An ex-merchant mariner named Carl M. Allen claims to have observed something called “The Philadelphia Experiment” on or around October 28, 1943, at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States.
Allen related a story of an experiment conducted by the United States Navy to make the destroyer escort USS Eldridge invisible and the weird outcomes that followed.
In late 1955, Allen submitted a book with hand-written comments about the experiment to a U.S. Navy research agency. Then, a short time later, he sent a series of letters making more allegations to a UFO book writer. However, it is generally agreed that Allen’s story is a fabrication. Over the years, several, often conflicting, accounts of the claimed experiment have been spread via paranormal literature and mainstream media.
The United States Navy insists that there was never any such experiment, that the story’s contents are inconsistent with general information concerning the USS Eldridge, and that the physics on which the experiment is supposedly based, does not exist.
Background on where the tale first began
Towards the end of 1955, Carl M. Allen sent a package to the United States Office of Naval Research with the message “Happy Easter.” Inside was a copy of Morris K. Jessup’s book The Case for the UFO: Unidentified Flying Objects. This was the first time the “Philadelphia Experiment” story was told.
A discussion between three unnamed people (one of whom is called “Jemi”) is detailed in the book’s margins, which are packed with handwritten notes written in three distinct hues of blue ink. They discussed extraterrestrial species and expressed worry that Jessup was too near to learning their technology while commenting on his theories on flying saucer propulsion.
Members of the discussion forum referred to one another as “Gypsies” and spoke about two distinct races of “humans” that reside in space. Their writing included capitalization and punctuation conventions not standard in English, and it extensively debated the veracity of many aspects of Jessup’s book’s assumptions.
Implicit allusions to the Philadelphia Experiment were present (one commenter reassures his fellow annotators who have highlighted a particular theory that Jessup advanced).
Allen started writing to Jessup using his name and the pen name “Carlos Miguel Allende” in early January 1956. Jessup was cautioned in the first known communication to avoid looking into the levitation of UFOs.
The Philadelphia Experiment: Strange Tests and Horrible Outcomes
Allen proposed a potentially catastrophic scientific scenario based on Albert Einstein’s unpublished ideas. He said that in October of 1943, a scientist named Franklin Reno put his ideas into effect at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
It was an experiment that Allen said he saw performed on the SS Andrew Furuseth. According to Allen, despite successfully making invisible a destroyer escort, the ship mysteriously transported to Norfolk, Virginia, for several minutes before reappearing in the Philadelphia yard.
It was speculated that the ship’s crew experienced several undesirable side effects, including temporary insanity, intangibility, and “freezing.” When Jessup replied asking for proof, Allen stated his “memory would have to be retrieved” and referred Jessup to a newspaper item that doesn’t seem to exist, claiming to be from Philadelphia and covering the occurrence.
While visiting the Office of Naval Research in 1957, Jessup was presented with a copy of his book marked up with comments from various personnel. Jessup saw a resemblance between the handwriting in the notes and Allen’s letters. (Allen, looking back 12 years, claimed authorship of all annotations to “scare the crap out of Jessup.”)
Captain Sidney Sherby and Commander George W. Hoover, two ONR officials, took an individual interest in the situation. As part of his job as a Special Projects Officer, Hoover looked into various publications to determine the veracity of the supposed invisibility experiment.
During talks concerning Varo’s contract work for ONR, Hoover spoke with Austin N. Stanton, president of Varo Manufacturing Corporation in Garland, Texas, about the annotations.
In response to Stanton’s enthusiasm, Varo’s staff mimeographed 127 copies of Jessup’s book, complete with Allen’s remarks and letters. The name “Varo edition” was given to this particular run of books.
The anonymous preface to the Varo edition notes the handwriting of a person called “Jemi” (referred to as such by the others and using blue-violet ink). It concludes that two other people, “Mr. A” (identified as Allen by Jessup, in blue ink) and “M. B,” made comments (in blue-green ink).
However, Jessup’s attempts to produce other publications on UFOs were fruitless. In the wake of the loss of his publisher and a string of personal setbacks, he took his own life in Florida on April 30, 1959.
