Throughout history there have been countless attempts to discourage new technologies only to protect other people's self-interests. Below are some of the most suppressed inventions ever.
1. The Original Electric Car: Unplugged?
Perhaps the most notorious suppressed invention is the General Motors EV1 (video above), subject of the 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? The EV1 was the world's first mass-produced electric car, with 800 of them up for lease from GM in the late '90s. GM ended the EV1 line in 1999, stating that consumers weren't happy with the limited driving range of the car's batteries, making it unprofitable for GM to continue production. Many skeptics, however, believe GM killed the EV1 under pressure from oil companies, who stand to lose the most if high-efficiency vehicles conquer the market. It doesn't help that GM had a policy of hunting down and destroying every last EV1, ensuring the technology would stall right then and there.
2. The Death of the American Streetcar
In 1921, if the streetcar industry wasn't actually naming streetcars Desire it was certainly desiring more streetcars. They netted $1 billion, causing General Motors to hemorrhage $65 million in the face of a thriving industry. GM retaliated by buying (or pressuring out of business) hundreds of independent railway companies, boosting the market for gas-guzzling GM busses and cars. The face of American transportation was all cars, cars, cars for the next half-century. While a recent urban movement to rescue mass transit has been underway, it is unlikely we'll ever see streetcars return to their former glory.
3. The 99-MPG Car
The holy grail of automotive technology is the 99-mpg car. Although the technology has been available for years, automakers have deliberately withheld it from the U.S. market. In 2000, the New York Times reported a little-known fact, at least to most: A diesel-powered dynamo called the Volkswagen Lupo had driven around the world averaging higher than 99 mpg. The Lupo was sold in Europe from 1998 to 2005 but, once again, automakers prevented it from coming to market; they claimed Americans had no interest in small, fuel-efficient cars.
4. Free Energy
Nikola Tesla was more than just the inspiration for a hair metal band, he was also an undisputed genius. In 1899, he figured out a way to bypass fossil-fuel-burning power plants and power lines, proving that "free energy" could be harnessed using ionization in the upper atmosphere to produce electrical vibrations. J.P. Morgan, who had been funding Tesla's research, had a bit of buyer's remorse when he realized that free energy for all wasn't as profitable as, say, actually charging people for every watt of energy use. Morgan then drove another nail in free energy's coffin by chasing away other investors, ensuring Tesla's dream would die.
5. Miracle Cancer Cure
In 2001, Nova Scotian Rick Simpson discovered that a cancerous spot on his skin disappeared within a few days of applying an essential oil made from marijuana. Since then, Simpson and others have treated thousands of cancer patients with incredible success. Researchers in Spain have confirmed that THC, an active compound in marijuana, kills brain-tumor cells in human subjects and shows promise with breast, pancreatic and liver tumors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use, unlike Schedule II drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamine, which may provide medical benefits. What a buzzkill.
Despite how silly it sounds, water-fueled vehicles do exist. The most famous is Stan Meyer's dune buggy, which achieved 100 miles per gallon and might have become more commonplace had Meyer not succumbed to a suspicious brain aneurysm at 57. Insiders have loudly claimed that Meyer was poisoned after he refused to sell his patents or end his research. Fearing a conspiracy, his partners have all but gone underground (or should we say underwater?) and taken his famed water-powered dune buggy with them. We just hope someone finally brings back the amphibious car.
What if you had a device that could see into the future and revisit the past? And what if you didn't need Christopher Lloyd to help you? Father Pellegrino Maria Ernetti, an Italian priest, claimed in the 1960s to have invented what he called a Chronovisor, something that allowed him to witness Christ's crucifixion. The device supposedly enabled viewers to watch any event in human history by tuning in to remnant vibrations that are caused by every action. (His team of researchers and builders included Enrico Fermi, who also worked on the first atomic bomb). On his deathbed, Fermi admitted that he had faked viewings of ancient Greece and Christ's demise, but insisted the Chronovisor, which had by then vanished, still worked. Unsurprisingly, conspiracy theorists say the Vatican is now the likely owner of the original Chronovisor.
American inventor Royal Rife (his real name), in 1934, cured 14 "terminal" cancer patients and hundreds of animal cancers by aiming his "beam ray" at what he called the "cancer virus." So why isn't the Rife Ray in use today? Barry Lynes, in his 1987 book The Cancer Cure That Worked, details how Rife's invention was discredited by Morris Fishbein, the director of the American Medical Association (AMA), after his offers to buy a share of the technology were rebuffed, although this has never been proven and the AMA has denied it. A 1953 U.S. Senate special investigation concluded that Fishbein and the AMA had conspired with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to suppress various alternative cancer treatments that conflicted with the AMA's pre-determined view that "radium, x-ray therapy and surgery are the only recognized treatments for cancer."
In 1953, when severe drought threatened the blueberry harvest in the state of Maine, Dr. Wilhelm Reich, the inventor of a supposed rainmaking device called the Cloudbuster, and he was contracted to bring rain. The Bangor Daily News reported at the time that within hours of setting up the Cloudbuster, nearly Â¼ inch of rain had fallen across the area, despite no precipitation in the forecast. Curiously, it does not seem that Reich attempted this feat again and, in 1954, the government put a stop to his work entirely. After Reich's conviction for selling a phone-booth-sized box that he claimed cured the common cold and impotence, in violation of FDA rules, Reich was sentenced to prison, where he soon died. The court also ordered that Reich's inventions, their parts and any writing about them be destroyed.
A number of overunity generators, which produce more energy than they take to run, have surfaced in the past century. Ironically, they have been more trouble than they were worth. In nearly all cases, a supposedly working prototype has been unable to make it to commercial production as a result of various corporate or government forces working against the technology. Recently, the Lutec 1000, an "electricity amplifier," has been making steady progress toward a final commercial version. Will consumers soon be able to buy it, or will it too be suppressed?
Billions of dollars have been spent researching how to create energy using controlled "hot fusion," a risky and unpredictable line of experimentation. Meanwhile, garage scientists and a fringe group of university researchers have been getting closer to harnessing the power of "cold fusion," which is much more stable and controllable, but far less supported by government and foundation money. In 1989, Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons announced that they had made a breakthrough and had observed cold fusion in a glass jar on their lab bench. To say the reaction they received was chilly would be an understatement. CBS's 60 Minutes described how the resulting backlash from the well-funded hot-fusion crowd sent the researchers underground and overseas, where within a few years their funding dried up, forcing them to drop their pursuit of clean energy.
Cold fusion isn't the only technology to get buried by hot-headed scientists. When two physicists who were working on the decades-long Tokamak Hot Fusion project at Los Alamos Laboratory stumbled across a cheaper, safer method of creating energy from colliding atoms, they were allegedly forced to repudiate their own discoveries or be fired; the lab feared losing the torrent of government money for Tokamak. In retaliation, the lead researchers created the Focus Fusion Society, which raises private money to fund their research outside of government interference.
Magnetofunk and Himmelkompass
Nazi scientists spent much of World War II hidden in a covert military base somewhere in the arctic, creating the Magnetofunk. This alleged invention was designed to deflect the compasses of Allied aircraft that might be searching for Point 103, as the base was known. The aircraft pilots would think they were flying in a straight line, but would gradually curve around Point 103 without ever knowing they were deceived. The Himmelkompass allowed German navigators to orient themselves to the position of the sun, rather than magnetic forces, so they could find Point 103 despite the effects of the Magnetofunk. According to Wilhelm Landig, a former SS officer, these two devices were closely guarded secrets of the Third Reich. So closely guarded were they that neither device apparently survived the collapse of Hitler's Germany, although the real tragedy is that no one has ever named their band Magnetofunk.
A Safer Cigarette?
In the 1960s, the Liggett & Myers tobacco company created a product called the XA, a cigarette in which most of the stick's carcinogens had been eliminated. Dr. James Mold, Liggett's Research Director, reported in court documents in the case of "The City and County of San Francisco vs. Phillip Morris, Inc.," that Phillip Morris threatened to "clobber" Liggett if they did not adhere to an industry agreement never to reveal information about the negative health effects of smoking. By advertising a "safer" alternative, they would be admitting the dangers of tobacco use. The lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality and Phillip Morris never addressed the accusations. Despite their own scientists' publication of research that showed less cancer in mice exposed to smoke from the XA, Liggett & Myers issued a press released denying evidence of cancer in humans as a result of tobacco use, and the XA never saw the light of day.
The Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation (TENS) device was created to alleviate pain impulses from the body without the use of drugs. In 1974, Johnson & Johnson bought StimTech, one of the first companies to sell the machine, and proceeded to starve the TENS division of money, causing it to flounder. StimTech sued, alleging that Johnson & Johnson purposely stifled the TENS technology to protect sales of its flagship drug, Tylenol. Johnson & Johnson responded that the device never performed as well as was claimed and that it was not profitable. StimTech's founders won $170 Million, although the ruling was appealed and overturned on a technicality. The court's finding that the corporation suppressed the TENS device was never overturned.
The Phoebus Cartel
Phillips, GE and Osram engaged in a conspiracy from 1924 to 1939 with the goal of controlling the fledgling light-bulb industry, according to a report published in Time magazine six years later. The alleged cartel set prices and suppressed competing technologies that would have produced longer-lasting and more efficient light bulbs. By the time the cabal dissolved, the industry-standard incandescent bulb was established as the dominant source of artificial light across Europe and North America. Not until the late 1990s did compact fluorescent bulbs begin to edge into the worldwide lighting market as an alternative.
The Coral Castle
How did Ed Leedskalnin build the massive Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida, out of giant chunks of coral weighing up to 30 tons each with no heavy equipment and no outside help? Theories abound, including anti-gravity devices, magnetic resonance and alien technology, but the answer may never be known. Leedskalnin died in 1951 without any written plans or clues as to his techniques. The centerpiece of the castle, which is now a museum open to the public, is a nine-ton gate that used to move with light pressure from one finger. After the gate's bearings wore out in the 1980s, a crew of five took more than two weeks to fix it, although they never did get it to work as effortlessly as Leedskalnin's original masterpiece.
The father of our country, George Washington, who is rumored to have said "I cannot tell a lie," was a proud supporter of the hemp seed. Of course, the only thing more suppressed in this country than an honest politician is hemp, which is often mistakenly for marijuana and therefore unfairly maligned. Governmental roadblocks, meanwhile, prevent hemp from becoming the leader in extracting ethanol, allowing environmentally damaging sources like corn to take over the ethanol industry. Despite the fact that it requires fewer chemicals, less water and less processing to do the same job, hemp has never caught on. Experts also lay the blame at the feet of (who else?) Presidential candidates, who kiss up to Iowa corn growers for votes.