Sunday, 3 December 2017

The placement of city names on maps

This past October, I went on holiday to Japan and, for the first time in about seven years, my trip took my to Tokyo.

Before I left, I was trying to decide where to go and what to do, when I was struck by the curious placement of the city name Tokyo on Google Maps. It didn’t seem to be over anything in particular: it changed slightly each time I zoomed in but it was usually over a small alleyway in Edogawabashi, a fairly anonymous part of Tokyo.

I checked around to see where other online maps had positioned their “Tokyo” labels.

Bing had it over Shinjuku. More or less over the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. A fairly sensible choice.

Michelin maps and Openstreet map both chose the grounds of the Imperial Palace. Perhaps an even more sensible choice.

But I was so puzzled by Google Map’s placement that I actually took the time during my holiday to visit Edogawabashi to see if there was anything there I was missing.

This is the alleyway from one end

And this is it from the other

Couldn’t see anything, so I’m none the wiser as to why it was chosen. Possibly the result of some algorithm, I expect. When I was there, I stood where I thought the exact place was and looked up. But I didn’t see this.


Sunday, 19 November 2017

Joe McMoneagle and the Typhoon submarine sessions

In this post, I’d like to focus on Joe McMoneagle’s famous remote viewing of a brand new class of submarine in an apparently land-locked warehouse. While undoubtedly one of the remote viewing project’s successes, it is still prone to exaggerated claims so I thought it worth the time to go over it in detail.

This post is a bit longer than I’d anticipated, so I’ll begin with the summary (in bold text) and those who want more background can continue reading.

Joe McMoneagle is said to have remote viewed a large warehouse, 100 yards from the White Sea in the USSR, which the US Intelligence were clueless to its contents. Joe described a brand knew type of submarine, far bigger than ever seen before, with slanted missile tubes and a unique double-hull structure. His findings were ridiculed, since why would anyone build a submarine in a land-locked building, let alone the biggest ever made? Joe McMoneagle replied by telling them when it would launch and when the Intelligence agencies got their data from a few days after the date he gave them, they saw a newly-dug channel to the sea and an enormous submarine sitting by the quay.

In truth, there were six sessions, over the span of six weeks and the US Intelligence agencies were well aware of the contents of the building. Joe described a submarine being modified, but did not identify it as a new type. Nor did he mention anything about the distance to the sea.

The sessions were conducted in non-blind conditions and the interviewer often guided the session quite overtly by repeating the same question. Many of the claims of success for these sessions are wrong (Joe says the Typhoon submarine had slanted missile tubes) or missing entirely (Joe doesn't talk about a double hull structure). Also, the warehouse in question was not 100 yards from the sea at the time of the remote viewing, but instead the loading bay had been extended over a number of years. As such, the part of the narrative about the Intelligence agencies dismissing Joe's findings and a channel being cut to the sea seems very implausible.

To better analyze the typical narrative, I’ve split it into sections.

First, I'm going to relate the version of events according to those connected to or supportive of the remote viewing project.


In The Stargate Chronicles, Joe McMoneagle wrote:

One of the first operational targets brought to the program around September of 1979 originated within the National Security Council. A naval lieutenant commander assigned to the council who had seen some of the previous OPSEC reports was enthusiastic about using RV for offensive intelligence-gathering purposes. He brought a photograph of a large building that was obviously an industrial type of building for targeting and development. The building was seen to be near a large body of water, but that was all one could tell about it. Materials were stacked on the exterior of the building, but they were general in nature and did not add clues about what might be going on inside the building. The building was huge, labeled as building number 402, and was located somewhere in Russia. (We were to find out much later that the facility was located at the port of Severodvinsk, on the White Sea, very near the Arctic Circle.) The NSC was very interested in knowing specifically what was going on inside.
McMoneagle, Joseph. The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy: The Remarkable Life of U.S. Government Remote Viewer 001 (Kindle Locations 2316-2323). Crossroad Press. Kindle Edition.

In this version of events, the National Security Council were using the remote viewers as a means of getting information on a target that was otherwise a mystery to the intelligence services.

The Remote Viewing Session

Joe McMoneagle carried out a session where the targeting material was a photo (or a piece of the photo) in an opaque envelope. During this session he described a giant submarine.

Dr Edwin May described the session as having a 137-page transcript “about the construction of a very very large submarine that had two hulls like a catamaran”

In The Stargate Chronicles, McMoneagle makes reference to multiple sessions. He wrote:

Two or three days later, Fred asked me to visit the building again.

On my second visit, I got up very close to the larger vessel and was amazed at its size [...] I moved up over the deck and was surprised to see that it had canted missile tubes running side by side. This was critically important because this indicated that it had the capacity to fire while on the move rather than having to stand still in the water, which made it a very dangerous type of submarine.
McMoneagle, Joseph. The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy: The Remarkable Life of U.S. Government Remote Viewer 001 Crossroad Press. Kindle Edition.


According to Joe McMoneagle, his findings were roundly ridiculed by people in the intelligence services. Annie Jacobsen, in her book Phenomena, explains:

The report was interesting to some, including Commander Jake Stewart of the Office of Naval Intelligence, and dismissed by others including Robert Gates, an analyst on loan to the NSC from CIA. That the Soviets would build a submarine inside this building, and not in a dry dock located at the water’s edge, seemed to defy logic. The building McMoneagle had been asked to view was located roughly one hundred yards inland from the shore at the naval yard. At one point in McMoneagle’s session he had described “a concrete structure, like in Holland in a canal. For you know, controlling the flow of water.” But the KH-9 spy satellite photographs from September 1979 showed no canal between the mysterious building and the navy docks— only flat, frozen earth.
Jacobsen, Annie. Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis (p. 235). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

“[...] and I said they were going to launch in 120 days. And this was all disagreed with by the senior officer from the CIA [...] He made arrangements to look at the area 114 days later and they in fact had launched the largest submarine ever built in history. It’s called the TK-089, the Typhoon class submarine. The only response we got from that individual was “it was a lucky guess”. And that individual was Robert Gates.”
Joe McMoneagle interview, Third Eye Spies, 2016, dir Lance Mungia

That is the version of events usually presented. Trying to corroborate this against third-party statements was a little tricky, but here is what I’ve found.


The session targeted at Severodsvink was one of the first “operational” (i.e., real world, classified) targets to be used by the remote viewing team. I can find no correspondence in the CIA archives explaining why this particular target was chosen but it is clear that, far from being in the dark about the construction of a new class of submarine, the Intelligence agencies (in this case, the request came from OASCI – The Office for the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence) were well aware of what the building contained.

A document titled “Typhoon SSBN Construction at Severodsvink Shipyard 402 USSR (TSR)” and dated January 1980 is a heavily redacted history of what is known about the submarine being constructed there. It reads “since September 1977, however, evidence supporting the construction of a Typhoon-class SSBN has continued to accumulate.”

So in this version of events, the contents of Shipyard 402 is not a mystery when the OASCI tasks the remote viewing project with this target. In this context, it is a more typical training exercise with a known target that the remote viewing results can easily be compared against.

Remote Viewing

The remote viewing sessions against this target actually lasted six sessions. You can read the transcripts of all six on the CIA Crest site here, here and here.

Session One, C-47

The first was on 7 September 1979. The targeting material was not a photograph (or scrap of one) in an envelope. It was the geographical co ordinates of the location.

“In my first session against the building, I was given a set of geographic coordinates, clearly somewhere in the north, probably in the Finland or Eastern bloc region.”
McMoneagle, Joseph. The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy: The Remarkable Life of U.S. Government Remote Viewer 001 (Kindle Locations 2323-2324). Crossroad Press. Kindle Edition.

NB: The co-ordinates are given in other CIA documents as being 64-34-39N, 39-48-29E

Joe immediately talked about a large circular building and structures shaped like “tips of cigar tubes [...] standing in the air [...] 2 ½ to 3 stories.” He described the general geography as being a valley between two rows of hills.

He spoke about steel spheres constructed underground, a lot of power being used (this has a tick beside it in the session transcript) and powerful magnetic fields.

After around 13 minutes, the interviewer #66 asked if there’d been any recent new construction or recent change in mission, and written in the margin of the session transcript is a note that reads: “Careful! Leading him.”

Joe went on to talk about spheres that were very large and designed for a violent atmosphere.

