MIAMI (AP) – The inventor of the “Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed,” which brought weary travelers 15 minutes of “tingling relaxation and ease” for a quarter in hotel rooms across America during its heyday as a pop culture icon in the 1960s and 1970s, has died. He was 92.

John Joseph Houghtaling died Wednesday at his home in Fort Pierce, his son Paul Houghtaling said Friday in a telephone interview.

Tinkering in the basement of his New Jersey home, Houghtaling invented the “Magic Fingers” machine in 1958.

The device was mounted onto beds, and a quarter bought 15 minutes of “tingling relaxation and ease,” according to its label.

“Put in a quarter, turn out the light, Magic Fingers makes ya feel all right,” Jimmy Buffett sang in “This Hotel Room.”

Kitschy and titillating, Magic Fingers remained a staple of American pop culture even after the device began disappearing from motels. The vibrations triggered a beer explosion in the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” and FBI agents Mulder and Scully relaxed to the pulsations in an episode of “The X Files.”

Fox’s News Channel’s Brit Hume sang the Buffett lyric to former President George W. Bush and his father in a January interview when they mentioned a vibrating chair in the Oval Office.

By the late 1970s, the dealers complained they spent more money to repair the devices that thieves broke open. Houghtaling developed a debit card-like system for the machines to replace the coin slots, but the idea never took off.

Houghtaling was born Nov. 14, 1916, in Kansas City, Mo. He liked to say he barely made it out of high school, his son said, and he never went to college. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II and flew 20 combat missions. He is survived by his four sons and a daughter.


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