Posts Tagged ‘Morris K. Jessup’
Review of Hoax: The Philadelphia Experiment Unraveled, by P.J. Dowers. Pandora’s Press, 2012. Available from TheBookPatch.com, $15.95.
Hoax is an odd title for a book so committed to the reality of the Philadelphia Experiment–invisibility, teleportation, and all. This is a rather odd book in general, and at times maddening. Yet it’s a book that leaves a good taste after it’s finished, it’s so plainly honest and heartfelt. Written by a woman who befriended Carl Allen in his last years, it’s less about the Experiment than about its creator, the strange and lonely nomad who’s found a kind of immortality as “Carlos Allende,” the author of the “Allende letters.” Its fundamental message: There was more to this old man than met the eye! It deserves to be read, not for its farfetched conjectures about what that “more” was, but for its passionate advocacy of this real and essential truth.
First, the author. Her name is not, as the book claims, Phyllis Dowers. That is evidently a pseudonym, used (I would imagine) out of fear that powerful and sinister agencies will take revenge on her for having written it. It seems to me certain she’s identical with the “Phyllis,” with a very different surname, who in September 1995 wrote a postcard to David Houchin, curator of the Gray Barker Collection in Clarksburg, West Virginia, informing him of Allende’s death and announcing her intent to write a book In Defense of Carlos. This is plainly the book she’s now published. I wish she had kept her original title. It conveys far better than Hoax what the book is about.
She speaks about herself only incidentally, in bits and pieces. We learn she’s a long-divorced mother of eight, two boys and six girls; two of her daughters have worked at the Centennial Health Care Center in Greeley, Colorado, where Allende spent the last eight years of his life. She’s far from wealthy, and burdened with a special tragedy: two of her children died within two months of each other, at the end of 2002 and the beginning of 2003. One of these was her son Ray, to whose memory the book is dedicated, and whose remembered conversations with her on the subject of Carlos and the Experiment fill many of its pages.
There’s a particularly poignant passage in the seventh chapter. At her final meeting with Allende, in the fall of 1993–he died on March 5, 1994–Phyllis tells him she wants to tell his story. “I want it told too, Phyllis,” he answers. “I want it told like I tell it, not with everything all garbled up. … You’ll have to wait, but write it down so you don’t forget.” She needs to wait, he says, because certain people, including her and Ray, could be hurt. He’s earlier told her to wait until after his death, fifteen or twenty years; and at the end of the chapter, after they’ve said their goodbyes, she tells Ray: “Well, Son … I’m fifty-seven years old. I may not be here in twenty years. You may have to write that book.” But twenty years later Phyllis was still around to write the book. It was Ray who was dead.
The Carlos Allende who appears on Phyllis’s pages is a different man from the one I knew through my researches in the Gray Barker Collection, which I’ve blogged about here extensively (and summarized in my essay on the Philadelphia Experiment for The Revealer). Gone is the solitary, embittered wanderer, pouring out his deprivation and rage in one futile letter after another. Instead we meet, in June of 1991 at the Centennial Health Care Center, a man in his sixties who looks more like 90, yet who’s charming enough “to melt the rivets right off a female’s jeans” (p. 15). A genial raconteur, he captivates Phyllis with his reminiscences of Albert Einstein, who taught him physics in a dizzying week and a half of evening tutorial sessions (“He was fun to be around, a real character“), and his tales of burying the invisible corpse of an invisible sailor. (Named David; I suspect here the influence of the “Philadelphia Experiment” movie.) “That was all the burial I could give that pioneer of star travel, just the beauty of the park for his grave. I knew the dogs would smell him, and tear and eat his flesh, but there wasn’t anything I could do about that” (p. 47).
What a crock! is Phyllis’s initial response. But soon she’s fallen under the old man’s spell. “You’re kind of a scamp, aren’t you?” she tells him, giggling (p. 37). Meanwhile her son Ray becomes so fascinated with Allende that he follows him in his car to see where he’s going–not unnoticed by Carlos, who weaves this into a story of his persecution by mysterious agencies. “‘Keep these for me, Amigo.’ Carlos slipped the envelope from under his arm and handed it to Ray as they seated themselves with their food. ‘Lest my copies be stolen,’ he added to Ray’s raised eyebrows. ‘Someone’s been tailing me.'” (p. 59).
Food. (On this occasion at a Western Sizzlin’, where Ray has taken him to lunch.) When I last spotted Carlos in the files of the Gray Barker Collection, he was chronically malnourished, “starving … except in summer when food is easily stolen.” Not anymore. The chief relic of his years of hunger is his inability to control himself in the presence of mashed potatoes. “Lilly [Phyllis’s daughter, a nurse’s aide at Centennial] remembered how he’d dig into a mound of mashed potatoes and shove huge forkfuls into his mouth. ‘He couldn’t get enough potatoes. He was not quite the gentleman then,’ she laughed. Oh, but how he could flatter the ladies; he loved blond hair, he told Lilly, and asked her to marry him” (p. 205).
The turning point obviously comes in the summer of 1986, when Allende arrives in Greeley and takes up residence at the Centennial. (“The girls here spoil me,” he remarks to Phyllis, as an aide brings him a refreshing drink on a warm day.) This is the point at which the flood of letters from him in the Barker Collection entirely dries up, presumably as an effect of Barker’s death at the end of 1984. On August 22, 1986, The News of Colorado Centennial Country runs a huge feature article on him, under headlines like Mystery man offers death bed statement and Allende trained by Einstein on invisibility theory. A sequel, the week after, is headlined Allende was Colonel in Polish Home Army.
Both articles are written by one Jim Frazier, and are reproduced, though in print so tiny you need a magnifying glass to read them, at the end of Phyllis’s book. (The first has also been made available on the Web by Robert Goerman.) Allende, despite the opening headline, is plainly not on his deathbed. “Carlos said that he feels comfortable in Greeley, as we visited some of his favorite sites. These are his friends. People wave and smile at the bright-minded, colorful old man. He talks to strangers, too; winks at college girls, and flirts with beautiful women. Anyone who has met Carlos seems to remember the friendly, disheveled, out-going man. He speaks in various accents and languages. His Spanish is refined and intelligent. Few people know that Carlos Allende–legally born Carl Allen in Kensington [sic], Pennsylvania, is a mystery to readers and authors all over the world.”