There is nothing particularly relevant to a submarine or shipyard. The closest we get is during the latter part of the session when Joe is sketching what he saw. He mentioned that there was a “dam close by this. A dammed waterway [...] it’s very distant.” (later, he adds “to the north east”) and later still, while talking about the spheres he noted that “I did some... metallurgical studying on nautical engineering” and he talked about “new technology” and “has to be some welded plates”.

Session Two, C-53

The second, third and fourth sessions were one week later on the 14 September. Joe himself had done no operational remote viewing sessions since then and the second session began with the interviewer #66 repeating the coordinates again and telling him he’d viewed the vicinity before.

#66 asked Joe to centre himself over the round building and then move a certain number of kilometres in certain directions and then describe what he could see. In this session, there is very little about submarines or shipyards. Perhaps the closest to a potential hit was when Joe is asked to draw a map of the area and he placed some steel and concrete buildings near a body of water.

Session Three, C-54

The third session took place in the afternoon of the 14 September. It began with #66 saying that he was “Interested in finding out about a building located at [redacted]”

Joe said he saw a low silhouette building with an L-shape and a pitched roof and an antenna with supports. After this, Joe was far more on target. He said the building is open at one end and he describes cranes and fins “like shark fins. Dull, gray color.”

This session is full of descriptors that seemed to fit the target location. Joe described fencing and an open area, curved pieces of metal, and lot of water there. He also talked about a large concrete structure. Reading the session notes, I found myself confused as to whether the structure was inside the building or was the actual building, but that could’ve been my lack of understanding. #66 appears to have assumed it was the building itself.

#66 ask Joe to move inside concrete structure. Joe reported seeing water in there, metal railings, a tubular thing, an immense rack type object, a brilliantly lit work bay, an oblong bay of water, and a bracket type apparatus with circular gripping arms. Also a dark shadow type object, very large. Tall but longer than tall.

He described a burning metal smell, acrid, like arc welding.

He spoke about a very large body of water, two sections of land that curve out and then back in for some reason. Like a protected bay.

He had a very strong impression of props (ie, propellers) for some kind of ship. But he specified that the ship wasn’t constructed here, but just modified. This is, perhaps, the least accurate thing Joe said during the session, yet it had two ticks beside it as if the assessor was especially happy with this statement.

Unfortunately, the sketches for this remarkably on-target session were in coloured pencil, and have not reproduced well.

Session Four, C-55

The fourth session was conducted on the same afternoon as the third. #66 began by asking Joe to bring his attention to the concrete building just north of the geographical coordinates.

Joe continued to describe a similar scene as before, adding that the building is connected to a dry dock building. He also, for the first time, started to talk about submarines in some detail.

“I’m seeing what looks like part of a submarine in the building [...] almost likely a mock-up”

#66: How did this submarine come to be in the building?
Joe: There’s not a whole submarine. [...] They created this part of a submarine to fasten this coffin-shaped modification to. The modification in question is described as a sort of hump that fits on top of the submarine.

Joe talked about another, neighbouring building where he saw “a lot of black sails” (this is underlined) and “Fins, I see fins” (also underlined)

#66 asked what’s to the left of the building. This seems to be an attempt at getting Joe to describe how the building is connected to the bay. But Joe was confused as to which building he means, and the subject was briefly dropped until #66 tries again later.

“Facing the quays, tell me about just over the edge of the building between the building and the quays, tell me about that area.” He asked. But Joe could only see stacked crates.

Session Five, C-73

The next time that Joe tackled this target was about one month later, on 18 October. Although a month had past, Joe had not actually conducted any operational remote viewing sessions so the October sessions are, in a sense, immediately after the 14 September session in terms of tasking.

#66 began the session by asking Joe to “go to a large concrete building in the vicinity of [coordinates redacted]” so Joe straight away had enough information to help him understand that this session follows on from his previous one.

Although Joe did not go straight to describing submarines, the overall picture is the same. He talked about girders and flashes of light like someone cutting metal.

After a while, Joe mentioned the coffin-type things that go on top of submarines. #66 immediately asked “How do the objects leave this room? By what method do they leave the room?” Once again he seems to be trying to get Joe to think about the area between building and the sea.

Joe tried to explain the process, but despite #66’s prompting, Joe never answered the question.

