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Nikola Tesla's Long Range Weapon
The French ship Iena blew up in 1907. Electrical experts were
sought by the press for an explanation. Many thought the explosion
was caused by an electrical spark and the discussion was about
origin of the ignition.
Lee De Forest, inventor of the Audion vacuum tube adopted
radio broadcasters, pointed out that Nikola Tesla had experimented
with a "dirigible torpedo" capable of delivering such
power to a ship through remote control.
He noted, though, Tesla also claimed that the same technology
for remotely controlling vehicles also could project an electrical
wave of "sufficient intensity to cause a spark in a ship's
and explode it."
It was Spring of 1924, however, that the time seemed best
rays," for that year many newspapers carried several stories
their invention in different parts of the world. Harry Grindell-
Matthews of London lead the contenders in this early Star Wars
The New York Times of May 21st had this report:
Paris, May 20 - If confidence of Grindell Mathew (sic),
inventor of the so-called 'diabolical ray,' in his discovery
is justified it may become possible to put the whole of an
enemy army out of action, destroy any force of airplanes
attacking a city or paralyze any fleet venturing within a
certain distance of the coast by invisible rays.
Grindell-Matthews stated that his destructive rays would
operate over a distance of four miles and that the maximum
distance for this type of weapon would be seven or eight
miles. "Tests have been reported where the ray has been
to stop the operation of automobiles by arresting the action
of the magnetos, and a quantity of gunpowder is said to have
been exploded by playing the beams on it from a distance of
Grindell-Matthews was able, also, to electrocute mice,
shrivel plants, and light the wick of an oil lamp from some
Sensing something of importance the New York Times copyrighted
story on May 28th on a ray weapon developed by the Soviets. The
News has leaked out from the Communist circles in Moscow
that behind Trotsky's recent war-like utterance lies an
electromagnetic invention, by a Russian engineer named
Grammachikoff for destroying airplanes.
Tests of the destructive ray, the Times continued, had began
the previous August with the aid of German technical
experts. A large scale demonstration at Podosinsky Aerodome
near Moscow was so successful that the revolutionary
Military Council and the Political Bureau decided to fund
enough electronic anti-aircraft stations to protect
sensitive areas of Russia. Similar, but more powerful,
stations were to be constructed to disable the electrical
mechanisms of warships.
The Commander of the Soviet Air Services, Rosenholtz, was
overwhelmed by the ray weapon demonstration that he proposed
"to curtail the activity of the air fleet, because the
invention rendered a large air fleet unnecessary for the
purpose of defense."
Picking up the death ray stories on the wire services on the
side of the world, the Colorado Springs Gazette, ran a local
interest item on May 30th. With the headline: "Tesla Discovered
'Death Ray' in Experiments He Made Here," the story recounted,
a feeling of local pride, the inventor's 1899 researches financed
John Jacob Astor.
Tesla's Colorado Springs tests were well remembered by local
residents. With a 200 foot pole topped by a large copper sphere
rising above his laboratory he generated potentials that discharged
lightning bolts up to 135 feet long. Thunder from the released
energy could be heard 15 miles away in Cripple Creek.
People walking along the streets were amazed to see sparks
between their feet and the ground, and flames of electricity
spring from a tap when anyone turned them on for a drink of water.
Light bulbs within 100 feet of the experimental tower glowed
they were turned off. Horses at the livery stable received shocks
through their metal shoes and bolted from the stalls. Even insects
were affected: Butterflies became electrified and "helplessly
swirled in circles - their wings spouting blue halos of 'St.
The most pronounced effect, and the one that captured the
of death ray inventors, occurred at the Colorado Springs Electric
Company generating station. One day while Tesla was conducting
high power test, the crackling from inside the laboratory
stopped. Bursting into the lab Tesla demanded to know why his
assistant had disconnected the coil. The assistant protested
had not anything. The power from the city's generator, the
assistant said, must have quit. When the angry Tesla telephoned
power company he received an equally angry reply that the electric
company had not cut the power, but that Tesla's experiment had
destroyed the generator!
