The Mad Bomber Meets the Profiler

May 28, 2012 - by Mark Pulham

George Metesky

George Metesky

For six years during the early 1950s, “The Mad Bomber” terrorized New Yorkers by planting 32 pipe bombs all over Manhattan. Bombs were left at Grand Central Station, Penn Station, The Port Authority, at subway stations, at Radio City Music Hall, at Macy’s, at various movie theaters, at the New York Public Library, at the RCA Building and at the Con-Edison building.  Bringing Con-Ed to “justice” was the reason for them all. 

by Mark Pulham

It was Monday, May 23, 1994 when the old man died. He passed away at the age of 90 in his home town of Waterbury, Connecticut. It was not a huge news event, probably only mentioned in the local newspapers, in the obituary section. Among the general media, his death went unnoticed. There was no reason why it would be noticed, after all, the death of a 90 year old man was not news, it happens all the time.

But at one time, this man had been in the newspapers with an alarming regularity, though not by the name his family knew him by, and it is partly due to him, and a second man, that a new and powerful weapon was added to the crime investigation arsenal.

It began quietly, not with a bang, over 50 years earlier, in 1940.

The Consolidated Edison Company had been around for well over a hundred years, since 1823, when it was still known as the New York Gas Light Company. In 1884, it combined with five other gas suppliers to form the Consolidated Gas Company, and later acquired the new electrical companies as well.

Eventually, on March 23, 1936, the company renamed itself and became the Consolidated Edison Company of New York.

By 1940, Con-Ed was the main supplier of energy to New York City. Several thousand people worked for the utility, and their customers numbered several million people and businesses.  

Con Ed’s huge offices were at 170 West 64th Street in Manhattan. On November 16, 1940, a man entered the building. With hundreds of employee’s working there, the man didn’t stand out, and no one noticed him among the all the others. 

 

“F.P.” Leaves a Pipe Bomb

He carried with him a wooden toolbox which he placed on a window sill. No one took any notice of the man as he walked away, leaving the toolbox behind. No one took any notice as the man quietly left the building.

How long the toolbox sat there is unknown, but eventually, someone saw it and went to examine it. Inside, they found a short brass pipe that had been filled with gunpowder, probably taken from bullets. There were flashlight batteries and sugar, which made up the mechanism that would set it off. Wrapped around this crudely constructed pipe bomb, hand written in neat block letters, was a note. It read: “CON EDISON CROOKS. THIS IS FOR YOU.” It was signed “F.P.”

Realizing immediately what it was, the police and the bomb squad were called. The bomb didn’t explode, and the police began to wonder if it was actually supposed to. After all, if the bomb had exploded, the note that was wrapped around it would have been destroyed and no one would have seen it, making the note pointless.

If the bomb wasn’t meant to explode, maybe it was just to scare Con Ed, or maybe a warning. Or maybe the note was just to satisfy the bomber.

The Con Ed Building at Irving Place
The Con Ed Building at Irving Place

There was nothing to indicate who had left the bomb, whoever it was had been careful not to leave any fingerprints or any other evidence. The identity of F.P. was a mystery.

The conclusion was obvious. Whoever F.P. was, he had a grudge against the giant energy company. Maybe it was a disgruntled employee, even one still working for the company. There were hundreds of possibilities; someone who was promised a raise that never came, someone who watched someone else get promoted over them, someone recently fired.

Or a customer? Prices go up, customers get angry, power goes out, customers get angry. It’s an endless list. There could be hundreds and hundreds of suspects for a company this size. Finding one among the thousands would be impossible.

The police went through the records of employee’s that had recently been dismissed from the company, but eventually they had to give up. With no clue as to who the bomber was, it was an impossible task.

They hoped that the bomb maker had made his point, and would now give up. The incident never made it to the newspapers, and life carried on.

As weeks, then months passed, and as other cases became more important, the incident at Con Ed was forgotten. It seemed that their hopes of the bomber giving up had come true.

 

Another Pipe Bomb

It was almost a year before anyone heard from F.P. again.

In September, 1941, someone walking along 19th Street, close to 4th Avenue, noticed a man’s wool sock lying on the ground. The sock bulged, showing that something had been pushed inside it. Upon examination, it was discovered to be another pipe bomb. The bomb squad realized that this device was very similar to the first one planted at Con Ed the year before.

There was no note left with this bomb, but like the first one, it, too, didn’t explode. Again, the bomb was crudely made, and the detonator this time was an alarm clock. The reason it didn’t go off was that the alarm clock had not been wound.

