JEDDAH: The feverish search for Singer sewing machines driven by a superstitious notion that they possessed mysterious powers to fulfill every human wish has lost its tempo as the common man is slowly realizing that it is another ploy to dupe the naive public, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Nobody has yet been arrested on the charge of launching the hoax claiming that red mercury inside the machines can capture a wish-granting genii and convert its owner to an Aladdin with the Magic Lamp, a fantasy almost every child in the Middle East knows.
However, it is yet a mystery how the sewing machine has been elevated to the status of the magic lamp.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Al-Turki described the rumors “as false and deceptive” in a recent statement.
Following the rumor, the price of a Singer machine reportedly catapulted last week.
“There is no such thing as red mercury except in the world of superstition and magic,” said Khaled Kamakhi, former rector of the Institute of Research and Consultancy at Taiba University in Madinah.
According to rumors going around on the Internet, a sewing machine can be proved to contain red mercury if a phone signal cuts off when held close by. Buyers from street stalls were using their mobile phones to test the machines, Al-Watan newspaper reported yesterday.
Commenting on the rumor Kamakhi said, a strong static electricity field could be the cause of disruption in the mobile line.
According to conspiracy theorists, red mercury was developed by Soviet scientists in the 1980s, but its existence has since been covered up by US military because of its potential use as a weapon of mass destruction.
Ahmad Bushaala, a teacher of inorganic chemistry at Taiba University, said the rumors about red mercury were circulated by Russian scientists in the early 1980s after developing a smart nuclear bomb that could kill people without harming the buildings and streets.
According to an article in the Russian newspaper Pravda in 1993, red mercury was a superconductive material used for producing high-precision conventional and nuclear explosives.
It was also reported that Russian businessmen offered red mercury for sale throughout Europe and the Middle East and found many buyers who would pay almost anything for the substance even though they had no idea what it was all about.
The tendency of easily being carried away by rumors has been lampooned by messages appearing on mobile phones and websites, such as “I adore you more than red mercury” or “I love you more than an old Singer machine.” Another message suggested the name Singer for a new baby.