According to one of the most pervasive myths in UFO research, in October 1943, the U.S. Navy secretly accomplished the teleportation of a warship from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to its dock near Norfolk, Virginia, by successfully applying Einstein's Unified Field Theory. While the experiment succeeded in causing the Eldridge to become invisible, a number of the crew burst into flames in spontaneous human combustion, and several others later lapsed into invisibility in front of their families—and, in one case, before the patrons of a crowded bar. Over half the officers and crew members had to be committed to psychiatric wards for the rest of their lives as a result of the fantastic experiment.
The legend of the Philadelphia Experiment began on January 13, 1956, when Morris K. Jessup received the first of a series of strange letters signed by Carlos Miguel Allende—or as he sometimes signed his name, Carl Allen. The initial letter was in response to Jessup's book The Case for the UFO (1955). Jessup approached the UFO mystery from the viewpoint of an astronomer, a mathematician, a physicist, and an archeologist and called upon his readers to place pressure upon their political representatives to demand research into Einstein's Unified Field Theory so that humankind might discover the nature of gravity and thereby apply that knowledge to the conquest of outer space. Allende began his initial letter by taking Jessup to task for invoking the public to request research into Einstein's Unified Field Theory. Such research had already been conducted by the U.S. Navy, Allende stated, and the results were disastrous.
In October 1943, according to Allende, scientists working for the navy accomplished the complete invisibility of a destroyer-type ship and all of its crew while at sea. Allende was blunt in his assessment of the effect of the force field upon the crew members. The mysterious letter writer explained to Jessup that seamen who had been within the force field of the experiment too long went "blank," suddenly finding themselves fading into invisibility. To "get stuck," Allende explained, was a side effect that suddenly prevented a sailor from being able to move of his own volition. If two or more of his fellow crew members did not come to his aid at once and lay their hands upon him, the unfortunate sailor would "freeze." Those who had entered into this condition were like semi-comatose persons who are able to live, breathe, look, and feel, but are not aware of time and exist in a kind of netherworld. Fully as horrifying as the deep-freeze effect on the sailors involved in the experiment were the incidents of men who went "into the flame," spontaneously becoming combustive.
As cross-references for his fantastic story, Allende listed a number of personnel on observer ships' crews and the crew of a Matson Lines Liberty ship out of Norfolk. Allende implied that he himself witnessed the experiment from aboard the S.S. Andrew Furnseth. Allende affixed a lengthy postscript that stated his reconsidered opinion that the navy was probably quite blameless in the incident and really did not envision the ghastly effect the experiment would have upon the crew members. Before he closed, Allende tossed one more bombshell: The experimental ship had disappeared from its Philadelphia dock and, only a few minutes later, appeared at its other dock in the Norfolk/Newport News/Portsmouth area. The ship had been clearly identified as being at that place; then the ship again disappeared and returned to its Philadelphia dock in only a few minutes.
Jessup was puzzled by the letter. It had been sent from Texas, but its author gave a home address in Pennsylvania. Jessup had brought an abundance of academic distinction to his study of the UFO. After having served as an instructor in astronomy and mathematics at the University of Michigan and at Drake University, he was awarded a Ph.D. in astrophysics and was sent to South Africa by the University of Michigan. Here he was assigned to erect and operate the largest refracting telescope in the Southern Hemisphere. The Jessup-directed research produced the discovery of several double-stars, which were catalogued by the Royal Astronomical Society.
Jessup sent Allende a letter requesting more information. It was four months before he received a reply. In his second letter, Carlos Miguel Allende had Americanized his name to Carl M. Allen. He had also tempered the tone of his correspondence and seemed less piqued at Jessup. Allende offered to subject himself to hypnosis or sodium pentathol in order to dredge names of personnel involved in the experiments out of his subconscious. He stated that under narcohypnosis he would perhaps be able to remember names, addresses, and service numbers of his shipmates.
At that point, Jessup was invited to the Office of Naval Research in Washington. The astrophysicist was surprised when an officer handed him a paperback copy of his own book, The Case for the UFOS. Jessup was informed that the book had been addressed to Admiral N. Furth, Chief, Office of Naval Research (ONR). The manilla envelope in which it had arrived had been postmarked Seminole, Texas. A cheery "Happy Easter" had been written across the face of the envelope.
When Jessup opened the book, he observed that someone had taken the time and effort to completely annotate his study of the UFO and that it appeared to have been passed back and forth among at least three persons. The ONR asked that Jessup examine the notations and see if he might have any idea who had been responsible for making the comments.
Each man wrote in a different color of ink, and they were designated as Mr. A. (assumed to be Carlos Miguel Allende), Mr. B., and Jemi. The three individuals referred to "LMs," who seemed to be extraterrestrials who were friendly or indifferent to earthlings; and to the "SMs," a group of hostile aliens. Throughout the text, the three used terms such as mothership, home-ship, dead-ship, Great ark, great bombardment, great return, great war, little-men, force-fields, deep freezes, undersea building, measure mark-ers, scout ships, magnetic and gravity fields, sheets of diamond, cosmic rays, force cutters, undersea explorers, inlay work, clear-talk, telepathing, and vortices. Such terms certainly have encouraged UFO researchers to speculate that the mysterious Carl Allen and his two friends were representatives of an extraterrestrial power that took root on Earth centuries ago and has long since established an advanced underground subculture.
Dr. Morris K. Jessup was found in his station wagon in Dade County Park, Florida, on the evening of April 20, 1959. Police officers reconstructed the death as a suicide. A hose had been attached to the exhaust pipe of the station wagon and looped into the dosed interior. Some associates mentioned despondency over an approaching divorce as the principal reason. Most of his colleagues, however, were shocked and surprised that Jessup would seek the ultimate escape of a dosed car and carbon monoxide. And ever since Jessup's death UFO researchers have argued that the alleged suicide was the price the astrophysicist had paid for getting too close to the truth about flying saucers.
There really was a destroyer named the Eldridge, and it remained on active duty until 1946. After it had been removed from military service, it was mothballed until it was transferred to the Greek Navy.
Many UFO researchers maintain that some kind of secret experiment took place with a Navy warship in 1943, thus planting the seed for the legend of the Philadelphia Experiment. Most speculate that it was probably an experiment in attempting to make ships invisible to enemy submarines and that it very well could have involved incredibly high voltages of electricity—which could have burned and scorched seamen and even delivered a kind of shock that drove some of the crewmen insane.
Other researchers have insisted that a government conspiracy is at work and that the secret experiment ripped a hole in the spacetime continuum that permitted alien intelligences to begin their invasion of the planet.
Numerous UFO investigators have searched without success for that tantalizing proof of the Philadelphia Experiment in invisibility which Allende claimed could be found in the Philadelphia newspapers. "Check for a tiny one-paragraph (upper half of sheet, inside the paper near the rear third of the paper, 1944) story describing the sailors' actions after their initial voyage," he had teased Jessup. "The invisible sailors raided a beer joint and caused such shock and paralysis of the waitresses that little of a comprehensible nature could be gotten them."
Although the newspaper clipping or any other proofs of the Philadelphia Experiment have never been located, in 1980 writer Robert A. Goerman managed to find the home and the surviving family of Carl M. Allen, alias Carlos Miguel Allende. Although there will probably always be those who swear that they or their kin participated in the remarkable secret navy experiment in invisibility and teleportation in 1943, Goerman's research has quite likely provided a reasonable explanation. It was all a hoax, a fantasy, molded by a former sailor who loved to read about UFOs and strange, unsolved mysteries so much, that he created one that may never die.