#66 then asked Joe to go to an area of interest in the building. However, mid-way through Joe describing an area of his choosing, #66 cut him off and asked him to focus again. The role of #66 in this session seems much more controlling than before. He even told Joe, mid-session, that he was focusing on the wrong part of the building and needed to take an overview.

After some guidance from #66, Joe takes a look at the whole building from a corner, and he describes the incomplete submarine as before.

#66, apparently very keen on the area between the building and the sea, tells Joe to hover over the building and look down over different sides of the building. During this part, Joe was describing other buildings and a storage yard, when he broke off: He said he was looking at water, but not seeing water. “I don’t know how to explain that.” After the session, Joe drew a map of what he saw, which had certain similarities to the target area.

He then began talking about small submarines. “You know I mentally want to see big submarines, but there are none. I’m seeing a much smaller class of submarine that I am normally used to, for some reason.” The session ended soon after.

Session Six, C-74

Session six began the same day and, judging by the lack of introduction, could have started immediately after the previous session.

#66 immediately asked Joe to hover over the building and look over the edge, once again trying to get a description of the area between the building and the sea. When this didn't initially work, #66 tries to reposition Joe's point of view several times and asks again.

Joe is also asked to remote view the location for the 1 January 1980. Joe says that the water in the building has gone, or is very low, and that they're fitting tubes to the backs of the submarines. These are the canted missile tubes that Joe mentioned in The Stargate Chronicles as one of the features that demonstrate how accurate his remote viewing was.

He talked about there being four submarines in bays, and he tried to read the numbers written on the side of them. He described the submarines as being “high-class submarines. These are biggies” but specifies that “These aren't new... they are old ones.” #66 asked how the submarines got out of there, and after Joe replied “You open the wall,” #66 drew the session to an end.


The overall picture of the six sessions gives a very different impression to the one given in more recent versions of events.

One thing is clear: Joe was given a submarine shipyard as a target and he described a place where work was being done on submarines.

However, most of the remarkable aspects of the remote viewing are missing. Neither Interviewer #66 nor Joe were completely blind to the target. #66 asks many leading questions and you have to wonder how much detail he knew about the target. Meanwhile Joe was given geographical coordinates that he recognised as being “somewhere in the north, probably in the Finland or Eastern bloc region.”

The claim that Joe saw a brand new class of submarine being constructed is undermined by the transcript telling us that Joe saw a modification to an existing class of submarine.

Other aspects, such as Joe's correct description of a two-hull structure, or correctly guessing the launch date appear to be entirely absent.

But the most important part – that the OASCI dismissed Joe's findings as impossible – now make no sense at all. Since the OASCI knew there was a submarine being built there, they wouldn't have poured scorn on Joe's description of a submarine.

Also, the part of the story about the construction hall being 100 yards from the sea and needing a channel built at the last minute in order to launch the submarine is not backed up by other documents or photographs regarding Severodsvink. In fact, the CIA document quoted near the start of this blog post decisively contradicts it:

“Expansion of the launch basin in front of construction hall 3 has been ongoing since early 1973. The major construction on the basin expansion was complete by late 1978; however, work on the launch rails from construction hall 3 and the ledges that will support the launch dock continued throughout 1979.”
Typhoon SSBN Construction at Severodvinsk Shipyard 402 USSR (TSR), page 1, CIA-RDP80T00556A000100100001-4

So we are left with a series of six remote viewing sessions that successfully describe the target that was set for the remote viewer, but was conducted under non-blind conditions and has been exaggerated ever since.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Scientific evidence for the existence of Ents

One thing I have learnt is that if you have a database large enough and a knowledge of that database that's extensive enough, that it’s possible to come up with some pretty peculiar findings which are seemingly backed up by hard data.

An Ent, yesterday

A few years ago I was a volunteer at the Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, and after a few months I became pretty familiar with the extensive database they have and the sort of information it included.

One day it occurred to me that if you look for veteran trees (ie, over a hundred years old) whose location data had changed, then that would be evidence for Ents, the tree-people from Lord Of The Rings.

Bringing up the data for veteran trees was easy enough, but I found I had to go through the spreadsheet myself to find an occasion where the location data had changed.

