Remote Viewing

remote viewing of a forest

I first heard about remote viewing in the 2009 film The Men Who Stare at Goats which was more of a parody of real experiments done by the military into the paranormal. The film (starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin Spacey) is based on Jon Ronson’s 2004 book of the same title. The film got me interested enough to read the book which is about attempts by the U.S. military to employ psychic powers as a weapon.

In the book The Men Who Stare at Goats, Ronson gets into the U.S. Army’s exploration of how “New Age” paranormal concepts such as ESP were given serious consideration as having potential military applications of the paranormal.

The book’s title refers to attempts that were made to kill goats by staring at them and stopping their hearts. A three-part British TV series in 2004, Crazy Rulers of the World, was based on the book.

I got thinking about all this again when I heard the recent podcast “Spooks and Psychics: Inside the Military’s Top-Secret ESP Unit” on a podcast I really enjoy, To The Best Of Our Knowledge.

The podcast talks about one successful example of remote viewing (RV) which is the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target, purportedly using extrasensory perception (ESP) or “sensing” with the mind. In the example, a remote viewer was asked to “look” into a building in Russia by concentrating on a photo of it in a closed envelope. One soldier described a building on a shoreline, which smelled of gas and industrial products that had inside of it a large coffin-like object with fins, like a shark.

A few months later the CIA received satellite imagery showing that the Soviets had constructed a new ballistic missile submarine. It was later known by its NATO designation,  Typhoon class, but at the time of the remote viewing it was known in the USSR as the Akula. Russian for “shark.” This is purported to be one of several true examples of the military’s paranormal activity research.

My own investigations led me to another quite serious investigation in the book Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis by Annie Jacobsen. She examines the now declassified papers that came from government attempts to locate hostages, fugitives, secret bases, and downed fighter jets, and gather other nations’ secrets using the paranormal. It went as far as to try to predict future threats to national security. She says that the intelligence agencies and military services involved include CIA, DIA, NSA, DEA, the Navy, Air Force, and Army-and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As the podcast noted, remote viewing experiments have been criticized for lack of repeatability, which scientists demand, but it may be that a successful remote viewing is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for a subject and just not repeatable. There is no scientific evidence that remote viewing exists, and so it generally falls under “pseudoscience,” although it is physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, parapsychology researchers at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), who are generally credited with coining the term “remote viewing.” They wanted to distinguish it from the closely related concept of clairvoyance.

Ronson’s book first looks at the small group of U.S. Army officers in the late 1970s and early 1980s who wanted to use paranormal phenomena, some New Age philosophy, and elements of the human potential movement for intelligence-gathering.

Some of these efforts included First Earth Battalion Operations Manual from 1979 which you can now buy from Amazon! and a “psychic spy unit” established by Army Intelligence at Fort Meade, Maryland, in the late 1970s that was the focus of the film. This was the Stargate Project, established in 1978 by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and SRI International (a California contractor) to investigate the potential for psychic phenomena in military and domestic intelligence applications.

The Stargate Project was terminated and declassified in 1995 after a CIA report concluded that it was never useful in any intelligence operation. But conspiracy theorists seem to believe that its successes have been hidden from the public and are still being used covertly.

The “men who stare at goats” were Special Forces soldiers who supposedly experimented with psychic powers against goats at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the now-decommissioned “Goat Lab” medical training facility. Legend (and probably only a legend) is that one soldier was able to kill a goat simply by staring at it.

The middle section of Ronson’s book jumps to more modern psychological techniques like the military programs from the post-9/11 War on Terror at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the psyops in Iraq. The connections seem tenuous, but maybe I am naive.

I was much more interested in the parts of the book dealing with the 1950s Army psychic program, and later the CIA’s MK-ULTRA “mind control” research program of experiments on human subjects that intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations. Early CIA efforts focused on LSD-25 to see if they could weaken an individual and force confessions through mind control. Could it be used to make Soviet spies defect against their will, or could the Soviets do the same to the CIA’s own operatives?

The MK-ULTRA project is now well known and it appears in many films, TV shows, books and even songs.

Ronson suggests that the “psychic warriors” are again active in the U.S. military again. Put your tinfoil hats back on.

Subliminal Messages

I heard about subliminal messages a long time ago. These are hidden messages in video, audio, still images and music. The word ‘subliminal’ comes from Latin words sub + limen and translates as below + threshold. The threshold here is our subconscious, since these messages supposedly are below our conscious mind and so they are not noticed consciously.

An early study that is always mentioned in these discussions is from 1957. James Vicary played a movie at a drive-in theater and over it he flashed the words “Drink Coca Cola’ and “Eat Popcorn” every 1/3000th of a second. He claimed that Coca Cola sales went up 58% and popcorn sales went up by 18% at the snack bar. But later fact-checking found those results to be faked.

So, are there any real uses of effective subliminal messaging?

amazon subliminal messages

On the Amazon logo, is that arrow connecting A to Z  a subliminal smiley face to suggest a happy experience with their services?

Was the classic Coca-Cola bottle shape meant to resemble a sexy voluptuous woman?

Is that a subliminal (or intentional) arrow between the E and x in the FedEx logo to suggest speed?

I saw online that people have noticed that the science fiction magazine SFX (the abbreviation for special effects) seems to often cover the bottom of the ‘F’ in their SFX logo with a person’s head. Is that a style – or is it a way to subliminally make SFX look like SEX?

It seems that subliminal messages are used for marketing. The other use that I had heard over the years was that supermarkets were inserting subliminal audio messages into the music playing in the store to suggest buying certain products or to not shoplift. They also consider the subliminal messages sent to shoppers by placing the fresh produce and flowers at entrances.

Even if the music playing in a store has no hidden messages, the choice of calm relaxing music or fast-paced louder music has an effect on shoppers.

Is it subliminal to place items that kids like at kid’s eye level?

What about the smell of fresh baking bread or other items in a food store?

It sounds like subliminal messaging is all about marketing. But there are other applications.

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) which is credited to Richard Bandler and John Grinder which is intended to treat anxiety, depression, phobias, and other behavioral disorders. On the evil side, I also read that some people associate its use with mind control.

Though the use of subliminal messages sound intriguing, I don’t find convincing evidence that it is in broad use, or that it is effective. Yet, I know that the use of colors, shapes, sounds and smells evoke feelings, memories and often have symbolic meanings to many people.

Have you encountered examples of subliminal messaging?  Then, post a comment and tell us about it.