Much has been made over Tesla's amazing ability to visualize images
from his mind. This talent came mostly involuntarily and often at
inopportune moments. When he was younger, Tesla worried that he was
suffering from some sort of madness when his visions would appear.
Later he came to realize that this particular trait was a gift and
the basis of all his inventions.
Tesla's visions were so vivid that he was sometimes unsure of what
was real and what imaginary. Strong flashes of light often
accompanied these images. He would wave his hand in front of his
eyes to determine whether the objects were simply in his mind or
In 1919, Tesla wrote of these images and of his efforts to find an
explanation for them. He had consulted with several doctors and
psychologists, but no one was able to help.
"The theory I have formulated is
that the images were the result of a reflex action from the
brain on the retina under great excitation. They certainly were
not hallucinations, for in other respects I was normal and
"To give and idea of my distress, suppose that I had witnessed a
funeral or some such nerve wracking spectacle. Then, inevitably,
in the stillness of the night, a vivid picture of the scene
would thrust itself before my eyes and persist despite all my
efforts to banish it. Sometimes it would even remain fixed in
space though I pushed my hand through it."
It is well known that Tesla's conception
of his AC (alternating current) motor came to him during one of his
"One afternoon ... I was enjoying a
walk with my friend in the city park and reciting poetry. At
that age I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of
these was Goethes Faust. The sun was just setting and reminded
me of a glorious passage: The glow retreats, done is the day of
toil; It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring; Ah, that
no wing can lift me from the soil Upon its tract to follow,
"As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash
of lightning and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew
with a stick on the sand the diagram shown six years later in my
address before the American institute of Electrical Engineers.
"The images were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the
solidity of metal. 'See my motor here; watch me reverse it.'"
Tesla used his incredible power
throughout his amazing career. He disliked drawing his conceptions
down onto paper because they lacked the reality that Tesla's
internal drawing board could provide. For Tesla, drawing was utterly
unrealistic and a nuisance.
He did not have to make plans and jot down dimensions, because of
this power of instant recall. He could store any designs in his mind
to be retrieved intact years later.
Despite his unusual abilities, Tesla at first had little patience
with those who believed in psychic powers or spirits. Tesla often
denied that he had supernatural powers or origins from beyond the
earth. Such allegations, along with his conviction in the reality of
extraterrestrials, almost certainly hurt Tesla's reputation later in
Tesla felt so strongly about such claims that he frequently wrote
about his frustrations with people who wanted to believe that he was
more than an ordinary human being.
"The by far greater number of human
beings are never aware of what is passing around and within them
and millions fall victims of disease and die prematurely just on
this account. The commonest, everyday occurrences appear to them
mysterious and inexplicable.
"One may feel a sudden wave of sadness and rack his brain for an
explanation, when he might have noticed that it was caused by a
cloud cutting off the rays of the sun. He may see the image of a
friend dear to him under conditions which he construes as very
peculiar, when only shortly before he has passed him in the
street or seen his photograph somewhere.
"When he loses a collar button, he fusses and swears for an
hour, being unable to visualize his previous actions and locate
the object directly. Deficient observation is merely a form of
ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and
foolish ideas prevailing.
"There is not more than one out of every ten persons who does
not believe in telepathy and other psychic manifestations,
spiritualism and communion with the dead, and who would refuse
to listen to willing or unwilling deceivers?
"Just to illustrate how deeply rooted this tendency has become
even among the clear-headed American population, I may mention a
comical incident. Shortly before the war, when the exhibition of
my turbines in this city elicited widespread comment in the
technical papers, I anticipated that there would be a scramble
among manufacturers to get hold of the invention and I had
particular designs on that man from Detroit (Ford) who has an
uncanny faculty for accumulating millions.
"So confident was I, that he would turn up some day, that I
declared this as certain to my secretary and assistants. Sure
enough, one fine morning a body of engineers from the Ford Motor
Company presented themselves with the request of discussing with
me an important project.
"Didn't I tell you?, I remarked triumphantly to my employees,
and one of them said, 'You are amazing, Mr. Tesla. Everything
always comes out exactly as you predict.'
"As soon as these hard-headed men were seated, I of course,
immediately began to extol the wonderful features of my turbine,
when the spokesman interrupted me and said, 'We know all about
this, but we are on a special errand. We have formed a
psychological society for the investigation of psychic phenomena
and we want you to join us in this undertaking.'
"I suppose these engineers never knew how near they came to
being fired out of my office. Ever since I was told by some of
the greatest men of the time, leaders in science whose names are
immortal, that I am possessed of an unusual mind, I bent all my
thinking faculties on the solution of great problems regardless
"For many years I endeavored to solve the enigma of death, and
watched eagerly for every kind of spiritual indication. But only
once in the course of my existence have I had an experience
which momentarily impressed me as supernatural.
"It was at the time of my mother's death. I had become
completely exhausted by pain and long vigilance, and one night
was carried to a building about two blocks from our home.
"As I lay helpless there, I thought that if my mother died while
I was away from her bedside, she would surely give me a sign.
Two or three months before, I was in London in company with my
late friend, Sir William Crookes, when spiritualism was
discussed and I was under the full sway of these thoughts.
"I might not have paid attention to other men, but was
susceptible to his arguments as it was his epochal work on
radiant matter, which I had read as a student, that made me
embrace the electrical career. I reflected that the conditions
for a look into the beyond were most favorable, for my mother
was a woman of genius and particularly excelling in the powers
"During the whole night every fibre in my brain was strained in
expectancy, but nothing happened until early in the morning,
when I fell in a sleep, or perhaps a swoon, and saw a cloud
carrying angelic figures of marvelous beauty, one of whom gazed
upon me lovingly and gradually assumed the features of my
"The appearance slowly floated
across the room and vanished, and I was awakened by an
indescribably sweet song of many voices. In that instant a
certitude, which no words can express, came upon me that my
mother had just died. And that was true.
"I was unable to understand the tremendous weight of the painful
knowledge I received in advance, and wrote a letter to Sir
William Crookes while still under the domination of these
impressions and in poor bodily health.
"When I recovered, I sought for a long time the external cause
of this strange manifestation and, to my great relief, I
succeeded after many months of fruitless effort. I had seen the
painting of a celebrated artist, representing allegorically one
of the seasons in the form of a cloud with a group of angels
which seemed to actually float in the air, and this had struck
"It was exactly the same that appeared in my dream, with the
exception of my mother's likeness. The music came from the choir
in the church nearby at the early mass of Easter morning,
explaining everything satisfactorily in conformity with
As Tesla grew older, he became more
interested in spirituality and mankind's place in the universe.
Tesla had remarked once about inventing a machine that could project
human thoughts onto a screen, much like a modern television. This
idea would continue to be on his mind up until the time of his
Dale Alfrey remembers several notations concerning Tesla's ideas on
the nature of the human spirit and whether it continues on after
physical death. Tesla had been brought up in a religious environment
- but he had become more "humanistic" in his attitudes and considered
physical life to be no more than a "automation of nature."
"Tesla became more open to the idea
that there is a spirit or soul that continues in another plane
of existence after death," recalls Alfrey. "At one point Tesla
chided Edison for stealing his idea on using a form of radio to
contact the dead."
Voices in the Aether
After his initial reception of enigmatic radio signals in 1899,
Tesla worked for many years to perfect the receiving and
transmitting equipment that was needed to better pick up and
translate the possible alien broadcasts. At first the signals were
nothing more than rhythmic sounds, almost a Morse code type of
transmission he reported.
Around 1918, Tesla started to receive what he considered to be voice
transmissions, except the voices he was picking up were not human.
