Almost everyone has heard of the Philadelphia Experiment, although the number of people who actually have any idea as to what it was all about are nowhere near as numerous. The Experiment seems to fall into the same realm as the Kennedy Assassination; clouded by rumor and supposition, the exact truth of either incident will probably never be known. Both events are also plagued by a mass of incorrect or inaccurate information. Conspiracy buffs are more than happy to create wild, intricate plots involving virtually anyone and everyone on the planet (and in the case of the Philadelphia Experiment, off the planet).
On August 12, 1943 (or October 28, 1943 - accounts differ) the US Navy conducted a test of some sort on the USS Eldridge (DE [Destroyer Escort] 173) at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The exact nature of this test is open to speculation. Possible tests include experiments in magnetic invisibility, radar invisibility, optical invisibility or degaussing (rendering the ship immune to magnetic mines). The test (or tests) were conducted, only to produce undesirable results. Afterwards, the project (supposedly called 'Project Rainbow') was canceled.
U.S.S. Eldridge at sea in 1944
As one can easily see, the actual facts are scanty. The Navy denies that any sort of experiment ever took place, and the ship's logs show that the USS Eldridge was nowhere near Philadelphia at the time the test was supposed to take place. Of course, logs can be faked, and the government and military has lied before about certain events in the interests of secrecy and national security (witness the Manhattan Project). On the other hand, research has shown no evidence of a "Project Rainbow", although there was a code name "Rainbow"; it was used to designate the Allied plans to combat the Axis in World War II and had nothing to do with any form of experimental technology. As a final note, it should be pointed out that even some basic research (the World Wide Web is loaded with relevant sites) will show that the entire 'experiment' may in fact be a massive hoax, a modern urban legend that has grown to fantastic proportions over time. Such sensationalistic writing has been successful in creating such similar epic myths before, with the "Bermuda Triangle" a prime example.
According to certain accounts, the actual results of the experiment involve occurrences far stranger than anyone could possibly imagine. The tests being conducted were an attempt to render a ship invisible to enemy radar. This was to be accomplished by wrapping an electromagnetic 'bottle' around the ship in question, absorbing or deflecting radar waves. The bottle was created by two (or four - accounts differ) massive Tesla coils which acted as electromagnetic generators; one was mounted forward and one was mounted aft. Other accounts state that a series of magnetic generators, called degaussers, were used. When activated, the electromagnetic field would extend out from the ship and divert radar waves around the ship, making the Eldridge invisible to radar receivers.
U.S.S. Eldridge at sea April 25th, 1944
When the actual test was put into motion, a number of unexpected and bizarre side effects occurred. As the electromagnetic field increased in strength, it began to extend as far as 100 yards out from the ship in all directions, forming a large sphere. Within this field, the ship became fuzzy and indistinct, and a greenish haze formed around the vessel, obscuring it from view. Eventually, the only visible object was the outline of the hull of the Eldridge where it entered the water. Then, to the amazement of onlookers, the entire ship vanished from view.
It was at this point (the vanishing of the Eldridge) that the true power of the electromagnetic field that had been created was revealed. The Eldridge had not only vanished from the view of observers in Philadelphia, it had vanished from Philadelphia all together! The ship had been instantly transported several hundred miles - from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia. After a few minutes, the ship once again vanished, to return to Philadelphia.
To the Navy, the test had succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Not only had they rendered a ship invisible to radar, they had made it optically invisible as well, not to mention causing the vessel to teleport hundreds of miles in a matter of minutes. For the crew, however, the trip had been a nightmare.
The test had managed to render the entire ship 'out of phase' with the surrounding universe, which is why it was able to travel from Philadelphia to Norfolk instantly. This phasing effect had drastic effects on the crew members. During the experiment, crew members found they could walk through solid objects, and when the field was shut off, men were found embedded in the bulkheads, decks and railings of the ship. The results were gruesome enough that some men went mad. Afterwards, several crew members simply vanished. A few disappeared into thin air; one, eating dinner with his family, rose, walked through a wall and was never seen again. Some men entered into what was called the 'Freeze'. This is where a man faded from view; unable to move, speak or otherwise affect his surroundings. Initially, the Freeze effect lasted only a few minutes to a few hours. Interestingly enough, invisible crewmen were still visible to other sailors who had survived the original experiment. After a while, the Freeze effect lasted for days or months, and became known as the 'Deep Freeze' (other terms include 'Caught in the Flow', 'Caught in the Push', 'Get Stuck', 'Go Blank', 'Hell Incorporated' or 'Stuck in Molasses'). The Deep Freeze could drive a man insane in very short order, and was only able to be counteracted if other crewmen performed a 'Laying on of Hands' technique to give the victim strength and allow him to recover from his affliction. Unfortunately, two men burst into flames while Laying on of Hands, burning for 18 days despite all attempts to quench the fire.
Seeing the horrible after effects of the experiment, the Navy discontinued all further research into radar and optical invisibility. The surviving crewmen were discharged as mentally unfit for duty and many were placed in insane asylums. However, science was not quite done conducting research on electromagnetic fields or radar and its affects on the human mind. Project Rainbow may have been disbanded, but the Phoenix Project was just getting started.