There were no indications as to why the bomb had been left on the ground at 19th Street, but the police soon came up with a theory. Just five blocks south, at 4 Irving Place, was another Con Ed building, and the police believed that the bomber was on his way there, where he would wind up the alarm clock and plant the device. The police thought that when he reached 19th Street, something may have spooked him, maybe a patrolman was approaching him and scared him off. Whatever the reason, the bomber decided to abort his attempt to bomb Con Ed, and so dropped the sock and its contents, and left, without setting the detonator.

Once again, there were no clues, no fingerprints, nothing to point to the identity of F.P.

As with the earlier bomb, the incident never made the newspapers. Bigger things were happening at the time that took up most of the headlines. There was the possibility that the United States would find itself involved in the European conflict against Germany, a possibility that became certainty three months later when, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. The following day, the United States declared war on Japan.

 

A 10-Year Hiatus for “Dastardly Deeds”

Not long after, police headquarters in downtown Manhattan received a letter. It had been mailed from Westchester County, north of the city. The letter read: “I WILL MAKE NO MORE BOMB UNITS FOR THE DURATION OF THE WAR – MY PATRIOTIC FEELINGS HAVE MADE ME DECIDE THIS – LATER I WILL BRING THE CON EDISON TO JUSTICE – THEY WILL PAY FOR THEIR DASTARDLY DEEDS…F.P.”

The letter was printed in what would be come familiar block capital letters, sharp and precise, except for the W’s, which were rounded. It matched the letter that had been found wrapped around the first bomb at Con Ed’s 64th Street building.

Whatever else he was, the bomber was true to his word, and for the duration of the war, no bombs were found anywhere. Instead, he began a letter writing campaign, sending out dozens of threatening letters, not only to Con Ed, but also to police stations, newspapers, movie theatres, department stores, and private individuals. Even more may have been sent to others, who probably threw them away as crank mail.

The letter campaign ran for 10 years, but during that time, not one bomb was found. The war had ended, and with each passing year, it seemed that the bomber may have stopped altogether.

 

“The Mad Bomber” Returns

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station

But on Thursday, March 29, 1951, a third bomb was planted, this time at the Grand Central Terminal on the lower level. This time, the bomb exploded. No one was hurt in the blast. Bomb squad officers believed that the design was similar to the ones that had been found before the war, but there was a difference. This one was better constructed. It seemed that although the bomber had kept his word and not planted any bombs for the past 10 years, he had not been idle.

While he was sending out his letters to people and companies, he was also practicing the art of bomb making. This new one was constructed from a pipe six inches long and one inch wide, filled with gunpowder, with plugs screwed into each end. The detonator itself was a cheap watch. Although it was still a simple device, it showed that the bomber was getting more sophisticated.

Another bomb was planted three and a half weeks later. At 6:10 p.m., on April 24, 1951, there was an explosion at the New York Public Library. The bomb had been hidden inside a telephone booth and as with the earlier explosion, no one was injured. But sooner or later, someone would be.

Four months passed before the bomber planted his next device. Once again, it was at the Grand Central Terminal, and again, it was hidden inside a telephone booth. This one also exploded, and once again, no one was hurt, miraculous considering how crowded Grand Central can be.

In September, there was a sixth bomb discovered, again, hidden in a telephone booth. This time, the phone booth was located at the old enemy, the Con Ed building on Irving Place. This one also exploded.

Grand Central Terminal - interior
Grand Central Terminal - interior

After two weeks, Con Ed received another bomb, this one sent through the mail. This one, however, did not explode.

In October, The New York Herald Tribune received a letter from the bomber. It read: “BOMBS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL THE CONSOLIDATED EDISON COMPANY IS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE FOR THEIR DASTARDLY ACTS AGAINST ME. I HAVE EXHAUSTED ALL OTHER MEANS. I INTEND WITH BOMBS TO CAUSE OTHERS TO CRY OUT FOR JUSTICE FOR ME.”

The bomber continued to plant bombs, some of which exploded, some which didn’t. And somehow, either by design or just plain good fortune, no one was getting injured by the bombs.

Then the police got a break. They arrested a man named Frederick Eberhardt, a 56 year old former employee of Con Ed. He had a grudge against the company and had sent a pipe bomb filled with sugar through the mail to their offices. However, it was determined that he was not the one responsible for the other bombs, he was just a copycat, one of many that were making the job of the NYPD more difficult.

In October, 1951, the police received a telephone call, warning of another bomb. It had been placed in one of the lockers in the main waiting room at Grand Central Terminal. The police rushed over, the waiting room was evacuated, and a search of each locker began. There were 3,000 lockers, and 1,500 were in use. It took 35 police officers over three hours to search the lockers, mostly due to the fact that there was only one master key to open the lockers that were in use. Nothing was found, it was just one more crank call. The police were still nowhere nearer to discovering the identity of F.P.

