Jack London, “The Enemy of All the World” (1908)

Jack_london_nd_2 The Enemy of All the World


It was Silas Bannerman who finally ran down that scientific wizard and arch-enemy of mankind, Emil Gluck. Gluck’s confession, before he went to the electric-chair, threw much light upon the series of mysterious events, many apparently unrelated, that so perturbed the world between the years 1933 and 1941. It was not until that remarkable document was made public that the world dreamed of there being any connection between the assassination of the King and Queen of Portugal and the murders of the New York City police-officers. While the deeds of Emil Gluck were all that was abominable, we cannot but feel, to a certain extent, pity for the unfortunate, malformed, and maltreated genius. This side of his story has never been told before, and from his confession and from the great mass of evidence and the documents and records of the time we are able to construct a fairly accurate portrait of him, and to discern the factors and pressures that molded him into the human monster he became and that drove him onward and downward along the fearful path he trod.

Emil Gluck was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1895. His father, Josephus Gluck, was a special policeman and night-watchman, who, in the year 1900, died suddenly of pneumonia. The mother, a pretty, fragile creature, who, before her marriage, had been a milliner, grieved herself to death over the loss of her husband. This sensitiveness of the mother was the heritage that in the boy became morbid and horrible.

In 1901, the boy, Emil, then six years of age, went to live with his aunt, Mrs. Ann Bartell. She was his mother’s sister, but in her breast was no kindly feeling for the sensitive, shrinking boy. Ann Bartell was a vain, shallow, and heartless woman. Also, she was cursed with poverty and burdened with a husband who was a lazy, erratic ne’er-do-well. Young Emil Gluck was not wanted, and Ann Bartell could be trusted to impress this fact sufficiently upon him. As an illustration of the treatment he received in that early, formative period, the following instance is given.

When he had been living in the Bartell home a little more than a year, he broke his leg. He sustained the injury through playing on the forbidden roof—as all boys have done and will continue to do to the end of time. The leg was broken in two places between the knee and thigh. Emil, helped by his frightened playmates, managed to drag himself to the front sidewalk, where he fainted. The children of the neighborhood were afraid of the hard-featured shrew who presided over the Bartell house; but, summoning their resolution, they rang the bell and told Ann Bartell of the accident. She did not even look at the little lad who lay stricken on the sidewalk, but slammed the door and went back to her wash-tub. The time passed. A drizzle came on, and Emil Gluck, out of his faint, lay sobbing in the rain. The leg should have been set immediately. As it was, the inflammation rose rapidly and made a nasty case of it. At the end of two hours, the indignant women of the neighborhood protested to Ann Bartell. This time she came out and looked at the lad as he lay helpless at her feet. Also she hysterically disowned him. He was not her child, she said, and recommended that the ambulance be called to take him to the city receiving-hospital. Then she went back into the house.

It was a woman, Elizabeth Shepstone, who came along, learned of the situation, and had the boy placed on a shutter. It was she who called the doctor, and who, brushing aside Ann Bartell, had the boy carried into the house. When the doctor arrived, Ann Bartell promptly warned him that she would not pay him for his services. For two months the little Emil lay in bed, the first month on his back without once being turned over; and he lay neglected and alone, save for the occasional visits of the unremunerated and overworked physician. He had no toys, nothing with which to beguile the long and tedious hours. No kind word was spoken to him, no soothing hand laid upon his brow, no single touch or act of loving tenderness—naught but the reproaches and harshness of Ann Bartell, and the continually reiterated information that he was not wanted. And it can well be understood, in such environment, how there was generated in the lonely, neglected boy much of the bitterness and hostility for his kind that was later to express itself in deeds so frightful as to terrify the world.