So Carlos is happy at last–well fed, a center of at least modest attention, with plenty of women to “spoil” him and feel their jeans melting in his presence. The gypsy’s wanderings are over; he lives comfortably at Centennial for his eight remaining years. The question inevitably arises: who is paying for all this? Not Carlos himself. Frazier describes him as “nearly penniless,” writes how Carlos puts a touch on him for $10 to mail out copies of a book. (About himself?) It doesn’t seem to occur to Phyllis to wonder about this, although she’s in an excellent position to find the answer, given her daughters’ connections with Centennial. So we are obliged to guess.
And indeed the answer seems obvious: his two surviving brothers, whose names are given in his obituary as David and Richard. (Greeley Tribune, March 8, 1994, reproduced at the end of the book, and on the Web from Robert Goerman’s collection.) Phyllis describes how they show up in Greeley after Carlos’s death to collect his belongings, but vanish before his funeral. This seems at first sight rather callous. It’s possible, though, to read it as an act of love. The last thing David and Richard want is to be put on the spot with questions about their deceased brother, the answers to which are bound to explode the mystery-man legend that gave Carlos’s life its meaning. Their silence, and therefore their absence, is their parting gift to him.
Here’s what I imagine. Sometime early in 1986, starving, sick and desperate, Carlos appeals to his brothers for help. They come to an agreement with him. They won’t send him any money; it’ll disappear, and he’ll be as bad off as ever. Rather, they’ll find a nursing home and pay his expenses there for the rest of his life. His end of the bargain is simply: stay put!
And so it happened; and the best years of Carlos Allende’s life began.
After his death, Phyllis and Ray have plenty of time to speculate on who their friend really was. The theory they come up with is a doozy. When he wasn’t reminiscing about physics lessons with Einstein and bar-stool conversations with invisible sailors–one of which, by the way, inspired “a lady journalist” who was there to write the Broadway hit Harvey (p. 46)–Carlos confided to Phyllis that he’d spent a night talking with Morris K. Jessup, a year or so after Jessup had supposedly committed suicide (p. 67). How was this possible? Because Jessup had managed to turn the tables on a Communist agent who’d been sent to kill him, and the dead man was not Jessup at all, but “the Communist.”
Phyllis and Ray now take this a step further. “The Communist”–whose motives for wanting to kill Jessup are never explained–was the real Carl Allen alias Carlos Allende. And the man they knew as Carlos Allende–was really M.K. Jessup! Jessup, on that fateful night in Coral Gables, had traded identities and identification papers with his would-be assassin. (This is the “hoax” of the title–Allende claiming to be Allende, when he in fact was Jessup.) At last Phyllis can understand why, when she first met Carlos, he looked like he was 90. Born in 1900, Morris Jessup in fact was 90!
Phyllis’s evidence for this wild notion seems sparse to non-existent, although it’s a little hard to tell, since it’s not presented sequentially but in a series of long conversations between her and Ray. These have the feel of one of those college dorm bull sessions where, at three in the morning and everyone’s eyes bugging out with lack of sleep, a reinforcement loop takes hold and you’re all calling out “Yeah … yeah … YEAH!!!” to the most preposterous suggestions. It would be possible to wish that Phyllis had at least tried to present her ideas in the form of a coherent argument. But this would be to miss the point. Her book is as much a memorial to Ray as it is to Carlos, a testament to the warmth and enthusiasm she once shared with her tragically lost son. She wrote it exactly the way she needed to.
It’s inevitable, then, that the book will leave behind it a trail of minor mysteries. One of these is why both Phyllis and Ray seem to have stayed out of touch with their friend during the last winter of his life. Phyllis visits him early in the fall of 1993; it’s at that meeting, it would seem, that she took the photo of him that she used as the cover of her book. “‘Well, what do you know,’ he said with a big smile as he turned back to me. ‘This is really a nice day isn’t it? It won’t be long till the roses will be gone from those bushes, and the leaves will turn colors and fall, then we will have snow'” (p. 75). Something in his voice makes Phyllis’s throat tighten; months later, learning of his death, she remembers that he didn’t mention the coming of spring, and wonders if he knew he wouldn’t be around for it. That’s the last time Phyllis ever sees him. But the following week Ray takes Carlos to a park for a fast-food picnic, and spreads a quilt for them “in a sun-dappled patch of grass” (p. 76).
“Carlos learned back on one elbow and plucked a blade of grass. Sticking it between his teeth, he looked up at the patches of blue sky peeping between the tree leaves. … ‘That sure is beautiful.’
“He chewed the sliver of grass, tossed it, and reached for another.
“‘You know,’ he said, ‘I used to like to chew grass like this when I was a kid back on the farm. My dad had cattle and hogs, and he used to tease me about eating grass like a cow. Of course, I didn’t really eat it, you know.’
“‘You know’ was a favorite expression of Carlos’s. Ray thought of when he, himself, was eleven and got into the habit of saying ‘you know,’ and had to smile at how I had hounded him and teased him until he finally gave it up.
“Some children played not far away on the little duck, and the car–the small riding toys …. Now, Carlos watched the kids and smiled. He and Roy dozed a bit, speaking little, just enjoying the balmy day and the companionship of a friend.
“‘I could go to sleep right here,’ Carlos said, shaking his head. ‘But I’d better be getting back and take my medicine.’
“Ray helped Carlos to his feet and drove him back to Centennial. It was naptime. It didn’t cross Ray’s mind that day that he’d never see Carlos again.”
For the tenderness of this reminiscence alone, “P. J. Dowers'” book is worth its price.
by David Halperin
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How would you react if you got a letter from a man claiming first-hand knowledge of a Navy experiment in which a ship at Philadelphia and all its sailors had been turned invisible, then teleported to Virginia and back again?
Would you pursue the matter? Or would you laugh, say “Crackpot,” and toss the letter in the wastebasket?
My old friend in UFOlogy Jerry Clark, in his article “Allende Letters” (The UFO Encyclopedia, volume 2), writes that Morris K. Jessup “does not seem to have taken any of this especially seriously” when he received letters to that effect in the early months of 1956, from someone calling himself “Carlos Miguel Allende” or “Carl M. Allen.” Materials I found in the Gray Barker Collection in Clarksburg, West Virginia, suggest Jerry’s wrong on this point.
But also, maybe, that he’s right.
Let’s start with the “wrong” part. There’s a photocopy in Barker’s files of the two sides of a 2-cent postcard sent by Jessup to the New Kensington, Pennsylvania, return address Allende/Allen had provided. On the front of the postcard, Jessup typed: “If not at this address try Turner Hotel Gainesville, Texas.” The card is dated January 13, 1956.
On the reverse:
“Dear Mr. Allende: your most remarkable letters [sic], postmarked Gainesville, Texas Jan 5th, was forwarded to me here today. This is without doubt the most remarkable report that I have had out of hundreds of letters from readers of my book. I am retyping it so that copies can be studied by my techincal [sic] associates, and would like all the information I can get from you about more details, and especially names and addresses of witnesses. This material is of the greatest importance. Please write me at once as to your address during the next two months. If you are in Texas I may want to stop and see you when I am enroute to Mexico. I will reply more fully when we have studied your report. Believe me, it is important and we must know more about this phenomenon. Thanks again,
“Very truly yours, M.K. Jessup”
Hardly sounds like a person who “does not seem to have taken any of this especially seriously”!
But then I wonder: why did Jessup write his reply on a postcard? In those dear dead days a postcard cost two cents; a first-class stamp cost three. Granted, a penny was worth more back then; granted, much of Jessup’s correspondence seems to have been carried out by postcard. Still, the saving hardly warrants so casual a response to a communication allegedly regarded as “of the greatest importance.”
(In case you’re wondering how the postcard got into Barker’s files, Carl Allen himself seems to have made the photocopy and sent it to Barker, with a note in his distinctive handwriting: “Date of this is 1956 see postmark above.”)
And then there’s the correspondence between Jessup and Gray Barker, about which I’ve written in an earlier post. The file contains a postcard from Jessup to Barker dated 1/9/56, followed by a whole flurry of exchanges by letter and postcard from March of that year, renewed in mid-June. (On 6/17/56 Jessup writes, “Just got back from long trip Miami-to-Mexico etc. Been out of circulation almost 3 months. What gives with the UFO?”) In none of this is there the slightest mention of the extraordinary communications from “Carlos Allende.”
So was Jessup putting “Allende” on, hoping to get fresh and wilder letters from him that he could use as grist for his next UFO book, without seriously believing any of it? Or did he repose something less than whole-hearted trust in his “friend” Barker, suspecting that if he let Barker in on something really hot, Barker would run with it to a publisher before Jessup could make any money from it? (By the way, I have no idea who Jessup meant by his “techincal associates”—if they ever existed.)
Is the truth some combination of the two, suggesting Jessup was no less a cynical huckster and self-promoter than Barker?
Or do we need to probe deeper, and ask the question: precisely what does silence signify? What did this silence signify?
A curious note, in a postcard from Jessup to Barker, 7/3/56: “Hi Gray: Thanks for sending book. Read it same nite. Good. You have made a fine start at filling a gap that has needed filling. My wife and I would like to come out and talk to you sometime soon, about various UFO affairs. (Must warn you: I’ve been divorced & remarried since I saw you) …”
Divorced and remarried?!? And that’s relegated to a parenthesis? A trivial personal matter, hardly worth being mentioned in the same breath as the serious stuff, the “various UFO affairs”?
Sounds crazy. But I can feel for it. I’ve been there.
At the end of August 1964, I came home from a summer trip to Israel, which I’d won in a Bible contest (yes, that part of Journal of a UFO Investigator was autobiographical), to find that my mother had died. Throughout the year or so before my trip, I’d exchanged letters of eight or ten or on one occasion nearly twenty pages with Jerry Clark, all of those pages devoted to “various UFO affairs.” (Yes, if I’d ever gotten a letter like those Jessup got from “Allende,” I’d have gone straight to my typewriter to tell Jerry all about it!) After I got home—after learning of my mother’s death—I tried to keep up my once-vital UFOlogy correspondence. But the spirit had gone out of it.
“Very frankly,” I wrote to Jerry at Thanksgiving that year, “I have been at a sort of low ebb as far as my creative powers go for the past few weeks—in addition to being quite depressed much of the time—so I am having quite a rough time of it.” That was all I had to say about the greatest emotional blow I’d suffered in my life. Although I’d made scattered references to my mother in my earlier letters, you wouldn’t imagine from reading them that she was different from any other boy’s mother. Of her long illness and her death, I never gave a hint.
Sometimes when there’s something too vital, too enormous to speak of, you can convey it only indirectly, negatively, through silence. I explored this paradox in a post entitled “The Sound of Silence” (1/25/11), referring to the 1968 movie The Graduate and its thundering silence concerning the Vietnam War. Might this be the explanation, at least in part, of how Jessup could speak so casually, so incidentally, of what must have been the tremendous emotional wrench of divorcing his wife (Kathryn Ruth) of more than thirty years? Of marrying a new woman (Rubye), who would leave him before three years had passed? As if he just has to “warn” Gray Barker that “my wife” is not quite the same lady that Barker remembers?
And might the silence about the “Allende letters” be this kind of silence?
On December 4, 1872, the American ship Mary Celeste was found abandoned and drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. Its crew had vanished, never to be seen or heard from again. The mystery inspired, in the nineteenth century, a flesh-creeping story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle entitled “J. Habakkuk Jephson’s Statement.” In the twentieth century, it led off the chapter on “Disappearing Ships and Crews” in M. K. Jessup’s The Case for the UFO (published 1955).
Of course Jessup thought the Mary Celeste had been raided by a UFO. “To attempt to postulate motive for space inhabitants kidnapping crews from ships—not to mention isolated individuals to which we shall come momentarily—is in the realm of pure speculation,” Jessup wrote—as if some UFO having carried out the abduction were, by contrast, a matter of established fact! “On the other hand … our space friends would want to know what has happened to us since they left, or what has happened to us since they put down here. Again, there is always the possibility that the open seas provide an easy catching place.”
