At the height of World War II, brothers Al Bielek and Duncan Cameron were drafted into a very important government mission. Sat aboard the USS Eldridge while docked at Philadelphia, the two had to monitor the test of a new scientific invention. But due to a top secret mission they weren’t even aware of, the pair actually ended up on a journey beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.
Now, one of the most prevailing ideas in speculative fiction is that of time travel. In 1895, H.G. Wells released The Time Machine, which detailed a Victorian inventor’s quest into the 802nd century. Since then, humanity has been obsessed with whether the idea of traversing time, and witnessing what our future holds, is possible.
While the majority of people see time travel as science fiction, some have claimed that it could become a reality. For instance, the late physicist Stephen Hawking speculated that it could be possible someday for man to travel through time. However, there are those who claim that these journeys have actually already happened.
By most accounts, Al Bielek was an unusual child. Apparently born in 1927, the boy could recite amazing knowledge in school which led to the nickname “walking encyclopedia.” Moreover, he reportedly had genius levels of recollection. For instance, he claimed to remember and understand a conversation overheard at the age of nine months.
And yet the most remarkable aspect of Bielek didn’t come forward until after his 60th birthday. Yes, in 1988 he watched a film named the The Philadelphia Experiment. Originally released in 1984, the Stewart Raffill directed sci-fi began on the decks of the USS Eldridge in the Second World War.
Wishing to hide their ships, U.S. Navy officials concoct a device to make them invisible to radar. Watching the film unfold, Bielek saw scientists test a device on the Eldridge. However, the contraption worked too well. Rather than taking the ship out of sight, the experiment had instead transported its crew to the future of 1984.
Based on an urban legend, The Philadelphia Experiment was a fantastical tale for most who saw it. And even its original writer John Carpenter admitted the story was untrue in a 2016 chat with Justin Beahm. But for Bielek, there was something about the film that ran uncomfortably close to real life.
For months after viewing The Philadelphia Experiment, Bielek had flashbacks to something akin to what he’d seen on-screen. Before his very eyes – he claimed – appeared visions of shady government experiments and encounters too vivid to be imagined. Was Bielek losing his mind, or were the sights he was seeing genuine?
Racked with uncertainty, Bielek searched for ways to unlock the “secrets” embedded in his mind. And by undergoing different New Age treatments, the amnesiac found a host of long-buried memories returning to him. Weirdly, piece by piece, Bielek began to unravel a supposed truth not only about himself, but about the space-time continuum.
Initially, perhaps the most shocking revelation to Bielek was that Bielek apparently wasn’t his real name at all. As he came to believe, he was actually born Edward Cameron in 1916. Furthermore, the people he’d come to know as his parents were only legal guardians assigned to raise him by government officials. In regards to his real family, Bielek had a biological brother named Duncan whom he was now separated from. Make sense so far? Well, let’s continue.
So the Philadelphia Experiment – as Bielek claimed – was completely real and he had been a part of it. Following his revelation, the conspiracy theorist took time piecing together the fragments of his shattered past. Then at a 1990 Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) conference in Texas, Bielek came forward with what he believed was the truth.
Standing in front of the audience that day, Bielek stated that he was “a survivor of the Philadelphia Experiment.” Both he and his brother enlisted in the project during World War II, although it had began around 1931, reportedly. And they were both onboard the USS Eldridge, he insisted, when tests were carried out in 1943.
According to Bielek, the project – which was intended to hide U.S. ships from Nazi U-boats – involved some great minds. Of note, the scientists included: John Hutchinson; John von Neumann; Nikola Tesla. But ultimately, the group would allegedly create something more revolutionary than invisibility.
By 1940, the team reportedly had already achieved some success with a smaller class of ship. And three years later, they were ready to try it on a larger vessel – the USS Eldridge – in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, what was supposed to be the final test conducted on July 22nd encountered what Bielek called “a serious problem.”
Returning after 15 minutes of invisibility, the ship was intact. However, its occupants were suffering from delirium and nausea. Despite von Neumann’s plea for more time, the Navy demanded another test the following month. And so, Bielek and Duncan braced themselves for a further go. But they didn’t realize it would end with a voyage into the unknown.
When the switch was flipped, a flash of blinding blue light shone out, and the ship totally vanished. Four hours later, the Eldridge snapped back into existence, but with grotesque ramifications to its crew. When officials inspected the vessel, they found five sailors stuck in the ship’s metal flooring. And those lucky enough to be alive still had apparently gone insane. Moreover, Bielek and Duncan Cameron were nowhere to be found.
What allegedly happened to the brothers is beyond most people’s comprehension. As soon as they realized something was wrong, Bielek and Duncan both jumped overboard. But instead of landing in the waters of Philadelphia in 1943, the pair hit the shore of Montauk, New York. And instead of being in the 1940s, they were actually now in 1983 – 40 years after their experiment was conducted.
As soon as the brothers materialized on the shore, they were swarmed by guards and patrol helicopters. And after being led into a complex, the pair arrived at an underground level where they met an elderly man. Remarkably, the individual introduced himself as John von Neumann – the person who’d apparently sent them through time 40 years before.
Subsequently, von Neumann attempted to explain to the brothers the reality of their situation, according to Bielek. At this point in time, the pair were on the grounds of the Phoenix project – a secret government program aimed at harnessing time travel. There, scientists had somehow connected with the energy from the Philadelphia Experiment creating “a hole in hyperspace… which sucked the Eldridge in.”
That wasn’t the worst of the pair’s problems, though. For you see, the Eldridge was still stuck inside a continually expanding “hyperspace bubble”, claimed Bielek. And its growth could eventually even destroy the Earth. In order to stop its spread, then, someone had to return to the ship and destroy the equipment onboard. And Bielek and Duncan, it seemed, were the men for the job.
So for the greater good, the brothers accepted the mission. And soon after, they were sent through the fabric of space and time once more. “There is a slight feeling when you are going through space-time,” Bielek told Paola Harris in 2005. “The first trip you make can be quite nauseating and after that you sort of get used to it.”
Back on the deck of the USS Eldridge, Bielek and Duncan set about completing the assignment at hand. Using axes, the two demolished the generators and circuitry central to the vessel’s unlinking in time and space. Soon, the ship began to stabilize. For the rift in space and time began to contract. And the Eldridge returned once again to 1943.
So far, Bielek’s fantastical testimony could harness incredulity in some. Of particular note, an electrician named Edward Dudgeon, who worked on the Philadelphia Experiment, asserted that no time travel took place. In fact, the generators, he said, were onboard the Eldridge to make the ship invisible to radar only, not physically invisible.
But for those still tuned into the self-proclaimed time traveler’s account, the story was about to get wilder. In the year 2000 – a decade after MUFON – Bielek elaborated on his and Duncan Cameron’s return to the Eldridge. And what he described was staggering beyond belief. On that note, let’s find out more.
Well, waking up in a hospital bed, Bielek recalled being in an unfamiliar place. To his side lay his brother Duncan. And in front of him was a television set. As Bielek would come to learn, this wasn’t the world of 1943, nor had they returned to 1983. Rather, they were in the distant future of 2137. Confused? No? Then, let’s continue.
As the story goes, through some freak occurrence, the pair had once again traveled through hyperspace. As a result, they required medical treatment for radiation burns inflicted on their journey. All in all, the brothers spent six weeks in this medical facility of the future. Nevertheless, they learned a lot about the world of 2137 from inside its walls.
First of all, Bielek noticed an immediate change in the Earth’s medical equipment. Instead of gauze and medicine, ultra-advanced light and vibrational energy was used to heal the sick. Furthermore, television stations of the future only broadcast news, history and geography shows. “I don’t recall there was a single [soap opera] on the air,” Bielek remembered.
