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The Philadelphia Experiment – The “Allende Mystery”

I first heard about the “Allende Mystery” in 1963, when my good friend Jerome Clark—whom to this day I’ve never met face to face—laid out the details for me in one of the multi-page letters the two of us exchanged as teen UFOlogists.  It intrigued me from the beginning.

I was 15 years old; Jerry was 16.  Who at that age can conceive what life will be like in their twenties, far less their unimaginably distant fifties?  I couldn’t have guessed that, as the 20th century drew to its close, Jerry would be one of the world’s leading experts on UFOlogy, his multivolume UFO Encyclopedia an indispensible resource for believer and skeptic alike.

Or that at the dawn of the 21st century, I—no longer a UFO believer, but not exactly your standard skeptic either—would sit in an archive dedicated to Gray Barker, paging through the correspondence of the three principals in the “Allende Mystery”: Barker himself, UFOlogist Morris K. Jessup, and the mysterious “Carlos Allende.”

Especially Carlos Allende.

But let’s start at the beginning.

In January 1956, Jessup—whose book The Case for the UFO had been published the year before—received a most peculiar letter.  It claimed to be from one “Carlos Miguel Allende,” with a return address at New Kensington, Pennsylvania, yet postmarked from Gainesville, Texas.  It was signed at the end, “Carl M. Allen.”  It told a strange, strange story—of a secret Navy experiment, supposedly carried out in October 1943, in which a ship was turned invisible while at sea, apparently not far from the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Allende/Allen’s syntax, capitalization, and punctuation were nearly as bizarre as his tale.

The Field,” he wrote to Jessup, “Was effective in an oblate spheroidal shape, extending one hundred yards (More or Less, due to Lunar position & Latitude) out from each beam of the ship.  Any Person Within that sphere became vague in form BUT He too observed those Persons aboard that ship as though they too were of the same state, yet were walking upon nothing.  Any person without that sphere could see Nothing save the clearly Defined shape of the Ships Hull in the Water, PROVIDING of course, that the person was just close enough to see yet, just barely outside of that field.

“Why tell you Now?  Very Simple; If You choose to go Mad then you would reveal this information.  Half of the officiers & the crew of that Ship are at Present, Mad as Hatters.  A few, are even Yet confined to certain areas where they May receive trained Scientific aid when they, either, ‘Go Blank’ or ‘Go Blank’ & Get Stuck.’  Going-Blank IS Not at all an unpleasant expierence to Healthily Curious Sailors.  However it is when also, they ‘Get Stuck’ that they call it ‘HELL INCORPORATED’ The Man thusly stricken can Not Move of his own volition unless two or More of those who are within the field go & touch him, quickly, else he ‘Freezes’. … Usually a “Deep Freeze” Man goes Mad, Stark Raving, Gibbering, Running MAD, if His ‘freeze’ is far More than a Day in our time.

“I speak of TIME for DEEP ‘Frozen Men’ are Not aware of Time as We know it.  They are Like Semi-comatose person, who Live, breathe, Look & feel but still are unaware of So Utterly Many things as to constitute a ‘Nether World’ to them. … If around or Near the Philadelphia Navy Yard you see a group of Sailors in the act of Putting their Hands upon a fellor or upon ‘thin air’, observe the Digits & appendages of the Stricken Man.  If they seem to Waver, as tho within a Heat-Mirage, go quickly & put YOUR Hands upon Him, For that Man is The Very most Desperate of Men in The World.

On and on “Allende” went, using phrases like “Stuck in the Green” and “Stuck in Molasses” to describe the long-term effects of having been invisible.

There are only a very few of the original Expierimental D-E’s Crew Left by Now, Sir.  Most went insane, one just walked ‘throo’ His quarters Wall in sight of His Wife & Child & 2 other crew Members (WAS NEVER SEEN AGAIN), two ‘Went into ‘The Flame,’ I.E. They ‘Froze’ & caught fire, while carrying common Small-Boat Compasses, one other came for the ‘Laying on of Hands’ as he was the nearest but he too, took fire.  THEY BURNED FOR 18 DAYS.  The faith in ‘Hand Laying’ Died When this Happened & Mens Minds Went by the scores.  The expieriment Was a Complete Success.  The Men were Complete Failures.

How those last two sentences haunt me!  “The expieriment (sic) Was a Complete Success.  The Men were Complete Failures.”  The work of a mad poet.  Or, as “Allende” would have said, of a poet “Stark Raving, Gibbering, Running MAD.”

It’s not entirely clear to me, from this or the subsequent letter that Jessup received in May 1956, whether “Allende” claimed to have been himself turned invisible or simply to have observed the experiment.  But he added an extraordinary detail: that “The Experimental Ship Disappeared from its Philadelphia Dock and only a Very few Minutes Later appeared at its other Dock in the Norfolk, Newport News, Portsmouth area,” after which it was teleported back to Philadelphia.  And he drew the conclusion:

I feel sure that Man will go where He now dreams of being—to the stars via the form of transport that the Navy accidentally stumbled upon. … Perhaps already the Navy has used this accident of transport to build your UFO’s.  It is a logical advance from any standpoint.  What do you think???

He begged Jessup to arrange for him to be put under hypnosis, treated with Sodium Pentothal, so his memory could retrieve more details of his experience, plus names and contact information of other witnesses and experiencers.

Then he disappeared.

For the time being …

(More next week.)

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