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Tesla Coil.
Tesla Coil at the Mid-America Museum.

Big Tesla Coil

Field review by the editors.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

"Caged Lightning" is the star of the Mid-America Science Museum, and in 2007 it was certified by Guinness as the World's Most Powerful Conical Tesla Coil -- a lightning-bolt-spitting invention first perfected by crazed genius Nikola Tesla.

The Tesla Coil stands inside a floor-to-ceiling, 2.5-ton Faraday cage (thus the name Caged Lightning) which is lined with metal screens to protect the Museum's thrill-seeking viewers from being incinerated. The operator turns a key, a transformer hums to life, and purple bolts of plasma suddenly explode with ear-splitting crackles and crashes, flinging themselves to all corners of the cage, probing for a weak point. It's like a lightning storm inside a cage inside a building. Whooping and cheering audiences are left with a one-of-a-kind memory, the smell of fresh ozone, and a sense of hearing that will probably never be quite as good as when they arrived.

The Tesla Coil was donated to the museum by Richard Mathias, a retired electrical engineer and a Hot Springs native. He has subsequently given similar Tesla Coils to science museums in places such as Texarkana and Johnson City, Tennessee, but this one in his home town was his first.

Beth, the intern who was turning the key when we visited, was as excited as we imagined Richard Mathias had been when he first powered up the Coil. "This is, like, the most awesome summer job ever."

Also see: Tesla, Everyone's Favorite Mad Scientist

Big Tesla Coil

Mid-America Science Museum

500 Mid America Blvd, Hot Springs, AR
Northwest of the city. From the US 70/270 bypass, exit west onto US 270 toward Mt. Ida. Drive about one mile to Hwy 227/Mountain Pine Rd, turn right, and drive three-quarters of a mile to Mid America Blvd. Turn right and drive past National Park Community College. The museum will be on the right.
Summer M-Sa 10-6, Su 1-6; off-season Tu-Sa 9-5, Su 1-5. Check Tesla Coil times. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $10 + $3 for Tesla show.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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