My friend, known as a liar, came to me two days ago and told stories about red mercury, something I never heard about. Could do magic, the pharaohs used it. 1 kg worth 30 million dollars, used in weapons something like that.

I never believe him, he's not really a friend. Out of curiosity I started Googling about the subject, some say it's real, some say it's not.

This documentary in Arabic got my attention, it's made by Al Jazeera, this is part 2, it claims that the substance existed and was used by the Russians, and now the Mossad are in south Africa for that thing. You can watch minute 7:30, they talk to each other in English. In that documentary, they keep calling it, Red mercury 20, 20.

Someone called Alan Kidger was murdered because he had something to do with red mercury, the documentary says. They spoke to someone in English at minute 19 in part one.

Watch minute 32:50 part 1, a Russian nuclear chemist talking about it, I think it's red mercury RM 20 20

The British police arrested someone for reading this article and trying to produce the mercury.

The USA said it doesn't exist, but they have a team in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) who's job is to find out more about the subject, according to Peter Hounam in the documentary. Samuel T. Cohen talks about it in minute 28 of part 2 in English. It seems to be used to create neutron bombs and small nuclear bombs.

Terror accused in 'mercury sting', would the people be arrested if there's nothing true about it?

So what do we know about about Red mercury? And if it existed, then what's its chemical formula?

  • 9
    When I google "Red mercury", the first link that comes up is Wikipedia, and the snippet reads "Red mercury is a hoax substance of uncertain composition purportedly used in the creation of nuclear bombs".
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 1:10
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    @Oddthinking respect to wiki but it's edited by users. It's not an authority, university students at least in my country are not allowed to use it as reference in research.
    – Lynob
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 1:17
  • 1
    "would the people be arrested if there's nothing true about it?" I read the article. The prosecution told the jury it doesn't matter if red mercury actually exists, so Yes.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 9:48
  • 4
    @Fischer - You can't prove a non-existence. Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 17:28
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    @Fischer: A technique I've used in the past with these sort of questions is to ask what an answer might look like. An answer that Red Mercury does exist would be simple enough to imagine; a link to an appropriate Chemistry text (example which has properties that match the magical claims. But, what would a convincing answer look like that proved that there is no such substance?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 6:51

2 Answers 2


Red mercury does indeed exist, mercury (11) oxide (HgO) varies from yellow to red, here. The more fine the particles the more towards the yellow it is, the bigger the lumps, the more red.

There is the neat trick that if you heat it in a low oxygen environment (say one in which there is charcoal to snap up the O2), it decomposes to mercury and oxygen (2HgO => 2Hg + O2).

When heated to decomposition (932F) it decomposes into mercury and oxygen.


This can then be re-oxidized. Rinse and repeat. That's magic.

However, if you read to the bottom of the "Reactivity Profile" et al. in the above link, you will see it's quite dangerous to play with and highly toxic. It can decompose spontaneously (explosively) under sunlight and/or friction. - It's conceivable that this was viewed as magical too.

As I am unable to prove the existence of a special property of any mercury compounds or amalgams regarding nuclear weapons, I would posit that red mercury may have been spoken of or written about because it was covering for or being used as a synonym for something magical during WW2 - in technical terms, Germany and the rest of the industrialized world were trying to solve the supercriticality problem (creating a nuclear fission event on a large scale, ie. a bomb.) with the uranium, in simple terms they needed to create High Explosives, and ways of detonating them, to smash the uranium pieces together really hard or to compress a sphere of the material by surrounding it with the H.E. and detonating it as quickly as possible. Thus the code words Red Mercury might have come about as a "magical bullet" that wins the war.

This is an unproven hypothesis though, it would need a reference from a consensus of historians of repute, there doesn't yet appear to be one.

This is not to be confused with mercury fulminate, another explosive discovered in the 1830s, used to prime ammunition - this may well have been the chemical end-product that the terrorists were after in the article cited by the OP, here.

  • Here's the Wikipedia article on it en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury%28II%29_oxide Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 20:18
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    Yes, Red Mercuric Oxide exists, but as you posit, quite probably isn't what is referred to as "Red Mercury", bringing us right back to the beginning.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 0:18
  • I'm quite skeptic, but I'll accept your answer and vote it up as promised, I'm not accepting your answer, I'm accepting the fact that this is all we know about that mysterious mercury.
    – Lynob
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 14:31

Red Mercury has a lot in common with the Philosopher's Stone. Charles Mackay's book has an extensive history of alchemists who sought or claimed to have made this substance, and the parallels with stories of red mercury are striking. While this does not prove that red mercury is equally bogus, the parallels are very suggestive; red mercury is exactly what you would expect from an updated version of the philosopher's stone.

1. It has properties that do not appear to be consistent with established physical law.

The Philosopher's Stone was supposed to confer immortality and change base metals into gold. Stories about red mercury include megaton nuclear bombs the size of a softball. It is said to be attracted to gold but repelled by garlic.

2. It has properties that convey great power and/or wealth.

See item 1 above. The attraction to gold means you can use it for prospecting, and of course it also makes you a nuclear power.

3. The exact properties vary depending on the person consulted.

Red mercury has been alleged to have various roles in the creation or operation of nuclear weapons, and also to be a powerful explosive in its own right, and to be an ingredient in land mines. It has also been claimed to be a room-temperature superconductor used in stealth paint and a range of high-tech precision guided munitions. In Africa it is also supposedly used in magic.

Likewise the philosopher's stone was variously claimed to be capable of making gold, or silver, or gems, or of rendering you invulnerable to disease, or of rejuvinating you, or of creating everlasting fire. See The Book of Aquarius for a list of the various claims that have been made. (I was a little surprised to find that this is an apparently serious modern alchemical textbook)

4. It is elusive

Many people claim to have seen it, or to be able to obtain it, or to know the recipe, but attempts to actually obtain it always fail.

Charles Mackay's book provides an exhaustive (and exhausting) list of the various attempts to manufacture the stone.

Likewise, red mercury always seems to be just within the grasp of those trying to obtain it. The recipe is supposedly simple (if one has a nuclear reactor) handy. Or perhaps it can be found in landmines or sewing machines.

5. Many of those claiming knowledge of it turn out to be frauds and charlatans.

See just about any of the references above.

  • the book you referred to mentions it once and what's that book about anyway? and could you please give some references, you have far more rep around here than me so you might have done extensive research
    – Lynob
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 22:42
  • Please provide some references to support your claims.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 4:16
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    Argument by analogy like this is rather dubious. How are we to judge if it is a false analogy?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 4:18

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