by Christopher Bird and Oliver Nichelson
In the Pike’s Peak mountain range, overlooking Colorado Springs, an
eccentric Serbian-born inventor began at the dawn of the twentieth
century a series of experiments on electrical properties of the
atmosphere in a newly built laboratory 8,000 feet above sea level.
Ringing the laboratory were freshly painted signs warning all who
chanced to stumble onto the premises that their lives were in
Probing the heavens from atop the laboratory’s roof was a 154-foot
mast, anchored by guy-wires, supporting at its peak a hollow copper
ball 4 feet in diameter. Its purpose was to collect and store an
electrical charge inconceivably large for its day.
The new installation was the brain-child of Nikola Tesla, the
immigrant from Austro-Hungary who, only a few years earlier, had
developed the means to found a new electrical industry in North
America. The invention making this possible was the alternating
current generator which today generates powers for billions of
people all over the globe.
Paired to the generator was Tesla’s alternating current motor
without which lathes, dentists drills, revolving doors, water pumps,
elevators, and thousands of other instruments now so crucial to our
civilization would not operate.
The twin inventions transformed electricity, known since long before
Benjamin Franklin had hoisted his kite and key skyward, from a
scientific curiosity to the principal agent of a technological
revolution which altered the lifestyle of humanity. Up to that time,
electricity had been delivered only in the form of direct current
through a method developed by the American genius, Thomas Edison, to
power that famous product of his imagination: the light bulb.
The drawback of Edison’s system was its
inability to transmit direct current - which quickly turns to heat
when pushed through wires - over any appreciable distance with the
assistance of a booster generator for every mile of distance
traveled. Tesla’s new approach to the problem rendered Edison’s
method obsolete at a stroke.
By harnessing alternating current,
Tesla was able, as early as 1895, to relay a massive quantity of
electricity produced by the hydroelectric turbines at Niagara Falls,
to users in Buffalo, 22 miles distant. without interceding
The man who almost single-handedly wrought a revolution in applying
electricity to man’s needs was an enigma to his contemporaries. So
advanced were his concepts that the science and industry of his day
were unable to comprehend the essence and scope. Half a century
before they became widely known, he was experimenting with radar,
robots, particle accelerators, and high temperature plasma.
Possessed of such unfathomable power to anticipate the future of
technology, Tesla has caused many to wonder whether he might not
have been an extra-worldly super-being visiting for a time among
lesser earthly creatures.
Born in 1856 in the village of Smiljan—in today’s Yugoslavian
Croatia—the young Tesla was urged to study theology by his father, a
former professional soldier turned priest. As a child, he
continually had strange visions. Frequently, it was only necessary
for a word to be spoken in order for him to actually see the object
which it represented appear in phantom guise before his eyes and
remain there for hours.
To banish unsolicited mental pictures, Tesla conjured up his own
images, but, because of his limited experience in the world, they
soon became repetitive.
Later he recalled that it was as if he could
no longer add more frames to a movie-like reel in his mind. To
surmount this problem, he decided to create new thought-forms from a
world beyond the day-to-day life he knew.
Of these he later wrote:
I saw new scenes. These were at
first blurred and indistinct and would flit away when I tried to
concentrate my attention upon them. They gained strength and
distinctness and finally assumed the concreteness of real
things. I soon discovered that my best comfort was attained if I
simply went on in my vision further and further, getting new
impressions all the time, and so I began to travel; of course,
in my mind.
Every night, and sometimes during the day, when
alone, I would start on my journeys, see new places, cities and
countries, live there, meet people and make friendships and
acquaintances and, however unbelievable, it is a fact that they
were just as dear to me as those in actual life, and not a bit
less intense in their manifestations.
When at age seventeen Tesla first turned
to invention, he realized that his childhood ability to visualize
objects in three dimensions, once a curse, had become a precious
gift, allowing him to materialize mentally the design of any machine
he wished to create, to take it apart and put it back together, or
simply to observe it in action.
When he built real-life machines to
the specifications of his own imagining, they operated exactly as he
The acute sensitivity which allowed
Tesla to convert his mental constructs to hardware was not
unaccompanied by a host of bothersome impressions, known to few
other mortals. In a biographical sketch written in 1919, he
described his violent aversion to women’s earrings and his obsessive
fascination for crystals and plain surfaces, his revulsion at
touching the hair of another person, the fever simply looking at a
peach would arouse, and the nausea brought on by merely glancing at
small squares of paper floating in a liquid. Evil spirits, ghosts,
and ogres filled him with unremitting dread.
