Nikola Tesla: Wisdom from the Past, or Visions of the Future?

A biography of Tesla and an expose of HAARP, a US government project which may have been inspired by Tesla’s work.

by Theresa Welsh

Genius From 100 Years Ago

Alternate History Buffs and conspiracy mavens are often drawn to the work and ideas of Nikola Tesla. I had only a hazy idea of Tesla’s accomplishments until I found a copy of Margaret Cheney’s biography of him in my local used book store (Tesla: Man Out of Time, published in 1981 in hardcover, released in 1993 in a paperback version and re-released in 2001).

Tesla did his most productive work before 1900, but continued regaling the press with intimations of incredible inventions right into the late 1930s.

He died in January of 1943, a frail old man of 87 whose inventions had truly changed the world, but without the recognition or the wealth that his contributions would seem to merit.

Tesla battled with Thomas Edison over the best method of electrifying the world, finally emerging victorious as his Alternating Current (AC) won out over Direct Current (DC).

Tesla’s patents were sold to Westinghouse and his induction motor devices for generating power were on display at the 1893 Columbia Exhibition at the Chicago World’s Fair, where Tesla himself demonstrated some of his devices to the delight of onlookers.

He later worked with Westinghouse to harness the power of Niagara Falls. His role in the development of our modern system of delivering electricity is fairly well acknowledged, but his fertile imagination and prodigious intellect produced many other inventions and only after his death did a court declare that Tesla was also the inventor of radio, the original “wireless” technology.

He had battled that one out with Marconi, another inventor who was commercially much more successful but whose work merely built on what Tesla had already discovered.

Wireless Power

Tesla’s major ideas centered on the wireless transmission of power. He built a tall tower in Colorado Springs in 1899 and nightly lit up the sky with streaking bolts of electricity similar to nature’s lightening which he studied.

On one memorable night, he experimented with a spectacular display, shooting a flaming spark 135 feet into the air, with lightening exploding all around and the the smell of ozone filing the smoke-filled laboratory at the base of his tower.

All of a sudden the lightening stopped; the power had died. Tesla rushed to a telephone to call the Colorado Springs Electric Company only to learn that his experiment had overloaded their generator and the lights had gone out in Colorado Springs.

Tesla later built the ill-fated Wardenclyffe Tower in New York, a tall wooden structure with a metal post at the center with a ball on top. He was never able to complete the tower or demonstrate its potential because of financial problems.

The tower was eventually lost to creditors and torn down. The idea behind these experiments and designs was the transmission of waves, whether electricity or radio, over long distances.

But thanks to Tesla’s earlier inventions, power was being delivered through wires and the major potential investors in wireless power had a vested interest in the system already in existence.

The other reason his wireless concept never got implemented was probably the inability of ordinary people (financiers included) to understand what he was offering.

Tesla was able to visionalize in his mind how a technology would work, but he was not adept at getting others to see what he saw. He was just way ahead of his time.

He said he first began to wonder about electricity when he was three years old and observed sparks when he petted his cat, and he had unusually sensitive vision and hearing and observed a light trail behind people walking in the snow.

But the whole idea for AC current came to him all at once one day in a park in Budapest as a young man. It would be years before he could build the devices he so clearly saw in his mind.

A Strange Man, Ahead of His Time

Coming to America as a young man from his native country (Austria-Hungary) with only four cents in his pocket, he first worked for Thomas Edison, but the two men were totally unlike one another.

Edison slogged away at inventions, trying this and trying that and continuing on until something worked.

Tesla got flashes of insight and then worked everything out in his mind. He never fit into the corporate world or wanted to be controlled by people with money, passing up a chance to set up a company financed properly by J.P. Morgan, although Morgan later did provide him with some seed money.

Tesla suffered from many phobias, always deathly afraid of germs and with an obsession about the number three. If he walked around the block, he would feel compelled to do it three times.

He was obsessive about food, preferring to dine alone so he could compute the cubic contents on his plate before eating. He saw flashes of light before his eyes sometimes accompanied by a strong visual image of something being discussed.

This was disturbing until he learned to control it and the effect seemed to diminish as he grew older.

In his later years he spent part of each day feeding pigeons, bringing injured birds back to his apartment to care for them.

Despite his fear of germs, he was often seen in the park with pigeons covering his arms. He even had a favorite white pigeon who visited his window at the hotel where he lived.

There were other things about him that made some of the science establishment shun him. He once heard a regular pattern of signals coming over his receiving equipment and said he was hearing a message from Mars.

This produced its share of ridicule until the famous Lord Kelvin publicly stated that he agreed with Tesla, that the messages were from Mars.

Tesla believed there was plenty of other life in the universe and talked often about communicating with other life in the solar system. Throughout his life he disagreed with Einstein’s idea that nothing went faster than light and he never bought into relativity.

