The Philadelphia Experiment – Finding Carlos Allende

He wasn’t lost, at least initially.  Except perhaps in a figurative sense.

The files in the Barker Collection contain a letter from one Austin N. Stanton of the Varo Mfg. Co, Garland, Texas, addressed to Carl M. Allen at RFD #1, Box 223, New Kensington, Pennsylvania.  The letter, dated 5 August 1958, must have reached Allen and been promptly answered, because there’s a second letter from Stanton,  dated 23 August, replying to the reply.  Both letters take for granted that Allen is the author of the annotations in M. K. Jessup’s Case for the UFOclick here for the background on this—and treat him with a respect bordering on reverence.  Given the patent eccentricity (to put it gently) of those annotations, this is remarkable.  Not quite as remarkable, though, as the fact of the Varo edition’s existence in the first place.

If you would care to have one of these volumes,” Stanton writes in the August 5 letter, referring to the Varo edition, “I would be pleased to send it to you with my compliments.”  He adds:  “It would indeed be a pleasure to meet you and to discuss some of the implications of the book.  As I travel a great deal all over the U.S.A., it would be convenient to meet you at almost any point.”

(The Barker files contain some correspondence from other individuals who succeeded in meeting Allen and didn’t find it such a pleasure.  I’ll share some of these nuggets in later posts.)

Allen’s reply is not preserved.  From Stanton’s second letter, though, it would seem that he was wary of his notes on The Case for the UFO being published and circulated, and told Stanton so.  Stanton assures him that only a few copies have been made, and distributed to “people in the Office of Naval Research, a few of their friends, and to Mr. Jessup.  In fact, we have received several orders from dealers, but have turned down all such requests.

I don’t know when the “RFD #1, Box 223” address ceased to function.  William L. Moore, who got rich off Allen’s mythmaking in 1979 when his The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility (co-authored with Charles Berlitz) soared in the sales charts, reports that as of December 1975 the New Kensington post office no longer had any record of that address.  Allen was a vanished mystery man; Morris K. Jessup, the UFOlogist to whom he’d sent his letters, had been dead nearly twenty years.  But meanwhile another sleuth was on Allen’s trail.

His name was James W. Moseley.  It still is.  Unlike most of the characters in this story from the middle of the last century, he’s still living, in his eighties, in Key West, Florida.  (He’s also the only one whom I’ve known personally.)  In the 1950s and 60s he edited a UFO magazine called Saucer News, which later metamorphosed into the gossip sheet Saucer Smear.  The issues in the early 1960s, when I read Saucer News faithfully, were devoted in large part to scurrilous attacks on Gray Barker, which I naively believed were for real.  Their “feud” was an act the two of them had cooked up to entertain readers and boost circulation.  In reality they were and remained close and loyal friends.  When Barker died in 1984, Moseley never quite got over it.

In July 1977, Moseley wrote to Barker with momentous news.  He’d tracked down “Allende” (= Carl M. Allen) in Prescott, Arizona.  And Allen had talked to him.  And talked.  And talked.

Out of respect for Moseley’s privacy, I won’t quote verbatim his fascinating letter, which by itself would prove him—if there weren’t ample other evidence to this effect—one of the most lucid, constructively skeptical, and caustically witty of the UFOlogists.  But I don’t think it will do any harm to give you the gist:

Allen claimed to have actually witnessed the USS Eldridge—the destroyer that was the subject of the Philadelphia experiment—turned invisible on one occasion, and to have seen a man on a different ship turned invisible, also on one occasion.  Initially Moseley seems to have been disposed to take these claims seriously.  But Allen’s vagueness as to detail troubled him, and he began increasingly to suspect that he was listening to a story Allen had picked up at second hand.

The “three gypsies” who annotated Jessup’s book—all three were Carl Allen.  Allen admitted to faking the three distinct handwritings, and showed Moseley the trick by which he’d accomplished this.  He also tried, and failed, to snow Moseley with his expertise in physics.  It didn’t take Moseley long to figure out that, in this realm at least, “Allende” had no idea what he was talking about.

And so the elusive Señor Allende, out of whose fertile creativity Moore was soon to make his mint, had been located and identified.  Could an interview, presided over by Gray Barker, be far behind?

Voilà: “Carlos Allende Speaks.”

Tape available–or it once was–for purchase from Barker’s Saucerian Press, Clarksburg, West Virginia.

I listened to that tape my last day in Clarksburg, nearly seven and a half years ago.  More on it in my next post.

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