Nikola Tesla circa 1890
In the aftermath of the war, the War Office held an enquiry into the 1916 events at Harcourt. Despite the official explanation that the Harcourt crater was created when the Germans blew up a mine filled with ‘experimental explosives’, popular conjecture focused on ‘death rays’. Indeed, in 1914, the War Office itself had offered a reward of £25,000 to anybody who could create such a weapon. It was no great leap to assume that the Germans might have been working on something similar and Tesla appeared before the enquiry testifying to the scientific possibility of such a ray causing the crater.
Tesla claimed to have built such a ‘death ray’ himself. Many other people subsequently made similar claims, including Britain’s own Harry Grindell Matthews. However, Tesla was said to have been testing the application of this ‘peace’ ray technology as early as 1908, at his Wardenclyffe laboratory. When Robert Peary set off on an expedition to the North Pole, Tesla asked him to look out for any unusual activity as he intended to test his ray. Peary saw nothing. Tesla assumed his ray failed.
Tesla's Wardenclyffe towerIt wasn’t until 1927, however, that news of the 1908 Tunguska explosion reached the outside world, after a Russian expedition to the remote site. When it was implied that Tesla’s ray might have been the cause of the explosion, to some it was proof positive of Tesla’s unwitting involvement in the Harcourt Event, too, suggesting that a further test of Tesla’s death ray misfired, causing the deaths of 900 British soldiers. It was a theory Tesla was quick to refute, citing the Hepton footage itself, which had been found a year earlier and quite clearly showed the soldiers to be alive. The fact that shortly afterwards the British government declared the footage to be a hoax only served to fuel the conspiracy theories.
There were others, though, that saw a different explanation for what happened at Tunguska - a failed attempt at recreating the Croatoan Working.