Philadelphia Experiment: What Really Happened?

First Published: January 1, 2015 Last updated: November 25th, 2017 Written by Ian Stephens Estimated Reading Time: 15 minutes 1 comment

Throughout recent history, the United States has probably been at the centre of more conspiracy theories and alleged cover-ups than anywhere else. Depending on how far down the scale you are ready to go, the Americans have done everything from blowing up their own harbors and towers to fixing stock markets and assassinating their own President. The amount of different ideas, theories and downright madcap stories out there that comes back around to the United States government is quite staggering – but one of the most perplexing, of course, is the “Philadelphia Experiment”.

Philadelphia Experiment: What Really Happened?

Its right up there with things like UFO sightings and Area 51 conspiracies – it’s so out there that it’s hard to believe, but it would change the entire world were it to ever become confirmed. The Philadelphia Experiment is an alleged military experiment that was carried out in late October 1943 by the United States Navy. It’s alleged that the US Destroyer class frigate, the USS Eldridge, was “cloaked” or made to turn invisible. If you ever played video games like Command & Conquer, you’ll know all too well about cloaking military equipment and the like.

While it’s never been confirmed and is usually believerd to be nothing more than a hoax, one which the US Government denies vehemently, there are a lot of very interesting notions and stories out there. If the US had access to cloaking equipment more than 70 years ago, then what else can they have stored away in their magic box of toys?

It’s another story to add to the huge list of potential conspiracies and crazy ideas carried out by people the world over that makes sure your eyebrows remain almost permanently raised. It doesn’t sound possible, does it? But what if it was? What actually happened in October 1943?

The Theory Itself

The theory itself is rather simple – in October 1943, a USS warship was rendered invisible to the enemy. It was able to pass through without being seen or spotted whatsoever. While the idea of the actual Philadelphia Experiment was popularized by the 1984 film of the same name, and has gained a cult following ever since, the actual theory itself is based on a little more than the ideas of a movie and it’s low-budget sequel.

The problem is that for many people – depending on who you speak to – the theory changes quite drastically. There are two “accepted” theories that people tend to go with, and both involve the USS Eldridge. The first theory takes place earlier than October and instead took place some point in the summer of the same year. It’s alleged that in a shipyard in Philadelphia in early 1943, the USS Eldridge was rendered completely invisible from sight. That’s right, as in totally gone from reality and nowhere to be seen!

USS EldridgeHowever, the main theory is one a bit more insane – it’s estimated that in October, as suggested earlier, that the ship actually went back in time. It’s supposed to have teleported from the shipyard in Philadelphia to the shipyard in Norfolk, Virginia. While the cloaking one can be discussed away with several theories – how does one go about actually explaining teleportation?

Of course, alongside the teleportation story comes the gruesome myths of people caught within the metal or completely altered and warped from the time travel. It’s supposed to have re-appeared after a few short seconds back in Philadelphia, with citation and quotes from ship members of the SS Andrew Furuseth stating that they witnessed the ship vanish into thin air, only to re-appear a few seconds later.

Of course, the thing that makes this theory so exciting, if you will, is that during the mid-1950s and 1960s there was next to no mention whatsoever of this kind of event or phenomenon ever taking place. Not a single recorded statement or rumor alleging to have seen teleporting ships appeared within the early years of the even supposedly taking place.

However, the name of Carl Meredith Allen is very important to developing and learning this story properly. Having sent a series of letters to Morris Jessup, a famed astronomer of his time, together they penned a series of early books about UFO sightings such as The Case for the UFO. These books performed well and opened the minds up of many – but one of the most striking parts of the book is the revelations of Allen.

He mentions that he was part of the Andrew Furuseth crew, and he witnessed the ship vanish and then re-appear along with his crew members. Due to a lack of any proof or verification – it’s not like we had smartphones then – it’s almost impossible; to back up these claims. While Jessup backed his claims with authority – as somebody who was well respected at the time – his apparent suicide just four years later made it hard to push the case for the Philadelphia Experiment being more than just the ramblings of one man.

One of the main problems with the theories, of course, is how they actually stack up. For example, the USS Eldridge was not yet commissioned by the Navy in July, so it would be hard to have made it turn invisible if it was yet to ever set outside of New York. It also spent the day of the alleged experiments with time travel safely tucked up in the same New York harbor, according to the paperwork at least.

You would imagine that moving a ship of such size, importance, cost and power across the country would leave behind some kind of evident paper trail. After all, every staff member would be accounted for with an easy to find attendance record of the day, so if the ship is recorded to be in one part of the country but was allegedly in another it makes it even harder to stack up the story told by Allen. However, when dealing with talk of time travel…it’s impossible to just ignore.

Another big problem for the credibility and class of the theory is also the fact that in the early 1940s it’s well-known that specific events and experiments did take place in Philadelphia – just not the kind that we are led to believe.

Movie Artwork Poster from the 1984 Film based on the story.

Movie Artwork Poster from the 1984 Film based on the story.

Instead, they took on a far more realistic and potentially viable pattern, rather than following the same “out-there” theory that follows the typical Philadelphia Experiment. Even the expected results were to be totally different to what was being reported by others prior to the actual experiments taking place – they were supposed to offer protection from mines.

The definition of invisibility in these experiments was to try and turn warships ability to turn on mines off. Because of the magnetic manner of mines in the water, it’s almost impossible to de-charge the ship and stop the mine from detonating when it gets close enough. The idea of the experiment itself was to run an electric current through hundreds of meters of electric cable around the actual hull of the warship. The idea was that this would effectively make the ship so charged that it would totally avoid the impact of any mines, never even triggering to them that something it should be blowing up was floating by!

In a military format, this is about as close to invisible as you are ever likely to get. By removing the magnetic properties of the ship from the mines, the mines would just float in the water and never attach themselves to the ships, causing the absolute havoc that they were so well known for causing. No, instead the theory was to try and bring in something a little bit more realistic rather than any kind of collusion with the Philadelphia Experiment in the first place, having far more realistic aims.

However, even today rumors and theories persist that are built on more than just the mentions of one individual and a successful movie in the 1980s that spoke about time travel and black holes. Is it something that we can just dismiss so easily? Or is there more to this theory than meets the eye? What else is there out there that can be said for the theory or against it?

Other Reasons

Another key part for the development of this story has come from a discovery made in a 2002 book written by James Moseley and Karl Pflock back in 1957. The books states that Jessup was contacted by the Office of Naval Research due to a parcel they had received, which was a heavily annotated version of his UFO book mentioned earlier. Inside this book, there was a variety of different conclusions drawn and discussions held between three different individuals. One referred to as Jemi, the other two became merely known as A & B. They discussed many different theories, including discussing two forms of “people” who live in the outer regions of space!

However, most interesting in regards to this is their allusion to the Philadelphia Experiment. They suggested some kind of extensive knowledge about the event in their wording, and the book itself became published by the Office of Naval Research and sold in full color. The fact that the three individuals speaking within the book seem to be more than certain that what the theories suggest actually take place, it’s another part of the theory that helps to add some credibility – however minor.

Another key part of the discussion comes from the 1979 book The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility. Inside this book, the author Charles Bertliz speaks of a conversation recorded by Jessup which noted that Albert Einstein had in fact finished his unified field theory, but that “man was not ready for it”. While there’s no supporting proof or evidence to back this claim up by historians who follow the life and success of Einstein closely, it’s pretty tough to just disregard completely, is it not?

Given that Einstein is the closest person in modern history to come close to solving the theory of time travel and how it all actually would piece together, is it really so hard to believe that he was able to fulfill his life’s dreams and accomplishments?

The Detractors

Of course, there are plenty of people out there who have their say on the matter. The majority of people will dismiss the theory as the main body of evidence is the unqualified and unproven testimony of one man, which usually would not be enough for a rumor of this scale to carry legs. It was penned by Robert Goerman in a 1980 edition of Fate magazine that Carlos Allende was Carl Meredith Allen, from Pennsylvania, who was well-known in the local area to have significant psychiatric problems. Therefore, it’s easy for people to dismiss the theory based on the fact that he was essentially written off as crazy.

USS Eldridge vector art

USS Eldridge vector art

Another key part of the evidence is the fact that when the story first started to really sprout its own legs, it was noted that Allen was extremely difficult to actually locate or speak to. However, Goerman was able to find out his real identity – a family friend – within just a few phone calls. Therefore, the lack of genuine first-hand professional research into the claims made, or even the author of the claims, further discredits the story.

Another big part of the problem is that some of the “transcripts” allegedly provided as evidence in Project Invisibility, mentioned above, has been heavily criticized for following very similar plot lines and ideas to the novel Thin Air, which was released a year earlier than their own release. It’s very hard for people to give credit to the idea of the experiment actually being true when they have very little hard, factual evidence to go on.

It makes it much more difficult to follow when all of the supporting theories are shot down, denounced or are just plain plagiarized.

