The radio, cell phone, and alternating current electricity have all revolutionized the way humans live and they all have one very important person in common: Nikola Tesla. Tesla, often called the Man Who Invented the 20th Century, was the most famous and perhaps most dangerous mind of his time. In 1943, he was found dead in a hotel room, his safe cracked open, and his research missing. The government swooped in and took possession of all the property and documents from his room at the New Yorker Hotel ostensibly to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, however most likely the deep state had created a false narrative to instruct the seizure of his files on the death ray and his other valuable inventions to use for their own nefarious purposes.
In 2016, the FBI declassified 250 documents that give fresh insight into Tesla’s final work and final days. These files reveal new information about a weapon Tesla conceived called the Death Ray and show world superpowers including the US, Soviet Union and Axis powers were all interested in the weapon. The declassified FBI files lead many experts to believe a full investigation is needed to determine what happened to Nikola Tesla. The bureau followed up with two additional releases, the latest in March 2018. But even with the publication of these documents, many questions still remain unanswered—and some of Tesla’s files are still missing.
Declassified files on Nikola Tesla published by the FBI reveal that the famous inventor’s rumored Death Ray technology actually exists and was hidden from the public after his death.
The declassified files, published after 73 years as a Freedom of Information release, provide vindication for conspiracy theorists who have long claimed that many Tesla innovations were suppressed by the powers that be, claims that scientists and mainstream media have rubbished as wild conspiracy theories – until now.
In the 1930s Tesla reportedly invented a particle beam weapon that some, ironically, called a “peace ray,” says Lauren Davis at io9. “The device was, in theory, capable of generating an intense targeted beam of energy” that could be used to dispose of enemy warplanes, foreign armies, “or anything else you’d rather didn’t exist.” According to the official version of events all these years, the Death Ray did not actually exist. But the declassified documents now suggest otherwise.
At the turn of the century, Tesla was the toast of America, the land to which he had emigrated from Serbia in 1884. Celebrated by the press and showered with gold medals, honors, and awards from prestigious institutions, he threw dinner parties at New York’s finest restaurants, entertained crowds with showy electricity demonstrations, and listed J.P. Morgan, John Jacob Astor, and Mark Twain among his many famous friends.
It was Tesla’s genius that solved the problem of how to distribute electricity safely and efficiently to homes, shops, and factories—something that had defeated Thomas Edison. With that innovation, he was instrumental in ushering in the new industrial age. He also gave the world its first, functional electric motor: Whenever a vacuum cleaner to life, a laptop powers up, or an overhead light is turned on, the technology used owes its existence to Tesla.
Quite the legacy. But the declassified FBI files prove these famous innovations are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tesla’s genius.
A few days after Tesla died on January 8th, 1943, his possessions were seized by officials from the bizarrely-named government Office of Alien Property. Three weeks later, all of Tesla’s property and documents were given a thorough examination by a group of FBI agents that included none other than John G. Trump, the uncle of Donald J. Trump.
The public were told that rumors of Death Ray technology, among other ‘out there’ innovations, were nothing more than that: Rumors. Nothing to see here, the FBI said at the time. Move along.
But the official dismissal of the contents of the papers Tesla left behind did not sit well with many folks throughout the next 73 years. As if the FBI and government would be willing to admit that it found plans for, let’s say, the Death Ray that Tesla was working on in the last years of his life. That kind of situation is ground zero for conspiracy theories.
Until now Tesla researchers and enthusiasts have had to make do with a few partially released, hard to track down documents that only hinted at what might be the truth about the extent of the genius inventor’s work. What became of Tesla’s most secret tech – or if it even existed outside the imaginative world – was largely a mystery, with most scientists and mainstream media rubbishing rumors about Tesla’s Death Ray as wild conspiracy theories.
So did Tesla really develop the Death Ray?
The declassified FBI documents prove that Tesla’s Death Ray is not just a product of overactive science fiction writers’ minds, but is real Tesla tech. What’s more, the White House was “vitally interested” in the effects of the Death Ray, with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President, Henry Wallace, mentioned in the declassified FBI records as having advisors discuss “the effects of TESLA, particularly those dealing with the wireless transmission of electrical energy and the “death ray.”
