DHULUM – Rumors that Singer sewing machines contain the so-called “red mercury” substance has sent prices skyrocketing around the Kingdom, with individuals flocking to markets to pay up to SR200,000 for a single machine.
The rumors, which first started circulating a few days ago via the Internet and then the word of mouth, led to a rush for sewing machines that could previously have been bought for as little as SR200.
Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, described the rumors, which have gathered momentum around the Kingdom, “as false and deceptive.”
Believers of the rumors say that the presence of a drop of red mercury in the machine’s needle can be verified with a mobile telephone. If the line cuts off when the telephone is placed close to the needle, they say, that proves the existence of the substance.
In Al-Jouf, residents were led to believe that a local museum was buying up any Singer sewing machine it could find. According to Al-Watan Arabic newspaper, Ahmed Al-Qu’eid, director of the Museum of Antiquities and Folk Heritage, denied the rumors. “They are a result of a Swiss or American expert who was looking at old Singer sewing machines and buying them,” he is reported as saying.
“The museum does not buy sewing machines,” Al-Qu’eid clarified, after noting that numerous women had appeared at the museum offering to sell him their Singer machines.
At other markets, including Buraidah and other towns of Qassim, individuals headed to markets following rumors that a Kuwaiti-based multinational company had been ordering the Singer machines. In Tabuk, the situation was similar, while in Hafr Al-Batin locals reported visitors from around the Kingdom looking to buy Singer machines at any price.
In Qassim, police were present at all marketplaces to monitor sales and ensure that no sewing machines were sold for more than their true price, while in Riyadh police warned the public not to believe in rumors.
Sami Al-Shuweirikh, the official spokesman for Riyadh police, said the rumors were started by gangs attempting to swindle people out of their money, and denied the existence of red mercury in the sewing machines.
In Madina, trading in the sewing machines was intense in many places. Potential buyers were seen using their mobile telephones to check the machines for the level of its red mercury content.
While crowds have also thronged car boot sales and other market areas in search of the sewing machines, others have resorted to theft, with two female tailoring shops broken into in Dhulum and their sewing machines taken.
Despite repeated denials of its existence from numerous authorities from the global scientific community, including the Atomic Energy Commission, many people attempt to obtain red mercury due to the belief that tiny amounts can sell for millions of dollars. Those who purportedly sell or buy red mercury are rarely in agreement as to the exact nature or even color of the substance, while the uses for it vary from it being an essential ingredient to nuclear power, to having the ability to summon jinn, extract gold and locate buried treasure, and perform other types of magic. No proof of the substance’s existence has ever been found, scientists say, and many believe it to be the result of a hoax. – With reports from Khalid Al-Jabari, Bandar Al-Hamr and Mansour Al-Shehri, Okaz/ SG