Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Allende Letters

I had been going to do a brief overview of the Allende Letters episode and move on and while this is still brief, it is more detailed than I planned. For those interested, more information can be had about the case, and I had no trouble finding the Fate magazine article mentioned later, on the Internet. It should drive the final nail into this coffin... and sometime later I’ll explain the ramifications to the Majestic-Twelve mystery.

The story, as it is usually told, is that a copy of Morris K. Jessup’s The Case for the UFO, apparently annotated by three unidentified, but very knowledgeable men, was received at the Office of Naval Research. Over a period of weeks, a number of letters, obviously written by one or all of those mysterious men, arrived at the home of Jessup. When he learned of the annotated book, he turned the letters over to the ONR. Officers there were so impressed with all this, according to the legend, that they had the book and the letters duplicated, notations and all. The Navy began to investigate the claims in the book and because the Navy was involved, it lent a note of authenticity to the story.

And the story was a wild one. According to the letters, the Navy, during the Second World War had teleported a ship in an experiment that had something to do with Einstein’s Unified Field Theory though how Einstein and his theory were involved is not fully explained. According to Carlos Allende (the man who signed two of the letters, the third was signed by Carl Allen, seen here), the experiment had been a success. The ship, identified by some as USS Eldridge, was teleported. The sailors, however, were failures. They manifested all sorts of bizarre side effects from their teleportation.

Allende claimed that he had witnessed this, including the failure of the sailors and said that it was all written down in the newspaper for anyone who wished to verify the story. Or rather, a fight in a waterfront bar was written down in a Philadelphia newspaper which would corroborate part of his tale. The story has been located, or rather, one researcher claimed to have found it, but that report is as suspect as the rest of the tale.

In the early 1970s, while I was still on active duty with the Army, and right after I had returned from Vietnam, I learned that UFO one researcher had gotten a copy of the annotated book from the Navy and I figured if he had one, then I should have one. I wrote to the Chief of Naval Operations, which, when you think about it, should have been the end of the quest. The Chief of Naval Operations in 1970 had probably never heard of the book or Jessup, not to mention having important matters to attend to. He was, after all, the Chief of Naval Operations.

In a couple of weeks, however, the Navy had written back and told me that they had no copies of the book, but to check with Varo Manufacturing in nearby Garland, Texas. So I looked them up in the telephone book and called Varo. The secretary there knew what I was talking about without asking a bunch of questions and put me through to Sidney Sherby.

He told me that contrary to the published information, the Navy had not been interested in the Allende Letters or the annotated copy of the book. Two of the officers there were (Sherby and a guy named George Hoover) and the Navy had no objection to their following up on it as long as it didn’t involve any Navy resources or personnel. In other words, according to Sherby, the Navy had no interest in the matter and the investigation was not Navy sponsored.

That, of course, kicked one leg out from under the stool upon which the Allende Letter credibility rested. The Navy was uninterested, but two of the officers were. The fact they were in the Navy followed them, but their status in this was not as Naval officers, but as interested men.

Sherby showed me the Varo version of the book, which was covered in blue and the size of regular typing paper. Jessup’s text was in black and the notations by Allende and his cohorts were in red. I couldn’t have that book, but if I had a way to copy it, Sherby would lend it to me. In those days, copy machines had two colors... black and white, so I have a copy but all the text is in black (replica seen here).

There were, supposedly, three men involved in this. A Mr. A, a Mr. B and one called Jemi. They seemed to have passed the book around, each making notations in different colored ink.

Sherby said that he had talked to Jessup about the annotated book in 1956, but Jessup wasn’t all that interested in it. Jessup tended, in 1956, to agree with the official Navy position which was that it was all the work of a trickster. It was a hoax. Sherby or Hoover had contacted Jessup and had learned of the letters that way.

Then, in the 1970s Carlos Allende appeared at the headquarters of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) and told the international director, Jim Lorenzen, that the whole thing was a hoax. Allende said he’d made it up because the writings of Jessup had scared him. He signed a statement saying that, deposited a suitcase or two with Lorezen for safe keeping, and left.
Before he went, he suggested that he was sick with cancer and didn’t expect to live much longer. Of course, the cancer didn’t kill Allende and you have to wonder if this wasn’t just another of his tales. He returned, or reappeared some time later, but, according to what Lorenzen told me, he left one or both of the suitcases at APRO.

But in the world of the paranormal and UFOs, nothing is that easy. Allende surfaced again several years later saying that his claim of hoax had been coerced by, who else, the CIA, and that the story contained in the letters was all true. The CIA had made him claim it was all a hoax for some nefarious and nebulous reason. Allende was back pushing the Allende Letters for the limited fame and notoriety they provided.

Still later, Robert A. Goerman, a researcher living in Pennsylvania, discovered that Allende, or rather Allen’s family, Allen being his true name, lived nearby. Goerman investigated and in an article published in the October 1980 issue of Fate, explained the whole tale, concluding, based on the evidence and based on his interviews with the family, that the Allende Letter saga was a hoax. It is a conclusion that should be noted but, like so much else, it is often ignored.

