November 1960 Popular Electronics
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history
of early electronics. Popular Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights
are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from
Just in time for Halloween comes this Carl and Jerry adventure.
With the great popularity of zombies and the undead these days
(in which I personally have zero interest), the scheme outlined
here to make the 'hand of Selene' tap out answers to a soothsayer's
questions would be a great scheme to use at a Halloween party.
Read on to discover the tech savvy teenagers' clever implementation.
Carl and Jerry: The Hand of Selene
By John T. Frye W9EGV
It was almost five o'clock in the afternoon when Carl and
his parents returned from a Sunday visit with an uncle and aunt
in a neighboring town. The boy shed his tie and coat as he passed
through the house, and then he headed straight out the back
door and across the lawn to the entrance of the electronic laboratory
he and his chum, Jerry, had fixed up in the basement of Jerry's
As Carl clattered down the outside basement steps, he could
hear the murmur of voices through an open casement window; and
when he opened the door, he saw Jerry and Norma busy at the
workbench. Norma was a very pretty neighbor girl in her early
twenties. Because of her "advanced" age and the fact she was
what the boys called "a good Jill," she escaped the suspicion
and disdain Carl and Jerry affected toward girls their own age.
"Come on in," Jerry called to Carl, who had paused in the
"Yes," Norma seconded, "but what's the idea of goofing off
visiting relatives when we need your brains and brawn?"
"It's nice to feel wanted," Carl said with a grin as he looked
down at the object she was holding in her hands. "What have
you two been up to? Grave robbing?"
"In a matter of speaking, yes," Jerry answered, taking what
looked like a wrinkled, mummified, feminine human hand from
Norma and placing it on the bench. "Here's the scoop: tomorrow
night, which is Halloween, as you know, Norma's going to entertain
her sorority with a party at her house, and -"
"And," Norma interrupted, "after you boys fixed me up with
that talking skull at last year's party, I attained quite a
local reputation as a witch. In fact, some of my cattier friends
say it's perfect casting. Anyway, the girls are expecting something
pretty special tomorrow night, and unless I give them goose-bumps
the size of ant hills, they're going to be disappointed."
"We decided to put on a séance in which a severed human hand
raps out answers to questions," Jerry resumed quickly when Norma
stopped to catch her breath. "A couple of weeks ago, after that
windstorm that blew in several store-front windows, I was passing
through a downtown alley and saw the remains of a damaged dress
dummy in an ash can. The right forearm was intact; so I brought
it home with me. I've had an idea about this rapping-hand thing
for some time, and the dummy's arm was just what I needed. It's
made of light, tough plastic; and the fingers are curled just
right for my purpose.
"First, I ground out the end of the middle finger and imbedded
a piece of soft iron in it. I used plastic wood to anchor the
iron in place and to conceal the operation. Notice that as the
hand rests on the table this middle finger clears the surface
by only a quarter of an inch. The wrist has been carefully cut
off to act as a counterbalance so that the hand stays in that
position normally; but a slight downward pull on the metal in
the finger causes the hand to rock forward and down so that
the fingers strike the supporting surface smartly."
"I get it!" Carl exclaimed. "You're going to put an electromagnet
under the hand and send pulses of current through its windings
to make the hand rap. But one thing bugs me: you say that hand
is from a dress dummy. That's hard to believe. All the dress
dummies I ever saw were plenty good-looking; but if the appearance
of that hand is any guide, the dummy it came from must have
looked like Dracula's kid sister."
"That's a compliment to my art work!" Norma explained, with
a giggle. "I intend to say the hand is from the mummy of Selene,
an Egyptian moon goddess. To give it the shrunken, wrinkled
look, I painted it with latex and allowed the liquid rubber
to dry in the rough, seamed form you notice. Then I sprayed
it with a dark stain. Now it looks so real I'm almost afraid
to touch it."
"It's plenty grisly looking," Carl agreed; "but was I right
about how you intend to work the hand?"
"Only in a general way," Jerry answered.
"We have to use something considerably more sophisticated
than concealed wires running up table legs, and so on. The guests
that will be at the party are pretty smart cookies - for girls,
"Thanks loads!" Norma said sarcastically, making a face at
"This little table is the key to the whole operation," Jerry
said as he placed his hand on the glass top of a small table
with chrome-plated tubular legs. "The top part under the glass
looks as though it were made of a solid two-inch-thick piece
of walnut, but actually it's made of two one-inch-thick pieces
fastened together. This metal trim around the edge conceals
the joint. The concealed sides of both pieces of wood are hollowed
out to form a cavity in the table top. In this cavity are mounted
a powerful but compact electromagnet, a transistorized remote-control
receiver, and a relay that closes the power circuit of the magnet
when a signal is picked up by the receiver.
