Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Characters are a central part of a story, whether that story is factual, fiction or even a hoax. Today I want to focus on four characters that drive the story of the Philadelphia experiment. Writer/scientist Morris K Jessup, the originator of the hoax Carl Allen (AKA Carlos Allende), writer/linguist Charles Berlitz and the ship itself the USS Eldridge.
Morris K Jessup was the author of the semi-successful The Case for the UFO. This book attempted to view the new study of UFOolgy, with a scientific eye. He also was fascinated with history and one of the earliest proponents of what we now call the ancient astronaut hypothesis, the belief that aliens have visited earth for millennia and guided the development of mankind. Though he endorse putting flying saucers under a spotlight of scientific scrutiny, he will bluntly, fail, and the results are more speculation and hearsay, than facts.
Though called Dr. Jessup he actually has a master’s degree in astronomy, but spent most his life as an auto-part salesman. He made some money and fame from his book The Case for the UFO, but his follow up books were a flop.
The reason that the Philadelphia experiment is world known is that the Office of Naval Intelligence, is mailed a copy of The Case of the UFO that was annotated with notes appearing to be made by three men who were not on the planet Earth. Two navy officers had this book with the notes re-printed, by defense contractor Varo, on the government’s dime. This not only gives The Philadelphia experiment a legitimacy, it also gives it a national audience.
Morris K. Jessup was found in his car, apparently a victim of suicide. Conspiracy theorist believe that he was killed by agents of the shadow government. Though he was showing signs of depression. His follow up books were not selling and he’d gone through a painful divorce. When his daughter heard that he was dead, her first question was “how did he do it?”
Now I don’t want to seem being too harsh on Jessup. To me he is one of the most sympathetic characters in the history of the paranormal. He really did want to make UFOolgy into a real science, but found that his audience was more interested in scandalous stories. Also he is much like Robin Williams a tragic sign how powerful depression can be.
Carl Allen AKA Carlos Allende is the instigator of the Philadelphia experiment. His original story that he sent to Jessup was that he was a witness of the Experiment on the Eldridge, in Philadelphia harbor from the deck of a merchant marine vessel. Later letters allude to the fact that he may not be of this planet. So that Jessup would know that the letters were really from him he included his Merchant Marine number.
Allen’s family claimed that when the school had mandatory IQ tests, he scored second highest in the county, but dropped out of the ninth grade because he could not handle the school’s structure. They said that he would often make annotations in books and mail them to anyone who he thought would be interested. So they were not surprised when they heard about the copy of The Case for the UFO being sent to the ONI. They said this was cause by his desire to be writer. He defiantly was creative, who knows maybe under different circumstances he would have been the next Tolkien or Lovecraft.
Though not trying very hard to keep his anonymity, the paranormal world started an unfruitful search for the mysterious Carlos Allende. Eventually he would become upset that he wasn’t the only one who making money off the Philadelphia experiment was him. So he goes to a UFO group and admits the whole thing was a hoax. Eventually he realizes the might be able to make some money off the story and recants his confession. Over several decades, he flip flopped multiple times whether or not the Philadelphia experiment was a hoax or not.
Eventually Allen was linked undeniably to Allende when his Merchant Marine license with the same number he gave to Jessup was found with his possessions. I don’t think Carl Allen was an evil or bad man, he may have had a hard time distinguishing reality from fantsy, and in ways I think he was the victim of his own over active imagination.
My first impression of Charles Berlitz, who the Philadelphia experiment a new lease on life in his book and subsequent movie, The Bermuda Triangle was that he must be a hack who was just out for the money. Nothing could be farther than the truth. Charles Berlitz was the heir of Berlitz International, the language school. He also pioneered the concept of languages on tape. So he in essence took a lot of money and turned it in to a whole lot of money. A polyglot who, had served in military intelligence, he sold the language school for a small fortune in the 60’s.
So why did he popularize a story that even John “Never met a supernatural report that I didn’t believe and recirculate” Keel (love you Johnny) to declare was an obvious hoax. The answer was he was a true believer. He believed in Atlantis and other supernatural events with a religious fever. And like many disciples he chose to not dwell on the week parts of his tenants.
Berlitz believed that Atlantis was connected to The Bermuda triangle and even claimed to have found the lost continent off of Florida. Like Jessup he was a proponent of the ancient astronaut theory. Though a brilliant linguist he was to go on and publish 14 books about the paranormal and 1 book on linguistics.
A ship can be as much a character as a human. Like the Medium falcon to The African Queen in their respective stories. So is the USS Eldridge a key chachters in the story of the Philadelphia experiment. One might wonder why Allen chose the Eldridge as oppose to a ship that was lost at sea during World War Two. He could claim the Navy faked the ships sinking at the hand of the Axis powers. He would not have to worry about the ships log or surviving crew members denying the story. The Eldridge was seemingly a terrible choice because it was never in Philadelphia harbor.
Allen was reluctant at first to name the ship that he claimed was experimented on. When he did he sent a newspaper article about The Eldridge’s crew getting in a bar fight and then disappearing. What really happened the crew ran through the kitchen and out a back door. The badly written article could be read as if the crew literally vanished in to thin air. Who knows how long Allen had that particular article, but I am convinced that is why he chose The Eldridge. May that article was what gave him the idea of the Philadelphia experiment in the first place.
During the war it targeted an enemy submarine but never had a confirmed kill. In 1951 it was sold to the Greek Navy, and renamed the HS Leon. This time it really did disappear. As hard as it is to believe the Greeks lost the paper work where the ship was after it was decommissioned. It was in fact sold as scrap and the ship waiting to be torn apart was found by reports working for the Greek language additions of Playboy. So the old warship last days were spent on the pages of Playboy between naked Greek beauties. I guess there could be worst ways to spend your last days.