Dr. James A. Brussel - psychiatrist, criminologist and former assistant commissioner in the NYS Department of Mental Hygiene in charge of the NYC office
An infernal machine is a device, typically homemade and maliciously designed to explode and destroy life or property, which can be deactivated by a man (other than its maker) only at the peril of death. He called his infernal machines units. A length of galvanized coupling was fitted on each end with machine tooled caps that threaded into the cavity of the pipe. A filling hole was drilled in the cylinder to allow for arming the device. A 3/8 inch allen screw served as a filing plug to close the puncture. A fusing mechanism was fashioned by grinding a small hole on a flashlight bulb with an emery wheel and a nail file, then filling it with gunpowder. Two silk covered multi-stranded copper wires were soldered to the case and center connector of the bulb, and connected to a chrome protected No. 7 Burgess battery used to heat the filament. Smokeless powder from 50 .22 caliber long rifle cartridges was funneled into the cap hole and the plug reinserted in the cylinder. The unit was wiped clean of residue and fingerprints, then covered with a red wool sock. When the metal hands of an attached shock resistant Timex wristwatch made contact with the wires leading from the battery to the bulb, the circuit was completed and the surrounding cache of explosive material detonated.
Located at the intersection of Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues, the opulent Paramount with its 64 foot satin embroidered stage curtain and 4400 cushioned seats adorned with burgundy velvet was, at its opening in 1928, Brooklyn's largest motion picture theater. On Sunday December 2, 1956, 1500 moviegoers attended that evening's screening of King Vidor's War and Peace starring Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn. At 7:55 p.m. a violent explosion ripped through the rear of the auditorium. Police from the 84th Precinct and ambulances from Cumberland Hospital responded to assistant manager Horatio Tedesco's emergency call. The most seriously injured victim, Doris Russo, required surgery to relieve the pressure that developed from a depressed skull fracture.
For 16 years, and this being the 32nd occasion, the bomb maker traveled to New York City to place his units in locations all over the metropolitan area. That no innocents were slaughtered in the attacks was truly an act of God. He planted his bombs where men, women and children congregate, pledging to do so until either apprehended or dead. He had no political agenda or social goal; he was neither terrorist nor extortionist. The bomb maker simply held a grudge.
In the early afternoon of Monday November 18, 1940 a Consolidated Edison employee, in the company building at 170 West 64th Street (between West End and Amsterdam Avenues), found a wooden toolbox with a small iron pipe capped on both ends on a second story windowsill. A sheet of paper had been wrapped around it, which read "CON EDISON CROOKS. THIS IS FOR YOU. THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF POWDER BOYS." The bomb squad detective arriving at the scene first carefully approached the device, listening for the audible ticking of a timing mechanism. When none was detected, while wearing protective armor, steel mesh gloves and boots, and a steel plated bucket shaped helmet, he used a five foot rod with a grip on one end operated by a handle on the other to turn it over. When the thing didn't react to movement it was fairly evident that this was not a position control bomb. It was placed in a woven steel cable bag known as the 'envelope' and carried out of the building, centered on a 15 foot long pole manned at each end by a detective in similar gear. The object was put into a specially equipped 15 ton semitrailer flatbed containment truck outfitted with a attached cage constructed of 5/8 inch thick steel, known as the Pyke-LaGuardia Carrier, and transported to an isolated location. There it was dusted for fingerprints and suspended in a vat of motor oil to clog any moving parts and prevent any electrical or chemical reaction. A fluoroscope was then used to X-ray its contents. After these measures were taken the unit was transported to the police laboratory at the Centre Street headquarters in Manhattan for further analysis and disassembly (it inexplicably included a Park-Davis throat lozenge). Technicians determined it was imperfectly constructed and incapable of detonation (the Mad Bomber later suggested its intent was non-lethal - 'That first unit was just a sample of what was to come.'). The question then became who had placed the bomb and why. Trying to identify the person through Con Ed records proved to be impossible. The company's files, going back decades, were stored in warehouses scattered throughout the city. The nearly two dozen separate entities forming the power conglomerate in the mid-1930's each had its own record keeping system. Many documents had long since been lost or destroyed. As a result, the episode was eventually forgotten. To the bomb maker's dismay, his handiwork did not find its way into the newspapers. He gained no satisfaction from the notice he had served, thinking it had been ignored or, worse yet, ridiculed. Further steps would have to be taken to focus attention on this corrupt organization.
