How do you make an entire Navy warship disappear? It’s the stuff of science fiction, the type of thing you’d see on a David Copperfield special, something that only Hollywood could dream up. But back in 1943, it wasn’t a Hollywood soundstage that people were watching. It was not a camera trick or an illusion. It was the Philadelphia Experiment…and those who saw it say that it really happened.
But did it?
The date was October 28, 1943. The ship was the USS Eldridge, a Cannon-class destroyer. And the plan was to create a force field so powerful, it would render the ship invisible to both radar and to the naked eye. Legend holds that hundreds of people saw the Philadelphia Experiment with their own eyes, but over the years their claims have been dismissed and their stories covered up. The evidence of the event has been reduced to mere whispers.
And to this day, the Navy denies that the Philadelphia Experiment ever happened at all. So it’s time to find out exactly what did happen that strange day in October, and learn all the secrets of the Philadelphia Experiment — the top-secret Navy mission that the government says never even occurred.
15. The Invisible Ship
Over the decades, the Philadelphia Experiment has become part urban myth, part legend and totally fascinating for conspiracy theorists the world over. The truth is, the U.S. Navy was working on a type of “invisibility” technology. They wanted to reduce and bend the magnetic fields of their ships to avoid triggering mines and torpedoes. And yes, the research was conducted at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The USS Timmerman was the site of several experiments relating to this project in the 1940s. It was outfitted with a high-frequency generator that created discharges to disrupt the magnetic field. These experiments definitely happened, and this is one part of the story that is absolutely fact. But as for all the rest…
14. Morris K. Jessup
Until Morris K. Jessup, the Philadelphia Experiment was just a story. It was a whispered legend, a rumor, a bit of a horror story told by people to warn against the might of the government — and all the secret projects the U.S. military was carrying out at the time. But then, Jessup wrote a book. “The Case for the UFO” came out in 1955. Shortly thereafter, he started receiving letters about electromagnetic forces, Einstein and secret Navy projects. That’s when Jessup’s mysterious letter-writer spoke about the Philadelphia Experiment. His 1959 death was ruled as a suicide, and Jessup has become a legendary figure in the complicated tale of the Philadelphia Experiment.
13. Carl Allen
Using the alias Carlos Allende, Carl Allen wrote a lengthy description of the Philadelphia Experiment as he witnessed it. He’s also the mystery person behind the letters sent to Morris K. Jessup. Allen served aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth, and he saw the Eldridge suddenly appear out of nothingness on October 28, 1943. One moment, there was empty water before him. The next moment, a Navy ship replete with all its splendor. Many consider Allen to be the originator of the tale of the Philadelphia Experiment. The captain of the SS Andrew Furuseth, William Dodge, says that neither he nor his crew witnessed anything weird in Norfolk — and that further, his ship wasn’t in Norfolk in at the same time as the Eldridge in October. Allen has since been called an insane person with severe mental issues, and completely discredited by skeptics.
12. The First Experiment
The Philadelphia Experiment was actually not a single event; it was two. The first occurred on July 22, 1943 in Philadelphia. This is the day the USS Eldridge disappeared out of its port and vanished, literally, into thin air. Moments later, the ship reappeared in its spot seemingly undisturbed. According to witnesses who claim to have seen it all happen, the ship was gone only moments. A couple heartbeats, a few blinks, and suddenly it was sitting right back in the water where it started. Where did it go? What happened to the ship? That’s the second part of the Philadelphia Experiment.
11. The Second Experiment
The Philadelphia Experiment was a two-part process. It’s not good enough to simply make a ship disappear, after all. No, you’ve got to be able to do something with it. And according to the second part of the story of the Philadelphia Experiment, the Navy did something with it. Because when the Eldridge disappeared in Philadelphia in July, it appeared somewhere else later. To be specific, the ship was seen 300 miles away in Norfolk, Virginia. Witness reports claim that all of a sudden, the Eldridge materialized in the waters around Norfolk. It was seen for only moments, then it vanished again. The date was October 28, 1943.
10. Einstein’s Unified Field Theory
A theory dreamed up by Einstein is cited as the technology behind the Eldridge’s disappearing act. Einstein spent the last years of his life on the Unified Field Theory, a way to combine electromagnetism with gravity into one theory. He said he could not be content with the assumption that these two distinct fields are completely independent of each other. However, science says that Einstein could never prove this theory.
He lectured on the topic during his Nobel speech in 1923, and had already begun working on it back them. He worked on the theory for about 30 years, until the end of his life, but the theory was never completed. Einstein was still working on it up until the day he died. While on his deathbed, he asked for his notes to be brought to him so he could look over his research.
But did he solve the problem at last, or did some other scientist secretly step in and complete his work? Accepted science says no, that physicists are still working on Einstein’s yet-unsolved theory. Believers say yes, the Navy found a way to crack this scientific code…and they started working on a way to use it in practical application back in the 1940s.
9. The Bar Fight
Something did happen right after the Philadelphia Experiment, which many have pointed to as evidence bizarre goings-on with the Navy at the time. According to witness testimony, urban legend and even a newspaper account from the day, two sailors vanished into thin air during a bar fight. The bar fight has become part of the legend of the Philadelphia Experiment, but there’s a problem: there’s just one original source for that story. The tale of the bar fight was one of the many incidents detailed in the letters sent to Jessup by Allen, and this entire event has never been confirmed by any legitimate publication or even a second credible witness. If two men really did vanish from a Philadelphia bar, no good sources of the story still remain.
