Sunday, 7 October 2018

Russell Targ remote views San Andres Airport, 1974

Russell Targ’s only formal remote viewing experiment is a well-known example of psychic functioning, and was recently featured in the article about him on the Society for Psychical Research’s Psi Encyclopedia. However, very little is known about it: it was conducted at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) during the time when Targ and Puthoff were being funded by the CIA. As such, there was a considerable amount of secrecy surrounding this work.

Furthermore, this experiment has never been written up in any real detail, neither for peer-reviewed publication nor internal memo for the CIA. Instead, details about it are scattered across several different sources. I thought it’d be worth putting together as much information as possible to give a little more context to this remarkable event.


What was the purpose of the experiment?

This was a long-range remote viewing experiment, with Hal Puthoff acting as the beacon. He went on a business/pleasure trip to Costa Rica in April 1974. The trip lasted ten days and “a week of remote target viewing” was carried out, with each session taking place at 1330 PDT (1430 CST, the time zone in Costa Rica) at which point Hal would take notes of his current location, including taking photographs.

The experiment was first mentioned in Progress Report No. 2, which is dated 24th April 1974. This is actually a week or so after the sessions were complete, but it’s clear that the report was written some time before publication.



How many sessions was the experiment designed to last?

Seven sessions, taking place in consecutive daily sessions.


Who were the remote viewers?

There were two remote viewers, Pat Price and Hella Hammid, with Russell Targ filling in for an absent remote viewer on one day.

In the book Mind Reach, Targ and Puthoff state that one was in Los Angeles and the other in Menlo Park (ie, at SRI). They did not specify which one was which, but it is more likely that Hella Hammid worked from Los Angeles while Pat Price was at SRI.

However, according to Targ and Puthoff’s 1974 paper “Remote Viewing of Natural Targets,” Hella Hammid was the only remote viewer on this project. Pat Price, despite being mentioned in other parts of the same paper, has been removed entirely from this version of events.



Were the remote viewers blind to the target?

Not completely. In Progress Report No. 3 we learn that the two remote viewers were told that the beacon was Hal Puthoff and he was travelling in Costa Rica.


Which remote viewer did not arrive for the session?

In Targ and Katra’s book Miracles of Mind, it is Pat Price who is absent. However, it is troubling how much Targ’s 1998 version of events differs from the classified documentation. According to this book, the experiment took place in April 1973 (it should be April 1974. In fact, Pat Price hadn’t even joined the team in April 1973) and each session happened at 9.00am (not half past one in the afternoon).

And, of course, in the 1974 paper which removed Pat Price from proceedings, Hella Hammid is named as the psychic who did not turn up.

However, it appears that neither attended. The classified report “Perceptual Augmentation Techniques: Part Two” states that the experimenter “acted as a subject in one experiment on a day in which S4 [ie, Hella Hammid] was not available and the other subject arrived late.” Bearing in mind the quote from Mind Reach telling us that Hella Hammid was based in Los Angeles, if we consider the use of the phrase “not available” it seems to me that Targ already knew Hammid couldn’t submit a session for that day and so when Pat Price did not arrive in time on Friday, Russell Targ submitted his own remote viewing session rather than have one day with no remote viewing data at all.


Was the experimenter blind to the target?

Varous accounts talk about keeping Hal Puthoff's itinerary a secret from the subjects, but there's no mention of doing the same for the experimenter Russell Targ. In Progress Report No.2, when the experiment is first described, it says that the experimenter would also attempt to blind match the session transcripts to the beacon’s target pictures after Puthoff had returned. However, no attempt to complete this part of the protocol was made. Does this mean that Russell Targ had become non-blind to the targets before the judging process could take place? How long was the gap between Puthoff’s return and the photographs being developed? Targ and Katra’s book states “several weeks” but, given the many inaccuracies in that version of events, one has to wonder if this is another mistake.


What happened on the day that Russell Targ did his remote viewing session?

Friday 12 April 1974 was Good Friday that year.

In a recent presentation about his work at SRI, Hal Puthoff explained how he “had a chance to trick” the remote viewers by jumping on a plane and flying to a nearby Colombian island in time for the session. An online airline timetable archive has a LACSA timetable for 1973 which, if we assume that airline timetables don’t change drastically from year to year, confirms that there was a service from Costa Rica to San Andres, Colombia on Fridays (another LACSA timetable dated 1979 has the Friday service still listed). Hal Puthoff would’ve taken the flight from San Jose Airport in Costa Rica to San Andres Airport, but would’ve had to have taken the next flight back or remain there until Monday, meaning he was only on the island for about an hour.

