George Metesky

On December 2, 1956 a small group of New Yorkers looking to forget their pre-holiday worries filed into the Paramount Movie Theatre in Brooklyn. Some moviegoers were weighted down with Christmas packages obtained in afternoon shopping excursions. Others carried briefcases, the contents of which they hoped to escape for a couple of hours.

Escape from everyday cares was imminent. At 7:55pm, a bomb ripped apart the theatre. When the smoke and panic cleared, six people were injured. Three of those injuries were serious. As the bomber himself would soon write, it was "by the hand of God" that nobody had been killed.

Everyone knew whom to blame for the attack. The Mad Bomber (or F.P. as he signed his mysterious, paranoid letters) had been planting bombs in New York City for sixteen years. Unfortunately, neither the public nor the police believed he would be stopped before someone was killed.

The bomber's competence made tracing his devices nearly impossible. Years of traditional police work had broached few leads, and everyone from city officials to the local media to ordinary citizens were asking why the most sophisticated police force in the world had come up with nothing.

The detectives working the case were at their wits end and ready to try anything. After all, the Mad Bomber's devices were getting more powerful with every explosion and his incessant, arrogant letters to the department and local media were making them look bad. The papers had not printed the bomber's letters at the request of detectives, but they did cover the case.

The media's conclusion: New York City was paralyzed. Heady with a post war economic boom, the greatest port in the most powerful nation that ever existed the mysterious Mad Bomber was holding the city hostage with fear.

Since traditional means had been fruitless, Inspector Howard Finney of the New York City crime lab decided it was time to try something new. He asked his friend Captain Cronin at the Missing Person's Bureau if he had any ideas. Cronin suggested that perhaps a psychiatrist could work up a profile of the bomber and that profile could be useful in catching him. The concept of criminal profiling wasn't precisely new, but it was certainly experimental and had not been used effectively to solve a major case. Cronin recommended Finney talk to a friend of his that had had some minor success in psychiatric detecting.

As a tough and respected veteran of the force, Finney had the clout to try the radical idea. He was himself a man of science with a master's degree in forensic criminology and ran the crime lab tightly and effectively. Although he remained skeptical of "head-shrinking," Finney decided to give the concept a try.

His bulging case file tucked firmly under his arm, Finney and two of his detectives paid a visit to Cronin's friend, a Manhattan criminal psychiatrist named Dr. James Brussel. Little did Finney know just how helpful Dr. Brussel would be in helping the police find the madman that had eluded them for sixteen years.

Small Beginnings

The Mad Bomber had planted his first bomb at the Consolidated Edison building on West 64th Street on November 16th, 1940. He enclosed it in a wooden toolbox and placed it on a windowsill then slipped unnoticed out of the building. The utility giant Con Edison (as it is locally known) was and remains the main supplier of energy for the New York City, and the offices were so huge and bustling that nobody took any notice of a stranger.

The small dud of a pipe bomb never exploded. Around the outside of the device, the bomber had wrapped a note written in neat block lettering:


The workers who discovered it called in the bomb squad. The bomb squad officers found no fingerprints or any other evidence with which to trace the crudely made device. The note inspired some curiosity because it would have been destroyed if the device had exploded.

The puzzled investigators wondered whether the bomber meant for the note to be destroyed or whether he had not realized that the note would be destroyed. Or, they wondered, was the bomb an intentional dud?

After some rudimentary checking into the records of recently dismissed employees and others with grievances against the company, the police gave up on finding the bomber. There were more pressing cases that had more of a chance of being solved. The incident never made the papers.

No one at Con Edison or at the bomb squad thought much about the dud pipe bomb in the next few months. Then, nearly a year after the first incident, someone found a second unexploded device lying on 19th Street a few blocks from Con Edison's Irving Place offices. Its simple alarm-clock detonator had not been wound. The bomber had wrapped his handiwork in an old woolen sock, and this time there was no note.

The bomb squad investigators recognized the construction as similar to the previous device. They assumed the bomber had been on his way to the Con Edison offices nearby and for any number of reasons had aborted his attempt to plant the bomb. He had simply thrown it into the street.

Again, the papers ignored the incident. The war in Europe as well as the U.S.'s inevitable involvement in the conflict occupied most every page. Three months later, as the U.S. entered the war, the bomber sent a letter to Manhattan Police headquarters. Written in neat block letters it read:

Patriotic Letter

Some of the notes were handwritten. The handwriting was the same as had been written on the first bomb's note with neat, precise lettering. Only the W's were written with a strange, reckless curvature that was oddly out of place with the straight letters.