8. The Side Effects
Sailors disappearing into thin air was one of the unfortunate side effects of the Philadelphia Experiment, according to believers. The Navy discovered that rendering a ship and its crew invisible is actually extremely damaging to the human mind, which is why some say the technology was abandoned. The Philadelphia Experiment was actually a failure. It’s said that several members of the crew went insane following the experiment, and that was even worse than disappearing into nothingness. Legend holds that some sailors were fused with the ship when it rematerialized in Philadelphia. Some became violently ill, and others had their minds mangled beyond repair.
7. Al Bielek
And now, the story of the Philadelphia Experiment gets really weird. Because now is the time to introduce Al Bielek, also known as Ed Cameron. He was with his brother Duncan Cameron one day in 1943 when he dove into the waters around the ship. He saw the effects of the Philadelphia Experiment firsthand…because he was teleported into the future.
Bielek has shared his story widely. According to him, he and brother Duncan ended up in the year 2137. They were later returned to the year 1983 after a period of two years. He says he was part of the CIA’s Montauk Project. He has written two books about his experiences. Skeptics dismiss Bielek as a crank and a crazy, an attention-seeker and a liar.
6. The Official Story
The Navy categorically denies that the Philadelphia Experiment ever happened. Officially, no experiments were ever carried out on the Eldridge. And yes, the Eldridge was in Norfolk, Virginia on July 22 and in Philadelphia on the same day. That’s because the Navy had access to a channel that is unused by other ships, and they could make the journey in about 6 hours in those days — at least 30 hours faster than the merchant ships traveling between the same two ports. The Navy says they cannot make ships disappear, never made a ship disappear and the story is just a weird jumble of legends and theories, mixed in with the real fact that they were working on technology to render their ships “invisible” to German-made electromagnetic weapons.
5. Ship’s Records
According to naval logs, the USS Eldridge was neither in Norfolk nor Philadelphia for the entire month of October, 1943. The ship spent the first half of the month in Bermuda, then sailed for three straight days to dock in New York. This is where it stayed for the remainder of the month of October. Of course, any conspiracy theorist will tell you that a ship’s logs can easily be faked. You simply write down the wrong information. And an invisible ship that can travel between ports without being seen doesn’t exactly have to keep track of all its movements, since there’s no one who can view the ship to prove otherwise.
4. The Fate of the Eldridge
Ship enthusiasts may already know that there is no USS Eldridge in the Navy’s current fleet. The Eldridge was sent to Greece in 1951, where its name was changed to the HS Leon. The ship spent the next several years engaged in various Cold War missions. It was eventually decommissioned and sold off as scrap metal. The USS Eldridge truly has vanished, a ship that exists now only in memory. It was in service for 50 years before being decommissioned. And it has become one of the most famous ships in modern history, not because of any distinguished battles or a glorious career. The Eldridge will always be a ship of mystery, different from all others because it is the host of a real military conspiracy — in theory, anyway.
3. The 1999 Reunion
In 1999, 15 former crew members of the USS Eldridge came together for a special reunion in Atlantic City. For many, it was the first time they had seen each other in 53 years. The crew members who gathered laughed about the stories surrounding the Philadelphia Experiment, and said they never took part in any top-secret projects during their time on the Eldridge. While some crew members are annoyed by the ongoing stories, some say they’ve had fun with the conspiracy theory over the years. One sailor goes along with it, and tells people that he did disappear so he can laugh at them until they realize he’s teasing them. All 15 said they don’t know why their ship has been the target of such a story, and some are openly annoyed that they keep getting questions about it. One good-natured sailor at the event said he likes the myth that the crew is all a little crazy.
2. Being Invisible
Humankind has been fascinated with tales of invisibility for centuries. Pop culture is littered with heroes who can disappear and reappear in the blink of an eye. There’s been an Invisible Man, an Invisible Woman, Harry Potter had an invisibility cloak and the very idea of being able to vanish into thin air has been tackled by countless magicians through the decades. People are fascinated with invisibility, and perhaps this is why the tale of the Philadelphia Experiment, otherwise known as Operation Rainbow, has endured.
But it’s also true that militaries around the world have been fascinated with the idea of invisibility as well. Nazi Germany was the first military power to create a stealth-invisible jet that went into the air in 1944. It’s rumored that the Nazis were working on other forms of invisibility technology, and the U.S. government wanted very much to get their hands on it.
1. When the Government Lies
Yes, the idea of the Philadelphia Experiment sounds like the stuff of science fiction. It makes for a good movie, a funny reference in a TV show, great fodder for a book rich with mysteries. The typical Navy destroyer is a beast of a vessel that weighs over 9,000 tons and measures more than 500 feet long. Destroyers are armed with more than 90 missiles. They’re heavy, they’re huge, they’re packed with firepower. Could anyone make such a thing disappear?
If the government could accomplish such a feat, they’d never admit to it anyway. Some of the strangest-sounding conspiracy theories about the government have actually been proven true in later decades. Yes, the government carried out a syphilis study in which they denied medicine to hundreds. Yes, the government tested chemical weapons on its own citizens just to see what would happen. Yes, the CIA tried to train cats as spies in one failed Cold War-era project. And when you look at the story of the Philadelphia Experiment through the lens of what we now know about the government…how farfetched does it really sound then?
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