I’ve never studied the Mary Celeste mystery. All I know about it comes from reading Jessup’s book and Wikipedia. I have no opinion on what happened to the vanished sailors. What interests me is what Jessup did with the story, and still more what Carl Allen did with it when he sat down to annotate the paperback edition of The Case for the UFO. For, as I’ve described in an earlier post, there’s not the smallest doubt that it was Allen, and Allen alone, who penned the marginal notes supposedly authored by the “three gypsies.”
In the annotated edition, mailed in 1955 or 1956 to the Office of Naval Research in Washington, the words “the open seas provide an easy catching place” are underlined in the ink color associated with “Mr. B.” And “Mr. B” comments in the margin: “Ought to, the Sea is Natural Home of the Little bastards.”
Also from “Mr. B,” the following note: “The Little pricks come-aboard at nite and go Wandering about the Decks, Scares the Crews but No Crew Man meeting one, ever says so, Just quits drinking.”
Carl Allen’s naval background—he was the guy, remember, who supposedly witnessed the ship being made invisible in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1943—comes to the fore here. But in an exceedingly bizarre manner.
Given Allen’s interest in disappearing/invisible ships, it’s worth glancing through his whole string of comments on the Mary Celeste. At the very beginning of the chapter, when Jessup speaks of seaborne disappearances as “having occurred,” Allen comments in the person of “Mr. A”: “Yes, Many, Many times. More often than is recorded. Ulyses [sic] & crew believed suffered same fate. Nes [? maybe “his”?] Wanderings thus Were Pure Invention.”
And modern myth and classic myth thus join hands.
“I found the log book in the mate’s cabin, on his desk,” one of the men who boarded the deserted ship is quoted in Jessup’s book as saying. And “Mr. A” writes: “CAPT. ALWAYS TAKES THE LOG WHEN ABANDONING SHIP. LOG MUST BE TAKEN EVEN IF CAPT. IS DEAD. THEY WERE FROZE AND ‘SWIPED’ ”
The same witness adds: “I noticed the impression in the Captain’s bed as of a child having lain there.” This provokes the following dialogue among the “three gypsies”—who, of course, are one and the same Carl Allen:
“Mr. B”: “NOT A CHILD, WAS ANOTHER ‘LITTLE-MAN’ OF MU.”
“Mr. A”: “GRAVITY IS GREAT STRAIN ON THEM, THEY TIRE EASILY & MUST REST OFTEN WHEN ON ‘TERRA’ ”
“Jemi”: “EXCEPT UNDERSEAS”
A few pages later, “Mr. A” writes: “Alcohol fumes partly inebriated the Whole Crew & L-Ms WERE OVERHEAD; Drunk men naturally are not Mentally Paralyzed by ‘Freeze’ They seized Lines as they were starting to ascend & Hung on Grimly. Some fell on Deck, L-M SHIP STOPPED M-C & took them all off.”
The “L-Ms” are “Little Men,” presumably those same “little bastards” and “little pricks” of which “Mr. B” speaks with such disgusted assurance.
Well, reader: this is what you find as you page through the famous “Varo edition” of The Case for the UFO, with all of Allen’s marginal scribblings meticulously reproduced. You will sympathize, no doubt, with the letter writer quoted in my last post, who twice sat up all night reading the Varo text and “regarded it as totally absurd and probably the work of a schizophrenic.” (Understanding, no doubt, “schizophrenic” in its literal sense of “split personality.”) That Carl Allen was not quite sane in the way you and I regard sanity, is almost a foregone conclusion. We’ll see it confirmed again and again, as we follow this bizarre figure through the lives of those he touched.
Yet that same letter writer, his name unfortunately lost, seems to have recognized something strange and profound in all the madness. (“I realized that whoever made the annotations knew a great deal about the UFO phenomenon—far more than was known to the general UFO field in 1956 when the book first appeared!”) Talk of the “freeze” or the “deep freeze” recurs in Carl Allen’s January 1956 letter to Jessup, describing the experiment of the invisible ship. What Allen imagined happening on board the Mary Celeste in 1872, and what he remembered having seen in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1943, must have bubbled up from the same region of his unquestionably disturbed—yet magnificently creative—unconscious.
Rippling from there to the awareness of M. K. Jessup … of Gray Barker … of the wider culture. Which knows The Philadelphia Experiment as the title of a bestselling paperback, and a grade-B movie.
One of the my more fascinating discoveries in the Gray Barker Collection was a carbon copy of a long letter, dated February 18, 1976, telling the story of M. K. Jessup, the “Allende letters,” and the mysterious annotated copy of Jessup’s Case for the UFO. This was the book that a group of Navy officers arranged—at Lord knows how much trouble and expense—to reproduce in a special mimeographed edition, called the “Varo edition” after the company that produced it. (I’ve described the Varo edition in an earlier post; I’ll have more to say about it in later postings.)
I don’t know who wrote the letter. The file contains only its first two pages, breaking off in mid-sentence; the final page or pages, with the signature, are missing. The writer presumably lived in New York City—the return address is “Box 351, Murray Hill Station, New York, N.Y. 10016”—and he addresses himself to a man in Whangerei, New Zealand, named C. B. Wynniatt. Clearly he has first-hand knowledge of the matters he describes, and is anxious to lay them out for his correspondent as clearly and accurately as he can. Given the gender makeup of UFOlogy in those days, it seems a fair assumption he was a “he” and not a “she.”
The letter is so chock-full of interesting information, most of which I’ve not seen anywhere else, that I’ve chosen to reproduce it nearly in full:
“A great deal of trash has been written about Morris Jessup and the Carlos Allende affair, most of it originating in the little mimeographed newsletters of the 1950’s and later perpetuated in hack paperbacks.
“Mr. Jessup was a close personal friend of the late Ivan T. Sanderson, Hans Steffan Santesson (who died in 1975), ‘Long John’ Nebel, a NYC radio personality, and others in this area. There was no mystery whatsoever about his death. In 1959 his career was flagging, his books had been failures, his marriage had dissolved and he was in deep despair. Shortly before he took his life he wrote letters of farewell to Hans, Long John and others. He turned over some of his files and his personal copy of the famous Varo edition to Hans S.S. I have seen these materials. The Varo book contains notations in Jessup’s own hand laughing at some of the mysterious marginal comments and speculating on others. He obviously did not take them seriously.