“During his lifetime had conducted many experiments in connection with the wireless transmission of electrical power and what is commonly called the “death ray”…. he had been in telephone communication with … one of the advisers to the Vice President Wallace … the government was vitally interested in the effects of TESLA, particularly those dealing with the wireless transmission of electrical energy and the “death ray,” one declassified FBI document says.
What happened to this technology after the White House took an interest in it – and then denied its existence until today, branding anybody interested in it a “conspiracy theorist” – is not discussed in the declassified files.
The files are available to view at the FBI vault here.
Then there’s the nagging question of the missing files. When Tesla died, his estate was to go to his nephew, Sava Kosanovic, who at the time was the Yugoslav ambassador to the U.S. (thanks to his familial connection with Serbia’s most celebrated inventor). According to the recently declassified documents, some in the FBI feared Kosanovic was trying to wrest control of Tesla’s technology in order to “make such information available to the enemy,” and even considered arresting him to prevent this.
In 1952, after a U.S. court declared Kosanovic the rightful heir to his uncle’s estate, Tesla’s files and other materials were sent to Belgrade, Serbia, where they now reside in the Nikola Tesla Museum there. But while the FBI originally recorded some 80 trunks among Tesla’s effects, only 60 arrived in Belgrade, Seifer says. “Maybe they packed the 80 into 60, but there is the possibility that…the government did keep the missing trunks.”
For the five-part HISTORY series The Tesla Files, Seifer joined forces with Dr. Travis Taylor, an astrophysicist, and Jason Stapleton, an investigative reporter, to search for these missing files and seek out the truth of the government’s views on the “Death Ray” particle-beam weapon and Tesla’s other ideas.
When biographer Margaret Cheney looked into the military’s possession of Tesla papers taken from the Office of Alien Properties, the trail led to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The response from Wright-Patterson AFB under the Freedom of Information Act in 1980 was that “The organization (Equipment Laboratory) that performed the evaluation of Tesla’s papers was deactivated several years ago. After conducting an extensive search of lists of records retired by that organization, in which we found no mention of Tesla’s papers, we concluded that the documents were destroyed at the time the laboratory was deactivated.”
Believe that or not, the fact remains that a great discoverer was left out of our history books but is known among researchers of alternative technology. Does the military own Tesla technology information which could be used for cleaning up the planet instead of for destructive purposes? Did those industrialists who have monopolies on coal and oil also try to control Tesla’s legacy?
Despite John G. Trump’s dismissive assessment of Tesla’s ideas immediately after his death, the military did try and incorporate particle-beam weaponry in the decades following World War II, Seifer says. Notably, the inspiration of the “Death Ray” fueled Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” program, in the 1980s. If the government is still using Tesla’s ideas to power its technology, Seifer explains, that could explain why some files related to the inventor still remain classified.
There is evidence that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president, Henry Wallace, discussed “the effects of TESLA, particularly those dealing with the wireless transmission of electrical energy and the ‘death ray’” with his advisors, according to FBI documents released in 2016. Along the same lines, Seifer and his colleagues in The Tesla Files uncovered the role played by Vannevar Bush, whom FDR appointed as head of the Manhattan Project, in the evaluation of Tesla’s papers. They also looked at the possibility that FDR himself may have sought a meeting with the inventor just before he died.
By visiting some of the key places in Tesla’s life—from his laboratory in Colorado Springs to his last living quarters at the Hotel New Yorker to the mysterious wireless tower he built at Wardenclyffe, Long Island—Seifer, Taylor and Stapleton sought to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the celebrated, enigmatic inventor. They also traveled to California, where some of Tesla’s other groundbreaking ideas —many of which were seen as unrealistic or even crackpot during his own lifetime—now fuel some of the most dominant industries in Silicon Valley.
Although some of his more sensitive innovations may still be hidden, Tesla’s legacy is alive and well, both in the devices we use every day, and the technologies that will undoubtedly play a role in our future. “Tesla is the inventor of wireless technology. He’s the inventor of the ability to create an unlimited number of wireless channels,” Seifer says of the inventor’s lasting impact. “So radio guidance systems, encryption, remote control robots—it’s all based on Tesla’s technology.”