It has all the makings of a classic X-Files episode, with allegations of secret US government experiments, a shadowy cover-up and even the mysterious suicide of one of the lead investigators. Yet, those who believe will insist that the Philadelphia Experiment was no fiction. Conducted during the Second World War, these tests allegedly resulted in an unrecorded triumph of science, all be it, one with an immense human cost as an entire ship was teleported a distance of 200-miles.
Coming in an era when the US government really did test their weapons on the unsuspecting public, and the likes of Roswell fuelled conspiracies of cover-ups, the Philadelphia Experiment was rich pickings for a growing conspiracy community in the 1950s and 1960s. Yet, the claims surrounding the incident have long been contested, and many say experiments never happened at all. Initially, those sceptics would include one of the men who made the theory so public.
It was in 1956 that the writer and UFO researcher Morris K. Jessup received two letters from a man who told an astounding story. The messages had been sent by Carlos Miguel Allende. Allende stated that during the Second World War he was standing on the deck of his ship, the SS Andrew Furuseth, when he had seen the Cannon-class destroyer USS Eldridge disappear into thin air. Having been at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, the immense vessel had been teleported hundreds of miles away. He also claimed the ship had been transmitted through time and encountered aliens.
The most familiar retellings state that this was part of United States government research into Albert Einstein’s unified field theory, that being the unification of electromagnetism and gravity into a single field. Others suggest that the experiments were an effort to detect anomalies on the seabed and discover anti-gravity, the force behind a place or object that is free from gravity. Taking place in 1943, the incident “witnessed” by Allende is said to be only one of a series of experiments, with earlier “witnesses” proclaiming that a green fog covered the ship, sailors becoming fused to the metal deck and many going insane.
“Her crew, some of them staggering and speaking gibberish, was debriefed. They said that they could see each other, but the ship was ‘gone.’ Some of the men said others were falling to the deck and laughing hysterically, ‘as if drunk.’ Others said that for a brief while after the cloud [that surrounded the ship at the start of the test] ‘flashed off’ they could see their second port, the Norfolk Naval Shipyards, and when the cloud reappeared and ‘flashed off’ again, they were back in Philadelphia.”
The October 1943 event referenced by Allende, meanwhile, reported a blue flash and the entire ship being transported 10 minutes back in time to Norfolk, Virginia. Following the horrific results of the experiment, some have since claimed that the US Navy abandoned the project and instead focused on stealth technology, this idea seemingly adding unfounded credibility.
Also going by the name Carl M. Allen, Allende was born in 1925 in the small town of Springdale, Pennsylvania. As per his letters, he joined the Marine Corp in 1942 and the Merchant Navy in 1943 after being discharged. He served aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth during the time in question and a total of 27 different ships before he left in 1952. Allende had attended one of Jessup’s lectures on the preliminary study of gravity and research into unified field concepts, immediately setting about writing what he “knew” about the subject, that being his knowledge of the so-called Philadelphia Experiment.
Many tellings of the tale in the years following fail to mention the uncontrolled prose, unusual usage of punctuation and rambling nature of the letters. They are clearly the work of a disturbed mind and, considering himself to be a serious researcher, Jessup believed that Allende was a crank.
“I speak of TIME for DEEP “Frozen Men” are Not aware of Time as We know it. They are Like Semi-comatose person, who Live, breathe, Look & feel but still are unaware of So utterly Many things as to constitute a “Nether World” to them. A Man in an ordinary common Freeze is aware of Time, Sometimes acutely so. Yet They are Never aware of Time percisely as you or I are aware of it. The First “Deep Freeze” As I said took 6 months to Rectify. It also took over 5 Million Dollars worth of Electronic equipment & a Special Ship Berth. If around or Near the Philadelphia Navy Yard you see a group of Sailors in the act of Putting their Hands upon a fellor or upon “thin air”, observe the Digits & appendages of the Stricken Man. If they seem to Waver, as tho within a Heat-Mirage, go quickly & Put YOUR Hands upon Him, For that Man is The Vary most Desperate of Men in The World. Not one of those Men ever want at all to become again invisible. I do Not think that Much More Need be said as to Why Man is Not Ready for Force-Field Work.”
