29. The CSS Hunley’s Designer Tried to Peddle a Death Ray After the War
For decades after the Civil War, little was known about the fate of James McClintock. The gist of it boiled down to a statement by a grandson, explaining that McClintock was: “killed at the age of 50 in Boston Harbor when he was experimenting with his newly invented submarine mine“. Researchers eventually discovered that McClintock was a grifter who had tried to con the Confederate government into paying him to build an unfeasible bullet-making machine. The CSA did not bite, but Horace Hunley, who heard about McClintock, did. McClintock eventually got a consortium led by Hunley to pay him $30,000 to design submarines.
After the war, McClintock hooked up with J.C. Wingard, a spirit medium, and George Holgate, who made bombs for nineteenth-century terrorists. Wingard claimed to have discovered a “Nameless Force” that could destroy ships from five miles away and recruited McClintock and Holgate to help him demonstrate its effectiveness. In 1876, the trio pointed their weapon at a derelict ship two miles from New Orleans and blew it up. However, some kids spotted a wire running to the ship, which the authorities discovered had been rigged with explosives by McClintock and Holgate. Their crime exposed, the trio fled to Boston.