Lester Hendershot

From Kook Science

Lester Hendershot
Lester Hendershot - AP portrait, c. 1928.jpg

AP press photo, c. 1928

Born 3 June 1898(1898-06-03)
Hyndman, Bedford, Pennsylvania
Died 19 March 1961 (62)
Orange Co., California
Known for Hendershot Fuelless Motor

Lester Jennings Hendershot (June 3, 1898 - April 19, 1961) was an American inventor who drew press attention for his fuelless motor during the late 1920s.


  • Fort, Charles (1932), "CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO", Wild Talents, New York: Claude Kendall, p. 333-338 

    The fuel-less motor, which is by most persons considered a dream, or a swindle, associates most with the name of John Worrell Keely, though there have been other experimenters, or impostors, or magicians. The earliest fuel-less motor "crank" of whom I have record is John Murray Spear, back in the period of 1855, though of course various "cranks" of all ages can be linked with this swindle, dream, or most practical project. The latest, at this writing, is a young man, Lester J. Hendershot, of Pittsburgh, Pa. I take data from the New York Herald Tribune, Feb. 27-March 10, 1928. It was Henderson's statement that he had invented a motor that operated by deriving force from "this earth's magnetic field." Nobody knows what that means. But Hendershot was backed by Major Thomas Lanphier, U. S. Army, commandant of Selfridge Field, Detroit. It was said that at tests of Selfridge Field, a model of the "miracle motor" had invisibly generated power enough to light two 110-volt lamps, and that another had run a small sewing machine. Major Lanphier stated that he had helped to make one of these models, which were of simple construction, and that he was sure that there was nothing fraudulent about it.

    This espousal by Major Lanphier array, considering that to orthodox scientists it was the equivalence of belief in miracles, seem extraordinary: but it seems to me that the attacks that were made upon Hendershot were more extraordinary--or significant. It would seem that, if a simple, little contrivance, weighing less than ten pounds, were a fraud, the mechanics of Selfridge Field, or anywhere else, could determine that in about a minute, especially if they had themselves made it, under directions. If the thing were a fraud, it would seem that it would have to be obviously a fraud. Who'd bother? But Dr. Frederick Hochstetter, head of the Hochstetter Research Laboratory, of Pittsburgh, went to New York about it. He hired a lecture room, or a "salon," of a New York hotel, telling reporters that he had come to expose a fraud, which would be capable of destroying faith in science for 1,000 years. If so, even to me this would not be desirable. I should like to see faith in science destroyed for 20 years, and then be restored for a while, and then be knocked flat again, and then revive--and so on, in a healthy alternation. Dr. Hochstetter exhibited models of the motor. They couldn't generate the light of a 1-volt firefly. They couldn't stitch a fairy's breeches. Dr. Hochstetter lectured upon what he called a fraud. But the motive for all this? Dr. Hochstetter explained that his only motive was that "pure science might shine forth untarnished."

    It was traveling far, and going to trouble and expense to maintain the shine of a purity, the polish of which was threatened by no more than a youngster, of whom most of the world had never heard before. What I pick up is that there must have been an alarm that was no ordinary alarm, somewhere. I pick up that at tests, in Detroit, in Hendershot's presence, his motors worked; that, in New York, not in his presence, his motors did not work.

    Then came the denouement, by which most stories of exposed impostors end up, or are said to end up. Said Dr. Hochstetter--dramatically, I suppose, inasmuch as he was much worked up over all this--he had discovered that concealed in one of the motors was a carbon pencil battery.

    Just about so, in the literature of Taboo, end almost all stories of doings that are "alarming." There is no chance for a come-back from the "exposed impostor." He is shown as sneaking off-stage, in confusion and defeat. But some readers are having a glimmer of what I mean by taking so much material from the newspapers. They get statements from "exposed impostors." They ridicule and belittle, and publish much that is one-sided, but they do give the chance for the come-back.

    Came back Hendershot: That Dr. Hochstetter was quite right in his accusation, but only insofar as it applied to an incident of several years before. In his early experiments Hendershot, having no assurance of the good faith of visitors, had stuck into his motor various devices "to lead them away from the real idea I was working on." But, in the tests at Selfridge Field there had been no such "leads," and there had been no means of concealments in motors that mechanics employed by Major Lanphier had made.

    Two weeks later, Hendershot dropped out of the newspapers. Perhaps a manufacturer of ordinary motors bought him off. But he dropped out by way of a strange story. It is strange to me, because I recall the small claims that were made for the motor--alleged power not sufficient to harm anybody-- only enough to run a sewing machine, or to light lamps with 220 volts. New York Herald Tribune, March 10, 1928--that Lester J. Hendershot, the Pittsburgh inventor of the "miracle motor," was a patient in the Emergency Hospital, Washington, D. C. It is said that, in the office of a patent attorney, he was demonstrating his "fuel-less motor," when a bolt estimated at 2,000 volts shot from it, and temporarily paralyzed him.

    It was Hendershot's statement that his motor derived force from "this earth's magnetic field." It is probable that, if the motor was driven by his own magic, he would, even if he knew this, attribute it to something else. It is likely that spiritualistic mediums--or a few of them--have occult powers of their own: but they attribute them to spirits. Probably some stage-magicians have occult powers: but, in a traditional fear of persecutions of witchcraft, they feel that it is safer to say that the hand is quicker than the eye. "Divine healers" and founders of religions have been careful to explain that their talents were not their own.

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