I assume that those young readers who follow my popular column in the Electrical Experimenter magazine are familiar with the Vampire (or wampir, as my Croatian grandparents called it in stories to keep us children from roaming outside at night). In fact, now that motion pictures feature sound However, I also am aware that for most adult Americans of late 1897, the plasticity of their brains hardening into rigidity of “everyday” behavior and thought meant that they were not conversant with the ancient legends of undead, blood-hungry ghouls who rise and feed on the living once the sun goes down. These creatures, formerly human, may transmogrify into wolves, or bats, or even mist; or so the Old World legends say.
The legends are true; this adventure has made that statement undeniable. Yes, it is an incredible story I shall now recall for you from my eidetic memory. Yet I—Nikola Tesla, inventor, scientist, a man whom some call “The Messiah of Electricity”—once faced the sinister creature myself, and it looked as if even I might not successfully defeat this ancient evil. Children who are overly impressionable or women currently with child or who expect to be thusly burdened soon should not shy away from this true and accurate report, for it shall strengthen the weak and fortify the strong alike.
Allow me to begin, as all scientists must, with the initial evidence as it was laid before me. It was late summer of 1897, when, after much suffering and falling prey to the “American humor” of one Thomas Alva Edison, I was finally making Alternating Current the dominant success in the world.
An Anomalous Incident Occurs.
In the streets of New York City, whence I moved from the cultured and timeless cities of Europe, I always employed the use of a walking stick, an ebony cane with a silver handle in the shape of a pigeon’s head. This I had used on several occasions in the gentleman’s defensive fighting technique known as Bartitsu. I was on the pavement, avoiding as best I could the waste-slickened streets of New Amsterdam, when I was approached by a young hooligan of massive size but with the smooth face of a boy not yet old enough to shave. I begged his pardon when he stepped in front of me, the polite thing to do even though I was in the right and it was he who should have apologized.
He puffed out his chest and presented me with nothing short of a brick wall through which I obviously was not intended to pass. “Yer wallet, wop, gimme it,” he said in a voice just comprehensible enough to recognize he thought me an Italian.
“I believe you are looking for someone of Sicilian descent, or perhaps Roman. Both fine peoples, I am sure”—a lie; I shared his distaste for hirsute folk—“but I am not among their numbers. Now, kindly allow me to pass. I do not wish to step into the muck of the street.”
“All right, ya g——d frog, your money or your life.”
Quite involuntarily, my thick, not cretinously thin, moustache twitched. “Do I really look a Frenchman, or even a Belgian? Young sir, you treat me ill.”
“I’m gonna treat yer teeth to a trip down yer throat, ya … kraut?”
“If yer an Arab, I’m a monkey’s uncle. Gimme yer money already.”
“You shall be relieved: you have no simian relatives in your line.” The irony was, of course, that he looked more simian than a gorilla at the zoo.
“Greek? I mean, hand it over, ya olive-picker.”
“Come now, there are only so many countries a white man may hail from.”
His brow knotted, and were I an acolyte of the phrenologists, I would be tempted to think this man a thief or some other unsavory type. Fortunately, he merely seemed as dim in mind as he was Olympian in body. “Uh, maybe Russian or something? I dunno the right word—”
“No, I’m sorry. They are a noble people, but I am not among their number.”
“Canuck? Hebe? Polack?”
“Please allow me to end your suffering. I am from Croatia. The relevant slur, I believe, would be ‘Stable Boy,” because of our proud tradition of—UNGGH!” I yelped in pain—the ignoble blackguard had just punched me in the nose!
“Gimme yer f——g money, now!” With this, he lunged at me, but I quickly slipped behind him, coiled my right arm around his while using the point of my walking stick’s bill to threaten violation of his jugular vein. He was quite paralyzed by the pressure on these points. He seemed specially to rue the silver bird.
What he didn’t know and in fact couldn’t know—my patents being frequently stolen or copied, I did not patent this because I didn’t want my own invention used against me—was that my walking stick was far more dangerous than it looked. This was owing to the tight coil of copper wire making up the interior of the cane. At the bottom was a nine-volt battery of my own invention (equipped with the proper impact protection so that using it as a cane would not agitate the chemicals) which, in much less than the blink of an eye, would be iteratively increased in voltage until, set free, it was enough to knock down an American buffalo, let alone a misguided thug. (The amperage was kept low—this was purely a defensive weapon, not meant to kill its target. However, and ironically now that I look back upon these events, the cane utilized Direct Current because of its injurious power over small distances.) Additionally, silver is an excellent conductor of electricity in addition to being quite stylish no matter what the ensemble its holder has chosen.
I gave the man a sympathetic smile and told him, “Both my money and my papers were stolen from me upon my arrival to your sooty town of opportunity, so, sadly, I have none to share. If I release you, will you allow me to continue on my way?”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Mac.”
“I’m not Scottish, either, my large friend, but thank you for your kindness,” I said, and released him.
Disappointingly, the instant he was freed from my Bartitsu hold, the miscreant spun and lunged at me again, murder more in his eyes now than simple avarice. Again I fooled him into the exact same hold, this time applying pressure with my arm and snapping his in both the upper humerus and the lower ulna. He cried out, and I immediately released him again, as doing more injury to him than absolutely necessary was anathema to me.
