Most people have experienced the disconcerting jolt of sudden static discharge in some form or another, whether voluntarily or not. That we experience electrical shocks in the first place is no surprise; we are electrical beings, after all, and critically dependent on the proper conduction of impulses to keep our hearts beating and our brains working. Controlled electrical cascades allow our muscles to move and our senses to operate, and is one of the principal energy currencies that permits our bodies to function as a collective whole. But does all this represent the limit of how the human body can handle electricity?
A striking documentary was assembled by the Discovery Channel in which several uniquely gifted individuals were interviewed who were capable of disrupting electrically sensitive devices, tolerating amounts of electricity lethal to a normal human being, and in one case, generating enough innate electricity to independently power a light bulb, and having enough refined control over it to cook food independent of any heating element. These abilities were not limited to direct contact, as one of the interviewees reported how she was able to (uncontrollably) interfere with the electrical current in distant light fixtures dependent on her level of agitation. Exciting and fantastic at the same time, these phenomena are met with disbelief by some, yet a biological precedence for this ability already exists in nature.
The most familiar example of an animal with the ability to generate and deliver electrical shocks is the Electrophorus electricus, more commonly known as the electric eel. Truly fascinating creatures, their anatomy has several organs dedicated to electrolocation and electrical discharge (for defense and hunting) and serves as the primary example of an organism capable of bioelectrogenesis. To date, all organisms identified as able to generate electrical currents for the purposes of hunting, defense, or navigation have been aquatic, and include electric stingrays, catfish, elephant fish, bonytongues and stargazers.
Intriguingly, in all these animals, the cells capable of generating electrical current, called electrocytes, are derived from a different cell type called myocytes… more commonly known as muscle cells. Does this mean that electrocyte formation is a dormant ability deeply hidden within our biology, simply locked away by our genetics? Current research has identified that some of the basic building blocks to construct an electrocyte exists among many species, humans included, and specific studies in bioelectrogenic organisms has tracked the molecular dismantling that precedes conversion of a myocyte to an electrocyte. More research into the specific details surrounding this type of transdifferentiation is required before any substantive conclusions can be made about this process in human beings, but the notion remains tantalizing.
Perhaps these reports of unique human electrical abilities represent a subset of individuals for whom this genetic potential has been unlocked, be it by nature or by nurture. Until science can provide irrefutable proof for or against paranormal bioelectrogenesis in humans, the mystique of our evolutionary and genetic potential will continue to inspire equal parts amazement, skepticism, and curiosity, which are all critical in our drive to uncover the truth.