The inventor explained to The Electrical Experimenter, in
1917 what had happened. While running his transmitter at a power
level of "several hundred kilowatts" high frequency
set up in the electric company's generators. These powerful
currents "caused heavy sparks to jump thru the windings
the insulation." When the insulation failed, the generator
out and was destroyed.
Some years later, 1935, he elaborated on the destructive potential
of his transmitter in the February issue of Liberty magazine:
My invention requires a large plant, but once it is
established it will be possible to destroy anything, men or
machines, approaching within a radius of 200 miles.
He went on to make a distinction between his invention and
brought forward by others. He claimed that his device did not
any so-called "death rays" because such radiation cannot
in large amounts and rapidly becomes weaker over distance.
Here, he likely had in mind a Grindell-Matthews type of device
which, according to contemporary reports, used a powerful ultra-
violet beam to make the air conducting so that high energy current
could be directed to the target. The range of an ultra-violet
searchlight would be much less than what Tesla was claiming.
As he put it: "all the energy of New York City (approximately
million horsepower [1.5 billion watts]) transformed into rays
projected twenty miles, would not kill a human being." On
contrary, he said:
My apparatus projects particles which may be relatively
large or of microscopic dimensions, enabling us to convey to
a small area at a great distance trillions of times more
energy than is possible with rays of any kind. Many
thousands of horsepower can be thus transmitted by a stream
thinner than a hair, so that nothing can resist.
Apparently what Tesla had in mind with this defensive system
large scale version of his Colorado Springs lightning bolt machine.
As airplanes or ships entered the electric field of his charged
tower, they would set up a conducting path for a stream of high
energy particles that would destroy the intruder's electrical
A drawback to having giant Tesla transmitters poised to shoot
of lightning at an enemy approaching the coasts is that they
have to be located in an uninhabited area equal to its circle
protection. Anyone stepping into the defensive zone of the coils
would be sensed as an intruder and struck down. Today, with the
development of oil drilling platforms, this disadvantage might
overcome by locating the lightning defensive system at sea.
As ominous as death ray and beam weapon technology will be
future, there is another, more destructive, weapon system alluded
in Tesla's writings.
When Tesla realized, as he pointed out in the 1900 Century
"The Problem of Increasing Human Energy," that economic
not allow the development of a new type of electrical generator
to supply power without burning fuel he "was led to recognize
the transmission of electrical energy to any distance through
media as by far the best solution of the great problem of harnessing
the sun's energy for the use of man."
His idea was that a relatively few generating plants located
waterfalls would supply his very high energy transmitters which,
turn, would send power through the earth to be picked up wherever
The plan would require several of his transmitters to rhythmically
pump huge amounts of electricity into the earth at pressures
order of 100 million volts. The earth would become like a huge
inflated to a great electrical potential, but pulsing to Tesla's
Receiving energy from this high pressure reservoir only would
require a person to put a rod into the ground and connect it
receiver operating in unison with the earth's electrical motion.
As Tesla described it, "the entire apparatus for lighting
average country dwelling will contain no moving parts whatever,
could be readily carried about in a small valise."
However, the difference between a current that can be used
say, a sewing machine and a current used as a method of destruction,
however, is a matter of timing. If the amount of electricity
to run a sewing machine for an hour is released in a millionth
second, it would have a very different, and negative, effect
Tesla said his transmitter could produce 100 million volts
pressure with currents up to 1000 amperes which is a power level
100 billion watts.
If it was resonating at a radio frequency of 2 MHz, then the
released during one period of its oscillation would be
100,000,000,000,000,000 Joules of energy, or roughly the amount
energy released by the explosion of 10 megatons of TNT.
Such a transmitter, would be capable of projecting the energy
nuclear warhead by radio. Any location in the world could be
vaporized at the speed of light.
Not unexpectedly, many scientists doubted the technical feasibility
of Tesla's wireless power transmission scheme whether for commercial
or military purposes. The secret of how through-the-earth broadcast
power was found not in the theories of electrical engineering,
in the realm of high energy physics.
