Monday, May 18, 2020

A Not-So-Brief History of Pentagon Woo, With a Familiar Cast of Characters

Nearly all of the discussion about UFOology these past two and a half years has centered around Tom DeLonge and his "To The Stars Academy" (TTSA), The Pentagon's supposed UFO program AAWSAP/AATIP, with the supposedly "haunted" Skinwalker Ranch a distant second, but gaining fast. I have just finished reading Phenomena, a book about government funding of ESP, Remote Viewing, Psychokinesis, and other such miracles by Annie Jacobsen that was published in March 2017, just months before TTSA burst on the scene. And I found the book surprising for two reasons:
(Little, Brown & Company, 2017)

First, I knew that the Pentagon had funded research into ESP and Remote Viewing, but I had no idea that it was so vast in scope, and so long in duration. "For seven decades, the CIA and the Department of Defense have been actively conducting research on anomalous mental phenomena" (p. 377).

Second, we find many of the same people involved in Pentagon woo (a term used by skeptics to designate far-out woo-woo stuff - "woo" is a noun, "woo woo" is an adjective) that we now find prominently figuring in TTSA and Skinwalker Ranch. The same cast of characters, in a different comedy.

I realize that Annie Jacobsen has some credibility problems that continue to  pursue her. The "explanation" she published for the supposed Roswell UFO Crash - that it was a disinformation project involving Stalin and the evil Dr. Mengele - is simply Cukoo for Cocoa Puffs. And in 2004 she created quite a scare by claiming that a group of Syrian musicians on a cross-country flight were actually terrorists making a dry run at assembling a bomb on-board. The men were investigated by the FBI upon landing, and it was confirmed that they were in fact booked to perform as backup musicians for singer Nour Mehana at the Sycuan Casino Resort near San Diego two days after arriving in Los Angeles. "The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service."

However, Phenomena appears to be solidly sourced, most of it based on interviews with the persons directly involved, or on government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. Those pursuing FOIA documents in UFOlogy might want to carefully check out what she has obtained; useful tidbits of information are bound to be found in them. I did spot a few things that look like mistakes in the book, but they are minor ones (like calling Harry Blackstone Sr. "Henry Blackmore, Jr." (p. 93.) Page numbers refer to the Bay Back paperback edition of the book. (Emphasis has been added to a few statements).

Here are some of the interesting things Ms. Jacobsen tells us:
  • The celebrated Dr. J. B. Rhine of Duke University (1895-1980), well-known as a pioneer of the study of parapsychology, "was working on numerous classified ESP research programs with the Deaprtment of Defense... Declassified documents reveal that in 1952 the Army initiated a secret program with Rhine's Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory involving ESP and animals. Army commanders wondered, "Could dogs locate land mines buried underwater, under conditions that gave no normal sensory clues?" " After some initial reported success, apparently they could not. (p. 42-43).
  • Dr. Andrija Puharich (1918-1995) is best known as the man who "discovered" Uri Geller and brought him to the US for study. "Classified documents indicate that [Puharich] worked on a  research program described as an effort "to locate a drug that might enhance ESP" " (p. 44-45). Puharich apparently is credited with being the first to actually identify the hallucinogenic "sacred mushroom" used by certain sects in Mexico, having made several field trips to investigate, some with the "psychic" Peter Hurkos (p. 48-49).He was described as "The once-brilliant medical doctor and research pioneer whose Puharich Theory had set the CIA and the Defense Department's psychic research programs in motion in the early 1950s." Puharich's Theory was that "extraterrestrials were trying to send messages to humans through psychic people, and that extremely low frequency, or ELF, waves were responsible for the sicknesses of the age" (p. 372).
  • The CIA was very interested in the alleged super-powers of "psychic" Uri Geller. However, for various reasons the CIA didn't trust Puharich enough, and so "[Dr. Kit] Green would soon become Uri Geller's handler" (p. 99). Kit Green has played a major role in matters concerning AAWSAP, Robert Bigelow's NIDS, Skinwalker Ranch, as well as the SERPO Hoax. "The decision to test Geller was a decision made by CIA director Richard Helms," said Green (p. 99). In 1975 when Geller was tested at the Lawrence Livermore Labs in California, "Kit Green served as the contract monitor for the CIA" (P. 178).
  • The well-known tests of Uri Geller's supposed powers by Dr. Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ at SRI in the 1970s were, in fact, paid for by the CIA. Puthoff is, of course, now a major player in TTSA and AAWSAP, as well as also being involved in the SERPO hoax. "Green supported Puthoff and Targ in their conclusion as physicists, in what the CIA called in memos the Swann-Geller effect" (referring to Ingo Swann, another alleged psychic and Remote Viewer, p. 148).
  • Because the CIA considered Puharich to be "unsavory,"  a "shell entity needed to be created through which Geller-related funds could flow and Puharich could be paid - ideally an organizarion or a person of solid repute. Puharich knew exactly the right person. His name was Edgar Mitchell, the astronaut and Apollo 14 crew member," the sixth person to walk on the moon (p. 99). Mitchell (1930-2016) famously attempted an ESP test from space, scoring at chance level (p. 116).
Ray Hyman does a card trick for
CSICOP, 1983.
  • "An ARPA [Advanced Research Projects Agency] project manager named George Lawrence, accompanied by two civilian psychologists, Robert Van Castle and Ray Hyman, traveled to SRI to test Geller on their own. Their conclusion, later reported in Time magazine [March 12, 1973], was that anyone who believed Geller's powers was falling for the "ridiculous." " (p. 145). Ray Hyman is a founding member of CSICOP (now CSI), a psychologist, magician, and a longtime critic of parapsychology. 
  • "One day in late April 1973, [Ingo] Swann was eating lunch in the SRI cafeteria with a colleague of Puthoff's, a computer scientist and astronomer named Jacques Vallee" (p. 152). Of course, Vallee is and has been one of the best-known names in all UFOology, for more than fifty years. Vallee suggested to Swann that remote viewers needed "an addressing scheme," similar to network addresses. Thus the idea of coordinate-based remote viewing began. Jacobsen wrongly states that Vallee worked with Dr. J. Allen Hynek on the Air Force's Project Blue Book. While Vallee and Hynek were close friends and colleagues, Vallee was not involved with Blue Book. 
  • Ms. Jacobsen notes that in 1973, Geller had "recently been unable to demonstrate psychokinesis on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show" (p. 174). But she does not inform us why that happened. It was because Carson, himself a onetime magician, enlisted his friend James "The Amazing" Randi, to supervise controls in the studio, to prevent Geller from cheating. As described in this account of "10 Epic Magic Trick Failures, "when Geller was due to perform on the Tonight Show in 1973, Johnny Carson asked Randi to help make sure that Geller couldn't use misdirection in his act. Randi kept all of Geller's people away from the set before the performance, and without their help, Geller's act was a flop. During his segment, you can see Geller hedging as his tricks go awry on live television. He left humiliated."
  • Joe McMoneagle worked with Puthoff and Targ on Remote Viewing. He was sent to SRI for training, then he was sent to Ft. Meade, Maryland to do experiments for Army Intelligence. He was reportedly successful, and he was designated "Remote Viewer 001" (p. 232). Nowadays, McMoneagle is mixed up in a lot of far-out stuff, as described in the book "Remote Viewing UFOs." It tells "Joe McMoneagle and Ingo Swann’s views on Remote Viewing Extraterrestrials." There is also a chapter on "The Carlos Diaz Photos." I know who Carlos Diaz is. He is one of the biggest phonies I have ever met, and to call him the "George Adamski of Mexico" would be pretty accurate. The ETs are his friends.
    John B. Alexander (left), with UFOlogist Lee
    Speigel at the 2014 National UFO Congress.