“I do apologize, my good fellow, but it was … necessary … to …” My words were lost as I watched the man step back, bones broken through the skin in two places of his right arm and tears of pain flowing down the pale expression of rage on his face. He kept his eyes locked to mine as he whipped his arm in the air and the broken bones snapped back into place. Then the punctured flesh surrounding the wounds—and, Dear Reader, I assure you this was as unbelievable to me then as it may be to you now—sealed up and now looked as if the man had never been injured at all!
His strength returned but his martial strategies still sadly lacking, he rushed me again, head-on like a steam locomotive. In the few seconds I had, my mind quickly came to the conclusion that the application of normal pugilistic techniques or even of my redoubtable Bartitsu would result in a closed loop of attack-defend-heal-attack until one of us tired and the other was able to strike the victorious blow. However, since this … man? … could apparently heal any wound, my only recourse was my electric walking stick.
I sidestepped his newest blundering attack and pointed the silver tip of my cane at him, from which he flinched even before I unleashed the electrical bolt that galvanized his large corpus and sent him stiffly to the ground like a plank of wood. Unfortunately for him, his body’s choice of landing spot meant he fell face-first into the fecal muck of the cobblestone street, allowing me passage at last on the pavement with the minimal inconvenience to me of stepping over his motionless legs.
My readers probably have surmised that New York City is a shady and often villainous place. But what happened next perplexed me and forced me to view the Empire City as infinitely more dangerous than I had formerly any reason to assume.
The thug did not stay down, as someone even of his immense build should have given the large dose of electricity I had just run through his body. Instead, before I was even ten feet away at my admittedly quick pace, I heard him growl—there is no more appropriate term for the sound—and when I turned to satisfy my curiosity, I saw that he had indeed “shaken off” the cane’s effects. He stood, a bit disoriented, but quickly found me within his ken, and roared with an open mouth as he barreled toward me. Within that mouth, Dear Reader, were long canines which resembled nothing so much as fangs.
My observant eye had noticed no such elongated and sharp teeth when the man had first spoken to me. In any case, this now-befanged bully rushed me much yet again in the manner of a raging two-legged bull, and, to my dismay, I knew the cane could not again release its electric mayhem until I had built and installed a new battery. (Needless to say, even had I time, I did not have the materials at hand there on the pavement to construct such a power source.) Thus, I relied on the tactic of concentrating all one’s mass into a single spot—in this case, the silver head of my cane—in order to provide as much resistance to his momentum as possible. To effect this, I held the length of my stick into a line formed by my outstretched arm and hand holding it and ending where I expected the face of my charging attacker would soon arrive. I, of course, possessed no momentum but would use his against him. (His large mass multiplied by his fast speed would be sure to ensure a dramatic result.) I doubted he would “stay down,” but perhaps I could effect my escape while he was thus stunned by his own momentum being bounced back to him, if you will.
I could see his eyes widen as he recognized the silver pigeon’s head, but his immense size and almost-inhuman speed resulted in such momentum that he was unable to retard it or even change its vector, bringing his baby’s face into sudden and violent contact with the pigeon. It would be expected at this point for one’s tormentor to fall back with a broken nose, teeth, and/or cheekbone. If the opponent were not dissuaded from consciousness entirely, he would almost inevitably bring an end to the altercation by retreating to tend his wounds.
This is not what happened.
Instead, the instant the thug’s flesh made contact with the silver handle, his flesh sizzled and burned as if it had been insulted with a strong acid; the fangs in the man’s mouth were now unmistakable as he screamed. He now fell to the pavement again, but this time with his hands to his face and writhing in great pain. As appropriate for an attempted mugging, the now-screaming man had chosen a deserted street—I had chosen this same street for ease of maintaining my brisk walking pace to work—and no one appeared in order to come to his aid or to question me. Knowing I had neither help to offer nor believable explanation to provide to the authorities, I swiftly removed myself through an alley onto a much busier thoroughfare, one that I hoped would allow a personage even such as I to disappear into the crowd.
An Initial Hypothesis Is Formed.
Without further interruption, I completed my trek to my Electrical Machine Works on Manhattan’s lower east side. My reputation at a height only to be surpassed by later achievements, I oversaw a variety of engineering tasks at the Works with my eyes and body while simultaneously solving puzzling electrical challenges in my mind. This morning I was technically at work on drawing a diagram showing how we could bypass some vexing challenge (I forget now which, but my solution was no doubt a success), but my mind was obsessed with the very odd man I had encountered on my trip to work. (I had learned long ago to follow my mind where it took me, as it almost unfailingly chose the more interesting path.)
Still drawing, I organized the information collected from mine own eyes, but it didn’t add up to anything coherent: a large and dim-witted attacker, choosing me as his target for robbery or worse; his apparent ability to heal broken bones and torn flesh almost immediately; his similarly fast recovery from an electrical shock just this side of lethal; the appearance of fangs where none had been visible before; and a violent reaction to the silver in my pigeon cane’s head.
I am a scientist and creator of useful tools in the physical world, not some metaphysician weaving rainbows out of misunderstood perceptions. However, this incident did vex me, as its mishmash of impressions seemed otherworldly, even unreal. As I say, not having the inclination to truck with such classifications, I reconstructed the attack again and again in my mind, just as I would if I were picturing the workings of a new and innovative machine I was in the process of mentally designing.
Before me was the evidence I possessed, and I moved forward with the process of making an initial scientific hypothesis based on that evidence. I had to hand the following observations, which the average human mind may take as “facts” but which I have trained myself to identify as merely tentative possibilities. To wit:
F An aggressive young man molested me on a public street. (Not unusual in this City, but not precisely what one expects while on a walk to his place of business, either.)
F This young man was unusually pale and his face distractingly cherubic.
F The man possessed elongated canine teeth, sharp at the ends, giving him the look of a wolf with fangs.
F He seemed only mildly stunned at a nearly lethal discharge of voltage and amperage, one that would have rendered an American megafauna unconscious for hours.
F His broken arm not only healed nearly instantaneously, but the bones set themselves and the skin they punctured closed without any evidence of even a scratch.
F After the shock from my cane sent him falling into the muck of the street, the man’s feces-covered face reacted quite violently to a strong head-on strike with the silver pigeon’s head of my electrical walking stick. Even before he fell again, he held his hands against is face and a distinct “sizzling” sound was apparent as he writhed in pain and I effected my getaway.
Thus ended my list of observations, and they proved devilishly difficult to correlate into anything comprehensible. However, my highly self-trained mind had, by the time I finished with quick strides the trek to my workplace, not only correlated the contents of my mind but had also produced, as a finely tuned factory machine might, a perfectly plausible hypothesis for the morning’s unusual experience. Just so:
F The unfortunate young man who accosted me that morning was suffering from rabies, a horrific condition that affects both mind and body and is invariably fatal. One of this disease’s most prominent symptoms is physical aggression against any person or animal unlucky enough to cross the sufferer’s path.
F Paleness is another symptom of rabies (of course, since the body is in the process of dying). I could find no explanation for the cherubic face of my assailant and must file that under “Irrelevancies” in my version of Cicero’s “mind palace.” These memories are never lost, no matter how apparently trivial at the time, and this has proved quite useful to me when pursuing several research goals at one time.
F Rabies causes a foaming at the mouth, which undoubtedly was what was occurring within my assaulter. The tacky texture of this “foam” stuck to his canines as he attacked, giving those teeth the appearance of fangs.
F I must attribute the man’s quick recovery from the electric discharge of my cane to some fault in its battery. Despite my efforts at shock absorption, the chemicals producing the current in the device sometimes leak or do not mix entirely effectively. I was fortunate that it sent a shock into the man at all.
F Regarding my attacker’s apparently broken arm, I must admit—as I have in my autobiography and elsewhere, never concealing any fact whether it made me seem better or worse in readers’ eyes—that since childhood I have had a most overactive imagination. While this has assisted me in powering much of the civilized work with Alternating Current, conceived and developed completely within my imagination and something no one else had even dreamt of prior to its patenting, it also occasionally causes a jumping at shadows or the visual perception of apparent objects that do not exist. I am an expert at Bartitsu, and I fully expected to have broken my aggressor’s arm, and that is why I saw it as broken. In fact the arm was never broken and its magical “healing” therefore imaginary.
F Finally, the unfortunate rabies victim must have cut his face on some debris in the filthy roadway after my initial “zap” from the pigeon’s head. His face covered now in acidic filth, he felt it keenly when the head of my cane landed forcefully against that face, apparently pushing in some of the sharp and cutting debris as well as filling the wounds with that horrid muck. This caused him extreme and sudden pain, making him fall to the ground with his hands over his wounded face, writhing in agony. The “sizzling” sound was merely that of a sudden intake of breath through closed rows of teeth.
Thus, all of the apparently paranormal phenomena during the encounter were shown by me to be physically unremarkable, if extremely unfortunate for the young man … and also for myself, had he succeeded in his biting assault.
Contradictory Evidence Is Received.
Thomerson, my very able assistant, tapped at the door, and I bade him to enter. “Good morning to you, Mister Thomerson,” I said, not looking up from my diagram and not being distracted from my line of thought. He was a merry and competent fellow who caused few worries for any who worked with him.
“Mister Tesla,” he said in a voice so low I would not have recognized it as his if I hadn’t known he just entered my office, “may I ask what you think about the vampire scourge?”
A fluorescent light bulb lighted inside my brain. Vampires! I knew the tales from the Old World, as I have said, but it was truly jarring to hear the ancient word spoken in the New York City of 1897. My train of thought broken and the diagram before me suddenly rendered invisible, my head jerked up at Thomerson. “How do you—scourge?—wait, did you just say vampires?”
“Indeed, sir,” he said, and held up a copy of the New York Journal-American. In large print that reached across the front page was
NEW YORK ‘DRACULA’
DRAINS ANOTHER VICTIM
I straightened my tie and cufflinks, then asked my fellow worker, “What in heaven is a ‘Dracula’? And what does that mean, it ‘drained’ a person?”
“Have you not read Mister Stoker’s novel, sir? It tells about a creature that roams the night, biting its victims and drinking their blood—”
“Yes, yes, I’m familiar with the vampire myth. But what is this ‘Dracula’?”
“Why, the name of the beast, sir! He kills some victims and turns others into bloodsuckers like himself! I have told my wife and daughters not to leave the house after sundown and to put out garlic, and I can tell you outfitting my door with a cross made of pure silver foil has been most effective in keeping the vampire away. The unholy creature can’t stand crosses or garlic or silver. Burns like acid is what the touch of silver does to a vampire, Mister Tesla.”
Of course this roused my interest, as the detail about silver echoed my encounter on the way to the Works with the unfortunate rabies sufferer. “This Stoker fellow is an expert on vampires?”
“Correct once again, sir. His book—it’s called Dracula, same as the monster’s name—tells how the creature moves, kills, and makes others like himself, but also notes the proper protection against a bloodsucker. The book is all the rage—I can hardly believe you haven’t seen it!—and just in time, too, since it seems he has come to America now to feed on our fresher New World blood, if you take my meaning.”
Thomerson knows that I sleep very little, not wanting to waste a moment when I could be exploring the workings of the world or devising unprecedented schemes to harness those workings. However, I rarely took time to read, and fiction was terribly irrelevant to my pursuits, so I almost never partook, whether it was a dime novel or a longer work by anyone but Samuel Clemens. (Poetry, however, is truth sung to the soul, and I have ever enjoyed opening a book of verse at random and drinking it in.) This work of fiction, however, intrigued me now for obvious reasons.
Before I could even raise the question, my loyal man placed a yellow-covered book into my hands and said, “Might you want to borrow my copy? I believe you won’t be able put it down until you’re finished!”
I smiled, thinking that Thomerson would make a great pitchman for the Tesla Works if he had this much enthusiasm for a ghost story. I took the already dog-eared copy from him and examined its cover, which gave both the title and the author’s name (Bram Stoker—short for Abraham?) but no hints of the lurid tale within. “Thank you, my man. I shall peruse this, and perhaps we can talk about wampirs tomorrow?”
Thomerson looked at me in astonishment, as if I had grown floppy rabbit ears, his amazed smile quickly accompanied by a nod as he said, “Yes, sir! That would be terrific! I, um, I …”
“Didn’t know your ‘boss man’ would be interested in such subject matter?”
“Well … yes.” He cleared his throat. “Sir.”
I shook his hand and sent him back to work with that dazed look on his face, which amused me no end. Then I instructed my secretary to consider me “out” for the rest of the day, and I closed my office door, sat down, and started reading. Usually, I read speedily, sucking the marrow—perhaps an infelicitous metaphor at the present time—from any technical book, but Dracula kept me pinned like a butterfly under glass and had me taking my time with every word.
Thomerson was right: I did not put the book down until I finished, one hour later.
A Second Hypothesis Is Formed.
This Bram Stoker was either creating a metaphor for rabies infection or else he was describing an ancient creature from the frightening legends of my youth in Croatia—and one “living” in Transylvania! That part of what is now Romania is less than five hundred miles from my birthplace, and noting that proximity, much “closer” in 1897 than it was in 1856, thanks to the innovation of rail travel.
Perhaps it was this familial sentiment that led me to tentatively accept as fact that Mister Stoker was describing real incidents—albeit with dramatic flourishes, appropriate since it was marketed as fiction—and that vampires were not only real, but at least one had arrived in New York City via an airship or steamship’s cargo hold. This is how Dracula reached England in the book, buried inside a coffin with soil from his native land. How much of the tale might be literally true I did not know, of course, but I do think that the Van Helsing vampire scholar was a stand-in for Mister Stoker himself. (As evidence, although not scientific, I note here that both their first names were Abraham. Since Mister Stoker is the sole author of the piece, this cannot be considered a coincidence.)
Using Dracula as my reference, I was able to compile a list of attributes that a “creature of the night” would possess:
F The ability to make others like himself, a vampire.
F That new vampire could in turn make others into vampires, although they remained under the sway of the initial vampire and often were forced not to do so for fear of discovery. Ironically, corpses aroused less suspicion than apparently impossible, “supernatural” creatures. Apparently my baby-faced assaulter was a spawn of the original Nosferatu, and possibly one permitted to turn other humans into either vampires or servants (see below).
F He acted as a street thief, but this was now transparently a ruse to get at my jugular. Of course the master of the creatures would want to make me a vampire, as I am Tesla and would be perhaps even more formidable as an ally than an enemy.
F A bite from a vampire does not kill, but is instead the vehicle by which the condition is transferred. This bite can also make victims the mindless servants of the vampire, but not vampires themselves. A vampire may choose to simply murder his victims, draining them of blood or simply ripping them apart with his inhuman strength.
F Vampires become as pale as milk, grow fangs, and possess superhuman healing abilities; their servants do not.
F Vampires are, for all intents and purposes, immortal. Bram Stoker in the guise of Doctor Van Helsing declares that “the Nosferatu do not die like the bees when they sting once. He is only stronger, and being stronger, have yet more power to work evil.” This explains my attacker’s ability to heal himself.
F This is not to say that a vampire or his servant cannot be killed. He may be killed (or perhaps “re-killed,” as Mister Stoker calls the creatures not dead or alive, but “undead”) by a wooden stake through his unbeating heart. This would kill anyone instantly, of course, but it is the only way a vampire may be killed.
F Vampires are much weakened by sunlight. This did not seem to be the case with my own Nosferatu, as his strength was repelled only by my Bartitsu training to repel his attack, a sharp jolt of electricity, and the silver pigeon head of my cane making contact with his face and disabling him long enough for me to get away. For this reason, I shall refer to him as a “daylight vampire.”
F As implied above, vampires can be painfully, though temporarily, affected by the touch of silver.
F The vampire is more rightly referred to by the moniker Nosferatu, which comes to us through the Romanian, where it is spelt Nesuferitu, meaning “the insufferable or repugnant one.” I shall continue to use the word vampire in this account, for Mister Stoker’s book has in a flash made the term universal, but retain Nosferatu to refer to the original “master” vampire.
