The Philadelphia Experiment cemented itself in the world of science fiction, having a movie made from it’s story. Additionally, being a part of several conspiracy theory communities. But how solid is the foundation that this story rests upon? What about the Navy’s own research into the claims? Today we shall look into them all, giving a full breakdown of the story and history of the Philadelphia Experiment.
This episode’s topic was a part of one in November last year, discussing some of Philadelphia’s urban legends and myths. The Philadelphia Experiment had a small breakdown of it’s events. Today, we shall be discussing the full story. The timeline of events and how it ended up playing a role within pop culture and modern mythology.
Our story centers on the USS Eldridge, a naval destroyer that finished construction near the time that this event’s occurrence. The timeline begins in 1943, either in the late summer or early fall, depending on the sources you look at. Generally within that turning point of the year. At this point in time, the US was already two years into our involvement within World War 2, which was hitting it’s apex. The government along with most nations were completely in War time mode, advancing technology, building new machines and vehicles and attempting plenty of new experiments all in hope to gain the edge over the opposing forces.
In this specific case, this opposing force was the devastating and infamous German U-Boats, which had been giving the US, and other countries’ ships and vessels, many difficulties during the earlier years of the war. The Philadelphia Experiment, or Project Rainbow, was one such attempt in order to combat the U-Boats. This experiment was supposedly in order to help mask a vessel from enemy radar systems. Effectively making the ship “invisible” to enemy combatants, the USS Eldridge was at the front line of this experiment. While it was in the Philadelphia Naval Yard, in the southern section of the city, on the Delaware River.
During the day of the experiment, witnesses to the event reportedly watched as an eerie greenish-blue began to envelope the hull of the ship, then before anything else could really be done, the ship just vanished. Gone into thin air, with no explanation as to what happened or where it had disappeared to. This was until a few hours later, when the USS Eldridge was supposedly spotted down in Virginia within the Norfolk Naval Yard,roughly 300 miles away depending on the route taken. Then, just as suddenly as the ship disappeared, the USS Eldridge rematerialized once more within the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
According to the accounts of this event, members of the crew suffered from horrid burns, nausea and disorientation. There were even reports of crew members with arms or legs fused to the deck of the ship itself. This is the story of the USS Eldridge and the Philadelphia Experiment, a failed experiment that resulted in a potential accidental teleportation or time-travel, supposedly.
What we have discussed thus far, can essentially be chalked up to a spark notes version of an essay, and there is a reason for that, as the main event doesn’t really have much more information than that. The real meat of the Philadelphia Experiment comes from the how and the who of the story, more specifically, how we learned of this supposed experiment and those who play a role with shaping the dialog of the story across the next several decades and forming it into what it is today.
When it comes to the Philadelphia Experiment, practically all of the information that’s known of the story comes from one single man by the name of Carl M. Allen. He also has a pen name known as Carlos Miguel Allende, but they are both the same person. All the info that we know of the Philadelphia Experiment comes from Carl himself. In the year 1956, thirteen years later, he began mailing letters to a man by the name of Morris K. Jessup.
Morris was an author and an amataur astronomer, who, a year prior to Carl’s letters, wrote and published a book titled “The Case for the UFO”. This book was self-researched by Morris, and due to this, Carl’s letter criticized his understanding of the unified field theory, a topic brought up within the book. The Unified Field Theory is described within physics, as a type of field theory that allows all that is usually thought of as fundamental forces and elementary particles to be written in terms of a pair of physical and virtual fields; basically the relation and interaction of the fundamental pillars and forces within our understanding of the universe, these forces being things such as gravity, electromagnetism, and basic particles.
Within Carl’s letter, he claims was taught about the Unified Field Theory by none other than Albert Einstein; although this theory has never properly been proven to exist, even by Einstein himself. Nonetheless, this did not stop Carl from attempting to prove to Morris that such a theory truly does exist; but what sort of evidence does good ol’ Carl provide? None other than his own account of the Eldridge’s disappearance and reappearance in the Naval Yard. On top of that, despite no other witnesses, either from the crew itself or from neighboring boats. Regardless of this fact however, this story only continued to grow momentum.