But in among the cranks and the copycats, the bomber was still at work. On November 28, he planted a bomb in a coin operated locker at the 14th Avenue IRT subway station. It exploded, and once more, there were no injuries. He also sent another letter to the New York Herald Tribune. “HAVE YOU NOTICED THE BOMBS IN YOUR CITY – IF YOU ARE WORRIED, I AM SORRY – AND ALSO IF ANYONE IS INJURED. BUT IT CANNOT BE HELPED – FOR JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED. I AM NOT WELL, AND FOR THIS I WILL MAKE THE CON EDISON SORRY – YES, THEY WILL REGRET THEIR DASTARDLY DEEDS – I WILL BRING THEM BEFORE THE BAR OF JUSTICE – PUBLIC OPINION WILL CONDEMN THEM – FOR BEWARE, I WILL PLACE MORE UNITS UNDER THEATER SEATS IN THE NEAR FUTURE. F.P.”

Radio City Music Hall
Radio City Music Hall

It was clear that the bomber was far from finished.

The next target was the Port Authority Bus Terminal. On March 19, 1952, a bomb that had been placed in a telephone booth exploded. No one was near the booth at the time and there were no injuries.

In December, 1952, F.P. left a bomb inside a seat at the Loew’s Theater on Lexington Avenue. This was not the first one he had left there, a similar device had been planted at the theater the previous June. As with his other theater bombs, he had taken a knife and slashed open the bottom of the seat, and then he pushed the bomb inside. Once the bomb was in place, he left through one of the emergency exits.

The bomb that exploded in June had, as in all cases, not caused any injuries. But this was about to change. The bomb in Loew’s in December exploded, and for the first time, someone was caught in the blast. F.P. had finally claimed his first victim, someone, this time, had been injured.

The police, hoping not to cause a panic, asked the newspapers to play down the incident and not to print any of the bomber’s letters. But it was too late. The public had begun to realize that there was someone going around the city planting bombs. He now even had a name. The “Mad Bomber.”

Pennsylvania Station
Pennsylvania Station

The bombing campaign carried on through 1953, when F.P. planted more bombs in seats at the Radio City Music Hall and at the Capitol Theater. Both exploded, both causing no injuries. Another bomb was planted, once again, targeting the Grand Central Terminal. This time it had been placed inside a coin operated rental locker near the Oyster Bar. It exploded, and once again it was lucky that no one was injured. It was described by a member of the police as the product of a “publicity seeking jerk.” Another bomb was later discovered in a rental locker at Pennsylvania Station.

In March, 1954, the Grand Central Terminal was targeted yet again, this time the bomb was left in a men’s room. It had been wedged behind a sink, and when it exploded, it injured three men, but only slightly. Another bomb had also been planted at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and like the bomb that went off there in 1952, it was placed inside a telephone booth. As with the 1952 bombing, no one was hurt in the explosion. Yet another explosive device was discovered at Pennsylvania Station, this time in a telephone booth that had been removed to undergo repairs.

On November 7, 1954, the Radio City Music Hall was filled to capacity. Inside, 6,200 people watched “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. In one of the seats on the 15th row, F.P. had cut out the bottom and stuffed a pipe bomb inside. It exploded, but hardly anyone heard it, the explosion was muffled by the upholstery in the seat. But it managed to injure four people, two women and two boys. The casualties were moved to the first aid room, and 50 others were moved to the back of the theater. The rest of the audience continued to watch the film and the stage show that followed, unaware of what had happened. The police searched for clues, but there were none to be found.

 

Nowhere Was Safe

The New Year came and the Mad Bomber showed no sign of giving up. More bombs were planted, one exploding on the platform of the IRT subway station at Sutter Avenue in Brooklyn. No one was injured. Macy’s department store had also become a target when a bomb was placed in a telephone booth on its main floor. Once again, although it exploded, no one was injured, remarkable for a store that is usually crowded.

Pennsylvania Station was also targeted again, this time with two bombs, one inside a locker, and one inside a telephone booth. They both exploded and once again, neither one of them caused any injuries. Radio City Music Hall was also attacked once again, but the bomb was discovered after they received a warning telephone call.

An upholsterer was about to work on a chair that had been taken from the Roxy Theatre when, while he had it on his bench, a bomb dropped out of the bottom. It didn’t explode. The Paramount Theater, which had been targeted just a couple of years earlier, had a bomb explode underneath a seat. Shrapnel hit a man on the shoe, but it didn’t injure him. In December, closing out the year, Grand Central was bombed yet again, the bomb hidden in a stall in the men’s room.

