Remember the good ole Cold War days? Sure it’s been a long time, but I’ll forever cherish the historical fruits of a bipolar world: The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall, the space race, the nuclear arms race, Rocky IV…

Above all else, I miss the lure of international espionage. During the latter half of the 20th century, it was all about trench coats, double agents and spy gadgets. And, since the US had an adversary worth spying on back then, paranoia ran rampant and nothing was out of bounds. Case in point: Remote Viewing.

Timeline for RV’s Big Kahuna Events

1970: Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder published a sobering book titled Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. The authors convincingly discussed how the Soviet intelligence apparatus had enlisted psychics into their ranks and were achieving impressive results.

1972: Ostrander and Schroeder’s expose garnered the attention, and concern, of US intelligence. The CIA approached Stanford Research Institute (SRI) to explore the possibility of America’s own psychic espionage program. SRI seemed like a good choice to Spook Central, being a large think tank with many high tech Pentagon projects already under its belt. After some initial posturing, SRI was granted a $50,000 R&D budget and the program was assigned to Hal Pudoff, a respected SRI physicist. His charge: Produce results.

Logically, Pudoff needed a world class psychic guinea pig to experiment upon, so he recruited Ingo Swan. After a few months of “what’s in the box” type experiments, Swan got bored and raised the ante by claiming he could view any place on the planet…remotely. Remote Viewing (RV) was born.

1973: A CIA official gave Swan coordinates to his colleague’s cabin hidden within the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place that didn’t exist on any map, and asked for a detailed description . Instead, Swan zeroed in on a secret government satellite eavesdropping facility located near the cabin. The classified results of this RV session must have been impressive because previously uninvolved government agencies began sniffing around the new program, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and the Navy.

1975: Multiple intelligence groups bankrolled a multi-million dollar R&D effort, code named Operation Stargate. Its goal was to train remote viewers over a 20 year period, using Swan’s highly regimented curriculum developed at SRI.

1978: The operational arm of Stargate, known as Grill Flame, carried out sustained remote viewing missions against the Soviets from Fort Meade, Maryland. Major General Ed Thompson, head of Army Intelligence, spearheaded the effort. He had become a firm supporter after successfully remote viewing his own targets, under Swann’s tutelage.

1981: General Thompson was replaced by Major General Albert “Spoon Bender” Stubblebine, a nickname earned during his infamous demonstration of psychokinesis to top intelligence officials. Under Stubblebine, the military’s RV program prospered and expanded into more exotic psychic phenomena, including psychokinesis, out-of-body consciousness, extraterrestrial life, neuro-linguistic programming, psychotronic weaponry and remote assassination.

1983-1993: Grill Flame was transferred to the DIA and renamed Sun Streak. Under the DIA’s guidance, SRI prospered and reclaimed operations from the military. SRI  recruited civilian psychics to push the program even further into the twilight zone than did “Spoon Bender” Stubblebine. These pursuits included spirit channeling, séances, possession, astrology, and tarot card reading. The Army’s remote viewers spitefully referred to these new psychics as witches and accused SRI’s new program direction as sloppy, reckless and offensive.

Undeterred, Jack Vorona (DIA )and Hal Puthoff (SRI) hosted a series of occultic dog-and-pony shows throughout the government, including the White House, the Navy, the Air Force, Joint Chiefs of Staff, NSA, FBI, DEA, Customs Service and Coast Guard.

In the late 1980’s government scandals, such as the Oliver North fiasco, brought external scrutiny to all the shadowy dealings within the US government, including Vorona and Puthoff’s travelling freak show.

1994: The Secretary of Defense, Frank Carlucci, dispatched an Inspector General team to assess the RV program. Following a non-favorable assessment, Grill Flame was terminated. The two principal auditors hired by the Inspector General were Professor Jessica Utts and Psychologist Ray Hyman.

Utts: “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. The phenomenon has been replicated in a number of forms across laboratories and cultures. What is not so clear is that we have progressed very far in understanding the mechanism for anomalous cognition. …Distance in time and space do not seem to be an impediment. Beyond those conclusions, we know very little. Resources should be directed to the pertinent questions about how this ability works.”

Hyman: “Because even if Utts and her colleagues are correct and we were to find that we could reproduce the findings under specified conditions, this would still be a far cry from concluding that psychic functioning has been demonstrated. This is because the current claim is based entirely upon a negative outcome – the sole basis for arguing for ESP is that extra-chance results can be obtained that apparently cannot be explained by normal means.”

Here’s an interesting quote from another skeptical scholar, Professor Richard Wiseman: “I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do…if I said that a UFO had just landed, you’d probably want a lot more evidence. Because remote viewing is such an outlandish claim that would revolutionize the world, we need overwhelming evidence before we draw any conclusions. Right now we don’t have that evidence.”

My final take on RV’s authenticity is uncertainty. Reams of testimony and documentation exist to verify its reality. However, as I stated above, during the Cold War nothing was out of bounds. Remote Viewing could have been just a mutual US/USSR mind job of colossal proportions.