A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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Amazing! Electrifying! Stories

14 August 2010. You may have read about the 71-year-old man in China who charges himself daily with 220V of electricity to keep himself fit. It is said that he cooks fish with the current passing through his body. Zhang Deke, a retired highway maintainer from Altay city of China's westernmost Xinjiang, is called "Electric Man or "Wonder Man." Better yet, Zhang uses his electric energy "to cure his friends and relatives of conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis and lumbago, and his 'treatment' seems to be really effective." The emphasis is on seems to be. Wouldn't it be amazing if this was just some kind of placebo effect or power of suggestion? Not really.

Or perhaps you've read of Slavisa Pajkic (aka Biba), a Serb who claims he in the Guinness book of records twice: once for taking a hit of 20,000 volts and once for heating up water to 97 degrees Celsius in 1 minute and 37 seconds with his electric body. (I can't find any evidence that one of his claims is true. The Guinness World Record page reports on many strange things, but nothing about testing a man by shooting 20,000 volts into his body. There is a video of Biba cooking his hot dog and boiling water while holding two wires. You should wonder why the current passes through the water in Biba's body without causing it to boil. One possibility is that the electric current isn't going through his body at all. An electric chair uses about 2,000 volts. I find it difficult to believe that the Guinness people would shoot 20,000 volts into a man just to test his claim that he can take it, since "voltages over approximately 50 volts can usually cause dangerous amounts of current to flow through a human being touching two points of a circuit..."* If you're insulated and there is no current flow, even you could take 20,000 volts. I don't think you'd get in the record books for taking such an electric hit while insulated, however, unless the testers were morons.) Pajkic, a well grounded and insulated gentleman, can fry a sausage in less than 20 seconds with wires held in his hands. One report says he can do this because he has no sweat glands, which makes it easier for him to become a conductor of electricity. That sounds like a good story, but unless Pajkic isn't human, his body is mostly salty water and salty water is a great conductor of electricity. On the other hand, if he's smart, he's not letting the electricity run through him, but through the devices he holds in his hands. If you want to cook hot dogs this way, there is a product on the market for you known as the Presto Hot Dogger.

These fellows are certainly going about cooking and getting light the hard way, but they are nevertheless interesting and entertaining. I don't want to encourage any candidate for a Darwin Award to try sticking his fingers into a light socket while biting down on a light bulb. Playing with electricity is only for those who know what they are doing. But these fellows are playing a trick on you. It is a good trick and should not be taken lightly. If you want to learn more about the trick, see Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories. You'll need a power cord known as a "suicide cable," some wire strippers and alligator clips, a couple of metal forks, and a source of electricity. Depending on what trick you are going to perform, you will need either some hot dogs, a light bulb, or a coffin. Yes, you could hurt yourself doing this trick if you don't know what you're doing. It might be safer to build a Tesla coil; high voltage is essential. If you want to have fun, try hooking the two ends of your electrodes to a large dill pickle.

If you don't believe me, put me on the polygraph.

reader comments

15 August 2010

Dear Mr Carroll,

I would like to add some more information about Slavisa Pajkic (here in Serbia we call him Biba Struja, "Biba Current"), as I had the opportunity to meet him.

He has some kind of odd skin deformation - his skin sample was clinically tested at VMA (Military Medical Center) in Belgrade and was found to have two skin layers less than a normal person. He also has no sweat glands (as you noted in your article) and also no hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, and so on.

His skin is very dry and its electrical resistance is extremely high, which enables him to hold wires under high voltage with practically no current flowing through his body. [Note: current = voltage/resistance. "Under dry conditions, the resistance offered by the human body may be as high as 100,000 Ohms."* ]

There are also some side effects of lacking sweat glands: when it is hot outside, he can not go for a walk without a wet t-shirt or some other cooling tool, otherwise his life would be threatened.

I also saw the video demonstration linked in your article, and I have to say that it is more sensational than truthful - the current is NOT coming "straight through his body" but through the electric wires straight from the electrical outlet, clearly visible on the video. His body is just a good insulator which mechanically holds conductors (forks) and nothing more than that. The reason for this misunderstanding is certainly the ignorance of Ohm's law and the relation between electrical current and voltage. Everybody can do the same thing if he has rubber gloves - or Biba's skin, which is the same.

There are also claims that he can direct electrical current through his body as he wishes, generate electrical current, switch on and off a nearby electrical appliance by his mind, and so on, but there is no evidence for those claims.

In some TV show, he offered some guys from America to demonstrate surviving the electric chair, and for several years there was no information about him. People presumed that he was killed in that electric chair, that Americans kidnapped him to test his abilities, and so on. But after some time he appeared again - now claiming that he can heal with his hands! He now has his own therapeutic touch agency in Kragujevac, a town in Serbia. One treatment costs 20 euro, so now you can get the low cost health directly from the Guinness World Record winner!

Well, you can't earn a living only by frying hot dogs holding wires again and again.

Best wishes and compliments for your great site,
Voja Antonic
Belgrade, Serbia

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