Bellingham museum offers shocking experience with 4M volts

Getting hit by lightning has sparked a local museum to operate in the black for the first time. The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention is a hidden jewel in the heart of downtown Bellingham.

Since former Microsoft marketing executive and collector John Jenkins open the museum eleven years ago, it has never turned a profit until last month when it introduced the MegaZapper.

It's one of the largest privately owned Tesla Coils. It stands 10 feet tall with the capacity to send out a sustained 4-million volts plasma stream. Essentially, it's a lightning generator. Jenkins and his staff decided to create the MegaZapper Electrical Show to show off it's impressive display.

The show's finale involves someone climbing inside a Faraday cage and Telsa Coil hitting the cage with 4-million volts of electricity. While it's dramatic to see and hear, Jenkins says the person inside is safe because of a fundamental principal of physics.

"When you have a closed surface, the electricity will stay on the outside of that surface" says Jenkins. " that's why the safest place to be in a lightning storm is the inside of a car."

Jenkins bought the Tesla Coil from Cirque du Soleil and had Sedro Woolley Steampunk artist Rik Allen design the Faraday cage. As long as the person inside doesn't stick their finger through the cage while the Tesla Coil is firing, everything is safe.

"It probably wouldn't kill you but you'd get severe burns from it" says Jenkins. "We take lots of precautions here at the museum that people don't go anywhere near the spark unless they are inside the cage."

Jenkins says the first time, the Spark Museum, which used to be called the Bellingham Antique Radio Museum, is not making a monthly profit. The first week with the MegaZapper, the museum had more visitors than the previous three months.

The museum charges ten dollars for admission to the museum and the Electricity Show, but Jenkins is now making it possible for those brave souls who are over 18 years old and don't have a pacemaker to sit inside the Faraday cage to experience a 20 second blast of lighting.

Participants must have attended the Electricity Show and make a donate to the museum in order to climb into the cage. Currently the show takes place every Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm.