If your not Paranoid . . your Not Listening

The Case for the UFO, The Philadelphia Experiment & the Gypsy Connection

10 min read

By Sean Casteel

Morris K. Jessup was a UFO researcher of the 1950s era, a time that is sometimes called the Golden Age of Flying Saucers, with a solid background in academia. He did not emerge from some hazy contactee history of encounters with blonde Venusians and was among the first of the scientific community to take the subject seriously, even as he suffered the inevitable consequences of being ostracized and vilified by his peers. 

            The story of the late astronomer Morris K. Jessup is a strange one and unfortunately it is based on very little information. Many researchers over the years have tried to piece together the complete sequence of events, but in spite of their efforts there still remains the kind of shadowy doubt that makes for disquiet and controversy about just what really happened.

            The thread of the bizarre story begins with Jessup’s first book on the flying saucer phenomenon, called “The Case For The UFO” and originally published in 1955. Timothy Green Beckley at Global Communications has recently reissued Jessup’s book, along with some exciting extras that bear testimony to the weirdness surrounding it. The reprint is called “The Allende Letters And The Varo Edition Of The Case For The UFO.”

            The new Global Communications version begins with a foreword by the late Gray Barker, one of the essential pioneers of UFO and paranormal journalism.

            “Ironically,” Barker writes, “Jessup’s only public recognition had come from lay people who had read his series of four books about unidentified flying objects. Jessup’s first book, ‘The Case For The UFO,’ had tended to alienate him from his colleagues, though it came and went with relatively few sales. It was a paperback edition of the same book, published in 1955 by Bantam Books, which enmeshed Jessup in one of the most bizarre mysteries in UFO history.”

The Varo Version

An annotated version of the paperback was typed out with great effort and printed in a very small run by a Garland, Texas, firm called the Varo Manufacturing Company, which produced equipment for the military.

            “Each page was run through the small office duplicator twice,” Barker continues, “once with black ink for the regular text of the book, then once again with red ink, the latter reproducing the mysterious annotations by three men, who may have been gypsies, hoaxers or space people living among men.”

            Those “mysterious annotations” are actually notes scrawled in the margins by three unknown people or entities, forming the core of the Jessup mystery. The reprint was known as the “Annotated Edition,” and quickly became legend. A few civilian UFO enthusiasts claimed to have seen or obtained copies, such as the late zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson, whose copy was mysteriously stolen from a secure area in his office. Rumor has it that no more than eleven copies were produced, an awful lot of work for what many might consider to be an “ordinary” UFO book. Why would anyone, especially a company with Navy/military/government connections, make all this effort – unless the book had “secrets” contained within it that were not obvious to the lay reader? Meanwhile, there were those who claimed the “Annotated Edition” never existed at all.  

            A notion which Gray Barker happily refutes as he introduces an earlier exact facsimile of the famed book with the strange margin notes included.

            “But the big mystery still remains,” Barker writes. “Why did a government contractor go to so much trouble to reprint a book that had been rejected by the scientific community, and further to include mysterious letters to the author and even more bizarre annotations?”

            That the book may have been printed by the manufacturer at the request of the military, which implies a certain amount of government interest, only adds to the questions surrounding the whole affair.

Who Was Jessup?

Barker provides the reader with what little is known about Morris K. Jessup, most of it gleaned from the jacket flap of “The Case For The UFO.” Jessup is described as having been an instructor in astronomy and mathematics at the University of Michigan and Drake University. While it is uncertain if he was ever awarded a doctorate after completing his thesis in astrophysics at the University of Michigan, he was often addressed as “Dr. Jessup.” He is credited with discovering several “double stars” which are now cataloged with the Royal Astronomical Society of London.

            The mystery of the annotated paperback edition of the book was preceded by a series of strange letters from Carlos Miguel Allende addressed to Jessup. Two of those letters are included in the Global Communications reprint. In part, Allende writes about the infamous Philadelphia Experiment, which resulted in the madness and even deaths of several sailors in October 1943. More about that later.

