I chose "Electrice, the Girl Who Defies Electricity" for my stage name, believing that people would be drawn toward one of the fair sex who dares to handle with apparent fearlessness an energy which in one form can tear down church spires or melt bars of metal in an instant. And, while the word "defies" conveys, to the public's mind, a challenge to this mighty power, to me, as in every instance in the household or factory, it means that electricity is perfectly safe and harmless when properly handled--a thing that people are slowly learning.
You have grasped the handles of a toy magneto while some one slowly turned the crank and every turn made the muscles of your hands, wrists and arms convulsively contract. The current produced was alternating, and to Nikola Tesla we are indebted for its practical application and for many spectacular experiments with it. "I have produced electrical oscillations," says he, "which were of such intensity that when circulating through my arms and chest they have melted wires which have joined my hands, and still I have felt no inconvenience. I have energized with such oscillations a loop of heavy copper wire so powerfully that masses of metal placed within the loop were heated to a high temperature and melted often with the violence of an explosion. And yet into this space in which this terrible destructive turmoil was going on I have repeatedly thrust my head without feeling anything or experiencing injurious effects." Tesla talks of currents of 80,000,000 vibrations a second in doing his hair raising body experiments, and remarks, "I don't do it any more; it is too dangerous."
It is with high frequency alternating current that I entertain the public, and I can assure you that electricity is a thing people still consider with a feeling of awe.
As the curtain rises showing the three-quarters of a ton of apparatus for the production of my act, the electric chair is the first object the eye of the spectator picks out and it creates the proper psychological effect, for I have frequently caught the word "Sing Sing" from across the footlights.
Those red spots are from "drawing" five to eight inch sparks from the transformer upon my bare hand with one terminal in the other hand.
Lighting candles or a cigar in the hands of my assistant with sparks from the finger tips is not painful until the finger ends get pitted by burns so that one is inconvenienced in changing costumes. When this happens I wear a copper thimble for a few performances. Swinging a glowing Geissler tube upon a darkened stage gives a startling effect, as does the "electric kiss" in which my assistant and myself hold the opposite ends of a 30 inch Geissler tube in our mouths. My invitation of "Next" is never accepted.
Other acts which seem not to become less thrilling to the audience are welding iron under water, lighting cotton by sparks from the knees and soles of the shoes, holding an arc lamp carbon between the teeth while from its outer end is drawn a steady, glowing arc (the act being designated as the "human arc").
I conclude the performance by being strapped in the electric chair to receive the full voltage of the transformer, the current jumping from a point above down to the helmet. This part of the performance usually causes my assistant to be looked upon somewhat as the villain is in the melodrama. "That man ought to be strung up; he's a brute"--this in a Montana town. He ought to be settin' it, for I assure you I received the full benefit of hand and forehead contacts while at work, because I was frequently perspiring. Many times have I "gone on" with a headache and have returned to my dressing room entirely refreshed.
One is asked a great many questions, as, "How many empires do you take?" "Why don't your clothes catch fire? and, too I am frequently accused of having secret wires and plates on the floor, so now I carry a light board platform upon which I stand while working. The audience is asked to figure the voltage of the sparks from the fact that 20,000 volts is the pressure required to force a spark across one inch air space and between needle points. But they are in the main interested, I think, because a woman dares.