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How the Philadelphia Experiment Worked

The 'Real' Philadelphia Experiment

For decades, Carlos Allende (aka Carl Allen) was the sole "witness" of the allegedly supernatural events surrounding the 1943 Philadelphia Experiment. Carlos claimed to have been stationed on the SS Andrew Furuseth, a vessel docked in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard with a clear view of the Eldridge when it disappeared.

Much later, after the release of the 1984 film "The Philadelphia Experiment," a man named Al Bielek came forward claiming to have personally taken part in the secret experiment, which he had been brainwashed to forget. Only after seeing the movie in 1988 did his repressed memories come flooding back [source: Vallee].

Despite the insistent (and constantly evolving) claims of both men, it was the testimony of a third witness that ultimately shed some light on what may have really happened in Philadelphia during that wartime summer of 1943.

In 1994, French-born astrophysicist and ufologist Jacques F. Vallee published an article in the Journal of Scientific Exploration titled "Anatomy of a Hoax: The Philadelphia Experiment Fifty Years Later." In writing a previous article about the Philadelphia Experiment, Vallee asked readers to contact him if they had further information about the alleged event. That's when Vallee received a letter from Edward Dudgeon, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1942 to 1945.

Dudgeon had served on the USS Engstrom, which was dry-docked in the Philadelphia Naval Yard during the summer of 1943 [source: Vallee]. Dudgeon was an electrician in the Navy and had full knowledge of the classified devices that were installed on both his ship and the Eldridge, which he said was there at the same time.

Far from being teleportation engines designed by Einstein (or aliens), the devices enabled the ships to scramble their magnetic signature using a technique called degaussing. The ship were wrapped in large cables and zapped with high-voltage charges. A degaussed ship wouldn't be invisible to radar, but would be undetectable by the U-boats' magnetic torpedoes.

Dudgeon was familiar with the wild rumors about disappearing ships and mangled crewmen, but credited the fabrications to loose sailor talk about "invisibility" to torpedoes and the peculiarity of the degaussing process. The "green glow" was probably due to an electric storm or St. Elmo's Fire. As for the Eldridge's mysterious appearance in Norfolk and sudden return to Philadelphia, Dudgeon explained that the Navy used inland canals — off-limits to commercial vessels — to make the trip in six hours rather than two days [source: Vallee].

In another turn of events, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 1999 on a reunion of sailors who served on the USS Eldridge in Atlantic City. The sailors said the ship never docked in Philadelphia. Indeed, it was in Brooklyn on its supposed date of disappearance. The ship's log confirmed this. Further, the captain said no experiments were ever conducted on the vessel.

Despite the differing accounts, both Dudgeon and the Eldridge crew confirm that nothing otherworldly happened on the ship. Yet, people continue to believe otherwise. We'll look at some reasons why the hoax has endured for more than 70 years.

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