This month’s mystery takes us back to the strange world of conspiracy theories. What we’ll be discussing today is perhaps the most gruesome and more enduring legends surrounding the United States Military. Did the military truly cause a ship to teleport in a misguided attempt to develop invisibility technology? Did poor souls truly end up embedded in the ship’s metal? Let’s explore.
The story goes that in the fall of 1943 (the date referenced is most often October 28), the United States Navy was conducting experiments in Philadelphia. The ship involved was the USS Eldridge, which was a cannon-class ship in use between 1943 and 1947. The legend goes that the United States Military was developing technology to cloak ships and render them invisible in order to gain the upper hand in battle. In some tellings of the story, the US Military got their technology from visiting or crashed aliens. In others, they developed the technology from the ground up.
The first “successful” test of this technology caused a light to emanate from all surfaces of the ship, either blue or green in color. Then the ship vanished in front of onlookers’ eyes. Then, several people in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia claimed to see glimpses of the ship fore a few moments before it showed up back in Philadelphia. The side-effects of this teleportation were gruesome. Some crewmembers of the USS Eldridge were found fused into the metal of the ship, still alive and still moving. Some suffered from debilitating mental health issues. Some are even said to have become intermittently invisible for the rest of their lives. I have to imagine that there were also some effects of radiation from jumping through space, but that’s pure speculation.
This legend seems to have a starting point with one person: Carl M. Allen. Allen wrote under the pseudonym Carlo Allende, so while researching this theory, you may come across these names interchangeably. In 1956, Allen was in correspondence with a man named Morris Jessup. Jessup was deeply interested in the newly-budding field of ufology, and had recently published a book on the topic. Jessup discussed UFOs and the Unified Field Theory with Allen.
The Unified Field Theory (also known as UFT) is a theory in physics that is “an attempt to describe all fundamental forces and the relationships between elementary particles in terms of a single theoretical framework.” (via Britannica) Albert Einstein is perhaps the most notable scientist to have attempted to prove UFT, but it ultimately remains unproven to this day.
Back to the origin of the Philadelphia Experiment, Allen spoke extensively about UFT in his correspondence with Jessup. He claimed to have seen the USS Eldridge disappear in person and that it was a military experiment being covered up. He claimed that the experiment utilized alien technology in order to achieve a feat such as teleportation. He also claimed that the process of teleportation took the ship to an alternate dimension where it encountered aliens.
Jessup dismissed these claims, until he was contacted by the Office of Naval Research, which had been sent an annotated copy of Jessup’s book in a plain manila envelope labelled “Happy Easter” – which has no real bearing on the story, it’s just a strange detail. The notes written in the book were allegedly written by three people “Mr. A,” “Mr. B,” and Jemi. They did not follow conventional grammatical rules. The notes discussed people living in space and vaguely referred to the Philadelphia Experiment at points. The handwriting was later determined to be Allen’s in three different pens, insinuating that he was attempting to use the forgery to incite a UFO hoax through Jessup.
Okay, so here’s the thing – I totally believe that our government conducts secret experiments that we will likely never know about. Couple this with the fact that cloaking or straight-up invisibility technology would give the United States an enormous advantage in times of war and strife, and the foundation for this story is very believable. I think in the future we will see more and more technology resembling this come out and be utilized by the armed forces.
This story falls apart for, however, when the specifics of this supposed experiment come into play. There are just too many bombastic details to be believable. The experiment, the eerie glow, the teleportation, the classified (alien?) technology, the bodies embedded in metal. One or two of these facets would have aroused suspicion from skeptics, but including all of them just seems like overkill. The more crazy things included in a story, the more it is going to be doubted. Does that mean it definitively didn’t happen? No. But it causes a nearly-opaque shadow of doubt over the whole tale for me.