Despite Targ and Puthoff supplying contradictory reports in different accounts, we can be pretty sure that it was Pat Price who did not arrive on time at SRI that day. During these early days in the project, they were still assuming that remote viewing happened in real-time: moving the remote viewer’s perception through the past or the future had not yet been attempted. As such, Pat Price’s absence at that specific time was a problem. Russell Targ has since described his decision to submit a session himself as being done in a spirit of “the show must go on.” Russell Targ’s sketch is dated 4/12/73 (getting the year wrong) and it lasted from 1:25-1:30.



What were the results of the experiment?

Twelve remote viewing sessions were completed: Six by Pat Price, five by Hella Hammid and one by Russell Targ. On his return, Hal Puthoff correctly matched five of these twelve sessions to his seven daily reports, two for Price, two for Hammid and Targ’s session, at odds of 50 to 1 (we shall assume that the notes were given to him with the dates removed).

The content of the sessions by Price and Hammid is largely unknown, except for brief mentions of descriptions of Puthoff relaxing by a pool, in his hotel room or in a jungle environment near a flat-topped mountain (this last session has been credited to both Price and Hammid in different accounts).

The photo that usually accompanies Russell Targ’s sketch is not the same photo that Puthoff took. His two photos were taken from the ground. The aerial photo doesn’t appear until 1977, in the book Mind Reach.



The response to this result was positive, but guarded. An anonymous review of the SRI work to date written in 1975 points out that the full data had still not been submitted, and so any definitive conclusion could not be drawn.



References:

Progress Report No. 2: Perceptual Augmentation Techniques, CIA-RDP96-00791R000200040004-9

Review of Perceptual Augmentation Techniques, CIA-RDP96-00787R000200150004-2

Perceptual Augmentation Techniques: Part Two – Research Report, CIA-RDP96-00791R000300030004-9

Karen Wehrstein (2018). ‘Russell Targ’. Psi Encyclopedia.. Retrieved 6 October 2018.

Targ, R., Katra, J. (1999) Miracles of Mind: Exploring Nonlocal Consciousness and Spiritual Healing,” New World Library, Ca, USA.

Targ, R., Puthoff, H. (1974).  Remote Viewing of Natural Targets. Conference on Quantum Physics and Parapsychology, Geneva, Switzerland, August 26-27, 1974.

Targ, R., Puthoff, H., (1977) “Mind Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Ability,” Delacorte Press

Dr. Hal Puthoff, PhD, on CIA History of Top Secret Remote Viewing

Sunday, 2 September 2018

A Review of “The Star Gate Archives. Volume 1: Remote Viewing”

This book, “The Star Gate Archives. Volume 1: Remote Viewing, 1972-1984: Reports of the United States Government Sponsored Psi Program, 1972-1995” was compiled and edited by Edwin C. May and Sonali Bhatt Marwaha and published by McFarland in 2018. It is the first of four volumes from May and Marwaha covering the US government sponsored program investigating remote viewing as an intelligence gathering tool. Future volumes will cover Remote Viewing from 1984-1995, Psychokinesis and Reports on Operational Remote Viewing.

This first volume contains reports written by those working at SRI during the first half of the program, predominantly Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ. They are neatly formatted and constitute the least redacted versions of these reports that exist. The most notable example of this is the 1983 report Project Grill Flame: Operational Tasks which I have only ever seen before in a heavily censored form, with entire pages missing, but is now available in all its glory.

The reports are ordered chronologically, which helps give the reader some sense of progression but one should be aware that this is not a history of the project. There are no engaging characters or dramatised versions of events to capture your imagination. It is all quite dry and matter-of-fact in its presentation but this is to its benefit. As there is no attempt at making things seem astonishing and breathlessly exciting, the reader is left to draw their own conclusions from the undoubtedly similar examples of drawings and target photographs. Without the prompting of a narrator, these conclusions seem all the more impressive.

But the reader needs to tread carefully and bear in mind that these reports were written not just to show the efficacy of remote viewing, but also to secure funding. As such, there are no dissenting opinions. Every report is from SRI and only SRI, and so the more critical documents that one finds in the Star Gate Archive are entirely absent [1].

