As Spiritualism, the belief in being able to communicate with spirits in the afterlife, was on the rise in the mid-19th century, a new kind of messiah was was dreamed up in Lynn, Massachusetts. This messiah, though, would have a more modern twist.
John Murray Spear, a reverend who had left the Universalist Church in 1852 to pursue Spiritualism, claimed to be receiving instructions from the spirits of science-minded men like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Socrates, and his own namesake, Universalism co-founder John Murray. Among these instructions was to build a mechanical messiah called the New Motive Power, a being of perpetual energy who would bring about a new utopian era.
The spirits told Spear that High Rock in Lynn was a place of sufficient spiritual energy to help bring the messiah to life. A group of followers aided Spear in the nine-month construction (or gestation) of the metal being, in a shed on High Rock. When the time came for it to be “birthed,” in 1854, a woman who claimed to have also been moved by spirits arrived at the shed and appeared to give birth while lying in front of the machine. Her name is not known, but she was called the New Mary.
Spear himself put on a metal suit to play a part in the birth of the “Electrical Infant.” But though some claimed the messiah moved a tiny bit when the New Mary stood up and touched it, and though Spear and the New Mary nurtured it, “Heaven’s last, best gift to mankind” was never to be.
In a last attempt to bring it to life, acting on what he claimed were more instructions from the spirits, Spear brought his mechanical messiah to Randolph, New York, which was supposedly more spiritually energized. It was there that the contraption met its end. Spears’s account is disputed, but he said a mob came and smashed his creation to pieces.
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