Many people have heard of the Philadelphia Experiment, although those who have any idea what it was really about are far less numerous. The Experiment seems to fall into the same realm as the Kennedy Assassination; an event clouded by rumor and supposition, the exact truth of which never to be known. In addition, both incidents are also plagued by a mass of incorrect or inaccurate information. And, of course, 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)
THE “FACTS” AS WE KNOW THEM
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 the test is open to speculation, with possible candidates including 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.
As one can easily see, the actual facts are scanty. The Navy denies any sort of experiment ever took place and the ship's logs show 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," and although there was a code name "Rainbow,"it was used to designate Allied plans to combat the Axis in World War II and had nothing to do with any form of experimental technology. Finally, it should be pointed out that performing even some basic research (the internet is loaded with relevant sites) will show 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 similar epic myths before, with the "Bermuda Triangle Mystery" a prime example.
THE SUPPOSED "TRUE STORY" OF THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT
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 generators and divert radar waves around the ship, making the Eldridge invisible to radar receivers.
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) 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, with results so gruesome 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 performing a Laying On Of Hands, burning for 18 days despite all attempts to quench the flames.
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, radar, and its affects on the human mind. Project Rainbow may have been disbanded, but the Phoenix Project was just getting started.
GAME EFFECTS OF THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT
With regards to vehicles, the results of the Philadelphia Experiment are pretty easy to define. A vehicle rigged up with the proper electromagnetic generators will create a magnetic field with the following powers (in order to effect): Change Environment (a misty green haze and an electromagnetic field), Images versus Sight Group (a misty green haze) with at least -5 to PER rolls to see anything, Invisibility to the Sight Group and Radar, and finally, Teleportation with massive NCM multiples and/or the Megascale Advantage (enough to send the ship 500-600 miles in a single jump). Of course, all of these powers come with a terrible (and possibly lethal) Side Effect. This is a Major Transform from normal human to "out of phase human." When the generators (and the resulting powers) are turned off, the Transform ceases, and the character is returned to a (supposedly) normal state. The only problem is the character may have slipped inside of another physical object while the field was active. A good way to simulate this effect is to use the Teleporting Blind chart to determine the extent of possible physical damage to the character. The only way to avoid this Side Effect is to be within a well-shielded part of the vehicle; usually any part of the vehicle protected by hardened DEF or magnetic Barriers.
For the crew, the effects are much less desirable. Extra-Dimensional Movement (to single location "out of phase" with Earth) would look to satisfy the game mechanics requirements for the incidents described above. Since men could vanish without warning, it is certainly a No Conscious Control power. The Freeze and Deep Freeze could be considered a form of Extra-Dimensional Movement as well, although this power can be dispelled by having someone else (such as an unaffected crewman) perform "Laying On Of Hands" and pull the victim back to this world. Of course, this has its hazards as well, as some people may suddenly burst into flames which cannot be put out. This would be an RKA (1 pip to 1d6) with the Advantages of Continuous, Uncontrolled, Reduced Endurance (0 END), and the Limitation of No Range. A very lethal Side Effect indeed. While in the Extra-Dimensional realm, the character cannot interact with his surroundings, an effect that will drive many men mad. This could be some sort of EGO-based Transform, a Fear-based Presence Attack as described in Horror Hero 4th Editon, or simple Game Master fiat.
But, what if we want to use the Experiment as an origin story? What sort of powers would the character have then? The Special Effect for all powers would be the ability to drop "out of phase" with the universe. Applicable powers would include: Desolidification, that is only affected by certain forms of vibrational or similar phase-modulation attacks; Extra-Dimensional Movement to a different plane of existence—possibly a parallel universe; Invisibility to Sight Group with no fringe; and Teleportation. These powers would work best in an Elemental Control.
Other possible powers include: Life Support (Longevity), the character ages at a greatly reduced rate, or not at all; the Affects Solid Advantage on the character's Strength (allowing them to reach inside of objects or through walls to get things on the other side); and Mental Awareness. The crewmen were said to have a heightened psychic awareness after the Experiment, and various psychic powers, such as Precognition, Retrocognition, and Clairvoyance are possible. One could also the use the various psychic powers found in Pulp Hero.
For a superhero-level character, one may want to consider purchasing full-fledged psychic powers, with the character having such abilities as Mind Control, Mind Link, Mind Scanning, and Telepathy. When mixed with Desolidification, Invisibility, and Teleportation you have a very powerful and very effective character.