Even taking into account the SRI-only nature of the source, there are still some disappointing gaps in the book. Keith Harary’s apparently successful prediction of the release of hostage Richard Queen is mentioned in passing, but there are no detailed documents on the session. Perhaps they’ve been lost or perhaps they’ll be in Volume 4. The 60-trial experiment done with Uri Geller is also not included, apart from the sparse one-paragraph description of it in the paper published in Nature magazine. (Neither of these are in the online Star Gate Archives, but I was hoping that May and Marwaha might have had access to previously unpublished work from SRI.)

Similarly, the impressive results listed in Project Grill Flame: Operational Tasks are not backed up by contemporary documentation elsewhere in the book. This is important because careful reading of the differing reports in the book can throw up some curious anomalies. For example, on pages 365-366, there is a brief section on a remote viewing of Ramenskoye Airfield that took place in 1976. Here the report from 1983 claims that the information provided to the remote viewer were geographical coordinates and, then, “Viewer having noted an airfield at correct location first scan, viewer asked for additional detail on same for second scan.”

In this version of events, the remote viewer, was targeted on an airfield, they mentioned an airfield in session one (and drew a map as an overview of the area) and then gave more detail in session two.


But on page 173, there’s a subtly different version dated 1977. Here it describes how the first session focused on a dam, and that there was no mention of any airfield at all. The second session was run with the criteria that, should the remote viewer mention an airfield, he’d be asked for more information about it. So there was no “correct location first scan” as maintained in the 1983 version while the session on the dam has been forgotten about. (As an aside, the failure of the remote viewer to get the correct target in 1977 was blamed on incorrect coordinates, but putting those coordinates into Google Maps shows that they are perfectly fine.)

So, in conclusion, this book is a valuable resource for anyone researching the remote viewing project. Having these reports in this format and in chronological order really helped me get an overview of the early SRI work. But one has to bear in mind that this is not an impartial record of events. This is the evidence at its most positive, polished to the nth degree, whose target audience at the time was people with funding.

Notes:

[1] Two examples of such reports:

The Grill Flame Scientific Evaluation Committee, also known as The Gale Report

Snyder’s “Summary and Critical Evaluation of Research in Remote Viewing” Part one and Part two.

Monday, 16 July 2018

A Corpse Not Buried For Nineteen Years

On this day two hundred and fifty years ago (16 July 1768), a woman was finally laid to rest in London after an apparently very literal interpretation of the terms of a will meant that she remained unburied for almost two decades.

According to the Gentleman's Magazine and the Annual Register for 1768, a close relative of the woman passed away and left a clause in his will that she should receive an annual sum of £25 "as long as she is on the Earth." According to the website Measuring Worth, the value of £25 in the mid-eighteenth century in today’s money is at least £3,150 and possibly much higher.


Hence, when the woman died, her husband did not have her interred but instead rented a room above a stable in South Audley Street where she was placed in a "decent coffin." Thus, fulfilling the terms of the will (at least the meaning if not the intention), he continued to receive the yearly sum. The Annual Register put the rent of the room at £5, giving him a clear profit of £20 a year.

It wasn't until the husband died that the landlord, wanting to do some work on the building, discovered the body. After this she was laid to rest having served her husband for rather longer than "til death us do part."

References:

The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol 38, 1768. p 347
Annual Register for the year 1768, p 138

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Best writing in parapsychology

Recently, two papers in the field of parapsychology have impressed me with their clarity of writing and depth of research, applied to an interesting subject. One was Charman, R., Hume, S. (2018) “The Case of Colonel Henderson and The Apparition of Captain Hinchcliffe Revisited – A Crisis Apparition?” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol 82, No. 1, pp 28-42. The other was Schooler, J.W., Baumgart, S (2018) Entertaining Without Endorsing: The Case for the Scientific Investigation of Anomalous Cognition,” Psychology of Consciousness: Theory Research and Practice, American Psychological Association

Reading these made me want to write about other articles on parapsychology that I thought had reached similar levels of high quality. So here’s my list, with links where possible.


Akers, C. (1984) "Methodological criticisms of parapsychology."Advances in Parapsychological Research, vol. 4, ed. Krippner, S. McFarland

This is an extensive review of the state of parapsychology to date by focusing on fifty-four of the most oft-cited experiments, as taken from Wolman Handbook of Parapsychology. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone interested in post-WW2 parapsychology since it talks about papers that are still referenced today, detailing critiques and defences that were well-known then but have since been forgotten.


