He stuffed rudimentary pipe bombs inside wool socks. Over 20 exploded across New York City, injuring 15 and terrifying the public.
Despite a manhunt for the bomber, authorities were stumped – until a psychiatrist provided an eerily exact criminal profile that led directly to the culprit’s arrest.
George Metesky, known as the “Mad Bomber of New York,” terrorized the Big Apple for 16 years with crudely constructed explosives planted in highly public places. His volatile reign began in 1931 when a boiler blast at a Consolidated Edison plant left him permanently disabled. When workman’s comp expired, Con Ed let him go. Furious, Metesky sought revenge.
He planted his first bomb in November 1940, inside the Con Ed plant on West 64th Street. The explosive was wrapped in a neatly written note signed by “F.P.” It read: “CON EDISON CROOKS – THIS IS FOR YOU.”
Shortly after, a second explosive was discovered near Con Ed’s Manhattan headquarters. Then police received a letter, matching the disgruntled, all-caps styling of the original message. “I WILL BRING THE CON EDISON TO JUSTICE,” promised its author, “THEY WILL PAY FOR THEIR DASTARDLY DEEDS.”
F.P. struck again.
Old George followed through on his threats. He wedged pipe bombs between subway benches, stuck them inside phone booths at the New York Public Library, even tore open the seats at Radio City Music Hall and shoved his explosives inside the seat stuffing. Often the bombs were packed inside long wool socks – authorities learned to look for the fuzzy footwear when scouring a crime scene. Throughout, Metesky taunted police with more erratic letters condemning Con Ed and their “dastardly deeds.”
Authorities combed New York in their hunt for the Mad Bomber, assembling a massive case file. Nevertheless, they could not track down their culprit. By 1956, the city was in a panic and the NYPD were nowhere near apprehension.
Frustrated, they turned to criminal psychiatrist Dr. James Brussel. Brussel examined the crime scene photos; he discussed the bomber’s letters. During his conversations, the doctor developed what was unheard-of at that time: a psychological “portrait” of the suspect, what we know today as an offender profile.
Some of his predictions were obvious enough. The culprit was suffering from paranoia. He knew his way around a workbench…
Then his predictions took a turn for the weirdly specific. The suspect would be male and well-proportioned. He was neat and tidy, on account of his finely written letters. He would be Slavic, as bombs were favored in Middle Europe. A Catholic, as Slavs were Catholic. Brussel predicted he would be foreign-born or living in a community of the foreign-born; the stiff tone of each letter suggested they had been translated into English. He would be a loner, unmarried, polite, but not friendly, and perhaps living with an older female relative.
The cherry on top: When caught, the suspect will be wearing a double-breasted suit, buttoned.
With the aid of Brussel’s work and newly discovered Con Ed accident records, authorities found their man.
Just before midnight on January 21, 1957, Conneticut police arrived at Metesky’s home in the Slavic community of Waterbury, a search warrant in hand. The visit woke his older sisters. George answered the door and politely let them in.
“I know why you fellows are here,” he said, “you think I’m the Mad Bomber.”
He led the police to his workshop, where they found pipes and cheap pocket watches, flashlight batteries, even unmatched wool socks of the type used to hide his bombs. When police told George he’d be coming with them, he asked if he could first change out of his pajamas. When he returned, he was dressed in a double-breasted suit, neatly buttoned.