I found plenty of examples of trees with vague location data, but I also found three occasions where the previous data didn’t match aerial photography. I decided those were the best case for the existence of Ents, so I extracted the data, popped them on a map, and here they are!

I showed it to my manager at the time, and he said it was interesting that they seemed to be guarding the border.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Joe McMoneagle and the Abrams M1 tank

A few months ago, a commenter on this blog asked if I was going to look into Joe McMoneagle’s successful remote viewing of a prototype tank (then called the XM-1, later to be named the M-1) in 1980. Well, I finally got round to going through the various papers relating to that project today, so here are my findings.

The session is often listed among the US military’s best remote viewing work and it has been described as a test for the remote viewers, where Joe McMoneagle was given a photograph of a hangar surrounded by aircraft and told to remote view what was inside. For example, Paul Smith writes:

“Parked inside the closed hangar at the time of the remote viewing session was an XM-1 tank. It had been moved there explicitly for the purposes of putting the remote viewers to the test. A good viewer would have to set aside any preconceived notions of what should be inside an airplane hangar to get at the real target.” [1]

However, the original documentation doesn’t back up this version of events. Also, it is misleading to present this session as a one-off event. Rather, it was part of Project 8003 which contained twenty-four sessions conducted between January and September 1980. Project 8003 was primarily targeted at an enemy facility related to tanks. The session in question (D-29) differed in that it was a request to remote view an American tank.

Most of the sessions in Project 8003 were conducted by the same interviewer (#66 in the transcripts, which would be Fred Atwater) who, over time, became more knowledgeable of the target as different targeting data was used as the project progressed.

Joe himself completed six sessions in Project 8003. The first two had geographical co-ordinates as his targeting method and did not raise anything particularly pertinent. In the next two sessions he was given a photograph of the building in question and it was in the second of those two where he first talked about and drew tanks. This session took place on 9 May 1980.

The next session Joe completed was on 25 June 1980. In this, Joe was given geographical co-ordinates and asked to go back in time and view the target area at one-week intervals beginning 7 May 1980 and continuing to the present day. Most of his session notes and sketches are of tanks, specifically the production and distribution of tanks. But by then Joe may have been aware of two sessions that took place with other remote viewers on the 17 June where the targeting material was a photograph of a tank. By now, any idea that the remote viewers were still blind to the nature of the target for Project 8003 is difficult to justify, and it certainly isn’t the case for the interviewer who would have seen all of the targeting material.

The famous session, D-29, took place on 5 September 1980. D-29 was to have been held simultaneously with D-28 on the same target, using a sealed envelope containing a photo as the targeting data. This would explain why Joe had a different interviewer, since Fred Atwater was conducting the other session. However, D-28 was cancelled due to too much noise.

In the report for D-29, this change of interviewer is highlighted as precluding the chance of cuing from a knowledgable source, but the interviewer is labelled #14 and the notes identify him as “Mel” (in all probability, Mel Riley).

However, remote viewer #14 conducted several sessions in project 8003, including one where the targeting material was a photo of a tank. In other words, if Mel recognised the Project number 8003, he would no longer be blind to the target.

Interviewer instructions for session D-28, which I assume
would be the same for D-29

All of which is academic since Joe McMoneagle doesn’t actually talk about a tank during session D-29. This surprised me when I sat down to read the transcript since every retelling of this story involves Joe remotely viewing a tank. For example, Paul Smith writes:

“His sketches were unmistakably of a tracked armored vehicle.”

But I can’t understand which sketches he’s referring to. The only exterior sketches from D-29 are these:

Which do not resemble a tracked armored vehicle to me. While Joe describes a multi-personnel vehicle, he doesn’t call it a tank. In fact, he clearly says he doesn’t know what it is. Some of the descriptors he gives can be related to a tank, but others cannot.

What is most interesting are the sketches of the interior. These resemble a tank-like environment inasmuch as they are cramped and the walls are lined with buttons and screens.

Any attempt at trying to find an interior photo of the prototype XM-1 has been difficult, with this being the best I could get. And even then, I don’t know how old this photo is.

It is difficult to assess how this session was received at the time. The Grill Flame members were certainly very pleased with it. The typed session notes have a lengthy memo at the end of it explaining how remarkable this kind of correspondence was, using these protocols. Also, a handwritten list of sessions for Project 8003 has the words “big hit on OPSEC” written next to this entry.