Bierman DJ, Spottiswoode JP, Bijl A (2016) Testing for Questionable Research Practices in a Meta-Analysis: An Example from Experimental Parapsychology. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0153049. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153049 1

Similarly to Akers, this paper examines some of the more famous parapsychological results to see if it withstands current criticisms. In this case, the focus was on the Ganzfeld database, and concluded that Questionable Research Practices may have inflated the reported findings, they could not account for all of the effect being measured.


Coelho, C., Tierney, I., Lamont, P. (2008) “Contacts by Distressed Individuals to UK Parapsychology and Anomalous Experience Academic Research Units – A Retrospective Survey Looking to the Future,” European Journal of Parapsychology, Volume 23.1, pp 31-59

This fascinating paper looks at a largely ignored aspect of academic research into parapsychology: coming into contact with people who are genuinely distressed by the paranormal phenomena they seem to be subject to. By contacting a parapsychology unit, some people sought to explain their diagnoses, while others were trying to postpone approaching the mental health care services. The paper discusses preferred strategies in these circumstances.


Collins, H.M, Pinch, J.T. (1982) “Frames of Meaning: The Social Construction of Extraordinary Science,” London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

This book is remarkable for its story about a largely forgotten episode in parapsychology: the sudden rise of spoon-bending in the early 1970s, especially regarding children. The book contains a detailed description of the authors’ attempts at investigating this phenomena at Bath University, as well as the influence of Uri Geller on science and popular culture in a wider sense.


Drake, J. (2015) “Ghosts, Elves, & the Man from Mars: 2 Decades (Skeptically) Investigating the Paranormal”

This talk by Jerry Drake is a real eye-opener. First, for the insight he brings to the subjects he looks into, and secondly as an introduction to Jerry Drake who, I must admit, I’d never heard of before I saw this video. My favourite part must be the explanation of the haunting at Faust Hotel in Texas, that begins at 54:50.


Fortean Studies, volumes 1-7, John Brown Publishing, 1994-2001

These books are collections of papers written in a more thorough, academic manner than the ones published in the magazine Fortean Times, and they are full of fascinating cases explained in often minute detail. The author, Mike Dash contributes two lengthy articles (The Devil’s Hoofmarks, in volume one and The Vanishing Lighthousemen of Eilan Mor in volume four) which were major influences on me as an example of how to do proper research using first-hand documents. But every other article is worthy of anyone’s attention, ranging from Princess Diana conspiracy theories to UFO sightings in the 1910s.


Koehler, J.J, (1993) “The Influence of Prior Beliefs on Scientific Judgments of Evidence Quality,” Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes,” 56, pp28-55

The opening sentence reads “This paper is concerned with the influence of scientists' prior beliefs on their judgements of evidence quality” and that pretty much sums it up. It makes sobering reading for skeptics of the paranormal, demonstrating that they are far more extreme than proponents in how they judge the quality of experiments with results that agree/disagree with their pre-existing views.


Lamont , P, Wiseman , R. (2001), “The rise and fall of the Indian rope trick,” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research , vol 65 , no. 3, pp. 175-193

Peter Lamont is the only person to have two entries on this list with this study into the myth of the Indian Rope Trick. As I grew up in the 1970s, the idea of the rope trick being a genuine thing (be it conjuring trick or paranormal feat) was so ingrained that it never occurred to that the truth would be more nuanced. Dr Lamont continued to work on this topic, publishing it as a book with the same name in 2005


Ogbourne, D., (2012) “Encyclopedia of Optography: The Shutter of Death”

The idea behind Optography (that the last thing seen before someone dies remains as an image on the retina) is one that had long intrigued me, but I thought had never been taken that seriously by anyone so I didn’t bother researching it. Luckily, Derek Ogbourne did the work that I was too lazy to do and put together a considerable body of work on the subject.


Sunday, 1 April 2018

Project Stargate and the Charles Jordan case

The TV program Sunday Morning, broadcast on the US network CBS, recently carried a story about the US government-sponsored remote viewing project. It can be seen online here.

It was a fairly typical piece on Project Stargate. In this kind of coverage it's rare to get much further than a few talking heads, old photocopies of declassified documents and a skeptic to provide balance. Talking of which, I’ve no idea what Sean Carroll talking about. Something about putting a receiver next to your head should pick up ESP? He didn't mention remote viewing at all. But in his defence, he might not have been asked about it. It felt like his bit was edited in from an entirely different story.

