Nikola Tesla Earthquake Machine: Electro-mechanical Oscilator

Nikola Tesla revealed that an earthquake which drew police and ambulances to the region of his laboratory at 48 E. Houston St., New York, in 1898, was the result of a little machine he was experimenting with at the time which “you could put in your overcoat pocket”

Nikola Tesla is today famous for his work on electricity and energy. He developed the alternating current system, making it possible to transmit electricity over large distances, and worked also on wireless communication and energy transfer. He was a brilliant thinker, but also very eccentric.

Maybe the more enigmatic parts of his personality make him such an interesting subject for conspiracists. Tesla is credited to have worked on unknown energy-sources, to be contacted by UFOs, caused the Tunguska explosion by a death-ray, and even worked on an earthquake-generator.

In 1896 Tesla was working on oscillations to be used for energy transfer. The idea was to create a steam-powered oscillator, able to create various frequencies. If the frequency-matched the resonance frequency, a receiving device should transform the mechanical oscillations back into an electric current.

It was a quiet day in 1898 when the residents of several blocks of buildings in the crowded Chinese and Italian neighbourhoods of Manhattan began to experience a tremor that soon began to shake all buildings and shatter glass, causing people to run scared on the streets of New York.

The police were forced to rush in to assess the situation. After checking that the quake was confined to that small part of the city and suspects who could be the cause, the police sent two of their agents to 46 East Houston Street.

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Just before entering the building, they noticed that the tremor stopped, and when they passed through the door of a laboratory, they were received by a tall and thin man, with a moustache, elegantly dressed, and armed with a hammer. The man calmly told them,

“Gentlemen,” he announced, “I am sorry. You are just a trifle too late to witness my experiment. I found it necessary to stop it suddenly and unexpectedly in an unusual way. However, if you will come around this evening, I will have another oscillator attached to a platform and each of you can stand on it. You will, I am sure, find it a most interesting and pleasurable experience. Now, you must leave, for I have many things to do. Good day.”

The cause of that incident had been a small electromechanical oscillator (Earthquake Machine) with which Tesla was experimenting that day for his research into mechanical resonance. After placing it on a pillar of his laboratory, the vibration caused by the instrument began to spread through the underground of the building to neighbouring buildings creating chaos among its neighbours.

So absorbed and fascinated was Tesla that did not decide to end the experiment until he noticed that his entire laboratory was shaking vigorously.

Another of his experiments he would tell a few years later to a journalist. This time Tesla decided to experiment outside his laboratory and after locating a building under construction in the Wall Street neighborhood which was still a metal skeleton, he placed the oscillator on one of the beams and activated it.

In a few minutes, the entire structure of ten floors of the building began to vibrate, frightening the workers and causing the police to make an appearance again. Before anyone could realize what was happening, Tesla deactivated the device, put it in his pocket and continued on his way.

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An oscillator that was among the exhibits Tesla demonstrated at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

In the same interview the inventor said that in less than an hour he could knock down the Brooklyn Bridge, and he even claimed that with a suitable machine and dynamite, he would be able to split the Earth in two.

“I was experimenting with vibrations. I had one of my machines going and I wanted to see if I could get it in tune with the vibration of the building. I put it up notch after notch. There was a peculiar cracking sound. I asked my assistants where did the sound come from. They did not know. I put the machine up a few more notches. There was a louder cracking sound. I knew I was approaching the vibration of the steel building. I pushed the machine a little higher.

“Suddenly all the heavy machinery in the place was flying around. I grabbed a hammer and broke the machine. The building would have been about our ears in another few minutes. Outside in the street there was pandemonium. The police and ambulances arrived. I told my assistants to say nothing. We told the police it must have been an earthquake. That’s all they ever knew about it.”

Some shrewd reporter asked Nikola Tesla at this point what he would need to destroy the Empire State Building with his Earthquake Machine and the doctor replied:

“Vibration will do anything. It would only be necessary to step up the vibrations of the machine to fit the natural vibration of the building and the building would come crashing down. That’s why soldiers break step crossing a bridge.”

Tesla later explained this principle to reporter Allan L. Besnson, who published in February 1912 an article about Tesla’s resonator in The World Today magazine:

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“He put his little vibrator in his coat-pocket and went out to hunt a half-erected steel building. Down in the Wall Street district, he found one, ten stories of steel framework without a brick or a stone laid around it. He clamped the vibrator to one of the beams, and fussed with the adjustment until he got it.

Tesla said finally the structure began to creak and weave and the steel-workers came to the ground panic-stricken, believing that there had been an earthquake. Police was called out. Tesla put the vibrator in his pocket and went away. Ten minutes more and he could have laid the building in the street. And, with the same vibrator, he could have dropped the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River in less than an hour.”

On the occasion of his annual birthday celebration interview by the press on July 10, 1935, in his suite at the Hotel New Yorker, Tesla announced a method of transmitting mechanical energy accurately with minimal loss over any terrestrial distance, including a related new means of communication and a method, he claimed, which would facilitate the unerring location of underground mineral deposits.

At that time he recalled the earth-trembling “quake” that brought police and ambulances rushing to the scene of his Houston Street laboratory while an experiment was in progress with one of his mechanical oscillators.

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