History Wars World War II

An experiment in the 1940s tried making ships invisible

The USS Eldridge in 1944. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The government has tackled all types of unique projects, many of which are classified for decades, and some seem to be too far-fetched to be true. This is one of those very missions, where the government tried to do the impossible: they tried making vehicles invisible. At least that’s what one conspiracy theory tells us.

Supposedly, in October 1943 (just three days before Halloween, spooky!), the U.S. Navy made a ship invisible. At least – mostly invisible – the USS Eldridge, a destroyer escort, is to have been replaced with a green fog that has left witnesses in awe ever since. 

Philadelphia’s naval shipyard circa 1950. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Through a series of experiments that the government had been executing, they unlocked the ability to hide military vehicles in plain sight.

At the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Experiment, as it be came to be known, was an execution of the technology, leaving the ship “cloaked” in plain sight.

Witnesses claim to have lost sight of the ship, when a green fog was left in its wake. A similar ship then appeared in Norfolk, VA (about 200 miles away), then disappeared as the Eldridge returned to its same location. 

Its sailors were sent back 10 minutes in time, suffered from nausea, insanity and some were stuck to the ship itself. One soldier’s hand was embedded within a steel hull, and others disappeared altogether. 

Lore says two experiments were done after a recalibration of their equipment, with the second being the more successful of the two. 

The public catches wind

The experiment was made public late in 1955, when a supposed witness to the event, Carl M. Allen, came forward with his notes. At the time of the Philadelphia Experiment, Allen was a merchant marine in Norfolk. Allen claimed that while serving on the SS Andrew Furuseth, he saw a destroyer appear, then go invisible as it was brought back to Philadelphia. 

The USS Eldridge in 1944. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Scientist Franklin Reno was the mastermind behind the event, he claimed, having done so based on unpublished theories of Albert Einstein, including unified field theory. 

Rather than come forward and place his name on the project, however, Allen made his reveal far more complicated. He gathered a package with his notes and a copy of The Case for the UFO by Morris K. Jessup. The packaged was marked “Happy Easter” and sent to the US. Office of Naval Research with no return address. 

Margins of the book had been filled with notes about the Philadelphia Experiment, which appeared to be written between three individuals. 

By early 1965, Allen began sending letters to Jessup himself outlining the event. 

Claims on the Philadelphia Experiment were widely researched at the time, with high-ranking naval officers looking into any bits of truth. 

Allen continued to provide vague details, including names of nonexistent newspapers to help back his claims. That is, when he could be found. He was known for being elusive and “mysterious,” living out his days in a layer of secrecy. 

Ultimately, no truth to the claims could be found, with details that seemed to defy physics within Allen’s notes themselves. In addition, the Eldridge was on a mission in the Bahamas at the time of the experiment. 

When reporters spoke to Allen’s family to corroborate his notes, they described him as extremely smart and a “master leg-puller.” Twelve years after his submission to the Office of Naval Research, he admitted to making up his details; his motivation was to scare Jessup.

Today, the Philadelphia Experiment is widely regarded as a hoax. However, Allen was not the only to come forward about the event. Many conspiracists believe he confessed in order to keep the event hidden. They also claim the ship records were altered to keep the mission a secret.

Another theory exists that the Philadelphia Experiment actually refers to another naval test when the USS Engstrom was fitted with heavy electromagnets in order to remain undetectable via radar. This experiment also took place in the fall of 1943.