The Philadelphia Experiment – The Mysterious Señor Allende

So what have I learned from my first day in the Barker archive?” I wrote in my diary on Tuesday evening, September 7, 2004.  “That Carl Allen, far from being an elusive and mysterious figure (as I once fondly imagined), was a tedious and persistent lunatic who bombarded Gray Barker with tons of insane letters, plus annotated texts—this apparently being his favored mode of expression.”  Already I’d read a fair number of the outpourings of Allen’s pen.  By the time I left the Gray Barker Collection that Saturday, I was to read many more.

The definitive identification of Carl Allen, a.k.a. Carlos Allende, was made in 1980 by UFOlogist Robert Goerman, on the pages of Fate magazine.  Goerman, it turned out, had known Allen’s family most of his life; they were neighbors of his in New Kensington, Pennsylvania.  The “three gypsies” who’d penned their annotations in the paperback edition of Jessup’s Case for the UFO—all three of them were Carl Meredith Allen.  Who was a “gypsy” only in the figurative sense that he spent much of his life wandering.

He was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania, on May 31, 1925—exactly 29 days after Gray Barker.  He outlived Barker by nearly ten years, dying in a nursing home in Greeley, Colorado, in March 1994.  (This last bit of information I glean from a postcard in the Barker Collection, from a Greeley woman who claims to have known Allen.  She calls him “Carlos Allende”; she speaks of writing a book In Defense of Carlos—against what, she doesn’t say.)

How much I wanted him really to be Allende, to be a gypsy!  I mean, back when I was a teen-age UFO investigator in the 1960s.  The gypsies for me, as I suppose for many people, were the exotic, mysterious “other”—alien, marginal, yet gifted with occult knowledge inaccessible to those of us hemmed in by the “turtle shells” (to use Charles Fort’s expression) of orthodox science, orthodox religion, orthodox historiography.  That for some people we nice, bourgeois, ordinary Jews might be regarded in precisely the same way, never once occurred to me.

Late in 1963, I came up with a scheme for how the elusive Allende might be located.  I shared it with fellow-UFOlogist Jerome Clark in one of the multi-page letters we used to exchange, that were a mainstay of my frequently troubled adolescent life.  Seems I’d been contemplating a map of Mexico, and noticed there was a city named Allende, in the State of Coahuila, about 35 miles southeast of Eagle Pass, Texas …

From the superficial research which I have done on gypsies,” I wrote to Jerry, “I gather that they are a people of Europe and Asia, without any roots in the New World.  Nevertheless, in recent years gypsies have immigrated to the United States, and it seems reasonable to suppose that they would have immigrated to Mexico also.  As, in the New World, they could hardly join bands and live entirely in the society of their fellow-gypsies, they would have to become at least partially assimilated into American or Mexican culture.  This would doubtless involve discarding their foreign-sounding, hard-to-pronounce Romany names and assuming English or Spanish ones.  In Mexico, they would probably select their new names after the Spanish fashion, calling themselves by the name of the town in which they settled or were born.  Second-generation Mexican gypsies would thus have such names as Luis de Durango (Louis of Durango), Juan de Torreon, and—Carlos de Allende.

The last of these names, doubtless, would be shortened to “Carlos Allende.” 

If all this was true—I acknowledged it was speculative—we’d discovered a valuable clue: Allende’s birthplace.  Was it coincidence that Allende was very nearly a border town, and that both the annotated Case for the UFO and the original letter to M. K. Jessup had been mailed from Texas?   I didn’t think so.  “I feel that a letter to Allende officials might yield very interesting data, such as the circumstances regarding Allende’s birth, details on his character, his personal history, and, most important, names and addresses of living relatives of his.

And so I put my eleventh-grade Spanish into action, and wrote a letter to the mayor of Allende.  Or rather, the mayors of the Allendes; for it turned out there were towns of that name also in the states of Chihuahua and Nuevo León.  “Muy señor mío,” I began each letter; and I went on to query, in Spanish, “if any gypsies have settled or been born in the city of Allende or the surrounding regions, particularly in the years 1900 to 1930.  I am especially interested in a gypsy named Carlos Allende or Carlos de Allende, who now resides in the United States …”

Amazingly, all my letters were answered.  Is it just my imagination that back in the sixties, when replying to strangers’ queries was exponentially more difficult than it is today, people used to be a lot more responsive?

Not that I got the information I wanted.  The “presidente municipal” of Allende, Coahuila, sent an elaborately courteous letter to “Sr. David Halperin,” advising that inspection of the files of City Hall and the Police Department had yielded the conclusion that no such person as the one I was seeking had lived in their municipality.  Surely I must turn to Allende, Nuevo León, or Allende, Chihuahua … Whose officials sent similar replies, directing me to the other two Allendes.  And placing, above their signatures, the baffling phrase SUFRAGIO EFECTIVO NO REELECCION, which my Spanish teacher couldn’t explain and which I discovered only many years later was a political slogan going back to the Revolution of 1910, de rigueur for official Mexican documents.

The trail was cold.  The mystery of Carlos Allende would wait some years for its resolution.

(To be continued)

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