Another unit, also stuck in a red wool sock, was discovered on 19th Street between 4th Avenue and Irving Place on Wednesday September 24, 1941. The construction was identical (including the mysterious cough drop) to the earlier one. Its intended target was the Con Ed main office at 4 Irving Place, but for some reason was abandoned en route. In the months following the discovery of the two devices, the bomb maker began a letter writing campaign to newspapers, hotels, clothiers, department stores and Con Ed itself, accusing the latter of 'dastardly deeds' and 'ghoulish acts' committed by the 'mobsters of Irving Place' and to see the Mayor for more information. All his letters were signed as "F.P.".
There were no bombings during the duration of World War II - the bomb maker was a patriotic American.
The Hell Gate Power Plant, an eight story redbrick structure spanning two city blocks along the East River, opened in 1929. Originally owned and operated by the United Electric Light and Power Company, it had two 160,000 kilowatt turbine generators with a combined capacity of more than 420,000 horsepower. 21 coal fired steam boilers heated millions of gallons of purified condensing water from Long Island Sound to temperatures approaching 1000 degrees. The high pressure torrent of steam produced was used to spin the turbines of the massive generators. By the time of the Great Depression, Hell Gate was the primary supplier of electric power to Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Westchester County. In December 1929 George Metesky was hired at Hell Gate with a starting salary of $30 per week.
He was born in Waterbury Connecticut (a formerly prosperous industrial center nicknamed Brass City) to Lithuanian immigrant parents George and Anna Milauskas, the youngest of four children. His father, who built the family home at 17 Fourth Street, was employed as a teamster and then night watchman for the J.E. Smith Lumber Company. As a child George attended the Roman Catholic parochial St. Joseph's School and later Duggan Elementary, where a teacher with a speech impediment mispronounced his surname as Metesky, and he eventually adopted this variation as his own. George dropped out of Crosby High School after his first year. He later completed a correspondence course in electricity and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1920 to 1922, stationed in Mexico and the Dominican Republic. For the next three years he worked as an auto mechanic's helper and reenlisted in 1925. He was sent to Guam and later China at the U.S. consulate in both Shanghai and Peking, where he was trained as an electrician and chief ordnance mechanic in charge of munitions. George received a second honorable discharge from the service in 1929.
For two years George worked as a generator wiper and gallery man, menial jobs never employing the skills learned in the military but rather simple cleaning to prevent the buildup of grease, condensation and dust in the machines. He performed his duties diligently, earning a top rating as an employee. On Saturday September 5, 1931 as George made his way through the columns of the deafening cast iron and steel machines in the boiler room, he could not hear the warning sounds indicating a severely malfunctioning one, its baffles clogged by soot as pressurized air dangerously mounted. The breaking point was reached just when he approached, spewing a toxic mix of gases through the intakes directly into his path. The boiler room filled with an acidic order suggesting metallic decay. George staggered backward, struggling for breath and after a while began coughing up blood. Assisted to his feet by two workers, Cavanaugh and Casey, who arrived on the scene after hearing the commotion George, after somewhat regaining his strength and composure, reported the incident to his foreman Mr. Purdy and was told to help load wood into the car of the floor boss Mr. Lawson. George soon collapsed from exhaustion and was forced to remain on that spot for two hours without assistance. He was finally able to get up and make his way back home to the rooming house on West 88th Street where he was staying. He remained there alone for several days while his condition grew steadily worse. He sent for a doctor, who without X-rays or medical tests was unable to arrive at a specific diagnosis but suggested he return to his family in Waterbury for proper care. Once there he was seen by Dr. Max Ruby who admitted him to Waterbury Hospital. Initially diagnosed with pneumonia and suffering from pulmonary hemorrhages, George was treated with antibiotics and discharged after two weeks. Despite continual treatment for 11 months he did not improve, and with symptoms becoming so pronounced his doctors began to suspect tuberculosis. Dr. Ruby referred his patient to a sanitarium in Tucson Arizona. Here George received pneumothorax therapy, consisting of the introduction of nitrogen gas into the pleural cavity via long hollow needles. Over a period of three years the tubercular lesions began to subside.
Con Ed never reported the Hell Gate incident to the Workmen's Compensation Board. Immediately after the accident George applied for and was granted sick benefits by the company, receiving 80% of his $38 weekly salary for six months. He also drew $58 per month for three years as a settlement on a group life insurance policy. By the end of 1933 George began a letter writing campaign demanding Con Ed increase his benefits as it was responsible for his illness. The company initially increased the settlement to $180 monthly, but George demanded to be paid for all medical bills and total living expenses. Con Ed finally concluded its obligation to him was fully discharged and terminated all further payments effective December 31, 1933, suggesting George contact the Workmen's Compensation Board if he wanted to continue pursuing the matter. He filed his initial claim on January 4, 1934 and a hearing was finally scheduled for September 27 despite his absence as he was still undergoing medical care in Arizona. His claim was summarily dismissed under Section 28 of New York's Workmen's Compensation Act, which imposed a one year statute of limitations (from the date of injury) on benefit claims.
