A Great Big City

March 29 in History: The 'Mad Bomber' Puts Manhattan on Edge

Con Edison
Con Edison via Marc Cappelletti on Flickr

For 16 years, the Mad Bomber planted explosive devices around NYC, and March 29, 1951 began his largest streak of attacks.

The bomber had first attacked as far back as November 1940 with an explosive simply placed on a windowsill of a Con Edison power plant on 64th Street, but as the 1951 bombings began, his targets expanded to many NYC landmarks.

For his new wave of bombings, Metesky mainly chose public buildings as targets, bombing several of them multiple times. Bombs were left in phone booths, storage lockers and restrooms in public buildings including Grand Central Terminal (five times), Pennsylvania Station (five times), Radio City Music Hall (three times), the New York Public Library (twice), the Port Authority Bus Terminal (twice) and the RCA Building, as well as in the New York City Subway. Metesky also bombed movie theaters, where he cut into seat upholstery and slipped his explosive devices inside.

NYTimes via Wikipedia

In all, the Mad Bomber planted 33 bombs, of which 22 exploded. Some bombs were seen as possible scare devices not intended to explode, and others simply caused property damage and startled people nearby. The Mad Bomber's explosives resulted in 15 injuries and no deaths.

Based on handwriting and the Bomber's focus on Con Edison, authorities were able to identify him as George Metesky, and he was arrested January 1957 at his home in Waterbury, Connecticut. He was found legally insane and committed to the Matteawan Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Metesky had blamed his treatment at Con Edison for his resulting tuberculosis and his anger at this incident had fueled his bombings, but, in a strange twist of fate, his disease cleared up during his time in the mental hospital, and he lived long enough to be released 16 years later and live 20 more years in Waterbury, Connecticut, dying aged 90 in 1994.

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