One of the Con Edison letters

F.P. was true to his word. During the next nine years, he planted no bombs. He was not, however, inactive. During this time, he wrote dozens of bizarre, threatening letters to Con Edison, the police, movie theatres and private individuals.

Then, on March 29th, 1950, a third unexploded bomb was discovered in Grand Central Station. The bomb squad recognized the construction as similar to the Con Edison bombs. The construction was similar, but not identical. The bomber had used his nine-year hiatus to hone his skill and the new device was more powerful and skillfully constructed than the first two. Detectives wondered if the "bomber" meant for his devices to detonate at all.

Unfortunately, that theory exploded along with a fourth bomb at a phone booth inside the New York Public Library. Then another exploded at Grand Central. In all, the Mad Bomber would plant over 30 bombs in his career mostly leaving them in public places but occasionally diverting from that pattern. Once he mailed a bomb to Con Edison. When he planted bombs in movie theatres he would slash open the underside of a seat and insert the bomb there before slipping out the theatre. It was one of those bombs that exploded at the Paramount.

The Profiler

Dr. James Brussel
The sharp-witted, pipe-smoking Dr. James Brussel had casually considered the Mad Bomber case. Like most New Yorkers, he had read about the case in the papers and wondered what kind of person would commit such an act. Being a criminal psychiatrist, he theorized a bit about the mysterious culprit. Who was he? What motivated him?

With no access to the case file and no reason to come up with solid conclusions, thoughts and theories flitted in and out of his mind without care.

That changed when Inspector Finney visited his office with the case file. Dr. Brussel had agreed to meet with the Inspector as a favor to his old friend Cronin. Primarily in private practice, Dr. Brussel also served as the Assistant Commissioner of Mental Hygiene for the State of New York a position that led to numerous consultations with police forces and appearances at police conferences. At those conferences, he had both impressed and befriended Captain Cronin.

In is memoir, Casebook of a crime psychiatrist, Dr. Brussel admits he doubted he could be useful to Finney's case. Despite being confident of his profession and his own abilities, he didn't believe that he could add anything that professional detectives had already discovered.

Dr. Brussel's self-doubts were a bit misplaced. If anyone could effectively profile a criminal, he could. Prior to his private practice, Dr. Brussel had served in the military as chief of Neuropsychiatry at Fort Dix during World War II and then as the head of army Neuropsychiatry for the entire army during the Korean War. During that time, he had done counterintelligence profiling work for the FBI and the CID.

Dr. Brussel also admits that Finney intimidated him. He believed the old cop wouldn't settle for anything but solid conclusions and would dismiss the psychiatric profession entirely if he proved wrong. From the amused glances and rolled eyes of Finney's detectives, Dr. Brussel knew that those men had already dismissed him.

With the pressure firmly on, Dr. Brussel read through the case file and came up with a profile of their culprit. The main conclusion: the bomber was most certainly mad.

The Profile

What the police had considered as scant-evidence was a wellspring for Dr. Brussel. After pouring through the case file, he came up with the following conclusions.

The bomber was male. With a few exceptions, historically bombers have always been male.

The bomber had a grudge against Con Edison and was likely a former employee. He believed himself to have been permanently injured by the company and was seeking revenge. This conclusion was obvious from the letters.

The bomber was a textbook paranoid. The bomber believed that Con Edison and the public at large conspired against him.

The bomber was middle-aged probably around 50. Paranoia generally peaks around age 35 and the bomber had been active for 16 years.

The bomber was neat, meticulous and skilled at his work. Everything from the carefully constructed bombs, to the neat lettering, to the careful planning of the bombs indicated his neatness. Also, paranoids tend to set high standards for themselves so as not open themselves to unwanted criticism.

The bomber was overly sensitive to criticism. This is a classic symptom of paranoia.

The bomber was foreign or spent the majority of his time with foreign people. The bomber wrote in stilted, formal language bereft of any contemporary slang. He utilized phrases like "dastardly deeds" that sounded as if out of Victorian fiction. He referred to Con Edison as "the Con Edison" when New Yorkers had referred to the utility giant without the article "the" for years.

The bomber had at least a high school education but probably no college. The stilted language of the letters and skilled construction of the bombs spoke of self-education. The excellent handwriting indicated at least some formal schooling.

The bomber was a Slav and probably Roman Catholic. Culturally speaking, Eastern and Central Europeans most often employ bombs as weapons. Most Slavs are Catholic.

The bomber lived in Connecticut, not New York. Some of the letters had been mailed from Westchester Country (a location in between Connecticut and New York) and Connecticut was home to large communities of Eastern and Central Europeans.

