Archive for July, 2013

Danger Danger, High Voltage…

Earlier on today I made a shocking discovery.

The longer you work in a museum the less the collections can surprise you. Even then, you will always find an electric object that sends a spark up your spine.

Like this object…


Obviously it’s a…well, erm……maybe a….

When I found it I was genuinely puzzled as to what it was. There are two dials, one allows you to pick between two voltage settings the other increases the power. There also appear to be a selection of lights or probes which fit into the microphone style extension.

Later research showed the device to be an electric shock machine. It doesn’t appear to send huge amounts of electricity so I assumed it wasn’t being used for torture or interrogation. Perhaps it had a medical use?


A close-up with some of the attachments

Further research brought up the answer. The device had a more ‘erotic’ purpose to it, and may be better known to some as a violet wand. Objects like this are fascinating as you can never really find out how widespread their use was. Their use is not widely documented as many people would be embarrassed or unwilling to openly admit using or even owning this. I assume people would have similar reservations and be a little shy if I started asking about their private life. Although after seeing some hen parties on a night out I’m led to believe not everyone is so prudish.

Perhaps these matters were widely discussed in the pubs or on the streets of Blackburn and such devices were widely owned. Perhaps this was used by a person or couple who would have been viewed as deviant by their peers? Unfortunately, we will never know.

In many of these blogs I take funny staged photos in the galleries using the items. After finding out what it was used for, trying to take an amusing photo became a lot more difficult and as I don’t know who used it or how, I’m being very careful about what bits I touch!


Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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