It was not until Tesla read, in Serbian translation, a remarkable
novel, Aoafi, by the Hungarian writer Josika that he
was given a clue about how to control the random unearthly forces
coursing through him. The novelist’s observations introduced him to
an ingredient of the human psyche the existence and force of which
he had not yet suspected: will-power. Extrapolating from hints in
the text, he began to practice inner control his resolution to
separate his intent from the clutch of habit at first would fade all
too easily, but after doggedly pursuing his effort over several
years, he was able to reach a state in which will became identical
He had so perfected this ability in
later life that he could control his body as adroitly as any circus
acrobat. At fifty-nine, while walking from his New York laboratory to
his residence, he suddenly slipped on the ice and saw his legs go
out from under him. As this was happening his mind, calmly observing
his predicament, sent instant messages to his muscles.
He twisted his body in midair and was
seen by stunned passersby to land on the sidewalk in a handstand.
The extraordinary exercise of will-power was not always at Tesla’s
command; it was especially lacking during times of illness. As chief
engineer at the first telephone exchange in Budapest in 1881, he
worked himself around the clock to a nervous breakdown, at which
point he was again visited by sensations only detectable to an
individual of his special sensitivity.
As he later recounted:
"In Budapest I could hear the
ticking of a watch with three rooms between me and the
time-piece. A fly alighting on a table in the room would cause a
dull thud in my ear. A carriage passing at a distance of a few
miles fairly shook my whole body. The whistle of a locomotive
twenty or thirty miles away made the bench or chair on which I
sat vibrate so strongly that the pain was unbearable.
under my feet trembled continuously. In the dark I had the sense
of a bat, and could detect the presence of an object at a
distance of twelve feet by a peculiar creepy sensation on the
It was also in Budapest that Tesla, his
health recovered, experienced a flash of illumination which first
revealed to him how his alternating current devices might work.
While strolling in a park with a friend,
he was suddenly moved to declaim lines from Goethe’s Faust:
The glow retreats,
Done is the day of toil.
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring.
Ah, that a wing could lift me from the soil
Upon its track to follow, follow soaring.
Hardly were the words out of his mouth
than he was struck by a vision of a magnetic whirlwind turning a
motor. Excited, he exhorted his friend to watch the motor run, first
in one, then in the opposite direction, and to observe carefully all
the parts playing a role in its action.
The companion, who could
only see Tesla staring inanely at the setting sun, became so alarmed
that he began dragging the engineer towards a park bench. Snapping
out his trance, Tesla refused to sit down and went on and on with a
detailed description of his vision, which, over the next several
days, he worked up in detailed blueprints in his mind, where they
remained stored for the next six years.
This vision was the foundation upon which Tesla invented the
rotating magnetic field so fundamental to his alternating current
devices. All his life Tesla worked in privacy so strict that it
bordered on secrecy. A recluse by nature, he lived for many years in
New York City’s Waldorf Astoria, where he could be seen dining
alone, in full evening dress, at a table set aside for him by the
He maintained his remoteness from the
world in his Rocky Mountain retreat, where he discovered new
principles of energy and its transmission which have never been
fully elaborated or understood to this day because Tesla and his few
surviving collaborators, managed to keep them as hermetically veiled
as the teachings of secret societies.
From what is known, it appears that by
calculating the speed of thunderstorms, he realized that electrical
waves emitted from distant lightning bolts came through in bursts of
energy depending on how far away from his receiver the clouds
producing them had moved . It was after observing the electrical
effects in the earth of thunderbolts that Tesla discovered the
presence of stationary waves in the planet.
Some of his conclusions must have
mystified even his assistants, for his memoirs reveal that his
supersensory powers were still fully active during his sojourn in
the Rocky Mountains:
In 1899, when I was past forty and
my experiments in Colorado, I could hear very
distinctly thunderclaps at a distance of 550 miles. The limit of
audition for my young assistants was scarce more than 150 miles.
My ear was thus over three times more sensitive, yet at that
time I was, so to speak, stone deaf in comparison with the
acuteness of my hearing, while under the nervous strain.
The supersensitive receiver invented by
Tesla to track electrical storms also was the first manmade device
to detect radio signals coming from the cosmos, over thirty years
before a Bell Laboratories researcher, Karl Jansky, picked up
similar signals and came to be recognized as the “father of radio
Soon after the article appeared, Tesla was granted
U.S. Patent No.
685,957 for a version of his receiver, the somewhat cryptic title of
which was “Apparatus for the Utilization of Radiant Energy.”
In the technical idiom of the Victorian
Age, he described the operation of the receiver as follows:
By carefully observing well-known
rules of scientific design of instruments, the apparatus may be
made extremely sensitive and capable of responding to the
feeblest influences or disturbances from very great distances
and too feeble to be detected or utilized in any of the ways
heretofore known, and on this account the method here described
lends itself to many scientific and practical uses of great
In Colorado, Tesla was also the first
and only person to create fire balls, phenomena which remain a
complete puzzle to science. These balls often appear in the wake of
thunderstorms; moving slowly, they bounce when they strike the earth
or any solid object. No one knows why they are more common in
certain parts of the earth, such as Sweden or Australia, or why they
only average a lifetime of no more than five seconds, although some
have been observed to last up to five minutes.