Instead, Tesla wrote that,
"The sounds I am listening to every
night at first appear to be human voices conversing back and
forth in a language I cannot understand. I find it difficult to
imagine that I am actually hearing real voices from people not
of this planet. There must be a more simple explanation that has
so far eluded me."
In 1925 Tesla wrote that,
"I am hearing more phrases in these
transmissions that are definitely in English, French and German.
If it were not for the fact that the frequencies I am monitoring
are unusable for terrestrial radio stations, I would think that
I am listening to people somewhere in the world talking to each
other. This cannot be the case as these signals are coming from
points in the sky above the Earth."
Nikola Tesla may have been one of the
first to receive strange radio signals that he thought were from
beyond Earth, but he certainly wasn't the last. It is now known in
the journals of Fortean that mysterious messages claiming
extraterrestrial origins are being received repeatedly by ordinary,
household electronics. Startled witnesses have reported strange
signals emanating from turned off televisions and radios, as well as
weird phone calls filled with electronic sounds and whispering
In the early days of radio experimentation, hobbyists were amazed
when their primitive sets would suddenly burst forth with strong,
clear signals, far more powerful then any existing station at the
time. The signals have often been explained away as normal radio
interference caused by the weather or other natural sources.
In 1965, Soviet scientists Gennady B. Sholomitsky,
S. Shklovskii, received world wide attention when they announced
that they had received radio signals from beacons of some
super-civilization in space. These signals, they said, were ordered
and indicative of interplanetary intelligence.
Later, other radio astronomers discovered that these signals were
coming from celestial bodies that we now know as quasars. Other
strange radio signals have not been as easily explained.
Dr. Hugh Mansfield Robinson, conducting a set of radio experiments
in 1921, received intelligent signals on the thirty-thousand-meter
wavelength. Ernest B. Rogers, the engineer in charge of the test
felt compelled to state that,
"the signals were of
extraterrestrial origin, as there were no sending instruments of
that power on Earth at that time."
An amateur radio astronomer named Grote
Reber reported receiving strong dot-and-dash signals from space in
1939. He had build a thirty-foot dish antenna in Wheaton, Illinois
and said he often listened to the signals for eight hours at a time.
They seemed to come from one specific spot in the sky.
None of these early, mysterious signals
have ever been explained.
Long Delayed Echoes
Radio enthusiasts in the 1920s discovered a phenomenon which they
labeled LDE (Long Delayed Echoes). Signals sent out from earth
sometimes came bouncing back several seconds later, as if they had
been reflected back by something in space. In a few instances some LDEs returned days, months, even years later. Researchers in Europe
reported LDE's in 1927, 1928 and 1934. The echo pulses were delayed
from three to fifteen seconds.
Dr. Ronald N. Bracewell of Stanford University speculated in 1962
that an alien satellite equipped with a computer which would scan
all radio frequencies as it traveled through space, could be
responsible for the strange LDEs. The satellite would pick up
intelligent signals, record them and then rebroadcast it back on the
Suppose, he thought, that the satellite was programmed so that if
the message was returned again, indicating the system was
understood, it would then transmit a message of its own. The LDEs of
the 1920s could have come from such a satellite suggested Bracewell.
In the weekly scientific journal Nature, there appears in the issue
of November 3, 1928, a letter written by one Jorgen Hals, a radio
engineer of Bygodo, Oslo, to physicist Carl Stormer.
"At the end of the summer of 1927 I
repeatedly heard signals from the Dutch short-wave transmitting
station PCJJ at Eindhoven. At the same time as I heard these I
also heard echoes. I heard the usual echo which goes round the
Earth with an interval of about 1/7th of a second as well as a
weaker echo about three seconds after the principal echo had
"When the principal signal was especially strong, I suppose the
amplitude for the last echo three seconds later, lay between
1/10 and 1/20 of the principal signal in strength. From where
this echo comes I cannot say for the present, I can only confirm
that I really heard it."