Dr. Andrija Puharich, in 1976, was the first to point out
Tesla's power transmission system could not be explained by the
of classical electrodynamics, but, rather, in terms of relativistic
transformations in high energy fields. He noted that according
Dirac's theory of the electron, when one of those particles
encountered its oppositely charged member, a positron, the two
particles would annihilate each other.
Because energy can neither be destroyed nor created the energy
the two former particles are transformed into an electromagnetic
wave. The opposite, of course, holds true. If there is a strong
enough electric field, two opposite charges of electricity are
formed where there was originally no charge at all.
This type of transformation usually takes place near the intense
field near an atomic nucleus, but it can also manifest without
aid of a nuclear catalyst if an electric field has enough energy.
Puharich's involved mathematical treatment demonstrated that
levels in a Tesla transmitter were strong enough to cause such
The mechanism of pair production offers a very attractive
explanation for the ground transmission of power. Ordinary
electrical currents do not travel far through the earth. Dirt
high resistance to electricity and quickly turns currents into
energy that is wasted.
With the pair production method electricity can be moved from
point to another without really having to push the physical particle
through the earth - the transmitting source would create a strong
field, and a particle would be created at the receiver.
If the sending of currents through the earth is possible from
viewpoint of modern physics, the question remains of whether
actually demonstrated the weapons application of his power
transmitter or whether it remained an unrealized plan on the
the inventor. Circumstantial evidence points to there having
test of this weapon.
The clues are found in the chronology of Tesla's work and
fortunes between 1900 and 1915.
1900: Tesla returned from Colorado Springs after a series
important tests of wireless power transmission. It was
during these tests that his magnifying transmitter sent out
waves of energy causing the destruction of the power
He received financial backing from J. Pierpont Morgan of
$150,000 to build a radio transmitter for signaling Europe.
With the first portion of the money he obtained 200 acres of
land at Shoreham, Long Island and built an enormous tower
187 feet tall topped with a 55 ton, 68 foot metal dome. He
called the research site "Wardenclyffe."
As Tesla was just getting started, investors were rushing
buy stock offered by the Marconi company. Supporters of the
Marconi Company include his old adversary Edison.
On December 12th, Marconi sent the first transatlantic
signal, the letter "S," from Cornwall, England to
Newfoundland. He did this with, as the financiers noted,
equipment much less costly than that envisioned by Tesla.
1902: Marconi is being hailed as a hero around the world while
Tesla is seen as a shirker by the public for ignoring a call
to jury duty in a murder case (he was excused from duty
because of his opposition to the death penalty).
1903: When Morgan sent the balance of the $150,000, it would
cover the outstanding balance Tesla owed on the Wardenclyffe
construction. To encourage a larger investment in the face
of Marconi's success, Tesla revealed to Morgan his real
purpose was not to just send radio signals but the wireless
transmission of power to any point on the planet. Morgan was
uninterested and declined further funding.
A financial panic that Fall put an end to Tesla's hopes for
financing by Morgan or other wealthy industrialists. This
left Tesla without money even to buy the coal to fire the
transmitter's electrical generators.
1904: Tesla writes for the Electrical World, "The Transmission
Electrical Energy Without Wires," noting that the globe,
even with its great size, responds to electrical currents
like a small metal ball.
Tesla declares to the press the completion of Wardenclyffe.
1904: The Colorado Springs power company sues for electricity
at that experimental station. Tesla's Colorado laboratory
is torn down and is sold for lumber to pay the $180
judgement; his electrical equipment is put in storage.
1905: Electrotherapeutic coils are manufactured at Wardenclyffe
for hospitals and researchers to help pay bills.
Tesla is sued by his lawyer for non-payment of a loan.
In an article, Tesla comments on Peary's expedition to the
North Pole and tells of his, Tesla's, plans for energy
transmission to any central point on the ground.
