Alias Carlos Allende:
The Mystery Man Behind the Philadelphia Experiment
by Robert A. Goerman
Reprinted with permission from FATE
Editor's note: The following article originally appeared in the October 1980 issue of FATE Magazine. Being nearly twenty years old, some of the references herein are naturally rather dated, but Goerman's investigations and insights remain valuable today -- especially in light of continued misconceptions about the Philadelphia Experiment myth that the years have yet to diminish.
A quarter of a century later, the mystery of Carlos Allende, the Varo Edition and the ship that vanished is going stronger than ever. Last year a popular book, The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility by William L. Moore and Charles Berlitz, gave the story a whole new lease on life. Richard Dreyfuss, who starred in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, plans to turn the book into a major movie. [The movie was later produced and appeared in 1984. -- ed.] The background of the affair is undoubtedly familiar to many FATE readers. For the benefit of those to whom it is not, here is a brief history:
In 1955 a Washington, D.C., auto parts salesman named Morris K. Jessup, who once did graduate work in astronomy at the University of Michigan, wrote a book entitled The Case for the UFO and embarked on a tour to promote it. Fascinated by the motive abilities of flying saucers, Jessup urged his lecture audiences to encourage their legislators to fund programs for research into antigravity and Einstein's Unified Field Theory (UFT). The object: "to establish effective and economical space travel."
The experiment succeeded but it left side effects so horrendous that the navy shut down the project immediately. Because of the intense force field used in the experiment, many of the crew members continued to lapse into invisibility or "limbo." Most of them went mad.
As "proof" of these fantastic claims, Allende referred vaguely to articles in unnamed regional papers and listed a few names of persons with whom he supposedly witnessed this grand experiment while aboard the Matson Lines Liberty ship, the S.S. Andrew Furuseth.
Jessup was troubled. Maybe Allende was a crackpot. Then again, maybe he wasn't. In a postcard Jessup asked Allende what evidence he had to support this wild tale.
On May 25 Jessup finally received his answer, which didn't amount to much. Allende, his name now anglicized to Carl M. Allen, could recall no exact dates, either for the experiment or for news accounts, nor could he remember the names of crew members or anything else for that matter. Perhaps, he suggested, narcohypnosis might stir the memory.
Unimpressed, Jessup dropped the matter.
So the real "mystery" did not begin until the next year. In the spring of 1957 Jessup was invited to visit the Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C., where an officer handed the surprised author a paperback copy of Case for the UFO. Explaining that someone had mailed the volume anonymously to ONR, the officer directed Jessup to study the contents.
When he did so, Jessup discovered that a series of annotations accompanying the text indicated that three different persons, "Mr. A.," "Mr. B." and "Jemi," had passed the book back and forth among themselves. The writing provided "answers" to the questions Jessup had asked and the writers made little effort to conceal their contempt for mere human beings.
Jessup immediately recognized the handwriting, with its bizarre spelling, capitalization and punctuation, as that of his mysterious correspondent Carl(os) Allen(de). He concluded that Mr. A. was Allende.
The ONR requested the two Allen(de) letters from Jessup. Later a number of copies of these, combined with the "annotated" Case for the UFO, were reproduced for study by the Varo Corporation, a Garland, Texas, firm involved in military research contracts.
Why did the navy want the Allen(de) letters or the annotated book? Was it because the three writers continually referred to that secret 1943 naval experiment? Did the navy expect to unlock the secrets of the universe?
One answer is that the navy was never officially interested but that "members of ONR, acting as interested private citizens, on their own time and using their own funds" reproduced the Varo Edition and even trekked to Pennsylvania to locate that RD #1, Box 223, address. According to accounts published in popular books, all they discovered there was a vacant farmhouse.
Another answer is that the military at that time was conducting antigravity research and wanted to consider every possibility, however exotic its source.
In any case, the mystery ended on a tragic note. On April 20, 1959, Jessup committed suicide.
New Kensington, Pennsylvania, site of
that "vacant" farmhouse, is my hometown, so I had an edge on other investigators when I decided late in 1968 to look into the matter. On January 7, 1969, I secured Allen(de)'s latest address, in New Mexico, from Fred C. who had known the family for years. But I never got around to doing anything about it because on January 9 the Condon Report, summarizing the U.S. government sponsored University of Colorado UFO project's conclusions, was released amid a flood of publicity. I considered that a far more important matter than Carlos Allende, in whom I quickly lost interest.
Then late that summer the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization reported that Allen(de) had dropped into its Tucson, Arizona, office and confessed the whole thing was a hoax. I naively thought that ended the affair.
Ten summers later, on July 8, 1979, I received a harried phone call from John O'Donnell, a friend of mine associated with New Kensington's Valley News Dispatch. According to John, Allen(de) had recanted his confession. John's editor wanted him to cover the New Kensington connection with the affair, now being publicized in Moore and Berlitz's just-released Philadelphia Experiment. Asking if I had any inside information, John said his deadline was "Monday, tomorrow." Surprised that the case was still open, I told him what limited information I had.
Two hours later, my interest suddenly renewed, I learned the identities and whereabouts of all three of Allen(de)'s brothers in a conversation with Fred C., who knew them.
Two days later, while we visited relatives, my five-year-old daughter Kathy disappeared -- but not mysteriously. I knew exactly where to find her: down the street "visiting" Harold and his wife, talking up a hurricane and petting the white Persian cats whenever one stood still long enough. I've known Harold, a kindly gentleman who is now in his 70s, for years.
"She's okay," he chuckled when I knocked at his door. "Besides, we always like a little company."
In the conversation that followed, I happened to mention my research into the Philadelphia Experiment. "I've made progress," I announced triumphantly. "I've contacted two brothers of this guy Allende and..."
"Donald and Randolph," Harold Allen said quietly. "They're my boys. I'm Carl's father."
I was flabbergasted. The possibility had never occurred to me. Before I could catch my breath, Harold left the room and returned presently with an armload of manila envelopes, books, papers and other documents.
"Here," he said. "Carl sends us this stuff every so often. Anything here at all you can use?"
I clumsily removed the top manila envelope and liberated its contents: an 8 1/2 x 11 spiral-bound book with pale blue covers. It was the famous Varo Edition. This one was autographed, "LOVE, YOUR SON, CARL M. ALLEN (Carlos Allende)." Inside it was a letter whose contents would prove a real bombshell.
Shrugging, Mrs. Allen said. "Most of the relatives get this -- " she waved her hands as if in dismissal -- "stuff."
I tried to remain dignified as I studied the "stuff." It consisted of magazine and newspaper articles and Berlitz's The Bermuda Triangle, all annotated in Allen(de)'s distinctive style. The man seemed to "annotate" everything that way, even letters and birthday cards to family members.
"A SAILORS RECORDS -- ORIGINAL & IMPORTANT PAPERS & DOCUMENTS," Allen(de)'s handwriting announced on the outside of another manila folder, in which I found his birth certificate and military records. Still I had some doubts. I somehow couldn't bring myself to believe this was all that it appeared to be: the inside story of the man who wrote Morris Jessup and went on to become a flying saucer legend.
But then I found the undeniable proof. It was on his official "Certificate of Seaman's Service" signed by William B. Durham, Commander, USCG (United States Coast Guard), Chief, Merchant Vessel Personnel, Records and Welfare Division. There it was, in official black and white: Z-416175 -- the numbers Allen(de) had listed in a postscript to his January 1956 letter. They, of course, represented his service number.
"Take what you need home with you, Bob," Harold said, "and let's see more of you. But don't rush getting it back. We trust you."
He smiled. So did I -- all the way home.
Nine months later, as I write these words, I am reflecting on the many interactions I have had since then with the Allen family. Stepmother, father, brothers and aunt all have been honest and open with me. They have provided documents, correspondence, memories and every possible assistance. But they have asked me to protect their privacy, which is why, when I use their names at all, I do not use their real ones.