While watching these programs, Bielek realized that serious geographical changes had happened to the Earth. Between the years 2000 and 2025 – he claimed – the United States had lost parts of its landmass. Most severely hit was the Southern part of the country: Atlanta was now near the coast and Florida was gone save for its panhandle.
But the changes to the world didn’t stop at a geographical level. Indeed, the United States – which was now under military rule – had long ceased to exist as a nation state. Moreover, the globe’s population had decreased by an alarming number. As Bielek alleged, there were only 300 million people left on Earth in the 22nd century. That’s a drastic reduction from the 7.7 billion we have around the world today.
Now, the reason for this – Bielek argued – was due to a global conflict in the early 21st century. In the ensuing war between Eastern and Western forces, entire cities were decimated, and centralized governments became no more. Meanwhile, radioactive contamination left over from these battles was creating severe problems for the conflict’s survivors.
At this point in the story, Bielek had reportedly journeyed between two entire centuries. And yet the time traveler’s voyage was still far from over. After spending time recuperating in the 22nd century, Bielek once again inexplicably shot forward to another point in the Earth’s existence. Yes, if you can believe it, he found himself in the distant future of 2749.
Oddly, Bielek could not account for why he alone was thrust even further through time. Although, happily, the world he reported was far more Elysian than the one he’d just left. Since becoming devastated by nuclear war, civilization had recovered to an incredible degree. Now 60 years on, society had rebuilt itself into a utopia.
In the 28th century, Bielek claimed, humanity had made significant advances in technology and had mastered the mechanics of anti-gravity. Remembering his journey, he described seeing two-and-a-half mile high floating cities suspended on platforms. Untethered from the ground, these metropolises could travel the surface of the planet just as freely as a Jumbo jet.
Astonishingly, he said, mankind’s fate was no longer in human hands. Instead of governing themselves, each city had its own artificial intelligence which governed the day to day needs of its inhabitants. As a result, things we view today as a necessity – like money or labor – were made completely immaterial, apparently.
In Bielek’s own words, the world of tomorrow was deeply socially conscious. To this end, wars had become obsolete because countries had disbanded their armed forces. Moreover, there were no funds to fight over either. After eliminating the need for money, this future civilization worked on a credit system, which provided everyone with enough to get by. Sounds too good to be true, perhaps.
All in all, Bielek claimed he spent two years living in the 28th century. Then – just as mysteriously as he had appeared – the voyager traveled back to the year 2137. And upon reuniting with his brother, Bielek returned through the hyperspace wormhole that they came through. But just when you thought the story couldn’t get any weirder, well, it did.
Because although Bielek found himself unharmed in Montauk in 1983, his brother wasn’t so lucky. Due to a freak occurrence brought on by time travel, Duncan began to age phenomenally fast and died soon afterward. In an effort to save his brother’s consciousness, though, Bielek persuaded his parents to conceive another child. And, wait for it – the child received Duncan Cameron’s thoughts and memories, said Bielek.
After his journey between centuries, Bielek claimed that he remained on the Montauk Project, working with von Neumann on time travel. But they weren’t alone – they also had the reincarnated Duncan’s psychic abilities. But soon, allegedly, the military became spooked by what Bielek had witnessed of the future. Consequently, the decision was made to de-age him, delete his memories and transport him to 1927 under a new persona. As you do.
Of course, whether or not Bielek’s version of events can be believed is really up to the individual. However, it’s fair to say that even the most gullible of us would have problems accepting his account at face value. Crucially, in the 75 years since the Philadelphia Experiment supposedly took place, the U.S. Navy has never confirmed its existence. But for conspiracy theorists, who back Bielek, that behaviour would be typical of any authority. On the contrary, some of his predictions for the future have already failed to materialize.
So whatever happened on that day in 1943, it seems that we may never know the entire truth. For in 2007, Bielek passed away from a stroke leaving many questions unanswered about the Philadelphia Experiment and Project Phoenix. But if his claims about the future are anywhere near true, we can be sure of a brave world before us.