Nikola Tesla Once Paid His Hotel Bill With A "Death Ray" Of Unimaginable Power


James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockFeb 16 2022, 15:21 UTC
Nikola Tesla paid a hotel bill with a death ray

He claimed the ray was so powerful it could "end all wars". Image credit: Vkilikov/

Nikola Tesla is probably the most successful person who ever fell in love with a pigeon. Yes, despite a fairly promising early career pumping out inventions that would revolutionize our lives, Tesla had a fairly strange final few years that make any biography of the man a little tricky in parts. Specifically the chapters that are forced to clarify "look he wasn't actually having sex with the pigeon, even though he did say he loved it 'as a man loves a woman' OK?".


Another way he went a little off the rails in his later years, was going around casually dropping into conversation that he had invented a working death ray so powerful that it would put a stop to all wars. Were it anyone else, people probably wouldn't have taken it very seriously, but it was Tesla, of Tesla Coil fame, so ignoring it would be like ignoring a bomb threat from some guy called Mr H Bomb.

Tesla claimed that he had not only invented the device, which he said fired particle beams at aircraft or missiles or whatever you wanted dead, but that he had a working prototype. He didn't tell this only to people at scientific press conferences, but also to hotel managers who were just trying to check him in.

Tesla, having hit upon hard times, was struggling to get places to stay during his later years. His solution with at least one hotel — the Governor Clinton Hotel, to whom he owed $20,000 — was to offer to leave them collateral, which he told them was a fully-functional death ray. Should he be unable to pay the bill upon checkout, the hotel would simply be able to take the death ray and sell it, assuming they came across a lot of arms dealers in the hotel service industry. Or, if they're a bit more creative, use it to take out their rivals at Travelodge.

For the last 10 years of his life, he stayed at the New Yorker Hotel, and they knew him to be pretty penniless. However, he had offered the hotel his priceless death ray as well, and they were satisfied with this. Naturally, he gave them some pretty strict instructions on how to handle it. You don't just hand over a nuclear bomb and say "press the button, don't press the button, I don't care" or they might suspect that what you've given them isn't, in fact, a nuclear bomb.


For starters, he forbade them from ever opening the box, which may have seemed suspicious but who questions a man who carries around a death ray? On January 7, 1943, at 86 years old, Tesla died in his hotel room, leaving behind his beloved pigeon (whom Tesla's needlessly ambiguous statements dictate that I must once again reiterate he was not having intimate relations with).

This left the hotel with an unpaid bill running into five figures, with no way of recovering it. Except, of course, for the Bond villain contraption he'd left in their safe.

The package was opened, nervously, and inside they found... a box with a few knobs on and some perfectly normal wires. Don't get me wrong, you could still bludgeon someone to death with it if needs be, but it was hardly the priceless killing machine that Tesla had promised.



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