The bomber suffered from an Oedipal Complex. Like most Oedipal sufferers he was likely unmarried and lived with a single female relative or relatives that were not his mother. He probably lost his mother young. Dr. Brussel made these conclusions based on the phallic construction of the bombs; the strange (and breast-like) W's in the bomber's otherwise perfect handwriting and the strange slashing and penetration of the movie theatres seats. As far as Finney and his detectives were concerned, these were Dr. Brussel's most farfetched and dubious conclusions, but Dr. Brussel was most confident in them.

The Game Begins

Finney and his detectives were impressed, despite their doubts. They had drawn some of Dr. Brussel's conclusions themselves through traditional detecting and nothing in the profile contradicted any of their own beliefs about the bomber. Additionally, as Dr. Brussel developed his profile, he became more and more confident in his conclusions and the confidence was infectious.

Once they had the profile, Finney asked Dr. Brussel what they should do with it. Specific as it was, there were probably hundreds of men who fit it and only one bomber.

"I think you ought to publicize the description I've given you. Publicize the whole Bomber investigation, in fact. Spread it in the newspapers, on radio and television," suggested Dr. Brussel.

Finney was taken aback as it was standard procedure to keep details of the case out of the papers.

"I think there's a chance he'll come forward by himself if we handle him right. I think he wants to be found out," said Dr. Brussel.

Dr. Brussel continued to argue with the detectives the bomber wanted publicity and wanted credit for his work. He was outraged by the newspapers not publishing his letters, and he would be further outraged at the idea of some clever psychiatrist trying to find him out. Dr. Brussel predicted that if, in fact, anything was wrong with the profile the bomber wouldn't be able to resist telling the police and media about the error. Even if the profile was on target, the bomber might be goaded into revealing details that could lead the police to him.

Dr. Brussel won the argument and despite the fact that Finney believed that they would be dealing with "a million crackpots" in addition to the real bomber he agreed to Dr. Brussel's plan.

As Finney and his detectives left the office, Dr. Brussel couldn't resist making one more conclusion about their bomber. A neat, conservative man he would be wearing the safest and most conservative clothes of the day in the neatest possible way.

"One more thing," said Dr. Brussel with his eyes dramatically closed, "When you catch him and I have no doubt you will he'll be wearing a double-breasted suit."

After a shocked exclamation from one of the detectives, Dr. Brussel continued.

"And it will be buttoned."

False Leads

All the major New York papers including The New York Times published summaries of Dr. Brussel's profile. As Finney predicted, the crackpots responded in force. Plenty of them wanted to take credit for the bomber's actions, but none of them could recreate or produce F.P.'s singularly well-crafted bombs. The police had deliberately kept photographs and details about the devices out of the papers.

Additionally, plenty of normal, civic minded citizens brought leads to the police. Each one had a friend or neighbor or colleague that "fit the profile" and very suddenly the person was convinced that he or she had discovered the bomber. One of the most dangerous and troubling aspects of profiling is that it inevitably leads to innocents being suspected of crimes simply because they fit a profile.

An elderly man on the Upper West Side telephoned the police about a Polish neighbor who lived with an Aunt and often tinkered with metal in his spare time. He left the house at odd hours and carried with him strange-shaped packages. The police interviewed the man only to discover that he was an aspiring modern sculptor who sold his works on the streets of Greenwich Village.

Another man informed the police of an eccentric army buddy who fed stray cats as a hobby. The man had been an army demolitions expert and had once worked for Con Edison. After following the man for a few days, the police determined that the man simply liked to feed cats and nothing more.

A Darien, Connecticut, commuter told the police about a neighbor who had once worked for Con Edison and had spent some time in mental hospitals for paranoia. A skilled mechanic, the man was married to a woman ten years older than himself. The marriage didn't fit the profile, but Dr. Brussel thought the older wife might be a deviation of the Oedipal theory. The man frequently traveled to New York City while carrying a mysterious blue valise. His neighbor had been highly curious about the valise for years, and after the profile was published he called the police. The police discreetly questioned the man with the valise. They discovered the contents to be a pair of women's high-heeled boots. The man had a foot fetish, and he frequented prostitutes in the city who donned the boots for him.

Dr. Brussel himself followed up a false lead. A colleague told him (within the confines of doctor patient privilege) of a patient with an irrational grudge against Con Edison. Dr. Brussel excitedly examined the file and found the man fit the profile. Unfortunately, the man had been confined to a mental hospital on the day of one of the attacks.


During this time, the bomber stepped up his attacks and wrote more letters. He also called Dr. Brussel directly a feat of cleverness in and of itself since the doctor's number was unlisted. The conversation went as follows.


"Is this Dr. Brussel, the psychiatrist?"

"Yes, this is Dr. Brussel."

"This is F.P. speaking. Keep out of this or you'll be sorry."

The bomber hung up before the call could be traced. Privately, Dr. Brussel was pleased. He felt it was only a matter of time before the bomber's arrogance got the better of him.

Meanwhile, Con Edison assigned several of its administrative staff members to go through its vast "troublesome" employee files searching for anyone who fit the profile. The job was a complex one since, as its name suggests, Con Edison had been created by the merging of several small utility companies in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The post-merger records were neat and well-kept, but the pre-merger records were an incomplete mish-mash of various filing styles. According to Brussel's profile, the middle-aged Bomber could well have been an employee of one of the smaller companies.

As a clerk named Alice Kelly shuffled through the stacks of files, she came upon a file for a George Metesky of Waterbury, Connecticut. He'd worked for United Electric & Power Company. He fit the profile, so Kelly took a closer look. Metesky had suffered an on site accident at the plant where he worked. He blamed his subsequent tuberculosis on that accident a claim that could not be proven. After his disability claim was denied, Metesky had written several angry letters to the company one promising revenge for the firm's "dastardly deeds."

She excitedly brought the file to her superior.

"I think maybe," she said as she handed over the file.

Meanwhile, the bomber continued to angrily taunt the media and the police. In a response to an open letter in the Journal-American, the bomber gave the details (including dates and places) of the accident that had injured him. In doing so, he made the kind of arrogant slip-up that Dr. Brussel had predicted he would. The bomber assumed the records of his accident and claims were long lost in the files of the utility giant he hated. He didn't know that Alice Kelly had found his file or that the police would soon discover the places and dates in the Metesky file matched the ones he'd given to the newspaper.

George Metesky

The neighbors didn't know what to make of George Metesky. The dapper, slavic man who lived at Number 17 Fourth Street in Waterbury, Connecticut with his two unmarried sisters didn't appear to work for a living. Although he was always polite, he was distant and nobody in the neighborhood knew anything about him.

Local children feared Metesky and called his house "The Crazy House" despite there being little or no evidence of madness or foul play at the house. A couple of neighbors wondered what Mr. Metesky did on his frequent excursions into New York City. Some knew he attended mass at St. Patrick's regularly, but that didn't explain the other trips. Still others wondered what he made in his workshop at all hours of the day and night.

Around the same time as the newspapers began to publicize the Dr. Brussel's profile of the mad bomber, the neighbors noticed a change in Metesky. He seemed friendlier even talkative at times. He helped a local boy fix his model airplane, and the neighborhood children were no longer afraid of him. People in the neighborhood remarked to one another that they might have misjudged the eccentric Metesky.

Had they known that George Metesky had once worked for Con Edison they might have made the connection between him and the bomber. They might have been suspicious as the police stopped by Number 17 "on a routine house-to-house check" regarding an automobile accident and did not stop at any other houses.

A few nights later, the neighbors were shocked when the police came and arrested Metesky. Dressed in his bathrobe, he pleasantly and politely confessed to being the bomber. He revealed that F.P. stood for "Fair Play."

The police requested that Metesky change clothes before they arrested him. He obliged, and when they took him away he was wearing a double-breasted suit buttoned.


The Metesky case proved to be a feather in Inspector Finney's cap. He continued his stellar career and later became a well-known corruption buster.

The case catapulted Dr. Brussel to fame, and he was often called in as a consultant on the nation's most troubling unsolved cases. With varying levels of success, he worked on the Wylie Murders, the Coppolino Case, the Sunday Bomber and most notably the case of the Boston Strangler. His work forever changed the way police forces catch criminals. For better or worse, profiling is now an integral part of modern police work.

George Metesky, who fit Brussel's profile in every detail, was found insane and committed to the Matteawan asylum for the criminally insane. As is the case with most acute paranoids, he was unresponsive to treatment believing the psychiatrists were part of the conspiracy against him. He proved to be a model patient and spent much of his time trying to legally win his release.

Dr. Brussel, who sometimes worked at Matteawan, visited Metesky occasionally. Dr. Brussel always found him talkative and charming. Metesky often pointed out that he'd purposefully constructed his bombs not to kill anyone. Dr. Brussel once asked him directly if he thought he was crazy. Metesky smiled politely and answered no.

George Metesky's actions went on to inspire new criminals. Investigators believe that both the Unabomber and the Zodiac Killer took inspiration from New York City's mad bomber. Upon his release from Matteawan in 1973, Metesky took up residence in his family's Waterbury residence where he died in 1994 at the age of 90. His death did not make the papers.

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