"Power for the receiver and for the magnet comes from flashlight
batteries loaded into these tubular legs. There's a coiled spring
in the bottom of each leg to hold the batteries in firm contact.
The top ends of the legs are let into the bottom of the table
top so that the wires coming out the tops of the legs can pass
through grooves between the two pieces of walnut into the cavity."
"Why the glass top?" Carl wanted to know.
"In order for the magnet to be as close as possible to the
metal in the hand, the layer of wood between the magnet pole
pieces and the top of the table is very thin. The single-strength
sheet of glass affords protection to this thin membrane of wood
and prevents anyone from rapping on it and noticing that it
"You boys will be sitting at a darkened window here in Jerry's
house looking across into the room where I'll hold the séance,"
Norma explained. "A concealed mike will let you hear the questions
the girls ask. Then you can use the transmitter to make the
hand rap once for 'yes' and twice for 'no.' I'll give you a
secret signal so you'll know which way to answer. Before I forget
it, though, there's one more thing. You'll have to put a switch
on that mike so I can keep it turned off until just before the
"Why?" Jerry asked in round-eyed wonder. "Why not let it run
"Because I think it's best that you boys keep your illusions
as long as you can," Norma said with an enigmatic smile. "You're
far too young to know what girls talk about when they think
men aren't listening. But let's see how the gadget works. Then
I have to scamper home, put up my hair, make up some party favors,
and read those books on Egyptian magic I got from the library.
I want my part in this thing to do justice to the technical
excellence I know I can expect from you two."
"Okay," Jerry said, "but you can layoff the butter, Norm.
Save that poor-dumb-little-me and big-strong-smart-you stuff
for your boy friends. This is Carl and Jerry; remember?"
"I'm sorry, fellows; I had that coming," Norma said quickly.
"I know better than to try and feed you two a line, but I really
don't want to mess things up."
"You won't," Jerry said with a reassuring smile. He placed
the hand on the glass-topped table and picked up the radio-control
transmitter. Every time he pushed a button on the latter, the
hand rapped smartly against the glass. This was true even when
he went outside and crossed the street with the transmitter.
By the time they had assured themselves that the apparatus was
working to perfection, both Carl's and Norma's respective mothers
were calling them for supper; so the three friends parted company
for the evening.
The following evening the TV weather map revealed a rapidly
approaching low, and there was a warning of accompanying strong
winds and heavy rain. As Carl and Jerry went downtown after
supper to watch the Halloween parade, a warm wind from the south
was already picking up. By the time they came home, around eleven,
it was whistling through the bare branches of the trees and
shaking Jerry's tribander beam which was mounted on a tower
between his house and Norma's.
Norma was saving her séance for the witching hour of midnight;
so the boys settled down in the darkened room where they could
look across at the curtained window of Norma's house and keep
an ear cocked at the mute intercom speaker in the corner. At
ten minutes before midnight, Norma's voice suddenly burst from
the speaker, and the window curtains parted.
"All right, girls; it's time to invoke the spirits," she
was saying as she stood between the open curtains looking up
at the storm clouds moving swiftly across the face of the nearly
full moon. A dozen girls could be seen crowding behind her and
following her upward gaze.
"I can't reveal how," Norma continued, "but I've managed
to obtain, just for tonight, the mummified hand of a person
said to be an incarnation of the Egyptian moon goddess, Selene.
Think on the questions you wish to ask while I bring the hand
of the moon goddess from its resting place."
Carl and Jerry could hear the girls whispering and giggling
nervously while Norma was gone. Then they heard the girls gasp
as Norma came back into the room with a measured tread, carrying
before her on a white satin pillow the gruesome Hand of Selene.
Each girl was required to touch the hand as Norma knelt in front
"It's so cold and clammy!" the first girl quavered as she
recoiled from the contact. Inasmuch as the hand had been reposing
in Norma's deep-freeze for the past thirty-six hours, she was
After each girl had forced herself to touch the hand, Norma
placed it carefully on the glass-topped table in front of the
window so the moon could shine down on it intermittently between
patches of clouds. All the lights in the room were turned out
except for a dim spotlight shining on the hand. Slowly she intoned:
"I, Norma, conjure you, spirit of Selene, Goddess of the
Moon, in the name of The Feather, sacred symbol of Truth, to
return into your hand and to answer truly the questions put
She paused, and the hand in the dim little circle of light
twitched rapidly and beat a devil's tattoo on the table top
as Jerry worked the button on the transmitter. A murmur of fear
came from the girls.
