The Philadelphia Experiment
The Philadelphia Experiment was supposedly carried out by the U.S. Navy at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, PA on or about October 28, 1943. The destroyer escort USS Eldridge was claimed to have been rendered invisible (or "cloaked") to enemy devices, with disastrous results for the ship's crew. The story first appeared in 1955, in letters sent to writer and astronomer Morris K. Jessup.
The so-called "Philadelphia Experiment" originally created quite a stir in the late '70s. At a time when the Bermuda Triangle, cattle mutilation, and Pyramid Power were attracting much attention, the Philadelphia Experiment attained its own niche in the weird science field. At one time, actor Richard Dreyfuss planned to makes a movie on the topic, but that never came to pass. Eventually the tale inspired two movies, one in the '80s ("The Philadelphia Experiment") the other in the '90s ("The Philadelphia Experiment 2").
Almost twenty years on since its arrival in public awareness, relatively little is available on the subject. A search of two major chain bookstores and two decent libraries turned up nothing on their shelves. Eventually this author was able to special order ONE book, published in 1979.
HERE'S THE BEEF
The primary source for the "Philadelphia Experiment", it turns out, comes from ONE man, the mysterious Carlos Miguel Allende. According to authors William L. Moore and Charles Berlitz in their influential, if speculative, 1979 book "The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility," Allende's main statements/writings can be summarized thusly:
- Dr. Albert Einstein's unified field theory was completed in 1925-7, but Einstein withdrew it because he was allegedly "horrified" by the possible uses it might be put to. This, according to Allende, could be confirmed by a "Dr. B. Russell."
- During World War II, concepts and applications of the Unified Field Theory were tested by the Navy, "with a view to any and every possible quick use of it, if feasible." Someone named Dr. Franklin Reno, a man Allende refers to as "my friend," was allegedly responsible for producing "results".
- These "results" were meant to achieve "complete invisibility of a ship, destroyer type, and all of its crew, while at sea (October, 1943)" by means of a previously unknown and unimagined energy or force field created to envelope the ship. The ship's crew would supposedly be able to see each other during the envelopment, if only vaguely, but all anyone outside the field would see was "the clearly defined shape of the ship's hull in the water." The effects of this force field upon the men involved were, according to Allende, "disastrous." The experiment, he claims, was successful, but the ship's crew suffered horrifically.
- A special berth for the experimental ship existed at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
- A small news item in a Philadelphia newspaper briefly appeared which could verify the tale. It described the sailors' post-voyage activities when they "raided" a local bar known as the "Seamens Lounge," where they exhibited the after-effects of their exposure to the field, or discussed the experiment in such graphic terms that it terrified the waitresses. One is left to assume that the Shore Patrol was called and that some reporter picked up the story and wrote it up without quite believing it.
- Allende claimed to have observed at least portions of the experiment at sea while aboard the Liberty Ship S. S. Andrew Furuseth, a Matson Lines ship out of Norfolk. This was sometime in October,1943. According to Allende, other men on deck at the time who could offer corroborating accounts of the experiment included: Chief Mate Mowsely; Richard "Splicey" Price, an eighteen-or -nineteen-year-old sailor from Roanoke, Virginia; and a man known only as "Connally" from New England (possibly Boston).
- Rear Admiral Rawson Bennett, Navy Chief of Research, could also supposedly verify that the experiment occurred.
- The experimental ship mysteriously disappeared from its Philadelphia dock and showed up minutes later in the Norfolk area. It then vanished again and reappeared at the Philadelphia dock. Total elapsed time was mere minutes. Allende said he only heard about this phase of the proceedings, and that may have been as late as 1946 "after the experiments were discontinued."
- Allende said the Office of Naval Research was under the direction of "the present (at the time of the letter — 1956) boss of the Navy, Burke" at the time that the experiment was conducted, and that it was because of his "curiosity and willingness and prompting that this experiment was enabled to be carried out." Burke was described by Allende as a man who had a very positive attitude about the research.
- Finally, in addition to his then current address, Allende disclosed to Jessup the following information about himself: his presumed merchant sailor's Z number, Z416175; that he'd served on the S.S. Andrew Furuseth for six months; that he considered himself "something of a dialectician" and "star gazer" — and that he traveled a great deal "around the country."
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Even The Philadelphia Experiment's name is not what it seems. According to Moore and Berlitz:
"Exactly why or how the ship experiment outlined in the Allende letters came to be called the Philadelphia Experiment is not exactly known, although it is certain that the designation is definitely not an official one. As far as is known there has never been a military undertaking of any sort which used that project title. It is more likely that the name arose out of the need of one or more of the early researchers into the matter to call it something; and since at least a portion of the project allegedly took place at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, it seemed only appropriate to refer to the entire affair as the Philadelphia Experiment. In any event the name stuck, and we might as well continue to use it."
THE NAVAL PERSPECTIVE
According to the Department of the Navy, in a document dated July 23, 1976:
"As for the Philadelphia Experiment itself, ONR (Office of Naval Research) has never conducted any investigations on invisibility, either in 1943 or at any other time. In view of present scientific knowledge, our scientists do not believe that such an experiment could be possible except in the realm of science fiction. A scientific discovery of such import, if it had in fact occurred, could hardly remain secret for such a long time."
There's reason to believe The Philadelphia Experiment never happened. Since the primary source for the story is one man of questionable veracity — Carlos Allende — the Philadelphia Experiment may very well be the Naval equivalent of an Urban Myth: a tale that many people believe is true and wish to be true, but which is, sadly, probably a myth.
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