USS Eldridge DE-173 ca. 1944.
The Philadelphia Experiment is the name of an alleged naval military experiment which was supposedly carried out at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, sometime around October 28, 1943. It is alleged that the U.S. Navy destroyer escort USS Eldridge was to be rendered invisible (or “cloaked“) to enemy devices. The experiment is also referred to as Project Rainbow.
The story is widely regarded as a hoax. The U.S. Navy maintains that no such experiment occurred, and details of the story contradict well-established facts about the Eldridge, as well as the known laws of physics. The story has captured imaginations of people in conspiracy theory circles, and they repeat elements of the Philadelphia Experiment in other government conspiracy theories.
In 1955, Morris K. Jessup, an amateur astronomer and former graduate-level researcher, published The Case for the UFO, a book about unidentified flying objects that contains some theories about the different means of propulsion that flying-saucer-style UFOs might use. Jessup speculated that antigravity or the manipulation of electromagnetism may be responsible for the observed flight behavior of UFOs. He lamented, both in the book and during the publicity tour that followed, that space flight research was concentrated in the area of rocketry, and that little attention had been paid to other theoretical means of flight, which he felt might ultimately be more fruitful. Jessup emphasized that a breakthrough revision of Albert Einstein’s “Unified Field Theory” would be critical in powering a future generation of spacecraft.
On January 13, 1955, Jessup received a letter from a man who identified himself as one “Carlos Allende”. In the letter, Allende informed Jessup of the “Philadelphia Experiment”, alluding to two poorly sourced contemporary newspaper articles as proof. Allende directly responded to Jessup’s call for research on the “Unified Field Theory”, which he referred to as “UFT”. According to Allende, Einstein had solved the theory, but had suppressed it, since mankind was not ready for it—a confession that the scientist allegedly shared with the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell. Allende also said that he had witnessed the Eldridge disappear and reappear while serving aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth, a nearby merchant ship. Allende named other crew members with whom he served aboard the Andrew Furuseth, and claimed to know the fate of some of the crew members of the Eldridge after the experiment, including one whom he witnessed disappearing during a chaotic fight in a bar. Although Allende claimed to have observed the experiment while on the Andrew Furuseth, he provided no substantiation of his other claims linking the experiment with the Unified Field Theory, no evidence of Einstein’s alleged resolution of the theory, and no proof of Einstein’s alleged private confession to Russell.
Jessup replied to Allende by a postcard, asking for further evidence and corroboration. The reply arrived months later, with the correspondent identifying himself as “Carl M. Allen”. Allen said that he could not provide the details for which Jessup was asking, but he implied that he might be able to recall some by means of hypnosis. Suspecting that Allende/Allen was a fraud, Jessup discontinued the correspondence.
Conspiracy theorists say that Jessup’s postcard used to respond to Allende publicized their correspondence. They think the Government intervened to disrupt the correspondence by replacing Allende with Allen, who was possibly a CIA agent monitoring Allende’s inbound mail. Allende was accessible to the community of “Philadelphia Experiment” researchers for years, which disproves any alleged intervention by the Government.
The Office of Naval Research and the Varo annotation
According to a 2002 book by the popular writers James Moseley and Karl Pflock, in early 1957, Jessup was contacted by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Washington, D.C., and was asked to study the contents of a parcel that it had received. Upon his arrival, Jessup was surprised to learn that a paperback copy of his UFO book had been mailed to the ONR in a manila envelope marked “Happy Easter.” The book had been extensively annotated in its margins, and an ONR officer asked Jessup if he had any idea as to who had done so.
Moseley and Pflock claim that the lengthy annotations were written with three different shades of pink ink, and they appeared to detail a correspondence among three individuals, only one of which is given a name: “Jemi”. The ONR labelled the other two “Mr A.” and “Mr B.” The annotators refer to each other as “Gypsies,” and discuss two different types of “people” living in outer space. Their text contained non-standard use of capitalization and punctuation, and detailed a lengthy discussion of the merits of various elements of Jessup’s assumptions in the book. Their oblique references to the Philadelphia Experiment suggested prior or superior knowledge (for example, “Mr B.” reassures his fellow annotators who have highlighted a certain theory of Jessup’s).
Based on the handwriting style and subject matter, Jessup identified “Mr A.” as Allende / Allen. Others have suggested that the three annotations are from the same person, using three pens.The annotated book supposedly sparked sufficient interest for the ONR to fund a small printing of the volume by the Texas-based Varo Manufacturing Company. A 2003 transcription of the annotated “Varo edition” is available online, complete with three-color notes.
Later, the ONR contacted Jessup, claiming that the return address on Allende’s letter to Jessup was an abandoned farmhouse. They also informed Jessup that the Varo Corporation, a research firm, was preparing a print copy of the annotated version of The Case for the UFO, complete with both letters he had received. About a hundred copies of the Varo Edition were printed and distributed within the Navy. Jessup was also sent three for his own use.
Jessup attempted to make a living writing on the topic, but his follow-up book did not sell well. His publisher rejected several other manuscripts. In 1958, his wife left him, and his friends described him as being depressed and somewhat unstable when he traveled to New York. After returning to Florida, he was involved in a serious car accident and was slow to recover, which added to his depression. He was found dead on April 20, 1959, and the death was ruled a suicide.