The CIA has a long history of using psychics in its secretive ESP program. It has gone by a number of code names and conducted thousands of telepathic forays.
Until 1995, it was called Star Gate, an operation that aimed to discover how a remote-viewing psychic could spy on a target in another room. But the results weren’t reliable, a government report concluded.
The Grill Flame Program
While most of us would have laughed at the thought of using psychics to spy on a nation, it was not uncommon for the United States to use the paranormal in a military and intelligence context. In the Cold War, both countries were eager to explore “outside the box” techniques and methods to gain an edge and outdo their opponents in intelligence gathering.
To that end, a series of experiments were conducted to determine the validity and efficacy of psychic abilities. These included the Grill Flame Program, a project that employed remote viewing and extrasensory perception (ESP) to gather information.
The project ran under several code names over the years, including CENTER LANE, GONDOLA WISH, GRILL FLAME, and SCANATE until it was consolidated into the CIA’s Stargate Project in 1995. The program was a $20 million effort that tried to develop psychic abilities in agents and soldiers.
One of the most important aspects of the program was to test the abilities of psychics on real-life situations. For example, during the 1979 Iranian Revolution when students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans captive, the CIA used remote viewing to gather information about their captors and possible escape routes.
Another example was in 1988 when DIA asked a group of remote viewers about the location of Marine Corps COL William Higgins, who was being held by Lebanese government forces. After a period of questioning, the psychics said that Higgins was probably in a specific building in South Lebanon.
Some of the psychics even said that Higgins was not being tortured. In addition to stating that Higgins would not be hurt, the psychics also told a group of DIA agents that Higgins would likely be released soon.
These tests of ESP were designed to show the CIA that psychics could be useful in future military and intelligence operations. However, the CIA quickly found that they were useless, and the program was shuttered in 1995.
After the CIA shut down its Stargate Project, some of its psychics moved on to other projects. Others went on to become famous psychics and illusionists, such as Uri Geller.
The CIA’s Remote Viewing Program
In the 1970s, the CIA partnered with the Stanford Research Institute to begin investigating psychic abilities. Originally, the program was intended to test whether psychics could help with intelligence gathering.
While this project was in the works, psychics became a popular subject of controversy, and many people began to question the use of psychics by the government. Eventually, the CIA declassified information about the psychic program, allowing for more open debate on the issue.
Remote viewing is the process of using your mind to perceive things that aren’t physically present. It has a long history and is used by thousands of people across the globe.
This form of psychic ability was used by the CIA to locate weapons, smugglers, and military targets. It also has a history of being used to predict the outcome of sports and financial events.
According to reports, the CIA used psychics to help find plutonium in North Korea, SCUD missiles in Iraq, and to track down terrorists. Some of these projects were highly successful, while others were not.
After the CIA shut down the program in 1995, a few researchers published articles and books about it. Some of these were based on research they had conducted, but some were written by CIA employees who worked in the program.
In these articles, the authors state that they had received orders to perform remote viewing from the CIA in order to help with intelligence gathering. These orders were later removed from their contracts.
As the program evolved, the number of clients and tasking increased significantly. In some cases, the identity of the clients and the tasking was revealed to the public; in others, such details were kept secret.
The majority of the studies were performed in a classified setting, with clients’ identities and the tasking of their RV sessions kept confidential. This was done for several reasons, including the concern of some clients that their RV results could be construed as paranormal.
In this way, the CIA could ensure that their information would not be compromised. This was especially important in the 1970s when it was thought that the Soviet Union had spent an immense amount of money on psychic abilities for warfare.
The CIA’s Mars Mission
During the Cold War, the Soviets and the US were engaged in a race to see who could use psychic telepathy to spy on each other. Despite the fact that the American intelligence community dismissed these claims as a hoax, the Soviets took them seriously.
In the early 1980s, the CIA had commissioned a psychic to use a technique known as “remote viewing” to time travel to Mars one million years ago. The psychic then described a surreal vision of pyramid dwellings and troubled Martians who were battling an existential threat to their civilization.
However, the CIA was not satisfied with the results of their experiment and it shut down the project in 1995. This was because remote viewing failed to provide the information that was needed in order to make effective spying decisions, according to a 1995 report by the CIA.
The report, which was written by an independent group called the American Institutes for Research, also found that the CIA had made serious mistakes when relying on this psychic information. The report states that the CIA should never use this information alone, and that psychics should be used in conjunction with other sources of information to provide reliable intelligence.
In addition, the CIA should never try to use psychic information on people who are in captivity, because it can make things worse. For example, when a hostage was being held in Iran, one psychic reported that they were held in a multi-story castle-like building outside the embassy.
Nevertheless, these and other mistakes did not deter the CIA from using psychics in their spying work. The agency had spent about $20 million, a small fraction of the CIA’s overall budget, on psychic spying and related programs over the course of 20 years.
The CIA also ran a program called Star Gate that used paranormal activities to collect information about military targets. This program was a joint venture between the CIA and NASA, and the CIA had a secret team of psychic spies working on this project. They used these psychics to give them information about military sites and operations in different parts of the world.
The CIA’s ESP Program
In the 1970s, the CIA was testing ESP – extrasensory perception – and people who exhibited paranormal abilities. In an attempt to collect military and intelligence secrets, the CIA was hiring psychics to look for foreign hostages, describe new Soviet submarine designs, or even visualize hidden extremist training sites.
For many years, the CIA ran a program called “Star Gate.” It used a group of psychics to help track down missing Americans, spy on Russian agents, and gather information about other countries. Some of the psychics worked at Fort Meade in Maryland and other CIA bases, including the Pentagon’s remote viewing center.
Several declassified documents show that the CIA was very interested in psychics and ESP. According to some of the documents, the CIA was at one point seriously considering using Israeli illusionist Uri Geller to remotely spy on the Soviet Union.
The documents also reveal that the CIA was looking into the effects of ESP on the immune system and that it believed that some psychics could bend metal with their minds. Interestingly, the Pentagon had long been worried that a person with ESP might be able to interfere with a nuclear-tipped missile.
It was only after the Star Gate project failed that the CIA decided to review all of its psychic programs. They called on renowned debunker David Hyman to evaluate the programs.
Although Hyman and his team did not provide the CIA with an opinion on how effective ESP was in collecting military secrets, they found that the CIA’s remote viewing program was largely ineffective. A key reason for that was that the CIA’s evaluators, who were not scientists, were too biased toward their own views.
That bias made the CIA’s ESP program a waste of time and money, according to a declassified CIA report. The reports also chastised May for his performance as a judge and jury on the ESP studies.
Despite the CIA’s negative evaluation of ESP, May still held firm to his belief in it. He had a private Cognitive Sciences Laboratory in Palo Alto where he was conducting his own experiments. He picked 22 different locations in the San Francisco Bay Area where he wanted to test ESP. The chosen spots included a fire station, a Catholic church, a water tower and a government building.