It had now been 15 years since that first bomb on the window sill at Con Ed’s 64th Street building, and the police were still no nearer to identifying F.P. than they were that first day.

By 1956, the people of New York City were scared, and angry that this person had not been caught. It seemed that there was no place that could be considered safe, the subway, the theaters, train stations, and department stores had all been targeted.

The problem for the police was where could they look? Con Ed’s records of personnel filled enormous warehouses and numbered in the thousands. Picking just one individual from that many was impossible, especially as the bomber was incredibly careful not to leave any clues. All they had to go on was that he had a grudge.

And still, the bombs continued to turn up.

On February 21, 1956, in one of the toilets at Penn Station, a young man noticed a blockage in one of the toilet bowls and called an attendant over. The attendant, a 74 year old, took a plunger and tried to clear the obstruction. The blockage was a bomb, which immediately exploded. The attendant was seriously injured, but not killed. When bomb squad members examined the scene of the latest outrage, they found, among the broken shards of porcelain, a wool sock and a watch frame.

Along with the bombs, F.P. was still writing his letters in his neat block lettering. The letters showed that he was becoming angrier as his frustration with the lack of media attention rose. One letter in March, 1956 to the Herald Tribune read: “WHILE VICTIMS GET BLASTED – THE YELLOW PRESS MAKES NO MENTION OF THESE GHOULISH ACTS. THESE SAME GHOULS CALL ME A PSYCHOPATH – ANY FURTHER REFERENCE TO ME AS SUCH – OR THE LIKE – WILL BE DEALT WITH – WHERE EVER A WIRE RUNS – GAS OR STEAM FLOWS – FROM OR TO THE CON EDISON CO. – IS NOW A BOMB TARGET – SO FAR 54 BOMBS PLACED – 4 TELEPHONE CALLS MADE. THESE BOMBING WILL CONTINUE UNTIL CON EDISON IS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE – MY LIFE IS DEDICATED TO THIS TASK – EXPECT NO CALLS ABOUT BOMBS IN THEATERS AS YOUR ACTIONS – NO LONGER WARRANT THE EFFORT OR DIME – ALL MY SUFFERINGS – ALL MY FINANCIAL LOSS – WILL HAVE TO BE PAID IN FULL – IT MUST ALARM – ANGER AND ANNOY THE N.Y. YELLOW PRESS AND AUTHORITIES TO FIND THAT ANY INDIVIDUAL CAN BE JUST AS MEAN – DIRTY AND ROTTEN AS THEY ARE. I MERELY SEEK JUSTICE. F.P.”

In August, a piece of pipe was discovered in a telephone booth at the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center. The pipe was about five inches long. The guard who discovered it informed one of his colleagues. Unbelievably, despite what had been going on, the second guard decided the pipe was just what he needed for a plumbing project he was working on at home. Later that day, he left work, taking the pipe on the bus with him went he went home to New Jersey.

That night, he left it on the kitchen table and went to bed. Some hours later, early in the morning, the house shook as the bomb exploded, destroying the kitchen. No one was hurt.

On December 2, while the audience was watching War And Peace at the Paramount Theater in Brooklyn, a bomb that had been placed in a seat exploded. Of the 1,500 people inside, six of them were injured, one seriously. It was the most powerful device the Mad Bomber had so far planted. The news media covered the incident extensively, and the next day, Police Commissioner Stephen P. Kennedy ordered, as he called it, “the greatest manhunt in the history of the police department.” There would be immediate promotion to anyone who arrested the bomber.

On December 24, David Cruz, a 19-year-old clerk at the New York Public Library, went to use the telephone. He dropped a coin and as he bent to pick it up, he noticed a sock attached to the underside of a shelf, secured by a magnet. Inside was an iron pipe with a threaded screw cap attached to either end.

Cruz asked some of the other clerks what he should do, and finally, he pulled the bomb off the shelf and threw it out the window into Bryant Park, then called the bomb squad. More than 60 NYPD detectives and police officers descended on the scene.

That same week, another bomb had been found in one of the seats of the Paramount Theater in Times Square.

The following month, in a letter sent to the New York Journal American, F.P. said that both the Paramount and New York Library bombs had been planted some months before.

On December 27, 1956, a reward of $26,000 was posted by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the New York City Board of Estimate. Two days later, December 29, a note was discovered in a telephone booth at the Grand Central Terminal, scene of so many bombings. It said that a bomb had been planted at the Empire State Building. The police and the bomb squad rushed to the scene. There was no indication in the note as to exactly where the bomb was planted, so a search of the whole building, all 102 floors, had to be done.

