Fantastic Military Myths: The Philadelphia Experiment – The Invisible Navy Destroyer

The Philadelphia Experiment

Urban legends are stories that have lived on through generations but have no factual evidence. One of these pervasive myths is the fantastical story of the USS Eldridge.

The Philadelphia Experiment

There are two instances of this legend. One story talks about the USS Eldridge completely disappearing, leaving nothing but a green mist. Another tale said the ship was in Pennslyvania one minute and in Virginia the next.

It was said that both times this happened, the crew aboard the USS Eldridge were nauseous, some were a part of the ship, lost their minds, or were just gone. Of course, none of it really happened.

But the legend lives on. “The Philidelphia Experiment” myth was chronicled in many books and adapted for a film in 1984. The movie recounted a tale of two sailors who went from 1943 to 1984. They were a part of a disappearing-destroyer experiment.

Addressing The Legend

The legend is so believable that the Navy’s Office of Naval Research had to address the events.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command site, “Allegedly, in the fall of 1943, a U.S. Navy destroyer was made invisible and teleported from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Norfolk, Virginia, in an incident known as the Philadelphia Experiment.”

They go on to say that the “Records in the Archives Branch of the Naval History and Heritage Command have been repeatedly searched, but no documents have been located which confirm the event, or any interest by the Navy in attempting such an achievement.”

First-Hand Account or Tall Tale?

One would think that the story would have been put to rest at this point, but one man Carl M. Allen claimed he knew that the experiments happened.

Allen said he was on the SS Andrew Furuseth, a civilian merchant ship when he saw the Eldridge appear in Norfolk. He also said the first time was in July 1943, and the second occurrence was in October.

However, the Navy maintains that the ship was not commissioned until August 1943. Also, the Furuseth was never in Norfolk when the Eldridge was, according to logs. Allen’s own captain said that he and the other crew members never saw anything out of the ordinary.

Despite Allen’s claims, the Office of Naval Research “has never conducted any investigations on invisibility, either in 1943 or at any other time.”

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