Why Nikola Tesla has become a cult hero

Why is the world so damn obsessed with geek folk hero Nikola TeslaEvery great epic story needs a hero and a villain. In the romanticized story known as the War of Currents, Thomas Edison is the villain. He is the guy everyone loves to hate. Nikola Tesla represents the hero we can identify with, the dreamer in all of us.

Nikola Tesla was a handsome well dressed fellow. He hung out at New York's finest restaurants rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Tesla was an entertaining guy, he had cool party tricks, he invited the rich and famous back to his lab so he could shoot lighting bolts at them. He was a very interesting character.

Thomas Edison is portrayed as the cranky old fart with no sense of humor. Edison symbolizes the establishment. He is your high school science teacher who yelled at you for screwing up your lab assignment. He is the guy that your mother told you to be, why can't you be more successful, you know, why can you be more like Edison. But you never wanted to be like Edison, he looked like he was always working, and would be no fun at parties.

Tesla and Edison were both very influential during their lifetimes. Both men also had a wide variety of personality issues, both men were obsessive compulsive inventors who deserved to be respected, but not necessarily worshiped. If you read about Tesla, you will notice he was interviewed often for magazine articles during his lifetime. He was also a bit of a rebel. He poked fun at the scientists of his day, even dared to call Einstein names. He was an easy guy to like, and it was easy to portray Tesla as the underdog unafraid to take on the establishment.

The internet loves a good story, and the battle of good versus evil makes for a good story with Tesla representing the good, the forgotten misunderstood geek, and Edison representing the evil man who took advantage of the innocent Tesla. It is very sad that to make someone a cult hero, you need to tear someone down as well. Some of the remarks made about Edison are very disrespectful of his contributions to the world of technology. Likewise, men like George Westinghouse who worked with Tesla, as a partner not an adversary, are equally disrespected.

It is the classic story of good versus evil, and everyone roots for the good guy underdog to defeat the evil bad guy. Much of what is written about Edison being the Devil, and Tesla being a God, is based on myths and legends, not facts.

What's behind the cult following for Nikola Tesla?

I often get asked if the fascination with Nikola Tesla is a recent event. I have studied famous inventors and scientists since the 1970s. Different topics seem to rise and fall from time to time over the years. Topics such as UFOs and conspiracy theories were popular in various books and magazines in the 1970s and 1980s, are now being created as websites on the internet. It would appear that Tesla was equally popular in books and television shows, the things we amused ourselves with before the internet, by those who followed conspiracy theories and UFOs since at least the 1980s when I can personally reference the fascination with Tesla.

Even television shows like the X-files took topics like UFOs and conspiracy theories and carried them from themes followed by a few special interests into popular culture. We all now use the tagline "The Truth Is Out There", thanks to shows like the X-files. In the links below I have references to television shows from the 1980s and 1990s that cover Nikola Tesla.

But there is also an increase in the "cult following" of various types thanks to the internet, and especially websites like YouTube. YouTube can be an amazing place where you can learn a lot. People spend a lot of time creating great videos on how to do many things. In that regard I think YouTube can be amazing. On the other hand I have seen many videos on YouTube that were downright crazy in the amount of misinformation they were putting out.

I can find thousands of YouTube videos on perpetual motion machines, 200 mpg carburetors, UFOs and aliens. Likewise, I can search dozens of websites on these topics. Interesting that most of these, what I call "strange science" websites, have something about Nikola Tesla on them. He fits the mold of the mad scientist.

The internet does not always record history, sometimes it creates it. "The Truth Is Out There"

Nikola Tesla covered before the internet

The majority of books and movies made about Tesla are created by people who have a preconceived notion of Tesla, and are trying to prove their point. I am not condemning everyone who believes in conspiracy theories and the possibility of life on other planets, but the information that many of these sites provide is more in the quality of supermarket tabloids rather than non bias documentary journalism.

If you search for videos about Tesla on the internet you will also run across " Tesla - The Eye Of The Storm" produced around 1983. Many of the Tesla fanboy websites have links to calling it a "rare documentary" on U.S. Government conspiracies. It is rare only in the sense that you can't find any first hand information on it.

"Tesla - The Eye Of The Storm" is hosted by Stan Deyo, a host of similar shows on Australian television over the years on UFOs and what he calls "flying saucer technology." Unfortunately, every blog that talks about The Eye Of The Storm video references the Website of Stan Deyo, which currently looks like he is selling supplies and advice to prepare you for Armageddon.

I am cynical about a lot of the claims, I would love to see some references and resources for the origin of much of the so-called "facts" about Tesla's secrets. It appears that Tesla's story has been promoted by the same crowd who follows the UFOs and conspiracy theories for many years.

Leonard Nimoy hosted a "In Search of" television show (1976–1982) that investigated various mysteries. According to IMDB the "In Search of" television show was inspired by von Däniken's work. "This series was created after two successful television documentaries: In Search of Ancient Astronauts (1973) based on the book Chariots of the Gods, and In Search of Ancient Mysteries (1973)."

As far as I can tell Tesla's name never came up on the Leonard Nimoy "In Search of" television show, but Tesla's name was used in a book pitched at the same crowd who followed the UFOs and conspiracy theories. The book "In Search of Nikola Tesla" was originally published in 1983 by F. David Peat. It was reprinted again in 1997.

Book Reference: In Search of Nikola Tesla https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10650961-in-search-of-nikola-tesla

Television Show Reference: In Search of... (TV Series 1976–1982)| http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074007/

In 1998 the television show "Phenomenon: The Lost Archives " another show similar to "In Search of" aired two episodes related to Nikola Tesla. The show only aired 14 episodes in total. The two episodes on Tesla were:

- Season 1 | Episode 3 - H.A.A.R.P: Holes in Heaven (discusses Tesla's theories)
"Phenomenon: The Lost Archives" H.A.A.R.P: Holes in Heaven (TV Episode 1998) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0412201/?ref_=ttep_ep3

- Season 1 | Episode 9 - Lost Lightning: The Missing Secrets of Nicola Tesla
"Phenomenon: The Lost Archives" Lost Lightning: The Missing Secrets of Nicola Tesla (TV Episode 1998) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898736/?ref_=fn_al_tt_9

Learn more at GeekHistory.com

We have been attacking the many myths and misinformation created by the internet through out our websites.  The strange life of Nikola Tesla often reads like a the science fiction story of a typical mad scientist.

Nikola Tesla the legacy of the most interesting geek in the world  (link is external)

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth (link is external)