Dr. Wilhelm Reich's Orgasm-Powered Cloudbuster

Atlas Obscura
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Aug. 19 2013 9:38 AM

Dr. Wilhelm Reich's Orgasm-Powered Cloudbuster

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A stone building with blue trim, once used as a laboratory, now holds much of the legacy of Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst who believed that orgasmic energy could control the weather.

Reich began his career in 1919, working alongside Freud in Vienna. Influenced by Freud's theories on libido, Reich became fixated on what he called "orgastic potency": the complete release of energy and tension during orgasm. According to Reich, all neuroses—and even diseases like cancer—result from the inhibition of sexual energy and excitation. 

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Two weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War, Reich moved to New York. It was here that he declared he had discovered "orgone," an omnipresent libidinal life force responsible for gravity, weather patterns, emotions, and health. Reich began building orgone accumulators: wooden booths lined with metal in which a patient could sit naked to absorb orgone energy. 

Ten years later, in accordance with his new belief that the atmospheric accumulation of orgone radiation caused drought, Reich designed a cloudbuster. The machine consisted of a row of tubes aimed at the sky, attached to hoses immersed in water—water being a natural orgone absorber. In the mid-1950s, Reich switched his attention to UFOs, which he believed were spraying orgone radiation in an attempt to destroy Earth. He and his son traveled to Arizona where they used cloudbusters as "spaceguns," aiming them at UFOs in an attempt to drain their energy.

By this time, Reich had attracted the attention of the FDA, who obtained an injunction to prevent him from shipping orgone accumulators out of Maine, where he then lived. When one of Reich's associates violated the injunction, the FDA ordered the destruction of Reich's accumulators, pamphlets, and books. Reich himself received a two-year prison sentence—the admitting psychiatrist at Danbury Federal Prison observed him to be experiencing delusions of grandeur. Eight months later Reich died in his cell bed after suffering a heart attack.

The museum at Orgonon, the idyllic site of Reich's Maine lab, observatory, and home, contains equipment used in orgone experiments, as well as orgone accumulators, personal memorabilia, and original editions of publications burned by the FDA. Outside, a short walk into the woods, is a cloudbuster aimed directly at Reich's tomb. 

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