"We're trusting you, Bob," Harold said. "Don't make us the target of kooks -- or reporters either. I'll help all I can, but hide my real first name and location. All the publicity could ruin my business."
The conclusion of the "mystery" is not particularly pleasant. I get no great satisfaction out of revealing that the truth is -- in a word -- pathetic.
"Were Carlos Allende and his correspondents
representatives of an extraterrestrial power which took root on Earth centuries ago and has long since established an advanced underground subculture?" Brad Steiger and Joan Whitenour ask in their New UFO Breakthrough: The Allende Letters (Award Books, 1968). They go on to state, "We do know that an investigator checked out Allende's Pennsylvania address and found only a vacant farmhouse."
But William L. Moore, who actually found the elusive Carlos Allende, says in his Philadelphia Experiment, "Although maintaining contact with the man who calls himself Carlos Allende has produced voluminous correspondence, several lengthy telephone conversations and a couple of face-to-face meetings, it is still virtually impossible to say very much about him with any degree of certainty." Moore devotes an entire chapter and much of the rest of his book to the question, "Just who is Allende really?"
Spaceman? Gypsy? Product of "spontaneous generation?"
Nope. But don't look in any of the sensational books for the answer. You'll never find it there because Carlos loves to play games with those foolish enough to play audience.
The prosaic truth, as his family revealed it to me, is as follows:
He was born Carl Meredith Allen at 6:30 a.m. on May 31, 1925, in a house on the corner of Porter and Rosslyn in Springdale, Pennsylvania, the eldest of five children (Frank, Sarah, Donald, Randolph) of an English father and a mother who is part French. Neither parent has any Gypsy blood, despite the eldest son's claims.
The family agrees that Carl was brilliant in school.
"He has a fantastic mind," Randolph relates. "But so far as I know, he's never really used it, never worked anywhere long enough to collect severance pay. It's a shame, really. He's a drifter. He reads continually but the information gets all twisted somehow.
"Take school, for instance. He did all he could to get out of it, out of the work, the routine. Slept most of the time when he had to show up. But if the teacher had a difficult algebra or calculus problem on the blackboard that needed solving, he'd wake Carl up and Carl would stare at it for a minute, recite the correct answer and go back to sleep. My brother has mastered several languages fluently."
Carl is described as a "master leg-puller." Once he purportedly feigned a heart attack while working near DuBois, Pennsylvania, in 1956. He feigned the symptoms so well that the doctors had to run three EKG's just to be sure he wasn't having a heart attack. Later Randolph discovered medical texts whose section on coronaries had been "annotated." Another time Carl, masquerading as an antiques expert, brought a lady antique-dealer to tears. She was terribly upset by his behavior.
"I have children who have never met their 'Uncle Carl,'" Randolph says. "They never will either, if I have anything to say about it. He scares my wife."
Carl Meredith Allen is an outcast by his own choice. He has nothing to show for himself but his marvelous tale of a disappearing ship and that "legendary book" he claims he co-authored.
Jessup always suspected that Allen(de) was one of the "mysterious beings" who annotated his Case for the UFO, who answered all of his questions about the enigmas of this universe and beyond, who described firsthand knowledge of force fields, telepathy and intergalactic travel in addition to the origin of UFOs and a hush-hush 1943 naval experiment.
The annotators, Mr. A., Mr. B. and Jemi, who wrote in three colors of ink, explain, in the summary of an ONR officer, "the origin of odd storms and clouds, objects falling from the sky, strange marks and footprints, and other things we have not solved." The officer concluded his introduction to the Varo Edition by asking, "How much truth is there in this? That cannot be answered."
Yes, it can.
Consider the letter I discovered tucked inside the copy of the Varo Edition that Carl sent home to his father. Dated March 30, 1978, it went:
"Dear Dad & Mom:
"Enclosed is a book I co-authored with professor Morris K. Jessup of the University of Michigan nigh 24 years ago. DO NOT EVER PART WITH THIS BOOK because its original price was $25.00.... and so this book I helped to write (alone by myself with no 'Mr. A. or Mr. B.')...."