I will note here that, according to what Goerman learned, there weren’t three men involved, but only Allende. The name, Jemi, one of those men, was a reference to Gemini, the twins, and the other two designated as Mr. A and Mr. B, referred to each other as twins. All the "analyses" of the text proved to be wrong, according to what Goerman discovered.

Oh, you want to know about that newspaper article mentioned earlier. William Moore and Charles Berlitz wrote a book about this whole affair called The Philadelphia Experiment. On page 244 of the Fawcett paperback edition, they reprint an article they allegedly found in a newspaper, or more precisely, they were given a copy of the clipping, which they defend by saying, "In a secure safety deposit box there exists a photocopy of a newspaper clipping which was received from an anonymous source and which, up to now, has managed to survive all efforts to discredit its authenticity."
They reprint the clipping which reads:

Strange Circumstances
Surround Tavern Brawl
Several city police officers responding to a call to aid members of the Navy Shore Patrol in breaking up a tavern brawl near the U.S. Navy docks here last night got something of a surprise when they arrived on the scene to find the place empty of customers. According to a pair of nervous waitresses, the Shore Patrol had arrived first and cleared the place out – but not before two of the sailors involved allegedly did a disappearing act. "They just sort of vanished into thin air... right there," reported one of the frightened hostesses, "and I ain’t been drinking either!" At that point, according to her account, the Shore Patrol proceeded to hustle everyone out of the place on short

A subsequent chat with the local police precinct left no doubts as to the fact that some brawl had indeed occurred in the vicinity of the dockyards at about eleven o’clock last night, but neither confirmation nor denial of the stranger aspects of the story could be immediately obtained. One reported witness succinctly summed up the affair by dismissing it as nothing more than "a lot of hooey from them daffy dames down there." who went on to say, were probably just looking for some free publicity.

Damage to the tavern was estimated to be in the vicinity of six hundred dollars.

Here’s the problem. It has no provenance. It comes from an anonymous source and it is undated and not referenced so there is no way to verify that it actually appeared in any newspaper anywhere. In fact, to make it worse, they don’t even have a clipping but a copy of the clipping. That right there smacks of hoax.

And please notice the neat way that naming names is dodged. It’s the Navy Docks, the local police, an unnamed tavern, two unnamed waitresses, in the vicinity of the dockyards, and an unnamed male witness... can you name a newspaper editor who would print this without a single identifying reference to anyone or anything? Did anyone ever hear of "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?" There’s not even a dateline to give us a clue.

I suspect there have been no real attempts to discredit the clipping’s authenticity because no one had enough information to attempt anything of the sort, not to mention that no one has seen the real clipping. There just is no way to verify anything... So, one more feeble attempt to prop up the hoax has failed.

Well, maybe that’s not quite true. In the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol 8, No 1 from 1994, Jacques Vallee provides some additional information about this alleged brawl. Although highly critical of some of the UFO researchers who have looked into the Allende case, Vallee seemed to accept the authenticity of the newspaper clipping without a single word of criticism.

He then presents the tale of Edward Dudgeon who claimed that he had been in the tavern during the fight... not that he had been on the ship that was teleported, only that he was involved in the fight.

Oh, and his ship, USS Engstrom, was part of the experiment, which had nothing to do with teleportation, but was about rendering the ships invisible to Nazi detection techniques. The Eldridge and the Engstrom were "de-gaussed" so they wouldn’t attract the magnetic torpedoes, which, of course sounds good but has nothing to do with teleportation or invisibility.

But, Vallee believed Dudgeon because he had been in the Navy at the right time as proved by his discharge papers, and there is the wonderful newspaper article that arrived from an unknown source from an unknown newspaper about a fight at an unknown bar in an unknown city as testified to by three unknown witnesses and so on and so on.

I, of course, don’t believe Dudgeon’s story because the Allende Letters are a complete fraud and there is no evidence anywhere that any of the things mentioned in them happened. In fact, according to the information available through the Navy and housed at the Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. (on microfilm NRS–1978–28, if you must know) the Eldridge was not in Philadelphia at the right time for the experiment. The logbooks show it to be elsewhere, so, another leg of the confirmation stool has been kicked loose.

In the end we learn that the man who created the Allende Letters said it was a hoax, those who were at the Office of Naval Research said there was no interest in the book or the letters by the Navy, and independent investigation has shown the case to be a hoax. Jessup was uninterested in the letters, and the family of the man who created them, according to what they told Goerman, was in the habit of annotating everything he touched, including birthday cards. The Navy ship, the Eldridge (seen here), according to the log books, was not in Philadelphia and crewmen laugh at the story. In other words, there has never been a scrap of evidence to prove the experiment took place or that Allende had any sort of inside knowledge of it or anything else, and yet, we still discuss it today. Such is the world of the paranormal.


John said...

Nice work, I guess. I really have no clue why people waste their time on such nonsense. I think the world just loves a good tall tale and hates to let it go.

Let me tell ya the one about Paul Bunyan; true story I swear....

Rob Mitchell said...

I have always been fascinated by the mysterious Carlos Allende tales. This is the best summery of the matter I have read. Thanks, Kevin!