To produce ball lightning, Tesla built a
huge model of what the world knows as the “Tesla coil,” a radio
frequency transformer of unheard-of dimensions and power. It
produced 12 million volts and created sparks, or artificial lighting
bolts, over 100 feet long.
When first energized, it blew out the
generator of the Colorado Springs Lighting and Power Company; Tesla
supervised the rebuilding.
Tesla’s record output has only recently
 been equaled in Utah, where in a 60,000 square foot hangar at
Wendover Air force Base, 16 miles from Great Salt Lake’s Bonneville
Flats, Robert Golka, a Massachusetts-born engineer working under a
classified contract, has achieved the production of 15 million
Golka hopes that by duplicating Tesla’s equipment as exactly as
documentation will allow he can be the second man to produce ball
lightning for U.S. government agencies interested in its possible
application to thermonuclear power generation.
Golka made a careful study of
Tesla’s Colorado Springs diary at the
Nikola Tesla Museum on Proletarian Brigade Street in Belgrade,
Yugoslavia, where his entire inventive and literary estate was
transferred after his death.
The estate comprises 100,000 documents, or more than enough to keep
researchers with a technical understanding of the four foreign
languages in which they were written busy for years. Included are
13,780 pages of biographical material; 75,000 pages of letters to
6,900 correspondents; 34,552 pages of scientific articles, notes,
drafts articles, and patents; all of Tesla’s diplomas, scientific
honors, and newspaper clippings; 5,297 pages of technical drawings
and plans; and over 1,000 photographs.
While in his Colorado experimental
station, Tesla realized that the earth’s atmosphere is analogous to
an electric wire of specific length. Such a wire can only
accommodate a set number of electrical frequencies and their
harmonics, just as a string pressed at a fret, and thus shortened or
lengthened, will reverberate only a specific family of sound.
Tesla therefore believed that, were
enough electrical energy pumped into the earth’s atmosphere - which
stretches from the ground to the ionosphere, an electrically
conducting set of layers 30 miles, and higher, above it - and
oscillated at specific frequencies, a growing number of harmonic
waves would be set in motion within it.
Propagated around the globe,
they could then be used, thought Tesla, not only for radio
transmission but for wireless broadcast of electricity into homes
and industrial plants, as well as to ships at sea and aircraft, if
all were equipped with suitable receivers.
As he wrote:
Impossible as it seemed, this
planet, despite its vast extent, behaves like a conductor of
limited dimensions. The tremendous significance of this fact in
the transmission of energy in my system had already become quite
clear to me. Not only was it possible to telegraphic messages to
any distance without wires, as I recognized long ago, but also
to impress on the entire globe the faint modulation of the human
voice. Far more significant is the ability to transmit power in
unlimited amounts to almost any terrestrial distance and without
More importantly, Tesla’s research led
him to the conclusion that the electrical properties of the
negatively charged earth and its positively charged upper atmosphere
could be used to supply an almost unlimited quantity of electricity.
To test his ideas, Tesla built a mammoth 75-million-watt “magnifying
transmitter” able to light a bank of two hundred 50-watt light
bulbs, of his own design, for a total of 10,000 watts of energy, at
a distance of 26 miles. (The California Institute of Technology has
only recently achieved an optimal figure of 43% in the transmission
of microwaves over a maximum distance of 1 mile.)
No wires of any
kind were utilized. The energy passed right through the ground. And
Tesla claimed that only 5% of it was wasted.
If Tesla’s design was correct, his scheme could supplant burgeoning
projects for solar heating going forward in a number of countries
and for which the United States Energy Research and Development
Agency has budgeted more than $125 million dollars for the fiscal
year 1977. The same system, Tesla hinted, could be adapted to
military purposes in the form of a defensive weapon.
He wrote in Liberty magazine (9 February
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. It will, so to speak, provide a wall of power offering an
insuperable obstacle against any effective aggression.
What effect such a system would have on
intercontinental ballistic missiles is anyone’s guess. The
possibility that the Soviet Union may already be at work on
potential military aspects of a Tesla system was suggested, however
tangentially, by a story appearing 29 October 1976 in the Washington
Star, headlined: “Who’s Fouling Up Global Radio? - FCC Prods Soviets
on Mystery Signal."
The article called attention to a
“superpowerful mysterious radio signal” emanating from somewhere in
the region between Minsk and the Baltic Sea which, over several
months, had been disrupting maritime, aeronautical, and amateur
radio communications to the point where various channels have become
All attempts by the United States
Federal Communications Commission, which received several hundred
complaints, the International Amateur Radio Union in England, and
the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva, to elicit
precise information from the Russians about the exact location and
purpose of the signal have failed.