“A recent book, Secret Doors of the Earth by Jacques Bergier, contains the incredible statement that Jessup was found shot in the head! This is not true. His body was found in his station wagon in Coral Gables, Florida at 6:30 p.m. on April 20, 1959. Mr. Gray Barker … obtained a copy of the death certificate and corresponded with the Dade County (Florida) coroner. Gray has graciously supplied me with copies of that correspondence, and other related documents, for my files. The Jessup family has always been very uncooperative with UFO researchers and has even threatened to sue. Mrs. Jessup probably deliberately chose to misrepresent the place of his death to further confuse the UFO-nuts.
“A mystique has grown up around the notorious ‘Allende’ letters and I receive several queries a month about the whole business. Only two responsible American investigators have conducted any real study of the matter…Barker and author Brad Steiger. All of the others have relied upon hearsay, rumor and speculation.
“Copies of the Varo edition were extremely rare and were seen by only a handful of outsiders in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. The UFO buffs knew of its existence but nothing of its contents [how true! I was one of those “UFO buffs,” and remember how I craved to get my hands, or at least my eyes, on it] so rumors were rife throughout that period…a period when paranoia over governmental UFO conspiracies were [sic] rife. I first saw Jessup’s copy in 1966 and sat up one whole night reading it. At the time I regarded it as totally absurd and probably the work of a schizophrenic. However, my friend Ivan Sanderson (he died in 1973) took it very seriously. Later the Library of Congress somehow managed to locate a copy and Xeroxed it for Dr. Edward U. Condon, head of the ill-fated Colorado University UFO study. Condon was enthralled by contactees and he read the entire book (as well as many contactee books, much to the disgust of his colleagues). In 1968 I again sat up all night re-reading the book. My own experiences as a UFO investigator in 1966-68 had taught me many remarkable things and on this second reading I realized that whoever made the annotations knew a great deal about the UFO phenomenon—far more than was known to the general UFO field in 1956 when the book first appeared! I began to understand Ivan’s enthusiasm, but I still regarded the overall document with suspicion. When the Library of Congress asked me if I thought the book should be added to their general collection and made available to the public I was emphatically opposed. [And I’d like to know: why??????]
“A ufologist named Stephen Yankee managed to obtain a microfilm of the book and turned it over to Brad Steiger. Steiger wrote an article about it for SAGA magazine, quoting some of the annotations. Prior to this, the contents of the book had been a mystery to the public. Barker had published the introduction of the book, and a few samples of its contents, in an earlier paperback, and Sanderson had printed essentially the same material in the appendix to his 1967 book Uninvited Visitors. He was later visited by a man professing to be ‘Colonel Carl Allen’/Carlos Allende and corresponded at length with him afterwards. After Steiger’s article appeared (sometime in 1968) he was buried in mail from people claiming to be Carlos Allende and even received a letter from a woman professing to be Allende’s widow. Later he repeated his article, with some additional material, in a book titled New UFO Breakthroughs. Jessup, Sanderson, Steiger, Barker, myself etc. always considered the annotated book to be a hoax. That is, the annotations were probably written by Allende alone, or by Allende and two friends. Some of the information was utter nonsense, but some of it would be considered ‘advanced ufology’ even today. Obviously the annotation writer(s) had had considerable experience with the phenomenon and were widely read. Some of the UFO buffs wanted to believe that the notes had been written to ‘space people’ or some such foolishness.
“What was most interesting was the fact that even after Jessup’s death someone tried to keep the Allende mystique alive. Various fake Allende letters kept appearing and circulating among the more gullible UFO believers. I succeeded in tracing one set of these letters to a very well-known scientist on the West Coast who confessed and said he had written them ‘just for the hell of it’. Other letters seemed cleverly designed to cast doubts on the actual existence of Mr. Allende.
“In 1966 a newspaperman showed me a photograph taken a few years earlier at a banquette [sic] held for the late General Douglas MacArthur [who died in 1964]. He pointed to a short, swarthy Latin standing near the General and said, ‘That’s Carlos Allende’. Though it isn’t generally known, MacArthur was an avid UFO buff and sincerely believed we were facing”
And there, in the middle of one of its most remarkable passages, the letter breaks off.
Does anybody know whether Anna Lykins Genzlinger is still alive? If so, could you please put me in touch with her? I would love to meet her.
I’ve known Genzlinger for years as the author of a book entitled The Jessup Dimension, published in 1981 by Gray Barker’s “Saucerian Press.” It’s so rare as to be nearly unattainable. For years I tried to get hold of a copy through the University of North Carolina’s interlibrary loan; no luck. How thrilled I was, visiting the Barker Collection in Clarksburg, West Virginia, to come upon the original manuscript that Genzlinger sent Barker more than thirty years ago! Sprinkled with Barker’s handwritten notes, revisions, excisions.
Since then my old friend, UFOlogist Rick Hilberg, has sent me a photocopy of the published edition. But for me the manuscript I found and photocopied in the Barker Collection remains the “real” book.
And here I must quarrel with another old UFOlogical friend, Jerome Clark. In the article “Jessup, Morris Ketchum (1900-1959),” in volume 2 of his monumental UFO Encyclopedia, Jerry writes: “Anna Lykins Genzlinger decided that Jessup was not a victim of suicide but of murder by government agents because he knew too much about the Philadelphia experiment and other matters, and she went out in search of evidence to substantiate her intuition. The result was The Jessup Dimension (1981), in which the author says Jessup’s ghost (whom she calls ‘Ketch’) guided her in her investigation.” You come away with the impression of Genzlinger as—well, something of a flake.
The impression is unfair. It’s true that, in her final pages, Genzlinger toys with the idea she’d had guidance from the Beyond. Yet by and large Jessup’s ghost functions in her book as a poetic conceit, an expression of the spiritual attachment this fierce, fearless, warm-hearted woman had formed for the lonely UFO hunter who she could never bring herself to believe really took his own life.