"Selene awaits your questions," Norma announced in a sepulchral
voice. "Let them be cast so that she may answer them with one
rap for 'yes' and two for 'no.'"
"Wi-wi- will Ted ask me to the Military Ball?" a faltering
voice finally piped up from the intercom speaker in Jerry's
house. The hand waited for a suspenseful few seconds and then
rapped once. Emboldened by this good news, the other girls threw
questions thick and fast, and the answers were tapped out quickly
"How do you know whether to make the hand say 'yes' or 'no'?"
"If Norma turns her head a little to the right, that means
'yes'; to the left means 'no,' " Jerry whispered back, although
there was no reason for whispering.
Finally there was a lull in the questions and a tall, black-haired
girl stood up in the flickering light of the candle and said,
"This is lots of fun, Norma; but you're not fooling me. Someone's
moving that hand with threads."
"Let the unbeliever see for herself," Norma answered, raising
her voice as a blast of wind made the house shudder.
The tall brunette approached the table a little nervously
and waved her long arms all around the hand in search of threads.
Then she grabbed the table and raised it a couple of feet off
the floor. As she did this, the hand began to tap on the table
Abruptly she set the table back on the floor and grabbed
at the hand. But as she touched it, she shrieked and stumbled
backward. "It is alive!" she cried; " I could feel it writhing
in my hand!"
This experience coupled with the gathering storm, broke up
the party. Fifteen minutes later the girls were all gone.
The boys threw their raincoats over their heads and dashed
through the beginning rain to Norma's back door. She let them
in, and the three went into the living room. They ate ice cream
pumpkins and witch-shaped cookies while they laughed about the
events of the evening.
"I'd say Selene was a pretty successful spirit," Jerry remarked
as he looked fondly at the hand still resting on the table.
"Maybe I should try a question. Selene, old girl, will my beam
stay up in this storm?"
The indulgent smile froze on his face as the hand deliberately
rapped twice, and at that instant there was a loud crash outside
the window. The three of them dashed outside to discover the
wreckage of Jerry's beam antenna lying between the two houses.
"I don't get it," Jerry said dazedly as they huddled there
in the cold pelting rain. "Of course, someone could have swished
an oscillating Citizens Band transmitter across the receiver
frequency a couple of times and jerked the hand -"
"Or it could have been just the Hand of Selene," Norma interrupted.
"You get that thing this minute and take it home with you. I
wouldn't be able to sleep a wink with it in the house!"
Posted October 28, 2015
Carl & Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is now available. "From
1954 through 1964, Popular Electronics published 119 adventures of Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop, two teen boys with
a passion for electronics and a knack for getting into and out of trouble with haywire lashups built
in Jerry's basement. Better still, the boys explained how it all worked, and in doing so, launched countless
young people into careers in science and technology. Now, for the first time ever, the full run of Carl
and Jerry yarns by John T. Frye are available again, in five authorized anthologies that include the
full text and all illustrations."
Carl & Jerry Episodes on RF Cafe
- Electronic Eraser,
- Electronic Trap, March
- Geniuses at Work, June
- Eeeeelectricity!, November
- Anchors Aweigh, July
- Bosco Has His Day,
- The Hand of Selene,
- Feedback, May 1956
- Abetting or Not?, October
- Electronic Beach
Buggy, September 1956
- Extra Sensory
Perception, December 1956
- Trapped in a Chimney,
- Command Performance,
Education, July 1963
- Treachery of Judas, July
- The Sucker, May 1963
- Stereotaped New
Year, January 1963
- The Snow Machine, December
Education, July 1963
- Slow Motion for
Quick Action, April 1963
- Sonar Sleuthing, August
- TV Antennas, August 1955
- Succoring a Soroban,
- "All's Fair --", September
- Operation Worm Warming,
- The Blubber Banisher,
- The Sparkling Light, May
- Pure Research Rewarded,
- A Hot Idea, March 1960
- The Hot Dog Case, December
- A New Company is Launched,
- Under the Mistletoe,
- Electronic Eraser,
- "BBI", May 1959
- Ultrasonic Sound Waves,
- The River Sniffer, July
- Ham Radio, April 1955
- El Torero Electronico,
- Wired Wireless, January
- Electronic Shadow,
- Elementary Induction,
- He Went That-a-Way,
- Electronic Detective,
- Aiding an Instinct,
- Two Detectors, February
- Tussle with a Tachometer,
- Therry and the Pirates,
- The Crazy Clock Caper,