F Perhaps because of the truth of Christian metaphysics; or, alternately, a pervasive belief in such a system, the vampire shies from crosses and crucifixes. It is not known whether the touch of a priest-blessed cross would actually harm the creature, but of course if it be made of silver it would produce the expected burning effect. (I thought of my late father, an Orthodox Priest who very much wanted me to join the clergy as well, and wondered if he would be proud that his son was about to embark on a most holy crusade against an ancient evil.)
F Mister Stoker includes many other details about how a vampire may move about, even over or through obstacles with the help of his undead servants, as well as ways to repel a vampire temporarily. One of these in particular assisted me, an event I shall explain in my recounting of my battle with the undead menace.
F A vampire appears younger with each new meal of warm blood. This may have explained my attacker’s cherubic face.
Given all of this evidence (which I certainly would have rejected out of hand as fantasy had I not come across the path of a person or creature matching these descriptions myself), my hypothesis had to be changed entirely: I now believed that I had encountered a “daylight vampire,” a spawn of a singularly devilish creature come recently from England (where Mister Stoker encountered it) by either ship or dirigible. My belief was also that this Nosferatu (and his spawn and slaves) were hiding somewhere in the City, and finding such a creature would require creativity, cleverness, and tireless resolve.
Fortunately, I possessed all of these qualities in abundance.
The Hypothesis Receives Expert Support.
I suppose one could say that my detailed plan to provide free energy to all citizens of the world has an analogue in the transoceanic telegraph cable that can send messages in Morse code from New York to Great Britain almost instantaneously. While not without its flaws—most of which could at that time be blamed on faulty electrical concepts, which I could have easily reworked if asked, but alas, I never was—the transatlantic communications cable was highly useful and made our planet a much smaller place even before the development of the airplane shrunk it further.
I made the trip to the telegraph office myself and wrote out a message which I told the clerk had to be sent with the utmost urgency. He recognized my visage—as well he should have, since a modified Tesla Coil was employed in every telegraph in the world at that time—and I didn’t have to say another word for my message to be moved to the top of his pile of outgoing message slips. My missive read:
TO MR STOKER 18 ST LEONARDS TERR KENSINGTON-CHELSEA SW3 LONDON UK
N TESLA HERE STOP POSSIBLE VAMPIRES IN NYC STOP MUST KNOW IF BOOK IS FICTION STOP I AWAIT IMMEDIATE REPLY STOP
The clerk tapped out my message, then looked at me in apology. “Mister Tesla, unless Mister Stoker has a telegraph in his home, he won’t receive this message until the delivery boy brings it to his door. Might you want me to ring you as soon as a return message is received?”
I considered the thoughtful offer, but declined. “It is from Tesla. If Mister Stoker’s home uses electricity, he knows who I am. In fact, even if he doesn’t have his home wired, he should know my name. No, I shall wait here, thank you.”
The clerk nodded politely, but I could tell he was a doubter. I had seen many of them during the ups and downs of my career, but they were almost always proven wrong, much to my amusement. Doubters strengthened my resolve.
I stood in a dusty corner of the telegraph office and ran through the evidence of a vampire “scourge,” as Thomerson had called it. Everything, even the baby’s face of my assailant, was explained through the theories put forth surreptitiously by the novel. I was convinced and ready to act as soon as I received confirmation from Mister Stoker that he was in fact more of a reporter in this case than a fictioneer.
I wasn’t waiting ten minutes when the receiver started clacking out a message, which the clerk interrupted sending a new patron’s message in order to grab and, examining it for an instant, handed it right over to me. He no longer had the countenance of a doubter; his amazed smile was my reward for believing in myself, a valuable prize indeed.
The reply from the writer was very short:
B STOKER HERE STOP WHAT WAS NUMBER OF YOUR FIRST PATENT STOP
It was time for me to show an astonished smile—this Stoker fellow was clever indeed, and he obviously was very familiar with my life and work, right down to my eidetic memory which brought forth the number of my very first patent and what it was awarded for. He also obviously knew that a long delay between the reception of his challenge and a response would mean that some reference material had to be procured to provide the correct answer. And he would not share information with an impostor. Thus, it gave me great pleasure to write on a new slip:
VERY CLEVER STOP PAT NUM 334823 JAN 26 86 COMMUTATOR FOR DYNAMOS STOP
which the clerk again put ahead of others’ orders and sent to Mister Stoker, smiling as he shared in my small triumph.
Again, it was just a moment until the receiver clacked again:
TESLA IMPORTANT STOP PLOT IS FICTION STOP DETAILS ARE NOT STOP ARM YRSELF AS IN BOOK STOP LOOK IN DARK PLACES FOR NESTS STOP STAKE WITHOUT PREJUDICE STOP I WILL DENY ALL IF QUESTIONED STOP YOU IF ANYONE CAN END THEM STOP GODSPEED STOP
This was exactly what I needed, a confirmation that my hypothesis was, although untested, given the approval of the world expert on the subject. It wasn’t until I was striding back to my building that it occurred to me that Bram Stoker, having been contacted by me only moments before responding with his test question, would not have had time to consult any register of U.S. patents, if indeed such a reference were available in his country.
