fw: DISAPPEARING ACT
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As salty old yarns go, the Philadelphia Experiment, or. As it is sometimes
referred to, Project Rainbow, sits atop the rigging of nautical weirdness
like a defiant Albatross. Roy Bainton reopens the records. Additional
material by Mark Pilkington. Illustrations by Alexander Tomlinson.
The story, as it is usually told, goes something like this: in the autumn
of I943, the US Navy carried out a series of scientific tests at the
Philadelphia Navy Yard and out at sea. The 'science' involved Einstein's
incomplete 'Unified Field Theory' (l). The initial aim was to render ships
invisible to enemy radar. At 0900 hours on 22 October, [or 14 August
depending on which source you use (2)], the Cannon class destroyer USS
Eldridge, (DE I73), fitted with something called a 'Time-Zero Generator'
and four electromagnetic generators, was engulfed in a greenish, hazy
cloud. Before the assembled eyes of the Navy's top brass, the vessel
vanished. Amazingly, the shape of the ship's hull could still be seen as a
hollow in the water. Twenty minutes passed, and to everyone's mystified
relief, the Eldridge re-appeared.
All was not well, however. Legend has it that some of her crew had gone
mad, staggering around and speaking gibberish. Although onlookers could see
them, the hapless sailors claimed that they could not see each other, or
the ship. Other sailors appeared drunk, laughing hysterically.(3) Whilst in
this state of limbo, many men claimed that they had seen another naval
port, Newport News in Virginia, some 600 miles (965 km) distant. Another
element in this bizarre tale features reports that the Eldridge did
actually materialise in Newport at the time of the experiment.
Three weeks later, with a new crew installed, the Navy attempted the
experiment again. This time, the Eldridge was at sea, in the company of a
command vessel, the SS Andrew Furuseth (4). Another vessel, the freighter
SS Malay is reputed to have been in the area and witnessed events. Once
again the strange green cloud appeared, watched by observers on the command
vessel; but this time the physical effects on the crew were horrendous.
Some men spontaneously combusted, one vanished completely never to
re-appear, others were embedded in the Eldridge's superstructure, some
badly burned and many others went insane. Some sources mention an
untraceable newspaper report from a 1944 Philadelphia paper of a brawl in a
bar between sailors. According to the waitresses, the sailors "disappeared"
into thin air as the police arrived.(5)
Hoax, fantasy, colourful codswallop? Sounds like a case for Anderson and
Duchovny. Indeed, Scully and Mulder tackled this in the 1995 episode of The
X-Files called 'Dod Kalm' - see panel. But, to quote Longfellow, "Whence
these legends and traditions?"
To attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and establish the "facts,"
the best method is to break the story down into component parts and answer
DID THE USS ELDRIDGE EXIST?
Her keel was laid on 22 February 1943 and she was built by the Federal
Shipbuilding and Dry-docks co. of Newark, New Jersey. She was completed in
six months and a day [which makes 14 August as one of the dates given for
the experiment look doubtful, as she was commissioned on 27 August
1943(7)]. DE173 took her name from Commander John Eldridge Jr, who was
killed in action over the Solomon Islands in 1942. He was the Commander of
Scouting Squadron 71 on USS Wasp, CV7. D173 was commanded by Lt Charles R
After 1943 she operated in the Mediterranean and towards the end of the war
in the Pacific She was taken out of service and laid up on 17 June I946,
sold to the Greek Navy on 15 January 1951 and re-named the Leon with her
new number, D-54. She remained in service until 1991.
HAD THERE BEEN OTHER EXPERIMENTS WITH MAGNETISM & ELECTRICITY?
Yes. When the British retrieved a new kind of German magnetic mine from the
mudflats of Shoeburyness on 22 November 1939, scientists developed a method
of exploding these highly effective mines several hundred yards from a
ship. The method involved increasing a vessel's magnetic field by laying
power lines along the deck.
HMS Borde was the first magnetic minesweeper, but the method was not
initially entirely successful. The baton was passed to the RAF who fitted
copper coils and a generator to a Wellington transport plane, which flew
over the water at 100 feet (30.5m).
Research continued until it was discovered that ships with a southern
polarity were unscathed by the mines; vessels built in the Northern
Hemisphere had a northern polarity. Eventually the whole naval fleet was
de-gaussed by having cables fitted around the interior of ships' hulls.
The real dream, however, was still the achievement of sonar and radar
WHEN DID THE LEGEND OF THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT FIRST APPEAR?