Tesla is sued by C.J. Duffner, a caretaker at the experi-
mental station in Colorado Springs, for wages .
1906: "Left Property Here; Skips; Sheriff's Sale,"
headline in the Colorado Springs Gazette for March 6th.
Tesla's electrical equipment is sold to pay judgement of
George Westinghouse, who bought Tesla's patents for
alternating current motors and generators in the 1880's,
turns down the inventor's power transmission proposal.
Workers gradually stop coming to the Wardenclyffe laboratory
when there are no funds to pay them.
1907: When commenting on the destruction of the French ship
Tesla noted in a letter to the New York Times that he has
built and tested remotely controlled torpedoes, but that
electrical waves would be more destructive. "As to
projecting wave energy to any particular region of the globe
... this can be done by my devices," he wrote. Further,
claimed that "the spot at which the desired effect is to
produced can be calculated very closely, assuming the
accepted terrestrial measurements to be correct."
1908: Tesla repeated the idea of destruction by electrical
to the newspaper on April 21st. His letter to the editor
stated, "When I spoke of future warfare I meant that it
should be conducted by direct application of electrical
waves without the use of aerial engines or other implements
of destruction." He added: "This is not a dream. Even
wireless power plants could be constructed by which any
region of the globe might be rendered uninhabitable without
subjecting the population of other parts to serious danger
1915: Again, in another letter to the editor, Tesla stated:
is perfectly practical to transmit electrical energy without
wires and produce destructive effects at a distance. I have
already constructed a wireless transmitter which makes this
possible... When unavoidable, the [transmitter] may be used
to destroy property and life."
Important to this chronology is the state of Tesla's mental
One researcher, Marc J. Seifer, a psychologist, believes Tesla
suffered a nervous breakdown catalyzed by the death of one the
partners in the Tesla Electric Company and the shooting of Stanford
White, the noted architect, who had designed Wardenclyffe.
Seifer places this in 1906 and cites as evidence a letter
George Scherff, Tesla's secretary:
Dear Mr. Tesla:
I have received your letter and am very glad to know you are
vanquishing your illness. I have scarcely ever seen you so
out of sorts as last Sunday; and I was frightened.
In the period from 1900 to 1910 Tesla's creative thrust was
establish his plan for wireless transmission of energy. Undercut
Marconi's accomplishment, beset by financial problems, and spurned
by the scientific establishment, Tesla was in a desperate situation
by mid-decade. The strain became too great by 1906 and he suffered
an emotional collapse. In order to make a final effort to have
grand scheme recognized, he may have tried one high power test
his transmitter to show off its destructive potential. This would
have been in 1908.
The Tunguska event took place on the morning of June 30th,
explosion estimated to be equivalent to 10-15 megatons of TNT
flattened 500,000 acres of pine forest near the Stony Tunguska
in central Siberia. Whole herds of reindeer were destroyed. The
explosion was heard over a radius of 620 miles. When an expedition
was made to the area in 1927 to find evidence of the meteorite
presumed to have caused the blast, no impact crater was found.
the ground was drilled for pieces of nickel, iron, or stone,
main constituents of meteorites, none were found down to a depth
Many explanations have been given for the Tunguska event.
officially accepted version is that a 100,000 ton fragment of
Encke's Comet, composed mainly of dust and ice, entered the
atmosphere at 62,000 mph, heated up, and exploded over the earth's
surface creating a fireball and shock wave but no crater.
Alternative versions of the disaster see a renegade mini-black
or an alien space ship crashing into the earth with the resulting
release of energy.
Associating Tesla with the Tunguska event comes close to putting
inventor's power transmission idea in the same speculative category
as ancient astronauts. However, by looking at the above chronology,
it can be seen that real historical facts point to the possibility
that this event was caused by a test firing of Tesla's energy
In 1907 and 1908, Tesla wrote about the destructive effects
energy transmitter. His Wardenclyffe transmitter was much larger
than the Colorado Springs device that destroyed the power station's
generator. His new transmitter would be capable of effects many
orders of magnitude greater than the Colorado device.
