In July 1955, a paperback copy of Morris K. Jessup’s recent book The Case for the UFO arrived at the Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C.
Jessup was an auto parts salesman who had once studied for a doctorate in astrophysics at the University of Michigan (he is sometimes misidentified as an astronomer). He had a deep interest in scientific ufology, believing that rigorous study of the physics of UFOs might unlock the secrets of Einstein’s Unified Field Theory, among other things.
The book had been mailed anonymously from Seminole, Texas, addressed to Admiral N. Furth (a nonexistent officer) with “Happy Easter” scrawled across the envelope. Naval officers found that the book had been copiously annotated by hand, apparently by three different anonymous people (but penned by just one man, as it turned out). These notes were far more intriguing than the book itself, which was a rather standard examination of the flying saucer phenomenon. The author of the notes claimed to know exactly where the alien visitors hailed from and how their vehicles functioned. In fact, he provided so many details that the more imaginative ufologists would wonder if the notes had been written by the aliens themselves.
The author included tantalizing references to things like vortices and magnetic nets, motherships, a Great Ark, a “great bombardment”, and “telepathing”. He also gave the outline of a mysterious “Philadelphia Experiment” conducted under the auspices of the Navy in 1943. Einstein, who was helping the Navy develop conventional weapons at the time, had agreed to apply his incomplete Unified Field theory to the problem of radar invisiblity – and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
In the 1880s, German physicist Heinrich Hertz observed that radio waves passed through some objects while reflecting off of others, and realized the incredible potential for detecting objects at a distance. In the 1920s, the U.S. Naval Research Lab experimented with Hertz’s findings and discovered that an interference pattern was returned when a ship or a plane passed through a radio signal. Two decades later, as international tensions escalated in the run-up to WWII, microwave radar was rapidly developed. By 1939, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US possessed functional radar systems.
The next goal: Achieving radar invisibility. But according to the margin notes in Jessup’s book, the Navy went a step farther, and aimed for optical invisibility as well. Einstein himself worked out a way to envelop a destroyer escort (an anti-submarine ship) in an electromagnetic “fog”, a forcefield so powerful it would bend light rather than reflect it, rendering the entire ship invisible.
Whether he knew it or not, the author of the notes had sent his information to just the right people. Captain Sidney Sherby had developed a deep interest in UFOs after one of the best pilots under his command watched a glowing saucer fly in formation with his plane for 5-10 minutes. Commander George Hoover, chief of Special Projects, was also intrigued by saucer sightings, and both men were frustrated by the military’s reticence on the subject. Sherby referred to Blue Book as a “one-way street” and a “sink” into which UFO reports vanished.
Sherby was impressed enough with the bizarre revelations in the margin notes that in 1957 he sought Jessup’s permission to print several hundred copies of the annotated version of his book. It came to be known as the Varo Edition.
Jessup wasn’t too surprised by the notes. Months before his book arrived at the ONR, he began receiving related information in the form of letters from one Carlos Allende of Gainesville, Texas. Among other things, Allende explained that there were two races of extraterrestrials active on Earth; the benevolent “LMs” and the hostile “SMs”. This is strongly reminiscent of the Deros and Teros central to the Shaver Mystery, which was still playing out in the pages of FATE magazine when the Navy received the book.
All of these letters, just like the annotations in Jessup’s book, were batsh** insane. They were written in stilted, grammar-challenged English, with many capitalizations and underlinings. But you have to give the guy some credit for spreading the insanity around. Nowadays it’s easy to slap your craziness up on the ‘Net for all the world to enjoy; back in the ’50s, he actually had to stamp and address all this lunacy.
The first letter Jessup received from Mr. Allende chided him for encouraging his readers to demand government research into Unified Field Theory. He didn’t realize the dangers, Allende warned darkly.
He claimed that as a merchant seaman, he had witnessed the Philadelphia Experiment from the deck of another ship berthed at the Philadelphia Naval dock (the USS Andrew Furuseth), and described in detail the surreal torments suffered by the crew of the destroyer escort used in the experiment, identified in later letters as the USS Eldridge.
Allende watched the Eldridge become encased in a green, “fiery” fog like St. Elmo’s Fire. Then it vanished from sight and radar for several minutes. It flickered back into view, briefly, before teleporting 300 miles away to the harbour at Norfolk, Virginia. When it reappeared in Philly a second time, the skeleton crew on board had undergone irreparable and horrifying changes. Those who were not fused to the steel parts of the ship were prone to spontaneous combustion, going “blank”, or getting “stuck” (unable to move, as though catatonic). Others made it through the experiment safely but vanished in midair later, in front of mystified family members. Over half the surviving crew members had gone insane and had to be permanently confined to psych wards.
Allende opined that the Navy was probably blameless in the whole catastrophe; they didn’t know such terrible things would happen when they reached into the outer limits of science.
In his second missive to Jessup, penned four months later in response to a letter requesting more information, Allende volunteered to undergo hypnosis or take sodium pentothol to help him recall the names and service numbers of some of his shipmates. No one took him up on this offer.
Though he remained quite skeptical of Allende’s claims, Jessup was fascinated by all these weird stories – particularly the Philadelphia Experiment. He tried his hardest to unearth any evidence that could corroborate Allende’s account. By 1959, his research had reached a critical point. He told friend J. Manson Valentine that he had important news to share with him about it, and even claimed the Navy had approached him about joining similar projects. Then his car was found in a park in Coral Gables, Florida, a hose running from the exhaust pipe to the window. Jessup was inside it.