New York's workmen's compensation system, one of the first in the country, resulted from the criminally negligent tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in 1914 that killed 146 mostly women workers. The Lower Manhattan sweatshop occupied three upper floors in the Asch Building off Washington Square. The fire escape was blocked and the stairwell door locked (to prevent employee theft), so there was no way out for the victims. They were faced with the choice of burning to death or leaping to it from the windows. The company owners were tried for manslaughter but acquitted and civil suits brought by surviving family members netted only a pittance in damages. The consequent growing public outrage, combined with the political strength of labor unions and the progressive social movement, resulted in the New York legislature enacting sweeping changes in workplace regulation and state labor laws.
George was forced to abandon treatment in Arizona because of dwindling finances and returned to Waterbury. Back in Connecticut the letters continued to the New York State Industrial Commission, its chief Elmer Andrews and even Governor Herbert Lehman as he tried to secure a new hearing in which his grievances could be heard. On April 2, 1936 an inquiry was held before compensation board referee Mr. S.E. Senior who, despite becoming infuriated by the conflicting and often incoherent testimony of Cavanaugh, Purdy and Lawson (claiming either George suffered nothing worse than a nosebleed or that he was even absent from work on the day of the accident), had no choice but to deny the claim when Con Ed asserted their rights under Section 28. George appealed the decision to the New York Workmen's Compensation Board, which also ruled against him on September 28, 1936.
George also sharpened his engineering skills during the lengthy convalescence. In July 1938 he applied for and was ultimately granted a U.S. patent on a piston driven circuit breaker for controlling the electrical flow of a solenoid pump. He also extended his knowledge of electrical properties and experimenting with different kinds of galvanized metal and fusing mechanisms. His spinster sisters Anna and Mae, with whom George lived along with their aging father (the mother had died in 1929), provided him with clothing, money and other necessities. He attempted to enlist but was rejected because of chronic lung disease. George was employed by the Waterbury Tool Company from December 1942 to December 1943, when he suffered another pulmonary hemorrhage and was diagnosed with advanced bilateral tuberculosis. He spent the next 14 months at the Undercliff Sanitarium in Meridian, where his condition did not significantly improve and on February 25, 1945 he left against his doctors' advice to go home. Spending most of each day in bed, George's physical health remained in a flux between advance and decline throughout the late 1940's. He was also in the grip of an increasingly incapacitating schizophrenia, focusing his psychotic rage on the cause of all his ill fortune.
Grand Central Terminal (GCT), covering 79 acres with a capacity of 30,000 people, opened in 1913. One of the celebrated architectural oddities was the Whispering Gallery that lay beneath the tiled arches extending along the lower concourse in front of a landmark seafood restaurant. Created by the low ceramic structures of the domed ceiling, the unique design allowed faint whispers on one side to be distinctly heard across the expanse to the other. On Thursday March 29, 1951 at 5:25 p.m. The bomb maker's first postwar unit, left in a cigarette sand urn outside the Oyster Bar, went off. As there were no passersby in the area at that moment there were no injuries. The focus of this mechanism, mostly destroyed by its ignition, was once again the throat lozenge (the bomb maker referred to it as the disk). The disk had a constant rate of dissolution when exposed to moisture. A spoonful of water, for example, would disintegrate it when filed down to a desired thickness in half an hour. In this unit the disk was used to compress a spring within a slot in the housing. Once the disk was sufficiently dissolved the spring was released, driving a ball bearing into a second spring which slammed a firing pin into a .25 caliber cartridge, causing its detonation. There was no additional gunpowder found in this unit. No connection was made by police to the bombing attempts of the Con Ed buildings in the early 1940's, attributing the incident instead to 'boys or pranksters'.
On Friday April 24 at 6:10 p.m. a unit detonated inside the metal fan casing of a telephone booth on the basement level of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. A security guard leaning up against the booth at the time of the blast was shaken up but otherwise unharmed. This device was identically constructed to the GCT one except that it was also fueled with smokeless gunpowder.
On Monday August 27 GCT was again targeted when at 9:00 a.m. a unit exploded in a telephone booth on the west concourse, causing damage but no injuries. Several week afterwards a five inch unit (the largest to date), timed to go off at 6:15 a.m. before most employees arrived for work, did so in a telephone booth in the lobby of Con Ed's main offices at Irving Place. Thirteen days later a clerk in its third floor mail room accepted postal delivery of a large and heavy manila envelope, which when opened revealed a unit. The Bomb Squad was called in and all established safeguards were followed. The fueling powder this time was not gunpowder but sugar - the bomb maker at play.
At 10:15 p.m. on Monday October 22 the night city editor at the New York Herald Tribune received a special delivery letter stating a bomb had been placed in the ventilation shaft of the men's restroom at the Paramount Theater at 43rd Street and Broadway. The letter went on: "BOMBS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL THE CONSOLIDATED EDISON COMPANY IS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE FOR THEIR DASTARDLY ACTS AGAINST ME. I HAVE EXHAUSTED ALL OTHER MEANS." The Bomb Squad was notified and quickly arrived at the Paramount, conducting a quiet search while 3600 patrons continued to enjoy the feature presentation. An unexploded four inch cylindrical object charged with black powder and a .25 caliber cartridge was found in the specified location.
On the evening of Wednesday November 28 a small explosion ripped through several coin operated parcel lockers on the southbound mezzanine of the IRT subway station at Union Square on Fourth Avenue and 14th Street. One of the people nearby at the time was a NYFD lieutenant who told newspaper reporters the blast 'sounded like a stick of dynamite'. Again, no one was injured. At the start of the Christmas season the Herald Tribune received another block printed letter signed 'F.P.' warning of more units to come until justice was served.
The bomb maker struck three more times in 1952 - once at a telephone booth in the 41st Street Port Authority Bus Terminal and twice at the Lexington Theater at 50th Street and Lexington Avenue. The second bombing, on Monday December 8, resulted in the first injury; a woman was severely lacerated on her legs and feet by shrapnel. The bombs were becoming more powerful and causing greater damage.
In 1953 the bomb maker went back to mechanizing his units with flashlight bulbs and batteries instead of bullet cartridges. Radio City Music Hall, at 50th Street and Sixth Avenue, was dubbed the "American People's Palace" when it opened in 1932. Of Art Deco design it was the largest indoor theater in the world with a 60 foot high foyer, 84 foot high ceilings, chandeliers weighing two tons apiece and a Wurlitzer organ with 56 separate sets of pipes. On Tuesday March 10 the bomb maker placed a unit in the underside of one of the 6000 auditorium seats. He knew from experimentation there could always be a problem with the throat lozenge timing mechanism - the amount required for a given measure of water to dissolve a disk to the point of triggering a detonation was imprecise. This explosion occurred earlier than planned - the bomb maker had only just reached the exit doors. Rushing from the building he was stopped by an usher who apologized for the inconvenience, pressed a free movie pass in his hand while imploring him to return at a later date. The bomb maker thanked the man and went on his way, accompanied by the sound of approaching police sirens. He struck three more times that year - the Pennsylvania Railroad Station (occupying two square city blocks from Seventh to Eight Avenues and from 31st to 33rd Streets), again at GCT (blowing up a locker on the lower level) and the Capital Theater at 1645 Broadway (just north of Times Square). He also developed a more reliable timing device than the lozenge by using wristwatches. After removing the second hand a time could be set for up to 12 hours. Once it had passed and the terminal connection made, a charge from the battery would surge through the circuit and into the powder contained in the flashlight bulb, thereby exploding the larger cache within the bomb itself.
The bomb maker planted three units in 1954, and each proved to be more effective as injuries mounted. On Tuesday March 16 one went off in the lower level men's restroom of GCT. It was set to go off at the beginning of rush hour and sent three commuters to the hospital. During a pre-holiday showing of Bing Crosby's White Christmas at Radio City a blast occurred in row 14 of the orchestra level injuring four patrons. Weeks later a bomb detonated in a telephone booth at the Port Authority, showering a pedestrian corridor with metal fragments and debris. The city dailies began referring to 'The Mad Bomber'.
On Tuesday January 11, 1955 an explosion took place in the lower level of Penn Station, causing no injuries. As detectives conducted a search there for additional bombs, the Mad Bomber placed a call to the GCT switchboard operator that a unit had been placed in a coin operated locker on the building's south side and would detonate in 15 minutes. Additional officers rushed to the scene and conducted a search but found nothing. At 5:30 p.m. on Monday May 2 a Herald Tribune editor received an anonymous phone call from a man saying a bomb had been placed at Radio CIty 'to get even with the Consolidated Edison Company'. Bomb squad detectives converged on the theater and conducted a 90 minute fruitless search of the premises. Later that night the cleaning crew found something wrapped in a red wool sock, and the bomb squad returned to remove the unit they missed the first time. Once deactivated it was examined. Fortunately for the 4500 moviegoers that evening the timing mechanism had failed - a defect in the cheap watch chosen caused the hour hand to stop before 6:30, when the point of contact would have been reached. In August a unit and pocketknife slipped from a tear in a movie seat being repaired by an upholsterer at the Roxy Theater on 50th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. In October a man was injured when a bomb exploded in the 12th row of the Paramount Theater in Times Square. In December a blast ripped through the men's lavatory on the upper level of GCT.