Tesla also alluded to the fact that his ultra sensitive receiver
could be modified to pick-up, store, and amplify the natural
vibrations constantly going on in the upper reaches of the earth’s
gaseous envelope. Such a “solar collector” making use of charged
particles instead of heat or light energy, would work night and day
and in any weather. Containing not a single moving part, it would
have the unnerving appearance of just “sitting there” and putting
out electricity - seemingly creating something from nothing.
If Tesla had been the only person to have made such a claim, his
evidence might have been discounted and forgotten. However, others,
inspired after reading of his achievement, have followed in his
Writing on 10 June 1902 to his friend Robert U. Johnson, editor of
Century Magazine, Tesla included a clipping from the previous day’s
New York Herald about one Clemente Figueras, a woods and forests
engineer in Las Palmas, capital of the Canary Islands, who had
invented a device for generating electricity without burning fuel.
Figueras’s subsequent history is not known, but his achievement
prompted Tesla, in his letter to Johnson, to claim priority for
first having developed a device similar to the one produced at Las
Palmas and, especially, for having revealed the physical laws
On 29 July 1920 the Seattle Post Intelligencer ran a
front-page spread, including a three-column-wide picture under the
title “Hubbard Coil Runs Boat on Portage Bay Ten Knots an Hour; Auto
Test Next.” The boat, 18 feet long, was propelled across Seattle’s
Lake Union by a 35 HP electric motor attached to the mysterious
coil, the invention of Alfred M. Hubbard, a nineteen year-old
The newspaper account provides a fascinating description of a small
“fuelless” power unit generating a very large amount of electricity.
It also recounts some of the
difficulties Hubbard experienced in overheating of wires:
The boat circled about the bay and
returned to the wharf with never a slackening of speed. The wires
connecting coil and motor had begun to heat under the excessive
current, and fearing that some part of the coil might give way
under the extra heavy strain put on it, Hubbard declined to
permit the motor to be run continuously for any length of time.
It was tried out later several times, after brief periods, which
allowed the wires to cool, and its power apparently showed no
Hubbard’s coil, no larger than a small
wastebasket, measured only 11 inches in diameter and 14 inches in
length. Its output of current totaled 35,000 watts (280 amperes at
125 volts), or enough power to light 350 100-watt bulbs. The
electric motor had to be specially reconstructed for use in
conjunction with the coil (however, no details were given).
The inventor maintained that his power
unit could operate for years, and that it could drive a large
touring car at normal speed, illuminate a medium sized office
building, heat seven two room apartments, and allow an airplane to
fly all the way around the world without stopping. Because his
device derived its energy from the surrounding air, Hubbard called
it an “atmospheric power generator.”
From the Post lntelligencer account it
is clear that the young Washingtonian’s generator was quite
different, as far as the principle of its construction was
concerned, from Tesla’s concept.
“In general,” allowed Hubbard, “it
is made up of a group of eight electro-magnets, each with
primary and secondary windings of copper wire, which are
arranged around a large steel core.”
Obviously, the Seattle newspaper
accounts do not provide sufficient data to allow us to reconstruct
the Hubbard coil or even to learn the amount of wire used, its size,
or the number of turns around the axis.
In July 1973 a former resident of Seattle then living in Houston,
Texas, wrote to the Post Intelligencer to inquire whether it had
published any additional data on Hubbard since the appearance of the
articles in the 1920s. In answer to this query, Don Carter, a staff
reporter, wrote a follow-up story, dated 16 July 1973 and headlined
“Saga of a Boy Inventor and His Mystery Motor.”
Carter hints that the Hubbard invention
was remanded to oblivion by officialdom.
“As the Texas reader remembers it,”
he wrote, “the marvelous invention was quickly squelched by the
federal government, which wisely acted to prevent the
manufacture and sale of this static electric generator to avert
a national financial panic.”
Carter also dug up the fact that, after
making a trip to Washington, D.C., to press for a patent on his
device, Hubbard was indicted for using his talents to produce and
operate radio transmitters over which rumrunners out of Canadian
territory were advised, during Prohibition, when and where it was
safe to land their boats and offload contraband liquor. He was
cleared of this charge by a federal jury in 1928.
Shortly after Hubbard’s exoneration, the
Detroit Free Press ran a story on 25 July 1928 with a banner
headline “Engine Works, Needs No Gas Nor Any Other Fuel - Whirling
of Globe May Be Utilized for Driving Planes, Automobiles and Other
Machinery at High Speeds.”
