Superpowers are a staple of comic books, science fiction and, occasionally, horror. The person may come into their abilities slowly before it becomes too hard to control and suppress. Or it shows up suddenly after an accident, a trigger event or hormones really kicking in. Whether you’re a fan of Marvel, DCU or series like Babylon 5, the solutions tend to be the same:

  • run and hide while being a danger to others
  • have your powers and work for the government
  • get locked in prison/reform school because people are afraid of your powers
  • external control

External control would be anything done to a person to limit or outright suppress their abilities. The telepathy suppression drug of Babylon 5 falls into this category. The hoods in “The Hoodmaker” short story could be worn by everyone else, but the Amazon version of the show reveals that wearing a hood provides silence for the telepath, too. More than one horror show has featured lobotomy of the psychic to silence the ability. A current young adult book took it one step farther, implanting devices into the brains of super-powered teens to suppress the ability.

What was interesting to me was the assumption it would take years to figure out a solution like this, often a full generation or more. In reality, we already have the knowledge, medical technology and systemic data collection to find a solution rather quickly.


“Hoods” and EMP Protection

A former coworker of mine used to work for a maker of Faraday cages. These are enclosures that protect equipment from electromagnetic interference, whether you’re afraid of a nuclear bomb or local EMI interfering with lab readings. If telepathy is a form of electromagnetism, we already have a solution – Faraday cages. We might learn that telepathy is electromagnetic when someone locks a telepath in a metal box or electromagnetically shielded space and all the voices go silent. Or they’d figure it out themselves, as my friend learned.

He tells the story about a group asking to see his biggest Faraday cage. He initially thought he was going to talk to company representatives, but more members of the group were in street clothes than business attire. Nonetheless, he showed them the various Faraday cages, ranging from tabletop models to something the size of a small closet. They wanted to see something room-sized. He takes them to the room-sized Faraday cage. He explains its use for protecting RF equipment during tests so that stray cell phone signals and wireless sensors don’t interfere readings. One member asks, “Can we go inside?” He says yes and opens the door. They all go in. Then they ask him to close the door. Members of the group start to get excited, pleased, relieved. Yes, oh, yes, it is all quiet, it is silence, this works great. My friend realizes he’s dealing with nuts who think signals interfere with their thoughts. He debates it for a moment, and then still offers the cage to them because it is a commission. They didn’t buy.

When weird people of today realize that Faraday cages could stop telepathy that’s traveling along the electromagnetic spectrum, real telepaths would quickly realize the same thing. Nor does it have to be a metal box; a Faraday cage could let air and light in. It would be a variation of sleeping in the rented caged bunks one finds in Asian flophouses, so that you could lock in your possessions when you leave for work.

The hoods in the Amazon “The Hoodmaker” episode are based on the same concept. The hood is impregnated with a material that stops telepathic signals; when Honor put on the hood, the world went silent to her. For any telepath who wants silence, put on the hood.



In this scenario, I’m looking at abilities that originate in a mutant or otherwise super-powered brain. While we can argue how common mental illness is and which conditions constitute mental illness, the reality is that we have a number of psychiatric drugs being used already to deal with aberrant mental states. Superpowers would be an aberrant state. And anyone who cannot control their powers or intentionally uses them to harm others is clearly a threat to others. They could be locked in prison, but that doesn’t prevent accidents or deliberate harm to others. The first line of defense is to apply an external control like drugs that suppress the ability. And I don’t think we’d have to spend decades trying to develop it.

For example, there are drugs that work well for both migraines and seizures. There are drugs that are able to treat more than one mental illness. Whether we’re talking about telepaths, telekinetics or precognition, any ability popping up on a wide scale is going to show up in a few people already taking drugs for something else. Imagine the telepath test coming up positive but the person says they don’t hear voices. Doctors see that they take a drug for migraines, seizures or an anti-psychotic. Next up are clinical trials to see if super-powered individuals without those conditions likewise stop hearing the thoughts of others. Then there is the fact that people tend to self-medicate. If telepathy makes it hard to live with your family, unable to function at work or simply makes it hard to sleep, they’d start experimenting with anything and everything that may help. Any such discoveries spread among the super-powered and, eventually, medical professionals.

Drugs would have a number of benefits. It would allow those with unusual abilities to suppress them, avoiding the awkward and potentially dangerous situations slipups cause. If you want to join Super Force for Superheroes, you sign up and stop taking the drugs. If you want to leave Super Force for Superheroes and otherwise can’t live a normal life, start taking the drugs, and then you’re safe to be let loose into the general population. And given how many other people take psychiatric medications and maintenance medications, the fact that the person is taking a few pills each day isn’t considered unusual anymore.


The Biological Intervention

This would be the most horrific situation if imposed on an unwilling subject. Yet it is the most likely to work, especially if other methods fail to work for the individual or aren’t available.

We could use EKGs, MRIs and other techniques to determine where in the brain the “powers” are generated. If drugs can’t suppress it and the patient can’t or won’t, we’re down to destroying the part of the brain that creates the ability.

It doesn’t have to be a full lobotomy or removal of brain tissue. We can go back to the epilepsy example for this. Doctors have been using guided probes that freeze affected tissue to destroy troublesome, malfunctioning parts of the brain. No need to open up the skull, and there is relatively little risk to the patient of turning them into a vegetable or mindless drone.

For the super-powered person who can’t stop transforming or accidentally killing people, the relative risks of uncertain tissue destruction are secondary to their quality of life. They’ll be drugged, the parts of the brain behind the issue mapped to the best of the doctors’ ability, and then the tissue destroyed. The moral case for that is clear, since the alternatives are a lifetime in prison for a medical diagnosis while still posing a risk to those around them or a bullet to the brain. Prison isn’t fair, and execution for being super-powered is unnecessary.

Give that these methods for mapping areas of unusual brain activity and its destruction already exist, the process described could be carried out as soon as the medical professionals are given permission to do so.


Check out Tamara Wilhite’s Amazon Author Page and see her on Hubpages.

Photo by Hannaford