No bomb was found, it was one more crank call.

 

America’s First Profiler Enters the Hunt for the Mad Bomber

And so 1956 ended with the police no closer to catching the Mad Bomber than they were before.

But December was a significant month for the police, though it wasn’t immediately apparent.

So far, the investigative techniques used by the police in the hunt for the Mad Bomber had led nowhere. The fingerprint experts had found nothing, the handwriting experts were stumped, and the Bomb Investigation Unit, a task force that had been formed just for this investigation in April, 1956, was getting nowhere.

With the only thing to go on being the theory that the bomber was someone with a grudge against Con Ed, the detectives searched through the personnel records of the company, a seemingly unending task given the many thousands of employee’s the company had working for them over the years. And there was no guarantee it was an employee, it could easily have been a customer.

Other detectives went through records of lawsuits hoping that a name would surface, while other detectives went through admissions to mental hospitals, hoping the same.

In addition to this, there were the time wasters, the crank calls and letters that had to be followed up, the people of New York who were informing on their neighbors because they were acting odd. Everything had to be checked out, everything took time, and nothing was found.

James A. Brussel with book Casebook of a Criminal Psychiatrist
James A. Brussel with book Casebook of a Criminal Psychiatrist

Inspector Howard E. Finney of the New York Crime Lab was frustrated as he watched the traditional methods fail, and decided that it was time for a new approach. He talked it over with his friend, Captain John Cronin at the Missing Persons Bureau. Cronin suggested that Finney talk to a friend of his named James Brussel. Maybe he could give Finney an idea of what this F.P. was like. Dr. James A. Brussel was a psychiatrist. Finney was skeptical, but decided it couldn’t hurt, and so gave it a try.

James A. Brussel was born in 1905, and after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, he served as a doctor at the Pilgrim State Hospital on Long Island in the 1930’s. He had also, early on in his career, done some counter espionage work for the FBI in Mexico, and had written several books. Like everyone else, Brussel had read the newspaper reports of the Mad Bomber, and wondered what F.P. was like. But, with no access to the case files, he didn’t pay too much attention.  Now in private practice, Brussel was also the Assistant Commissioner of Mental Hygiene for the State of New York, which meant he sometimes had to attend police conferences. It was at one of these conferences that he met Cronin.

Finney, along with two other detectives, met with Brussel at his home on 12th Street in the West Village. In his memoir, Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist, Brussel said, “I didn’t miss the look in the two plainclothesmen’s eyes. I’d seen that look before, most often in the Army, on the faces of hard, old-line, field-grade officers who were sure this newfangled psychiatry business was all nonsense.”

Brussel read the huge file that Finney had brought with him and later admitted that he felt intimidated by the inspector. Brussel felt under some slight pressure, and knew that he had to give something conclusive or he would be dismissed entirely. The other detectives made it obvious that they thought this was just another waste of time.

 

The Profile

Brussel read through the file, looked at the crime scene photographs, and read the letters that F.P. had been sending or had left with the bombs. Finally, he came up with his idea of what the bomber would be like.

F.P. was a middle aged man, probably somewhere around his early 50s, who had a grudge against Con Ed. It’s likely he was a former employee and wanted to exact revenge on them, probably because he was unfairly dismissed. The bomber was suffering from paranoia and most likely was also suffering from an Oedipus complex. He was either foreign or of foreign extraction, very likely Slavic, and lived in Connecticut. He was a Roman Catholic, unmarried, and probably lived with a female relative other than his mother. He had a good education, probably up to high school, but no college or university. He was also neat and meticulous, and very sensitive to any criticism. He was also, most likely, ex-military, a soldier or a marine.

The detectives listened politely and made notes, but now they were certain they were wasting their time. Other than the grudge against Con Ed, which was fairly obvious from the notes, the other conclusions were ludicrous. There was nothing in the file that could point to any of these conclusions. But Finney had said he would give it a try, and that’s what he was going to do. The detectives got up to leave, and then Brussel added something. The scene has gone down in legend.

“One more thing.” Brussel said, his eyes tightly closed, “When you catch him – and I have no doubt you will – he’ll be wearing a double breasted suit.”

One detective simply whispered, “Jesus!”

Brussel added, “And it will be buttoned.”

Finney and the other detectives glanced at each other. Clearly, they believed this was just a fantasy, a waste of their time.

The inspector looked at Brussel. “A double breasted suit.” he said.

“Yes.”

“Buttoned.”

“Yes”

The detectives didn’t say another word, they just left.