The new “fuelless motor” had been
designed by one Lester Jennings Hendershot of West Elizabeth,
Pennsylvania, and successfully tested at Selfridge Army Airfield
outside Detroit in a demonstration witnessed by the world-famous
aviator Charles Lindbergh, who testified that the motor worked.
When the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published the same story,
Hubbard, suspecting that his own invention might have been purloined
by Hendershot, complained to a staff reporter, R. B . Bermann, who
three days later wrote an article headlined “Hubbard Believes
Mystery Motor Based upon His Own Invention.”
Though Hubbard waffled on exactly how
the energy for his motor was actually acquired, he continued to
insist that there was no great difference between the instrument
tested in Detroit and his own. Trying to establish a link between
his work and Hendershot, he did provide a vivid description of the
obstacles he had come up against.
As he told the Post Intelligencer
I never heard of this Lester J.
Hendershot who is demonstrating the motor, but it must be
remembered that I worked on the invention for two years in
Pittsburgh, in 1921 and 1922. It was Dr. Greenslade who
represented the people who were financing me at the time - but,
of course, if the people who bought out most of my interest in
the invention were to bring it out as their own machine, they
would probably do it through a man with whom I never worked.
When I made my discovery I was only
sixteen years old, and until that time I never even had an ice
cream soda. So you can imagine that a couple of thousand dollars
looked mighty big to me. I never hesitated for an instant when
the people who were financing me insisted on taking fifty
percent interest from the start, and I didn’t protest when they
kept demanding that I sign over more and more of my rights.
at last I just quit them cold.
Hendershot was not more forthcoming than
his Seattle predecessor when it came to clearly explaining the
principle of his motor’s functioning. He maintained that it would
run for more than 2,000 hours before any recharging of the magnet
was required,” that it could “make its own electricity” to “start
itself,” and that, “based on electromagnetism applied to the rotary
motion of the earth,” the energy which drove it was the same as that
which caused a magnetic compass to rotate.
It appeared that Hendershot had first
conceived of his motor, not in a waking illumination like Tesla, but
in a dream, while experimenting in 1925 on ways of building an
improved compass for airplanes.
The officer in command of Selfridge Field, Major Thomas Lanphier, at
first highly skeptical, was soon impressed with Hendershot’s motor.
“I believe,” he told the press,
“that the invention is something more than the pipe dream I
thought it was when I first heard of it. It has no hidden
batteries or other phony business. Anyone can convince himself
of its efficacy by just throwing the switch and watching it
The Hendershot motor attracted the
attention of personages of national stature who deprecated or
extolled it, depending on whether they viewed it as a threat to
their security (financial or otherwise) or as a boon to mankind. On
the one hand, the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics
announced that it would examine the motor.
On the other, William S. Knudsen, soon
to become president of General Motors, denounced it as impractical
“bunk,” not failing to add that the internal combustion motor would
be around for a long time. Another antagonist was Dr. Frederick Hoffstetter, who, as head of his own research laboratory in
Pittsburgh, went to the length of hiring a lecture hall in New York
City, were he announced to a large audience that the whole
Hendershot story reported in the press was a fraud.
He exhibited a model of the motor which
he had brought with him, showed that it would not work, and, to
clinch his argument, reported that he had found a carbon pencil
battery concealed within it. The furor surrounding the motor led
Hendershot to dismantle it and conceal it in a location known only
to him. The Free Press announced that, within thirty days, it would
be put in operation in an airplane.
Then, on 9 March 1928, the same paper’s Washington correspondent
reported that Hendershot was lying in serious condition in the
District of Columbia’s Emergency Hospital, where he had been taken
after receiving a severe electric shock from his motor while
demonstrating it to patent attorneys.
After his recovery, Hendershot disappeared from public view for more
than thirty years, resurfacing only once in 1945, when he sent a
letter to the Free Press from the Standard Ship Company’s U. S. Navy
Office in San Pedro, California. The letter accused scientists who
had earlier belittled his efforts of now repeating his statements
word for word. At the end of 1960, Hendershot’s device, now called a
“magnatronic generator,” became the object of a research grant
proposal made to the U. S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research.
The submission was made by Force
Research, a group of some twenty Californians who, to quote the
“united in one centrally administered body to
correlate their findings on experiments and problems which otherwise
have been unsolved.”
Organized by Lloyd E.Cannon, a retired
department head at the Weyerhauser Lumber Company, it included the
controller of Capitol Records in Hollywood, the owner of the
Precision Tool and Clock Company in Pasadena, an oil tycoon from
Long Beach, a research engineer at the California Institute of
Technology’s Jet Propulsion Labs in Sierra Madre, the president of
McCaffrey Research Corporation in Palm Springs, and Dr. Daniel Fry,
who a few years earlier had written about his incredible contact
with an Unidentified Flying Object in his classic, The White Sands
Fry was to be project manager, Hendershot project engineer, for the
development of the magnatronic generator for which the group sought
$150,000 from the navy. The proposal provided the names of
twenty-two persons (including businessmen, attorneys, contractors,
publishers, and engineers) who had witnessed the generator in
action, including a Colonel Lanphier, now retired.