On Tuesday February 21, 1956 a 74 year old porter named Lloyd Hill was badly injured when a bomb went off in a men's washroom at Penn Station. By the end of that summer the Mad Bomber struck an IRT subway train (by chance containing only three passengers) and a telephone booth in Macy's at Herald Square. On the afternoon of Saturday August 4 a security guard at the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center discovered a length of pipe which he gave to a coworker. This man took it home and placed in on the kitchen table before going to bed. At exactly six o'clock the next morning it exploded. The Mad Bomber's next unit was for the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn.
James Brussel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and did his psychiatric residency at Pilgrim State Hospital in Brentwood NY. During World War II he served as the head of the army's neuropsychiatric department at Fort Dix NJ and as the psychiatrist at the military prison in Greenhaven NY. As a civilian in the late 1940's Dr. Brussel worked as assistant director of Willard State Hospital in New York's Seneca Lake region. During the Korean conflict he was once again called into service as chief of the Neuropsychiatric Center in El Paso Texas. Returning to New York he was appointed director of the Division of New York City Services, and in June 1952 was named the assistant commissioner of the Department of Mental Hygiene for the State of New York - a position he held for 20 years. He also maintained a flourishing private practice out of his tenth story apartment on 12th Street in Greenwich Village. In his position with the Department of Mental Hygiene Dr. Brussel had established many contacts at the NYPD.
On the day after the Brooklyn Paramount bombing, Commissioner Stephen Patrick Kennedy called a closed door meeting of 350 borough and division chiefs at police headquarters. Kennedy grew up in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn and before joining the NYPD as a patrolman in 1929 worked as a seaman, longshoreman and stenographer. In 1943 when already a lieutenant he began attending St. John's University where he earned an undergraduate degree. In 1950 he graduated from New York University with a law degree. In 1951 he was promoted to inspector and the next year admitted to the New York Bar, although he would never practice as an attorney. Kennedy also underwent specialized training in scientific crime fighting methods and crime laboratory techniques at the Federal Bureau of Investigation Nation Academy in Washington D.C. In August 1955 he was appointed police commissioner by Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr.
Following his session with the top police brass Kennedy spoke with reporters. In a departure from standard police policy he decided circumstances now required public involvement in the Mad Bomber investigation, delivering the following statement: "I appeal to members of the public to come forward and give to the police whatever information they may have concerning this man. The identity of informants will be kept a closely guarded secret." A newly formed Bomb Investigation Unit worked exclusively on this case and reported directly to the chief of detectives James Legget. The B.I.U. acted in a liaison capacity alongside the bomb squad and crime lab, coordinating and developing the entire body of evidence. Initially organized with a staff of nine members it would eventually grow to include 76.
As a climate of growing apprehension over the random bombings pervaded the city in the winter of 1956, newspapers began to question the competency of the police department as it became apparent they had no clue into the identity of the suspect despite available evidence such as intact bombs and writing samples. As political pressure for a solution mounted on Kennedy, he in turn tasked his commanders to conduct their work with the utmost urgency. In this pressurized atmosphere John J. Cronin, chief of the department's Missing Persons Bureau, had a conversation with Captain Howard Finney of the crime lab. Cronin mentioned a psychiatrist with whom he appeared at several police conventions and knew had a broad interest in and working knowledge of the behavior of criminal offenders. Cronin suggested that perhaps the doctor could be of some assistance. Finney considered that since a physical description of the Mad Bomber didn't exist a trained professional might be able to develop a psychological description that would be beneficial. He asked Cronin to contact Dr. Brussel and set up a meeting.
Like most New Yorkers, Dr. Brussel followed the media coverage of the Mad Bomber case, but his professional opinion had never been formally requested in connection with an ongoing police investigation (no psychiatrist's had ever been) until his meeting with Captain Finney and two detectives in December, who brought with them a large satchel stuffed with all the documents comprising the official police record for the case, in the Manhattan office of the Department of Mental Hygiene.
The process of attributing certain physical and personality traits went back to antiquity with Homer's The Iliad. During the Inquisition the Roman Catholic Church 1486 publication Maleficarum Malleo (Hammer of Witches) set forth the physical marks and behaviors that were understood to be evidentiary signs of witches. A more scientific yet flawed application of anthropological characteristics to classify and predict criminality was developed by the Italian physician Cesare Lombroso in the 19th century. No such profiling had ever been used in the United States by police to assist in the identification of a criminal suspect.