Stormer initiated certain tests as a
result of this communication and on October 11, 1928, these achieved
some success. During the afternoon of that day Station PCJJ in
Eindhoven emitted very strong signals on 31.4 meters.
Both Hals and Stormer heard very distinct echoes several times, the
interval between signal and echo varying between three and five
seconds, most of them coming back about eight seconds after the
principal signal. Sometimes two echoes were heard with an interval
of about four seconds.
Physicist Van der Pol confirmed these observations in a telegram
"Last night special emission gave echoes here varying
between three and 15 seconds. 50% of echoes heard after eight
At the time these peculiarly long echoes were attributed by Stormer
to auroral causes but the feeling today is that they have never been
adequately explained. Six years later, in 1934, radio echoes of a
similar kind from Holland were also heard.
A young Scottish astronomer named Duncan Lunan reviewed the LDE
records of the 1920s and set out to decode them. He laid out the LDE
data on a graph, using dots to represent the pauses between echoes.
To his astonishment, a map began to take shape.
"The dots made up a map of an
easily-recognized constellation," Lunan said. "The Constellation
of Bootis in the northern sky. The curious pattern of delayed
echoes was actually a pattern of star positions."
Lunan worked up other LDE maps and found
that they all seemed to center around Epsilon Bootis, a star in the
Lunan speculated that the LDEs were indicating that the point of
origin for the alien satellite was the star system Epsilon Bootis.
Lunan submitted his findings to the British Interplanetary Society.
Kenneth Gatland, vice president of the society was enthusiastic
about Lunan's findings.
"Lunan's findings are utterly
astounding. I have studied the maps and must come to the same
conclusions he did."
Unusual radio broadcasts are often
reported in areas of high UFO activity. In January, 1954, people
throughout the Midwest heard a voice coming through turned-off
The voice, speaking in a dull monotone, stated:
"I wish no one to be afraid,
although I speak from space. But if you do not stop your
preparations for war, you will be destroyed."
This type of unusual broadcast has been
heard by startled listeners worldwide. No earthly hoaxer was ever
been caught or confessed.
On August 3, 1958, radio ham operators throughout the United States
reportedly picked up a strange broadcast on the seventy-five-meter
international band. A male voice claiming to be "Nacoma from the
planet Jupiter" warned his listeners that the atomic bomb tests
could lead to disaster. The voice spoke for two-and-a-half hours in
English, German, Norwegian and his own language, described as a kind
of musical gibberish.
"It was the most powerful signal
ever picked up," one account said. "There was plenty of time
during the broadcast for hundreds to listen, and radio operators
called in friends and neighbors and phoned long distance to
relatives in other states to listen in."
Author John Keel wrote in the September,
1977 issue of UFO Report that while in West Virginia, he visited a
radio hobbyist and listened to strange sounds on a homemade VLF
(Very Low Frequency) radio set.
"Strange voices were chattering back
and forth on frequencies that supposedly cannot carry voice
transmission. They spoke in a rapid-fire guttural language we
could not identify. At first I thought it might be ordinary
people speaking through a 'scrambler.' but later I sought out
and listened to samples of voice transmissions through different
kinds of scramblers and there was no similarity."
According to the Spanish newspaper El Diario De Nueva York, on January 31, 1950, UFO activity over Madrid,
Spain was accompanied by unusual radio broadcasts.
"In the last two days, near
midnight, intense phosphorescence and the forms of strange
lights have been observed at the same time. They have passed
through the sky from north to south, and radio receivers have
heard, during the occurrence of this phenomenon, words
pronounced in an incomprehensible tongue. Popular fancy supposes
that these luminous signals may come from the planet Mars."
Strange voices speaking a guttural,
unknown language has been often associated with inexplicable radio
broadcasts. Nor has this phenomena been contained to anecdotal tales
from untrained individuals. Since its inception, NASA has
experienced unauthorized radio interference problems of one form or
another on practically every manned space mission.
