Bee Shop Files: The Aluminum Foil Man.

May 15th, 2004  
Mark Conley

Topic: Bee Shop Files: The Aluminum Foil Man.

It is said that there are people in the world that really should be seen, and not heard from. In my sixteen year stint as a military Industrial hygiene technician, Id say some of them shouldn’t be seen either. One such case was the aluminum foil man.

My first introduction to the aluminum man occurred at a mostly civilian-staffed logistics center that rehabilitated and returned Air Force aircraft to duty. Now, our office was responsible to the occupational health office on the base for workplace evaluations based on a patient’s declaration that he had acquired an illness or injury related to his work. The doctors had generated a medical consult that requested his workplace environment be evaluated, due to an unusual series of burns the man had acquired to his neck and hands. Now, I had no idea of any thing about the patients itself when I did these evaluations. I was often assigned to perform these type surveys because of an indifference to anything about the patients other than their work environments. That indifference went right out the window the moment I first met him.

The man stood about six-foot tall, and was dressed in a shiny metal foil suit, with mirrored glasses and a small mask respirator completing the ensemble. Not a single inch of the man’s flesh was visible. Even the man’s hands were encased in gloves that had foil strips carefully sewn to provide flexibility to the fingers. This was something I had never run into before, and to be quite frank, had never seen at any military installation that I had been to up to this point.

After getting over the shock of his appearance and all, I dismissed my self temporarily from the interview and went straight to this man’s supervisor. First, I gauged the supervisor to see if this was some kind of prank that the depot was pulling on us. There had been in the past some light leg pulling on the part of the civilians directed at our office, due to our often persistent and often unwanted probing into the work forces duties. The supervisor looked at me and told me that this was not a joke. The man had been wearing this suit for several years, was a very good worker despite his appearance, and he was worried that there was something that actually be effecting the rest of the workers as well as this one. So humbled, I went back to the interview.

It was during this talk that I learned more about him. The man was obsessed with preventing his body from becoming an “Alien Pawn” and was obviously a product of the tabloid age. He wore a simple aluminum skullcap to prevent his brain signals from being drawn and read by orbiting alien spacecraft. Each day, over his whole body he pulled essentially a heavy duty cotton painters suit on which his wife would machine sew with nylon thread small squares of heavy duty potato aluminum baking foil squares. This was to prevent the entrance of Electro-magnetic waves that would alter his DNA by the same alien beings. The mirrored glasses and respirator completed his protection.

I asked the man what had finally convinced him to go to medical for a workplace evaluation, and how could I help him. He fixed me with a chilling description of an event that had happened to him a week earlier.

One morning, he had approached an aircraft to perform some item of rehabilitation to its skin, as the man was a sheet metal specialist. When he had placed his bare hands on the aircraft surface to start a nut on an aircraft fastener, a sudden electrical shock had coursed through his body, jumping from his hands and head where he had been leaning against the plane’s body. Now, this wasn’t a little shock: it was sturdy enough to cause reddening to skin at each place the bolts had jumped. Thinking was just a one-time event, the man again attempted to touch the plane when a stronger bolt proceeded from his finger tips. Deciding he’d had enough, the man went to his supervisor to report the event, who had sent him to medical to have the burns looked after.

I went through all the standard questions; nothing appeared out of the ordinary. The plane was grounded, was not connected to ground power, and certainly didn’t have internal power on when the event happened. The only thing out of the ordinary was the run-up and testing of another aircraft about three hundred feet away from his work site.

The only other avenue was the suit itself. I jokingly asked the man if this was the only suit he owned, and had he made any modifications to it before the event occurred. Incredulously, he looked at me and asked how had I known about the modifications to his suit he had made. It seems that his group had suggested that in certain places, to ensure that vital areas got adequate coverage, that foil be placed on the inside as well as the outside of the clothing. He had additional foil sewn inside the suit around his groin, heart, arms, and the attached hood of his suit, and wore a sort of foil sock in his shoes only the day before the incident.

Those that have made homemade radios might recognize that when you place an insulator between two metal surfaces, you get a simple capacitor. As long as he had worn a suit with the metal on the outside, all he had done was made a suit similar to what an electrical worker wore when they serviced high voltage electrical lines. Electrical energy simply builds up and dissipates along the outside as when his feet would make contact with the earth. Placement of the metal on both sides, plus a little body sweat, made a capacitor and a line of discharge that would allow a very severe flow of energy to ground when it built up to sufficient levels. The only thing lacking was the source of energy he had absorbed that provided the build up.

That one item was revealed when the aircraft that had been worked on three hundred feet away was investigated. The group had been checking out the weather radar of the plane, and had test fired it on the ramp during this mans repair to his plane. Now, any testing of a radar unit produces an Electro-magnetic field, called radio-frequency energy, directly to the front of antennae. This energy is what’s reflected back to indicate the conditions in front of the aircraft. Usually, the field dissipates proportional to its distance from the emitter: for this particular one, a distance of 40 feet was what was considered safe for flight line operation.

Now, a normally dressed person was safe at three hundred feet from this emitter. The patient was even normally protected from its electrical build up in his normal suit at that distance, When he had modified his suit, and turned it essentially into a capacitor…well the energy as weak as it was simply collected until it was strong enough to discharge. And discharge it did, with a vengeance.

These facts were presented to the patient, in hopes that he would forgo the suit, and just dress normally as the rest of the workers. His answer was that he felt he needed the protection, and wasn’t going to give up the dress. But he did agree to remove the inside foil strips, in order to end the discharges.

He retired a few years after the event. Still dressed in foil, he remained true to his convictions. . But by then, personnel that worked on the aircraft on the flight line were regulated as to what they could wear, and foil lined suits were placed on the prohibited wear list.

Still, I often wondered as to what would have happened if his wife had added foil to buttock areas…would lightening have shot forth from his posterior?
May 17th, 2004  
that seems like a very troubled guy to me...
May 17th, 2004  
Good story, Mark, but pretty disturbing, too. How on earth did a guy like that get a Security Clearance?
How would you like to pilot an aircraft maintained by Bobo the Tinfoil Clown?
May 17th, 2004  
Mark Conley
Originally Posted by Redneck
Good story, Mark, but pretty disturbing, too. How on earth did a guy like that get a Security Clearance?
How would you like to pilot an aircraft maintained by Bobo the Tinfoil Clown?
Guys: this is going to sound like im pulling your leg..but i am not.

In the DoD Civilian work might still have 2-3 thousand people that cant read or write that are aircraft or machine maintainers. Yes, for the one elementary reason..that they learned how to maintain it by being shown what to do. one of the most intense machine tool man i ever met could not sign his paychecks...but he could duplicate any part brought to him with his set of machine tools. I dont know how they do it..but they do.

That tin foil guy could wear any clothing on the job at that time that did not interfere with the safe operation of the process or cause a safety hazard to his fellow employees due to the way the unions bargined in the 60s and 70s. it wasnt until accidents like the one i described became noticable and documented that people could not dress like this in the centers.

He may have been strange..but when i questioned his boss..well he was an A-1 employee that came to work..did his job...and was worth worrying over as to why he got burned. Yeah. i guess i would have questioned it...but
May 19th, 2004  
Well, I can kind of sympathize with the employer. If I could get ONE of my employees to work hard and show up on time, He could wear a fricking sundress, wooden clogs, and an indian warbonnet for all I care.
May 20th, 2004  
That was an odd story, funny, but odd
June 3rd, 2004  
Quite disturbing in deed
February 10th, 2007  
I didnt think these people really existed.
February 10th, 2007  
Team Infidel
Good storry and yes, a bit disturbing
March 16th, 2009