Dr. Brussel began studying the police reports, photographs, and letters written by the Mad Bomber. After four hours of contemplation and questioning the three officers on certain points for clarification, He arrived at the following postulates. The Mad Bomber was middle aged, neither fat nor skinny. He had a sense of superiority that would manifest itself in orderliness, precision and neatness. His contempt for others would make it difficult for him to hold a job and therefore not have much money, so his clothing would be old but in his appearance meticulously well dressed. He would be clean shaven and wear no jewelry. He is quiet and polite, prompt and methodical. Dr. Brussel theorized the cutting of the underside of a theater seat with a knife to insert the unit could represent an unconscious desire to penetrate a woman and therefore indicate an unresolved Oedipal complex resulting in a loner wanting nothing to do with men and little with women, possibly a virgin. He probably lived in a private house in order to maintain his bomb making workshop, as opposed to in an apartment building. Since men don't typically live in a house alone, he was probably living with an older female relative reminding the Mad Bomber of his mother. The strange phraseology found in the letters ("DASTARDLY DEEDS", "FRUSTRATED GHOULS") and lack of slang or American colloquialisms indicated someone either foreign born or living in a non-English speaking community. Dr. Brussel intuited he was a Slav, almost certainly Catholic and a regular Mass attendee. There was a large Slavic concentration in Connecticut, with Bridgeport having a big Polish population. Dr. Brussel believed the Mad Bomber wanted to be found out now (he craved public attention and was growing increasingly frustrated by his inability to command it) and when he was eventually caught would be wearing a buttoned down double breasted suit.
On Christmas Eve Monday at 1:30 p.m. David Cruz, a 19 year old page at the 42th Street Public Library, went to make a call to his girlfriend. Entering one of the two telephone booths on the 2nd floor at the rear of the building, he noticed an object affixed with a magnet to the bottom of the metal bell box. Upon examination, he found a five inch iron pipe capped at both ends tucked into a red wool sock. The next day the New York Times, besides reporting on the discovery of this latest unit, ran a front page story titled '16 Year Search For Madman' providing a detailed review (written with the cooperation of the NYPD) of the full police investigation into the case. The final section of the article revealed the police had enlisted the help of a psychiatrist in developing a psychological portrait of the suspect, listing many of Dr. Brussel's predictions.
Seymour Berkson was the publisher of the Journal-American, the New York flagship paper of the Hearst Corporation. In the 1930's he was a special correspondent for Hearst's International News Service. Later when back in New York he served as managing editor of the INS and in 1945 became its vice president and general manager. In 1955 he succeeded William Randolph Hearst Jr. as the newspaper's chief. On Christmas morning he read the New York Times article on the Mad Bomber and realized his paper was losing its competitive edge in the lucrative metropolitan media market to the Times and the Herald Tribune due in part to their more aggressive coverage of this case. He called his assistant managing editor Paul Schoenstein (the 1944 Pulitzer Prize winner for Reporting) to discuss what could be done. Later involved in this conversation were the managing editor Sam Day and the city editor Edward Maher (they subsequently became known as the Four Fishermen). On December 26 the Journal-American published an open letter to the Mad Bomber, urging he give himself up and that the paper would: 1) guarantee he received proper treatment from the police and a fair trial; 2) publish his story; and 3) let him air whatever grievances were the motive for his acts.
On the morning of December 28 a unit wrapped in a red wool sock was found embedded in a 15th row seat of the Paramount at Broadway and 43rd Street. The bomb was taken to the beachfront at Fort Tilden in Queens, placed in a hole dug in the sand and detonated following the announcement of 'fire in the hole'.
At 8:00 p.m. on December 28 a copy boy dropped a special delivery envelope on the desk of the Journal-American assistant night editor Richard Piperno. It was the Mad Bomber's response to the open letter of two days before. He promised no more bombs until after mid-January. Berkson showed the communique to Commissioner Kennedy who confirmed it was genuine. The Four Fisherman crafted a reply which appeared on January 2nd through the 4th, hidden in the personals column of the announcements section. On January 10, 1957 the Journal-American, after receiving Kennedy's consent, published the Mad Bomber's letter of 12/28 in its entirety, except for some items deemed sensitive by the Commissioner and expunged from the disclosure. On January 12 the Mad Bomber responded to this second open letter and offered to extend his moratorium to March 1st. He also wrote that he was injured on the job at a Consolidated Edison plant and was adjudged to be totally and permanently disabled but did not receive any aid from the company.
A coordinated effort between the Journal-American, Con Ed, the New York Labor Department and Police Commissioner's Office sought to identify the suspect from this revealed information - clerks at both Con Ed and the Workmen's Compensation Division searched their files but to no avail. The Journal-American published a letter from the current Con Ed president Harland Forbes expressing his concern over the man's plight in light of the references to the power company and assured 'F.P' that a thorough and impartial reappraisal would be made based on new facts that could be presented.
