Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Chasing Sources - The Philadelphia Experiment

In sort of a corollary to my chasing footnotes, I thought I would look at chasing sources. That is, start with the a story and find out how reliable the original source might be. Some stories have no real documentation, no additional witnesses and nothing to back them up, other than the testimony of a single source or a couple of sources who are working together which doesn’t tell us much about the validity of the case.

I suppose I could begin this with Al Bielek, the time traveler who was part of the Philadelphia Experiment. I’m not going to talk about the ridiculous story that he tells of how he and his brother traveled from 1943 to 1984 with only Al returning to 1943. Nor do I understand the claim that he had all the memories of another man, Edward Cameron. It is a twisted tale that has nothing in the way of evidence to support it but his story is predicated on the Philadelphia Experiment, so we need to look at the source of that tale, that is, the Philadelphia Experiment.

According to the books, magazine articles, conference presentations and documentaries, in 1943, the US Navy was involved in experiments to reduce the magnetic signature of ships in an attempt to defeat weapons that relied on magnetism to work and to render its ships invisible to enemy radar. Others
USS Eldridge
suggested that Einstein’s Unified Field Theory was used to create a system to bend light around the ship as a sort of cloaking device making the ship invisible to more than just radar (shall I mention recent experiments that suggest this might be impossible?). This effort in August 1943 resulted a green mist the engulfed the ship, identified as the USS Eldridge (DE-173), making it invisible to some. A later experiment in October 1943, caused the teleportation of it from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia and then back. According to the tale, the experiment was a success but the sailors failed. Some died, some materialized in the structure of the ship and a few came through virtually unscathed but psychologically damaged.

Although Bielek was the latest of those who claimed to participate in the Philadelphia Experiment or to have witnessed it, he wasn’t the original source. Given his lack of credibility from his time traveling adventures to his visits to Mars there is no reason to accept anything he said. His story was predicated on that told by others.

The original story of the experiment surfaced in letters written by Carlos Allende, or as he was born, Carl Allen. He was responsible for a series of letters sent to the Office of Naval Research. These ended up in the hands of two officers, George Hoover and Sidney Sherby (and for those interested, I had the opportunity to interview Sherby in the early 1970s). The legend tells us that ONR was interested in the information contained in those letters and in a copy of Morris K. Jessup’s book The Case for the UFO which also arrived with underlining and notations all throughout it. The truth is, according to Sherby, ONR wasn’t interested but he and Hoover were. There were no restrictions on their pursuing the tale as long as it didn’t take Navy time and Navy resources. They produced a copy of the book in conjunction with Varo Manufacturing (where I found Sherby so long ago) with the original text in black and the underling and notations in red.

Carlos Allende - 1983
This then is the original source. Allende (or Allen) originated the tale, incorporated it into his letters to the Navy and the legend grew from that point. There is no documentation that precedes Allende (or Allen). To understand the Philadelphia Experiment and all the ramifications of it, you have to read the original source. The information about this all derives from Allende (or Allen).

Allende (or Allen) said that he had written the letters and annotated the book by Jessup because he was frightened by Jessup’s writings. He didn’t want him to write any more. He thought this information would scare off Jessup but instead, it interested Jessup who thought that here was a chance to revitalize his writing career. According to Sherby, Jessup thought there was something important in the letters and was excited about it. Hoover and Sherby looked into it and my impression from talking to Sherby is that he wasn’t really all that interested in it either once he understood everything about it.

A blow to the tale came in 1972 when Allende visited APRO Headquarters. Jim Lorenzen talked to him and Allende admitted that he had made it all up. He even provided a signed document that said he had made it up. Of course there are those who claim the CIA got to him so that he would retract his statements about the experiment.

Then, in October 1980, Robert A. Goerman published “Alias Carlos Allende,” in Fate. This should have been the fatal blow to these Philadelphia Experiment tales. In a bizarre coincidence, the Allens, whom Goerman had been seeking lived extraordinarily close to his relatives and while chasing down his daughter who seemed to love the cats the Allen’s had, Goerman mentioned his search. The elder Allen produced piles of documents from his son Carl, aka Carlos, and that documentation proved that they were the same man.

