some remote viewers reviewed

Damien Broderick (
Thu, 06 Nov 1997 11:40:03 +0000

Earlier this year I read a very peculiar book by one David Morehouse, a
former spookish `remote viewer', and concluded it was almost complete
horseshit. I hadn't then read Jim Schnabel's new book on remote viewing
for purposes of calibration. A copy recently came my way, courtesy of a US
anomalies research journal which asked me for a review. In the event (as
you will see), my notice was insufficiently cool and scholarly, so the
journal was obliged to decline it. I thought I'd inflict it on you lot,
since questions relating to mysticism and exotic science (or `science')
crop up from time to time. My own book on parapsychology research, and
possible applications if psi turns out to be real, is THE LOTTO EFFECT:
TOWARDS A TECHNOLOGY OF THE PARANORMAL (Melbourne, Australia: Hudson, 1992,
ISBN: 0 949873 41 1). Herewith:


Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America's Psychic Spies, by Jim
Schnabel. New York: Dell, February 1997, 452pp, $US5.99 (pb). ISBN:

Psychic Warrior: The True Story of the CIA's Paranormal Espionage
Programme, by David Morehouse. New York, St Martin's Press; London:
Michael Joseph, 1996, 258pp, $Aust35.00 (hc). ISBN: 0–7181–4178–4.

Reviewed by Damien Broderick

For more than two decades, the US government ran several research programs
into the military use of paranormal powers, or anomalous cognition. This
is not fiction, not *Dark Skies* or *The X–Files*. The sponsors' chief
goal was to implement `remote viewing' for intelligence gathering: use
trained psychic skills to access places, events or persons distant in time
and space. Now they've stopped. The money has dried up. Or so they say.
Other opinions abound.

Professor Jessica Utts, a statistician at the University of California,
Davis, and Professor Ray Hyman, a psychologist at the University of Oregon,
were contracted several years ago by American Institutes for Research (AIR)
to evaluate the program. Under Pentagon pressure, the 23–year program was
terminated late in 1995 (Schnabel, p. 386–7). One might suppose that the
evaluators had examined the best results from the various wings of the long
project and found them wanting. Not so, or not quite. Curiously, Utts's
report had concluded: `It is clear to this author that anomalous cognition
is possible and has been demonstrated. This conclusion is not based on
belief, but rather on commonly accepted scientific criteria.'

Hyman, a well–known sceptic, predictably disagreed, but admitted: `I tend
to agree with Professor Utts that real effects are occurring in these
experiments'. Irritatingly, the assessors were not given the `operational'
remote viewing material, just laboratory results from government–sponsored
research done from the early 1970s at Stanford Research Institute and from
1989 to 1994 at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
Most of the real material, according to Utts, is still classified (personal

Is the Truth, as Agent Mulder hopes, really Out There? The subtitle of Jim
Schnabel's thorough if journalistic account calls it `The Secret
History...' A little earlier, a very strange book by retired major David
Morehouse, PhD, was subtitled `The True Story...' Morehouse's remote
viewing stint was with a Fort Meade, Maryland, army unit although he
suggests that the CIA's once–secret STAR GATE later assimilated the Army's
SUN STREAK, meanwhile running their own parallel project. Ingo Swann,
arguably the *eminence grise* of the defunct official RV programs, is
releasing chapters of his own history on the World Wide Web (after it was
declined by America's `top five mainstream publishers' due, incredibly, to
a perceived lack of public interest in the paranormal). It provides a
quirky if unfinished triangulation on the two books under review:

`If nothing else,' Swann writes, `the American intelligence community is
VERY mainstream. The odds of a "psychic" (as I unfortunately was to be
dubbed) of even entering into the realms of mainstream structured
international espionage, much less surviving for some eighteen YEARS within
the abundant machinations – well, such odds were nonexistent as of 1971'
(chapter three, his uppercase). Weirdly written in a voice that yokes *La
Cage Aux Folles* to stilted bureaucratese – the Vietnam War, he remarks,
led to `the wide spread realization that the rationale for that war was
nutso whacko' – this jumbled blend of immodest autobiography and strange
history is unabashedly titled *Remote Viewing – The Real Story*.

