In 1943, the U.S. Navy developed an experiment that would change the course of the war and benefit their army: through electromagnetism, they would enhance the USS Eldridge, a ship of more than a thousand tons of weight and 90 meters long, making it invincible.
Rumor has it that through applied engineering and some of the most important scientific theoretical developments of the twentieth century, the USS Eldridge would make itself invisible for both radars and human sight. In other words, the navy tried to disappear a ship with all its crew, but the experiment went out of control resulting in an unprecedented event.
After the first tryout in July, 1943, the USS Eldridge allegedly disappeared for some minutes, dazzling the scientists and coordinators of the experiment. Four months later, and after a data adjustment, in a second, definitive test the ship had effectively disappeared. Not only that: those who believe in the authenticity of this story assure that the ship also teleported to Norfolk, where it was seen some minutes before the experiment even started, becoming the first "time travel" in history.
Some sources that defend this theory state that the crew members suffered the havoc of teleportation: some presented epileptic seizures, schizophrenic episodes, while others fused with the ship, and even some disappeared –and are thought to be in another multiverse or dimension. The luckiest ones only presented minor wounds and confusion that healed with the passing of time. It's said that all information regarding the experiment became top secret under death penalty.
The only proved fact of the Philadelphia Project is the sighting of the USS Eldridge in Philadelphia and later on in Norfolk. Based on this, the urban legend became popular, especially among conspiracy theorists. Many citizens began to wonder how the ship was seen hundreds of miles away from its starting point in just a small amount of time. Did scientists and sailors accomplish their mission? Was this the beginning of a new technological revolution?
After many years of research, the story was debunked. However, in 1956, Morris Jessup, a passionate believer of pseudo-sciences and conspiracy theories, received a signed letter from Carl Allen, a man who allegedly witnessed the Philadelphia experiment while he was working on the port where it happened. Jessup's enthusiasm made him obsessed with this legend, to the point that he created a really convincing story based on the sighting of the ship in both ports.
With the passing of time, his story became extremely popular, and many believers tried to pad it out with scientific theories. Despite these efforts, there has never been actual evidence of the disappearing ship. The fatal blow to this conspiracy theory was given by a USS Eldridge ex-marine who narrated what really happened.
It is true that the ship sailed from Philadelphia and disembarked in Norfolk. Nonetheless, the ship didn't take the usual route of the Atlantic. That day, the USS Eldridge took an alternative route through the Chesapeake-Delaware canal, a faster path owned by the US army. Jessup and Allen's made-up story proves how easy it is to distort events through false assumptions, the power of pseudo-sciences, ignorance, and paranoia.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards