Sarah Lippek collaborated with
neuroTransmitter to create a radio play about the conspiracies surrounding
Nikola Tesla. "The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla" was performed in Bushwick,
Brooklyn at OfficeOps
and streamed to the Santa Fe
Art Institute for
Tune(In))) Santa Fe, a transmitted performance event arranged by
Sarah asked me to play the lead role of Dale Alfrey at the last minute and I
was happy to oblige.
The Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla
by Sarah Lippek, 2004
[spooky-melodramatic organ music? not noir-ish, but super melodramatic?]
In 1976, an auction was held following the death of one Michael P. Bornes, a
rather mysterious New York bookseller. The auction was a quiet affair in
Newark, New Jersey, attended only by a few collectors and sellers. The Bornes book collection was parted out and carted off, lot by lot. As the
last cartons of books were carried out into the cold winter air, the
auctioneer realized that he had missed one final lot.
[soft sounds of a few voices, the pounding of a gavel]
Sorry gentlemen, that’s not all, I see I have one final lot. Who’ll bid on
the last of the Borne collection, Lot 23? This would consist of…not books, I
don’t think, but some unmarked boxes of what seem to be notes or papers of
some kind. It’s a mystery, gentlemen, could be hidden treasure…. [cynical
grumbling/chuckling from the crowd] So who’ll start the bidding? I’ll start
it at two hundred. Do I hear two hundred dollars?
Bookseller 1 [yelling]
You’ve gotta be kidding!
Let’s hear one hundred dollars, then, gentlemen, do I hear one hundred
Let’s go; there’s nothing left worth my time.
Alright, I’ll open the bid. Who’s going home with the mystery cartons?
I’ll give you twenty-five bucks.
Well, we can start there. I’ve heard twenty-five, twenty five, going once?
Twice? No-one? [gavel pounds] Looks like they’re yours, Mr. Alfrey. You
bought ‘em, so you better haul ‘em out of here. I’m going home before the
[auction sounds fade]
When Dale Alfrey got the heavy boxes back to his home, he was disappointed,
but far from surprised, to find that the contents were apparently worthless.
Alfrey [over the sounds of papers shuffling]:
Ah, shoulda known. You never find any real hidden treasures at those
auctions, what with the professionals taking all the good stuff. What is
this, anyway? Some kind of amateur sci-fi writer, I guess. Pretty weird
stuff…[reads aloud in ‘old fashioned’ voice] ‘The feeling is constantly
growing on me that I have been the first to hear the greetings of one planet
to another.’ Hmmm. Dated 1899. What a riot. ‘I can never forget the first
sensations I experienced when it dawned on me that I had observed something
possibly of incalculable value to mankind.” Wow, this isn’t bad. [sound of
car in driveway/key in lock/woman’s voice] Uh oh! There’s Georgina! Aw,
she’d be furious if she knew I spent money on these old papers! [yelling]
OK, Honey, I’m just down in the basement! [voice lowered] I’ll just leave
these down here for now. [Sound of running up stairs].
More than twenty years passed before Alfrey went back down those cellar
stairs to unearth his forgotten cartons of papers. He had retired, his
children grown and gone to college. Now it was 1996, and the name Tesla was
not as obscure as it had been in the 70’s. Alfrey had heard of Nikola
Tesla’s extraordinary research. He had also heard how innumerable boxes of
the inventor’s coveted notes had been lost to science. These ‘Lost Journals
of Nikola Tesla’ had long been scattered, sold during Tesla’s lifetime to
cover debts to the string of hotels where he spent his later years. Could
those neglected cartons in the basement be laden with vital scientific
information? Alfrey was determined to find out.
Alfrey [over the sounds of papers shuffling]:
It’s been so long…the notes are covered with mildew! I can barely make out
the handwriting….but there---can it be---yes! This page is signed by Nikola
Tesla! What have I been sitting on all these years? This work must be
preserved! But it’s so…outlandish! Magnetic fields….free
energy….otherworldly beings? “The future will show that what we now call the
supernatural is based on science not yet developed…” what was Tesla getting
Thus began Alfrey’s frantic efforts to read and transcribe every fragile,
crumbling page of notes. It was the labor that lasted more than two years.
During that time, Alfrey noticed that a number of sections were missing from
the journals in his possession. He began making discreet inquiries over the
internet, hoping to find an expert who could help him reconstruct the Tesla
papers. Apparently, his attempts were not discreet enough to avoid the
attention of certain groups who would prefer that the Lost Journals of
Nikola Tesla remain lost…forever.
Hello? Yes, this is Dale Alfrey, who’s speaking? [pause] Jay Kowski? I’m
afraid your name isn’t ringing a bell, Mr. Kowski…have me met? [pause] Yes…I
do have an interest in the work of Tesla, I mean, a hobby, I guess you’d
call it….yes….certainly…Mr. Kowski? Hello? Kowski, can you hear me? Hello?
That’s odd…the phone’s dead. [sound of authoritative knocking] And someone’s
at the door. I’m not expecting anyone…[footsteps down a hallway as a
doorbell rings] I’m coming, I’m coming! [with surprise] Oh!