A good example was the Mercury Faith 7 flight with Astronaut Gordon
Cooper. On May 15, 1963, during his forth pass over Hawaii, Cooper's
voice transmission was suddenly interrupted and drowned out by "an
unintelligible foreign language transmission" on the channel
reserved for space flights - a frequency which few if any amateurs
were equipped to broadcast on.
If the signal came from the ground, it had to come from Hawaii, but
the FCC never solved the mystery. NASA recorded the transmission,
which sounded like a voice grunting and speaking rapidly in a
language that has never been identified.
The Search For Extraterrestrial
In 1955 two Cornell University physicists, Giuseppi Cocconi and
Philip Morrison, published a paper suggesting it might be possible
to use microwave radio to communicate between the stars. By pointing
a radio telescope at a near by, Sun-like star that might have
planets, astronomers might be able to detect radio waves generated
by intelligent life there. Since 1960, The Search for
Extra-terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been carried on by
Radio waves are considered the best means available, given current
technology, for trying to detect extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Radio waves travel at the speed of light (which is the fastest
theoretical speed possible) which is about 300,000 kilometers a
At this speed a signal sent from our nearest neighbor star, Proxima
Centauri, takes over four years to reach Earth. This may seem like a
long time, but the fastest space probe currently built would take
300,000 years to make the same trip.
Radio astronomer Frank Drake was the first to attempt a SETI search
by using an 85 foot antenna at Greenbank, West Virginia, to listen
in the direction of two nearby stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani.
For two months he monitored the stars for signals at 1,420 MHz, a
frequency associated with hydrogen, which was chosen as a logical
channel to listen to because of its astronomical significance
(Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the Universe).
Unfortunately, Drakes project achieved no positive results.
Additional SETI programs were conducted in the Soviet Union through
the 1960's but the next serious attempt in the United States wasn't
made until the early 70's when NASA's Ames Research Center put
together a team of experts to consider how an effective search could
The result was known as Project Cyclops. Radio astronomers, using
the work in the Cyclops report, started conducting searches
throughout the 70's using existing antennas and receivers.
The "WOW!" Signal
In 1977 Dr. Jerry Ehman was involved in a search for signals of an
artificial origin using the "Big Ear" antenna (now replaced by a
golf course) at Ohio State University. Out of this effort came one
of the most interesting, and mystifying, signals to date. Known as
the "Wow!" signal (after the exclamation written by Dr. Ehman next
to a particularly tantalizing part of the computer printout), it
still remains unexplained.
The "Wow!" source radio emission entered the receiver of the Big Ear
radio telescope at about 11:16 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time on
August 15,1977. Dr. Ehman had worked at OSU as an assistant
professor in electrical engineering and astronomy.
When the National
Science Foundation cut funding to the Big Ear in 1972, Dr. Ehman was
let go, but he stayed on as a volunteer.
"A few days after the August 15,
1977 detection, I began my routine review of the computer
printout from the multi-day run that began on August 15th.
Several pages into the computer printout I was astonished to see
the string of numbers and characters '6EQUJ5' in channel 2 of
"I immediately recognized this as the pattern we would expect to
see from a narrowband radio source of small angular diameter in
the sky. In the red pen I was using I immediately circled those
six characters and wrote the notation 'Wow!' in the left margin
of the computer printout opposite them.
"After I completed the review of the rest of the printout, I
contacted Bob Dixon and Dr. John D. Kraus, the Director of the
Big Ear Radio Observatory. They were astonished too. Then we
began an analysis of what has been called for more then 20 years
the "Wow! source."
Could the signal actually be of
Ohio State University researchers weren't
sure. They trained the massive scope on that part of the sky for the
next month, but the signal was never recorded again.
Dr. Ehman, who has continued his research on the "Wow!" signal,
writes that after more than twenty years, the signal still remains a
"Even if it were intelligent beings
sending a signal, they'd do it far more than once," Ehman says.
