In October of 1853 in the town of Lynn, Massachusetts, a group of people congregated under the watchful eye of a man named John Murray Spear, gathered together to begin work on a mysterious machine, an experiment that has since become synonymous with the early spiritualist movement. If successful, they believed that the machine in question had the power to “revolutionize the world and raise mankind to an exalted level of spiritual development.” It was thought that once finished, the machine itself would act as a physical body for God, a metal and copper suit to contain the divine spark. They called it the New Motor; Heaven’s last, best gift to man.
A former minister of the Universalist church in Barnstable Massachusetts, John Murray Spear was well-known for having maintained very outspoken views regarding the issues of slavery and women’s rights. In Portland, Maine during an anti-slavery speech in the heart of the city, he was beaten senseless by an angry mob, a beating which left him incapacitated for many months. However, this didn’t stop Spear from continuing to minister to three separate churches until the year 1852, when he broke ties with the Universalist Church for good. It was around this time that Spear joined an ever growing community that had begun calling themselves “spiritualists“. In later generations, despite his activism, this would become the topic his name was most notably attached to. Spear spent years devoted to developing his abilities as a trance medium, and eventually, he came to believe he was being guided by the spirits of notable scientists Emanuel Swedenborg and Benjamin Franklin.
In the summer of 1851, Spear claimed to have received 12 messages from his late father which he later published as Messages from the Super State. Following the publication, Spear conducted a series of live demonstrations in which he would enter a trance in order to allow certain spirits to speak through him.
Though the spiritualist movement was making worldly celebrities out of the likes of the Fox sisters and Andrew Jackson Davis, John Murray Spear had yet to impress the masses. Even after a demonstration where he claimed influence over spirits by using what he described as a force-field made of copper and zinc batteries, Spear was only met with ridicule from his contemporaries. This would soon change.
In 1853, after a trip to Rochester, New York, an impromptu automatic writing session would act as the catalyst for a change in Spears direction. He began calling himself the earthly representative of a “band of Electricizers.” This was, he alleged, an organization working together in the afterlife to promote mankind to new levels of a divine social state by way of technology. The “Association of Beneficence,” Spear claimed, was headed by some of histories greatest minds all actively choosing living spokesmen in order to receive their plans and information. Spear claimed the “Electricizers” were not the only group to make up the association, but that other groups such as the “Healthfulizers” the “Educationalizers” and the “Agriculturalisers” were also choosing earthly representatives.
Spear believed that he had been selected by none other then the late Benjamin Franklin, and that it was now his fate to begin work on the new machines that would change the face of humanity forever. He began receiving streams of messages from the Electricizers, detailing designs for the creation of circular cities, thinking machines, and electrical ships which he claimed would run solely on housed electrical power. But before any of the other machines could be built, he would have to build the most important one of all: the New Messiah or The God Machine.
Spear chose High Rock, a massive hill rising 170 feet above Lynn Massachusetts, as the birth place of the New Machine. Known for it’s own supernatural reputation, Spear and his small group of followers were received with enthusiasm, and in October of 1853, work began on the New Motor. Assisting Spear was Reverend SC Hewitt, editor of the spiritualist newspaper New Era; Alonzo E Newon, editor of the New England Spiritualist; and a mysterious woman who was know only as, “Mary of the New Dispensation.”
Creation of the motor took place in four parts, beginning with Spear entering what he called a “superior state”. It was there that he would be able to dispatch the exact blueprints from the after-life to his assistance as they took notation. During the nine-month engineering process, Spear had a recorded 200 “revealments” detailing specific instructions concerning tools, materials and the meticulous assembly of the Motor. The Machine was made from copper and zinc, and built with painstaking detail in order to follow exactly as the “Electricizers” were directing. Though Spear had no scientific background or comprehensive knowledge, his companions believed that this acted as evidence in itself that Spear’s visions were genuine. They believed that this lack of knowledge would keep his subconscious mind from interfering with the precise instructions being transmitted to them from the spirit world.
In addition to having limbs, the motor had been built with its own mechanical inhalation and respiration system, as well as a methodically assembled engine. Explicit detail was given to the group as to who would be exposed to the engine. Only specific individuals were granted an audience with the machine in order to raise its “level vibration”.