Up until this point, the police had deliberately kept the bombing incidents low key, but Brussel suggested that they publicize the portrait he had created, making it front page news. The police were reluctant, but agreed to do it.

 

The Profile Goes Public

On December 25, 1956, the New York Times published a version of the portrait under the headline “16 Year Search for a Madman.” It summarized the major points. “Single man, between 40 and 50 years old, introvert. Unsocial but not anti-social. Skilled mechanic. Cunning. Neat with tools. Egotistical of mechanical skill. Contemptuous of other people. Resentful of criticism of his work but probably conceals resentment. Moral. Honest. Not interested in women. High school graduate. Expert in civil or military ordnance. Religious. Might flare up violently at work when criticized. Possible motive: discharge or reprimand. Feels superior to critics. Resentment keeps growing. Present or former Consolidated Edison worker. Probably case of progressive paranoia.”

Predictably, once the portrait was printed, the time wasters responded. Some were just people wanting to take responsibility, but they couldn’t describe the bombs that had been left, the construction of which had been left out of the newspaper reports. Then there were the good-willed but mistaken reports from people who had friends or neighbors who may have fit the description.

One in particular was a report of a man who lived in Darien, Connecticut, who once worked for Con Ed and had been in a mental hospital suffering from paranoia. The man, who was married to a woman 10 years older than himself, was a skilled mechanic who frequently travelled into the city carrying a blue suitcase.

The fact that the man was married didn’t fit the Oedipus theory, but Brussel thought that maybe it could have been a deviation from this. The man was investigated. It turned out that the blue suitcase didn’t contain bombs at all. Instead, it contained a pair of women’s high heeled boots. The man, it turned out, had a foot fetish and was going to prostitutes in New York to indulge in his fantasies.

 

Identifying George Metesky

The day after the portrait appeared, the New York Journal American published an open letter to the bomber, urging him to give himself up to the police. The next day, in a letter mailed from Westchester County at 1:30 p.m., the bomber gave his reply. “TO JOURNAL AMERICAN – I READ YOUR PAPER OF DECEMBER 26 – WHERE WERE YOU PEOPLE WHEN I WAS ASKING FOR HELP? PLACING MYSELF INTO CUSTODY WOULD BE STUPID – DO NOT INSULT MY INTELLIGENCE – BRING THE CON EDISON TO JUSTICE… F.P.”

On January 10, 1957, the newspaper published the letter along with another open letter asking about the grievances that he had mentioned. Two days later, another letter arrived, also mailed from Westchester. In this one, the bomber talked about what had happened. “I WAS INJURED ON JOB AT CONSOLIDATED EDISON PLANT — AS A RESULT I AM ADJUDGED — TOTALLY AND PERMANENTLY DISABLED”

He told of how Con Ed had stopped his worker’s compensation case, and how he had to pay his own medical bills.

Alice G. Kelly was a secretary working for Con Ed, and she and two others had been given the task of going through the files at Con Ed’s main office. In between their other duties, they would go through each of the files to see what they could find. The files were from the 1920’s through to the 1930’s.

Alice, like everyone else, had read the Brussel profile of the bomber, and she had seen the second letter that mentioned his grievances. She began looking through the files, searching for employees with serious health problems. On Friday, January 18, she was going through some workers compensation files that had been labeled “troublesome” and found one that looked promising.

At first glance, the contents were similar to many of the others, filled with application forms, letters from the employee and the company’s responses. Nothing had been added to the file since 1937, so Alice thought that the case had likely been resolved or the employee had either just given up, or maybe even had died. Quickly, she scanned through the letters and was about to put it away when something caught her eye. She sat down and read through the file more thoroughly.

The employee had worked not for Con Ed itself, but for the United Electric and Power Company, a company that merged into Con Ed. He was working as a generator wiper between 1929 and late 1931, when, on September 5, 1931, a back draft of heated gas knocked him to the ground.

For months, he complained of headaches and various other symptoms, though upon examination, no injuries could be found. For several months, the company gave him sick pay while he stayed at home, but repeated medical examinations could find no physical injuries, and finally the company dropped him from the payroll.

On January 4, 1934, the employee filed a claim with the Workmen’s Compensation Board for permanent disability, as he believed that the gases he inhaled had given him tuberculosis. But, unable to provide any proof of his claim, and not filing his claim until too long after the injuries had occurred, his claim was denied.

He then began a long lasting and angry letter campaign to everyone concerned; Con Ed, the WCB, and many others.

It was one of these letters that caught Alice’s attention. The man had referred to the company’s actions as “dastardly deeds.”

Shortly before 5 p.m. that night, the police were informed.