How `real’ and `true’ we should deem versions of that `secret ‘story is
perhaps up to each reader, and opinions will vary considerably. Schnabel's
account seems to me believable. Perhaps it's because he stands carefully
back from the fray, despite having learned successfully How–2–RV from both
Swann and former Fort Meade officer Ed Dames. As with his previous
splendid books *Round in Circles* (on the cereal–circle hoaxes, and lunatic
mythologies that grew up around them) and *Dark White* (an hilarious,
definitive study of UFO `abductions'), he allows the deluded, hallucinated,
crackpated, prankish and felonious to reveal themselves, while playing fair
with genuine intimations of mystery. If Morehouse were to be believed, by
contrast, it is a matter of plain (if, perhaps, still–classified) record
that Defense Intelligence Agency personnel performed psychic overhead
flights of the Gulf War, spoke to the dead, surveyed UFOs buzzing crop
circles and under the sands of Mars, and locked on to the hidden Ark of the
Covenant. Just as well the major was out–of–body in that last-mentioned
sacred place, for otherwise he'd have `perish[ed] instantly... vaporized'
(Morehouse, 132).

Desert Storm's oil–well fires, it turns out, were a cover–up for US
chemical weapons tests on its own soldiers. Dave, out of body, saw the
open canisters (169). That's why the Army hounded him into court (and let
him go, after he ended in the Walter Reed psychiatric ward, with an `other
than honorable' discharge). Earlier, they'd tried to kill him and his
family. Or maybe not. As Morehouse admits, his book is heavily
fictionalised, appropriating the experiences of others (some of them given
proper or at least different attribution in Schnable). It's under lavish
contract for the movies, perhaps to star Stallone.

So did the US program really develop effective methods for getting `into
the ether' (lovely dumb 19th century term!), whizzing back and forth in
space and time, contacting those toiling in the afterlife, angels,
extraterrestrials in UFOs and on distant worlds? If even the least of
Morehouse's assertions were correct – and Schnabel corroborates the least
lurid of them – if his unit's methodology for psychic espionage actually
did work (bolstered by data from regular spies), it's hard to see why
university parapsychologists at Edinburgh and Princeton and elsewhere are
still fiddling about with their penny ante lab experiments.

Schnabel's 1995 British Channel Four special `The Real X–Files: America's
Psychic Spies', lightly mapped his book's territory in a bizarre *Twin
Peaks*–meets–*American Gothic* style. Despite these gestures of postmodern
mockery, he claimed to have learned effective remote–viewing from Swann.
And while he is cautious and very fleeting in his book on the topic of
Morehouse's alleged exploits, Schnabel gave free vent to his distaste in an
article recently posted widely on the Internet:

`To me, his story is not just about the depths to which one human can sink.
(Morehouse is, in the end, perhaps only a sleazier, crazier version of the
old Sgt. Bilko character.) Somehow his story also reflects the current
state of things in America, a country that seems to be going insane...
What else to call a people who feed hungrily, via *The X–Files* and other
forms of that hugely popular genre, on paranoid conspiracy fantasies
otherwise found only on psychiatric wards?'

It's intriguing to compare Morehouse's own account of his life (tragically
misused by evil manipulators, but saved from suicidal depression by eternal
love for his angelic wife plus some actual kitschy angels and his
patriotism and decency), and Schnabel's relentless savaging in that
article, excluded mysteriously from his book: Morehouse the scummy
womaniser, the guy with `a small home improvement business, House Tech,
that he ran on the side.'