Jessup’s death created other conspiracy theories surrounding the Philadelphia Experiment, with some believing that “the conditions of Jessup’s superficial suicide were enigmatic.” The William L. Moore and Charles Berlitz book, The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility, attested that his death was connected to his knowledge of the Experiment. They proposed that he might have been driven to suicide by the “Allende Case.”
Many authors of books sought to interview Carl Allen, but they either got evasive answers or couldn’t locate him. A journalist from Allen’s hometown of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, spoke with his family members and was given a stack of books and papers annotated by Allen.
They said that Allen had a “great intellect” but that he was also a “master leg-puller” and a “wanderer.”
Further Retellings of the Story
In 1965, Vincent Gaddis released Invisible Horizons: True Mysteries of the Sea, a book of Forteana. He used the Varo annotations to rehash the experiment’s background and results.
In 1978, co-authors George E. Simpson and Neal R. Burger released a book titled Thin Air. Set in the current day, this novel follows a Naval Investigative Service officer as he follows many leads that all lead to a conspiracy involving matter transfer technology and specific invisibility tests conducted during World War II.
In 1979, a book called The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility was released by ufologist William L. Moore and best-selling novelist Charles Berlitz, who had previously authored a book on the Bermuda Triangle.
Allende and Allen’s letters to Jessup inspired this book, which elaborated on their accounts of strange occurrences, long-lost unified field theories by Albert Einstein, and government cover-ups.
An entire chapter of Moore and Berlitz’s The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility is titled “The Force Fields of Townsend Brown.” It focuses on the work of experimenter and former U.S. Navy mechanic Thomas Townsend Brown.
Also detailing Townsend Brown’s unexplained role is Paul LaViolette’s 2008 book Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion.
The Philadelphia Experiment, a time travel film directed by Stewart Raffill, was based on the narrative and released in 1984. Although it was only tangentially based on the original tales of the “Experiment,” it successfully dramatized the story’s essential features. Alfred Bielek said he was on the USS Eldridge during the Experiment in 1989.
Bielek, in his 1990 speech at the MUFON Conference, noted that Raffill’s video was generally in line with the events he claimed to have experienced in 1943. In subsequent interviews, presentations, and online posts, Bielek provided more context for his statements.
What was the Philadelphia Experiment About?
It’s essential to remember that several, sometimes conflicting, accounts of the claimed experiment have been passed about over the years. The following summary details the main aspects of the narrative as described by most reports.
Some Unified Field Theory, a term coined by Albert Einstein to describe a class of potential theories, supposedly inspired the experiment. This class of theories would seek to mathematically and physically describe the interrelated nature of the forces of electromagnetism and gravity.
It has been claimed that unnamed “researchers” believed a modified version of this field might be used with powerful electrical generators to render an item invisible by distorting the path of light around it by refraction. The Navy funded the project because of its potential military use.
One other account, which does not include citations, claims that scientists were making preparations to take magnetic and gravitational measurements of the seabed to find abnormalities, presumably in light of Einstein’s efforts to comprehend gravity.
According to this interpretation, SS-Obergruppenführer Hans Kammler oversaw covert experiments in Nazi Germany to discover anti-gravity.
Although there are no verifiable sources to back up the claims, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was responsible for outfitting the USS Eldridge with the necessary equipment in most of these stories about the alleged experiment. The testing started in the summer of 1943 and was successful. During one experiment, Eldridge disappeared almost entirely, and others reported seeing a “greenish fog” in her place. After that, several crew members felt nauseous.
When the ship returned, it was total nightmare fuel. Some sailors went “totally crazy,” while others were lodged in the ship’s metal superstructure. One sailor, for example, reportedly found himself on a deck level below where he started and had his hand embedded in the steel hull of the ship.
Afterward, the experiment was changed at the Navy’s request, narrowing its focus on developing stealth technology to make the USS Eldridge undetectable by radar.
In some recounting, the experiment occurred on October 28, 1943. In this timeline’s iteration, Eldridge could become invisible, vanish, and teleport nearly 200 miles (320 km) to Norfolk, Virginia. Eldridge supposedly remained in plain sight of the sailors on the SS Andrew Furuseth before vanishing and reappearing in Philadelphia at the spot it had occupied before.
Serious consequences for the crew are described in several telling of the story. There were reports of crew members being welded to bulkheads, experiencing mental breakdowns, turning inside out, or just disappearing.
Rumor has it that the ship’s crew may have been brainwashed, or even “neutralized,” to keep the experiment a secret.
Data and studies
Historian Mike Dash points out that, after Jessup’s work, many writers who popularized the “Philadelphia Experiment” myth seemed to have done little or no independent investigation. It was common in the late 1970s to characterize Allende/Allen as elusive and difficult to track down.
Still, Robert Goerman was able to establish Allende’s identity with only a few phone calls.
Some have hypothesized that the primary literature exaggerates for effect rather than provides reliable data. The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility, written by Berlitz and Moore, was criticized for plagiarizing key story elements from the novel Thin Air, published a year earlier, despite the authors’ claims that their work included factual information, such as interview transcripts with scientists involved in the experiment.
Philadelphia Experiment: Faulty Interpretation of Recorded Naval Experiments?
Fourth Naval District employees have speculated that the purported incident misinterpreted regular research conducted at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II. Some have speculated that degaussing techniques render a ship invisible to magnetic mines and are “the basis for the fictitious legends.”
Experiments with the destroyer USS Timmerman may be responsible for the rumors of levitation and teleportation. The experiments could have had an adverse effect on a human crew, as a higher-frequency generator resulted in corona discharges. However, no one on the ship reported feeling ill due to the experiment.
Several observers have suggested that it is only reasonable to believe an outlandish tale advanced by a single person with independent confirmation. According to an article by Robert Goerman published in Fate magazine in 1980, “Carlos Allende”/ “Carl Allen,” who is said to have corresponded with Jessup, was actually Carl Meredith Allen of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, who had a documented history of psychiatric illness and may have fabricated the primary history of the experiment due to his illness.
A relative of Goerman’s turned out to be “a creative and artistic recluse… sending weird letters and assertions,” which led to his eventual realization that Allen was a buddy.
Problems with the timeline
The USS Eldridge was not officially put into service until August 27, 1943, and remained docked in New York City until September of the same year. Proponents of the narrative suggest that the ship’s records might have been forged or are still secret. However, the crew supposedly kept the logs during the shakedown trip to the Bahamas in October when the experiment took place.
“ONR has never performed experiments into radar invisibility, either in 1943 or at any later time,” the Office of Naval Research (ONR) said in September 1996. It slams the tales of “The Philadelphia Experiment” as “science fiction,” noting that the ONR wasn’t founded until 1946.
In April 1999, a group of Navy veterans who had served aboard the USS Eldridge informed a Philadelphia newspaper that the vessel had never visited the city. In addition, the microfilmed notes portion of the 1943 deck log for the USS Eldridge, which is part of the ship’s comprehensive World War II action report, provides more evidence against the Philadelphia Experiment timeframe.
Support MBC here, and win exciting prizes!
There May Be Other Explanations
In 1943, the USS Engstrom was parked next to the USS Eldridge, and researcher Jacques Vallée outlined an operation on board the USS Engstrom. To make the ship “invisible” to magnetically fused underwater mines and torpedoes, a strong electromagnetic field was generated during the deperming or degaussing technique.
Canadian Charles F. Goodeve, then a captain in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, developed this technique, which saw widespread usage by the Royal Navy and other navies during World War II.
Such degaussing devices were often installed on the top decks of British ships of the century (the conduits are still visible on the deck of HMS Belfast in London). The process of degaussing is in use today. Visible light and radar are unaffected by this.
According to Vallée, the plot of “The Philadelphia Experiment” may have been inspired by distorted or fabricated stories of the degaussing of the USS Engstrom.
Using the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal and the Chesapeake Bay, which were exclusively accessible to Navy warships at the time, Vallée quotes a veteran who served on board the USS Engstrom and thinks it may have made the trip from Philadelphia to Norfolk and returned in a single day.
The German submarines’ destruction of East Coast commerce during Operation Drumbeat necessitated the covert use of that passage to transport vulnerable military vessels.
In both cases, the veteran claims to be the same person who “disappeared” in front of Allende’s eyes in the bar. He says that since he was underage, friendly bartenders escorted him out of the establishment when a brawl broke out, and he was safe from the authorities. As a means of protecting him, they pretended he had vanished.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?