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The Philadelphia Experiment – The “Allende Mystery”–Part 2

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.)

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