Popularized by the 1984 film, a bizarre low-budget sequel, and a 2012 Syfy channel movie, tales of the Philadelphia Experiment involves covert U.S. Navy operations that led to time travel, teleportation, and mangled flesh.
According to urban legends, two separate and completely different Philadelphia Experiments took place. Both, however, involved the same vessel, the USS Eldridge. What happened in each of these alleged experiments, and what evidence is there to support the rumors?
Two separate sets of bizarre events make up the "Philadelphia Experiment." Both revolve around a Navy Destroyer escort, the USS Eldridge, with the events taking place on two separate days in the summer and fall of 1943.
In the first experiment, an alleged method of electrical field manipulation allowed the USS Eldridge to be rendered invisible on July 22, 1943 in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. The second rumored experiment was the teleportation and small-scale time travel (with the ship sent a few seconds in the past) of the USS Eldridge from the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to Norfolk, Virginia, on October 28, 1943.
Horrible tales of mangled seamen and sailors stuck within the metal of the USS Eldridge often accompany this experiment, with the USS Eldrige reappearing seconds later in the waters around Philadelphia. Recitation of the events surrounding the second Philadelphia Experiment often include a cargo and troop transport vessel, the SS Andrew Furuseth. The lore of the second experiment claims those on board the Andew Furuseth viewed the USS Eldridge and it's crew as they teleported into Norforlk momentarily before the ship returned to the waters of Philadelphia.
Prior to the mid-1950s, no rumors of bizarre activity surrounded any teleportation or invisibility experiments in North America during the 1940s, let alone in the area surrounding Philadelphia.
Carl Meredith Allen, using the alias Carlos Miguel Allende, sent a series of letters to astronomer and writer Morris K. Jessup. Jessup authored several early UFO books including the mildly successful The Case For The UFO. Allen claimed to be on the SS Andrew Furuseth during the second experiment, witnessing the USS Eldridge emerge in the waters of Norfolk and quickly disappear into thin air.
Carl Allen supplied no proof to verify what he claimed to witness on October 28, 1943. He did win the mind of Morris Jessup, who began to champion Allen's view of the Philadelphia Experiment. Jessup, however, died four years after his first contact with Allen from an apparent suicide.
Moving a ship weighing several thousands tons leaves an inevitable paper trail. On the date of the Philadelphia "Invisibility" Experiment, July 22, 1943, the USS Eldridge had yet to be commissioned. The USS Eldridge spent the day of the alleged teleportation experiments, October 28, 1943, safely within a New York harbor, waiting to escort a naval convoy to Casablanca. The SS Andrew Norfolk spent October 28, 1943, sailing across the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Mediterranean port city of Oran, further discrediting Carl Allen's comments.
And in the early 1940s, the Navy did conduct experiments to make naval vessels "invisible" in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyards, but in a different manner and with a completely different set of desired results.
In these experiments, researchers ran an electric current through hundreds of meters of electrical cable around the hull of a ship to see if they could make the ships "invisible" to underwater and surface mines. Germany deployed magnetic mines in naval theatres — mines that would latch on to the metal hull of ships as they came near. In theory, this system would make the ships invisible to the magnetic properties of the mines.
Sixty years later, we are left without a shred of credible evidence for the Philadelphia Experiment(s), yet rumors persist. If you are still unconvinced, think of the situation from a different viewpoint. No incident, regardless of the horrific nature, would stall development of teleportation technology if the military believed it feasible. Such a resource would be an invaluable front line weapon in war and the backbone of many commercial industries, yet decades later, teleportation is still caged within the realm of science fiction.
In 1951, the United States transferred the Eldrige to the country of Greece. Greece christened the ship the HS Leon, using the vessel for joint U.S. operations during the Cold War. The USS Eldridge met an unceremonious end, with the decommissioned ship sold to a Grecian firm as scrap after five decades of service.
In 1999, fifteen members of the USS Eldridge crew held a reunion in Atlantic City, with the veterans bemoaning the decades of questioning surrounding the vessel they served on.
Top image from the 1984 movie Philadelphia Experiment. Images courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, Bantam Books, and 20th Century Fox.