Naked with Lava-tude

In 1948, former Royal Navy WWII pilot, accountant, and avid nudist Edward Craven Walker sat in a pub in Dorset County, England and noticed an inventive homemade device bubbling away on a stovetop in the pub’s kitchen. What he saw was an egg timer created by a regular customer using a cocktail shaker and two immiscible liquids, one of which danced before his eyes like some kind of alien blob.

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Tech security company Cloudflare has a wall of Lava Lamps in its San Francisco office that it uses to generate random seeds for its encryption algorithms. It also adds a pretty chill vibe to the place. photo credit: niwasan Lava lamp Gallery – colección invierno 2009-2010 via photopin (license)

Walker was entranced by the bubbly display and mulled it over for a long time after, deciding to experiment with the concept himself in hopes of finding a way to make a lamp device that worked in a similar fashion. He retreated to his mancave shed where, presumably naked, he tried different containers and liquid combinations until he found something that worked.

In 1963, he introduced the world to his Astro Lamp. Just one year later, a US Patent was filed and in 1965 the Lava Manufacturing Corporation in Chicago bought the American rights to what they would call the Lava Lite Lamp, because groovy alliteration sells. Or at least it did in the late 60s and 70s.

I mention lava lamps today, because according to several websites devoted to listing “this day in history” events, like brainyhistory.com, on-this-day.com, and some random guy on Facebook (who, admittedly comes off a little sleazy and maybe not entirely legit) insist that April 5, 1965 was the celebration of “Lava Lamp Day.”

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Groovy. And maybe that’s reason enough to celebrate.

Try as I might, I cannot determine why this particular date is important in the history of the Lava Lamp. It’s not the day the US Patent was filed. I suppose it could be the day the American rights were purchased, or even the day the lamps hit the US market, but I’m not able to verify either of those guesses. I also can’t find any reference to an actual celebration either in 1965 or beyond, that revolved around the Lava Lite Lamp. What I’m left with, then, is the assumption that it might be entirely made up and lifted and shared, as so many things on the Internet tend to be.

Still, when you come across a Lava Lamp (if you ever have then you know what I’m talking about), it’s hard to look away. And though the popularity of Walker’s psychedelic invention waned through the eighties as people became mesmerized instead by big hair and shoulder pads, it enjoyed a resurgence in the late nineties and well into today.

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The Internet is pretty quiet about how the original Lava Lamp Day was celebrated, but I imagine it looked something like this.

My son, who was not alive in sixties or seventies, even has one in his bedroom. If you felt so inclined, you could probably find your own right now at your local discount store. Or your basement. And if you’re the crafty type, you can try to make your own. There are plenty of instructions available on the Internet, most of which don’t even require nudity, but then Walker’s exact formula for perfect lava-tude is a proprietary secret. Also, as previously demonstrated, the Internet may occasionally be less than reliable.

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15 thoughts on “Naked with Lava-tude

  1. I admit to never owning a lava lamp, though I don’t remember for the life of me why I didn’t, because they certainly are fascinating to watch. Maybe my parents refused me, or maybe I preferred to invest my funds in something classic and long-lasting like bell-bottom jeans. 🙂

    1. I never had one, either, until we got one for my son because he wanted to go with a sort of mad scientist theme in his room. I kind of missed the fad, spending most of my formative years in the eighties and nineties.

  2. I have to confess that I have not come across a lava lamp yet! I would love to stare at one for it looks rather hypnotic. And I love your introduction because I could actually picture it in my mind. Though I cannot imagine nudists on the beaches of Dorset 🙂 xx

  3. I have a spectacular lava lamp…it’s large with red lava and a dinosaur base. It was a gift at some point for one of my kids, and would you believe he didn’t want to take it with him? Just recently I’ve been looking for a place to put this thing, since I can’t part with it. I bring it out every Halloween for mood lighting. Maybe I’ll write a post on my lava lamp. It’s quite impressive.

    1. Oh, you should! I’m thinking they probably get too hot to be allowed in dorm rooms so maybe I’ll get my son’s in a few years. But then he’ll probably want it back later. He’s pretty fond of it.

  4. I had a lava lamp when I was a kid! It was hot pink. So soothing 🙂 I never knew the story of how they came to be though. Somehow it just makes sense they were invented by a nudist lol. Excellent post! (Or should I say “groovy”)

  5. Marcia Gaye

    Didn’t have one of my own, but when I visit the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow there is one in the dining room of the artsy Frank Lloyd Wright-style house.

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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