One of the most famous inventors and thinkers in history, as well as one of the most misunderstood, must certainly be the Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist Nikola Tesla. His contributions to science and technology are immeasurable, throughout his life developing a range of electrical and mechanical devices, his alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase AC patents, early X-ray imaging devices, and numerous other inventions considered to be nothing short of miracles in his time. He was well ahead of his time, and also predicted many of the technological innovations we take for granted today, such as smartphones and wireless communication, and by the time he died in 1943 Tesla was the holder of over a thousand patents of all kinds, including neon lights, remote automation systems, artificial lightning, particle beam energy, and many, many more. Of course, considering his mystery and mystique, many stories and conspiracies have gravitated towards Nikola Tesla, including alleged participation in the Philadelphia experiment using teleportation, the invention of the perpetual motion machine, the creation of a deadly beam weapon called the “death ray,” and others, and among these some of the weirdest have to do with alleged alien intelligences.
The rumors of Tesla and his connection to aliens have gone deep, with all sorts of conspiracies stating that he was contacted by aliens who helped him along and even that he was an alien himself, but the most intriguing are the ones that Tesla claimed himself. In an article for Collier’s Weekly in 1901, Tesla would make the claim that he had listened in on actual alien communications at his lab in Colorado Springs in 1899. This was an era in which both he and Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi were pioneering the push into radio technology with their groundbreaking discoveries, and one night Tesla would be testing out a unique radio antenna designed to monitor thunderstorms he claimed that he had eavesdropped into communications by otherworldly alien intelligences. He would say in the article:
Even now, at times, I can vividly recall the incident, and see my apparatus as though it were actually before me. My first observations positively terrified me, as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural, and I was alone in my laboratory at night; but at that time the idea of these disturbances being intelligently controlled signals did not yet present itself to me. It was some time afterward when the thought flashed upon my mind that the disturbances I had observed might be due to an intelligent control. Although I could not decipher their meaning, it was impossible for me to think of them as having been entirely accidental. The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been the first to hear the greeting of one planet to another.
Tesla would speculate that the aliens were perhaps from Mars, which at the time was the main culprit for anything alien related, and he became obsessed with further refining his technology so that he might further communicate with these entities. Marconi himself agreed that this was a perfectly legitimate pursuit, and pursued his own radio communications with aliens, which he would claim were met with success, stating:
I have encountered during my experiments with wireless telegraphy a most amazing phenomenon. Most striking of all is receipt by me personally of signals which I believe originated in the space beyond our planet. I believe it is entirely possible that these signals may have been sent by the inhabitants of other planets to the inhabitants of earth. If there are any human beings on Mars I would not be surprised if they should find a means of communication with this planet, a linking of the science of astronomy with that of electricity may bring about almost anything.
This all stirred up quite a bit of excitement at the time, appearing in the media in numerous articles and catching the attention of the great inventor and one-time partner of Tesla turned rival Thomas Edison. Edison was fascinated by the idea of pursuing radio technology for the purposes of communicating with aliens on Mars, and would himself say:
Although I am not an expert in wireless telegraphy, I can plainly see that the mysterious wireless interruptions experienced by Mr. Marconi’s operators may be good grounds for the theory that inhabitants of other planets are trying to signal us. Mr. Marconi is quite right in stating that this is entirely within the realm of possible. If we are to accept the theory of Mr. Marconi that these signals are being sent out by inhabitants of other planets, we must as once accept with it the theory of their advanced development. Either they are our intellectual equal or our superiors. It would be stupid of us to assume that we have the corner on all the intelligence in the universe.
Through all of this Tesla supposedly actually invented new antennae towers and equipment specifically for the purpose of continuing his eavesdropping sessions on the aliens, and he seemed to be pushing for this technology to be used for what he saw as a sort of new frontier for the human race. He would express enthusiasm and optimism in this endeavor, once writing:
One day my ear caught what seemed to be regular signals. I knew they could not have been produced upon Earth. Marconi’s idea of communicating with the other planets is the greatest and most fascinating problem confronting the human imagination today. To ensure success a body of competent scientists should be organized to study all possible plans and put into excitation the best. The matter should be directed probably by astronomers with sufficient backing from men with money and imagination. Supposing that there are intelligent human beings on Mars, success is easily within the range of possibility.
Most certainly, some planets are not inhabited, but others are, and among these there must exist life under all conditions and phases of development. Personally, I base my faith on the feeble planetary electrical disturbances which I discovered in the summer of 1899, and which, according to my investigations, could not have originated from the sun, the moon or Venus. Further study science has satisfied me that they must have emanated from Mars. All doubt in this regard will soon be dispelled. I have observed electrical actions, which have appeared inexplicable. Faint and uncertain though they were, they have given me a deep conviction and foreknowledge, that ere long all human beings on this globe, as one, will turn their eyes to the firmament above, with feelings of love and reverence, thrilled by the glad news.
Interestingly, although Tesla found so much promise in this, he would suddenly give up his experiments delving into such matters, spawning conspiracy theories that he was silenced by those who did not want this knowledge to be known. It dovetails nicely into the fact that much of his writings and diaries were confiscated by the FBI after his death, and it all adds a further layer to the mysterious life of an already enigmatic figure. Tesla had become almost legendary, with countless tales of weirdness surrounding him, and now we can add the time he supposedly contacted aliens to the mix. It is perfectly feasible that he merely picked up anomalous signals from space that had more mundane explanations beyond their ability to explain at the time, but in the end we are left to wonder what he really found, and what might have happened had he been allowed to continue his research. It is all very fascinating indeed, and adds to the many tales of this mysterious figure from history.