In other words, the author had bluffed me as if we were playing at cards. Any immediate and confident response would have met with his approval; however, no one but I would have felt confident enough to give such a detailed response so quickly. In this way, Mister Bram Stoker had achieved his goal of guaranteeing that his information went only to the man he intended to have it. This clever stroke made me more confident than ever in the concealed truth of his novel, and it was not long before I had it in my hands again, memorizing Van Helsing’s offensive and defensive techniques against the vampires.
An Experiment Is Conceived.
I opened my office door and called for Thomerson; as an accomplished engineer himself as well as someone who followed instructions to the letter, he would be my ideal companion to help find and destroy this evil that threatened the adopted country I loved.
It is an old saw to say that a Herculean task of hunting for something hidden is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. However, I am Tesla; I would simply apply a powerful magnet to the haystack in question and watch the needle instantly leap from the chaff and affix itself to the magnet. A similar strategy would aid us in our search for a vampire and the Nosferatu himself.
Mental experimentation—what Mister Einstein calls Gedankenexperiment—is quite different from performing a physical experiment or test. For example, I run all iterations of a new electrical machine or innovation through my mind before ever committing anything even to paper, saving time, effort, and money. Contrast this with Mister Edison’s apish building of each machine to see if it works; then another he thinks might work better; and so on until he comes onto a solution via his shop of tinkerers. Most inefficient, although I know he is regarded as a genius by the populace for his incandescent light bulb (which gives off 90 percent of its energy as heat, unlike my terrifically efficient fluorescent tube).
This problem couldn’t be solved by Mister Edison’s blundering technique within the time required (or ever, to be truthful). Vampires attacking in daylight as well as at night needed to be stopped “yesterday,” as my errand boy, Tippy, liked to say about urgent matters. And speaking of errands, I could hear the newsboy on the street below, calling out “Extra! Vampires strike again near Central Railroad!” and sent Tippy down to fetch a copy for the latest information.
It was as I called for Tippy—a delightful young fellow who earned his nickname by always (and amusingly) holding his palm out, ready to be favored for errands with the coin of the realm—that my needle in a haystack-inspired idea occurred. By the time he returned with the newspaper (and been rewarded with a nickel), I had run dozens of experiments through my mind, honing them until only the perfect choice was left standing.
I arrived at this solution because the headline on the front of Tippy’s paper struck me: there had been several, not just one, vampire attacks reported on the West Side, near the railway switching station; and also because I recalled that there are almost no trees in the vicinity of such an area, the train magnates having seen fit to clear out the natural in favor of the artificial. Usually I would be in favor of this—I harness nature and make it into the artificial for the benefit of mankind—but pigeons often roost in trees and to cut them down is an especially galling form of barbarism.
My gray feathered friends, the finest animals in any kingdom and my spiritual mates against a cold and deadly world, didn’t actually prefer to roost in trees, but when there were no immediate open and dark structures they could spend the night in for protection …
I sat straighter in my chair. It was as if all the clouds in the sky receded and I could immediately see what the light of the sun never touches.
I called this an experiment as I called all of the mental testing of my electrical innovations experiments, although in truth they more closely resembled what are known as field trials. I knew this plan would work, as my executed ideas almost always worked, having been run through more proving grounds in my quick mind than Edison could ever have his lackeys build for his lucky guesses.
I needed only the right magnet to be placed at the right proximity to pull forth the vampires as if they were iron filings. There was no need for the cover of darkness; I had reread Dracula as I waited for Tippy to return and confirmed that the monsters were not as powerful in the daylight as they were at night. Considering the brute strength of my vampiric new friend on the sidewalk, I chose the following morning to be our time to strike.
The vampires would of course be the metals attracted to the magnet; but in a stroke of inspiration, I realized our ideal magnet would be young Tippy, who I believed could be bribed into any activity, no matter how foolhardy. Thomerson would operate the magnet, so to speak, and advertise Tippy’s availability to the creatures we wanted to attract. I would act in a role without analogue to the magnetism metaphor: I would dispatch the foul creatures, with Thomerson and Tippy (if still alive) aiding in this effort. I did not know how many there would be in this nest, but I knew now where they were:
The New York City Central railyard.
They were nesting in a boxcar. My needle was in a haystack among thousands of almost identical shape and size.
Nevertheless, we would find it when we struck at dawn. I reminded myself to notify Thomerson and for him to notify young Tippy.
Interference Is Attempted.
As has been mentioned in several biographies about my life as well as by myself in this very chronicle, I sleep very little. But even one such as I must occasionally rest in order to keep my mind fresh for new work. The day had been full of excitement and a view of the world that I had never even suspected to exist, and the next day—during which we would find, rouse, and exterminate the vampires and their Sire—promised to be even more exhausting mentally and physically.
As is my habit when giving in to the resting needs of the human body, I was almost instantly asleep as soon as I lay my head upon the pillow. My slumber is dark and dreamless, my dreaming being reserved for the waking hours when it can be directed and put to good use, and I am usually as unwakeable by external means as the dead. However, in what I estimated to be less than one hour after my taking to bed, I heard a voice inside my mind say, “May I enter?”
Still within the arms of Morpheus, I mumbled my assent. Immediately a chill raced through me, and I felt myself sit bolt upright in bed.
What I saw next will probably not be believed, but since my callous first year at university, I have never told a lie, by commission or omission.