Eventually, a slight charge of electricity was administered to the body of the machine resulting in what was described as a “light pulsatory and vibrational motion.”
The final stage of the nine-month long experiment took place on June 29th, 1854 and involved a ritual during which Spear encased himself in a suit made of metal, gemstones, plates and copper strips. He was then brought into gradual contact with the machine before slipping into a deep trance. Clairvoyants present at the ritual reported seeing an “umbilical like cord linking Spear to the machine.” Through Spear, the Electricizers then instructed that “Mary of the New Dispensation” also be brought into the presence of the machine. During this time, she is claimed to have sprawled on the ground experiencing labor pains for over two hours. When the contractions finally subsided, it was reported by onlookers that she touched the device which promptly sprung to life. The headline of the following day’s New Era declared, “The Thing Moves!”
Over the course of the next few days, the machine’s movements became nearly imperceptible, something noticed by anyone who viewed the initial “life giving” ceremony. They began to believe that the New Motor had become conscious in a newborn stage and that the minuscule movements were only due to it’s weakened state of infancy. In an attempt to comfort the machine, the New Mary began providing maternal attention to the New Motor, believing somehow that this would help the machine gain strength over time.
Despite the efforts of Spear and his followers, the New Motor remained unremarkable, and even with the initial positive response, visitors to High Rock were unimpressed with the results of Spears creation. The minuscule movements, it seemed, were not enough to make believers out of the spiritualist movement and many of Spear’s colleagues, friends who initially enthusiastic, began publicly stating their disbelief in the God Machine whilst labeling Spear nothing more then a fraud.
Unfazed by the negative response, the Electricizers suggested to Spear that he and his remaining followers leave High Rock and instead take the machine to Randolph, New York, where, they advised, it would have the advantage of a “lofty electrical position”. The machine was carefully dismantled and taken to Randolph.
Once Spear and his group arrived, news about the God Machine spread quickly, and this is where the exact details of the New Machine’s legacy become incredibly fuzzy. In the early fall of 1853, before the machine had been fully re-assembled, an angry mob of Randolph citizens broke into the storage building housing the machine and destroyed it, scattering the remaining pieces, and leaving nothing intact. Initially, the angry mob was blamed on local Baptist Ministries who had provoked the conservative population and advised them to do whatever was required to rid Randolph of Spear and his machine. Unfortunately for Spear, no one group was ever tied directly to the incident in question. Spears account of the story was published on Oct 27th, 1854 in the Lynn News, describing the destruction of the machine that he and his followers had worked so painstakingly to create. Interestingly enough, there has never been any corroboration on behalf of the town of Randolph.
In recent days, local historians have searched for mention of the God Machine in every Randolph archive imaginable, and nothing has yet to be found. In 1854 the Randolph area had two separate newspapers, neither of which contain reports of Spear, nor his Metal Deity. There are no records to attest to the idea that Spear was ever even in Randolph, New York at all. Understandably, this had caused researchers to wonder if the story of the angry mob was just that: a story.
In 1872, Spear claimed to have received a message from the Electrizers urging him to retire from the ministry. He died in October 1887, in the city of Philadelphia, having never attempted to rebuild the machine that he believed would usher humanity into a Utopian society.
The question remains: did Spear really attempt to build a machine with the help of some friendly dead scientists? If he did, was it a contraption that was actually powered by the divine, if only for a moment, or was it simply the overactive imaginations of a religious cult? Even Charles Fort, in his book Wild Talents, calls Spear the “earliest fuel-less motor crank”. The lack of hard facts surrounding the destruction of the God Machine should discourage believers, but one can’t help but wonder… what if?
Over the years, those who believe in the creation of the New Motor have surmised that Spear and his group fabricated the destruction of the machine with the hopes of drawing negative attention away, sacrificing their credibility for the safety of the infant creation. They believe that it still exists somewhere, slowly gaining strength after one-hundred and fifty-six years in seclusion, and that one day, it will unveil itself to humanity in it’s true form : the second coming of Christ; the Metal Messiah.