Adds Daniel Haley: “A religious man, an accomplished musician…a brilliant man but not…a fighter.” Nor were his partners. In the years that followed, they faced, one wrote, severe harassment, “like the Galileo business.”
On May 6, 1938, the San Diego Evening Tribune announced that, after 18 years of trial and error in his Point Loma lab, Rife had isolated a cancer organism and a means of arresting it. He compared the ray to compatible tuning forks. When one vibrates, sound waves cause the other to vibrate as well.
Rife said the tiny organism may not be the direct cause of cancer. “We can say that these waves of the ray have the power to devitalize disease organisms when tuned to an exact particular wave length.” They needed much more study, but, he concluded, “we can justly say the results so far are very encouraging.”
Rife may have made discoveries that are still ahead of our time: a super-microscope; a noninvasive means of killing viruses; microorganisms changing shape. (“Just what would you see at that magnification?” asked a scientist.) The biggest boat-rocker: germs may be the result of a disease, not the cause. This latter idea, writes Barry Lynes, “violated the strongest of established biological dogmas: the germ theory of disease. Everyone knew that X disease was caused by a characteristic germ.” Rife said otherwise.
He didn’t publish his methods or findings. He worried that his experiments could not be replicated without his Universal Microscope, and he refused to share its inner workings. He also knew his work needed decades of refinement.
In 1937, Ben Cullen, Philip Hoyland, and others founded Beam Ray to manufacture the machine. Rife was not a partner. He approved the company only if it used his original principles and tested each unit thoroughly. Members received 6000 shares. By 1938, they had rented out 14 frequency instruments: 12 to American doctors, 2 to British.
Dr. Richard Hamer installed one at the Paradise Valley Sanitarium in National City. He ran “an average of 40 cases a day through his place,” writes Ben Cullen. “His case histories were absolutely wonderful.”
One patient, an 82-year-old man, went home to Chicago and boasted about his miraculous improvement. It was said that Morris Fishbein, head of the American Medical Association, learned of the cure and wanted to buy into Beam Ray. Fishbein sent a lawyer, Aaron Shapiro, to wine and dine shareholders in San Diego.
“We wouldn’t do it,” writes Cullen. “The renown was spreading, and we weren’t even advertising.” When shareholders refused, Rife and his inventions went under assault from without and within.
The Beam Ray, if real, became an unthinkable threat to established medicine. (“Imagine a universal cure,” an observer writes, that “makes drugs obsolete.”) Pharmaceutical companies demanded more testing and blueprints of the device. The FDA withheld approval.
Objects began disappearing from Rife’s lab on Alcott Street: photos and films of dwarf bacteria, notes, and records. A fire destroyed the Burnett Lab in New Jersey, where researchers were about to announce astonishing successes with the Beam Ray. In 1944, all the records at USC disappeared.
In 1939, six months after articles about Rife appeared in the Evening Tribune, the San Diego Medical Society banned use of all his instruments. “The most important question,” writes Daniel Haley, “is who caused the Medical Society to come down so hard on Rife’s doctors? Fishbein had already been warning against electronic medicine in the 1930s. Did the Medical Society finally…get around to following Fishbein’s advice — or were they pushed?”
Soon after, many of Rife’s associates turned against him and denied any knowledge of his successes.
Dr. Hamer: “Fishbein bribed a partner in the company…we were kicked into court — operating without a license. I was broke after a year.”
Philip Hoyland claimed he had discovered the frequencies. He demanded a greater stake in Beam Ray and took the company to court. “His lawsuit,” writes an observer, “was a naked maneuver to gain control. By owning Beam Ray, he’d be in position to negotiate with Fishbein, or any other outsider trying to buy in.”
That the trial was about ownership of the company, and not the instruments, some say, also benefited Fishbein and Cornelius P. Rhoads, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, who was dictating cancer policies in 1939. The trial could shake up the company without bringing national attention to the cures.
The lawsuit went to trial June 12, 1939. Hoyland’s lawyer, Aaron Shapiro, had earlier regaled the Ray Beam associates. In December, superior court judge Edward Kelley found for the defendants. “I am not convinced of his blameless character,” the judge said of Hoyland. “I am denying the plaintiff has clean hands.”
During the trial Rife had to testify at least three times. Hoyland’s lawyers, Shapiro and Eli Levenson, interrogated Rife, writes Barry Lynes, “in a way he had never before experienced.” They ripped into his personal life, questioned his moral character, and grilled him so mercilessly, says Lynes, that “his nerves gave.”
“Rife had never been in court and he just became a nervous wreck,” writes Cullen. “He couldn’t stand it.” His hands shook, his voice trembled. He started smoking “pretty heavily and inhaling, which he didn’t use to before.” When a doctor refused to give him calming drugs that might become addictive, he recommended Rife try alcohol.
In 1940, the cost of the trial bankrupted Beam Ray. The Universal Microscope disappeared. And Rife became an alcoholic. “Afterwards,” says Cullen, “when he wasn’t under the influence of liquor, he would endeavor to progress, but every doggone day at a certain time he would go and get a little nip out of his car and that was the end of it.”
For years, he couldn’t hold down a job, though he’d been offered work at Convair, Rohr, and Ryan, doing construction at the aircraft companies. Variations of the original devices proliferated, some with partial success, others resulting in death.
In 1944, the Smithsonian Institute published a detailed report about the Universal Microscope, which validated many claims. (“Disease organisms…may be observed to succumb when exposed to certain lethal frequencies.”) Within a month, the prism from the microscope disappeared. That same year, Dr. Milbank Johnson, who helped guide the enterprise for a decade, died — mysteriously, some say.