In 1955, Morris K Jessup, a Washington car parts salesman with a doctorate
in astrophysics from Michigan University, hit the jackpot with a book on
all things fortean, The Case For the UFO (8), His lecture tours to promote
the book were well attended. Jessup was a keen advocate of Einstein's
Unified Field theory (UFT), a subject he enthused upon regularly to the
On 13 January, 1956 he received a rather odd letter. In it, Jessup was
taken to task over his support of UFT. The author of the letter, one Carlos
Miguel Allende, proceeded to outline the story of the Eldridge in full -
complete with the fantastic claim that the destroyer had been 'teleported'
between Philadelphia and Newport News within minutes. Allende further
claimed to be a crewman aboard the Andrew Furuseth.
WHO WAS CARLOS ALLENDE?
His father was English and his mother part French. He was born Carl
Meredith Allen at 6:30 am on 25 May 1925, in a house on the corner of
Rosslyn Street and Porter Street in Springdale, Pennsylvania (9). He had
three brothers, Donald, Frank and Randolph, and a sister, Sarah.
He had adopted his Hispanic name after living with gypsies, and claimed
gypsy blood, although his family had no known gypsy connections. Carl was
the oldest child. He had a brilliant reputation at school for maths and
algebra and spoke several languages fluently, but was, according to his
relatives, 'a drifter'. To Jessup he'd given his address as RD#1, Box 223,
New Kensington, Pennsylvania.(10) His letter, however, was postmarked
Curious, Jessup wrote to Allende, asking for more information. Four months
passed; then on 25 May 1956, while Jessup was busy with the launch of his
second book 'The Expanding Case for the UFO', another letter from the
would-be gypsy appeared, but this time signed 'Carl M Allen'. Jessup's
further questions - names of the Eldridge's crew, times, dates, etc -
Meanwhile, another curious development was taking place. Jessup was
summoned to Washington, DC, for a meeting with the Office of Naval Research
(ONR). Apparently, someone had mailed an annotated copy of Jessup's 'Case
for the UFO' to the ONR. The annotations appeared to be written by three
different people, who signed off as 'Mr A', 'Mr B.' and 'Jemi'. Each
hand-written note gave answers to questions raised by Jessup in the book -
and the handwriting, especially that of 'Mr A', was definitely Allende's.
Jessup surrendered his two Allende letters to the Navy who had the Varo
Corporation of Garland, Texas, produce 25 copies of the annotated book. Why
the ONR did this remains a mystery. However, in March 1978, Allende/Allen
sent a copy of the Varo edition to his father with a letter wherein he
claimed: "enclosed is a book I co-authored with Professor Morris K Jessup
of the University of Michigan nigh 24 years ago..." The letter concludes:
"alone by myself with no Mr A or Mr B."
So what about Jemi? Throughout the Varo edition 'Mr A' and 'Mr B' refer to
each other as 'twins'. Gemini - the twins - was Allen's astrological sign.
Jemi is a contraction of Gemini. Disappointing, perhaps... but at least
Allen was a genuine seaman. His Certificate of Seaman's Service, no.
DID MORRIS K JESSUP COMMIT SUICIDE?
This is one of the enduring pillars of faith among the Philadelphia
Experiment conspiracy theorists. Dr Manson Valentine, an oceanographer and
zoologist, was the last person to see Jessup alive. He had invited him to
dinner on 20 April 1959. According to Valentine, Jessup was "in a depressed
state of mind" but was coming to see him that night to discuss a draft of a
document in which he had reached some definite conclusions about the
Jessup's body, dead from carbon monoxide poisoning, was found slumped at
the wheel of his Station wagon at Matheson's Hammock in Dade County Park
near Miami. A rubber hose was neatly attached to the exhaust and fed into
an open rear window, which had been sealed with damp rags. No documents or
manuscripts were found inside the car.
HAVE ANY WITNESSES OR SURVIVORS OF THE 'ELDRIDGE' BEEN LOCATED?
On 24 March this year (1999), 15 of the Eldridge's crew reunited in
Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the first time in 53 years. Naturally, the
non-events of 1943 were a hot topic of conversation. "It's my impression
it's from someone with a very good imagination. It's strictly science
fiction," said organiser Robert Scheer, who joined the ship as a machinist
mate 3rd class in March 1945. Bill Van Allen, the ship's executive officer
at the time of the alleged goings-on, claimed to have "no knowledge of
anything like that happening... I can't even conceive how the rumour got
Interestingly, according to these veterans, the ship's disappearance can be
explained by the simple fact that, although it called on many East Coast
ports, it never docked at Philadelphia (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 24 + 26
There are at least two other interesting candidates for witnesses. One is
Edward Dudgeon, a retired executive, who states that he was in the US Navy
from 1942 to I945 and served in another destroyer close to the Eldridge,
the USS Engstrom (DE 50). Dudgeon, who studied electronics at Iowa State
University before joining the Navy (as Electrician's Mate third class petty
officer), claims that the Engstrom was also fitted with the same secret
equipment as the Eldridge.
"The Eldridge and the Engstrom were in the harbour together," says Dudgeon.