Can this be the same Morehouse who rails against the shocking state of
morale and morals in the spook bizz (the other sort of spooks, you
understand)? `And some of their private lives! A few staff members hardly
bothered to conceal extramarital affairs... It was a real Peyton Place,
and I hated it... Let me top my description off with the colonel who sold
Afghani rugs out of the trunk of his car in the parking lot' (Morehouse, 157).

The major's alleged sexual improprieties, even his goldbricking while on
the payroll of the Defense Intelligence Agency, are finally irrelevant. We
all have our little quirks. It's notable, though, that none of this
material is touched in his book, either, not even to rebut it. The jacket
mentions his PhD (in Education Administration, I learned). `My doctorate
is from LeSalle University in Mandeville, LA.,' he told me by email. He
meant La Salle. In a rather odd disclaimer, he added: `I did not simply
buy my degree – believe it or not, I had to work for it' (personal email

It'd be easiest, obviously, to discount Morehouse as a former, or feigned,
psychotic with schmaltzy style and delusions of grandeur. But we are meant
to accept that this kind of operative provided the psychic material that
the CIA and DIA and other dark powers once found impressive. It stinks of
a disinformation package to me, rich in odours attractive to New Age
nostrils and *X–Files* fans and just as certain to wrinkle the snooty noses
of sceptics. Schnabel's *Remote Viewers* is a fine counter to Morehouse's
vulgar concoctions.

Meanwhile, former military remote viewers such as Lyn Buchanan, Ed Dames
and Joe McMoneagle, some selling ambitious coaching and psi–for–hire
programs, are represented on the Net – Dames by Psi–Tech, Buchanan by
P>S>I>. The latest excited news from Buchanan's site is that, perhaps due
to the benign influence of morphic resonance, remote viewing skills can
currently be learned with astonishing rapidity. In just a few concentrated
days or weeks, for a hefty fee, students can master powers over time and
space that used to take months under Swann's structured protocol (*CRV:
Recent Developments in Remote Viewing training*, on the P>S>I> website).

Swann's way was a sequence of neologised Stages: One, minimal sketched
`ideograms'; Two, basic sense perceptions and emotional impacts,
progressing through `dimensionals' to Three, large autonomous sketches;
Four, listing of `tangible' and `intangible' quantities; Five, prompting
for detail from specific target objects; Six, building a solid model in
clay, like the UFO–obsessed seers in *Close Encounters* or perhaps, to be
fair, like an architect externalising her blueprint; Seven, uttering
free–floating phonemes in order to elicit meaningful cues and clues; and so
on (Schnabel, 242–252).

By his own account (although one might ponder as to its exact truth), Swann
is a prodigy who had read the entire 30 volume *Encyclopaedia Britannica*
before he entered kindergarten, and flow–charted the *Tao–te Ching* when he
was seven (*Real Story*). No less polymathic was the scientific mind
behind Stanford Research Institute's psi program, Dr Hal Puthoff, who in
1985 would walk away from SRI to research a fabulous alternative paradigm
in deep physics, `zero–point' or `vacuum' energy (Schnabel 323), a quantum
alternative to general relativity. Did Puthoff use his disintegrating RV
team's somewhat unreliable powers of precognition to select this risky
venture? Schnabel does not say, and neither does Puthoff. It is
intriguing, though, that Puthoff did employ `associational remote viewing'
– a method of coding future market movements to binary targets, and earned
$25,000 in a month for a community school (322).

Of course, one's lingering doubt as to the true efficacy of the RV method
might fix itself to this kind of success story. If Puthoff and his team of
charitable RVers could precognise the stockmarket, and if, in a famous
earlier debacle, silver futures had been traded with some success (265,
322), why, then, are we still arguing over the merits of the method?

Schnabel lists numerous eye-openers, some familiar from Russel Targ and Hal
Puthoff's *Mind-Reach* (1977), others fresh. What must CIA anaysts have
made of the detailed drawings Pat Price provided SRI of a secret Soviet R&D
target south of Semipalatinsk? Here is the unusual, rail-tracked,
eight-wheeled crane, the metal spheres being welded together, confirmed
later by spy satellites.

If government drug busters and armed forces and CIA and DIA and NSA and who
knows what covert agencies attained some measure of astonishing accuracy in
RV tasks – as Schnabel and Morehouse and McMoneagle and Swann and Buchanan
assure us that they did – why were these programs allowed to whimper away?
Why were they closed down as their early champions fell from grace or
retired – men so well–placed as General Bert Stubblebine, chief of the
Army's Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), General Ed Thompson,
Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and Jack Vorona, head of
the DIA's Scientific and Technical Intelligence Directorate? Is it enough
to blame the resistance of stolid scientific paradigms, the contamination
of lunatic cultisms, or the ebb and flow of social currents like the
complex blend that saw nuclear power lauded one decade and despised the next?

In any event, at least one former member of the remote viewing unit, an
INSCOM officer, has vouched for Schnabel's account: `It appears to be very
accurate.... While I do think Joe McMoneagle wrote a good RV book [*Mind
Trek*, 1993], he was restricted in what he could say at that time.
Schnable has certainly done his homework.' But can such allegedly
classified details truly be reliable? I asked Lyn Buchanan, and he kindly
provided this comment:

` Jim Schnabel's book is probably the only one available to the public
which sticks closely to the truth and real history of the unit. There is a
lot which is totally in error - in spite of the fact that it was
information he should have had an easy time uncovering, and a lot which is
correct, in spite of being information he shouldn't have been able to get.
It seems that he got many of the easy facts wrong, and really aced the
stuff that should have been highly classified. At any rate, it still
sticks most closely to the truth and real history. In summary, it isn't a
totally accurate account, but it's the best available at the moment.
Anyone wanting to know about the unit would be best to start here’
(personal communication, 4 November, 1997).

Clearly the same cannot be said of Morehouse's souffle. In any event, to
me, as an open–minded sceptical outsider agog at the reported accuracy of
the best cases Schnable cites, the obvious gnawing question remains. If
this methodology works perhaps 50 percent of the time, especially when
bolstered by signal–enhancing measures such as redundancy (tasking several
viewers without their knowledge at the same target), how could such power
be left to slip away?

`Even if a remote viewing of a specific target proved to have been accurate
and useful,' Schnabel concludes, `its user, afraid of the giggle factor,
could almost never acknowledge the fact' (338). Prejudice and paradigms,
the usual suspects. I can't buy it. If D. D. Home returned and flew
through the air in front of video cameras, wired to the eyeballs with slick
neuroscience electronics, I suspect he'd be whisked away promptly to a
military lab, giggle factor or not.

If Mel Riley and Tom Nance and the rest really did pluck data from the
vasty deep, how could any paradigm resist? I disbelieve in iridology and
homeopathy in part because my instinct tells me that if these laughable
ideas endured the sieve of scientific testing, they would be by now the
proprietory lines of Swiss billionaires. Same with remote viewing. I'm
not so much dismayed by the coarse hallucinated mythos its shamanic
practitioners seem to generate as they `bounce off the walls' (Schnabel
73ff) – the pregnant Martian females under the New Mexico desert (377), the
visions of the Ark of the Covernant – as flummoxed by their failure to have
bought out Bill Gates by now. Like Agent Mulder, I'd be quite happy to
believe, but the state of the world hints it isn't so.

But Schnabel's charming history makes it very tempting to relax my guard.


The AIR reports by Utts (`An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic
Functioning') and Hyman (`Evaluation of Program on Anomalous Mental
Phenomena', 1995) are at

Schnabel's article (`An American Hero: The Truth About Dave Morehouse and
Psychic Warrior', 7 November 1996) can be retrieved from Usenet sites
archived by Dejanews, as can a well-written and fairly savage critique of
it by R. J. Durant, 4 December 1996.

Swann's incomplete history/biography is available on his homepage at

Lyn Buchanan’s Web site is