A white mist crept into my room through the slight opening in my bedroom window I maintain to keep a supply of fresh air. Before my astonished eyes, it took a humanoid form, finally exhibiting enough detail for me to see red eyes, fangs, clawed fingers, and a mouth full of sharp teeth, the top row of which extended beyond his bottom lip.
“You are Nosferatu,” I said, the tone of my voice belying my terror.
“I am,” the vampire said. “Do you enjoy finding me inside your home?”
“Indeed, I do not. Please exit these premises immediately.”
His sick dentation curled into a smile. “Of course. But a message first: Do not waste your time at the railyards looking for my eldritch children and myself.”
“I do not believe it would be a waste of time. I have surmised that the railroad switching station is where you maintain your nest, creature of the night.”
“Please, call me Prince of Darkness,” he said with a laugh, producing a sound like two rough gravestones being rubbed together. “And you are absolutely right, Gospondin Tesla. We nest in one particular railcar, and I want you to locate it quickly so that we may bring you into our ranks.”
This wasn’t the first time I had received an offer to join another’s organization because of my fame and abilities, but of course it was the strangest. “How do you know my plan? And tell me which railcar, if you please.”
“Your plan is in your mind, and your mind’s content are open to me.”
“That is preposterous.” As I said this, however, I recognized that a bloodsucking monster who could enter a room as mist was not what one would call mundane.
“All is known to me, Tesla, and this knowledge will be yours. Come to the railyard as you plan to do tomorrow, but leave the youngling and the man at the office. They will be no help to you and my legion will kill them as soon as they step foot into our boxcar. But come alone, and learn all the secrets of the universe we can see from our exalted plane.”
I did not have to tell the apparition how tempting such an offer was to a man such as I, who endeavored always to learn the most hidden secrets of how the world worked. I had no intention of following his directions but was almost literally compelled to ask, “Which railcar?”
The Nosferatu exposed me to his nauseating smile once again. “Go to the one you fear and hate the most, and you will find us. Good morrow, Tesla,” he said, and vanished into mist, which slipped back out of the cracked window.
I awoke with a jolt—in actuality this time—in a cold sweat. My room was empty and dark, and I was quite alone. It had been a dream. I do not dream during sleep, have never done so. However, this had to be a dream; the visitation was only inside my mind.
And of course I knew instantly which railcar the evil one meant, because what I feared and hated the most was the Edison publicity juggernaut. He was a thief, liar, blackguard, inelegant sleuth of profitable ideas; but none of this mattered to his adoring public. In fact, the glory-seeking wizard of New Jersey had personalized his railcars carrying light bulbs and childish gewgaws such as phonographs and their cylinders full of insipid crooning. Thus, if my subconscious spectre were correct, Edison’s flashy boxcar must have been resting in our New York railyard, currently between trips to and from New Jersey.
In the morning I would decamp for the car emblazoned with the words Edison Manufacturing Company.
I remained awake and spent the rest of the night working out a plan which I could execute myself, without involving anyone else. I would leave Thomerson and Tippy waiting at my office, temporarily perplexed but safe from the Nosferatu’s deadly threat.
The Gentle Reader may wonder why I was so sure that the so-called visit by the Nosferatu was a dream produced by my restless mind and not an actual haunting by the hideous creature. My answer is simple: I am Tesla, and I make a formidable adversary. If the vampire had truly been in my bedchamber, he certainly would have murdered me in my sleep rather than face my machinations to destroy him and his nest of foul offspring.
A New Experiment Is Carried Out.
One hour of sleep, when my body actually demanded sleep, was a bit inadequate even for me. However, I could not return to my bed until I had devised a new plan, the old one being unworkable since my subconscious mind revealed to me its weaknesses and the danger to which I would be subjecting my right-hand man and chipper errand boy.
My new plan required the conception, testing, re-imagining, and re-testing until the scheme was unimpeachably perfect. It was only then that I put on my suit of clothes and shoes, making my way to the manufacturing portion of my building, where I constructed a machine using magnetic and scientific principles that no supernatural being could overcome.
I then hailed a Hansom cab and had the driver help me load the device into the top of the carriage. I assured him it would not rip the fabric of the coach but paid him the cost of repair just in case I were wrong. (In truth, I had no idea if it would damage his cab and it was thus worth it to me to avoid the trouble in advance by favoring him with the banknotes.)
We raced to the railyard, the sun already rising and suffusing the entire apocalyptic vista of metal and rust with a patina of fool’s gold. As the driver handed the machine down to me—it had to travel on the roof because its spikes were wider than the passenger doorway would allow—he noted that the roof was not in fact damaged, but we both understood that no refund was coming to me, which was fair enough. However, after I had gotten the device onto its small rubber wheels for transport to my appointment with the railcar—and paid my fare—the man was bold enough to ask me, “What’s with the contraption, pal?”
I sniffed with as little haughtiness as possible and answer him, “This contraption is what shall save New York City, you impertinent fellow. Now away with you, pal.” I waved my hand to dismiss him and pushed my device into the realm of the modern freight train.
Edison’s boxcar was not hard to find, as the public well knew that he paid to have it in sight of passing street traffic, the better for them to read his self-aggrandizement on its side. I wasted no time pushing forward my wheeled cart, which also served as a base for the device itself.