"We should have seen it when we looked for it again. At this
point we have eliminated any terrestrial sources for the signal.
Thus, since all of the possibilities of a terrestrial origin
have been either ruled out or seem improbable, and since the
possibility of an extraterrestrial origin has not been able to
be ruled out, I must conclude that an ETI (Extraterrestrial
Intelligence) might have sent the signal that we received as the
"Of course, being a scientist, I await the reception of
additional signals like the "Wow!" source that are able to be
received and analyzed by many observatories. Thus, I must state
that the origin of the "Wow!" signal is still an open question
for me. There is simply too little data to draw many
conclusions. In other words, I choose not to draw vast
conclusions from 'half-vast' data."
Curious signals were picked up from 12
stars by the 300-foot radio telescope at Green Bank, WV, according
to an article published in the January 29, 1978 edition of The
Baltimore Sun. The signals took the form of strong bursts at a
wavelength of 21 cm, one of the wave lengths characteristic of the
Unfortunately, the signals were so short that their information
content, if any, could not be recorded. Since the bursts were not
repeated (except for a second burst from Barnard's Star), some
natural phenomenon may be at work rather than intelligent
communicators, who would presumably be more persistent.
The peculiar signals, which had never been recorded before, were
discovered as part of Project Ozma II, in which radio astronomers
listened to 21-cm radio waves from hundreds of nearby stars.
SETI is stepping up efforts to increase its chances of relocating
one of these signals and has secured the use of the world's largest
radio telescope at Arecibo in Puerto Rico. Scientists worldwide are
excited by possible future discoveries.
SETI scientists are also negotiating with British astronomers to
launch a five-year project to allow speedy verification and tracking
of these elusive noises. Whenever SETI identifies a suspect signal,
radio telescopes at Jodrell Bank will scan the same section of the
sky to locate it.
In this way the scientists can rule out possible
terrestrial interference from radar, airplanes, even microwave ovens
as a cause.
"I'm sure there are signals that
have come and gone that we couldn't get to the bottom of. That's
not to say it's little green men trying to communicate with us,
but we just don't know," said Dr Tom Muxlow, an astronomer at
the British radio astronomy observatory.
He disclosed that Jodrell Bank had
picked up about six rogue signals.
The possibility that the signals have extra-terrestrial origins
cannot be ignored, according to Nobel laureate Tony Hewish, emeritus
professor of radio astronomy at Cambridge University. In 1967 Hewish
and Jocelyn Bell, a student, believed they had found evidence of an
alien first contact when they detected a regular pulse of radio
signals coming from a distant star.
"It all had an air of unreality
about it, but for a month we thought it was possible that the
signals were coming from intelligent life on another planet.
When radio astronomers pick up signals that are very peculiar
they take it with a big pinch of salt, but you cannot remove the
possibility," said Hewish.
Instead, they had found a pulsar, a
rapidly spinning neutron star, a discovery for which Hewish won a
Nobel prize in 1974.
Shostak is not put off by the prospect that any signal from an alien
world would probably be indecipherable.
"If we heard from an ET, it
would be from a civilization that is a long way ahead of us, maybe
even a million years more advanced than we are," he said.
Recently, Peter Backus, of
Project Phoenix in California, believed
that he was listening to messages from outer space via the 64-meter Parkes radio telescope in Australia. The telescope, the biggest in
the southern hemisphere, picked up a distinct, but inexplicable,
radio signal around 2.4 gigahertz at about the same time each
However, a thorough investigation revealed that the scientists were
not listening to other planets communicating through space. Instead,
they were eavesdropping on meals cooking in the microwave oven
"It was pretty loud," Dr. Backus
told the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in
San Antonio. "One time I tracked one signal for two hours. I
couldn't rule it out as human noise. I was just about to tell my
colleagues when I realized that the signal was suspiciously
linked to break times."
Back to Contents