ESP and the CIA

Most people know that the U.S. military and the CIA conducted experiments in psychic phenomena in the 1970s to see if there was any scope to weaponise telepathy, psychokinesis or clairvoyance. What is not quite so well known is that they conducted at least one experiment that was so successful it caused a major security scare in Washington.

The experiment in question was to determine whether ‘remote viewing’ of the enemy was possible (‘remote viewing’ being the respectable modern way of describing second-sight or clairvoyance). U.S. intelligence knew that the Russians were conducting similar experiments and, naturally enough, felt they ought to find out if their own secret military organisations were vulnerable to psychic penetration.

For two decades after the experiments concrete facts were thin on the ground while speculation mounted. But in 1995, a detailed account of one remote viewing experiment, conducted by Drs. Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ at Stanford Research Institute in 1974, was declassified and released in sanitised form on the National Security Agency website. (Click Here ).

The report makes interesting reading for several reasons; first because it is so detailed and second because its CIA author judged the experiment to be unsuccessful from a military standpoint. Yet in reality, the experiment was, if anything, too successful for comfort and provoked a panic reaction from the military authorities.

pat_priceIn the experiment, the subject (known only as SG1J but actually Pat Price, a retired police commissioner) was informed of the existence of a top secret Soviet military base at a place called Semipalatinsk “25 to 30 miles south west of the Irtysh River” in Siberia. The base is in fact Russia’s top secret nuclear weapons development base, comparable to NORADs’ underground HQ at Cheyenne Mountain or the UK’s Porton Down. It is inconceivable that the subject could have had any knowledge of such a secret installation by normal means and he was given only its map coordinates.  Not only was it one of the Soviet Union’s most secret nuclear weapons centres, but it was also physically very remote, and some 10,000 miles away from the site of the experiments.

Over three days, Price was asked to describe features of the Russian base by paranormal means in a number of remote viewing sessions. In several important respects, the experiment was considered a failure by the military officer tasked with analysing the results. Price failed to draw the perimeter of the site even though he was asked twice. When pressed for details he made remarks like, ‘I’ll come back to that’, but seldom did. And when pressed further for concrete specific facts, he did what many ‘psychics’ do — he produced a stream of specific facts that proved to be incorrect.  He thought, for example, that the site was connected with the Soviet space programme and ‘saw’ cosmonauts in space suits when it is in fact a purely military weapons installation.

However, Price made one statement that proved to be astonishingly accurate. He said that he could see a mobile gantry crane built on a huge scale – its wheels taller than a man. The crane he said was 150 feet tall and its railed tracks 50 feet apart. He also said this crane ran on tracks over an underground building.

This statement was the very opposite of most ‘clairvoyant’ productions. Instead of vague generalisations about ‘industrial buildings’ Price not only described the mechanical details with measurements, he also made a number of detailed sketches, of almost engineering drawing quality.

One of the drawings Price made  is reproduced here and can be compared with a drawing made from satellite photographs of the Russian base. It’s immediately clear that Price was not merely guessing but was somehow or other gaining information or intuitive insight about the target he had been tasked to spy on by psychic means.

graphic-f8rv-crane-draworigPrice’s remarkable accuracy was equally obvious to his (anonymous) evaluating officer because he wrote, ‘[Price] supplied the most positive evidence yet for remote viewing with his sketch of the rail-mounted gantry crane. It seems inconceivable to imagine how he could draw such a likeness to the actual crane at [Semipalatinsk] unless: 1) He actually saw it through remote viewing, or  2) he was informed of what to draw by someone knowledgeable of [the site].’

graphic-f8rv-crane-orig2The analyst continued, ‘I only mention this second possibility because the experiment was not controlled to discount the possibility that [Price] could talk to other people – such as the disinformation Section of the KGB. That may sound ridiculous to the reader, but I have to consider all possibilities in the spectrum from his being capable to view remotely to his being supplied data for disinformation purposes by the KGB.’

However, this initial conclusion didn’t last. For in his final, overall report on the experiments, the officer had, for reasons not fully explained, become much more skeptical. He says, quite baldly, ‘The remote viewing experiment of [Semipalatinsk] by [Price] proved to be unsuccessful.’

In reality, the experiment was too successful, as one of the experimenters, Dr. Russell Targ, has subsequently revealed on his website

Says Targ, ‘This trial was such a stunning success that we were forced to undergo a formal Congressional investigation to determine if there had been a breach in National Security. Of course, none was ever found, and we were supported by the government for another fifteen years. As I sat with Price in these experiments at SRI, he made the sketch shown, to illustrate his mental impressions of a giant gantry crane that he psychically “saw” rolling back and forth over a building at the target site!’

The Price experiment is not conclusive evidence of remote viewing. But it does represent a remarkable controlled experiment that deserves to be taken seriously scientifically. The huge gantry crane at the target site was purpose built and thus a rare feature anywhere – indeed a feature that the overwhelming majority of people have never seen. That Price’s identification should be merely a guess thus has a very low probability and, as an explanation, is lacking in credibility.


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