Factor in the various time differences and the documented inconsistencies such as the ships being in the totally wrong city & location – accounted for by many people – at the supposed time of both events taking place. While a conspiracy theorist could point to forged logs to try and discredit these pieces of evidence, genuine testimony from so many people makes it hard to corroborate that with any genuine evidence.

Microfilm also exists to try and further discredit the theory, giving full action logs of the USS Eldridge during the Second World War, making the entire theory itself difficult to follow.

The Plausible Theories

Of course, the most plausible theory here comes from a rather simplistic way of looking at the situation – if the American government has been bold enough to carry out all sorts of alleged incidents over the years, what makes time travel or cloaking so out there?

Depending on your opinion of the US Government, it can really to shift your view in one way or another that makes you think that it might be more possible than we are actually being informed. After all, it’s well-known that plenty of experiments take place every single year that the general public have little to no actual knowledge about.

Is it really so far-fetched to think that at one stage, during a period of intense war that was increasingly on the balance, the Americans look to try and find a savior of sorts? The power of teleportation during the Second World War would have finished the war in brutal speed, as nothing would have been able to combat this kind of brutal power & efficiency.

We referred to earlier about Command & Conquer, and how the series takes the idea that time travel totally changed the course of history. Well, plenty of insane inventions exist in this series from an iron curtain that effectively makes things bulletproof to Chronosphere time travel. While this is a totally fictional environment, it’s not too much of a leap of faith in our opinion that similar tests were carried out in the Second World War.

One thing that can be said about the war is that it allowed technology – specifically industrial military technology – to progress at a never seen before rate. As all of these new advancements were made, how likely is it that at least one faction in the war were working on something a little more groundbreaking rather faster and tougher tanks, and more accurate assault rifles? It’s really not too insane to imagine that there might be divisions during the war that looked purely at the highest end of technology.

Whether or not they were successful changes the theory entirely, of course, but it still stands to reason that at one stage there were discussions about how technology that would change the world forever could be researched and then armed.

At a time of extreme development for many nations in the world, amidst a war that nobody could really afford to lose, looking at the most desperate and game-changing solutions might have been the preferably way to move forward. After all, the A-Bomb appeared at this time, and it has completely changed the face of weaponry ever since.

The Facts

However, let’s look at things from a more logical – or optimistic – view point. Would it not seem quite obvious that if we have had the potential for time travel and cloaking for the last six or so decades, that we would have used it in a mainstream environment? These are just two of the technologies that people are absolutely desperate to get their hands on, and that could genuinely effect the way that the world operates for the better in so many ways.

No incident such as the one about dismembered staff would put a government off trying to hone time travel. That might sound gruesome, but something so delicate would be expected to have consequences while it’s mastered and prepared properly, so why such an important breakthrough would be consigned to the shelves after one minor incident is something we can’t quite fathom.

We’ve seen that the world is more than happy to persevere after disasters with other forms of technology, so it’s hard to believe that they would simply put on the backburner arguably the biggest achievement that man will ever make. Time travel is the pinnacle of scientific development, so any signs of progress would be most definitely followed up on.

Lastly, it’s very likely that we would have more than one tale to fall back on with regards to proof about time travel. Well, throughout history this is one of the few actual stories out there that involves a legitimate claim to time travel being carried out by humans. While the argument against this from a conspiracy point of view would be that this is the line of thought the government wants you to take, it seems a little too perplexing – even to somebody who enjoys reading all of the most outrageous theories.

The Consequences

The actual consequences of the events development into a genuine conspiracy theory is one that can be quite tough to fathom. Not only does it add to the swelling ranks of conspiracy theories out there in modern society about the dirty & devious things that go on that none of us ever truly find out the truth over, but it creates another layer of mistrust towards very important parts of technological development. How can a government possible devote its time and resources into something so hugely important without some kind of public backlash now? Would things like the Philadelphia Experiment not only raise questions as to why this hasn’t been revealed sooner?

These might sound like basic consequences of the story being told, but it really does change the entire format of the development of new technology. If we believe that things are only developed and improved for covert military use, then it’s going to be tough to find the support & funding for new technologies in the future as public opinion is going to be hampered by theories like this.

The Truth?

In the end, the truth is very much a foggy thing to actually know. Without sitting on the fence, though, we believe that this is a myth. There’s plenty of evidence out there to support it not being the actual case, and many other forms of usual information out there that makes putting the Eldridge in a totally different place to where it’s supposed to be.

