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Mar. 05, 2015

Step Inside a Mad Scientist's Lab

by Christopher Intagliata

Click to enlarge images
The movie prop shop Jadis, in Santa Monica, California, is packed with ancient, long-forgotten technology: an Edison dictaphone, a typewriter-like counting machine, and quack medical devices like the 'Hemodimagnometer.' But you might recognize some of these oddities—they've appeared in movies such as The Mystery Men, The X-Files, and The Prestige.

Parke Meek, an industrial designer who worked with the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames, opened Jadis as an antiques shop in 1976, with his partner Susan Lieberman. Later, Meek began to design props for the movie industry, like huge control panels dotted with switches and illuminated dials, sourcing his materials at swap meets and government auctions. "He'd say, 'Got anything heavy, expensive, and useless for me today?'" Lieberman recalls.

Meek passed away in 2010 at the age of 86. But Lieberman still keeps the shop open for passersby on weekends (admission costs one dollar). She and Parke's nephew Thomas Meek gave Science Friday a tour of this cabinet of curiosities, recalling Parke's life and describing the perfect ingredients for a Hollywood mad scientist's lab.

Special thanks to: Susan Lieberman, Thomas Meek, Jadis
Audio: Christopher Intagliata
Video editing: Leese Katsnelson
Photography: Christopher Intagliata
Photos of Parke Meek: Lori Lieberman
About Christopher Intagliata

Christopher is Science Friday's senior producer.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.
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