Nikola Tesla Thought He’d Picked Up A Signal From Intelligent Aliens

Estimated read time 3 min read

Nikola Tesla, famed for his work on alternating current, was one hell of an inventor, mechanical engineer and physicist. His inventions have been found to work better than expected even 100 years after he noted them down. However, nobody can be right 100 percent of the time, and Nikola Tesla had his fair share of being wrong – often massively so.

For instance, despite his work pioneering alternating current, Tesla didn’t believe in electrons. Instead, he thought atoms were the smallest building blocks of the universe, arguing that if they existed they would only do so in a perfect vacuum. He believed in the 19th-century view that the “ether” or “aether” transmitted electrical currents.

There’s also the time he believed he had recorded a cosmic ray traveling at 50 times the speed of light – but today we’re here to talk about the time he thought he’d picked up radio signals sent by intelligent aliens.

In 1899, Tesla picked up a strange signal on his equipment.

“Even now, at times, I can vividly recall the incident, and see my apparatus as though it were actually before me,” Tesla wrote of the incident. “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.” 

In short, he heard beeps. Specifically: Beep. Beep-beep. Beep-beep-beep.

“The changes I noted were taking place periodically, and with such a clear suggestion of number and order that they were not traceable to any cause then known to me,” he continued, writing that he knew of possible sources of electrical disturbances such as those caused by the Sun, but dismissed these as the potential cause.

“It was sometime 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 endeavored to do more to investigate the signal, and spoke of sending the reply “four”, playing a long-distance game of counting with supposed intelligent aliens.

Tesla, of course, had not picked up signals from aliens. Early on, people suggested that the signal must have originated from Earth, as it came in a frequency that the ionosphere would not let through, and Tesla was mocked for this. 

However, over a century after Tesla found the signal, one team recreated Tesla’s device and believed they found the source may have been of planetary origin, at least. 

“It is our opinion that it is entirely within reason to identify Tesla’s signals as the detection of intense kilometric (VLF) emissions originating from Jupiter,” the team wrote in 2003.

“Considerable work still needs to be done to convince the skeptical,” they continued. “However, the bottom line is that when you listen to the kilometric signals from Jupiter with one of Tesla’s Colorado Springs receivers you occasionally hear ‘Beep… Beep-Beep… Beep-Beep-Beep’! Furthermore, extraterrestrial right circularly polarized kilometric signals penetrate the Earth’s ionosphere during the time of sunspot minima. Tesla was at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, with the right equipment to be able to detect these unusual electrical signals of planetary origin. It was the scientific community that was unprepared.”