The Mad Bomber's reply to this came on January 19, thanking the paper for their efforts on his behalf and stating the bombings would never be resumed. He also gave the date on which he was injured.
As part of the case investigation a search of Con Ed employee records had been conducted by B.I.U. detectives. In January 1957 they narrowed their focus to the 'dead' compensation files kept at a warehouse on Hester Street. They had been looking at past employees who were not expected to further press their claims or have any more dealings with the company, and completed their work on the 18th. Police then called Con Ed to see if there were any more records of this type.
At the same time a Con Ed administrative task force was reviewing a set of 1000 such 'troublesome' files in a second floor suite at the Irving Place headquarters. In the afternoon of January 18 one of the task force members, a senior office assistant and 25 year company employee named Alice Kelly assigned some of these files, pulled out a third one in the second drawer. It concerned a worker hired at the Hell Gate plant in 1929, injured on the job in 1931, separated from payroll in 1932, filed a claim in 1934 which was disallowed, appealed several times and was conclusively denied in 1936. His subsequent letters to Con Ed became increasingly bitter, finally threatening retaliation for their dastardly deeds and treachery. Alice checked the name and address on the lip of the folder: Metesky, George P., 17 Fourth Street, Waterbury, Connecticut. She notified Herbert Schrank, the task force supervisor, who called the police. The next morning a B.I.U. detective contacted the Waterbury Police Department requesting a 'discreet check' be made on George. Captain Ernest Pakul did so and sent back a detailed teletype report that afternoon.
At 3 p.m. on January 21 under the direction of Chief Edward Byrnes, NYPD detectives Michael Lynch, Richard Rowan, Edward Lehane and James Martin went to Waterbury's Brooklyn district to confer with local police on the logistics of a possible confrontation and arrest. They then drove to the Fourth Street neighborhood to surveil the area and plan their approach. When they returned to the police station there was broad agreement, based on Pakul's own investigation, that the threshold probable cause requirements for a search warrant had been met. Pakul telephoned both the local district attorney and presiding judge to apprise them of the situation. By 10:30 p.m. the warrant had been executed and Detective Lynch called Chief Byrnes for authorization to proceed. Byrnes directed Lynch and his team to move in .
The four detectives were accompanied by Pakul and three of his men when he drove to George's home. Some went to the back of the structure to cover any rear exits. One stationed himself in the yard, while the rest went up to the front door. George answered their knock and was told they were investigating an automobile accident and needed to speak to him about it. Once inside they produced their warrant and began to inspect the premises. They found iron pipes with corresponding plugs, wristwatches, flashlight bulbs, containers of smokeless tobacco and red wool socks in the basement. George, wearing pajamas and a robe, was asked to get dressed. He put on a double breasted blue suit with narrow pinstripes and neatly buttoned it. George wanted to know why they were really there - did they suspect him of being the Mad Bomber? Lynch asked George what the F.P. stood for. Fair Play came the answer. George was handcuffed and taken to the police station, where at 1:30 a.m. his interrogation began. At daybreak of the 22nd he was formally booked and arrested for the violation of Connecticut's explosives statue, pending extradition and further charges from New York City.
Later that morning George appeared before Judge Hugh McGill, said he understood his rights and waived extradition so he could face any charges in New York City. Bail was set at $100,000. A New York County magistrate signed a warrant for his arrest on the February 21, 1956 bombing at Penn Station that injured Lloyd Hill. He was later transferred from the Waterbury City Court to the Fifth Precinct. headquarters on Centre Street. At 4:45 p.m. George was charged with violations of the New York State Penal Code sections 1895 and 1897 (the Sullivan Law) alleging malicious mischief and felonious assault. These charges, which covered only one of 32 bombings, carried a maximum sentence of 42 years. Later that evening George was taken to the Manhattan Borough felony court for arraignment of the charges against him. Benjamin Schmier from the Legal Aid Society of New York was appointed by City Magistrate Reuben Levy to represent George, who was then remanded to Bellevue for observation.
Bellevue Hospital Center, the oldest public hospital in the United States, was a cluster of medical pavilions extending four city blocks along First Avenue and interconnected by a labyrinth of underground tunnels. In the public mind however, 'Bellevue' meant the the nine story brick and limestone building that housed the infamous psychiatric division. George was put in prison Ward No. 2 on the second floor.
