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The Philadelphia Experiment – The Fury of an Invisible Man

Of course he was insane.

Now: having said this, have we said anything worth knowing?

That’s what I can’t quite figure out.

The earliest letter relevant to Carl Allen in the Barker files is dated 22 July 1954.  The latest is 22 December 1985—almost a year after Barker died.  These are two of the documents I want to consider in this post.  The third is a love letter, apparently written also after Barker’s death; and it is the strangest, most pathetic, most poignant of all.

I’ll take them up in chronological sequence.

The 1954 letter is written, not by Allen, but to him (at the address “c/o United States Consul” in Guadalajara, Mexico) by a bureaucrat in the U.S. Veterans Claims Division.  It informs Allen that “Your claim for pension has been reconsidered in this office on the basis of all evidence of record, with particular reference to the report of your recent physical examination.  A decision was made this date that, due to an improvement in your condition, the degree of disability from your disease or injury should be reduced from permanent and total to not permanently and totally disabling in connection with your disabilities which are not of service origin.  As a result, your pension will be discontinued as of July 31, 1954.

Allen was at the time 29 years old.

And there the letter is in Gray Barker’s files, blanketed with the usual exhausting annotations, written I would guess at about the same time as the love letter, which is to say around 1984 or 1985.  Allen printed these notes in block capitals; I transcribe them into more normal script:

The deeper meanings of the above display of that language known as the bureaucratic governmentese jargon reveal that Carlos M. Allende experienced a temporary illness or impediment prior to 1954 but that he evidently recovered from that impediment & was, thus therefore, fully or adequately recovered therefrom while enscribing his annotations in Jessup’s book (for scientists only) ‘The Case for the UFO.’  It is known from Washington D.C. Veterans Hospital records that Allende suffers from periodically reoccurrant ‘sickle cell anemia,’ an often fatal illness & we note that he frequently is mal or non-nourished & thus resultantly suffers malnutrition (starvation) & its accompanying anemia.  We further note that, in addition to temporary chemical caused neurotic, emotional & mental trauma, that protien deficiency also causes a minor, mild, & purely temporary pseudo-trauma (psychosis) …

So he knows he’s kind of crazy, but insists that the annotations to the Jessup book—which, it would seem, he regards here as one of his crowning achievements—were not thereby affected.  And he tells us that he—who made Lord knows how much money for the likes of William L. Moore and the Hollywood producers of the “Philadelphia Experiment” movie—didn’t have enough to eat.

The theme of his hunger, his malnutrition, turns up in Allen’s letter to his “lady-fair,” whom in a marginal note he identifies (for the benefit of Barker? who was already dead) as “Doctor Margaret ‘Peggy’ S______ M.D., Veterans Hospital, 1055 Clermont St., Denver, Colo … very pretty, charming & intelligent.”  From allusions in the letter, one gathers that Peggy was a resident in psychiatry who treated Allen during a stay at the Denver VA hospital.  Her last name, which I prefer to omit, is a very common one; I don’t think I would have much luck tracking her down through Google.  But if by some chance she sees this post and recognizes herself in it, I hope she’ll get in touch with me.

The return address is given as “Carlos Miguel Allende nee Carl Michael Allen, General Delivery, Greeley, Colo.”  (Allen confides in the letter that he hated his real middle name, the “sissy-fied” Meredith.)  There’s no date.  But a reference to a magazine article of March 1985, confirmed by another to a newspaper article of 25 July 1984, shows the earliest possible date it could have been written.

Did the beloved Peggy ever receive the letter?  Well, obviously not; since, annotated, it found its way into Barker’s files.  But is it possible that what I photocopied in the Barker Collection was itself a photocopy, which Allen made before sending Peggy the original?  I wish I had made a note of that, while I was there.  But I didn’t, and resolution of this point will have to await my next trip to Clarksburg.

The letter is 13 pages long, typewritten in block capitals.  Or rather, the letter itself is a little under one page, with 12+ pages of postscripts and addenda.  Allen introduces it (for Barker’s benefit?) with the hand-printed note:  “Here Carlos Allende teaches some of the secrets of the secret science of humantics to his ‘lady friend’ (she is a medical doctor) & she is also a young student of psyciatry. Many prior letters & tapes do reveal many more such secrets of humantics but surely to her only.

Apparently the letter was originally intended to accompany a gift, a comical charm which Peggy was to wear around her “pretty white & adorably lovely neck.”  But Allen quickly shifts into advising Peggy to “always and forever do … whatever the inner secret ‘little girl’ in the secret you of you (soul-heart) whatever your ‘little-girl’ heart says to do.  For that inner-secret ‘you’ is the real you and so therefore all I am really saying is, ‘be your real self’ … for whom of us humans will ever have the truely perfect level of maturity that the logically and common-sensibly childlike Jesus Christ had?