Allen (or Allende) had a copy of the Varo Manufacturing Case for the UFO which was a mimeographed copy that contained all the notations that had interested Hoover and Sherby and were allegedly made by the three men. Allen admitted in a letter to his parents, “…and so this is the book I helped to write (alone by myself with no ‘Mr. A or Mr. B.’…” He failed to mention the third man, Jemi, but it seemed that is associated with Gemini of astrological fame and was just one more invention by Allen (or Allende).

Later, given all that he had found and learned about Allen (or Allende) Goerman wrote, “It is clear that the legend of Carl Allen/Carlos Allende is mostly fiction [the nonfiction part refers to his name and that he was a merchant seaman]. If someone were to write a book telling the real story, its title might be The Philadelphia Hoax: Project Gullibility.”

Which brings us all back to the original source. Carlos Allende was identified and it was clear that he enjoyed making up things and apparently annotated everything he got including birthday cards. He admitted the hoax to Jim Lorenzen and his family confirmed his propensity for inventing tales. No evidence had ever turned up that this story is true, which, of course suggests that everything that derives from it such as the tales of Al Bielek are untrue. This should take down the whole of the Philadelphia Experiment and everything associated with it because we found the original source… unfortunately for the believers the Philadelphia Experiment does not stand up to scrutiny.

(And yes, I know the true believers out there will reject the evidence because the CIA controls of this…)


Brian Bell said...

I first read about this in 1972, when the tale was still alive but faltering.

I was just a kid and found it fascinating until I discovered there was really no evidence to support it. Additionally, it's not even plausible.

If the USN wanted to test a secret electromagnetic cloaking device with the possibility of time transportation or teleporting, why would they ever choose to do it at a naval harbor literally on the front doorstep of a major city (Philadelphia)? They wouldn't.

Why didn't they test it on some benign object first, instead of a ship? They didn't.

Why test it with an onboard crew at port if the goal was just to render it invisible for a few minutes? They could have done it without a crew. But they didn't.

Sure Norfolk is another naval base, but why there? Why not just teleport it across the Philadelphia shipyard? For that matter who teleported the ship back to Philadelphia?

Why didn't anyone see it materialize at Norfolk? The harbor is visible to the public from multiple directions.

It's amazing that even today you can watch dozens of time traveling YouTube vids which still claim this experiment really happened!

And yet, what should we make of British Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard's time travel claim?

Craig McDaniel said...

There was a news story a number of years ago with interviews of the sailors who served on the USS Eldridge. None said there was anything out of the ornately while serving onboard. I chalk it up to a hoaxer trying to make a quick buck.

Drake Gilliland said...

The Philadelphia Experiment has never felt like anything other than a pulp story created for boys. Frankly, it's only ever felt like a part of a pulp story, there's always been something missing.

Paul Young said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Down Under said...

I don't believe I'd ever heard of him, but a Google Search of his name provides several accounts of his "Time Slip" in 1935, which I realised I had read of previously.

Ol' Bab said...

Memory is wonderful! I SINCERELY believed that my first time with this was as a SF paperback novel in my boyhood (perhaps 1945-52), with a recognized big name author. Didn't even slightly pretend to reality, just a great tale.
Ol' Bab.

theo paijmans said...

Yes but Kevin, where are you actually 'chasing' sources? What is new in your post? With all respect, but all of this, the Bielek-nonsense, the non-involvement of the Navy in regards to the Varo edition and the Allende hoax as primary source is already well known and all over the internet. It was well known even long before Goerman's expose. And we also know what happened with the Eldritch (where it was ultimately salvaged etc.)

What I would like to know is where Carlos Allen got his idea from. John Keel had an idea as to what might have served as an source of inspiration for Allende's wild yarn (the 1904 Mohican incident).

And I'd like to know why George Langelaan is mentioned in the saga. And if that elusive newspaper clipping supposedly proving the reality of the case mentioned in Berlitz and Moore's book on the PX is an outright conscious lie.

I am a bit disappointed by this post-mortem. I guess I'd expected more.

Best regards,


Robert Goerman said...

My article, "Alias Carlos Allende," is available online at


If any of your readers are interested, most of my original research can be found there.

Thank you, Kevin.

Andrew Hochheimer said...

You may also want to check out my webpage, it provides some of the highest quality and quantity of images, articles, Most complete sample of the USS Eldridge’s Logs, and original research done on the Philadelphia Experiment of 1943 that can be found on the Internet.

http://www.de173.com, or http://www.phialdelphiaexperiment.navy