A third letter from F.P. arrived at the Journal American on Saturday, January 19, 1957, and in this one, the bomber gave more details of what happened. And this time, he included the date of his injury. It was September 5, 1931.

Once the police had read the file that they received the night before, they believed they had their man. Not only was the wording similar to F.P.’s letters, but the date of the injury was the same as the date given by F.P. in his latest letter, that was as yet to be printed in the newspaper.

The name of the employee was George Metesky.

As sure as they were, the police still wanted to make absolutely certain. The address in the file was 17 Fourth Street, Waterbury, Connecticut, and a request was sent to the police there for a discrete check on Metesky.

At first, the police in Waterbury were confused; they could find no mention of a George Metesky living at that address. According to records, it had once belonged to an Adam Milauskas, and then deeded to his son, George. But Captain Ernest Pakul guessed that George Milauskas had unofficially changed his name, a common occurrence with the middle Europeans who lived there.

A detective was sent to the area to make enquiries under the excuse that they were checking into a car accident that had happened in the neighborhood. The Waterbury police confirmed that Metesky was still living there.

 

“F.P.” Stands for “Fair Play” Said the Man in the Double-breasted Suit Coat

On Monday, January 21, 1957, the detectives moved in. It was quite late when the detectives approached the house at 17 Fourth Street. Four of them were from New York, the rest were local law enforcement officers. One of them carried a search warrant for the premises. They knocked on the door, loudly, and a moment or two later, it was opened by a chubby, middle aged man, wearing pajamas and ready for bed. George Metesky greeted the officers with a big friendly smile.

Two women, George’s sisters, were behind him in the shadows, curious as to who could be calling at such a late hour. The officers showed George the search warrant. George opened the door wider and allowed the detectives to come in, his friendly, open expression unchanged.

“I know why you fellows are here.” George said, his voice calm, “You think I’m the Mad Bomber.”

The detectives asked George to give them a sample of his handwriting, which he was happy to do. In particular, the detectives were interested in how he wrote the letter “G”, which in the bombers’ letters was distinctive. It matched.

The detectives now knew that George Metesky and the Mad Bomber were one and the same. They turned to George and asked a simple question, what did F.P. stand for? “F.P. stands for fair play.” George replied.

George Metesky's garage where the bombs were made
George Metesky's garage where the bombs were made

At 17 Fourth Street, George happily led the detectives to his garage and showed off his tools. There was a lathe which he used to make the bombs, and inside the house, they found a supply of pipes, cheap watches, flashlight batteries, and wool socks to transport the bombs. With the amount of evidence found, and George’s openness about being the one they were after, the detectives asked George to get dressed so they could take him in.

George went upstairs to put on some clothes. As amazed as the detectives must have been that Brussel was so accurate, they had to have been stunned when George came back down: George was wearing a double- breasted suit. And all the buttons were fastened.

When he was questioned, George freely admitted that he had planted 32 bombs around the city, and he was indicted on 47 charges, including attempted murder, maliciously endangering life, and a violation of the Sullivan Law by carrying concealed weapons, in this case the bombs themselves.

George Peter Metesky was born on November 2, 1903, his name Milauskas becoming Metesky because that’s just how everyone pronounced it. It was easier to accept the new name than correct people.

After World War I, George joined the United States Marines and served in Shanghai, where he was a specialist electrician at the U.S. Consulate. Upon returning to the United States, he moved back in with his two unmarried sisters in Waterbury, and got a job as a mechanic at the United Electric and Power Company, where, on September 5, 1931, while working as a generator wiper at the company’s generating plant at Hell Gate on New York’s East River, the boiler back fired. The resulting hot gases filled his lungs and George believed that this led to pneumonia, which later developed into tuberculosis.

The dismissal of the worker’s compensation case was appealed three times, but each time, it was turned down. George became more and more angry and bitter, not only at Con Ed, who had absorbed the company, but also at the company lawyers and the three co-workers who George believed had lied in court in favor of the company. The result was a man angry enough to begin a bombing campaign.

George Metesky fit the Brussel profile exactly, and like a Sherlock Holmes story, when the conclusions were explained, it seemed so simple.

 

Elementary, My Dear Watson

That the bomber had a grudge against Con Ed was obvious, even the detectives could see that. But in his letters, the bomber showed that he believed Con Ed was out to get him personally, which indicated that he was paranoid. As paranoia peaks around the age of 35, and the bombs started in 1940, Brussel believed that the age of the bomber would be around the early 50s. Metesky was 54.

Historically, bombers were male; therefore they were looking for a man. The notes and letters that were sent had very neat lettering, and the construction of the bombs showed a man that, to Brussels’ mind, was exceptionally orderly. This also was an indication of paranoia, as paranoids tend to set high standards for themselves to avoid any chance of criticism. This also told Brussel that the man would be sensitive to any criticism that was leveled at him.

