18 Old Fashioned Medical Devices that Belonged in Horror Movies
18 Old Fashioned Medical Devices that Belonged in Horror Movies

18 Old Fashioned Medical Devices that Belonged in Horror Movies

Trista - December 5, 2018

18 Old Fashioned Medical Devices that Belonged in Horror Movies
A young boy in an oxygen tent. Pinterest.

3. Oxygen Tent

The sick child in the photo looks like he’s an Ebola patient being kept isolated from his caretakers at the hospital. In reality, he’s merely sitting in an oxygen tent. Oxygen tents are used to provide an oxygen-rich environment for patients who are having difficulty breathing, whether from a chronic disease like asthma or an acute illness like whooping cough, also known as pertussis. Oxygen tents are used in hospitals and can also be used in an outpatient or home setting when needed.

While they are less common today than they once were, oxygen tents are still used in situations where an oxygen mask or respirator may be difficult to wear or too uncomfortable for the patient. The oxygen tent allows the patient to be relatively unencumbered, as evidenced by the surprisingly happy looking child in the photo, but they do need to be kept sealed to keep the oxygen saturation high enough to be therapeutic. As with all oxygen treatments, one needs to be careful about sparks and open flames due to the combustible nature of oxygen.

18 Old Fashioned Medical Devices that Belonged in Horror Movies
A woman undergoing radium therapy. Flickr.

2. Radium Therapy

Radium was considered, in the early 20th century, to be a borderline mythical panacea. The novelty of a glow in the dark substance led many to believe it was almost magical, and it quickly made its way into many health and beauty products and was marketed as a cure-all. While various charlatans and snake oil salespeople attempted to profit off of radium, the medical community believed that there were legitimate curative uses for the newfound radium.

It was believed, at the turn of the century, to be bactericidal, meaning that it would kill bacteria. It also was thought to be superior to the newly discovered X-Rays in the treatment of small areas of the body. The bactericidal nature, as well as its targeted use, led to radium being used to treat tuberculosis. It was also sometimes applied to the skin to treat disorders such as lupus and rodent ulcer. In Germany, experimentation was done with inhaling radium as a treatment for various illnesses. Radium in bath water was also used to treat gout and arthritis.

Once the incredible dangers of radium were finally realized, and more important, acknowledged, radium quickly fell out of favor for medical uses. Today, it persists only in a few particular cases, such as the treatment of cancers that absorb iodine.

18 Old Fashioned Medical Devices that Belonged in Horror Movies
A woman undergoing scoliosis treatment. Wikimedia.

1. Scoliosis Treatment

Scoliosis is a relatively common condition, affecting about 3 percent of people, in which the spine has a sideways curve, often resembling the letters s or c. Scoliosis varies widely in severity, with some patients having minor curves that can be corrected through braces while others have severe deformity causing curves that require surgical correction. In the 19th century and early 20th century, braces would have to be based on plaster casts. While the woman in the photo may look like she’s being tortured, she’s actually being fitted with a plaster mold on which her brace will be based. Layers of linen or gauze are being wrapped around her, which will then be dampened with plaster material. Once the plaster mold dries, it will be cut off and used to cast the brace.

In current times, computer-aided drawing (CAD) software is used to design braces with non-invasive and easy measurements being all that is required of patients. This technology removed the need for plastering in adults. However, plaster casts may still be used in cases of infant scoliosis as it has been shown to successfully eliminate the need for bracing later in life when treated early.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Medical Devices From The Early 1900s Were Absolutely Terrifying” Amanda Sedlak-Hevener, Ranker. N.d.

“History of the wheelchair” Brian Woods, Nick Watson, Brittanica. N.d.

Monell, Samuel Howard. A system of instruction in X-ray methods and medical uses of light, hot-air, vibration and high-frequency currents: a pictorial system of teaching by clinical instruction plates with explanatory text. New York: E.R. Pelton, 1902.

“Soothe Your Achey Joints by Sticking Each Limb Into Its Own Tiny, Electrified Bathtub” Ashley Feinberg, Gizmodo. February 2013.

“From iron lung to independence” Gabby Chapman, Smithsonian. July 2015.

“The Iron Lung and Other Equipment” Smithsonian staff. N.d.

“Magnet Therapy” Science Direct staff. N.d.

“A Brief History of Prosthetics” Kim M. Norton, Amputee Coalition. December 2007.

“Electroconvulsive Therapy: A History of Controversy, but Also of Help” Jonathan Sadowsky, Scientific American. January 2017.

“A Brief History of Scoliosis Treatment” Dr. Clayton J. Stitzel, Slideshare. September 2010.

“Radium.” Wikipedia contributors. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. November 2018.

“Hydrotherapy.” Wikipedia contributors. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. November 2018.

“10 Mind-Boggling Psychiatric Treatments” Dan Greenberg, Mental Floss. N.d.

“Electroencephalogram (EEG)” John Hopkins Medicine staff. N.d.

“Electroretinogram”EyeWiki staff. N.d.

“Making Waves – The Past, Present, and Future of EEG Research” Bryn Farnsworth, IMotions. October 2016.

“Little Beauty Shop of Horrors” Purple Clover staff. November 2017.