Tesla believed the universe was filled with “ether” that was the source of matter. He said that matter had no energy within it that it did not get from the ether.

It is undoubtedly these ideas that has endeared him to more recent proponents of non-Einsteinian ideas. There are still modern believers in the ether and debunkers of relativity.

Occult Connections?

But I could not help but notice that Tesla’s life coincided with the life of Edgar Cayce (who died in 1945) whose life readings revealed much about the technology of Atlantis.

According to Cayce, the power generator for Atlantis was a huge crystal that provided the power for vehicles that went over land, through the air, and under the ocean. This was certainly a wireless technology.

Tesla thought one of his power towers could provide the power for vehicles and machines at a remote distance.

Could Tesla, with his extreme sensitivity, have been getting messages across time from Atlantis, or could he have been a reincarnated Atleantean engineer? Or, as a writer named Arthur Mathews alleged, could he have been from the planet Venus?

(Check out a film called The Man Who Fell to Earth starring David Bowie as a man who descends to earth to give humanity new technology.)

Tesla had shown some psychic ability, seeing the death of his mother in his mind before it happened. He had extremely acute hearing and great sensitivity to nature, detecting the resonance of the earth.

He felt both the earth and the upper atmosphere could be conductors of power. He would have found ridiculous the notion that his ideas came from Atlantis and never was attracted to occult ideas. On the contrary, he worked at finding mechanical explanations for everything, even his own clairvoyance.

Although he had the ability to “see” pictures in vivid detail, he maintained that these were always manifestations of things the viewer had actually seen somewhere. He would have rejected the idea that they came from the spirit world or from a memory of a previous lifetime.

That has not stopped others from speculating about his extraordinary powers. It is possible, of course, that the only explanation needed is that Nikola Tesla was simply a whole lot smarter than most people.

The Mystery of Tesla’s Missing Papers

The other interest in Tesla springs from what occurred when he died. The US government, which had declined to offer the inventor a contract for work on any number of promising inventions (including radar, robots, and guided missiles) he had offered them, sent agents to swoop down on his hotel apartment and sieze his papers.

The main agency involved was the Office of Alien Property, although Tesla was NOT an alien (in the sense of not being a US citizen), but had years ago become a naturalized US citizen.

He was so proud of his US citizenship that he kept his certificate in a safe wherever he was living or working.

He kept better track of it than he did of the many medals and awards he received over the years. Most of his writings were in his adopted language, English, although he was fond of Serbian poetry.

Some of his papers ended up at Wright -Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio (the same place where the alien bodies from Roswell were supposed to have gone).

Was the government interested in the “death ray” weapon that Tesla had claimed to be developing? 

Col Corso, in his book The Day After Roswell, devotes a whole section to Tesla and his alleged “death ray,” claiming what Tesla was developing was very much like a device found aboard the Roswell crashed space craft.

He further states “photostatic copies of photographs of Tesla’s papers were in the possession of the Army R&D Foreign Technology desk when I took over in 1961.” 

He says Tesla’s papers included a description of a directed-energy weapon, his so-called “death ray.”

Except it wasn’t a “ray” but rather a device to direct a high energy beam of electrons. The Corso book contains more details on how such a weapon might work and claims the technology is actually in use today.

“… low energy versions of these directed-energy weapons, partly the great-grandchildren of the Tesla beam and partly the descendant of the directed-energy apparatus from the Roswell craft are currently on the market for installation in police cars as a weapon against fleeing vehicles…”

He then claims both the Tesla material and the Roswell finds were the basis for the technology in Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars (SDI Initiative) program. The very inventions that the cash-strapped Tesla couldn’t seem to sell to anyone during his life have been popping up all over in the years following his death!

Because Tesla was a loner who worked by himself and was not connected to an Institute or large organization, there was no entity to preserve his papers when he died and they have been scattered.

Tesla never married, left no heirs and left no will and he had papers stored in various locations, including a mysterious box which he said would explode if opened and which he kept stored at the hotel where he lived.

It turned out the box contained simple elctronic equipment, so his story about its contents was a hoax.

Author Cheney speculates that he may have made up the story because he was chronically behind in his rent and the “exploding box” was protection from being evicted.

Tesla’s nephew, who had a diplomatic position in Washington, was finally given access to his things, as were some close friends, but by the time they got to the inventor’s apartment to go through his belongings there were already indications of missing papers.

Much of what was found ended up going to Belgrade, where a Tesla Museum was established. It is a shameful fact that Tesla was poor in his old age and it was left to Yugoslavia to provide him with a monthly income along with some recognition of his contributions.

A bust of Tesla was commissioned as well and today is on display in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in the Tesla Museum.

His adopted country, which he loved, did nothing for him when he was in financial need. Such is the capitolist system, which creates winners and losers based solely on skill in the marketplace. Tesla was a genius, but he never managed to make much money out of his inventions.