USS Eldridge (DE-173) ca. 1944

USS Eldridge (DE-173) ca. 1944

One of the main theories that works as a plausible and genuine way to not entirely discredit the story, though, is the idea of degaussing. Degaussing was used in the war to remove the charge from the warships, ensuring that there was little chance of the Nazi mines doing their damage. This technically would render the ship “invisible” to the mines, although it would still be totally visible in front of you.

It’s likely that most of the information has been brought together through hearsay, misinformation and misjudgment of official papers that spoke of the degaussing that took place on many warships throughout the year. This can be corroborated as something that the Eldridge would have went through on a semi-regular basis when going out to battle or on patrols.

Think about Chinese whispers – this could very easily be a case of the same thing. One person hears the story, another passes it on, and before you know it you have a conspiracy theory. Another part of the theory to explain the fast travel from Philadelphia to Norfolk, too, is the use of things like Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Canal to bring warships and other vessels through the country safely. The Germans had destroyed many parts of the US coast during the war, making it hard for ships to move easily without serious protection from German gunships and air attacks.

The canals, though, were much easier to guard and made it a lot easier for American warships to move through the country with ease. This would have taken the trip to Norfolk down to just one day, which could explain part of the story – it was there one day, and gone the next. While it might not be the instantaneous travel that we were told about, it’s something far more likely to actually be the case.

This testimony, by the way, comes from the very person that was alleged to have “disappeared” on the same day as the ships supposed time travel. In reality, he was caught up in a bar fight on the ship and had to leave quickly as he was underage for drinking and did not want to get caught.

Things take a slightly strange turn, though, when you look into events that come after the Philadelphia Experiment. Is it strange that name most commonly linked to being in charge of said experiment, Dr. John van Neumann, was also in charge of a similar project in the future known as The Monutak Project?

The project specifically looked into how our minds deal with the consequences of time travel. According to reports, he tried to link the mind with a computer and found great success in trying these out, and it was through this research that Van Neumann made his assertion that the mind could create matter from absolutely nothing, if given the right circumstances.

He also claims to have sent Preston Nichols through a time continuum twice, which was backed up by Duncan Cameron in 1985. Duncan Cameron worked for the National Security Agency – we’ve heard a lot about them in recent times, haven’t we? – so it’s one of the first times that any kind of reference has been made officially about the Monutak Project.

While the majority of the answers out there about both projects – specifically the Philadelphia Experiment – are based on hearsay and rumor along with the testimony of just a couple of people, some of the assertions made are of the most interesting variety possible. The thing that makes it so hard to just debunk, though, is when people like Bielek – a phD in Physics, so obviously an intelligent individual – vouch for the assertion that time travel is possible and indeed has been used in the past.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Philadelphia Experiment is another one which will be consigned to the bins of “What If?” and something that we’ll never truly know too much about in the future. However, I think we can all agree that if there have been breakthroughs in time travel throughout history recently, we would like to know about them!

It’s a technique that could change the way the entire world operates, and would give us the ability to move freely from anywhere in the world instantaneously. If this is being kept a secret from us, then we really do need to find out the concrete and definite reasons why that is.

It’s a subject that brings a lot of volatility to the surface with people unsure one way or another as to what the truth might be. After reading through the various screeds of evidence and all of the testimony, myth, debunking and everything else that comes with this theory we find it hard to discern one way or another what the actual truth is. It really does come down to your interpretation of conspiracies, in our opinion.

If you feel that there’s plenty being kept from us at the moment then this seems far more plausible, but if you like to believe that governments would let us know about such an incredible change in our technological futures then it’s very easy to just debunk the rumors yourself.

Whatever your stance on it is, it just shows you how the internet can help to really grow and re-build a theory from the ground up. This was something that was consigned to the idea of B-Movie sequels, yet today it still holds its own credence with various sectors of the world due to the incredible avenue of different skills and qualifications of those involved on both sides of the story.

We like to believe, though, that some of the things that went on have been very discretely covered up. It’s hard to tell though as it’s such a delicate matter with so little either way to go on, but this is what the best theories are all about! They give you just enough to think one way or another…which is what keeps it a theory in the first place. If we had to make a choice, though, we’d be more inclined to believe that Einstein was right (if those claims are true) and that time travel very much is here.


About Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens is an editor and writer for UFO Insight. He has a keen interest in the fields of strange phenomena, UFOs and aliens. He is also interested in space, physics and science in general. Writing for over 10 years in these fields, Ian has a lot of experience and knowledge to share.

Ian has written a total of 95 articles for UFO Insight. You can contact Ian via email.

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