Full disclosure: Genzlinger won my heart with her revelation, tossed out as an aside, that at one point she took a break from her Jessup obsession by returning to her study of Hebrew. (“I was the only Gentile in my class.”) Anybody who shares my love for the Hebrew language is automatically my friend. A photo in Barker’s files shows a woman I would very much like to have known: fleshy, heavy-set, with kinky hair and slightly African features, radiating intelligence, kindness, and force of character. Her light-colored eyes look not quite at you but just over your shoulder, toward something only she can see. On her lips, just a trace of a smile.
There’s an exchange of letters between her and Dr. Joseph Davis, the Dade County Medical Examiner, dated October 1977. Genzlinger wants an appointment with Davis to discuss certain points of medical procedure in connection with Jessup’s death. Davis’s secretary has just informed Genzlinger that Davis has no time to talk with her, “now or ever.” Davis himself writes: “I have been less than enchanted with the idea of becoming involved in conspiracy theories pertaining to UFO phenomena.”
Hard not to sympathize with the (no doubt) dedicated and overworked county official. Yet even harder, at least for me, not to cheer for the dogged outsider who writes to Davis: “Anyway I’m going on with it [her investigation] even tho I’ve been warned that I could be placing myself in danger. Im [sic] not telling you this in hopes that you’ll change your mind about helping me but only to let you know how determined I am to get at the truth.”
The truth. Which is that Jessup’s death can’t be as it seems.
“I should note here,” I wrote in my diary the evening of my third day in the Barker Collection (Thursday, 9/9/04), “a thought that has come to me several times over the past few days. In one of his interminable letters, [Carl] Allen writes that Ivan Sanderson (for whom he seems to have genuine nostalgia, as one of the few people who treated him decently and did not insult or abuse him) was murdered; he indeed died of cancer, but this cancer was not really natural, but was induced by some malignant force. … Anna Genzlinger, although she acknowledges Jessup did commit suicide, nevertheless toys with the idea he was driven to it by some murderous external force trying to silence him. The tendency, it seems to me, is to deny that death is natural and inevitable, to peg it on some malign external force …”
I suspect this “tendency” is a central, if normally unspoken, theme of UFOlogy. I’m not the only one who’s had this thought. Jerry Clark, interviewed in Bob Wilkinson’s brilliant 2009 documentary film “Shades of Gray” (referring to Gray Barker), makes precisely the same point.
At 6:20 p.m. on April 20, 1979, twenty years almost to the minute after Jessup’s death, Anna Genzlinger drove to Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables and parked in the exact spot where he’d died. “Heat waves are rising around my car from the asphalt paving. There’s a slight breeze blowing from the Southeast, just enough to stir the hot air and make it cling to your body. It’s very hot in the car. But, I must sit here. If anything happens then it must be here, sitting where he sat. Looking and seeing the same things his eyes saw.”
She feels Jessup’s presence. She feels the loss of him. She’s tempted to follow him into the “Jessup Dimension,” and resists the temptation. She says a short prayer for his wanderings and begins to drive, with no idea where she’s headed. A half hour later she’s sitting on the beach, convinced she’s experienced what he experienced twenty years earlier.
“I felt no fear, no dread of the unknown. I looked up at the clouds blowing swiftly overhead, scattered and laying bare great patches of the night sky where the stars glittered and danced on their trip across the Universe. … [A]ll I felt was loneliness and peace and a strange sense of sadness.
“I’ve always been a loner so that part of it was not new to me. I felt grateful for the peace. And more than a little resentful of the sadness. …
“I got up from the sand and brushed my jeans off, put my shoes on and stopped, still, pushing my hair out of my face. The night seemed suddenly darker all around me. I was overwhelmed by a sudden anger like nothing I had ever felt before! Jessup was gone! He had left me to finish this thing alone, and I resented it! … In truth, on the night of April 20, 1979, Jessup died again. This time he would have at least one person to mourn his passing. …
“I gave him the only answer I could, ‘Rest in peace, Ketch.’ ”
You too, Anna, if you’re now in his “dimension”—rest in peace.
In my last post, I quoted from the reminiscences of those who knew the youthful Morris Jessup at first or second hand. He comes across as a rebel without any clearly discernable cause—a teenage “brain,” contemptuous of those he deemed less brainy. Something of a brat, actually. Not a fellow you’d like to have known.
By the time he began corresponding with Gray Barker in 1954, he seems to have mellowed. The letters give a remarkably attractive picture of both men. First and foremost their mutual respect, which grows over the months and years into mutual caring.
“They sound just like two businessmen,” David Houchin told me over the phone before I set out for Clarksburg and the Barker Collection seven years ago, introducing me to the Barker-Jessup letters. David was right. If you expect the correspondence of two UFOlogists to be in some measure—well, unearthly—you’re bound to be disappointed. The tone is mundane and pragmatic throughout.
They talk a lot about money. Jessup wants to know: how much would Barker charge for a short ad for The Case for the UFO in his publication, The Saucerian? How big a mailing list does he have? Barker wants to know: how come his publisher for They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers is willing to pay only a 5% royalty for mail order sales, vs. 10% or 12% for regular sales? Is this the regular practice? (To which Jessup responds [3/20/56], in words just as true now as they were 55 years ago: “you are now getting the dis-illusionment that comes to all authors—namely: that the publishing industry is run for the benifit [sic] of the publishing industry, and not for the writers … I have to begin thinking of other commercial activity in order to make the money necessary for decent living.”)
It’s so obvious—they’re in it for the bucks! My (ex-)professorial lip curls in disdain. As if, during my time at the university, I cared nothing for salary increases, or who was getting what research grant and why I’d been refused one.
Unlike Barker and Jessup, I didn’t think about making money a whole lot of the time. I didn’t have to; the institution took care of that end of things. But there aren’t many tenured positions in UFOlogy at our public or private universities, and Jessup had apparently decided at an early stage that the academic route wasn’t for him. (He was on the threshold of his Ph.D. in astronomy; he balked at the final step.) To pursue the researches that were their lives’ mission, he and Barker had to support themselves by their wits. And their typewriters.