As I drove the cart slowly over the rocks and debris of this part of the facility, I looked upon my new invention with pride. Because Mister Stoker had said through his proxy, Van Helsing, that only a wooden stake through the heart would truly and permanently kill a vampire, I was faced with a dilemma: My specialties, as the reader no doubt knows, are in the electrical and magnetic fields, if you will excuse the inadvertent play on words. Wood is impervious to both electricity and magnetism—in fact, it is one of nature’s most effective insulators. So how could I bring my electro-magnetic insight to bear on a problem specifically calling for the use of wood?
I never faltered, Dear Reader. After some mental juggling of different possibilities of ending the existence of multiple vampires all at once inside an enclosed space, the solution made itself apparent. I shanghaied a metal ball of moderate size and weight from my own manufacturing area (hoping that my dedicated workers would not mind such a theft in service of saving the world) and affixed to it very strong magnets, which I had to shave down from rectangles in order to fit the curve of the central ball. That done, I devised a wooden buffer that would fit between the magnets attached to the ball and the very strong magnets that were heavily drawn to the ball’s magnets, as I set the latter’s charge to the opposite of the ones on the other side of the wooden buffer.
I did this with twenty-four sets of magnets, all on the upper hemisphere of the sphere. Then, using a glue used only in my laboratory—one containing cyanoacrylates, which create the strongest bond in the natural world—I affixed very sharp wooden spikes pointing outward, giving the device the appearance of a medieval mace, which I found quite appropriate for such ancient creatures.
The central sphere was attached to a powerful battery I had already created for another project (and again, I hoped my workers would forgive me) and which allowed me to completely electrify the ball and make the magnets stuck to it even stronger than they would have been otherwise, which was still quite strong indeed.
I wheeled it up to Edison’s boxcar, then moved it over the rails, positioning it next to the open door. (Of course the door on the side showing his name to passers-by was always kept closed.)
My hands shook a bit, as I knew I had at most ten seconds to lift the device into the boxcar and activate it before the battalion of hellions noticed me and attacked. I would be dead, or worse than dead. Neither condition appealed to me.
Calling on the strength that had gotten me so far in life, I thrust the cart onto the floor of the railcar. As I leaned into the dark space to position the machine, I saw dozens of red, glowing eyes open and fix on me. Then all the eyes turned to their Nosferatu—exactly the creature I had seen in my visitation—and his demon’s orbs shot open as well.
Before they could receive permission (a guess on my part), I rolled out of the boxcar to the hatbox-sized battery, which I had left on the ground outside, connected to the device by thick wires.
The vampires screeched in malice and hunger, meaning and I was now just an instant from my doom. Almost in a panic, I threw the switch on the powerful battery, which immediately reversed the polarity of the magnets directly affixed to the sphere. This meant that the two super-magnets—which I had kept separate with the wooden buffer to prevent the top magnet from flipping over and again stick to its bottom mate—were now of the same polarity and thus were violently repelled from each other.
This electro-magnetically enhanced repulsion turned the wooden spikes sealed to the top magnets into deadly projectiles.
Deadly, very sharp projectiles.
Deadly, very sharp, wooden projectiles.
Recall, Dear Reader, that I know neither how many creatures nested in the boxcar nor their exact positions. Even so, the shrieking and unholy stench of a vampire’s final death exploded from the car, the missiles finding their marks. In retrospect, I could see that so many flying stakes could hardly miss the hearts of vampires in a nest and I had been blessed with luck indeed.
At least, this was my thought before the ichor-soaked Nosferatu stepped out of the boxcar, still very much undead. His anger had clouded his features until his face seemed a sort of red, violently swirling mist. He approached me and said in an inhuman voice, “Thy doom is nigh.”
He came closer to me, closer still, until I was on my bottom trying to scramble away from the monster while still keeping him in my sight. In seconds, his face full of dark joy now, he was upon me and exposing his fangs to drive into my neck. I would be undead in seconds, his slave forever.
Or I would have been, had I not worked in the electrical industry for so long and with such success in both creating innovations as well as fixing complex systems that had to be kept running even as repairs were effected.
In other words, I was long trained to always have a backup at hand.
As the Nosferatu pressed down upon me, I was able to quickly unsheathe the pointed stick of wood I had secreted within my coat and push the very sharp stake right through the master vampire’s undead heart.
He pulled away from me then, shock in his red eyes and massive shudders throughout his body, and fell to the ground, quite dead—
He then burst into flames, the heat driving me back. Now truly he was dead—
His ashes and bones flew into the air and dissipated, forever killing the scourge—
A final shriek rent the air, and my hands went to my ears while I clamped my eyes shut. A few seconds went by as it echoed away. I opened an eye. Was he dead, or was there more folderol to be endured? It seemed that now he was actually, truly, and finally gone.
Experiment Concluded. Hypothesis Confirmed.
Seated on the gravel and dirt of the railyard, I realized I was even more glad to see the vampire
destroyed than I had thought I would be. Such a show the Nosferatu put on in death! Such a shameless appeal for attention, even as he breathed his last! His benighted children merely dropped from their perches and boiled away, a fittingly somber and dignified death. To reach for such a performance was perhaps inevitable for one of the Nosferatu’s nature, since he had to make himself charismatic and attractive in order to turn humans into his beasts. Amusingly, the thing reminded me of Thomas Edison himself, so eager for praise and glory that he seemed silly. I, Tesla, would not be making their mistakes. My dignity was intact, even increased exponentially after I rescued the souls of every man, woman, and child on Earth.
Indeed, if I had learned anything from this ordeal, it was the power of humility.
~ Nikola Tesla