Hello, Dale. I hope you don’t mind that we let ourselves in.
You---you let yourselves in? I’m sorry, gentlemen, you must have the wrong
house, let me show you back out---
No, I’m sure we’re just where we planned to be.
Who—who are you guys? What’s with the black suits? Are you…undertakers? Has
MIB 2 [chuckling coldly]
Not exactly, Dale.
Then what? FBI? That’s gotta be it, right? You guys always come in pairs in
the movies, but this is ridiculous! The hair, the sunglasses…it’s uncanny!
What can I help you with?
We’re not with the FBI, Dale.
Hey, how do you know my name, anyway?
You have in your possession some old boxes. Full of papers. We’re here to
buy them from you.
I’m sorry, but those papers aren’t for sale. I’m not sure where you got my
name, but you’re barking up the wrong tree. Now if you’ll excuse me---
Those papers do not belong to you.
They are not yours, but if you turn them over, we are willing to reward you
for your trouble.
Look, I don’t know where you get off, but I’m not selling anything, so get
MIB 1 [creepy-soothing]:
Look at me Dale. Look at my eyes. And listen very, very carefully. The
papers you’ve been playing with are of no use to you. You don’t even
understand them. Worse than that, having those papers here in your house
could be very dangerous. Not just to you, of course, but dangerous to your
wife, your children. You don’t want them to be in any danger, do you, Dale?
You love your Georgina very much, isn’t that right? The papers don’t belong
to you. It would be better to just forget about them. Forget they ever
existed. Are we clear?
Alfrey [as though in a trance]:
[sounds of two men’s footsteps moving away]
MIB 2 [faintly]:
Goodbye, Dale. You’ve made the best decision, you’ll see…
[door slamming shut]
That night, when Mrs. Georgina Alfrey came home, she found her normally
garrulous husband in a dark depression, huddled silently in an armchair. On
the floor surrounding the chair were three stained cardboard boxes...empty
boxes. For three weeks afterwards, Dale Alfrey was not himself. He had no
appetite for food or company. His wife considered calling a psychiatrist.
Then, one evening at the dinner table, Alfrey finally told his remarkable
[sounds of cutlery clinking on dishes, maybe some light classical music
in the background]
Darling, I’m so pleased to see that you’re enjoying your dinner. I’ve
been---very worried, you know.
I’m sorry, dear, I don’t know what’s come over me, I’ve been in such a fog,
my head just hasn’t been clear…until today.
But you’re alright now, darling? That awful fog is gone?
Yes, Georgina…but I have something to tell you.
Yes, dear? Wh—what is it?
This may be difficult for you to understand.
Dale, whatever the problem may be, I’m sure we can work it out together.
Please, just tell me what’s happened!
The papers are gone.
Whatever do you mean, Dale?
The papers. Nikola Tesla’s missing journals, they’re gone.
You mean that “project” you’ve been working on? You finally sold those old
papers? I’ve been saying all along that those musty things might be
valuable, it’s about time that you-----
No, I didn’t sell them; they were stolen from me---
Please, Dale, don’t be so upset, you’ve got nearly all of it on the
computer, haven’t you?
No, Georgina. I don’t. I don’t have anything. The papers are gone, my hard
drive is wiped clean, all of my notes are missing; I don’t even have any
addresses or phone numbers left, I’ll have to start all over to find the
experts I’ve been corresponding with. The project is erased! The world will
never know about Tesla’s journals. Georgina, those papers…they were more
than just the journals of an amazing scientific mind. You---you may not
believe me, but…I think Nikola Tesla had developed a way to contact beings
from another world. Another planet. He was talking to Martians. And
they…they’re not friendly. They know all about us, they control our
governments, even the weather!
But that’s impossible!
Georgina, you must listen to me very carefully. [voice starts very slow fade
out] A few weeks ago, two men came to the house, strange men, in black
suits. They knew my name, they knew all about our family, and they wanted
the papers. They demanded I sell the papers to them, and they weren’t taking
no for an answer…. [by now, voice has faded down to silence]
[maybe some cricket sounds?]
It’s now the year 2004. Dale and Georgina Alfrey live a quiet, peaceful
life, undisturbed by men in black, dead geniuses, or alien contact. They
don’t discuss the strange events of 1998, when Dale Alfrey had a brief lapse
of mental clarity. These things happen to older people. Alfrey has given up
his research on Nikola Tesla, and he only uses the internet to shop for
fishing gear. But once in a while, when his wife is sleeping soundly in the
wee morning hours, Dale Alfrey gets out of bed, creeps down the hallway and
opens the sliding glass door onto his suburban deck. There he’ll stand, some
clear summer nights, staring up at the stars. They’re beautiful, people
say…but Dale doesn’t think so. If you ever saw him, out on his deck, looking
to the sky, you’d see that his face is pale, his eyes wild with fear. He’s
looking up, up into the spaces between the stars, and he’s thinking of the
secrets contained in the Lost Journals of Nikola Tesla.