Alone? If there is no Mr. A. or Mr. B., what about Jemi? My wife Trish solved that mystery with enviable ease.
Jemi is the astrological sign Gemini, the Twins, which happens also to be Carl Meredith Allen's astrological sign. In certain passages of those annotations two of the annotators refer to themselves as "twins."
So there it is -- no advanced aliens living among us in enforced secrecy, no Gypsies with access to "secret records" or "racial memory" unavailable to most human beings. None of the wild theories had the slightest basis in reality. The Varo Edition is the key to nothing. An Allen, not an alien, concocted it all.
In short, Mr. B. (Carl Allen) could have been referring to himself when he said of Jessup, so HE HAS NO KNOWLEDGE, HE COULD NOT HAVE. ONLY GUESSING.
Much has been made of that "vacant farmhouse" through the years. In reality that farmhouse, located at what used to be RD #1, Box 223, New Kensington, was never vacant either 10 years before or since ONR and all the others allegedly investigated and found nothing. In fact, Carl's natural mother and stepfather and brothers resided there all that time. People live there now although they can shed no light on the "mystery." But the Allens still own the property and consented to my request to photograph the "infamous" structure.
Where, then, did ONR visit? What farmhouse was vacant in the area? Donald, the next-to-youngest brother, has no answers.
"That's really strange!" he remarks. "The nearest vacant house of any sort was better than five miles distant. And even at that, neighbors adjacent to the vacant structure knew our family and would have graciously added accurate directions."
This brings us to the Philadelphia Experiment,
that October 1943 navy test that rendered DE-173 (as Allen identifies it to Moore) invisible, teleported it hundreds of miles in the twinkling of an eye and caused crew members to dematerialize into limbo or go mad.
Think about this for a moment. Here we have an extraordinary experiment to determine the feasibility of creating an invisible, invincible naval fleet; the experiment, conducted under security-conscious wartime conditions, is so sensitive that it is above top secret.
If we are to believe Allen, our naval hierarchy abandoned sanity and historical precedent by conducting an experiment of enormous importance in broad daylight using a badly needed destroyer escort vessel which at that moment was supposed to be guarding a convoy of merchant supply ships from Axis torpedoes; not only that, but naval authorities conducted this test so dangerously close to the S.S. Andrew Furuseth that Allen claims that he was able to insert his arm "INTO THAT TERRIFIC FLOW." (The flow is a field of force or energy which Allen claimed in one letter to Jessup extended only "one hundred yards... out from each beam of the ship.")
Did Carl Allen really see anything at all? I told Randolph that I'm eager to interview Carl on that point.
"You'll never nail Carl on this," Randolph said. "Between changing the subject and changing his story whenever anyone gets close, well, I wish you luck."
Randolph Allen is correct. In his letters to Jessup, Carl does not mention the name or number of his experimental ship. In Moore and Berlitz's book he states, "It was the DE173." In his August 2, 1979, letter to me Carl Allen writes, in postscript, "There were two & presently are TWO DE173's. TWO ships ALSO capable of becoming invisible." And finally, in the annotated version of the Moore-Berlitz book that Carl sent home to his parents on Christmas 1979, he wrote:
"So as TWO ships, DE173 AND DE-168 (or some such I.D. Number) were BOTH patrolling our sector of the convoy, I HAD A CHOICE... LOGIC INFORMED me that it was, LOGICALLY, the DE-173. I WAS WRONG & it is a good thing I was wrong BECAUSE THE REAL, ACTUAL experimental ship's LOG-BOOK, chock-full of RECORDS, REMAINS PROBABLY UNDESTROYED AND AVAILABLE...."
It is clear that the legend of Carl Allen/Carlos Allende is mostly fiction. If someone were to write a book telling the real story, its title might be The Philadelphia Hoax: Project Gullibility.
© Copyright 1998 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. Reprinted with permission.
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