Debunking Denialism

Fighting pseudoscience and quackery with reason and evidence.

CIA Releases Declassified Documents on Alleged Psychic Experiments

CIA Stargate

Stories of secret government conspiracies and paranormal encounters have captured the imagination of generations of readers as well as movie and television fans all across the world. Meanwhile, in the real world, pseudoscientific movements that involve various conspiracy theories have cropped up in parallel on everything from building collapses and biomedical research to the shape of the earth and the moon landing. They posit highly efficient and competent conspirators and the total absence of leaks but can only present extremely poor arguments often in the face of strongly contradictory evidence.

Many conspiracy theories, such as those relating to supposed UFO sightings, visits by aliens or hidden psychic powers, involve the U. S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This is somewhat predictable because the CIA (and similar organizations) cannot immediately disclose all information available on all possible issues that involve some kind of conspiracy theories due to the secretive nature of international intelligence activities. What makes matters worse is that the CIA has intentionally involved themselves in issues that feature prominently in those conspiracy theories, such as scientific investigations of supposed UFO sightings or people with alleged psychic abilities. This feeds into the conspiracy mindset.

Now, the CIA has released approximately 13 million documents that are part of the CREST database on their website that can be freely read and downloaded by anyone. Not all of these documents are related to conspiracy theories or pseudoscience, but those that are cover experimental tests of alleged physics, secret writings and scientific abstracts. Let us review the CREST database material and look closer at some interesting documents.

Why did the CIA put 13 million documents online?

Due to an Executive Order 13526 issued by President Obama in 2009, certain historical records must be automatically declassified if they are not exempted from this due to special reasons. In 2000, the CIA set up an electronic database called CREST (CIA Records Search Tools), but this was only available to people who visited the National Archives at College Park in Maryland in the United States. This turned out to be an irritating obstacle to researchers and so the CIA has decided to put the CREST collection online. This means that the CIA effective has released millions of documents online that can be searched by anyone. This story has been covered by a BBC News article located here.

What does the CREST database currently consist of?

The CIA has split up the CREST database into 12 separate categories: Berlin Tunnel, Consolidated Translations, General CIA Records, Ground Photo Caption Cards, JPRS, Library of Congress, NGA Records (Formerly NIMA), NIS, OSS Collection, Scientific Abstracts, Secret Writing and STARGATE.

What will interest us here is the documents related to the Stargate project.

What is the Stargate Project?

The Stargate Project was a code name for a U. S. Army unit out of Fort Meade (Maryland, United States) that was started in 1978 and ended in 1995. It was a small group consisting of about 20 people who researched alleged paranormal abilities to be used both in international conflict and domestic affairs. Although trying different things, it focused primarily on “remote viewing” (RV) and “remote action” (RA) which is the supposed ability for some people to either gain information from great distances (RV) or influence events far away (RA). When the program was cancelled in 1995, the major conclusion was that the evidence for these alleged abilities was poor and could not produce any relevant applications.

How many documents and page relate to the Stargate Project?

It is hard to get a good idea of how many documents exists in the Stargate collection. Each page of records consists of 20 records and the collection consists of a total of 623, suggesting that it is approximately 12 460 documents. Since each document is at least 1 page and many documents have more than 1 page, the number of total pages is probably substantially larger than ~13 000.

What are some documents found in the Stargate Project collection?

In August of 1973, they compiled an 31 page report on an experimental session on remote viewing carried out with Uri Geller where pictures were drawn outside a room and Geller had to draw a corresponding picture inside to demonstrate his alleged powers. Although we now know that Geller likely exploited a hole in the wall and a two-way intercom and replication experiments have failed, he managed to persuade the researchers because they wrote that he “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner”. The report can be found here.

In December of 1987, they published a report on two separate remote action experiments that they had conducted. Both had used piezoelectric sensors in collaboration with the John F. Kennedy University. From the literature, the researchers had found prior experiments where alleged psychics had used remote action to influence a piezoelectric crystal that was suspended several meters away and they had recorded signals that were between 5 and 100 times greater than the background noise level. In addition, those studies claimed to have a method that could train people to be able to do this. The Stargate researchers carried out a pilot project in 1986 that appeared to merit future research and an improved follow-up experiment in 1987 that showed that there was no evidence that remote action was real after improving the protocol, the computers used and controls. In particular, the likely source of the results in the 1986 pilot project was “an unshielded vibrational resonance at 8 Hz”. The considered their follow-up study to be the “most elaborate and exhaustive RA experiment ever conducted with PZTs” and “we found no evidence of for a RA effect on a PZT.” This final report is 123 pages and can be found here.

The Stargate collection also contain interesting documents exposing certain alleged clairvoyants who used compromised blindfolds to see playing cards, but could not tell what the cards were if they were placed further away or if the person did not use a blindfold and was instead placed in front of a screen with the same fabric as the blindfold.

Scientific skepticism and other interested parties could spend hours looking through these documents, the experimental methodologies used as well as the details of their results and conclusions. It is equal part amazement and equal parts entertainment.

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3 responses to “CIA Releases Declassified Documents on Alleged Psychic Experiments

  1. Pingback: CIA Releases Declassified Documents on Alleged Psychic Experiments | Emil Karlsson

  2. shelldigger January 20, 2017 at 02:29

    Yeah but what about the exceptions? Obviously that’s where the real stuff is. They won’t release it because we “CAN”T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”

    So, how did you like my “conspiracy theorist?” I put on a tin foil hat and subscribed to a clairvoyant just to fit the role 🙂

    • Emil Karlsson January 20, 2017 at 02:44

      Excellent parody. 🙂

      Pretty interesting documents though. I like reading through old stuff even if it is not revolutionary in any way. Gives you a glimpse into the past.

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