The Book Falls Into The Hands Of The Navy

The Allende letters became connected with the Annotated Edition when the Varo Manufacturing Company evidently contacted Jessup about the letters. Varo’s own strange involvement began in April of 1956, when Admiral N. Furth, Chief of the Office of Naval Research in Washington, D.C., received a manila envelope postmarked Seminole, a small town in Texas. Written across the face of the envelope were the words “Happy Easter.”

            “When Furth opened the envelope,” Barker writes, “he found a copy of the Jessup paperback. We are not certain of Furth’s reactions, but we can assume that he thumbed through the book and that his interest was piqued by a series of notes, interjections, underscorings, etc., in three colors of ink, apparently written by three different people. Only the name of one of the authors of the annotations appeared in the notes, that of ‘Jemi.’”

            The paperback had apparently been passed back and forth among the annotators several times because the notes indicated discussions between two or all three of the men, with questions answered and places where parts of a note had been marked through, underlined or added to by one or both of the other men.

            “The notes had a tone of absolute weirdness,” Barker writes. “Sometimes they agreed with Jessup’s original text; sometimes they contradicted it, as they referred to two types of people living in space.”

            The two races of spacemen are called the “L-Ms,” considered a peaceful group, while the “S-Ms” come off as decidedly more sinister. The notes discuss the building of undersea cities to house the aliens. The notes also include words not generally known to Ufologists of the 1950s, like Mothership, dead-ship, sheet of diamond, clear-talk, and several other odd terms and phrases.

            In July or August of 1956, the paperback book was passed from Admiral Furth to Major Darrel Ritter, U.S.M.C., who worked at the Office of Naval Research as the Aeronautical Project Officer. Soon afterward, Captain Sidney Sherby joined the ONR and along with Commander George Hoover, the ONR’s Special Projects Officer, indicated interest in the book. Both Sherby and Hoover were deeply involved in satellite development and possibly research into the nature of gravity. It was Sherby who took Jessup’s book to Varo, who soon reproduced both the book and the notes in the margins through their “Military Assistance” division.

Theories About The Reprinting

Barker offers two theories regarding Varo’s role in publishing the Annotated Edition. The first is that top military brass had passed the book down through the lower echelon to avoid responsibility should any negative publicity result. It was to be published surreptitiously by Varo, who may have had top military security clearance, the idea being to prevent any leakage that might come by sending it to a standard government printing office. The military was allegedly interested in applying the notes to secret research being conducted at the time.

            Another theory, which Barker considers the more likely of the two, is simply that Captain Sherby had a deep personal interest in UFOs and wanted copies to give to fellow Navy personnel who were also interested. The Varo company may simply have been doing him a personal favor in making the reprint, which they reportedly often did for members of the military.

            “No great degree of secrecy seemed to have been employed,” according to Barker. “Jessup was called in by Varo and shown the book, and nothing in his subsequent writings or reported conversations indicates he was requested to maintain secrecy. Permission was obtained both from the author and the publisher, Citadel Press, to reproduce the text of the original book. Jessup was given several copies, probably the source of the copies a few UFO researchers reportedly possess.”

The Mysterious Note Writers

Returning to the subject of the three “people” who made the margin notes, the new edition includes the introduction to the later facsimile printing, in which one learns more about them. Barker says the introduction is competently written but that the identity of the author remains unknown. The anonymous writer provides a more detailed summation of just who the mysterious three may have been.

            Three different colors of ink were used: blue, blue-violet and blue-green. There are also three distinct handwritings. The three entities have been designated as Mr. A., Mr. B. and Jemi. It is assumed that the third person was named “Jemi” because of the direct use of the name in salutations, plus Mr. A. and Mr. B. refer to him that way throughout the book. It is also possible that two of the men are twins, given that there are two references to this word, with Mr. A. most likely being one of the twins while the other remains unknown.

            It is probable that these men were gypsies.