But the initial response from external judges seemed cooler. There is a document in the archive where the analyst’s response is censored, but there is a comment afterwards that suggests it wasn’t too positive.

“Although supposed to be an eval of potential usefulness, it was performed by indiv. having no appreciation for the RV phenomena. Second AMSAA eval is expected to be forthcoming.”

The second analysis took a while coming. D-29 was not considered as important as the then-ongoing Iranian hostage crisis, and kept being passed over for other matters. In April 1981, in reply to a request, Grill Flame received a letter from Capt Kenneth Bell of the Special Actions Branch promising that Mr Kramer, the analyst, would be finished by the end of that month. But after this, I can find no further information on this matter.

Nevertheless, D-29 was considered by the Grill Flame management to be good enough to be one of the sessions shown to Vice President George Bush in 1983 when he had a briefing on the remote viewing project.


[1] Smith, Paul. Reading the Enemy's Mind: Inside Star Gate: America's Psychic Espionage Program (p. 131). Tom Doherty Associates. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

An accidental logic puzzle

As is usual for me on a weekend morning, I was browsing through an old newspaper that shared the same date as my current self. Today I was reading one from thirty years ago, 29th April 1987, when I noticed that the division for Group Four in the European Under-21 Championship formed a little logic puzzle: it was possible to look at it and work out all of the results of the tournament to date.

It isn't a difficult puzzle nor, I'd imagine, that unique but it kept me entertained for a few minutes. Plus, it reminded me of that example of Accidental Poetry I found several years ago.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Pat Price’s remote viewing of URDF-3, Semipalatinsk, USSR in 1974

One of the biggest successes of the US government-sponsored remote viewing project came very early on in its history. In 1974, in only its second full year of existence, the CIA requested that SRI use Pat Price to remote view a Soviet target: URDF-3 (Unidentified Research and Development Facility No. 3). In popular psi literature, it is usually described in the most dramatic terms possible: that no one knew anything about the site and that on commencing the remote viewing session Pat Price immediately closed his eyes and saw a huge crane passing over his head.

Given its importance as an example of psychic functioning, I thought it was worth looking as this event in some detail, using documents from the declassified archive.

The earliest mention of this experiment I can find is an appendix to a meeting held on 31 May 1974, where basic protocols were laid down: that the sessions would be “guided” by someone knowledgable about the site; but giving as little cueing as possible and then, over a period of a few days, introduce more information about the site to Pat Price “recognizing that the additional information supplied to the viewer at this point is at the cost of calibration within the experiment.” [1]

The initial data given to him at the start of the experiment would be a map with the site marked on it and some drawings to help Price identify the location when he remote views it.

On the 17 June 1974, the NPIC (the National Photographic Intelligence Center, who’d be supplying the data against which Price’s statements would be compared) and the NED (can’t find this acronym!) were both contacted for help in evaluating the data. It seems that the source was to be disguised before judging, and instead of overtly being from a psychic, it was going to be attributed to a janitor: someone with little technical knowledge but open access to URDF-3.

Semipalatinsk URDF-3, from top of gantry crane.

Also at this time, a member of ORD (Office of Research & Development) visited SRI for two days, 17-18 June. During this time it was alluded that the SRI program was in danger of being closed, unless certain targets were met.

This was followed by another visit from the ORD on the 28 June, and the report on this visit stated that “the progress was disappointing” and “it appears that a pot pourri of small experiments were to have been conducted on an ad hoc basis on whatever subjects were around.”

I mention these two visits to put the URDF-3 session into some kind of context: the SRI project was falling behind schedule and Targ and Puthoff must've been keenly aware of the pressure from their sponsors.

On 27 and 28 June two meetings were held, the second one by telephone, to fine tune the experimental methods. The conclusions to this meeting were written up in notes on the appendix from the meeting held in May. [1]

Now the protocol specified that the person who knew about the target would not be physically present during the sessions, nor would Price be given any drawings before the sessions began.

More details regarding the protocol were given in a memo dated 3 July 1974 (ie, five days before the sessions were to begin). This memo stated that there would be three stages to the protocol. It also mentioned that, during stage two, Price would be told that the sponsor for this experiment was a government agency.