The generator was reported to have lit a
100-watt lamp with “induced radio frequency energy. “ A Federal
Communications Commission engineer who investigated the locale of
the experiment told his superiors that he could find “no condition
which could account for such a phenomenon,” and Bernard Linden, the
engineer in charge of the FCC’s Los Angeles office, wrote to one of
the experiment’s witnesses, Dr. Robert Fondiller, a New York
engineer, for information on the apparatus used “when observing the
above condition. “
The Force Research project came to an end in 1961, when Lester
Jennings Hendershot, his dream of providing the world with free
energy still unrealized, committed suicide. One year before Hendershot’s death, a book,
The Sea of Energy in Which the Earth
Floats, was privately printed in Salt Lake City by its author,
Henry Moray, Doctor of Electrical Engineering, who had earned his
degree at the University of Uppsala in Sweden while on a stint as a
missionary for the Mormon Church.
The book was Moray’s account of a nearly fifty-year-long, apparently
successful effort to develop yet another collector of atmospheric
The inventor states that he took first
inspiration from a statement made by Tesla in an 1892 lecture:
Ere many generations pass, our
machinery win be driven by a power obtainable at any point of
the universe. Throughout space there is energy. Is this energy
static or kinetic? If static, our hopes are in vain; if
kinetic - and this we know it is, for certain - then it is a mere
question of time when men win succeed in attaching their
machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.
By the fall of 1910 Moray had collected
sufficient power to operate small electrical devices which he
demonstrated to friends. It was only after pursuing static energy
for more than a year, however, that he finally came to agree with
In his own words:
It was during the Christmas holidays
of 1911 that I began to realize the fact that the energy I was
working with was not of a static nature but of an oscillating
nature, and that the energy was not coming out of the Earth but
that it rather was coming in to the Earth from some outside
As principal owner of a Salt Lake
electric company, Moray built, during the 1920s and 1930s, a number
of radiant energy devices, the parts for each one cannibalized from
its predecessor and supplemented with new components.
It was during the second term of
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that Moray, now become chief
consulting engineer for the western branch of the Rural
Electrification Agency, finally completed an instrument which,
though it weighed only slightly over 55 pounds, could deliver up to
The new device so contravened the belief structures and training of
Moray’s fellow REA engineers that one of them, angered by Moray’s
assertion that he was obtaining energy straight from outer space,
took a sledgehammer to the invention and smashed it to pieces. It
has been estimated that its reconstruction would today cost over a
Before its untimely demise, the Moray
invention was said to have lit up a bank of thirty-five light bulbs
with bright, cold light. Precisely how - or even whether - it really
worked may never be known. However, in his book, Moray sandwiches
into a long treatise on cosmic processes involved in the operation
of his collector the claim that his early invention of a solid-state
component - a type of valve, forerunner of the transistor - was the
real key to its functioning. He also submitted that the energy
collecting activity of his generator was initiated by stroking its
first stage for a minute or so with a magnet to produce
What happened subsequently, Moray put
forward - not entirely lucidly - in a lecture at Valley State
College in Northridge, California, on 23 January 1962:
“The circuit is then balanced
through synchronization until the oscillations are sustained by
harmonic coupling with the energies of the universe. The
reinforcing action of the harmonic coupling increases the
amplitude of the oscillations until the peak pulses ‘spill’ over
into the next stage through special detectors of valves which
then prevent the return or feedback of the energy from the
These oscillating pulsations drive each
succeeding stage which oscillate at a controlled frequency and
which are again reinforced by harmonic coupling with the ever-present energies of the Cosmos. “
The device could also be set going with
power from an electric battery, but according to Moray’s son, John,
his father eschewed its use in demonstrations in favor of the magnet
so that witnesses could not say afterwards - as they did about
Hendershot’s motor - that the invention was basically battery
It is strange that witnesses have testified that both Hendershot’s
and Moray’s inventions would work only with the inventors present.
The ONR proposal noted that of many working models of Hendershot’s
motor built over thirty-five years, none gave sufficient performance
“without the hand of Hendershot.”
This statement was corroborated by Charles Fort, an original who
spent his life collecting and collating unusual data by combing
reports in several hundred newspapers on a day-to-day basis; in his
book Wild Talents Fort suggests that Hendershot might have possessed
some power of mind over matter which caused the motor to run only
when he was there to affect it.
