A man charged with robbery was actually suffering from a bizarre condition that caused precious objects to stick to him.
The unnamed 33-year-old was detained by Boston police in August of this year after visiting an antiquities museum. They found a $30,000 ring adhering to the underside of his shirt cuff and a “priceless ruby” on the back of his jacket.
The man claimed that he had not been aware of either object, which police did not believe. It was not until a week later that doctors discovered the man had Organic Magnetic Syndrome (OMS). This incredibly rare condition occurs when the body somehow converts electrolytes into a magnetic-like field.
OMS occurs when a person predisposed to the condition sweats slightly for a period of more than twenty minutes. If he or she is then brought in contact with air conditioning that lowers the surface body temperature to beneath seventy degrees, the chemical process is triggered that turns a person into a “jewel magnet.” Unlike traditional magnetism, OMS attracts not ferrous metals like iron and steel but precious metals like gold and silver, along with gems like diamonds and rubies. In some sufferers, the effect can be so strong that it can pull objects across a distance of up to two feet even through clothing.
Also known as Stick-To-Me Disease, the condition is so rare that there are only four known cases this century, and a handful of earlier cases that cannot be definitively diagnosed from anecdotes.
OMS has no cure, with patients being advised to avoid sweating, air conditioning, and expensive objects. They are also encouraged to wear clothes with a rubber lining to help block the quasi-magnetic properties.
A month after his museum incident, the man went to see Ernest Glicermann, an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia medical center in Charlottesville, Virginia. “Initially I didn’t believe him,” said Glicermann. But then a tweezer on the table stuck to his shirttail.”
The doctor found he had abnormally high levels of certain electromagnetic properties on his clothes. The field, called 37H-TP, was thought to have originated in his body, though his skin tested negative at the time of the visit. The next day, the man reported dizziness and returned to the doctor, at which time his 37H-TP levels were measured at more than 600 microvolts per cubic millimeter. “I was shocked,” said Glicermann. “You don’t see that outside of the comic books. When it’s sticking to clothes, you think static cling, but this is skin.”
The man’s condition is thought to have come about a 2016 automobile accident in which he crashed at high speeds into a grove of pine trees. He was uninjured, but soon afterward noticed that he was attracting small objects like a paper clip and corn holders. “We have noticed increased leaf magnetic remanence in trees with proximity to heavily-trafficked roads,” said Glicermann.
The man told doctors that just before objects stuck to him, he felt what he could only describe as a “slight sinus pressure.” These symptoms were originally misdiagnosed as infection, and Glicermann says that some of the medicines prescribed may have intensified the condition. “Amoxicillin-clavulanate, the most common antibiotic prescribed, actually mimics certain environmental effects,” Glicermann said. “You can get internal equivalents of magnetized PM10 and PM25 particles.”
Now that he has been properly diagnosed, doctors can start on a more accelerated clothing therapy course, as well as trying to deal with the underlying chemistry.
“He was extremely relieved,” said Glicermann. “He was tired of inadvertently committing crimes. As he was leaving, he made a joke that he had paid for my services with an ancient cameo necklace that had stuck to him and that he had pawned. He said that he had enough left over for a convertible. At least I think he was joking.”
A full case report will be presented at the annual American Society of Magnetism, Mysticism, and Medicine conference in Portland, Oregon, later this month.