Excerpt from Carlos Miguel Allende’s letter to Morris K. Jessup, January 13th, 1956
Born in Rockville, Indiana, Jessup’s qualifications were impressive, having a Master of Science in astronomy. Despite his aptitude, he never actually worked in the field and claims from his supporters that he had extensive experience in science and astronomy weren’t supported by his own résumé. None the less, his 1955 book The Case for the UFO caused a stir, with Jessup being one of the early proponents of the so-called “ancient aliens” concept and proposing that his readers pressurise the government into scientific research surrounding the unified field theory.
The UFO community were delighted by his serious study of the phenomena away from the stereotypes of popular b-movies. It led to an instant interest in what he might have uncovered, alongside all manner of contact from interested individuals and researchers across the country. Unfortunately for Jessup, many of those who contacted him were fantasists, and he quickly dismissed Allende. Following his initial success, Jessup turned to writing full time but failed to match his initial success. UFOs and the Bible, The UFO Annual (both 1956), and The Expanding Case for the UFO (1957) didn’t produce the kind of interest or money he was searching for. After the failure of his marriage, he was said to have become increasingly depressed.
In 1956, Jessup was contacted by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Washington, DC whose interest in Allende’s Philadelphia Experiment story had been peaked after they received a copy of The Case for the UFO in the mail. This copy had been annotated by “Jemi”, “Mr A” and “Mr B” with notes on the alleged experiments. The mysterious group called themselves “gypsies” and talked about two different sets of aliens. However, Jessup quickly ascertained that the three people were merely Allende using separate pens and writing styles, a fact that Allende would later admit.
Why the ONR would bother with following up such claims if they were untrue has been a popular point of support for those who still believe in the Philadelphia Experiment. It seems possible, however, that Allende’s comments may have had alarming echoes of real experiments that had been conducted into stealth technology at the Philadelphia Shipyard during the war. Equally, at the height of the Cold War, the US military was jumpy and just as paranoid as any conspiracy theorist.
Having lost his publishing deal, Jessup’s desire to write more was being frustrated. Over the next two years, his initial staunch rejection of the Philadelphia Experiment claims would fade, beginning to collect any information he could find on the matter. In the summer of 1958, he turned this research over to his fellow writer Ivan T. Sanderson, telling him that it was for safekeeping “in case anything should happen to me.” What Jessup found in his research that led to him changing his views so dramatically and begin to fear for his life, can only be speculated about. Yet, we must also remember that Jessup was suffering from depression at the time, a severe car accident in Florida leaving him with injuries that only added to his despondency.
After telling a confidante that he had made a breakthrough in the Philadelphia Experiment case, he was found dead in Dade County, Florida in April of 1959, having allegedly committed suicide by carbon oxide poisoning in his car. Following his death, conspiracy theories arose to suggest he’d been “silenced” by the American government. Interestingly, no suicide note was found for Jessup, no autopsy was performed, and his briefcase was missing.
In fact, there might well be far more basis for a mystery concerning the death of Morris Jessup than there is for the Philadelphia Experiment itself. When Morris was found, the back windows of his Chevy Station Wagon were blocked with white rags, ensuring less of the gas would escape the confinement of the vehicle. However, no obvious source of water was found anywhere near where the body was found in Matheson’s Hammock Park. Equally, the hose had been unusually wired into the exhaust pipe.
Those involved immediately following the death also seem to be a mystery, with Jessup being pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor, Harry Reed. Nobody could locate him afterward. Further, Jessup’s wife refused to identify the body, being sure he would not have killed himself. Instead, formal identification was made by “Leon A. Seoul”, a family friend. However, nobody had any idea who “Leon A. Seoul” actually was.
“(I) have talked personally with every Dr Harry Reed in Dade County. They all deny being anywhere near Matheson Hammock Park the night of Jessup’s death. Who is this mysterious “Dr Reed,” and why did he take it upon himself to pronounce the man dead when the Coroner was already on his way to the scene? Most men would not have taken that responsibility.”