The fact that Hendershot’s motor
operated at Selfridge Field only when oriented north-south by not
east-west also seems to suggest that it may have been related in its
underlying principle to Wilhelm Reich’s motor, said to draw power
from a non-electrical energy called “orgone” which permeates the
atmosphere above and rotates in an east-west direction around the
earth. Whatever the case, since Hendershot’s time, Fort’s “wild
talents” have now invaded the scientific laboratories of several
countries where physicists have proved the ability of certain
individuals to affect matter in as yet totally inexplicable manner.
Despite protests made by professional
magicians claiming that his feats are only sleight of hand, the
Israeli Uri Geller has astounded scientific observers by bending
metal at a distance. In controlled experiments throughout the world,
a number of children have recently succeeded in equaling, and even
surpassing, Geller’s psychokinetic exploits.
A book is now on its way to the
publisher detailing the scope of what may lead to a Copernican
revolution in science.
Late twentieth-century technology has not yet followed up on the
trails blazed by Tesla, Hubbard, Hendershot, and
Moray. It is not
difficult to realize the havoc these inventors would have caused had
they been put into operation at the time of their appearance. If
“fuelless” power had been widely available in the first decades or
even in the middle of this century, whole industries involving
massive amounts of capital and employing thousands of workers might
have gone under.
In the last quarter of the century it
may be that, in the face of mounting costs for oil and uncertainty
about the side effects of atomic power plants, new efforts will be
made to probe behind the curtain with which Tesla so ingeniously
surrounded himself. Federal officials in Canada are presently
studying some aspects of Tesla’s power transmission system in the
hope of obviating the construction of expensive transmission lines
designed to carry hydroelectric power developed in the country’s
northern regions to the large urban centers concentrated in the
They are also considering Tesla’s
charged particle collector as a way of furnishing electricity to
Canada’s remote Arctic regions, small prairie communities, and
individual homes and factories. The potential of energy obtainable
from Canadian waterfalls and rivers is so great that there is also
the possibility of adapting the Tesla system to export energy to
energy-short underdeveloped countries anywhere on earth.
A mystery shrouded the last thirty years of Tesla’s life.
Reports leaking out on his Colorado experiments spurred J. Pierpont
Morgan to put up money to finance similar work in the East. In 1901
Tesla began erecting a new experimental station on two hundred acres
of Long Island land, donated by Morgan’s fellow banker, James
Warden. The Wardencliff development, almost an exact duplicate of
the Pike’s Peak installation, was to be the fulfillment of Tesla’s
dream of creating the hub for a “city beautiful.”
When completed in 1905, the station was
closed. It seems that Tesla, who had ignored practical monetary
matters all his life, had consumed the entire sum made available by
Morgan for the station’s construction. Operating the laboratory
would have required another large donation, not forthcoming.
Though chosen to share the 1912 Nobel
Prize in Physics with Edison, Tesla refused it. The Nobel Committee,
perhaps angered at this slight, turned its back on America and
finally awarded the prize to the Swedish physicist Gustav Dalen.
Prodigal Genius, a biography
of Tesla, John J. O’Neill speculated on Tesla’s motive for
turning down the honor:
Tesla made a very definite
distinction between the inventor of useful appliances and the
discoverer of new principles... a pioneer who opens up new
fields of knowledge into which thousands of inventors flock to
make commercial applications of the newly revealed information.
Tesla declared himself discoverer and Edison an inventor; and he
held the view that placing the two in the same category would
completely destroy all sense of the relative value of the two
From this point on, Tesla’s life
presents a picture of steadily dwindling energy, though in the 1920s
he still had enough forward motion to patent a helicopter-like flying
machine and develop an advanced steam turbine.
Legal recognition for his pioneer work in wireless radio
transmission came only one year before his death, when the United
States Supreme Court wrote an opinion that several important
features of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention, for which he was awarded
the Nobel Prize in 1909, had been anticipated by Tesla.
As recently as January 1976, at a Tesla
Symposium held by the Institute for Electronic and Electrical
Engineers in New York’s Statler Hilton Hotel, J. Roland Morin, Chief
Engineer for Large Lamps at Sylvania GTE International, announced
that industrial firms are now reinvestigating Tesla’s concept for electrodeless discharge lamps inductively coupled to a
high-frequency power supply, developed way back in the 1880s but
overshadowed by Edison’s achievement.
What accounted for Tesla’s decline?
The only explanation given was based on
a story told by the inventor to his biographer, O’Neill, who
characterized it as “without parallel in human annals.” O’Neill had
noticed that Tesla, poverty-stricken and lonely, spent hours feeding
pigeons which he would call from under the Gothic tracery of St.
Patrick’s Cathedral and eaves of the New York Public Library.
asked O’Neill, was his fascination with the birds?
