In 1872, Keely announced that he had discovered a principle for power production based on the musical vibrations of tuning forks. He claimed that music could resonate with atoms or with the aether. With other engineers and investors, he founded Keely Motor Company in New York and attracted investment of $10,000 that he used to build his machine. Most of this came from businessmen in New York and Philadelphia.
On November 10, 1874, Keely gave a demonstration of the motor before a small group of citizens of Philadelphia. In subsequent demonstrations he kept changing the terminology he used, to "vibratory-generator" to a "hydro-pneumatic-pulsating-vacu-engine" to "quadruple negative harmonics". His most enthusiastic supporter was a wealthy widow Clara Jessup Bloomfield-Moore. Scientists investigated his machine that appeared to run on air and water, though Keely endeavored to avoid this.
Keely continued to make more research for his machine and built new models. He did all experimentation himself, never willing to let anyone else touch his machinery--especially engineers and scientists. To maintain interest, Keely organized regular public demonstrations. He often used musical instruments to activate his machines, a "vibratory engine" connected to a "liberator" made of brass wires, tubes, and tuning forks. He accompanied his exhibition with eloquent recitals of his theories
Keely claimed that the machine could have a number of economic benefits but, when his investors demanded that he create a marketable product, he refused and said that he needed to do more experiments. When Bloomfield-Moore suggested that he could cooperate with Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla, he again refused. For the 27 years Keely was running his company, he faced legal problems, accusations of fraud, and even occasional claim of sorcery and involvement of occultism.
In 1890, Keely pronounced that he was on the verge of a breakthrough. The "liberator" would disintegrate air and release an etheric force that could convert one quart (1 L) of water to enough power to "send a train of cars from Philadelphia to San Francisco".
John Keely died in November 18, 1898 when he was hit by a streetcar. After his death a close friend reported that he had once asked Keely what he wanted for an epitaph. Keely allegedly replied, "Keely, the greatest humbug of the nineteenth century." Keely is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.
In the 19th century most physicists believed that all of space was filled with a fluid called the "luminiferous aether". Experiments were conducted to measure the properties but either resulted in confusing or negative results. Many physicists believed it was plausible that Keely's machines had somehow tapped into this ether.
Keely stated that ether is 986,000 times denser than steel. New theories about the existence of dark matter are resurrecting the potential existence of the long-forgotten 'luminiferous aether'.
By the early decades of the 20th century physicists finally realized that the reason they couldn't detect the ether was that it didn’t exist. The reasons they had given for thinking it existed had been resolved by the theory of relativity. Today Luminiferous aether is rarely mentioned in textbooks, but is regaining some credence as an alternative explanation to dark matter.
Keely also experimented on cavitation, particularly acoustic cavitation and water cavitation forces, as found in a water hammer. Cavitative forces are largely unstudied today with few modern textbooks having been written on cavitation physics.
Keely also changed his focus in 1893 from research on cavitation to research on negative attractive force, which is also known as the 'implosive force'. This is the corollary to the explosive force or expansive force, or 'male force', which is well-understood in typical modern physics. Implosive force is also called 'female' or 'negative' force that is largely unknown and unstudied.
Keely looked at actionic rays as the proof of the cosmical 'Law of Assimilation' which he believed to be the superceding governing principle of the universe. The focalizing of a force into the center and then re-radiating of the force outward happens through all spherical bodies, such as stars, suns, planets. This can also happen in the brain and cells of the human body and other living organisms. Neutral balance is reached when both the 'female', or 'dark', focusing force and the 'male', or 'light', radiating force are equalized. When neutral balance is reached, the vibration is not seen, as in sunlight from the sun moving through space, which is an apparent vacuum so should not transmit heat. The vibrations are only felt as heat and light when reflected off of objects. Other vibration frequencies given off by the sun, such as cosmic, gamma, x-rays, are not usually perceived by humans, but also exist. This information is known through Indian Vedic, Masonic, and Rosicrucian knowledge.
Keely also stated that "all force manifests as vortexes". In other words, all vibration or energy operates along three vectors: transverse, longitudinal and rotational
Keely could operate his machines with his brainwave frequencies that were tuned to certain frequencies. He stated that it worked in that "etheric currents go through the body at high levels in tune with the material world" so that sympathy is reached, like tuning in a radio, so the machine will do what you want it to do.
By the mid 1870s Keely's stockholders began withdrawing support due to the delays in producing a marketable product. Keely was close to bankruptcy when Mrs. Clara Bloomfield-Moore took an interest and invested $100,000 along with a guaranteed salary of $2,500 a month (around $1.7 million and $50,000/month in today's values .
Scientific American magazine was following Keely's career with great skepticism and frequent articles, eventually referring to the machines as a "heterogeneous cominglement of absurdities". In 1884 an electrical engineer named Alexander Scott, with Mrs Moore present, witnessed a demonstration that involved a weight rising and falling in a sealed flask of water. Keely used the sound from a zither to activate a "globe liberator" which then transmitted "the aetheric force" through a wire to the water container. Scott told Moore he suspected the weight was hollow, so that a change of water pressure caused by air through a hollow wire would cause it to rise or fall so Keely filed into the wire to prove it solid. As they left the workshop Mrs Moore surreptitiously picked up a piece of the wire which was found by Scott to have a very fine hollow centre.
Concerned by Scott's report and articles in newspapers and magazines debunking the machines, Moore brought physicist Professor Lascelles-Scott from England for a second opinion. After a month long investigation he stated "Keely has demonstrated to me, in a way which is absolutely unquestionable, the existence of a force hitherto unknown" and submitted his report to the Franklin Institute. Since the two experts disagreed Moore brought Lascelles-Scott and Alexander Scott to Keely's lab together to witness another demonstration. This time Mrs Moore asked Keely to cut the wire to prove it was not hollow but he flatly refused. Disappointed, she reduced Keely's salary to $250 a month.
After Keely's death, journalists and engineers went to his laboratory to investigate his machines; Keely's supporters had already appropriated most of them, though they failed to make them work. Engineer Alexander Scott and Clarence Moore, son of Clara Bloomfield-Moore and a noted archaeologist and explorer, along with a staff member of the Scientific American magazine examined the building. Inside the walls they found mechanical belts linked to a silent water motor two floors below the laboratory. In the basement there was a three-ton sphere of compressed air that ran the machines through hidden air pressure tubes and pneumatic switches. The walls, ceilings and even solid beams were found to have hidden pipework. Journalists documented everything photographically to leave no room for doubt. A model of Keely's engine is in the collection of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
Keely's supporters continue to claim that he was framed.
"Unfortunately the history books took the Scientific American debunking as fact and John Keely has been portrayed historically as a fraud and a conman. This is because Clarence Moore found the floor of Keeley's 'workshop' raised and saw a pressure machine that was hooked up to his machines to make them look like they actually worked. Those who have any inkling of physics who have studied what remains of his work, know these reports to be mostly erroneous." -Jerry Decker, KeelyNet.com
Keely's theories are now also incorporated in "Sympathetic Vibratory Physics", a merging of science and new age philosophy.