Also known as “Project Rainbow,” the Philadelphia Experiment was allegedly conducted by the U.S. Navy in 1943, as part of the military’s initiative to render one of their ships invisible. The incident is said to have occurred at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Naval Shipyard on the USS Eldridge in front of witnesses who claim that the ship was invisible for a brief period. The U.S. Navy, however, denies that the experiment occurred.
There are various contradictory reports surrounding the Philadelphia Experiment which lend skepticism to the story and cause many to believe the accounts are a hoax. The most widely-told version of events is that test phases of the experiment first occurred during the summer of 1943 when the USS Eldridge first achieved partial invisibility. On 28 October 1943, the ship not only achieved complete invisibility, according to reports, but also teleported to Norfolk, Virginia’s Naval Base before reappearing at its original location in Philadelphia.
The crew of the USS Eldridge are said to have suffered severe psychological and physical problems as a result of the experiment, while others reportedly vanished altogether. One of the conspiracy theories regarding what happened to the crew is that they were brainwashed by military officials in order to forget the traumas of the incident.
Skeptics of the Philadelphia Experiment point out the lack of credibility in some of the alleged witnesses themselves. One eye-witness account given by a purported witness and USS Eldridge crew member, Alfred Bielek, was eventually debunked by a team of investigators who were able to confirm that Bielek was not aboard or near the ship at the time of the experiment.
As well, inconsistencies in the time line of events have also caused skepticism about The Philadelphia Experiment. In 1999, a Philadelphia newspaper reported that some veterans of the USS Eldridge claim the ship never even docked in Philadelphia. World War II documents seem to testify to this as well; they place the ship in the Bahamas at the time of the October incident.
The Philadelphia Experiment has captured the attention of both the literary world and Hollywood. It has inspired the 1978 novel,Thin Air, as well as the most recognized source of information on the incident, The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility in 1979. In 1984, the story made it to the big screen in The Philadelphia Experiment, and returned in 1993 with Philadelphia Experiment II. The Philadelphia Experiment has also been the subject of small screen shows that tackle conspiracy theories such as Unsolved Mysteries and The X-Files.