Hal Dragna knew something was up when he noticed his 14-year-old daughter, Sally, using her smartphone in a place so remote, no cell phone service was available.
“We went on hiking vacation, and my wife and I asked the kids to leave their devices at home.” The family of four was on a three-day hiking trip through nearby West Branch State Park. “I wanted them to disconnect for a while.” Even though he knew his daughter and his 13-year-old son had brought their devices, he looked the other way.
“I walked up to them on day 2 to see if they were ‘ready to roll’ and got the shock of my life. They were online!” said Dragna.
Although the nearest cell phone tower and wi-fi hotspot was miles away, they were online and surfing. He questioned his kids and the answer he got was even more shocking. Daughter Sally’s new retainer, acting in conjunction with a few of her metallic fillings, were acting as a wi-fi hotspot.
“Sally told me that the night before, she couldn’t fall asleep because she kept hearing ‘radio noises’, and thought they were coming from her mouth,” said Dragna. “She was too afraid to say anything because she knew she wasn’t supposed to have her phone, plus she thought she was going crazy. She told her brother, but not me or her mother.”
“My mouth dropped open when I saw the signal, I was so excited,” said Sally, “and the bars jumped up from 2 to 5. I figured out when I opened my mouth the signal got stronger, and I knew it was my retainer. My grandfather told me about old radio sets he built where he used a spring mattress for a radio antenna, so I knew my new retainer had to be doing the same thing!”
“Crystal” radio sets were simple receivers, popular when radio communication was in its early days. They didn’t need a power source, and were activated by a wire antenna. The sound is weak compared to battery-powered sets, but could be heard by Sally, with her skull acting as an amplifier.
The phenomenon was short-lived, however. When the family returned from the trip, Sally went in for a scheduled dental adjustment, and her ‘radio days’ were over.
“It was fun while it lasted,” said Sally, “but my dad wont’ stop calling me ‘Radiohead.’ I think that was the name of an old band from the 90s or something. He’s worse than my brother sometimes,” she added.