One of our more unusual donations came to us last April. The artifact is a Spectro-Chrome Cabinet which was alleged to heal ailments with light therapy. The theory had been promoted by an Indian physician, Dr. Dinshah P. Ghadiali, who came to the United States in 1911.
The Spectro-Chrome Cabinet is a device that used a bright light bulb inside a box equipped with five filters that could be mixed and matched to produce twelve different colors. When the bare skin of the human body was exposed to the proper color, the patient would be healed, some believed, or doctors claimed.
The particular model that the Museum received was for home use and sold for $75 to $150 in the late 1920s and the 1930s. The Church of Christ in Spirit, which donated the device, purchased the Spectro-Chrome in the 1920s and used it in healing services through the 1990s.
The Church was a Spiritualist denomination. Spiritualism, which was a popular American religious belief in the 19th and early 20th century, had a strong following in southwest Michigan. Spiritualists believe it is possible to communicate with the souls of the deceased.
Fraser’s Grove near Vicksburg hosted Spiritualist camp meetings, which the Kalamazoo Gazette called “Spook Socials,” from the 1880s through the 1920s. Nearly 3000 attendees gathered for several weeks of meetings and lectures, including classes in “Practical Medicine.” The Spectro-Chrome was seen as a method of such medical care.
The Church of Christ in Spirit moved from Kalamazoo to Schoolcraft in the 1960s. Declining membership led to the closing of the church in 2010. As for Dr. Ghadiali and his legacy, the Food and Drug Administration charged him with selling quack medical devices in the 1940s and prohibited the sale of the device. Agents of the Administration attempted to seize all Spectro-Chrome Cabinets, and the local church hid its device in order to prevent confiscation. Nevertheless, the Dinshah Health Society remains active promoting light therapy as an alternative medical treatment.