"In fact our ships were outfitted at the same time: the 48, 49, 50 and the
Eldridge, in June or July of 1943. The Navy used to de-gauss all the ships
in dry dock, even the merchant ships, otherwise the vessels acted as bar
magnets which attracted the magnetic torpedoes.
There was nothing unusual about the Eldridge. When we went ashore, we met
with her crewmembers in 1944, we had parties, there was never any mention
of anything unusual. Allende made up the whole thing."
Did Dudgeon know Allende? He thinks not. But what about the notorious
bar-room brawl? "I was one of the two sailors said to have disappeared,"
Dudgeon claims. The other fellow was named Dave; he served on the DE 49.
The fight started when some of the sailors bragged about the secret
equipment and were told to keep their mouths shut. Two of us were minors -
I cheated on my enlistment papers. The waitresses scooted us out the back
door as soon as trouble began and later denied knowing anything about us..."
What had Dudgeon to say about the mysterious 'teleportation' ? "The
Eldridge had already left (Philadelphia) at 11 p.m. Someone looking at the
harbour that night would have noticed she wasn't there any more and it did
appear in Newport.
She was back in Philadelphia Harbour the next morning, which seems like an
impossible feat: if you look at the map, you'll see that merchant ships
would have taken two days to make the trip. They would have required pilots
to go around the submarine nets, the mines and so on at the harbour
entrances to the Atlantic. But the navy used a special inland channel, the
Chesapeake-Delaware Canal, that bypassed all that.
We made the trip in about six hours." Why Newport? "That's where we loaded
I know that's where the Eldridge went, because we passed her as she was on
the way back from Virginia, in Chesapeake Bay."
The other claimant to have been a crewmember of the Eldridge is 'Drue'(12)
He was in the Marine Corps for 22 years and goes under the one name. As
Drue retired in 1993, it appears obvious that he was not in naval service
in 1943; however, he claims to have 'flashbacks' of the Philadelphia
The whole X-Files shooting match is in Drue's story: alien technology, a
conspiracy to rewrite history, Nikola Tesla, etc. He claims that the
Eldridge - with him in his 1943 incarnation - made a journey through time
with convenient ports of call at Amistad Reservoir, Texas, in 1954;
Chicago, Illinois, in 1969; Sebago Lake, Maine, 1997, etc. If you live in
the following locations, keep an eye out as the Eldridge is due (presumably
with the permission of the Greek Navy) in Imperial Reservoir, California
(2005), the Great Salt Lake in Utah (2043); and Niagara Falls (in 3543).
Its log book should make interesting reading; more tour dates and venues to
be announced. (If you don't believe this, you can write to Drue at PO Box
586026, Oceanside, California 92058-6026, USA.)
Another player on Drue's team has also cleaned up on the lecture circuit;
this is Alfred Bielek (13), who has both feet firmly in the
William L Moore and Charles Berlitz have a lot to answer for. If there is a
launch pad for this enduring, entertaining, and hugely profitable legend,
then it can be traced to an out-of-print book, which precedes Bill and
Charlie's 'The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility' (I979) by a
few years. It's called 'Thin Air', by R Burger and Neil Simpson. It's a
work of well-penned fiction and says so on the cover. It stars a sailor
having nightmares, and a destroyer called... yes, the USS Eldridge. And,
surprise, surprise, much of the testimony of a character in Thin Air
appears almost verbatim in Moore & Berlitz's 'factual' blockbuster.
'Reality' imitating art? Conspiracy. Dozens of books. Movies. Dozens of web
And still it goes on.
Perhaps the final question is 'Why?'
Morris Ketchum Jessup was a bright but gullible, depressed man.
Carlos Allende appears as a classic eccentric with a vivid imagination.
Moore and Berlitz's laughter can be heard yards away from the Bank.
Gillian Anderson is lovely.
All we have left are two queries.
Why is the Eldridge's log book for July-December 1943 missing, and why did
the Office for Naval Research have copies of Jessup's annotated book printed?
If one writes to the US Navy today asking about all this, you'll get a
standard "it never happened" letter.
But the Area 51 freaks march on with "Ah, yes - but remember the stealth
Why bother with research?
Why waste time?
Like dogs in a garden, it isn't always the bone we imagine is buried
beneath the chrysanthemums that turns us on.
The fun is in the digging.
After his huge success charting the Bermuda Triangle, that wily old bird
Charles Berlitz, in tandem with William L Moore, gave the Eldridge story
his best shot in a mega-bucks 1979 book, The Philadelphia Experiment. Back
in FT30, Bob Rickard described it as "a good read", adding that "one is
left with no tangible or unequivocal proof, only a series of impressions
based on the authors' word."
