Myths & Legends

The Philadelphia Experiment – What’s the Real Story?

The Philadelphia Experiment is an event during 1943 in which the United States Navy purportedly teleported a Navy destroyer escort, the USS Eldridge, from Philadelphia to Norfolk. They also made it invisible – as in, to the naked eye. Most people believe the incident was either a hoax or the ravings of a lunatic, however, some still believe that it may have really occurred and that there is a large conspiracy to cover it up. What is interesting is that the tale of the Philadelphia Experiment has made it into the annals of American legend. So, what’s the real story?

philadelphia experiment

USS Eldridge. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Philadelphia Experiment

The story of the Philadelphia Experiment begins in October of 1943 in Norfolk, Virginia, though the story did not turn up until more than ten years later. Purportedly, some men aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth saw a ship spontaneously appear in the water in Norfolk on October 28. The story goes that it came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The destroyer had first disappeared and then it instantaneously teleported to Norfolk. The disappearance and the teleportation were apparently two different functions of the experiment. In other words, the disappearance was not the result of the teleportation, but rather came before it.

Once the USS Eldridge reached Norfolk, it was clear something went wrong. Some of the men had disappeared during the trip. Others had gone mad. Some kept becoming invisible and then regaining their forms. Others still had become fused — yes, fused — with the ship in various ways. Perhaps that is why no U.S. ships currently have invisibility cloaks and teleportation devices. It could also be that the story is completely false.

Carlos Allende’s Claims

The story of the Philadelphia Experiment comes from a man named Carl Allen or “Carlos Allende,” his pseudonym. Carlos wrote a detailed description of the event, along with claims he was a witness aboard the SS Andrew Furuseth when the USS Eldridge arrived in Norfolk, Virginia. He sent the description to the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research. The public got hold of the story and it took off, despite the many unlikely events described in the letter.

Carlos Allende wrote that the Philadelphia Experiment was made possible by Einstein’s “unified field theory.” Einstein supposedly told Carlos all about it himself. This is not direct proof that the story is mere myth, but it does lend a bit to the crazy factor of the claims. Firstly, it is common for such myths to borrow from the genius and fame of great scientists. Oftentimes, it is easy to refute these myths because the works of great men are typically followed closely. There is no evidence that Einstein ever met Carlos Allende and there is no evidence that his work resulted in a disastrous teleportation.

Evidence to the Contrary

The USS Eldridge, like most other Navy ships, especially in war times, had a thorough log of where it had been in October of 1943 and the months around it. These logs are currently public information. According to them, the ship was nowhere near Philadelphia in October 1943. The SS Andrew Furuseth was also not in Norfolk at any time the Eldridge was present. Furthermore, William S. Dodge, the man in command of the boat at the time of the Philadelphia Experiment, later said that neither he nor any of his crew saw anything strange in Norfolk, Virginia.

After receiving the odd information, the Office of Naval Research conducted an investigation. They did not find any evidence that the U.S. Navy was conducting experiments in teleportation. Of course, rendering ships invisible or stealthy is always an interest, but that pertains to radar, not to the human eye. As far as the U.S. Navy is concerned, no such technology exists.

philadelphia experiment

The movie The Philadelphia Experiment poster. Source: Wikimedia Commons, fair use.

Future Events

Fast forward to 1984. The movie, “The Philadelphia Experiment,” emerged. In the movie, two men stationed on a ship travel forward in time after an experiment to make the ship “invisible” to radar goes terribly awry. The image of a sailor’s body partially melted into the deck of the ship burned into the public’s psyche, and it would contribute to the persistence of the urban legend.

In 1994, Jacques F. Vallee wrote an article about the Philadelphia Experiment. He had written about it before and, at that time, had requested that anyone who might have more information contact him. Someone did. Edward Dudgeon had served as an electrician in the Navy between 1942-1945 on the USS Engstrom. He said the Engstrom was in Philadelphia during the summer of 1943. The nature of his job allowed him access to the classified nature of the equipment aboard his ship and the USS Eldridge. Dave Roos of How Stuff Works discusses Dudgeon’s explanation in his article, “How the Philadelphia Worked”:

Far from being teleportation engines designed by Einstein (or aliens), the devices enabled the ships to scramble their magnetic signature using a technique called degaussing. The ship were wrapped in large cables and zapped with high-voltage charges. A degaussed ship wouldn’t be invisible to radar, but would be undetectable by the U-boats’ magnetic torpedoes.

Dave Roos - How Stuff Works

Story of One Mad Mind?

So, there is no proof of Einstein’s connection to a naval project aimed at invisibility of solid objects and teleportation. There is no evidence that Carlos Allende met Einstein or that Einstein developed such technology. However, evidence contrary to the USS Eldridge’s alleged presence in Philadelphia and Norfolk on October 28, 1943, does exist. And there are counterclaims to Allende’s that others witnessed the event. No proof exists apart from the writings of Carlos Allende that supports the legend of the Philadelphia Experiment.

How Stuff Works Retrieved 3/18/17
Skeptoid retrieved 8/2/11
The Department of the Navy retrieved 8/2/11

Article updated March 18, 2017 by HM

Les Hewitt

Les currently resides in London and is an ancient alien theorist. He has a long standing interest in the paranormal and the unexplained. In his spare time he enjoys astronomy and Xboxing. It's a big Universe out there.