After these claims, Jessup didn’t just sit around and do nothing. Rather he attempted to investigate them but to little avail. In fact, he got to the point in which he considered dropping the search all together. Until one day in 1957, when he was visited by two officers from the Office of Naval Research. According to an information sheet from the ONR, the officers were responding to a package that the Navy received. The package contained a copy of Jessup’s book, “The Case for the UFO”, which had been annotated with handwritten notes, all claiming advanced knowledge of physics, and linking extraterrestrial technology to breakthroughs in unified field theory.
These notes were written in such a way that looked as if different people took part in creating them; with one of them clearly attempting to look as though it was written in some sort of alien language. Jessup however, almost immediately recognized the handwritings, linking it back to the letter he received from Carl Allen. Jessup’s part in this story ends here, as he sadly take his own life two years later in 1959.
Carl Allen however, would continue on until his own death in 1994. During this whole time he would continue to send out letters and messages to whomever he could. Jessup seemed to just be the catilous for Allen.
As a strange side tangent, the ONR officers personally took it upon themselves to publish copies of this book. With annotates and all, some sources say over a hundred or more versions; but the ONR Information Sheet only details 25 copies. The officers used a Texas military contractor named Varo Manufacturing. These copies, sometimes dubbed the “Varo editions”, ended up becoming a sort of collectible for many conspiracy theorists through the years.
Since the original event of the Philadelphia Experiment in 1943, Carl Allen has remained the only witness. He claims to be stationed upon the SS Andrew Furuseth. A vessel present in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, with a clear view of the Eldridge during its disappearance. This fact about Carl being the sole witness, would remain for several decades after the supposed event. But eventually that would change as the years went by.
Years later, a man named Al Bielek, came forward claiming to have personally taken part in the experiment. However, brainwashing made him forget it all. This was however, until 1988, after viewing the 1984 movie “The Philadelphia Experiment”; which acted as a trigger and helped unlock his repressed memories of the event.
Both Carl and Al’s claims were not enough to give the story solidity, especially since they often changed. What really give this story a bump, was the emergence of a third testimony years later in 1994. This testimony came from an astrophysicist and ufologist Jacques F. Vallee, who published an article in the Journal of Scientific Exploration; titled “Anatomy of a Hoax: The Philadelphia Experiment Fifty Years Later.”
Vallee had written a previous article about the Philadelphia Experiment too. With this previously established readership, he asked readers to reach out if they had further information about the alleged event. This was when Vallee received a letter from a man named Edward Dudgeon; who served as a part of the U.S. Navy between the years 1942 to 1945.
Edward Dudgeon had served on the USS Engstrom, which was in dry-dock within the Philadelphia Naval Yard. This was in the 1943, the same time that the supposed experiment took place. Dudgeon was an electrician in the Navy, with knowledge of some of the devices installed on the USS Engstrom. Dudgeon states these same devices are also active on the USS Eldridge. Although I can’t find any information that states the Eldridge was also in dry-dock. Which is typically how you’ll dock in order to do maintenance or repairs.
He continues on, saying the devices are far from a teleportation engine from Einstein, or secret aliens. Rather, the devices enabled the ships to scramble their magnetic signature using a technique known as degaussing. The ships had large cables and then zapped with high-voltage charges. A degaussed ship wouldn’t be invisible to enemy radar, but keep the vessel undetected by the U-boats’ magnetic torpedoes.
Dudgeon was familiar with the wild rumors about disappearing ships and the mangled crewmen. Stating that this can all link back to sailor talk about “invisibility” to torpedoes. The “green glow” was probably due to an electric storm or St. Elmo’s Fire, which is a weather phenomenon that causes a luminous plasma. As for the Eldridge’s mysterious appearance in Norfolk and sudden return to Philadelphia; Dudgeon explained that the Navy used inland canals. These are off limits to commercial or residential passage, which cuts a two-day trip into a half-day round trip.