It would seem strange that from the hands of Ann Bartell, Emil Gluck should have received a college education; but the explanation is simple. Her ne’er-do-well husband, deserting her, made a strike in the Nevada gold-fields, and returned to her a many times millionaire. Ann Bartell hated the boy, and immediately she sent him to the Farristown Academy, a hundred miles away. Shy and sensitive, a lonely and misunderstood little soul, he was more lonely than ever at Farristown. He never came home, at vacation and holidays, as the other boys did. Instead, he wandered about the deserted buildings and grounds, befriended and misunderstood by the servants and gardeners, reading much, it is remembered, spending his days in the fields or before the fireplace with his nose poked always in the pages of some book. It was at this time that he over-used his eyes and was compelled to take up the wearing of glasses, which same were so prominent in the photographs of him published in the newspapers in 1941.

He was a remarkable student. Applications, such as his, would have taken him far; but he did not need application. A glance at a text meant mastery for him. The result was that he did an immense amount of collateral reading and acquired more in half a year than did the average student in half-a-dozen years. In 1909, barely fourteen years of age, he was ready—“more than ready,” the head-master of the academy said—to enter Yale or Harvard. His juvenility prevented him from entering those universities, and so, in 1909, we find him a freshman at historic Bowdoin College. In 1913 he graduated with highest honors, and immediately afterward followed Professor Bradlough to Berkeley, California. The one friend that Emil Gluck discovered in all his life was Professor Bradlough. The latter’s weak lungs had led him to exchange Maine for California, the removal being facilitated by the offer of a professorship in the state university. Throughout the year 1914, Emil Gluck resided in Berkeley and took special scientific courses. Toward the end of that year two deaths changed his prospects and his relations with life. The death of Professor Bradlough took from him the one friend he was ever to know, and the death of Ann Bartell left him penniless. Hating the unfortunate lad to the last, she cut him off with one hundred dollars.

The following year, at twenty years of age, Emil Gluck was enrolled as an instructor in chemistry in the University of California. Here the years passed quietly; he faithfully performed the drudgery that brought him his salary, and, a student always, he took half-a-dozen degrees. He was, among other things, a Doctor of Sociology, of Philosophy, and of Science, though he was known to the world, in later days, only as Professor Gluck.

He was twenty-seven years of age when he first sprang into prominence in the newspapers, through the publication of his book, “Sex and Progress.” The book remains to-day a milestone in the history and philosophy of marriage. It is a heavy tome of over seven hundred pages, painfully careful and accurate, and startlingly original. It was a book for scientists, and not one calculated to make a stir. But Gluck, in the last chapter, using barely three lines for it, mentioned the hypothetical desirability of trial marriages. At once the newspapers seized upon those three lines, “played them up yellow,” as the slang was in those days, and set the whole world laughing at Emil Gluck, the bespectacled young professor of twenty-seven. Photographers snapped him; he was besieged by reporters; women’s clubs throughout the land passed resolutions condemning him and his immoral theories; and on the floor of the California Assembly, while discussing the state appropriation to the University, a motion demanding the expulsion of Gluck was made under threat of withholding the appropriation—of course none of his persecutors had read the book; the twisted newspaper version of only three lines of it was enough for them. Here began Emil Gluck’s hatred for newspapermen. By them his serious and intrinsically valuable work of six years had been made a laughing-stock and a notoriety. To his dying day, and to their everlasting regret, he never forgave them.

It was the newspapers that were responsible for the next disaster that befell him. For the five years following the publication of his book he had remained silent, and silence for a lonely man is not good. One can conjecture sympathetically the awful solitude of Emil Gluck in that populous university; for he was without friends and without sympathy. His only recourse was books, and he went on reading and studying enormously. But in 1927 he accepted an invitation to appear before the Human Interest Society of Emeryville. He did not trust himself to speak, and as we write we have before us a copy of his learned paper. It is sober, scholarly, and scientific, and, it must also be added, conservative. But in one place he dealt with, and I quote his words, “the industrial and social revolution that is taking place in society.” A reporter, present, seized upon the word “revolution,” divorced it from the text, and wrote a garbled account that made Emil Gluck appear an anarchist. At once, “Professor Gluck, anarchist,” flamed over the wires and was appropriately “featured” in all the newspapers in the land.