In 1915, he said he had already built a transmitter that "when
unavoidable ... may be used to destroy property and life."
a 1934 letter from Tesla to J.P. Morgan, uncovered by Tesla
biographer Margaret Cheney, seems to conclusively point to an
weapon test. In an effort to raise money for his defensive system
The flying machine has completely demoralized
the world, so much so that in some cities, as
London and Paris, people are in mortal fear from
aerial bombing. The new means I have perfected
affords absolute protection against this and
other forms of attack... These new discoveries I
have carried out experimentally on a limited
scale, created a profound impression (emphasis added).
Again, the evidence is circumstantial but, to use the language
criminal investigation, Tesla had motive and means to be the
of the Tunguska event. He also seems to confess to such a test
having taken place before 1915. His transmitter could generate
energy levels and frequencies that would release the destructive
force of 10 megatons, or more, of TNT. And the overlooked genius
The nature of the Tunguska event, also, is not inconsistent
what would happen during the sudden release of wireless power.
fiery object was reported in the skies at that time by professional
or amateur astronomers as would be expected when a 200,000,000
object enters the atmosphere. The sky glow in the region, mentioned
by some witnesses, just before the explosion may have come from
ground, as geological researchers discovered in the 1970's.
before an earthquake the stressed rock beneath the ground creates
electrical effect causing the air to illuminate.
If the explosion was caused by wireless energy transmission,
the geological stressing or the current itself would cause an
glow. Finally, there is the absence of an impact crater. Because
there is no material object to impact, an explosion caused by
broadcast power would not leave a crater.
Given Tesla's general pacifistic nature it is hard to understand
he would carry out a test harmful to both animals and the people
herded the animals even when he was in the grip of financial
desperation. The answer is that he probably intended no harm,
was aiming for a publicity coup and, literally, missed his target.
At the end of 1908, the whole world was following the daring
of Peary to reach the North Pole. Peary claimed the Pole in the
Spring of 1909, but the winter before he had returned to the
Ellesmere Island, about 700 miles from the Pole.
If Tesla wanted the attention of the international press,
would have been more impressive than the Peary expedition sending
out word of a cataclysmic explosion on the ice in the direction
the North Pole. Tesla, then, if he could not be hailed as the
master creator that he was, could be seen as the master of a
mysterious new force of destruction.
The test, it seems, was not a complete success. It must have
difficult controlling the vast amount of power in transmitter
guiding it to the exact spot Tesla wanted.
Alert, Canada on Ellesmere Island and the Tunguska region
are all on
the same great circle line from Shoreham, Long Island. Both are
compass bearing of a little more than 2 degrees along a polar
The destructive electrical wave overshot its target.
Whoever was privy to Tesla's energy weapon demonstration must
been dismayed either because it missed the intended target and
be a threat to inhabited regions of the planet, or because it
too well in devastating such a large area at the mere throwing
switch thousands of miles away. Whichever was the case, Tesla
received the notoriety he sought for his power transmitter.
In 1915, the Wardenclyffe laboratory was deeded over to Waldorf-
Astoria, Inc. in lieu of payment for Tesla's hotel bills. In
Wardenclyffe was dynamited on orders of the new owners to recover
some money from the scrap.
The evidence is only circumstantial. Perhaps Tesla never did
achieve wireless power transmission through the earth. Maybe
a mistake in interpreting the results of his radio tests in Colorado
Springs and did not produce an effect engineers, then and now,
is a scientific impossibility.
Perhaps the mental stress he suffered caused him to retreat
completely to a fantasy world from which he would send out
preposterous claims to reporters who gathered for his yearly,
making pronouncements on his birthday. Maybe the atomic bomb
explosion in Siberia near the turn of the century was the result
a meteorite no one saw fall.
Or, perhaps, Nikola Tesla did shake the world in a way that
kept secret for over 80 years.
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Jerry W. Decker.........Ron Barker...........Chuck Henderson
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