“We are indeed in an unusual field of endeavor,” Barker writes to Jessup in March 1956. “I think we should stick together.” And again in November of that year: “I am setting you up a gratis mailing of all issues, and am returning your check, since times are hard with all us saucerers and we must stick together.” (And two years earlier: “We saucerhunters must hang together or hang separately, perhaps.”) But now the cynic in me holds back. Is this the mutual encouragement of two beleaguered intellectual pioneers—or the loyalty of two thieves?
Jessup, at least, emerges in these letters as utterly sincere. Barker, a bit more ambiguous.
Jessup, 12/16/54: “There is so damned much nonsense being put out by silly people that one gets disgusted with a lot of it. I do feel that we are in a remarkable phase of human experience and that the waters should not be muddied by stupidity …” (Still the intellectual snob? Perhaps. But no one familiar with the UFO literature can deny the justice of what he says.)
He offers to write for Barker’s Saucerian about changes on the lunar surface. To which Barker responds (12/17/54): “Now you’re talking! I desperately need GOOD material such as you can provide. The writeup on the Moon would be fine, especially if you gave it the UFO angle (mixed in with some kind of dark threatening talk to make it exciting).”
There speaks the huckster. And, as anyone who’s read They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers will know, dark threatening talk was Barker’s specialty.
Yet in the same letter, Barker speaks of the closing of Albert Bender’s “International Flying Saucer Bureau”—the incident at the center of They Knew Too Much—and he adds: “There is a lot involved here I would like to know, and I feel I am uncovering it bit by bit.” I don’t know how to parse this, except to suppose that for Barker the “silencing” of Bender and the dissolution of the IFSB was a genuine mystery, which had him genuinely baffled.
Jessup responds (12/20/54): “I read ur rept re Bender with great interest. Looks like SOMETHING did happen. He probably did stumble onto the truth. I will be glad of any additional info which you uncover. …
“In my humble opinion, you are absolutely correct in your thought that the power source is the key to the whole UFO deal. [Referring to Barker’s suggestion that the “power industries” would be put out of business if the cheap and plentiful power used by the UFOs were to be made available.] I am convinced of it from my own introspection and reading. I’d like to talk to you about it. Clarksburg isnt [sic] so far from here [Washington, DC] and I would like to talk to you aout [sic] some of these things. One can go nuts with such a subject if he keeps it all inside himself.”
Yes, one can go nuts. Solitude can do that to a person.
Did it do it to Morris K. Jessup?
As I mentioned last week, the Barker-Jessup correspondence ends in January 1957. But another folder in the Barker Collection contains a photocopy of a letter from Jessup, handwritten on the stationery of Hotel Urmey, 34 Southeast Second Avenue, Miami 31, Florida. It’s dated March 20, 1959:
“U of Miami
“Dept of Anatomy—
“I am requesting that this note be forwarded to you after my death as Notification of death and availability of my body. Please contact my wife as to where the body is resting and take the necessary steps to obtain it.
“I do not desire any funeral services, and prefer that the body be in your possession before relatives have an opportunity to hold a wake.
“Thanks for your cooperation.
Exactly a month after the date of this note, Jessup was found in his car in Coral Gables, Florida, dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. A hose had been run from the exhaust pipe in through a window.
(To be continued)
He wasn’t really a doctor, although the bios on his book jackets hint misleadingly that he was. His full name was Morris Ketchum Jessup. He was born in Indiana in 1900; he died in 1959 in Coral Gables, Florida, an apparent suicide.
Only one photograph, as far as I know, is extant. It shows a plumpish middle-aged man with a snub nose and a rumpled suit jacket, smiling as though seeking approval, with a weary sadness in his eyes. He leans forward slightly, as if weighted down from behind.
He was the man to whom Carl Allen a.k.a. “Carlos Allende” turned in 1956, with his wild tale of an invisibility experiment carried out thirteen years earlier in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Carl Allen, Gray Barker, M. K. Jessup—these are the dramatis personae in the saga of the Philadelphia Experiment. Three corners of a triangle as enigmatic, to those who probe the human soul, as the Bermuda Triangle is to aficionados of more mundane mysteries.
There’s a great deal about Jessup in the Barker Collection. The two men carried on a correspondence which began, at Barker’s initiative, in November 1954. “I heard about you from John P. Bessor of Pittsburgh,” wrote Barker, “who said you are writing a book about saucers.” And so Jessup was. The book appeared as The Case for the UFO, published in 1955 by Citadel Press. It was followed in rapid succession by The UFO and the Bible (1956), The UFO Annual (1956), and The Expanding Case for the UFO (1957).
The Barker-Jessup correspondence ends, quite abruptly, in January 1957. It’s not clear why. Perhaps there were subsequent letters which somehow have gone missing? I’m not sure.
There are also letters in Barker’s files about Jessup. One E. P. Shrigley of Franklin, Indiana, writes to Barker in 1968, inquiring about Jessup’s birthplace. Barker’s reply is missing, but to judge from his next letter, Shrigley has been reassured that “the Morris K. Jessup with whom I went to Rockville High School is the Dr. M. K. Jessup of whom you wrote. [The reference is to Barker’s distinctly forgettable book, The Strange Case of Dr. M. K. Jessup, published in 1963.] Since this is established, I can supply you with a few facts about Dr. Jessup which you might find interesting.
“He was born just east of Rockville, Indiana, on a farm. His father’s name was George Jessup and his mother was a Swaim. [A typo; it should be “Swain.”] … He had one sister, Marjorie, a tiny, fragile, blonde creature who broke every heart in Rockville High. So far as I know, she is still living. The family were what Charles Dickens would have called ‘shabby genteel,’ not rich, not poor …
“In school, Morris was a brain. He made excellent grades, and was the pet of the teachers, who forecast a brilliant future for him. His one love was astronomy, and when he went to Ann Arbor, reports said that he would major in this subject. He was disgustingly snobbish, especially to the poorer, less brilliant members of the school body. To a semi-illiterate like myself, he was pure murder!”
“Brilliant”—but rebellious. “Murder”—not just to his less talented peers, but to university professors who weren’t as ready to make him their pet as his high school teachers were. So I gather from a series of fascinating letters from faculty at the University of Michigan, where Jessup was an undergrad and then a graduate student in the 1920s.
