2001, the FDA warned Bioray, Inc., of Birmingham, Alabama, that it was illegal to sell the BioRay Light and Sound Generator as a diagnostic or therapeutic device [3]. The company toned down its Web site claims but still promotes the device [5].

For several years, doing business as Jaguar Enterprises, Dragonfly Enterprises, and BioElectric, S.A., Michael Forrest manufactured and marketed quack devices for treating cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, herpes, chronic fatigue syndrome, Candida yeast infections, lyme disease, parasites, gastritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. In 2001, Forrest signed an FTC consent agreement that he would not make unsubstantiated claims for any device or herbal products [6]. However, he continued to make illegal claims on his Web sites. He even bragged that (a) “With the intuitive sense that the feds may be knocking on my door soon as a result of making claims about unapproved medical devices I moved from the USA to Costa Rica in 1999,” (b) he was then in Paraguay and “out of the reach of the FTC,” and (c) he had “hosted the his site “in a country that the feds could not shut it down.” After an FDA investigation uncovered what Forrest was doing, he was charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiring to mislead the FDA, and marketing an unapproved medical device. He pled guilty to the device charge in 2005 and in 2006 was sentenced to two years in prison [7].

In 2009, James Folsom was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and was sentenced to 59 months in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. The judge also ordered the destruction of more than 450 devices that the Government had seized during the execution of a search warrant at a self-storage unit that Folsom used. In February 2009, a federal jury convicted Folsom of 26 felony counts relating to his sale of quack medical devices. Evidence presented at his trial indicated that for more than ten years, he conspired with others to ship Rife-type biofrequency devices in interstate commerce [8].

Additional Information on Radionics Purveyors
  1. American Cancer Society. Questionable methods of cancer management: Electronic devices. CA—A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 44:115-127, 1994.
  2. Unproven medical claims land men in prison. FDA Consumer, Sept 1996.
  3. Wisconsin Department of Justice. Attorney General files suit against marketer of cancer cures; Doyle says machines and treatments are medical quackery. News release, Dec 2, 1997.
  4. Wisconsin Department of Justice. Humphrey obtains judgment to stop bogus cancer cures. News release, Sept 30, 1998.
  5. Spears LD. Warning to company president Lin Kenny, Feb 12, 2001.
  6. Decision and order. In the Matter of Michael Forrest, individually and d/b/a Jaguar Enterprises of Santa Ana. FTC docket #C-4020, June 2001.
  7. Michael Forrest pleads guilty to selling illegal devices. Casewatch, March 10, 2006.
  8. Barrett S. Rife device marketer sentenced to prison. Device Watch, Feb 22, 2010.

This article was posted on December 27, 2011.