Loki 'explains' the origin of one of the 20th Century's most infamous urban legends

Loki episode 5
(Image credit: Disney/Marvel)

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Loki episode 5! Turn back now if you haven't seen the latest episode on Disney Plus!

Loki episode 5 has arrived, and it's brought even more weirdness with it. While the series' first episode revealed that DB Cooper was actually Loki, the fifth installment has 'explained' the origin of yet another strange 20th Century mystery.

After getting pruned by Ravonna Lexus Renslayer, Loki wakes up in the Void, a dumping ground for destroyed timelines and Variants. He meets a bunch of Loki Variants, some friendly and others not so much. But while he's there, a US Navy ship drops from the sky – and is promptly wiped out by the shadowy monster that patrols the land.

It's a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but the ship's name is shown as USS Eldridge. That particular vessel has a very peculiar urban legend surrounding it. Scroll on to find out more…

What is the urban mystery about USS Eldridge and the Philadelphia Experiment?

USS Eldridge in Loki

(Image credit: Disney/Marvel)

You can check out How Stuff Works for the full rundown, but in a nutshell: in 1943, USS Eldridge was taken to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and equipped with generators that would make the ship invisible to enemy radar – or so the legend goes.

But when the generators were turned on, the ship was surrounded by a green-blue glow, then vanished entirely. The Eldridge was then said to have turned up in Virginia's Norfolk Naval Shipyard, then returned again to Philadelphia, when those locations should take days to move between. 

That's not even the weirdest part. The men onboard apparently experienced strange side effects. Some supposedly felt ill, while others were horribly burned, and others found their limbs were nightmarishly fused to the ship.

Is the story of USS Eldridge true?

USS Eldridge in Loki

(Image credit: Disney/Marvel)

Like a lot of urban legends, there's probably no truth to the matter. The Eldridge's sailors say they were never even in Philadelphia, and were actually in Brooklyn instead – which is confirmed by the ship's log. The Captain also denied any experiments.

However, Edward Dudgeon, who says he was onboard another ship in the Philadelphia Naval Yard at the same time the Eldridge was there, gives a different explanation. According to him, the Eldridge did have secret technology – though nothing straight from a sci-fi film – and the ship was simply "degaussed," which means it was rendered undetectable to magnetic torpedoes via electricity. That doesn't mean invisible to the naked eye, or to radar, but he thinks the rumors grew from people overhearing the sailors talk about the process. He adds that the glow eyewitnesses reported can be explained away as a weather phenomenon called St. Elmo's fire (where a blue-ish glow is caused during an electrical storm), and that the Eldridge's mysterious trip from Philadelphia to Virginia was possible because a canal meant the ship could travel between the two in just hours.

So, though there are two different versions of the story, neither of them point to mysterious top secret experiments.

What happened to USS Eldridge in Loki?


(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

In Loki, the Eldridge ends up in the Void, meaning some TVA Agents had it pruned. That would explain the bright glow, as when the TVA use their batons, there's a flash of light. Whether the ship was involved in military experiments or not isn't explained. The sailors onboard definitely don't seem to have any luck, though, because the Eldridge is promptly destroyed by the giant monster Alioth.

An Eldridge Variant going missing just makes the whole story even more complicated. Maybe the duplicate ended up in Virginia while the real one was invisibly sat in Philadelphia? It adds a whole other layer to the mystery, but this is the series that brought us Alligator Loki, so we're not surprised.

Loki now has just one episode left, and you can check out our Loki release schedule to find out exactly when the finale will drop on Disney Plus. In the meantime, see what's next for the MCU with our guide to Marvel Phase 4, and find the best Disney Plus prices and deals.

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.