From 1927 through 1930, according to one of these letters (written in 1979), “Jessup served the University of Michigan as an assistant to Dr. R. A. Rossiter at the Lamont-Hussey Observatory, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Jessup returned to the Ann Arbor campus after a three-year stint in early 1930. He started work on a topic he thought suitable for a doctoral thesis. He objected to the requirements for the doctoral degree and did not, therefore, meet them, and he left Ann Arbor in the summer of 1931 with extremely bitter feeling toward the university and the department of astronomy. He never at any time received a doctoral degree from the University of Michigan, nor did he ever make any attempt to satisfy the graduate school’s requirements for that degree. …
“I suppose the reference in one of your clippings to Jessup’s having headed an archaeological expedition to Yucatan has its vague basis in Jessup’s membership in a university expedition to Mexico. Jessup was not the head, just a student assistant. He seems to have had recurrent trouble understanding who was boss, since he repeatedly tried to have himself appointed head of the Lamont-Hussey Observatory while he was working as an assistant to Dr. Rossiter; and his trouble with the graduate school arose from an unwillingness to follow regulations.
“He was given to outbursts of temper that verged on the insane. He was regarded by both faculty and graduate students as ‘more on than off, but not much’. He doubtless would have been dismissed from the university, if the administration at the time had been less tolerant than it was.”
A “strange case,” indeed!
More on it, and on the other corners of the “Philadelphia Experiment triangle,” in next week’s post.
- David Halperin, author of Journal of a UFO Investigator: A Novel
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Part 1 of the “Allende Mystery,” described in my last post, is the strange series of letters which UFOlogist Morris K. Jessup received in 1956 from someone calling himself variously “Carlos Allende” and “Carl M. Allen.” The letters tell of what’s come to be known in American folklore as the “Philadelphia experiment”—a Navy destroyer ship turned invisible with its entire crew, teleported from Philadelphia to Norfolk and back again. (This is supposed to have happened in 1943, during the Second World War.)
Part 2 also involves M. K. Jessup, although he didn’t become aware of it until well afterward.
Sometime in the summer of 1956, or possibly 1955, a manila envelope arrived in the Office of Naval Research, Washington, DC. The envelope was postmarked Seminole, Texas, and marked on the outside, “Happy Easter.” It contained a copy of the paperback edition of Jessup’s just-published book The Case for the UFO, with underlinings and marginal annotations in three different colors of ink, in what appeared to be three different handwritings. The naval officers who puzzled over the annotated book, and later were to devote considerable time and expense to producing a mimeographed edition of the entire text, assumed that the notes were written by three people, whom they called “Mr. A,” “Mr. B,” and “Jemi.” (The name “Jemi” appears in the notes, as part of the conversation among the three annotators.)
If you’ve read my novel Journal of a UFO Investigator, you’ll know that this annotated book plays a central part in the plot. The book really existed, though not quite as Danny Shapiro (my narrator) imagines it. A year or so after its arrival at the ONR, Jessup was invited to come to Washington to examine it, and he connected it with the odd letters he’d received from Allende/Allen. He, and the naval officers as well, assumed that Allende was one of the three writers. The other two were entirely mysterious, except for one thing. In the remarks they made among themselves, they seemed to represent themselves as gypsies.
The “insider” feel of the annotations is very striking. The writers seem to know the inside story of the unexplained incidents described in Jessup’s book; more than once they pass judgment on Jessup’s accuracy, how close or how far he is from the truth. They talk about two groups of (space?) beings, “L-Ms” (explained as standing for “Little Men”) and “S-Ms” or “S-Men.” The former seem to be more or less amiable, though capable of causing inadvertent destruction. As for the latter—well …
They also talk a lot about something called “the Great Ark.”
“I Do Not know how this came to pass, Jemi,” Mr. A writes at one point. Then he crosses out the sentence, and adds, “I remember, My twin, This was The Cleaning and the Regeneration of the Great Ark & all its ‘Great Rooms’ All Arks too, needs Cleaning same as any other ship.”
(“My twin”? Is “Jemi” somehow connected with “Gemini”? Like so much else in the annotations, this is left obscure.)
Mr. B writes, at the end of Jessup’s book:
“If the history of the Great War of the ancients were ever recorded, except by the black-toungued ones own tales, It would cause Man to stand in awe (or disbelieve) that such Huge Satelitic Masses were ever deliberately tossed throo this atmosphere in an attempt to Demolish all of the ‘Little Men’ Great Works. Fortunately for Mankinds ego only a Gypsy will tell another of that Catastrophe. and we are a discredited peopole, ages ago. HAH! Yet, Man Wonders where ‘we’ came from, and I Do Not Believe that they will ever know. These folks on this planet are so engrossed in their puny pettiness & squabbles that If the Great Bombardment were to happen again They would destroy each other in blind Panic. … They will blast this Jewel into Dead Space.”
The ONR officers puzzled. They scratched their heads. Working with the Varo Manufacturing Company of Garland, Texas, they produced an elaborate mimeographed edition of the annotated book, with the letters Jessup received from “Carlos Allende” attached. Someone named “Miss Michael Ann Dunn” copied the entire text of Jessup’s Case for the UFO onto stencils, which were run off in black ink. Then the annotations were run off, in their proper place on the pages, in red. What a project this must have been! Nowadays, of course, they’d have just made multiple photocopies of the annotated book. But this was back in the mid-1950s.
Why did they go to such trouble? In the unsigned introduction to what’s come to be known as the “Varo edition,” they explain: “Notations that imply intimate knowledge of UFO’s, their means of motion, their origin, background, history, and habits of beings occupying UFO’s provide an interesting subject for investigation. … Because of the importance which we attach to the possibility of discovering clues to the nature of gravity, no possible item, however disreputable from the point of view of classical science, should be overlooked.”
Circulation of the “Varo edition” was limited, to put it very mildly. According to some reports, only 25 copies in all were made. Somehow or other, one of these came into the hands of Jessup’s friend Gray Barker, who published a facsimile edition in 1973—fourteen years after Jessup died, an apparent suicide, in Dade County, Florida.
This is the text that I saw for the first time, and photocopied, in the Gray Barker Collection in 2004.
(To be continued.)