The experiment itself ran from 9-12 July 1974. The majority of information about the details of this period of time comes from a report dated 4 December 1975 “An Analysis Of A Remote-Viewing Experiment of URDF-3” by D. Stillman, a nuclear analyst from the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, working from sketches and tape recordings. [2] It’s worth noting that the plan to disguise the psychic nature of the data had been dropped but Stillman says in his introduction that, if anything, he would like psychic functioning to be true.

At the start of the experiment, Price was given the map co-ordinates (50°09'59"N 78°22'22"E), was shown the site’s position on a number of maps, and told that it was 60 miles WSW of Semipalatinsk and 25 to 30 SW of a river and he was told it is a scientific military research and test area. Once he began remote viewing, he found the river and then the location. Stillman reports:

“He says the area he’s looking at has low one-story buildings that are partially dug into the ground giving the effect (as seen at ground level) of very short, squatty buildings, whereas they are actually fairly roomy on this inside. This description could very well describe a first look at the Operations Area at URDF-3.”

From Google Maps, imagery dated 2005

Price then started describing tests being run that were related to the space program, followed by drawing a map of the research facility and the area which was incorrect, apart from the information already given to him.

Most of the data from Price in day one is wrong, and he shows an inclination to be led by the questioner, such as when the scientist in the room with Price during the session (probably Russell Targ) makes a suggestion as to what something he’s describing might be, Price says “You could be right,” before the scientist quickly reminds Price that he knows nothing about the target.

The famous crane hit did not happen during day one, but in the evening. Midway through the first afternoon session, Price mentioned a crane and some low boy trucks. Later that day, the person knowledgeable about URDF-3 (possibly Ken Kress) must have spoken to SRI because Hal Puthoff called Pat Price with instructions to draw crane and the security fence around the perimeter, which Pat Price had also mentioned in passing on day one.

The drawing of the crane was handed in on the evening of day one, and the tapes from day two (10 July) begin with a discussion of them, mentioning the size of the crane: 150 feet in height. Stillman wrote: “He [Price] said he didn’t realize how large the gantry crane was until he saw a man walking by one of the crane wheels.” And Stillman followed this with the observation “It seems inconceivable to imagine how he could draw such a likeness to the actual crane at URDF-3 unless: 1) he actually saw it through remote viewing, or 2) he was informed of what to draw by someone knowledgeable of URDF-3”

However, Stillman did not seem to have noticed that, until then, Price had frequently described features of a considerable size, such as an array of telegraph poles, a village, an airstrip, etc. It looks as if Price was working from the assumption that his work would be compared to aerial photography and the only data available would be something visible from a distance. As such, when he was given a clue that he had described something US intelligence knew to exist, he changed its description to one of great size.

Price’s sketch of the perimeter fence is only of a small section, and he doesn’t mention that there are actually four fences at URDF-3. However, Stillman drew in a perimeter fence on one of Price’s sketches because he could see that the shape was broadly similar to the fences around URDF-3.

Despite the success of the crane sketch, the rest of Price’s work on day two is largely unremarkable. Since his description of the huge crane did not match his earlier description of the building it interacts with, he spent a lot of time devising a complicated system including a second, smaller gantry crane, as well as drawing a large domed building and cement silo that Stillman says don’t exist at URDF-3.

Apart from the crane, there is another hit often attributed to the session: a large steel sphere under construction. It is not in the report by Stillman, which only covers the first two days in any detail. The third and fourth days supplied a lot of data but nothing that could be checked at that time.

So it must be from these two days, 11 and 12 July, when Pat Price described and drew large steel spheres mid-manufacture, in the form of individual gores, to be welded together. It is claimed that “Pat Price had been right, and he had described the spheres and the special welding techniques before anyone in the United States knew they existed.” [3]

The existence of these spheres was made public in a dramatic fashion in May 1977. Major General George J. Keegan, head of Air Force Intelligence had been trying (unsuccessfully) to convince the US military that the Soviets were building a particle beam weapon at Semipalatinsk for some years. When he retired, he went public with his suspicions and spoke to a writer from Aviation Weekly. [4] This sparked a public debate on the issue, with President Carter, the Defense Secretary, the CIA and the DIA all speaking out against the retired Major General’s conclusions.