He had attempted to reply to the previous newspaper-attack, but now he remained silent. Bitterness had already corroded his soul. The university faculty appealed to him to defend himself, but he sullenly declined, even refusing to enter in defense a copy of his paper to save himself from expulsion. He refused to resign, and was discharged from the university faculty. It must be added, that political pressure had been put upon the university regents and president.

Persecuted, maligned, and misunderstood, the forlorn and lonely man made no attempt at retaliation. All his life he had been sinned against, and all his life he had sinned against no one. But his cup of bitterness was not yet full to overflowing. Having lost his position, and being without any income, he had to find work. His first place was at the Union Iron Works, in San Francisco, where he proved a most able draughtsman. It was here that he obtained his first-hand knowledge of battleships and their construction. But the reporters discovered him and featured him in his new vocation. He immediately resigned and found another place; but after the reporters had driven him away from half-a-dozen positions, he steeled himself to brazen out the newspaper-persecution. This occurred when he started his electro-plating establishment in Oakland, on Telegraph Avenue. It was a small shop, employing three men and two boys. Gluck himself worked long hours. Night after night, as Policeman Carew testified on the stand, he did not leave the shop till one and two in the morning. It was during this period he perfected the improved ignition-device for gas-engines, the royalties from which ultimately made him wealthy.

He started his electro-plating establishment early in the Spring of 1928, and it was the same year that he formed the disastrous love-attachment for Irene Tackley. Now, it is not to be imagined that an extraordinary creature such as Emil Gluck could be any other than an extraordinary lover. In addition to his genius, his loneliness, and his morbidness, it must be taken into consideration that he knew nothing about women. Whatever tides of desire flooded his being, he was unschooled in the conventional expression of them, while his excessive timidity was bound to make his love-making unusual. Irene Tackley was a rather pretty young woman, but shallow and light-headed. At the time she worked in a small candy-store across the street from Gluck’s shop. He used to come in and drink ice-cream sodas and lemon-squashes, and stare at her. It seems the girl did not care for him, and, merely played with him. He was “queer,” she said; and at another time she called him a crank, when describing how he sat at the counter and peered at her through his spectacles, blushing and stammering when she took notice of him, and often leaving the shop in precipitate confusion.

Gluck made her the most amazing presents—a silver tea-service, a diamond ring, a set of furs, opera-glasses, a ponderous “History of the World” in many volumes, and a motor-cycle all silver-plated in his own shop. Enters now the girl’s lover, putting his foot down, showing great anger, compelling her to return Gluck’s strange assortment of presents. This man, William Sherbourne, was a gross and stolid creature, a heavy-jawed man of the working-class who had become a successful building-contractor in a small way. Gluck did not understand. He tried to get an explanation, attempting to speak with the girl when she went home from work in the evening. She complained to Sherbourne, and one night he gave Gluck a beating, for it is on the records of the Red Cross Emergency Hospital that Gluck was treated there that night and was unable to leave the hospital for a week.

Still Gluck did not understand. He continued to seek an explanation from the girl. In fear of Sherbourne, he applied to the chief-of-police for permission to carry a revolver, which permission was refused, the newspapers as usual playing it up sensationally. Then came the murder of Irene Tackley, six days before her contemplated marriage with Sherbourne. It was on a Saturday night. She had worked late in the candy-store, departing after eleven o’clock with her week’s wages in her purse. She rode on a San Pablo Avenue surface-car to Thirty-fourth Street, where she alighted and started to walk the three blocks to her home. That was the last seen of her alive. Next morning she was found, strangled, in a vacant lot.

Emil Gluck was immediately arrested. Nothing that he could do could save him. He was convicted, not merely on circumstantial evidence, but on evidence “cooked up” by the Oakland police. There is no discussion that a large portion of the evidence was manufactured. The testimony of Captain Shehan was the sheerest perjury, it being proved long afterward that on the night in question he had not only not been in the vicinity of the murder, but that he had been out of the city in a resort on the San Leandro road. The unfortunate Gluck received life-imprisonment in San Quentin, while the newspapers and the public held that it was a miscarriage of justice—that the death penalty should have been visited upon him.

