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Montauk Project and the Philadelphia Experiment

Montauk Project and the Philadelphia Experiment

A review of the book:

The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time, by Preston B. Nichols and Peter Moon. Sky Books, New York, 1992, 159 pp.

Anyone who has seen the film Philadelphia Experiment (released around 1983 by Thorn/EMI) will find the book Montauk Project singularly puzzling. Basically, the book’s strange plot is so strangely consonant with that of the film, that you are almost led to believe the authors must have written the screenplay. Or that they saw it and were somehow convinced to retell the same story as nonfiction

The film is based on the (as of yet unsubstantiated) legend that, some time in 1943, the U.S. Navy tried unsuccessfully to render a military ship, the U.S.S. Eldridge, invisible. Some say the experiment was merely to degauss it and make it impervious to magnetic mines; others say it was an early prototype of Stealth technology, designed to make the ship radar– invisible. In any case, most commentators on the story (such as Berlitz and Moore – who have come to retract most of what they wrote in their book on the subject) seem to think that the result of this failed experiment was that the ship disappeared. What happened after it disappeared has been the matter of some debate…

According to the supposed Mr. “Carlos Allende,” the ship teleported to Norfolk, vanished again, and then when it reappeared, many of the sailors on board were found ‘dematerialized’ into the bulkhead, or otherwise traumatized physiologically and mentally from their short trip into another dimension. Some commentators claim this experiment put them in contact with alien entities. The movie Philadelphia Experiment suggested a novel alternative: the U.S.S. Eldridge’s personnel were not teleported through space, but rather moved through time.

In the film, the viewer discovers that after the experiment’s failure in 1943, its designer, a Prof. “Rinehart,” attempts another version of it yet again in 1983 in order to create some sort of “warp shield” against nuclear attack for a test city. This basically punches a “hole” between 1943 and 1983 through which one of the sailors on the Eldridge “falls” into our time… the sailor David Herdeg falls in love with a woman from our time (of course) but then discovers he must shut down the generators on the ship, trapped in some vortex between the two epochs, or the vortex will grow wider and destroy the future. He succeeds, the Eldridge returns to 1943, and he chooses to stay in 1983.

(Though this is an aside, in the sequel to the film released in 1990, Herdeg finds they are attempting to create the Philadelphia Experiment yet again. This results in a nuclear-armed Stealth bomber being teleported back to 1943 and history altering so that we find the Nazis winning WW II and taking over the U.S. – with only Herdeg knowing this isn’t how the future should be. He tries unsuccessfully to convince people in 1990 that Germany really lost the war, but fails – eventually he sets things aright by going back in time to 1943 and blowing up the Nazis’ newly acquired secret weapon. I mention this only because of its obvious, perhaps even eerie, parallels to Philip K. Dick’s story The Man in the High Castle… where the hero realizes through the aid of the I Ching that his apparent reality [alternate timeline] of Nazi domination is a false one.)

Ok. Where am I going with all this? For some reason, in 1983, the Philadelphia Experiment became “hot news” again. Rumors about it circulated throughout the 70s – but it did not seem to be part of the Fortean rumor mill until that time. No one seems to have known about it until “Carlos Allende” started writing to UFOlogist Morris K. Jessup in the early 60s… the legend got its big exposure through writers Charles Berlitz (author of the Bermuda Triangle and Atlantis pop-lit books) and William Moore (yes, that Bill Moore, of MJ-12/Roswell/Aviary fame) around 1980. Suddenly, after the appearance of Berlitz and Moore’s book Philadelphia Experiment, a curious character made the scene by the name of “Al Bielek.” Mr. Bielek now tours the country with Brad Steiger on the lecture circuit, claiming that in his body he harbors the soul (“walk-in”) of one of the sailors on the Eldridge. Around the same time as this, came the release of the Montauk Project.

The author, Preston Nichols, claims that his associate with whom he wrote the book, Peter Moon, was one of the “sensitives” employed by the project – but that through various matters of time-shifting and mind-twisting chicanery, much of his memory about the project was erased. Well, what was the Montauk Project, you must surely be asking by now?! According to the book, scientists using a deserted military base on Montauk Point, Long Island, attempted in 1983 (please note) to reduplicate the technology from the Philadelphia Experiment. This resulted in the successful movement of people through time, but also opened a “corridor” between 1943 and 1983… according to Nichols, these experiments may even be ongoing today.

There have been two subsequent sequels to this book, containing even more incredible allegations and tales. The sequels have suggested that the Project had something to do with the Magickal “Babalon” workings of Crowleyan disciples L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons, and Marjorie Cameron, involving the manipulation of some secret bloodline… that the circuitry used in the technology came from alien sources… and that it all may be connected to the fact that curious ancient Indian “pyramids” are supposedly to be found in the vicinity of Montauk Point. Well, before you choke on all this high weirdness, let me return to the first book, which will assuredly do its best to blow your mind on its own.

The Montauk Project weaves together an incredibly diverse and bizarre skein of threads. Wilhelm Reich is said to have invented a device called the radiosonde said to be used for manipulation of the weather. The Montauk “Chair” is claimed to have been used not only for transporting people through time (including, it is said, to 6037 AD) but even manipulating and altering history itself. (If so, you might ask, how would we know that it had been altered? Consider time travel movies you’ve seen and contemplate that paradox for a moment.) Some people are said to have been transported to a secret city beneath the sands of Mars. “Dr. Rinehart,” the eminence grise of the project, (Moon and Nichols say this is his name, in agreement with Berlitz and Moore; in the PE film he is called “Longstreet”) is revealed to be John Von Neumann, said to still be alive today, preserved presumably through time-bending technology. And sure enough, some of Moon and Nichols’ informants are people who claim to have had their spirit, or even their entire body, transported forward in time from the Eldridge in 1943…

There are hints of kidnapped children manipulated through sick psychosexual experiments, of strange thoughtform (tulpa ) creatures chewing up the Montauk base, and of Tesla/psychotronic warfare spinoffs from the project being used during the Persian Gulf War. Nichols hint that the secret technology used in the project was of Sirian origin (meaning, from Sirius, not Syria…) It’s all a heady and wild brew, and hard to swallow in one sitting. For me, the book is almost so completely a pseudo-copy of the 1983 film, that I am tempted to hypothesize that the whole wild story is simply something sparked out of someones’ imagination after they went to see it in a theatre. That Nichols and Moon are just out to take people for a wild goose chase into never-never land after having heard a compelling yarn about a disappearing ship, but only after first raking in their money. No concrete evidence is given in the book that there was a Philadelphia Experiment or that a followup was conducted on the Montauk Base.

But, like any good Fortean, I cannot somehow allay all the little tiny damnable doubts that keep poking their tiny heads out of my comfortable conclusion. Is this all elaborate disinformation working to cover up something perhaps no less sensational that really was going on at Montauk? According to the photographs (which, admittedly, there’s no reason to trust beyond the text), there clearly does appear to be something strange going on on the apparently deserted base. There are signs of activity… and high-tech chicanery. All I can say for sure right now is that I have no idea whether Moon and Nichols are leading me and other researchers around by the nose, if someone is yanking their chain, or if they are really on to something. All I can suggest to you, would-be reader, is to check out the Montauk Project, but bring a healthy sense of skepticism with you. Did the Navy make a ship disappear in 1943? Who knows? Something weird does appear to be going on at Montauk, and for right now Nichols and Moon are our only guides. If other Forteans might consider a trip to the facilities… maybe the matter could be settled.

Steve Mizrach