Trivia Minute November 16, 2015

The Mad Bomber Strikes New York

by Marcus Michelson
Police mugshot of George Matesky, also known as "The Mad Bomber." (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Police mugshot of George Metesky, also known as “The Mad Bomber.” (Image via seanmunger.com)

Today is the 75th anniversary of the first in a string of bomb-related incidents that terrorized New York City for 16 years.

Here are some things you may not have known about “The Mad Bomber.”

The first bomb was found on a window sill of a Consolidated Edison power plant before it went off. Inside a box with the bomb was a note saying “Con Edison crooks — This is for you.”

Almost a year later, a similar device was found lying in the street near the headquarters of Consolidated Edison.

After the United States entered World War II, the bomber promised to stop until the war was over. A promise he kept.

Between 1951 and 1956, the bomber began targeting public spaces, planting more than 30 bombs, 22 of which exploded, injuring 15 people.

Following the bombing of the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, the police commissioner, Stephen P. Kennedy, began what he called the “greatest manhunt in the history of the police department.”

As a part of this, police captain John Cronin began working with his friend, Dr. James Brussel, who was psychiatrist and criminologist. They put together what they called a portrait of the suspect, what would now be known as a profile.

They determined that the suspect was a male suffering from paranoia, related to perceived wrongdoing by Consolidated Edison. He was likely single, introverted and socially awkward. He was probably a skilled mechanical worker, who resented criticism and feels superior to critics.

Additionally, Brussel predicted that the bomber would be wearing a buttoned, double-breasted suit when he was caught.

The New York Journal American newspaper published several letters from the bomber, including one in which he states the date he was injured on the job at Consolidated Edison. This allowed a Con Edison clerk to cross check with company records and determine that the likely suspect was a former employee named George Metesky.

Four New York police officers arrived at Metesky’s home just before midnight on January 21, 1957. He provided a handwriting sample and showed the officers his workshop, which included many items that could be used to make the type of bombs used in the attacks. After being told he would be arrested, Metesky was allowed to get dressed. When he came back, he was wearing a buttoned double-breasted suit.

Metesky told officers that he had been injured in a gas explosion while working for Consolidated Edison. As a result he developed tuberculosis and was left permanently disabled. His claim for worker’s compensation was rejected because he had failed to file in time. Three appeals of the rejection also had been denied.

He was charged on 47 counts, including attempted murder, damaging a building by explosion, malicious endangerment and carrying a concealed weapon. Before he could stand trial, Metesky was declared legally insane and was committed to a psychiatric hospital, where he remained until his release in 1973. He died in 1994 at the age of 90.

Our question, what percentage of the world’s population is believed to be infected with tuberculosis?

Today is Icelandic Language Day and International Day for Tolerance. It’s National Button Day and National Fast Food Day, as if we need a special day to celebrate it. It’s the birthday of Roman Emperor Tiberius, actor Burgess Meredith and musician Diana Krall.

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