While other research (and, eventually, complete disclosure from the Soviets) discredited the particle beam weapon theory, what was important to SRI was the detail about the steel spheres, constructed piece by piece, using a special welding method. Just as Pat Price had described.

It’s a shame that Stillman did not mention this or include any of day three’s six sketches in his report. Regrettably, the other analysis of Price’s work (W.T.Strand, “Memorandum for the Director, Office of Technical Service; Subject: Evaluation of Data on Semipalatinsk Unidentified R&D Facility No. 3, USSR; 20 August 1974”) is unavailable.

This means the earliest mention we have of this success is in Winter 1977, in a paper called “Parapsychology in Intelligence: A Personal Review and Conclusions” by Ken Kress, the CIA agent managing this particular experiment. He only mentions it in passing, though.

“In general, most of Price’s data were wrong or could not be evaluated. He did, nevertheless, produce some amazing description, like buildings then under construction, spherical tank sections, and the crane.” [5]

Price’s sketch of these sphere was published in 1983 in the heavily censored report Grill Flame Operational Tasks. On page seven, there is a sketch of metallic strips in the shape of a sphere segment, labelled “Sphere Fabrication”. [6]

There are a few issues with this as a piece of evidence. The first and most obvious is the date on the sketch. The handwritten date reads “6-18-74” which, if accurate, would mean it was drawn about one month before the URDF-3 work began. The other date, the rubber-stamped one, reads “7-18-74” which places it six days after the URDF-3 sessions were completed. Either way, this drawing does not appear to come from the four-day experiment. Additionally, throughout the sketches reproduced in Stillman’s report, whenever Price makes lengthy notes about a feature he does so in cursive writing, but in this sketch he has switched to writing in upper case.

There are the words “from prior” next to the handwritten date, so it’s possible that this is a redrawing of a sketch that SRI no longer had. This is likely since the session notes and tapes were not kept at SRI but sent off to be analysed. There is a letter from SRI to the CIA in 1986 asking for these to be returned but the reply stated that, apart from Stillman’s report, they couldn’t locate the other material. If this sketch is a reconstruction, one has to wonder how accurate it is and what was it based on.

The final problem with this sketch is related to the one immediately above it. Two sketches are labelled “Cyclinder clusters,” I assume to resemble the cluster of cylindrical tanks seen in photos of Semipalatinsk.

However, in Stillman’s report, this sketch is described as a “cement silo-like building” and not related to a cluster of cylinders at all. The details of Price’s descriptions have been removed in order to emphasise the similarity of the overall shape. If this sketch has been mis-labelled to increase the apparent level of success, has the sketch of the sphere sections also undergone a similar process?

Pat Price’s remote viewing of URDF-3 is frequently cited as a great success of psychic functioning. The dramatic similarity of Price’s drawing of a gantry crane with the sketch based on photographic intel makes it a popular choice when listing evidence for ESP. But this needs to be put into some kind of context: Price generated a great deal of data. Stillman was given about four hours of taped conversation from days one and two, seventy-nine pages of transcripts from days three and four, and a total of thirty sketches.

Furthermore, Price was not completely blind to the nature of the target and also someone knowledgeable about the location specifically asked him to draw the crane. Given this, it is hardly surprising that, on occasion, Price described features that could reasonably be compared to the actual location.

The final word on the issue should go to Stillman who, in his conclusion, wrote:

“In trying to determine the validity of this remote viewing experiment, the worth of the data to the eventual user has to be considered. If the user had no way of checking, how could he differentiate the fact from the fiction? In the case of URDF-3, the only positive evidence of the rail-mounted gantry was far outweighed by the large amount of negative evidence noted in the body of this analysis.”


[1] Appendix I: Suggested Protocol for Operational Remote-Viewing Exercise dated 31 May 1974 with handwritten notes added on or after 28 June

[2] D. Stillman (1975) An Analysis Of A Remote-Viewing Experiment of URDF-3

[3] Schnabel, J. (2011)Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America’s Psychic Spies, Random House Publushing Group

[4] Detailed summary of Aviation Weekly article.

[5] Kress, K.A. (1977) Parapsychology in Intelligence: A personal review and conclusions”

[6] Puthoff, H.E., Lavelle, L.A. (1983) "Project Grill Flame Operational Tasks"