How The Philadelphia Experiment Became Famous Despite Never Happening

Published January 31, 2018

The Philadelphia experiment on the USS Eldridge remains one of the most famous governmental experiments to date. The only problem? It never happened.

USS Eldridge In The Water

Wikimedia CommonsThe USS Eldridge, the ship at the center of the Philadelphia Experiment.

The crew aboard the USS Eldridge could hardly contain their excitement. As they sat in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, their newly commissioned destroyer was being outfitted with several intriguing devices – top-secret generators that were said to be able to make the ship completely invisible to the enemy.

As the final generators were put into place, the crew readied themselves for the system test. There, in broad daylight on a clear summer’s day, in the middle of the shipyard, the generators were switched on. As soon as the generators began to hum, a greenish-blue glow surrounded the ship.

Before the crew’s eyes, the ship disappeared entirely.

Witnesses in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia reported seeing the Eldridge appear in their waters before it disappeared just as rapidly. Hours later, it showed up back in Philadelphia.

Crew members aboard the ship reported nausea, insanity, and burn marks. Others reported being entirely embedded within the metal structure of the ship, having fallen through floors, or walls during the time it was missing. Some claim to have re-materialized inside out, or not at all.

The only problem with the tale? According to the government, it never happened.

Philadelphia Naval Shipyard Aerial View

Wikimedia CommonsThe Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, where the USS Eldridge was docked during the alleged event.

The story of the Philadelphia Experiment has lived on for decades, despite the fact that much of what is known is pure conjecture. Of the hundreds of stories and details that have been thrown around over the years, only a few things are for certain:

One, that a man named Morris K. Jessup, an astronomer specializing in the propulsion of unidentified flying objects, received a letter from a man named Carlos Allende (also referred to as Carl Allen) who claimed to have witnessed a secret experiment in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Allende claimed that a naval ship known as the USS Eldridge had been teleported through time to another dimension where its crew had encountered aliens. Jessup attempted to investigate Allende’s claims, though he could not find any physical evidence to support them. Eventually, he wrote Allende off as a fool.

Two, that Jessup had published a book, titled The Case for the UFO, which detailed how UFO’s might be able to fly. A few years after receiving Carlos Allende’s mysterious letter, he received word from the Office of Naval Research, that a copy of his book had been sent to them, fully annotated in three different handwritings – potentially one of them alien.

The uncommon use of capitalization and punctuation led experts to believe that the annotator was, at the very least, not a native English speaker. Jessup himself believed all annotations were the work of Allende, the mysterious letter writer. The annotators discussed the merits of Jessup’s claims and referenced the “Philadelphia Experiment” multiple times.

Three, that the ONR published 100 copies of this book, named the Varo edition and the Varo annotations after its publisher, Varo Manufacturing.

Apart from the Varo annotations, all reports of the Philadelphia Experiment have been uncorroborated, considered a hoax, or brushed aside, as the claims simply do not conform to the laws of physics.

The government organizations that were allegedly involved in the experiment claim that it never happened, and indeed no documents have ever been found. Truly, the mysterious annotated manuscript of Jessup’s book seems to be the only written mention of the Philadelphia experiment’s in existence.

Over the years, the experiment has become somewhat of a gambit amongst conspiracy theorists. Everyone has their own version of events, or explanation as to what could have caused the alleged teleportation and time travel of an entire naval destroyer, ranging from government contact with aliens to paranormal interference.

The sole fact that Carlos Allende seemed to be the only witness to such a large scale event seemed to hold most right-minded people back from believing such a crock. However, in 1988, Allende was joined by another witness.

A man named Al Bielek came forward in 1988, four years after Hollywood had gotten their hands on the story of the experiments and over-editorialized it. Bielek claimed that he was aboard the Eldridge when it disappeared and that he had been brainwashed to forget it. It was only seeing the movie’s depictions of the event that the memories had come flooding back.

Al Bielek Philadelphia Experiment Survivor

YouTubeAl Bielek, the man who claimed to be a survivor of the Philadelphia Experiment.

Despite the fact that there were now two men who claimed to have firsthand knowledge of the experiment, the idea that it was a hoax is still the reigning theory.

Today, most people are inclined to believe a theory put forth by Edward Dudgeon, a man who had worked as an electrician for the Navy and had been docked near the Eldridge in the summer of 1943.

Dudgeon claimed that there were, in fact, generators placed on the Eldridge and that they were intended to render the ship invisible. However, the term “invisible” did not apply to the ships physical appearance, but in fact how it would appear on radar. The generators simply enabled ships to scramble their magnetic signature, and become undetectable to the magnetic torpedos fired by German U-boats.

The greenish-blue glow and the ship’s appearance in Norfolk were also explained by Dudgeon. The glow, he said, was likely the result of an electrical storm, or St. Elmo’s Fire. The appearance so far from Philadelphia was explained by inland canals, used by the Navy and off-limits to civilians, that could shorten a two-day commercial journey to just six hours.

Even though Dudgeon put forth an excellent explanation for the Philadelphia experiment, there are still those who choose to believe that the phenomenon was much more than it was. As there are no official documents, the jury is still out on the truth.

As for the USS Eldridge itself, it was transferred to Greece and rechristened the HS Leon before being used in exercises during the cold war.

Now, it lies in pieces, after being sold for scrap metal in the 90s.

Kind of an underwhelming end for a ship that traveled through a dimension or two, huh?


After reading about the Philadelphia experiment, check out the Stanford Prison Experiments, and the Helmut Kentler pedophilia experiment.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That Is Interesting.
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