Nikola Tesla, the turn-of-the-century inventor and electrical engineer, is appearing in popular culture as an Internet meme and as a character in books, films, comics and video games. The lack of recognition that Tesla received during his own lifetime has made him the perfect tragic figure for techno geeks. He has risen to cult status on the power of his inventions, which include alternating current, radio broadcasting, remote control vehicles, and radio astronomy. Tesla as the misunderstood genius is perfect for science fiction and his inventions are well suited for hardware geeks and steampunks alike. The impact of the technologies invented by Nikola Tesla are a recurring theme in the steampunk genre of alternate technology science-fiction.
Tesla’s achievements and visionary approach to invention have inspired many writers to include him as character in their projects or create characters based on him. He reported that many of his inventions came to him complete in a flash of inspiration. Tesla would begin building prototypes without calculations or blueprints and when the models were constructed they worked the first time the switch was flipped.
Consider these examples of Tesla’s lightning fast rise to prominence: “Why Nikola Tesla Was the Greatest Geek Who Ever Lived” by web comic artist Inman was written up in Time Magazine this year, they referred to it as “The illustrated ode to the 19th century inventor was popular even for Oatmeal.” That would be the very popular website TheOatmeal.com/comics/tesla. A feature film is coming out titled “Charged: The Story of Nikola Tesla.” An online fundraising drive called “Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum” raised over one million dollars in nine days. Cable TV is airing many documentaries about Tesla and hardly a day goes by on the Sci-Fi Channel without some Buckeye Bonzai firing his Tesla Ray Gun at the bad guys, or visa-versa.
And what about that “Ray Gun”? Nikola Tesla claimed to have invented a death ray which he called teleforce in the 1930s and continued these claims up until his death at 86 years old.
In 1973 I interviewed the late parapsychologist Dr. Andrija Puharich and he told me that Tesla had indeed invented a “Death Ray” that could shoot down airplanes and dirigibles at a distance of hundreds of miles. In 1984 Dr. Puharich presented this idea to the International Tesla Society at the Tesla Centennial Symposium. One wonders if President Reagan and Dr. Edward Teller ever got wind of the idea for their ill-fated “Star Wars” missile defense system, after all, it was published in those proceedings as Tesla’s 1937 top secret patent application. This giant ray gun was designed to be as large as the tower at Wardenclyffe. The famous tower at Wardencyffe in Long Island, New York was torn down and sold for scrap when Tesla’s backer, J. P. Morgan, backed out of the deal.
Tesla tried to sell his Death Ray during World War II to the United States, England, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, with no luck. The Tesla Museum I mentioned earlier that raised a million dollars in nine days on Kickstarter.com will be located in the brick laboratory that still stands at Wardenclyffe.
Proof that this device was given to the Soviets has been established by Colonel Tom Bearden. In a May 2, 1977 issue of AVIATION WEEK, Col. Bearden shows a picture of a Soviet particle beam weapon that looks just like the picture in Tesla’s 1937 patent application, The same one Puharich told me about and was published in the ITS 1984 proceedings.
Did Tesla actually constructed a particle beam weapon? Tesla did construct a working model. At the age of 81, friends gave a luncheon in his honor, and when asked about the Death Ray, Tesla said,
“But it is not an experiment…. I have built, demonstrated and used it. Only a little time will pass before I can give it to the world.”
In a letter to Westinghouse engineers dated April 7, 1934, Tesla wrote:
“I have groped for years trying to find some solution of the most pressing problem of humanity that of insuring peace and, little by little, I have been led to the ideal means to this end. For they (the Death Ray) will afford perfect protection to every country without providing a new implement for attack. The International Peace Conference will insist on its immediate and universal adoption, for as long as the countries are imperfectly protected invasions are sure to occur.”
So there you have it, a Death Ray for peace. Tesla died in 1943, with World War II raging in Europe.
Written By: Tom Howell