The Philadelphia Experiment

Did the USS Eldridge really disappear? (Copyright Lee Krystek, 1999)

In October 1955 "Dr." Morris Jessup received a series of strange letters. Jessup was a 55 year-old astronomer and adventurer. Though he'd never officially received a Phd he'd written a dissertation in the field of astrophysics. Later he developed interests in jungle exploration, archaeology and "fringe" science. In that same year his book The Case for the UFO was published in hardcover and paperback.

It was shortly after the paperback version of his work came out that the letters arrived. They were rambling, strangely worded and written with several different colors of pencil and pen. The second of these letters told Jessup about an experiment the U.S. Navy had tried in 1943. According to the writer, the Navy was trying to render a destroyer invisible by applying Einstein's Unified Field Theory. The ship, the U.S.S. Eldridge, had indeed disappeared, the letter said, but at a terrible price to the crew: ...

The "result" was complete invisibility of a ship. Destroyer type, and all of its crew, While at Sea (October. 1943) The Field Was effective in an oblate spheroidal shape, extending one hundred yards (More or Less, due to the Lunar position & Latitude) out from each beam of the ship. Any Person Within that sphere became vague in form BUT He too observed those Persons aboard that ship as though they too were of the same state, yet were walking upon nothing. Any person without that sphere could see Nothing save the clearly Defined shape of the Ships Hull in the Water, PROVIDING of course, that the person was just close enough to see yet, barely outside the field. Why tell you Now? Very Simple; If You choose to go Mad then you would reveal this information. Half of the officers & crew of that Ship are at Present, Mad as Hatters. A few, are even Yet confined to certain areas where they May receive trained Scientific aid when they either, "Go Blank" or "Go Blank" & Get Stuck."... The Man thusly stricken can Not Move of his own volition unless two or More of those who are within the field go & touch him, quickly, else he "Freezes".

The writer also claimed that some of the crew could walk through walls and that during the experiment the whole ship had disappeared, reappeared in Norfolk, Virginia, then returned to Philadelphia. The man claimed he had observed the experiment from a merchant ship nearby and had later read about some more of the incident in a Philadelphia newspaper. The writer had signed himself "Carl M. Allen."

Jessup thought the letters were from a crackpot until he was visited by two men from the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The ONR had anonymously been sent a paperback copy of Jessup's UFO book. The inside of the book had been heavily marked up with incoherent handwritten notes in various colors that made it appear that at least three different writers had been involved. Although Admiral Furth, to whom the package had been addressed, took little notice of the strange volume, Commander George Hoover, Major Darrell Ritter and Captain Sidney Sherby, all of the ONR, took a personal interest in it. They also decided to talk to Jessup to see if he could shed some light on the author of the notes.

Jessup immediately recognized the script to be in the same style as the letters. He showed the letters to the officers. The Navy men were interested in them. They took the letters and the book, and at their own expense, had a few number of copies made that were distributed to a small group of people.

The officers attempted to find this "Carl M. Allen" (who would later be identified as "Carols Miguel Allende") but none of the return addresses on the letters or the package seemed to lead to him. Jessup, who was busy on other projects, at first lost interest in the strange correspondence, but later started investigating their unusual claims. He found out little.

In 1969, after Jessup's death, Allende showed up at the office of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) in Tucson, Arizona, The APRO group is dedicated to examining UFO reports. There Allende confessed to writing the letters and the notes in the book sent to the ONR. He stated that Jessup's book, particularly a part about invisability and force fields, had frightened him prompting him to make up the story of the ship disappearing to scare Jessup away from writing about UFOs.

So ifsAllende confession the end of the tale? Not quite. In 1979 William Moore and Charles Berlitz wrote a book called "The Philadelphia Experiment." In the book they suggested that Allende's confession may have been false. They also included a copy of what appeared to be a newspaper article from 1943. The book infers that the sailors mentioned in the article were suffering after effects of "The Philadelphia Experiment." The headline read:

Strange Circumstances Surround Tavern Brawl

The article stated that during an altercation at a Philadelphia bar, two sailors disappeared into thin air. There is no date or newspaper name on the article and it does not seem to match the column size of any Philadelphia paper of that day. It was obtained when a photocopy was sent to Moore and Berlitz anonymously. Unfortunately this combination of circumstances makes it impossible to show that the article is not a hoax.

The USS Eldridge in port some years later under a different name and flag.

The Moore/Berlitz book also focused on Jessup's death (which was a suicide) and the uncharacteristic interest of ONR in Allende's notes. The authors suggest that this is evidence that there is some truth behind the story.

Two films were made about the alleged incident which helped to keep public interest in the story going. In 1984 the "The Philadelphia Experiment" staring Michael Pare and Nancy Allen told a much altered version of the the Moore/Berlitz book's tale. A sequel ,"Philadelphia Experiment II," was released in 1993.

It may not only be Allende's letters that inspired the rumors about "The Philadelphia Experiment" (which has also been referred to as the "Rainbow Project"). During WWII the United States Navy had a program to deguass ships. This process, which entailed running cables around the circumference of the ship's hull (bow to stern), canceled out the ship's magnetic field. This made it undetectable (or one might say magnetically invisible) to some types of mines and torpedoes. The process had no affect on the visual appearance of the ship. The US Navy suggests that a misunderstanding of this process may have somehow been the genesis for "The Philadelphia Experiment" story.

Another possibility might be experiments the Navy carried out on the USS Timmerman during the 1950's. A new high-frequency generator was installed. The generator produced corona discharges that seemed similar to what was described in the story when the ship supposedly disappeared.

Whatever the roots of the story might have been (Allende, deguassing or corona discharges) one thing is certain: No experiment was done in 1943 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard involving the USS Eldridge.

During that period she never stopped in Philadelphia. A fact attested to by the ship's crew. In March of 1999 fifteen members of the crew of the USS Eldridge held a reunion in Atlantic City. They were a bit bewildered about why of all the ships in the U.S. Navy the Eldridge was chosen for this rumor. Some were getting tired of being asked about it. All denied anything like what was in the Allende story or the Moore/Berlitz book ever actually happened. Quipped former crew member Ed Tempary as he gave his comrades a smile, "The only part of the book I think is true is the part about the crew being a little crazy."

Copyright Lee Krystek 1999. All Rights Reserved.


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