Gluck entered San Quentin prison on April 17, 1929. He was then thirty-four years of age. And for three years, much of the time in solitary confinement, he was left to meditate upon the injustice of man. It was during that time that his bitterness corroded him and he became a hater of all his kind. Three other things he did during the same period: he wrote his famous treatise, “Human Morals;” his remarkable brochure, “The Criminal Sane;” and he worked out his awful and monstrous scheme of revenge. It was an episode that had occurred in his electro-plating establishment that suggested to him his unique weapon of revenge. As stated in his confession, he worked every detail out theoretically during his imprisonment, and was able, on his release, immediately to embark on his career of vengeance.

His release was sensational. Also it was miserably and criminally delayed by the soulless legal red-tape then in vogue. On the night of February 1, 1932, Tim Haswell, a hold-up man, was shot during an attempted robbery by a citizen of Piedmont Heights. Tim Haswell lingered three days, during which time he not only confessed to the murder of Irene Tackley, but furnished conclusive proofs of the same. Bert Danniker, a convict dying of consumption in Folsom Prison, was implicated as accessory, and his confession followed. It is inconceivable to us of to-day—the bungling, dilatory processes of justice a generation ago. Emil Gluck was proved in February to be an innocent man, yet he was not released until the following October. For eight months, a greatly wronged man, he was compelled to undergo his unmerited punishment. This was not conducive to sweetness and light, and we can well imagine how he ate his soul with bitterness during those dreary eight months.

He came back to the world in the Fall of 1932, as usual a “feature” topic in all the newspapers. The papers, instead of expressing heartfelt regret, continued their old sensational persecution. One paper, the San Francisco Intelligencer, did more. John Hartwell, its editor, elaborated an ingenious theory that got around the confessions of the two criminals, and tried to show that Gluck was, after all, responsible for the murder of Irene Tackley. Hartwell died. And Sherbourne died, too, while Policeman Phillips was shot in the leg and discharged from the Oakland police force.

The murder of Hartwell was long a mystery. He was alone in his editorial office at home. The reports of the revolver were heard by the office-boy, who rushed in to find Hartwell expiring in his chair. What puzzled the police was the fact, not merely that he had been shot with his own revolver, but that the revolver had exploded in the drawer of his desk. The bullets had torn trough the front of the drawer and entered his body. The police scouted the theory of suicide, murder was dismissed as absurd, and the blame was thrown on the Eureka Smokeless Cartridge Company. Spontaneous explosion was the police explanation, and the chemists of the cartridge-company were well bullied at the inquest. But what the police did not know was that across the street, in the Mercer Building, room 883, rented by Emil Gluck, had been occupied by Emil Gluck at the very moment Hartwell’s revolver so mysteriously exploded.

At the time, no connection was made between Hartwell’s death and the death of William Sherbourne. Sherbourne had continued to live in the home he had built for Irene Tackley, and one morning in January, 1933, he was found dead. Suicide was the verdict of the coroner’s inquest, for he had been shot by his own revolver. The curious thing that happened that night was the shooting of Policeman Phillips on the sidewalk in front of Sherbourne’s house. The policeman crawled to a police-telephone on the corner and rang up for an ambulance. He claimed that some one had shot him from behind in the leg. The leg in question was so badly shattered by three .38 caliber bullets, that amputation was necessary. But when the police discovered that the damage had been done by his own revolver, a great laugh went up, and he was charged with having been drunk. In spite of his denial of having touched a drop, and of his persistent assertion that the revolver had been in his hip-pocket, and that he had not laid a finger to it, he was discharged from the force. Emil Gluck’s confession, six years later, cleared the unfortunate policeman of disgrace, and he is alive to-day and in good health, the recipient of a pension from the city.

Emil Gluck, having disposed of his immediate enemies, now sought a wider field, though his enmity for newspapermen and for the police remained always active. The royalties on his ignition-device for gasoline-engines had mounted up when he lay in prison, and year by year the earning power of his invention increased. He was independent, able to travel wherever he willed over the earth, and to glut his monstrous appetite for revenge. He had become a monomaniac and an anarchist—not a philosophic anarchist, merely, but a violent anarchist. Perhaps the word is misused, and he his better described as a nihilist, or an annihilist. It is known that he affiliated with none of the groups of terrorists. He operated wholly alone, but he created a thousandfold more terror and achieved a thousandfold more destruction than all the terrorist groups added together.

He signalized his departure from California by blowing up Fort Mason. In his confession he spoke of it as a little experiment; he was merely trying his hand. For eight years he wandered over the earth, a mysterious terror, destroying property to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and destroying countless lives. One good result of his awful deeds was the destruction he wrought among the terrorists themselves. Every time he did anything the terrorists in the vicinity were gathered in by the police drag-net and many of them were executed. Seventeen were executed at Rome alone, following the assassination of the Italian King.

Perhaps the most world-amazing achievement of his was the assassination of the King and Queen of Portugal. It was their wedding-day. All possible precautions had been taken against the terrorists, and the way from the cathedral, through Lisbon’s streets, was double-banked with troops, while a squad of two hundred mounted troopers surrounded the carriage. Suddenly the amazing thing happened. The automatic rifles of the troopers began to go off, as well as the rifles of the double-banked infantry in the immediate vicinity. In the excitement the muzzles of the exploding rifles were turned in all directions. The slaughter was terrible—horses, troops, spectators, and the king and queen, were riddled with bullets. To complicated the affair, in different parts of the crowds behind the foot-soldiers, two terrorists had bombs explode on their persons. These bombs they had intended to throw if they got the opportunity. But who was to know this? The frightful havoc wrought by the bursting bombs but added to the confusion; it was considered part of the general attack.

One puzzling thing that could not be explained away was the conduct of the troopers with their exploding rifles. It seemed impossible that they should be in the plot, yet there were the hundreds their flying bullets had slain, including the king and queen. On the other hand, more baffling than ever, was the fact that seventy per cent of the troopers themselves had been killed or wounded. Some explained this on the ground that the loyal foot-soldiers, witnessing the attack on the royal carriage, had opened fire on the traitors. Yet not one bit of evidence to verify this could be drawn from the survivors, though many were put to the torture. They contended stubbornly that they had not discharged their rifles at all, but that their rifles had discharged themselves. They were laughed at by the chemists, who held that while it was just barely probable that a single cartridge, charged with the new smokeless powder, might spontaneously explode, it was beyond all probability and possibility for all the cartridges in a given area, so charged, spontaneously to explode. And so, in the end, no explanation of the amazing occurrence was reached. The general opinion of the rest of the world was that the whole affair was a blind panic of the feverish Latins, precipitated, it was true, by the bursting of two terrorist bombs; and in this connection was recalled the laughable encounter of long years before between the Russian fleet and the English fishing-boats.

And Emil Gluck chuckled and went his way. He knew. But how was the world to know? He had stumbled upon the secret in his old electro-plating shop on Telegraph Avenue in the city of Oakland. It happened, at that time, that a wireless telegraph-station was established by the Thurston Power Company close to his shop. In a short time his electro-plating vat was put out of order. The vat-wiring had many bad joints, and, upon investigation, Gluck discovered minute welds at the joints in the wiring. These, by lowering the resistance, had caused an excessive current to pass through the solution, “boiling” it and spoiling the work. But “what had caused the welds?” was the question in Gluck’s mind. His reasoning was simple. Before the establishment of the wireless-station, the vat had worked well. Not until after the establishment of the wireless-station had the vat been ruined. Therefore, the wireless-station had been the cause. But how? He quickly answered the question. If an electric discharge was capable of operating a coherer across three thousand miles of ocean, then, certainly, the electric discharge from the wireless-station four hundred feet away could produce coherer effects on the bad joints in the vat-wiring.

Gluck thought no more about it at the time. He merely re-wired his vat and went on electro-plating. But afterwards, in prison, he remembered the incident, and like a flash there came into his mind the full significance of it. He saw in it the silent, secret weapon with which to revenge himself on the world. His great discovery, which died with him, was control over the direction and scope of the electric discharge. At the time, this was the unsolved problem of wireless telegraphy—as it still is to-day—but Emil Gluck, in his prison-cell, mastered it. And when he was released, he applied it. It was fairly simple, given the directing power that was his, to introduce a spark into the power-magazines of a fort, a battleship, or a revolver. And not alone could he thus explode powder at distance, but he could ignite conflagrations. The Great Chelsea Fire was started by him—quite by accident, however, as he stated in his confession, adding that it was a pleasing accident and that he had never had any reason to regret it.

It was Emil Gluck that caused the terrible German-American War, with the loss of 800,000 lives and the consumption of almost incalculable treasure. It will be remembered that in 1939, because of the Pickard incident, strained relations existed between the two countries. Germany, though aggrieved, was not anxious for war, and, as a peace-token, sent the crown-prince and seven battleships on a friendly visit to the United States. On the night of February 15, the seven warships lay at anchor in the Hudson opposite New York City. And on that night, Emil Gluck, alone, with all his apparatus on board, was out in a launch. This launch, it was afterwards proved, was bought by him from the Ross-Turner Company, while much of the apparatus he used that night had been purchased from the Columbia Electric Works. But this was not known at the time. All that was known was that the seven battleships blew up, one after another, at regular, four-minute intervals. Ninety per cent of the crews and officers, along with the crown-prince, perished. Many years before the American battleship Maine was blown up in the harbor of Havana, and war with Spain had immediately followed—though there has always existed a reasonable doubt as to whether the explosion was due to conspiracy or accident. But accident could not explain the blowing up of the seven battleships on the Hudson at four-minute intervals. Germany believed that it had been done by a submarine, and immediately declared war. It was six months after Gluck’s confession, that she returned the Philippines and Hawaii to the United States.

In the meanwhile, Emil Gluck, malevolent wizard and arch-hater, traveled his whirlwind-path of destruction. He left no traces. Scientifically thorough, he always cleaned up after himself. His method was to rent a room or a house, and secretly to install his apparatus—which apparatus, but the way, he so perfected and simplified that it occupied little space. After he had accomplished his purpose, he carefully removed the apparatus. He bade fair to live out a long life of horrible crime.

The epidemic of the shooting of New York City policemen was a remarkable affair. It became one of the horror mysteries of the time. In two short weeks over a hundred policemen were shot in the legs by their own revolvers. Inspector Jones did not solve the mystery, but it was his idea that finally outwitted Gluck. On his recommendation the policemen ceased carrying revolvers, and no more accidental shootings occurred.

It was in the early Spring of 1940 that Gluck destroyed the Mare Island navy-yard. From a room in Vallejo, he sent his electric discharges across the Vallejo Straits to Mare Island. He first played his flashes on the battleship Maryland. She lay at the dock of one of the mine-magazines. On her forward deck, on a huge temporary platform of timbers, were disposed over a hundred mines. These mines were for the defense of the Golden Gate. Any one these mines was capable of destroying a dozen battleships, and there were over a hundred mines. The destruction was terrific, but it was only Gluck’s overture. He played his flashes down the Mare Island shore, blowing up five torpedo-boats, the torpedo-station, and the great magazine at the eastern end of the island. Returning westward again, and scooping in occasional isolated magazines on the high ground back from the shore, he blew up three cruisers and the battleships Oregon, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Florida—the latter had just gone into dry-dock, and the magnificent dry-dock was destroyed along with her.

It was a frightful catastrophe, and a shiver of horror passed through the land. But it was nothing to what was to follow. In the late Fall of that year, Emil Gluck made a clean sweep of the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Florida. Nothing escaped. Forts, mines, coast-defenses of all sorts, torpedo-stations, magazines—everything went up. Three months afterward, in mid-Winter, he smote the north shore of the Mediterranean from Gibraltar to Greece in the same stupefying manner. A wail went up from the nations. It was clear that human agency was behind all this destruction, and it was equally clear, because of Emil Gluck’s impartiality, that the destruction was not the work of any particular nation, that whoever was the human behind it all, that human was a menace to the world. No nation was safe. There was no defense against this unknown and all-powerful foe. Warfare was futile—nay, not merely futile, but itself the very essence of the peril. For a twelve-month the manufacture of powder ceased, and all solders and sailors were withdrawn from all fortifications and war-vessels. And even a world disarmament was seriously considered at a convention of the Powers, held at The Hague at that time.

And then Silas Bannerman, a secret-service agent of the United States, leaped into world-fame by the arrest of Emil Gluck. At first, Bannerman was laughed at, but he had prepared his case well, and in a few weeks the most skeptical were convinced of Emil Gluck’s guilt. The one thing, however, that Silas Bannerman never succeeded in explaining, even to his own satisfaction, was how first he came to connect Gluck with the atrocious crimes. It is true, Bannerman was in Vallejo, on secret government-business, at the time of the destruction of Mare Island; and it is true that on the streets of Vallejo Emil Gluck was pointed out to him as a queer crank; but no impression was made at the time. It was not until afterward, when on vacation in the Rocky Mountains, and when reading the first published reports of the destruction along the Atlantic Coast, that suddenly Bannerman thought of Emil Gluck. And on the instant there flashed into his mind the connection between Gluck and the destruction. It was only an hypothesis, but it was sufficient. The great thing was the conception of the hypothesis, in itself an act of unconscious cerebration—a thing as unaccountable as the flashing, for instance, into Newton’s mind of the principle of gravitation.

The rest was easy. “Where was Gluck at the time of the destruction along the Atlantic seaboard?” was the question that formed in Bannerman’s mind. By his own request he was put upon the case. In no time he ascertained that Gluck had himself been up and down the Atlantic Coast in the late Fall of 1940. Also he ascertained that Gluck had been in New York City during the epidemic of the shooting of police-officers. “Where was Gluck now?” was Bannerman’s next query. And as if in answer, came the wholesale destruction along the Mediterranean. Gluck had sailed for Europe a month before. Bannerman knew that. It was not necessary for Bannerman to go to Europe. By means of cable-messages and the co-operation of the European secret-services, he traced Gluck’s course along the Mediterranean and found that in every instance it coincided with the blowing up of coast defenses and ships. Also, he learned that Gluck had just sailed on the Green Star liner Plutonic for the United States.

The case was complete in Bannerman’s mind, though in the interval of waiting he worked up the details. In this he was ably assisted by George Brown, an operator employed by the Wood System of Wireless Telegraphy. When the Plutonic arrived off Sandy Hook, she was boarded by Bannerman from a government-tug, and Emil Gluck was made prisoner. The trial and the confession followed. In the confession, Gluck professed regret only for one thing, namely, that he had taken his time. As he said, had he dreamed that he was ever to be discovered, he would have worked more rapidly and accomplished a thousand times the destruction he did.

His secret died with him, though it is now known that the French Government managed to get access to him and offered him a billion francs for the invention wherewith he was able to direct at pleasure and closely to confine electric discharges.

“What?” was Gluck’s reply. “To sell to you that which would enable you to enslave and maltreat suffering humanity”?

And though the war-departments of the nations have continued to experiment in their secret laboratories, they have so far failed to light upon the slightest trace of the secret.

Emil Gluck was executed on December 4, 1941, and so died, at the age of forty-six, one of the world’s most unfortunate geniuses; a man of tremendous intellect, but whose mighty powers, instead of making toward good, were so twisted and warped that he became the most amazing of criminals.—Culled from Mr. A. G. Burnside’s “Eccentricities of Crime,” by kind permission of the publishers, Messrs. Holiday & Whitsund. Published in 1982.


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