To add even more confusion and fuel to this story, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1999 at a reunion in Atlantic City, of Naval sailors who actually served on the USS Eldridge. These sailors stated that the ship actually never docked within Philadelphia. The USS Eldridge was actually in Brooklyn the day of the disappearance. In fact, the ship’s own log confirmed this timeline of events. Furthermore, the captain states that no sort of experiments had ever conducted on board the vessel.
Despite the differing accounts, both Dudgeon and the ship’s crew confirm that nothing otherworldly happened on board the ship. Furthermore, the Naval Department Library’s detailing of the ONR Information Sheet, was even further illuminating on the events; specifically through the Navy’s point of view. The Naval Archives continue further, explaining away a lot of the foundation of the supposed story and eyewitness accounts. They go into detail on the USS Eldridge deck log and war diary. Starting with the Eldridge’s commissioning on 27 August 1943, within the New York Navy Yard through to December of 1943. After commission, the USS Eldridge remained in New York, within the Long Island Sound, up until the 16th of September when it set sail for the Bermudas.
From this point until mid October, the Eldridge remained around Bermuda in order to conduct training and sea trials; then on October 15, the ship left for New York, arriving on the 18th. The USS Eldridge remained in the New York harbor until November 1st, becoming an escort for Convoy UGS-23. On November 2nd the convoy entered the Naval Operating Base, in Norfolk Virginia. November 3rd, the USS Eldridge as a part of the Convoy UGS-23 left for Casablanca, Morocco arriving on the 22nd.
On November 29th, Eldridge left with the convoy on December 17th into the New York harbor. Eldridge remained in New York on availability training, in Block Island Sound until the end of December; wrapping up the year by traveling down to Norfolk with four other ships. During this entire time frame of the year 1943, the USS Eldridge was never actually in Philadelphia.
As for the witnesses of the Philadelphia Experiment, its thought to be the SS Andrew Furuseth. The crew allegedly witnessed the sudden arrival of the Eldridge in Norfolk, it is questionable though. The SS Andrew Furuseth movement report cards list the merchant ship’s ports of call, the dates of the visit, and convoy designation, if any apply. Between August 1943 and January 1944, the report of the Andrew Furuseth and the USS Eldridge’s; detailed that neither were in Norfolk at the same time.
Also, mentioned earlier, the Philadelphia Experiment went by the title “Project Rainbow”. A search of the Naval Archives, no record of Project Rainbow relating to teleportation or disappearing ships are present. During the 1940s, the code name RAINBOW refers to the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. The RAINBOW were war plans to defeat Italy, Germany and Japan during the second World War.
The ONR report goes on to discuss the mentioning of “degaussing”, and the supposed connection with making an object invisible. Degaussing however, is a process where a system of electrical cables around the circumference of a ship’s hull; running from bow to stern on both sides. An electrical current is then sent through these cables to cancel out the ship’s own magnetic field. Turning on whenever the ship was in waters that might contain magnetic mines; which was usually shallow waters in combat areas. If correctly done, it makes a ship “invisible” to the sensors of magnetic mines. But the ship itself remains completely visible to the human eye, ship radars, and underwater listening devices.
Conclusively, several years of conducting investigations, the Naval Archives,and many independent researchers, located no official documents that support these claims. For either a Naval experiment involving invisibility or teleportation that took place in Philadelphia, or any other locations.
This wraps up the section, where searching deeper can help disprove most of the structure surrounding the Experiment; and ultimately wrapping up most of the discussion. Overall, no new information has come out about the story, again Carl Allen passed away in 1994. With him being the driving voice behind keeping this story alive, it quickly dried up. Regardless, if one did some simple research into the matter, you would discover a lot of discrepancies to his account. Still, the Philadelphia Experiment still lingers with many Conspiracy Theorist’s, and has created its own foothold in science fiction.
Episode 27 – The Philadelphia Experiment | Naval Teleportation. Produced by Shane Cummings; Audio Editing & Research by Shane Cummings. Intro & Outro music “Creepy Regrets” by AnMo.