Tesla Technology Today?

There has been speculation about the possibility that government projects might be using the never-developed ideas of Tesla, especially ideas drawn from the missing papers.

Cheney tells us in a final note to her book that she had traced some more of the missing Tesla papers to an unnamed government agency which she says calls the unreleased material in their possession “important to national security.”

One example of a government project possibly based on Tesla technology is the HAARP project, which consists of a series of antennas the US government has built in Alaska, which they say are for research into the ionosphere.

They say the purpose is to “understand, simulate and control ionospheric processes that might alter the performance of communication and surveillance systems.”

These antennae are capable of projecting 3.6 gigawatts of power into the upper atmosphere. Some describe HAARP as a giant “ionosphere heater” that can induce mind control and change the weather.

Tesla thought the atmosphere could be used as a conductor and HAARP looks to many like an experiment using Tesla’s concepts, but for sinister purposes.

Tesla, HAARP, Conspiracy

A book about the project, Angels Don’t Play This HAARP: Advances in Tesla Technology by Nick Begich and Jeane Manning, is a well-documented expose, alleging the government is lying about its reasons for deploying HAARP.

I read this book a few years ago (got my copy at the library) and have been concerned about HAARP ever since.

There’s enough ambiguity about what’s going on to cause serious worry. A group of people who live near the antenna array in Alaska have been fighting HAARP, but the remote location and lack of much information keeps this project from causing any widespread public alarm.

The government says it is studying the upper atmosphere, but is this pure research or do they have some military use in mind? The mind control aspect reminds me of the allegations made by David Icke in The Biggest Secret.

His sources seemed unreliable, but the people watching and warning about HAARP are not alleged “mind-controlled slaves” a la Icke but scientists and knowledgeable people. Is our government changing the weather and playing with our minds?

Cheney quotes a scientist who was commenting on the results of experiments in Antarctica with very low frequency radio waves transmitted by antenna to the upper atmosphere:

“The theoretical implication suggested by their work is that global weather control can be attained by the injection of relatively small ‘signals’ into the Van Allen belts.”

This is from the 1981 edition of the book, written well before the HAARP project was initiated. Is weather control another legacy from Nikola Tesla?

Tesla felt broadcasting certain wave lengths could have effects on peoples’ mental state. He understood that the earth has a resonance and got it almost right.

Today we know the earth resonates at 8, 14 and 20 Hz. Tesla said that extremely low frequency waves could travel through water, earth or air and the US Navy used this theory in its ELF (Extra Low Frequency) project which communicates with underwater submarines.

HAARP too is designed to generate ELF waves, but not in water, in the upper atmosphere.

The Astronaut and the Tesla Tower

In Gordon cooper’s book (see my review of Leap of Faith), the former astronaut talked about his involvement with a group of people who wanted to build a “Tesla Tower” but they were ultimately unable to secure funding.

Cooper’s contact, Valerie Ransone, had speculated that the source of Tesla’s knowledge was extraterrestrial. Ransone herself claimed to be in touch with aliens through psychic means. She had extensively studied Tesla’s inventions and patents and said her “messages” often referred to his work.

Would the Tesla Tower have given the world unlimited cheap power? Many say no, that the idea was always unworkable. Nor was there any “death ray” — Tesla talked about a lot of ideas he never developed and in his later years he got a bit dotty.

Cheney tells us the aged Tesla summoned a delivery boy one day to take an envelope to a nonexistent address to give to his friend, Mark Twain.

He said he’d just seen his friend, who urgently needed help. In the envelope was money, but Twain had died many years earlier and the street on which he had lived to which Tesla sent the hapless messenger no longer existed.

What a Show! What a Legacy!

Whatever the mental losses of the old Tesla, the young Tesla used to perform amazing feats for visitors to his laboratory.

As Cheney describes one of his performances:

“Tesla, with one hand in his pocket, leaped upon the platform. The voltage indicator began slowly climbing.

“At least two million volts of electricity were pouring ‘through’ the frame of the tall young man, who did not move a muscle, His silhouette was now sharply defined with a halo of electricity formed by myriad tongues of flame darting from every part of his body.”

He used these theatrical tricks to get people interested in the real uses of electric power. Part wizard, part engineer and part artist, Nikola Tesla continues to fascinate people a hundred years after he turned himself into a human “live wire” for the amusement of distinguished visitors to his laboratory.

There are quite a few books available about Tesla or some aspect of his inventions and discoveries.

The Cheney book is entertaining and gives a good sense of what the man was like, but is not a good exposition of his inventions. The story also is not covered in a linear fashion, but moves around in time in a way that can be confusing.

It explores his relationship with best friends Robert and Katherine Johnson, including the text of many notes between himself and Katherine.

For those who want to know more about Tesla technology, check out the many books about him available online: Tesla: Man Out of Time, Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Century, The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla.