Re: Believe it or not!

Hi Jeff,

At 10:56 AM 10/31/1999 -0800, you wrote:
>A few days I was approached by the Ripley's "Believe It
>Or Not" television show to do an on screen interview
>for an upcoming episode on Tesla coils. After learning
>the details, however, I declined. Here's why...

You may want to pass on the number of the person from the show.  There may
be others more willing to talk to them.  Although, it does sound like more
of a "show" than anything of substance...

>Many of you already know my stance on the "Lightning
>Guy" high voltage stunt that is performed professionally
>by kVA Effects member Brent Turner. I feel that this is the
>most dangerous high voltage stunt in our industry and
>should not be attempted by ANY non-professional despite
>electrical engineering experience. Mistakes can be fatal
>and the more reasonable among us certainly agree that
>mistakes can never be fully factored out of most situations.
>We, as experts in high voltage special effects, have only
>performed this stunt twice in the last three years and always
>with a stunt coordinator, several HV technicians and safety
>personnel on hand. We take our work VERY seriously.
>The representative from the "Believe It or Not" television
>production informed me that the show's subject is an
>Evangelical "Power" Christian that hooks himself to a
>Tesla coil to demonstrate God's power to his audience.

I have heard bits and pieces of this demonstration.  This person travels
around doing Tesla coil demonstrations as part of a youth ministry I
believe.  I think he has been doing this for quite some time.  He may be
the last of the true Tesla coil stage show "performers" left.

Of course, this person's argument is that he has God as his safety
coordinator...  I have no doubt that he takes his work VERY seriously too!

>I have no issue with Evangelical Christianity, "Power"
>Christianity or any other religious organization's efforts
>to entertain their followers or increase their numbers
>through recruitment efforts.
>I do take extreme exception to this public display and
>am concerned that this person is going to kill himself
>in front of an audience (as Henry Transom did).

Of course, God will protect him unless it is his time to go...  There is
nothing we can do to stop him and personally I would not want to.  This
person has just chosen a Tesla coil as his way of demonstrating his faith.
If he kills himself, only he will be to blame.  In this case, that is very
obvious.  Drinking snake venom, snake charming, and other seemingly
dangerous things have all found their uses in demonstrating religious faith.  

Henry Transtrum was a professional and a master of the art in his time.
The accident at McDonnell Douglas was in a professional environment.  They
had the best medical and emergency response possible but it was not enough.
 The child that was killed was due to poor wiring and poor supervision
rather than the operating coil but...  

So far, Tesla coils have helped kill professionals, bystanders, and the
truly innocent equally.  I don't think any of us is more or less immune to
such accidents.  The evangelist, at least, faces danger squarely in the eye
and is "ready to go".  He does not assume that he is safe.  I doubt if he
would say that an unbeliever is more likely to die than he is.  He just has
faith where the unbeliever has fear...

>Public accidents will kill your hobby and my profession.
>This type of public irresponsibility will subject Tesla coils
>to negative Federal and State scrutiny. I know this. Trust
>me. I will be revisiting this subject soon. Stay tuned.

He is not a public accident yet...  I would hardly call him irresponsible.
We should all try to be as responsible and careful as we can be.  However,
there are always those that will not follow as safe practice as we may
like.  There is little we or the politicians can do about that...  It is
rather sad that the three people who have been killed in Tesla coil related
accidents, passed with hardly a note in the public eye.

This list of known deaths is as follows:

Henry L Transtrom - Electrocuted while working on a stage and using a
large Tesla coil.  He inadvertently allowed a power arc to go from his body
to some metal framing that was part of the stage backdrop.  He authored the
following book:

Henry L. Transtrom, originally published: 1913, second edition
1921, Joseph G. Branch Publishing, Chicago; Reprinted 1990, ISBN
1-55918-054-4, Lindsay Publications, Bradley, Illinois, 60915.
Paperback, 247pp, Lindsay # 20544, $ 11.95. Excellent technical
book; useful in calculating and designing coil control systems,
coils, inductance, field strengths, capacitance, etc.. Classic
transformer construction and reference text, but the Tesla
coil/capacitor designs are primitive by today's standards.

1992 - Graduate student intern working at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis.
A Tesla coil was being used to test aircraft parts against the effects of
lightening.  The person got too close to the tank circuit and either bushed
up against it or a spark left the circuit and stuck him.  He never regained
a heartbeat despite excellent CPR and paramedic responses.

March 29,1998 - An unsupervised 14 month old boy wandered into the poorly
made AC line wiring of a Tesla coil.  He was found some time later but
could not be resuscitated.

It should be noted that the last two of these incidents may have gone
unnoticed if it were not for the Internet.  The possibility of there being
others that we don't know about is very high.


>Jeff W. Parisse
>Director, kVA Effects