George's court appointed attorney learned through an assistant D.A. that George had $11,000 in the bank. Schmier confirmed this and knowing his client's finances went beyond the level of destitution required for assistance from the Legal Aid Society, withdrew from the case. The Journal-American kept its promise to the Mad Bomber by retaining the services of Bart J. O'Rourke, an authority on workmen's compensation law. Harry F. Spellman, a Waterbury attorney, was hired by Anna and Mae Milauskas on behalf of their brother. Spellman then asked James D.C. Murray, a fellow Waterbury native and experienced New York City criminal defense lawyer, to assist.
On January 28, Assistant District Attorney Karl Grebow began presenting evidence against George to a New York County grand jury. Two days later the grand jury returned a 47 court indictment on charges ranging from possession of a bomb to attempted murder in the first degree covering twenty separate incidents (but only those from March 1952 and later in the light of the five year statute of limitations), carrying a maximum combined penalty of 815 years in prison. On the 31st George was brought to the General Sessions court house on Centre Street. for arraignment on the new charges. In Brooklyn, Kings County District Attorney Edward Silver announced plans to seek similar charges for the bombing of the Paramount Theater on December 2, 1956. Silver's office convened another grand jury, submitted evidence from 26 witnesses and was granted its own multiple count indictment against the Mad Bomber. Both Manhattan Judge Louis Capozzoli and Brooklyn Judge Hyman Barshay consented to Murray's request that the proceedings in their respective jurisdictions be postponed pending the completion of George's ongoing psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue.
On March 1 the official psychiatric report on George was delivered to John A Mullen, the presiding judge of the General Sessions Court, unanimously approved and executed by three qualified doctors as required by law. George was diagnosed as suffering from a 'Schizophrenic Reaction of the Paranoid Type' and the examiners opined he was a suitable candidate for commitment to a hospital for the mentally ill. Dismissing the report as a nonbinding consulting opinion, Mullen ordered George to stand trial. He was taken to the Manhattan City Prison - more commonly known as the Tombs. Anna Kross, the corrections commissioner for the N.Y.C. prison system, objected to this and ordered his return to Bellevue. Murray began the process of having Mullen's forced entry plea vacated. Their confrontation came on March 22. Knowing that his decision would be reversed on appeal, Mullen reluctantly granted the motion to vacate.
On March 27 proceedings to determine George's competency to stand trial in Brooklyn for the Paramount bombing began before Judge Samuel Leibowitz. He decided to adjourn the Kings County inquiry pending further actions taken by Mullen. On March 29 George was back in General Sessions for a formal hearing on the issue of his competency to stand trial. Despite the testimony of the three authors of the Bellevue report that George was incapable of understanding the legal proceedings against him or being able to meaningfully assist in his own defense, Mullen denied the motion to confirm the evaluation and directed George to enter a plea. "Not guilty, Your Honor" was Murray's response. Murray requested his client be returned to Bellevue and Mullen, wanting to avoid another confrontation with Kross, consented.
George suffered a severe relapse of the pulmonary tuberculosis on April 6, hemorrhaging in both lungs. Bellevue psychiatrist Dr. Albert LaVerne feared that the emotional strain of a trial could prove fatal to him. Provisions to impanel a trial jury in Manhattan were underway and Mullen, although aware of George's medical condition, provided no indication that a stay of the proceedings was in the works.
The Brooklyn hearing on George's competency had been rescheduled to April 8. George was transferred from Bellevue to the Kings County Hospital, where Liebowitz would hear testimony beginning two days later. George was required to attend, strapped to a steel gurney as he was unable to walk or sit in a chair. Dr. LaVerne testified both as a psychiatrist on George's schizophrenia and as a medical doctor on his respiratory disease, believing it was in the final stage. On April 18 Liebowitz ruled that George was to be committed to Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
For a complete accounting of Mr. Metesky you need to read The Mad Bomber of New York: the Extraordinary True Story of the Manhunt that Paralyzed a City by Michael M. Greenburg (2011) and from which this narrative is excerpted.
George was buried at Calvary, a Roman Catholic cemetery in Waterbury (Section 12, Lot E 1/2 103, Grave #4).
Grand Central Terminal - Upper Level
Old school cut-and-paste proclamations
17 Fourth Street, Waterbury CT - next to this stood a 10x14 corrugated metal garage where each unit was painstakingly constructed.
The red dot marks the spot.
Seymour Berkson, publisher of the Journal-American and one of the Four Fishermen
Brooklyn, the City of Churches
George Peter Metesky
November 2, 1903 - May 23, 1994
Alice G. Kelly, Con Ed senior office clerk
Radio City Music Hall
The arresting NYPD detectives - Michael Lynch, James Martin, Edward Lehane and Richard Rowan.
Bomb making implements
Photograph provided by John Murray, publisher and editor of the Waterbury Observer.
NYPD Bomb Squad detectives removing a unit.
Stephen P. Kennedy, NYPD Commissioner