The clip from Sunday Morning talks about the Charles Jordan case. Charles Jordan was a customs official who helped smuggle drugs into the US. He went on the run in 1986. On 4 December, 1988 his case was covered on America's Most Wanted (series 2, episode 43). The remote viewers were asked to focus on him in April 1989.

Screenshot from CBS's Sunday Morning

Angela Ford (then called Dellafiore) was one of the remote viewers at that time and in her interview with CBS she describes it:

“I said the man was in Lowell, Wyoming, and I spelt it L-O-W-E-L-L. [...] Well, when my boss went to Customs and said ‘we’re still getting the Wyoming feeling,’ Customs said ‘As we're speaking we're apprehending Charles Jordan 100 miles west of Lovell, Wyoming’.”

Out of all the claims of success for Project Stargate, this one is perhaps the most striking. Tasked with finding a man on the run who, after three years as a fugitive, could be anywhere on the American continent, and yet succeding in naming a town within a hundred miles of his ultimate place of arrest is very impressive.

The sessions themselves were pretty typical except that each remote viewer was given the opportunity to use whatever method they preferred. This lead to all the sessions being carried out solo (ie, no monitor to prompt them) and a range of techniques, using written remote viewing, coordinates and dowsing over maps. How blind the remote viewers were to the target is not clear. In the original declassified documents Charlie Jordan is referred to as “the felon” or “the fugitive,” but Lyn Buchanan wrote in his book The Seventh Sense that the team were given a full debriefing on Charles Jordan.

There were about nineteen sessions on this target and five remote viewers contributed sessions. Angela Ford only did two: the one in which she mentioned an Indian reserve and the name “Lowel” and then a second session two months later but more on that in a bit.

I can't find the actual notes from Angela's first session [EDIT 20/08/18: someone emailed them to me and, from that, I could find them on the CIA site. Link at the bottom of the page], but in an undated report (that must be before 17 April 1989 because certain results from an RV session run on that date are missing, described as “pending”) there is a list of the team's findings to date.



The other three remote viewers who had completed sessions on this target put the fugitive in Mexico or south Florida. Angela's conclusion, now pinpointed as “Lovell, Wyoming” was definitely the odd one out.

The others continued to remote view Charlie Jordan but Angela did not. The other findings did not start to converge on Wyoming, but remained in the fairly typical idiom of places where fugitives might hide: farmhouses deep in the country, Central America, the Everglades in Florida. One dowsing session by Mel Riley ended on Minnesota, but that was as close as anyone else got.


Meanwhile, the FBI had been going through leads generated by the America's Most Wanted episode and had probable cause to search the property of Jordan's parents. There they found a videotape made by Jordan of his wife and their newborn baby in a hospital that they were able to identify as being in Denver.

They had already begun a search in Colorado around June 1989 when an eyewitness account of Charles Jordan in Yellowstone Park came in. He was found and arrested in Pinedale, WY on 16 June 1989.

What's interesting is that, in the CBS piece, Angela described how the remote viewers kept getting the Wyoming feeling and when they went back to tell their client they were told “As we're speaking we're apprehending Charles Jordan 100 miles west of Lovell.”

That's interesting because the project on Charlie Jordan had closed on 28 April with no further mention of Wyoming, so there were no extra findings in June for them to pass on to their client. Instead there is one final session dated 16 June at 9.00am run by Angela Ford. In the tasking document it is made clear that this session was prompted by the recent eyewitness account placing Jordan in Yellowstone Park. Angela is asked to describe his movements for the next two weeks. She reported that he was heading towards Biddle, Montana, via camp sites.


Charles Jordan was indeed found in a camp site (albeit nowhere near Biddle and actually about 250 miles south-west of Lowell) so that much is a hit but Angela doesn't seem to know that Charles would be arrested that day. I wonder if this could be where the “as we're speaking...” quote she gave comes from: when they passed on the session notes to their client later that same day.

As to where the original guess of “Lowell” came from, I don't know. Maybe a brief moment of psychic clarity. But I'd also like to know more about what was in that episode of America's Most Wanted.

References:

Summary of early remote viewing sessions on the Charlie Jordan project

Session notes from Angela's first remote viewing session

Session notes from Angela's second remote viewing session