Extraordinary People: Electric Human

Wednesday 20th May 9.00pm

The documentary strand exploring remarkable tales of human experience continues. In Puerto Rico, a man claims to be able conduct electricity through his body. Forty-year-old Jose can withstand high-voltage currents without any apparent ill effects, powering light bulbs and firing sparks from his fingers. Meanwhile, in Brighton, a woman reports that her body mysteriously affects electrical appliances. Can scientists explain these unusual abilities?

Jose lives in the small town of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Since the age of 13, when he was abandoned by his grandfather, he has lived alone – and has developed an extraordinary ability. Jose is seemingly capable of transmitting high-voltage current through his body. “People don’t believe that electricity passes through my body, but I will show everyone it’s true,” he says.

Publicity-shy Jose is now willing to demonstrate his skills for the first time in 12 years. Local journalist Gabriel visits Jose at his TV repair shop and watches as he holds a live wire in one hand and a fluorescent bulb in another. The bulb immediately lights up, causing Jose no visible pain. Jose is even able to fire sparks from his fingers. Gabriel stares in amazement as the TV repairman sets light to a scrap of tissue with an electrical flare from his finger, before burning lines in a plank of wood.

Jose’s talent has come to the attention of researchers at the University of Puerto Rico. They are impressed by a display of his skills and ask him to return in a week for further tests. In the meantime, Jose seeks out medical advice as to his condition. He agrees to have an electrocardiogram test to see if his exposure to electricity has caused him any lasting damage. Jose is nervous about the results, as doctors have warned him to stop his risky activities in the past. Fortunately, the exam shows his heart is functioning normally.

Jose still has some way to go to convince the scientists of his unique powers, however. Their initial theory is that he mitigates the worst of the current by standing on a plastic box. Jose refutes this suggestion by repeating his trick with his feet planted firmly on the ground. In front of his curious neighbours, Jose holds on to the fuse box of his apartment building with both hands – exposing himself to twice the normal mains voltage. “Touching mains voltage with two arms… is about the most dangerous thing you can do,” says expert Professor Nick Donaldson. But Jose survives his dose of electricity without even a twitch.

The next step is for the researchers to test the amount of electricity actually passing through Jose’s body. However, their findings prove controversial – not just to Jose, who feels they have not been thorough enough, but to scientists in the UK, who are following the case with interest. Can a test be devised to give a definitive answer?

Elsewhere, in Brighton, a woman claims that she too has unusual electrical abilities. Debbie says that her body can randomly disrupt electrical appliances, from hairdryers to streetlights. “When I’m in the appropriate frame of mind, things around me blow up,” she says. “The only warning I have is a nanosecond beforehand, when I get a funny sort of tingly feeling.” Despite her reluctance to fly – for fear of what might happen to the electrics on the plane – Debbie agrees to go on holiday. No sooner has she arrived, however, than her hotel suffers a mysterious blackout. Is this connected to her alleged ability?

Scientists at UCL are keen to investigate Debbie’s claims. They connect her to an oscilloscope and try to provoke her ability. Debbie is shown footage of Jose performing his tricks, on the basis that it might trigger her own powers. Remarkably, the level of electrical current in Debbie’s body rises in time with the scenes on the screen, reaching three times the normal level. Can researchers explain this result?

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  • Wonder why Jose always needed the mains to be accessed through a television set before he could light the fluorescent tubes and draw the sparks from his fingers?

    Is it possible that he was connecting with the un-rectified EHT supply in the television? That is the high voltage generated by the line output stage which is ALSO AT A HIGH FREQUENCY. Muscles would be unlikely to respond to typical line frequencies of about 15KHz.

  • Anonymous

    I cannot believe how the Luvies who make TV get duped by theese idiots.
    Still further I cannot believe they get an audience. It is all unscientifc hokum.

  • Nermash

    No, HV is rectified ie. DC. There is no AC high voltage on the anode cup (red thingie that normaly goes to a cathode tube, which Jose disconnects from a set and hold with a nail). If there were AC on that line, cathode tube would fail.
    There is a possibility that he delibaretly messed with the recitifiying diode on HV transformer, but that can easily be checked by pluging the cup back into tv he uses and firing it up. If the set shows raster/white noise then HV is DC.

    Much more perplexing is the thing he does holding 240 V AC with two hands while standing on the ground! That is equivalent to a electric chair!

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