He develops this theme: the child is the truly wise, truly humble, truly loving.  “Little-boy like” he loves his Peggy, and his love for her is therefore whole-hearted.  “Trust the ‘secret little-girl’ deep within you.  For ‘she’ is wisest of all that is within you.  If ‘she’ says to marry me … then be wise enough to do that.  I am not a world famous man but I am a world reknowned man and I love you more than mere words can say. … You can hurt me too very much because of that.

He would sooner, he writes, have “been a Spanish-Gypsy guitarist”; yet he studied with Einstein and George Gamow, was a ship’s captain at sea and a brigadier general in the military.  “I have never failed to get to the top of whatever aera of endeavor I choose … I am a world-reknowned man of science … I am also one of North America’s top twenty UFOlogists.”  He’s a linguist, fluent in five languages.  This last claim sounds like one more of his fantasies but in fact it’s confirmed by what Robert Goerman heard from Allen’s younger brother.  (“My brother has mastered several languages fluently.”)  It suggests that, mixed in with the pathetic delusions of grandeur, we have here some of the genuine pride of a genuinely remarkable human being.

A phrase that begins to recur in the letter is “weller than well.”  He applies this to the “strugglers” of human history, a motley collection that includes Sigmund Freud and Rocky Graziano, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and the childlike genius Einstein, who as a boy was dismissed as an idiot.  These were the “formerly emotionally afflicted” who emerged from their affliction to become “weller than well,” the “ ‘little-boy’ men” who in fact are “the giants of science, medicine, culture, the arts and also the humanities.”

If he himself is insane, Allen writes, his insanity is that of Jefferson, something the nation needs more of.  And here the love letter, begun in syrupy tenderness, shifts into savage fury.  The last page or two are filled with ferocious diatribe against his beloved’s profession of “psyciatry,” especially as it’s practiced in Veterans Administration hospitals.  The doctors are incompetent; the aim is to control and punish the afflicted rather than to heal them; real and grave illnesses are dismissed as “psycosomatic.”  “This is an interesting philosophy but it does not prevent my death or illness.

Desperately, Allen says, he needs treatment for an array of diseases: emphysema, tuberculosis … worst of all, the deadly sickle-cell anemia “which I have been fighting for eleven and a half starving years,” which he knows is real but which the hospital keeps stupidly insisting is his imagination.  (Surely he knows that in the US this is primarily a disease of African-Americans, almost unheard of among people of his English-French ethnic background?)  He’s offered, not medicine, but “a piddeling excuse … ‘Oh, your blood cells are not “sickeling” now’. … Sickle-cell anemia is cyclic, dammit, cyclic: it ‘sickles’ during periods of starvation.  (On the Veterans Admin. monthly ‘pension’ of less than one hundred dollars I am, logically, usually starving and starving to where my blood cells are actively ‘sickeling’.  Except in summer when food is easily stolen.)

Could one find a more eloquent expression of the hunger, the fury of an invisible man—turned invisible, in 1985 as in 1954, by the blind bureaucracy of the country he’d served?  (Let’s not forget: his “Allende letters” to Jessup and his annotations in Jessup’s Case for the UFO, which created the invisibility experiment, were all done within the two years after the refusal of his pension.)  Preserved in the files of a man who in his sexual orientation was equally invisible—though Allen could not possibly have been aware of this, any more than he was aware that the man who would not answer his desperate letters had died months earlier of AIDS.

Allen himself was to live nearly ten years more, until March of 1994.  Yet in a note written at the end of 1985, to his frustratingly silent correspondent, he bears chilling witness to the death he feels moving and growing inside him.  Typically, it takes the form of an annotation, to the log book of the S.S. Andrew Furuseth, 1943-’44:

‘Destroyed by executive order’ this logbook, completed to the very last word, does not ‘officially’ exist.  The thirty-seven names & all-important service serial numbers of the thirty seven on the scene witnesses … of the ‘Philadelphia experiment’s’ experimental ship becoming invisible also do not ‘officially’ exist.  Unless you know the art of persuasion well & a few United States senators owing you a favor. – Carlos M. Allende, Washington D.C. – December 22nd, 1985 A.D.

“P.S.  Am very slowly dying.

2 Responses to “The Philadelphia Experiment – The Fury of an Invisible Man”

  • Greetings David –

    Hope this finds you and yours well.

    These “blogs” and “replies,” whose word-processed letters upon a computer screen show neither nuance nor emotion, fall far short of representing either of us in any meaningful way. You have found the time and tenacity to wade through this “Allende” mess as it resides in the memorial files of one Gray Barker. For this, and your kindness, I thank you once again.

    Not many folks realize that the “Philadelphia Experiment” feature film was originally a 20th Century Fox project back in 1981.



    Carl Allen in the flesh reminded me of a broken clock. Both were right at least twice a day.

    Yours in research,
    Robert A. Goerman

    “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” — Theodore Roosevelt

    • David:

      It’s true: words are clumsy handles for grasping at the complex human realities we’re exploring. They’re the best we’ve got. I’m tremendously grateful to you for writing, and for sharing your insights and knowledge.

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