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truly a site unseen

No flying cars, either

Seventy years ago, this was the pitch:

Suppose that out onto a stage come eight chorus girls performing an intricate dance. Gradually something seems to happen, the heads, faces, and upper parts of the bodies of the girls seem to be disappearing. In fact, little by little they do become invisible to the audience until at last only eight pairs of legs are seen gracefully skipping about on the stage in perfect rhythm. You rub your eyes and begin to think you’d better see an oculist right away, but while you are worrying about it, back into your vision come the eight girls, wholly there and dancing gaily as though they had not just given you the shock of a lifetime. Or suppose again that a girl is sitting atop a piano, singing. The piano begins to fade from sight; finally the girl is left sitting in midair, nonchalantly swinging her feet and blithely singing, as though her perch was perfectly substantial.

If you did not think that you were just “seeing things,” right off you’d say, “Some invisible wires, or anyway, a cleverly arranged set of mirrors.” But you would be wrong in your guess. At least so says Mr. Adam Gosztonyi, the inventor of a machine which he claims can accomplish just such disappearing acts as have been described.

It wasn’t just Gosztonyi, either:

Another Hungarian by the name of Stephen Pribil, a professor of optics, has invented a machine producing “invisible rays.” This machine has the effect of making parts of an object apparently fade away, leaving the insides exposed.

More about Mr Pribil:

His system utilized special heterodyned light beams to render objects transparent and even invisible. Under the beams produced by his special lamps, opaque objects gradually became transparent. The effect could be controlled, optical transparencies sustained at specific “intensities”. Radio cabinets, exposed to his lamps, faded from view. Astounded witnesses saw through the cabinets, while the interiors stood out with amazing clarity. Metal parts, tubes, and chassis could be seen darkly shining through the wooden enclosures.

Allowed to thoroughly handle each part of his apparatus as well as the objects made transparent, it was also obvious that the system actually worked. He rendered transparent any object they wished by his extraordinary method. What became of Mr. Pribil, his device, and his theories remains a mystery.

I’m inclined to agree with the Modern Mechanix blogger: “Something tells me Modern Mechanix got scammed on this one. My guess is the two Hungarian guys got some investment funding and then vanished into thin air along with the cash.”

Still, if any of our special-effects wizards want to blank out the Rockettes from here up, I thank them in advance.

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