A year later Berlitz and Moore were pivotal in regenerating the legend of
the Roswell saucer crash, co authoring The Roswell Incident Moore went on
to gain notoriety in UFO circles for his key roles in the MJ12 and Paul
Bennewitz affairs (see FT 121 & 122)
Borrowing loosely from suggestions made by Berlitz in Without a Trace
(1977) and the later book, 1984 saw the release of The Philadelphia
Experiment, an enjoyable film which follows the adventures of the two
disappearing crewmen as they are blasted from 1943 into the future - well,
1984. Not only do they have to contend with the vagaries of Reaganite
America, but they must return to 1943 to stop the world being sucked into a
messy "time tornado."
"The claim that it was based on an actual incident seems a bit tall,"
surmised the film critic Leslie Halliwell. A 1993 sequel involved secretive
German World War I experiments, and an alternative present-day America
under Nazi rule.
Meanwhile, the 1995 'Dod Kalm' X-Files episode - see FT 82, brought the
Berlitz and Moore themes together, hinting that alien technology was used
in the Philadelphia Experiment. For the reverse scenario, in which a mod
era aircraft carrier is sent back in time to Pearl Harbour, try The Final
Countdown (1980) starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen.
In recent years Eldridge lore has been woven tightly into the wider NW0
conspiracy matrix by authors such as Al Bielek and 'Commander X'.
The following extract is taken from the writings of net-scribe 'Branton'
and demonstrates how far the story has evolved:
"Forty years later the project [Project Rainbow, aka the Philadelphia
Experiment] was reportedly taken over and continued by a cabal of CIA
agents in league with the Bavarian Illuminati of Germany and it's [sic]
fellow occult lodge, the Bavarian Thule Society, which had created the Nazi
Empire. These experiments were carried out in an underground base below
Montauk Point, Long Island, and involved time-space window experiments and
mass microwave mind-control ... these fascists who had wrested control of
the 'Philadelphia' technology from Navy Intelligence were at that time in
full co-operation with the alien Grays in a joint effort to establish a
one-world National Socialist Empire"
Montauk, of course, was in the news recently as close to the scene of J FK
s son s fatal plane crash. Cue spooky music.
1). Albert Einstein (1879-1955) published his Unified Field Theory for
Gravitation and Electricity in 1925. His mathematical research was based on
the inexplicable results of earlier experiments by the German-born US
physicist Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-1931) and Edward Williams Morley,
(1838-1923), a US physicist and chemist.
The resulting Michelson - Morley experiments were famous for their research
into the 'etherdrift' and the speed of light. Einstein looked for some
relationship between gravity, magnetism and electricity His theory was that
the three elements were governed by similar forces, and his opinion was
that by altering the relationship between magnetism and electricity,
gravity and mass could also be manipulated. He withdrew his theory as
2). See Patrick S Carbone, 'What Really Happened on The Eldridge' in FATE
magazine (February 1997).
3). As an ex-sailor, the author can verify that this is a common condition
amongst the sea-going fraternity
4). In Invisible Horizons (1965), Vincent Gaddis spells the name Andrew
Furnseth - "a Matson Lines Liberty ship out of Norfolk"
5). This is also a regular phenomenon with brawling seamen ashore...
6). See Mack W. Shelton, Jr, 'Quest For Truth: The Philadelphia Experiment'
in 'Planes of Reality' magazine (16 May 1996).
7). Janes Fighting Ships simply gives her as 'USS Eldridge' (DE-173)
-1943. Some researchers state she was launched on 25 Judy 1943. Curiously,
her log book from August to December 1943 is recorded as "missing and
8). Maurice K Jessup, The Case for The UFO (Citadel Press, 1955). See also
FATE magazine, October 1980.
9). Robert A Goerman, Alias Carlos Allende FATE magazine (October 1980) -
available at www.parascope.com/en/articles/allende.htm
10). See Brad Steiger & Joan Whitenour, New UFO Breakthrough: The A11ende
Letters (Award Books, 1968). Steiger claims that an investigator visited
Allende's address and found a vacant farmhouse. Vincent Gaddis makes a
similar statement in Invisible Horizons. This has since been proved
incorrect. The house has always been occupied and still owned by the
11). Jacques Vall�e, 'Anatomy of A Hoax: The Philadelphia Experiment 50
Years Later' in Journal of Scientific Exploration (v 8 n.1, Spring 1994,
Stanford University CA.) - available at www.geocities.com/Area51/7354/Hoax.txt
12). Drue -'I Survived A Journey Through Time' in FATE magazine (February
13). See Brad Steiger, Alfred Bielek and Sherry Hanson-Steiger, The
Philadelphia Experiment and
Other UFO Conspiracies (Inner Light Publishing, NJ. 1990),
New UFO Breakthrough, B Steiger & J Whitenour (1968)
Thin Air R Burger & Neil Simpson
KEY WEBSITE ON THIS SUBJECT
US Naval Historical Centre's FAQ
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