  • Major Ed Dames was also a Remote Viewer for Army Intelligence. Dames loved to talk about "space aliens and UFOs," according to one of his Army colleagues (p. 301). "Dames began sending viewers to what would become known as anomaly or chimera targets... places like 'alien bases' beneath the desert in Phoenix or on Mars" (p. 328). Dames also asked his remote viewers to search for Atlantis, and the Ark of the Covenant (p. 338), and he believed that "a group of extraterrestrials called the Supreme Galactic Council of Aliens was working to control Earth." In recent years Dames has appeared on late night Coast to Coast radio, offering training seminars for remote viewing, and warning about a solar "Killshot" that would "end life as we know it on earth in the near future." But if you learn remote viewing, somehow you can avoid the disaster.
Here is an email ad I received in 2013 from Ed Dames, warning about a solar "Killshot" threatening earth.


  1. wow! This is a shock, .. l do understand people in important positions often do believe in some quackery. Or woo. Uri Geller was touted on TV as being the real deal, with only Johnny Carson willing to show how easy it was to show he's a fake. I just can't believe how LONG this went on and hate to think about the amount of money spent. Because people have to realize that most woo, pays. Just that it has paid and is paying for SO LONG. My fiscal side is not happy, as I'm betting that unlike science, things have not progressed much in all the years of study. A few good hits, and I am sure most garbage. But everyone wants to keep their job....thank you, I need to read this book.

  2. Thanks for the post, Robert. The extent the same names show up for decades in taxpayer-funded esoteric projects is a story in itself. We should all have the luxury of failing upward so successfully.

    BTW, whatever problems Jacobsen may have, I too find some of her material to be quite informative and well-sourced. I thought Operation Paperclip is an impressive work.

  3. The way it was explained to me, the CIA was happy to fund some bogus 'remote viewing' experiments because they realized the Soviets were absolutely convinced ESP could work -- and that belief gave cover to some of the actual 'means and methods' leading to several CIA intelligence coups in the 1970s [some due to very vulnerable in-place assets], which the Soviets mistakenly attributed to secret ESP breakthroughs while redoubling their own research. One Russian psychology professor whose department was richly funded was asked by a graduate student -- who realized their own demonstrations to KGB visitors were parlor tricks -- if it wasn't dishonest to trick the government, and he replied that the money also funded half the serious research they did and the support of all his PhD students, and besides, if the military didn't spend it here, they'd just buy more bullets.

    1. Yes. Jacobsen explains that the CIA was concerned by Soviet claims that Ninel Kulagina (and others) could see things psychically, also Chinese claims of boys who could read with their fingers or whatever. So, to be safe, they reasoned, we need to look into this, too.

  4. The pure physicalists are dead wrong. Rational, ethical human beings do, in fact, have a non-physical component associated with their physical brain. Therefore, remote viewing and telepathy are possible--and actually proven, as shown by parapsychology experiments conducted over the past 150 years. However, psychokinesis has not been proven at all.

  5. AND WHY do we (the so-called UFO field)have the same cast of characters over and over again? I'll tell you all why: because, in any other field they would have long ago been discredited out of the field. Not so in the UFO field, after being found fakes, they always come back, and guess what? You all accept them again, and keep quiet, never criticizing them at all. In 70 years, it will be the same ole' thing again...the frauds keep coming back, and are accepted by all who want to believe!


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