Anna Genzlinger — The Jessup Dimension: From The Philadelphia Experiment, UFOs, and Time Travel to Mothman, Montauk, and Murder
While Jessup came to believe that time travel and matter transportation had been achieved, his methods of trying to prove this, perhaps desperate for a new book, had led him to collect all manner of files, documents, research and accounts. While there is no evidence that the Philadelphia Experiment happened quite how Allende insists, it remains within the realms of possibility that Jessup had stuck his nose into the wrong files and alerted the wrong people at the height of the Cold War.
One theory is that the entire incident was based on actual experiments that had been conducted during the war, with degaussing research confirmed to have happened at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Degaussing is a way of decreasing or eliminating remnant magnetic fields and was used during the war to reduce ships’ magnetic signatures, therefore rendering it undetectable to magnetic mines. These experiments were performed on the USS Engstrom in 1943. The Engstrom had been docked alongside the Eldridge.
Other experiments at the Shipyard included those using the generating plant of the destroyer USS Timmerman. These tests are said to have created large corona discharges, the electrical discharge that is caused by the ionisation of fluids surrounding conductors that carry high voltages. Equally standing against the claims of Allende was the fact that the USS Eldridge had only been commissioned in August and left the dock in September. At the time Allende claimed he incident took place, it was engaged on its shakedown cruise in the Bahamas. The vanishing of a destroyer should have been witnessed by hundreds of shocked sailors. Yet, other veterans from the ship stated they never even made port in Philadelphia, let alone saw anything. The ship’s deck log made no mention of any incident.
The truth is that there is not a single piece of evidence the Philadelphia Experiment happened, and the story originates with a single man, Allende. Said to have been “brilliant” at school, Allende succumbed to mental illness and became an outcast “by his own choice”. Despite his brilliance and fierce intelligence, Allende’s problems led to him having little to show for his life beyond the enduring legend he created.
“Take school, for instance. He did all he could to get out of it, out of the work, the routine. Slept most of the time when he had to show up. But if the teacher had a difficult algebra or calculus problem on the blackboard that needed solving, he’d wake Carl up, and Carl would stare at it for a minute, recite the correct answer and go back to sleep. My brother has mastered several languages fluently.”
Allende’s brother, Randolph. FATE Magazine
The Philadelphia Experiment has spread through popular culture and resulted in numerous “non-fiction” books, documentaries and even a 1984 film starring Michael Paré, Bobby Di Cicco, and Nancy Allen. Originally intended to be written by the legendary John Carpenter, the film was based on the 1979 book The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility by Charles Berlitz and William L. Moore. The incident would also appear or be referenced in The X-Files, the Sam Neill mini-series Triangle, Warehouse 13, the Doctor Who audio play The Macros and both the Command & Conquer and Assassin’s Creed video game franchises.
The Philadelphia Experiment may have some truth lurking in its fantastical tellings, but the real heart of the story is not one of time travel or teleportation. Instead, it is the sad tale of two men, Morris K. Jessup and Carlos Miguel Allende aka Carl M. Allen. Both men, suffering from various demons, came to believe in the most fantastical tale, perhaps reinforcing their own imaginations though findings into real experiments that happened at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Empowered by the growing conspiracy age, with stories of Roswell and Cold War cover-ups whispered in many corners, paranoia took over.
Therefore, perhaps, the Philadelphia Experiment is not an “unsolved mystery” at all, for there is no evidence to suggest that it was ever anything more than the delusional fantasies of Allende and an increasingly unwell Jessup. For Jessup, his part in the tale ended in his car, depression allegedly having taken his life. For Allende, he seemingly found some measure of peace in his old age and reportedly died in a nursing home in 1994. He was said to have been happy in his final years. Maybe the real mystery then is not what happened in Philadelphia, but the secrets of the human mind. While the Philadelphia Experiment seems to have been soundly debunked, the conspiracy theories still rage. People want to believe something, no matter the facts of history and science. Just why that is, might be the biggest mystery of all.
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