Metesky arrested
Metesky arrested

As for being Slavic and living in Connecticut, Brussel had seen that the letters were all mailed in Westchester County, which he concluded would be far enough away from home, but also far enough away from the target area. With New York being the target area, the other end of the line passing through Westchester was Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bridgeport had a large population of middle Europeans, mostly Slavic. And middle Europeans had a tradition of using bombs as a weapon of choice. To Brussel, it all pointed to the bomber being Slavic. And as groups tend to stick together and cling to traditions, the bomber would also be a Roman Catholic, like almost every other Slavic person.

The letters themselves showed that the bomber had some form of formal education, but nothing beyond high school. The word usage, especially such phrases as “dastardly deeds” sounded like Victorian fiction, and suggested to Brussel that the letters were thought out in a foreign language first before being written down.

In addition, the letters in all the notes were angular and sharp, except for the W’s, which were rounded and resembled female breasts. As European families tend to focus on the mother as the head of the family rather than the father, Brussel concluded that the bomber probably had an Oedipus complex. Those suffering from this complex tend to be unmarried and lived with a female relative, or in Metesky’s case, two female relatives, his sisters.

The bombers’ slashing of the theatre seats to plant the bombs represented sexual penetration, and the shape of the bombs was certainly phallic, which led Brussel to the conclusion that F.P. had a sexual inadequacy, which was also typical of those with an Oedipus complex.

As for him being ex-military, the bomber had experience with guns and bullets, using the gunpowder from bullets to construct the bombs. To Brussel, this pointed to someone who was an ex-soldier as he felt that the military was the most likely place he would get that experience.

Brussel admitted that cracking the Mad Bomber case was the result of letting his imagination get the better of him. He said he could see the bomber in his mind, and knew that this was a man who would be conservative and especially neat, and for Brussel, that meant a double breasted suit, and a man this neat would not leave any buttons unfastened.

In a sense, it was almost a guess, but a highly educated one, and Brussel said that although the facts didn’t warrant it, he couldn’t help himself.

 

No Trial for the Mad Bomber

But George would never stand trial. After examination at the Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, he was brought to court where, after listening to the psychiatric experts, Judge Samuel S. Liebowitz declared George to be legally insane and unfit to stand trial. On April 18, 1957, Judge Liebowitz committed George to the Matteawan Hospital for the Criminally Insane at Beacon, New York.

It was expected that George, due to his advanced tuberculosis, had not long to live, but after treatment that lasted a year and a half, his health improved, and in a newspaper article 14 years later, the 68 year old was described as “vigorous and healthy looking.”

While George was confined to Matteawan, the Journal American hired an attorney on behalf of the bomber to appeal the disallowed compensation claim from 1931, stating that his mental incompetency meant that he didn’t know his rights. The appeal was unsuccessful.

 

Postscript

At Matteawan, George received regular visits from his two sisters, and also from Brussel, who found George to be charming and talkative. On one visit, George told Brussel that he designed and built his bombs so that no one would be killed, though the fact that no one actually died seems more a case of luck than design.

George was a model inmate while he was at Matteawan, though he never responded to any psychiatric treatment, which was not surprising as paranoid patients tend to think that the psychiatrists are part of the conspiracy against them.

George Metesky in jail
George Metesky in jail

In 1973, George was transferred to the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, a hospital that was not part of the correctional system. The reason for the transfer was a Supreme Court ruling that mentally ill defendants could not be committed to a hospital that was operated by the New York State Department of Correctional Services unless a jury had found them to be dangerous. As George had not gone through a trial, he could not be placed in Matteawan.

The doctors at Creedmore determined that George was now harmless, and as he had already served two thirds of a 25-year sentence that he would have received if he had been found guilty, George was released, on the condition that he made regular visits to the Connecticut Department of Mental Hygiene clinic that was near his home.

Now 70 years old, George was released on December 13, 1973, and he moved back home to 17 Fourth Street in Waterbury, still angry at Con Ed, but having renounced violence.

George lived the remainder of his life quietly until his death at the age of 90.

The success of the profile that James Brussel created for George Metesky has gone down in criminal investigation history and now, thanks to television and films such as The Silence Of The Lambs, most people are familiar with the work of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico. The FBI does not call it criminal profiling. The FBI prefers the term “criminal investigative analysis” and the profilers are referred to as “supervisory special agents.”

James Brussel went on to profile other cases, such as the Boston Strangler murders, and died in 1982 at the age of 77.

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