‘I have been feeding pigeons,
thousands of them, for years, ‘ replied Tesla, ‘but there was
one pigeon, a beautiful bird, pure white with light gray tips on
its wings. That one was different... No matter where I was
that pigeon would find me; when I wanted her I had only to wish
and call her and she would come flying to me... I loved that
pigeon... I loved her as a man loves a woman, and she loved
‘Then one night as I was lying in my bed in the dark, solving
problems, as usual, she flew in through the open window and
stood on my desk. I knew she wanted me; she wanted to tell me
something important, so I got up and went to her. As I looked at
her I knew she wanted to tell me - she was dying. And then, as I got her message,
there came a light from her eyes - powerful beams of light...
a light more intense than I had ever produced by the most
powerful lamps in my laboratory.
‘When that pigeon died,
something went out of my life. Up to that time I knew with a
certainty that I would complete my work, no matter how ambitious
my program, but when that something went out of my life I knew
my life’s work was finished.’
Tesla’s “World System of Wireless
Transmission” as summarized in his article “The
Problem of Increasing Human Energy - With Special References to The
Harnessing of The Sun's Energy"
through the Use of the Sun’s Energy”
(Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, June 1900):
The World System has resulted from a
combination of several original discoveries made by the inventor
in the course of long-continued research and experimentation. It
makes possible not only the instantaneous and precise wireless
transmission of any kind of signals, messages, or characters, to
all parts of the world, but also the interconnection of the
existing telegraph, telephone, and other signal stations without
any change in their present equipment.
By its means, for instance, a
telephone subscriber here may call up and talk to any other
subscriber on the globe. An inexpensive receiver, no bigger than
a watch, will enable him to listen anywhere, on land or sea, to
a speech delivered or music played in some other place, however
The World System is based on the
application of certain important inventions and discoveries,
The Tesla Transformer. This
apparatus is in the production of electrical vibrations as
revolutionary as gunpowder in warfare.
The Magnifying Transmitter. This
is Tesla’s best invention - peculiar transformer specially
adapted to excite the Earth, which is in the transmission of
electrical energy what the telescope is in astronomical
The Wireless System. This system
comprises a number of improvements and is the only means
known for transmitting economically electrical energy to a
distance without wires
The first World System power plant
can be put in operation in nine months. With this power plant it
will be practicable to attain electrical activities up to 10
million horsepower (25 billion watts), and it is designed to
serve for as many technical achievements as are possible without
Aug, Stephen. “Who’s Fouling Up
Global Radio?” Washington Star, 29 October 1976, pp. 1, 4.
Detroit Free Press. Lester Hendershot stories: 25, 26, 28, 29
February 1928; 8, 9, 12 March 1928; 11 November 1962.
Korac, Veljko. “The Inventions and Inspiration of Nikola Tesla.”
Paper read at the International Electronic and Electrical
Engineers Nikola Tesla Symposium, 30 January 1976, New York
City. Moray, T. Henry. The Sea of Energy in Which the Earth
Floats. The Research Institute, Inc., 2505 South Fourth East,
Salt Lake City, Utah 84115.
____. “Speech Given by T. Henry Moray, January 23, 1962, 8:00
P.M. in the Speech-Drama Building, Valley State College,
Morin, J.F. “Light Sources - Past, Present, and Future.” Paper
read at the International Electronic and Electrical Engineers
Nikola Tesla Symposium, 30 January 1976, New York City. New York
Times. Lester Hendershot stories: 27, 28 February 1928.
O’Neill, John J. Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla. Ives
Washburn Inc., 1944. Puharich, Andrija. “The Work of Nikola
Tesla Ca. 1900 and Its Relationship to Physics, Bioenergy and
Healing.” Paper read at the International Interdisciplinary
Conference on Consciousness and Healing, 13 October 1976,
University of Toronto. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Lester
Hendershot stories: 25, 27 February 1928. Alfred Hubbard
stories: 17 December 1919; 1 February 1920, 29 July 1920; 27
February 1928- 16 July 1973; 23 March 1975.
Shunaman, Fred.”12-Million Volts.” Radio Electronics, June 1976,
pp. Tesla, Nikola. Correspondence, Columbia University Library,
Special Collections, Manuscript Section.
____. “My Inventions.” Electrical Experimenter, February-June
1919. ____. Lectures, Patents, and Articles. Nikola Tesla
Museum, Belgrade 1956; reprinted by Health Research, (Mokelumme
Hill, Calif. 95245), 1973.
____. “A Machine to End War.” Liberty, 9 February 1935, pp. 5-7.
____. “Talking with the Planets. “Collier’s, 9 Feburary 1901,
pp. 64-65 , Seymour.
“Electricity and Weather Modification,” IEEE Spectrum April
1969, pp. 26ff.
United States Reports, vol. 320, Cases Adjudged in the Supreme
Court at October Term 1 942
and October Term 1943, “Marconi Wireless Co. v. U. S.,” pp.