a mad science pilgrimage


My wife Barbara and I are off this weekend for a pilgrimage to Wardenclyffe, the site of inventor-phycisist-futurist-wildman Nikola Tesla's last working laboratory. Wardenclyffe was supposed to be Tesla's crowning achievement. Behind the lab was a 180-foot-tall tower that reportedly shot sparks into the night sky (how cool is that?).

According to Jane Alcorn, president of the nonprofit group The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, “Tesla dreamed of having this site be a place where he could transmit messages and pictures wirelessly." (This more than a hundred years ago – how can you not love this guy?) 

Tesla, widely credited with design of the modern AC electricity supply system, also hoped to wirelessly transmit electric power free to everyone in the world. The Wardenclyffe Tower was the site he built to do that. 

Alas, he couldn't pull it off, and Tesla's old building is long abandoned – windows boarded, weed and vine laden, behind a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. No Trespassing and For Sale signs. Sad, until recently, when Internet cartoonist The Oatmeal got behind fundraising efforts to turn the site into a Tesla Museum. (Hooray for them, truly, but that's another story – theirs.) 

For me, Wardenclyffe is a haunted site in the best way. And I want to get down there while it's still abandoned and forlorn. I mean, Tesla lived out his last years as a recluse in a New York hotel, tending to pigeons and getting a reputation as a mad scientist. Which, in combination with his significant achievements, is why he's part of my ongoing project around astronomers, alchemists, and other (not so) mad scientists. 


So here's hoping that a) Wardenclyffe is still a ruin, and b) the work to turn it into a Tesla Museum is wildly successful. I don my pith helmet and begin the quest.