            “In the closing pages of the book,” the unknown author writes, “Mr. B. says, ‘Only a gypsy will tell another of that catastrophe. And we are a discredited people, ages ago. Hah! Yet man wonders where “we” come from.’”

            If the aliens were indeed to dwell among us in human form, perhaps they would choose a life as gypsies. They would lead a nomadic existence, always on the move, with little in the way of material possessions, owning nothing but their “music and philosophy,” and yet being truly happy. Or so the note writers claim.  

            Soon after the publication of his book, Jessup received a letter from Carlos Miguel Allende. Jessup maintained from the first that it was Allende who had sent the book to the Navy, and when one examines the handwriting, style, content and phraseology of both the notes and the letters, one is drawn to the conclusion that Allende was also Mr. A.

            “These men have been careless in their spelling, capitalization, punctuation and sentence structure; though consistency indicates adherence to custom, perhaps dictated by their original language,” the introduction reads.

            Two of the Allende letters are included in the new Global Communications reprint, and reading them makes for a fascinating if only partially comprehensible glimpse into the mystery. In a letter that Jessup received on January 13, 1956, Allende addresses the subject of the infamous 1943 Philadelphia Experiment, in which the Navy tried to use electromagnetic energy and principles first proposed by Albert Einstein to render a Navy destroyer invisible.

Allende claims that the Navy succeeded in rendering the ship invisible, even teleporting it a short distance, but some members of the crew were unable to return from a state of invisibility while others faded in and out physically and never completely resumed their normal solidity. More than half of the officers and crew went completely mad, while still others remained frozen solid where they stood. Allende claims to have detailed inside knowledge of the various mishaps suffered by the crew. In a second letter to Jessup, Allende tries to offer Jessup clues so he can search for real-world verification of the bizarre claims made about the Philadelphia Experiment. Allende also volunteers to be hypnotized so that more specific details can be discovered that will prove the story is true.

Everyone’s A Critic

The tone of Allende’s letters is a little boastful, even arrogant, which may also explain the superior attitude sometimes evinced by the three note writers, given that Allende is likely the real Mr. A. While the notes sometimes feel like some good-natured kibitzing, they often deride what they take to be Jessup’s egomania, especially when Jessup tries to prove the reality of flying saucers at the expense of his ideological enemies. Even if Jessup is correct in what he says about UFOs, he should not hold himself so high over the nonbelievers he struggles against.

When Jessup does get a fact or concept correctly, the note writers say “He must be reading our thoughts,” implying that Jessup couldn’t have arrived at those same conclusions through mortal intelligence alone. One can imagine that Jessup’s reaction to reading some of the snide asides may have been something like the old show biz retort, “Everyone’s a critic!” 

Jessup would go on to write three more books after “The Case For The UFO,” in part laying the groundwork for a more scientific approach to the study of flying of saucers. He urged the government and the scientific community to examine the subject from a variety of disciplines, a repeated refrain we continue to hear today more than 50 years later that still falls on deaf and unresponsive ears.

On April 20, 1959, Morris K. Jessup took his own life in Dade County Park in Florida by inhaling automobile exhaust fumes, using a hose from the tailpipe into his station wagon. He died in the same ignominious obscurity in which he had lived, unheralded and unrecognized by the scientists and academics he sought to share his knowledge of UFOs with. It is inevitable that some students of Ufology consider his death to be suspicious, and there is today no way of knowing whether Jessup freely chose to die or was murdered to silence some revelation he may have been intent on making public.

The preceding article is only a short summation of the new Global Communications reissue of “The Case For The UFO.” It is indeed the Varo Edition, including all the margin notes of the mysterious three, as well as two of the letters sent to Jessup by Carlos Allende, Gray Barker’s informative introduction and the introduction from the unknown writer. The complete package is here, ready to read for the sake of improving your knowledge about a strange story in the field of Ufology, made even stranger by overt military involvement and the presence of unknown, possibly alien, commentators who seem to know more than we do about what’s out there awaiting us.

[To read more by Sean Casteel, visit his website at www.seancasteel.com]

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