Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
If a country had the ability to spy on another country, using psychic powers, that nation would have an insurmountable advantage in the shadow war of espionage. There literally would be no secrets kept from them. It is understandable that the United States of America and other countries would spend millions of dollars on this prospect, even if there would be almost no likelihood of the operation being successful.
I received my undergraduate degree in history, so I appreciate that no two versions of events completely concur with each other. Ironically the more recent the subject matter, the more likelihood that the different academic theories and the firsthand witnesses will disagree among themselves. But I was shocked when comparing the differences in versions about the US government’s remote viewing project. Each of the three books I read on the subject differed so much it was as if they were talking about diffent events.
The most well known of the three is The Men Who Stare at Goats. In 2009 it was made into a movie staring George Clooney as a former psychic spy, undertaking one last mission. I love this movie with its sense of whimsy and A-list cast. The big screen version portrays ‘The Jedi Knights” as quirky warrior monks who have obtained a higher level of consciousness. But the book and TV documentary the movie is based on are actually a seething expose of just how crazy, journalist Jon Ronson, believes the US military establishment is. His main premises is that a few out of the box thinkers burned by the failures of Vietnam, turned to new age teachings and this inspired some preposterous field techniques that are continued on into the War on Terror.
The movie is sympathetic to Clooney’s character Lyn Cassidy. Implying that though he might be way out in left field, he also is more than likely be right about how the universe works. In the book Ronson is condescending and belittling of the people who opened up to him, about their time working on the RV projects and other nontraditional intelligence projects. He paints a, the inmates are running the asylum, view of the military intelligence establishment.
The movie opens with the now classic scene of General Hopgood (Based on real life General Albert Stubbleine III) trying to ‘go to the next office’ by trying running through the wall separating the two offices. Only to be knocked nearly unconscious in his attempt. (This is by the way an actual event) And it ends with Ewan McGregor’s character succeeding in walking between walls. (This part was made up for the movie.) The end of the movie allows the viewer to conclude that everything that crazy old Lyn and his companions have said were true. The Book and the original TV BBC documentary, pretty much asserts this is all unfounded foolishness. .
One anecdote in the book revolves around the remote viewing project at Fort Dix. The key to the backdoor of the viewers building was lost long before they moved in. This prevented them form on hot days, opening it to let in a draft in. Since the project was classified and their location top secret they could not let maintenance know about their dilemma and have the locks replaced. So a viewer claimed to divine what the key looked like and took a drawing of it to a local locksmith to get a copy made. With the freshly minted key he was able to open the stubborn door. This was lauded as a major accomplishment by the rest of the team. However Ronson claimed that the viewer confessed to him that he just picked the lock and made up the story about the locksmith to booster team morale.
In TMWSaG the Fort Dix team got a pretty rough rap. Ronson focused on a claim by some of them, to having psychicly discovered Martian treasures hidden in the desert and locating the Loch Ness monster, who a team member reported was actually a ghost of a dinosaur. He even goes as far as placing responsibility of the Heaven gate cult’s mass suiside, on personnel, even though they were no longer part of the governmental project..
A completely different version of the US Psychic spy program at Fort Dix is told in David Morehouse’s Psychic Warrior. Morehouse claims to have been injured in a military training exercise and had a series of angelic visions. This eventually led him to joining the Fort Dix remote viewer program. Unlike TMWSaG, he paints a picture of scientific and professional practices among the remote viewers. At least when the project began. He bemoans that as the agents began to diverge form the scientific procedures of remote viewing, they began to enter new level of paranormal silliness, such as the before mentioned Martian gold, that the program began to fall apart.
On the surface as a first hand witness of the remote viewing program one would think that Morehouse’s version would be the most credible. But Morehouse’s reputation is to some degree tarnished. His version of events were contradicted by his fellow remote viewers and his dismissal form the military on grounds of adultery and making threats to others.
By definition an autobiography places the writer as the main point of the story. And by reading Psychic Warrior it would seem that David Morehouse was a primary player in the game of psychic warfare. Though the only mention of him in The Men Who Stare at Goats is one line that he was forced into a mental hospital because of his time with the remote viewers.
The finial treatise on Remote viewing is a mention in Mike Dash’s excellent exploration of all things paranormal Borderlands. Unlike Ronson he didn’t spend countless hours interviewing the participants or like Morehouse he wasn’t part of the project. In fact he spends only three out of five hundred and twenty one pages on the subject of the unknown. Dash relies on decalcified public releases by the government. Despite this I feel he may be the most accurate of the three accounts.
First of all he explains that for over twenty years the US government spent twenty million dollars on the remote viewing project. This may seem a lot of money, to you and me, but that really is just a drop in the barrel when it comes to long term block op intelligence operations.
Despite some spectacular success such as finding a crashed Russian Blackjack bomber and locating kidnapped General James Dossier, the operation had at best a thirty percent success rate. From a mathematical point of view this may prove that the remote viewers were not just guessing, (though since their superior officers gave the viewer as much information on a subject as they could on their targets this could not be considered a blind scientific test) But the program’s purpose was not to prove the existence of psychic powers, but rather it was to provide the US government with sound military intelligence. A thirty percent success rate is not a high enough percentage to justify continuation of any intelligence program. This eventually led to the program being closed down.
It is interesting to see three such very different views on the psychic spying program, each with different interruptions of the programs results. Like many things involved with the government intelligence history, I doubt that the full truth of what happened will ever come to light. It is even less like that the reality or lack of reality of the paranormal mechanics behind the attempted operations will ever be determined. But all three sources are clear that the government will go to some extreme and unusual things in its attempts at espionage.
The Men Who Stare at Goats, Ronson, Jon. Simon and Shuster, 2004, New York, New York.
PSYCHIC WARRIOR, Inside the CIA’s Stargate Program: The True Story of a Soldier’s Espionage and Awakening. Morehouse, David,St Martian’s Press, New York, New York.
Borderlands, Dash, Mike, 1997, Dell New York, New York.