Morris K. Jessup

Morris Ketchum Jessup (March 2, 1900April 29, 1959), though employed for most of his life as an auto-parts salesman and photographer, is probably best remembered for his pioneering ufological writings and his role in uncovering the so-called Philadelphia Experiment.

Life and career

Born near Rockville, Indiana, Jessup grew up with an interest in astronomy. He earned a BS degree in astronomy from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1925 and, while working at the Lamont-Hussey Observatory, received an MS degree in 1926. Though he began work on his doctorate in astrophysics, he ended his dissertaton work in 1931 and was never awarded a degree. Nevertheless, he was sometimes referred to as "Dr. Jessup." He apparently dropped his career and studies in astronomy and worked for the rest of his life in a variety of jobs unrelated to science, although he is described as having been an instructor in astronomy and mathematics at the University of Michigan and Drake University.

Jessup has been referred to in ufological circles as "probably the most original extraterrestrial hypothesiser of the 1950s", and that he was "educated in astronomy and archeology and had working experience in both. Actual evidence of an educational background in archaeology, or archaeological field work, is absent from Jessup's resume, but Jerome Clark reports that Jessup took part in archeological expeditions to the Yucatan and Peru in the 1920s.

Jessup achieved some notoriety with his 1955 book, The Case for the UFO, where he argued that unidentified flying objects represented a mysterious subject worthy of further study. Jessup speculated that UFOs were "exploratory craft of 'solid' and 'nebulous' character. Jessup also "linked ancient monuments with prehistoric superscience, years before similar claims were made by Erich von Däniken in Chariots of the Gods?.

Jessup wrote three further saucer books, UFOs and the Bible, The UFO Annual (both 1956) and The Expanding Case for the UFO (1957). The latter suggested that transient lunar phenomenon were somehow related to UFOs in earth's skies. Jessup's main saucer scenario came to resemble that of the Shaver Hoax perpetrated by science-fiction magazine editor Ray Palmer --- namely, that "good" and "bad" groups of space aliens were meddling with terrestrial affairs. Like most of the writers on flying saucers, and the so-called contactees, that emerged during the 1950s, Jessup displayed familiarity with the alternative mythology of human prehistory developed by Helena P. Blavatsky's cult of Theosophy, which included the mythical lost continents of Atlantis, Mu and Lemuria.

Role in the Philadelphia Experiment

Jessup also played a key role in the so-called "Philadelphia Experiment". In The Case for the UFO Jessup theorized about the means of propulsion that flying saucer-style UFOs might use. Jessup speculated that anti-gravity and/or electromagnetism may have been responsible for the observed flight behavior of UFOs. He lamented, both in the book and the publicity tour which followed, that space flight research was concentrated in the area of rocketry, and that little attention was paid to these other theoretical means of flight, which he felt would ultimately be more fruitful.

On January 13, 1955, Jessup received a letter from a man identifying himself as Carlos Miguel Allende. In the letter, Allende informed Jessup of the Philadelphia Experiment, alluding to poorly sourced contemporary newspaper articles as proof. Allende also said that he had personally witnessed a ship named the USS Eldridge disappear and reappear while serving aboard a merchant marine ship in its vicinity, SS Andrew Furuseth. He further named other crew with which he served aboard Andrew Furuseth, and claimed to know of the fates of some of the crew members of Eldridge after the experiment, including one whom he witnessed disappear during a chaotic fight in a bar. Jessup replied to Allende by postcard, asking for further evidence and corroboration for the story, such as dates and specific details of his fantastic story. The reply came months later; however, this time the correspondent identified himself as Carl M. Allen. Allen said that he could not provide the details for which Jessup was asking, but implied that he might be able to recall by means of hypnosis. Jessup decided to discontinue the correspondence.

However, in the spring of 1957, Jessup was contacted by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Washington, D.C. and was asked to study the contents of a parcel that they had received. Upon arrival, a curious Jessup was astonished to find that a paperback copy of his book had been mailed to ONR in a manila envelope marked "HAPPY EASTER". Further, the book had been extensively annotated by hand in its margins, and an ONR officer asked Jessup if he had any idea as to who had done so.

The lengthy annotations were written in three different colors of ink, and appeared to detail a correspondence between three individuals, only one of which is given a name: "Jemi". The ONR labeled the other two "Mr. A" and "Mr. B". The annotators refer to each other as Gypsies, and discuss two different types of "people" living in space. Their text contained nonstandard use of capitalization and punctuation, and detailed a lengthy discussion of the merits of various suppositions that Jessup makes throughout his book, with oblique references to the Philadelphia Experiment, in a way that suggested prior or superior knowledge. (For example, "Mr. B" reassures his fellow annotators, who have highlighted a certain theory of Jessup's, "HE HAS NO KNOWLEDGE, HE COULD NOT HAVE. ONLY GUESSING.[sic]").

Based on the handwriting style and subject matter, and in comparison to the earlier letters he had received, Jessup identified "Mr. A" as Carlos Allende/Carl Allen. Others have suggested that the three annotations are actually from the same person, using three pens. Later, the ONR contacted Jessup, claiming that the return address on Allende's letter to Jessup was an abandoned farmhouse. They also informed Jessup that the Varo Corporation, a research firm, was preparing a print copy of the annotated version of The Case for the UFO, complete with both letters he had received. Numbers vary, but it appears that around one hundred copies of the Varo Edition were printed and distributed within the Navy. Jessup was also sent three for his own use.


Jessup attempted to make a living writing on the topic of UFOs, but his followup books did not sell well and his publisher rejected several other manuscripts. In 1958 his wife left him, and friends described him as being somewhat unstable when he travelled to New York. After returning to Florida he was involved in a serious car accident and was slow to recover, apparently increasing his despondency. On the evening of April 20, 1959, Jessup committed suicide in Dade County Park, Florida by inhaling automobile exhaust fumes. Some believed that "The circumstances of Jessup's apparent suicide remain mysterious and conspiracy theorists contended that it was connected to his knowledge of the Philadelphia Experiment. Although some friends claimed that he was possibly driven to suicide by the "Allende Case, other friends said that an extremely depressed Jessup had been discussing suicide with friends for several months before his act.

Books by Jessup

See also




  • Jessup, Morris K.; annotated by three unknown individuals (1957). The Case for the UFO, Varo Edition. Garland, TX: Varo Corporation; available at
  • Clark, Jerome (1988). The UFO Encyclopedia. Detroit: Omnigraphics.
  • Richie, David (1994). UFO: The Definitive Guide to Unidentified Flying Objects and Related Phenomena. New York: Facts on File.
  • Story, Ronald D. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters. Garden City, NY: New American Library.
  • Story, Ronald D. (1980). The Encyclopedia of UFOs. Garden City, NY: Doubleday/Dolphin.
  • Moore, William L.; Charles Berlitz (1979). The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility. New York: Fawcett Crest.

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