Strife and war have always inspired mankind to come up with radical ideas and inventions. Camouflage, the ability to merge with one's surroundings for defense or ambush, has always Sbeen priority research objective for the army. But one such project, undertaken by the US Navy in October 1943, aimed for something greater than that – INVISIBILITY, the ultimate form of camouflage.
The objective was to cloak a warship in ultra high strength alternating magnetic fields to bend light around it. Effectively, the light falling on the back of the warship was to be projected to the front thereby rendering it invisible. Since this bending effect would apply to all forms of electromagnetic radiation, the ship would gain both optical and radar invisibility.
This idea was the brainchild of none other than Albert Einstein, who believed it to be a natural consequence of the Unified Field Theory (UFT) that he was working on.
The UFT aims to unify electromagnetism with gravity. According to it, electromagnetism can bend light in the same way as gravity. And since electromagnetic force is 1036 times stronger than gravity, one should be able to achieve the bending without having to create something as humongous as a blackhole. However, the theory was never completely verified. Yet, it is believed that bigwigs like Paul Neumann, Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla were a part of this project, sometimes also referred to as the Project Rainbow.
The project began on October 28, 1943 at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Pennsylvania. A dummy crew was put on board an old US Navy destroyer, USS Eldridge, with a series of instructions to carry out. The scientists and the top brass observed the entire experiment from an onshore observation deck. Both the ship hulls were coiled to the maximum limit with wires that were to carry a very large alternating current, to cloak the ship with a high frequency oscillating magnetic field. The generators on board were then fired to maximum power. As the alternating magnetic field strengthened, the observers saw the ship getting veiled by a translucent greenish haze and flicker for some time…… and in a moment, the ship disappeared, leaving not a trace behind it. USS Eldridge had achieved the supreme form of camouflage. Unfortunately, it lasted for only about 10 seconds. The ship reappeared. And now it resembled something from a science fiction movie gone terribly wrong.
Spectators of this debacle on SS Andrew Furuseth (a military warship witness to the experiment), claim that they saw the Eldridge crew “mingled” with the ship structure. Unconfirmed reports claim that the crew members were found half buried on deck, or fused to the bulwark or impaled by the siderails. The reason being, that when exposed to such high energy density, the ship and its crew became one single mass. Their molecules got scrambled with each other, resulting in the terrible scene on deck.
As might be expected, according to official reports, no such experiment was ever conducted and the the Eldridge crew members went missing or died in action against the enemy during the war. Nonetheless, the Philadelphia experiment captured the imagination of the general public and many references to it are found in popular culture.
The experiment has been the subject of several television shows dealing with the paranormal and with conspiracy theories, including “The Unexplained”, “History's Mysteries”, “Vanishings!” and “Unsolved Mysteries”. The Philadelphia experiment was also the subject of a 1984 Sci-Fi movie of the same name. Numerous versions of it have since then, featured in films, books, (“The Macros”, “Green Fire”) and video games (“Doctor Who”, “Assassin's Creed”), fanning even more speculations and rumours. However, nobody knows the complete truth and the actual facts about the experiment might remain shrouded in mystery forever.