Healing Machines. Work of an Eccentric? Or a Genius? By Pam Crooks

I recently read a fascinating story about an artist that once lived not far from me in the sandhills of Nebraska.  Emery Blagdon was born in 1907, the oldest of six children, and a farmer’s son.  He ended his education at a country school to work on the farm, but at age 18, he left home to drift around the country for ten years, riding the rails for adventure.

Once he returned home, however, he stayed home, surrounded by family. He never married, never had children.  He rarely bathed and wore his hair long, unusual for a man at the time, and donned baggy clothes that often needed laundering.  He chopped wood every day for heat, drew his water from a well, and grew all his own food.  Always a loner, his niece remembers him as being very kind, very gentle and quiet.  When his uncle died, leaving him the family’s 160-acre farm, Emery didn’t work the land but instead leased it, which provided him a modest income and allowed him to do what he loved best.

On the farm was a 800-square-foot shed that Emery devoted the next thirty years to making what he called “my pretties.”  He created metal sculptures using only what others called junk and a pair of pliers. Yet each creation, never measured, was symmetrical.  After the deaths of his parents, brother and sister from cancer, he hoped to heal people with the energy from his art.

Some called him crazy.  While the farm deteriorated from neglect, as did his personal appearance, neighbors couldn’t help but have reservations about him.  Yet inside the shed, which was practically falling apart around him, beams of light touched on bits of foil, wire, colorful beads, and ribbon.  Strings of blinking Christmas bulbs wound around the room.  Visitors report being light-headed, feeling overwhelmed, even out-of-breath.

Emery possessed books on science and physics yet depended on the elements for his energy fields, using ionic salts purchased from a pharmacy in North Platte, NE.  He befriended the pharmacist, and they became lifelong  friends.

Unfortunately, Emery succumbed to the cancer that took family members before him, and just as it seemed the healing machines he’d created to protect himself and others from illness would be dispersed and lost through an estate auction, his pharmacist friend bought the entire lot, including the shed, to preserve Emery’s works.

Over the course of several decades, Emery’s 600 ornate wire sculptures and 80 geometric paintings traveled the country and were eventually displayed in a New York gallery.  Pieces sold from $2,500 to $25,000. The remaining works, including the shed, was acquired by a foundation and donated to an art center in Wisconsin where they all remain today.

As far as the healing machines?  Did they really heal?  Well, they were indeed found to emit measurable electrical energy, but perhaps it was only the sheer rush of unexpected beauty that ripples through one’s body, giving him or her a dazzling hum of appreciation for Emery Blagdon’s passion.

Do learn more about Emery, you can watch a fascinating documentary about him:  http://netnebraska.org/interactive-multimedia/television/emery-blagdon-and-his-healing-machine

Have you ever known anyone who was a little odd? Crazy? Eccentric?

I can name several, but my favorite has to be the matronly elderly woman we all called the “Chicken Lady” in my hometown of North Platte.  I remember her still in her baggy coat and walking cane.  She truly seemed to love children and, eyes twinkling, always greeted them with loud squawks of “Bawk, bawk-bawk-bawk-BAWWKKK.”

I don’t recall ever hearing her talk normally to anyone, be it children or adults. Surely she knew words.  I don’t know – shrug – but I never knew if I should laugh or feel sorry for her.  One thing is certain, though.  I’ve never forgotten her!

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Pam has written 30 romances, most of them historical westerns, but her newest releases are contemporary sweet romances featuring the Blackstone Ranch series published by Tule Publishing. Stay up on the latest at www.pamcrooks.com

40 thoughts on “Healing Machines. Work of an Eccentric? Or a Genius? By Pam Crooks”

  1. Fascinating story.

    My grandpa always told me a story about an eccentric mountain man, Nick, bit of a loner, in Tennessee. He has a memorial on a side trail of the Appalachian Trail on Iron Mountain.

    • It seems the loners are often eccentric, doesn’t it, Denise? If the mountain main had a memorial, he must’ve accomplished something that made him deserving. Do you know what it was?

  2. Great story. He was certainly in an orbit of his own. I’ve know race truck people before, but I often wondered what they smoked or used in their younger days. LOL.
    Thanks for such a great story.

  3. I knew a brother and sister that lived about a quarter mile from each other and I was in the middle of them. They walked every where every day. They lived alone each in their own home. He made canoes and had Bees. My brother and I would go down to help him. Both were very smart and sweet. I loved hanging out with him. They passed within months of each other.