Naturally, quite a few ufologists promoted the idea the idea that there was something sinister about Jessup’s death. Gray Barker fanned the flames the hardest. A friend of Jessup, Ivan T. Sanderson (whom we met in Time Travel Hoaxes?), indicated that Jessup had feared for his life in the days before his death.
But the clues led unmistakeably to suicide. Jessup had sent letters to several people expressing thoughts of ending his life. One of them was addressed to paranormal radio talk show host Long John Nebel (the Art Bell of his day), in which Jessup outlined an afterlife experiment he wanted Nebel to perform on-air after his death. Nebel was to try to contact Jessup on the other side (Jessup’s widow reportedly threatened to sue Nebel if he actually did this, so the experiment was never carried out). When his stepdaughter May learned of Jessup’s death, she automatically replied, “How did he do it?”. By all accounts, he had been deeply depressed for at least a year prior to his death. Financial woes, marital trouble, and professional problems had overwhelmed him. No one really knows if the disturbing stories related to him by Carlos Allende, about deranged sailors and malevolent alien entities, played any part in his emotional decline – but they certainly couldn’t have helped.
In 1967, eight years after Jessup’s death, Allende began sending letters to another ufologist, Jacques Vallee. They were more or less identical to his previous missives, but now Allende seemed eager to make a buck off his notoriety; he offered to sell Vallee flying saucer blueprints for a mere $750, and his own copy of the Varo Edition for $6000. He referred to it as “the book that killed Einstein (so hard was its psychological blow on the good & gentle Einstein)”. Never mind that the Varo Edition was printed two years after he died.
Allende also made more startling revelations, notably that in May or June of 1947, as a crew member of the SS Maylay (a nonexistent ship) he had survived a collision with a UFO that was 1600 feet in diameter. The enormous explosion caused his hair to fall out in clumps, and in the morning the Maylay was coated with a layer of “angel hair” (tinsel-like stuff frequently reported in early close encounters).
Carlos Allende appeared to be a drifter, posting his letters from places as widely separated as Texas, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Several of them were mailed from New Kensington, Pennsylvania, which just happened to be the home of UFO/sci fi enthusiast Robert Goerman. Beginning in the late ’60s, Goerman attempted to track down Allende and verify details of his stories. By this time the Allende enigma had found its way into dozens of books and magazines devoted to UFOs; he had attained near-legendary status in the UFO community without ever showing his face. In fact, it was probably his elusiveness that led so many people to become obsessed with his stories in the first place.
Then the phantom appeared, briefly. In the summer of ’69, a gaunt and jug-eared mean stepped into the Arizona headquarters of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), holding a copy of Jessup’s The Case for the UFO, and introduced himself as Carlos Allende. He declared that the annotations had been “the wildest pack of lies I ever wrote”.
This confession didn’t dim the allure of the Philly Experiment. Instead, it fired even more interest. In 1979, William Moore and Charles Berlitz released their book The Philadelphia Experiment. We’ll be meeting Moore again in the saga of Paul Bennewitz and the Dulce base; for now, I’ll just mention that he’s not exactly the most trustworthy source for accurate information. In fact, he’s an admitted disinformationist and hoaxer.
The Philadelphia Experiment speculated that the Eldridge had been briefly transferred to another dimension, perhaps even coming into contact with alien beings. And it contained several jaw-droppers, including Moore’s interview with a “Commander Reinhard” who confirmed that the experiment took place more or less as Allende described. More than anything up to that date, Moore’s and Berlitz’s book triggered intense public interest in the Philadelphia Experiment. Allende’s story confirmed that the government does, indeed, hide all the really cool stuff from us. Wanting a piece of the action, Allende recanted his confession and resumed his letter-writing.
Meanwhile, John Goerman was still searching for Allende. He had only managed to locate two of his brothers, Randolph and Donald. Imagine his surprise when an elderly neighbour, Mr. Allen, mentioned in the course of a chat that Randolph, Donald, and “Carlos” (Carl) were his sons. He offered Goerman a boxful of papers, containing letters from Allende and assorted documents. Most of the letters were every bit as disjointed and bizarre as those sent to Jessup and the Navy, but the box held one priceless gem: Carl Allen’s seaman’s papers, bearing the same ID number that he had included in one of his letters to Jessup. At long last, the mystery man was exposed. To be generous, he wasn’t quite what the ufologists expected.
“Carlos Allende” was born Carl Meredith Allen in Springdale, Pennsylvania, in 1925. His brother Donald said he was exceptionally smart, scoring high on an IQ test, but did badly in school. He spent a great deal of time annotating nearly everything he read.
Goerman realized there wasn’tanything mysterious about Carl Allen. He was an eccentric teller of tall tales, plain and simple. He describes their eventual meeting as the most anticlimatic moment of his life.
To Goerman’s surprise, other UFO enthusiasts weren’t receptive to information about the real Allende. He had a hard time finding an outlet for his article on the man. It was ultimately published in the October 1980 issue of FATE, the same magazine that launched the Shaver Mystery.
Allende was furious at being outed as a fibber. He wrote to his father that he wanted to shoot Goerman. Since his ’60 confession to APRO, he had stuck to his story about the Philly Experiment.
In 1983, science writer Linda Strand somehow obtained an interview with Carl Allen in Boulder, Colorado. Puffing a pipe, he informed her that everyone he had ever talked to about the experiment had died under mysterious circumstances. “Within two years,” he said, “you’ll be dead as a doornail.”
Allende himself died in a Colorado nursing home in 1994.
Part II – Along Came Bielek