    • I would wonder why the brother and sister never married and had families of their own. Their lives were very solitary, but at least they had each other!

  4. Good morning! I love this! Isn’t it funny how artists often hit it big after they’re already gone from this earth! Probably every town had that eccentric person. All that comes to mind at the moment is a man from my hometown that walked everywhere. He dressed like a cowboy from the old west, often had a cigar in his mouth, that can’t remember if the tip ever looked like he smoked it. I think he may have just chewed on it. The town named him, Clint Eastwood, he really did fit the bill as an aloof character, just not as handsome. Now I’m going to have to post in one of my hometown pages and ask if anyone knows what happened to him.

    • I think it’s funny how the town names someone, Steph. It only takes one person to make up a nickname and it sticks and spreads around the community. Even better (funnier?), s/he becomes part of our memories and we never forget.

      In addition to our Chicken Lady, we had another guy in our town very similar to what you described. I won’t tell you what we called him though . . .

  5. wow this is interesting. I have known a few people who were just a tad odd. But mom taught me to show them love also, because we dont know why they are the way they are or where they have come from. By showing my love and sharing my time with those two people, I learned that they were just different than me. And God can work miracles in anyone’s lives. There was one from my husbands side, she was extremely different. But at the same time she didnt want anyone to really get close to her. But she loved it when I made her cards. So I made a lot of cards for her: birthday, encouraging, hello etc. things that were fun and would bring a smile to her face.

    • What a kind thing for you to do, Lori. I wish more people sent cards. They are truly a day brightener.

      Your mother was very wise and compassionate, and it’s wonderful you have taken her words to heart.

  6. What an interesting story. I can’t think of anyone that is really Eccentric, but I do remember having a teacher in high school that wore purple every day. Everyone thought it was a bit odd; it was soothing to me. I like predictable.

  7. I had an elderly second cousin who came home from WWII with what they called then Shell Shock. He was so quiet and I didn’t know Jesse John well, but he lived his entire life with his parents. And the thing I found so charming was, he lived in small town Nebraska and every day he’d walk up to the towns only cafe and order Campbells Chicken Noodle soup for the noon meal. Well, the cafe didn’t serve Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, but they knew what Jesse John liked and always kept a can of it ready and heated it and served it just for him. That’s small town life.

    • Ooh, I love this, Mary!! You’re right – only in a small town would anyone be that thoughtful and go that extra step to buy special soup. There are alot of good folks in this world!!

  8. All the years we lived in Mesa, AZ, there was a very unkempt man who rode his bicycle around the older part of town, rhythmically waving his hands like he was dancing, fairly oblivious to all the city traffic around him. He did this for decades, and could still be doing it. He rode his bike to the beat of the music in his head. One couldn’t help but smile when watching him.

  9. Thank you for sharing this Pam, I really enjoyed reading it and I will have to look it up also. For sure there are all types of people and that’s what makes the world go round. It would be a very boring world if we all thought and looked alike. Have a Great rest of the week and stay safe.

  10. In our neighborhood, mostly farms, there was a man who rode a bicycle everywhere with an Adirondack pack basket on his back. He would pick up things along the road. My parents knew him and said he lived down a gravel road in a wooded area we often drove by but I don’t remember ever seeing his house. I always wondered if there was really a house down that dark narrow road through the woods.

  11. Pam, Thank you for sharing this fascinating post. I don’t personally know anyone I’d consider eccentric.

  12. My Grandmother became a bit eccentric as she aged. I believe that it was due to the dementia.

  13. Thank you for sharing such an interesting story. It seems many creative people tend to be a bit strange to some degree. Hmm, I wonder if that applies to authors? Sadly, many of them are not appreciated for their work and contributions. Like Emery, their unique contribution isn’t discovered until they have passed.
    As for knowing eccentric individuals, other than ourselves, we work with the homeless and marginalized. There are many true eccentrics amongst them. Some it is personality, some it is PTSD, some it is mental illness, some it is a medical issue. Like Emery, they live in their own little world and can be quite happy there. For some, it is a place of safety and others a place to explore their creativity.
    There was one gentleman who had been a successful lawyer. I don’t know what happened, but he lived on the street. He was dressed in a suit (which had seen better days) and spent his days walking around town talking to himself and anyone he met in a very animated fashion. His family tried to help him and get him into a place to live, but he wouldn’t go. He did eventually become ill and pass away several years ago.

    • Wise as always, Pat. Thank you for sharing your insight and your story. It does make you wonder what happened to the lawyer for his life and career to change so drastically.

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