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The Stargate Project: When the CIA Dabbled with the Psychic

The Cold War was a bizarre period in many ways. The two global superpowers locked in conflict without ever actually trading blows, spurned on by their relentless pursuit of apocalypse heralding weapons. Spies openly operated in both countries but tolerated because, well, the other side was doing exactly the same. 

But while the world may at times have felt on the brink of war, the reality was that the US and the Soviet Union pushed themselves to stalemate fairly early on. A full-scale global conflict was always unlikely, with the two nations instead choosing to test each other’s metal with a wonderfully outlandish array of devious plots, propaganda tools and faux diplomacy. Both sides, it would seem, would stop at nothing to gain the upper hand. And they don’t come any stranger, than the Stargate Project.

For this video, I’m going to ask you to leave your reasoned mind at the door. This story of the CIA led attempt to read minds that began in the 1970s will sound entirely ludicrous to some. The fact that it continued for 25 years and included the fantastical tale of people projecting their minds to Mars over a million years, will either cement the lunacy for some or utterly fascinate others.   

There are times when the story I’m going to tell you appears to veer into the make-believe world, but this is all true. Not only that, it was a project that the most powerful country in the world saw fit to pump millions of dollars and multiple decades into. Was it all absurd sci-fi ramblings on a par with a Scientology Christmas get together, or was there really something there? 

I’ll let you decide. 

Extrasensory Perception 

Ok, let’s dive straight in. The CIA Stargate Project was focused on the potential use of extrasensory perception (ESP). Sometimes described as the sixth sense, ESP attempts to gather information, not through traditional physical senses – sight, smell, hearing – but rather sensed with the mind. This might include the power to read somebody’s thoughts, telepathy, future predictions and the ability to remotely view a place or time without actually being there. 

While substantiated science has failed to prove the existence of ESP, it remains hugely popular around the world. Psychics are still doing a roaring trade and human beings are still desperate for that briefest glimpse into a possible future. 

But towards the end of the 20th Century, and in particular, in the United States, psychics became increasingly used by the police when investigating a disappearance or murder and had hit a brick wall. Now, at this point, you may well be questioning your choice of video, but bear with me. As much as we’d love to conveniently dismiss these stories as pure lunacy, there’s no denying that sometimes it works. But let me just reiterate that word, sometimes. 

The murder cases of Andre Daigle in 1987, Amie Hoffman in 1982, Elizabeth Cornish in 1987, Susan Jacobson in 1976 and Ashley Howley in 2004 were all solved to some degree with the aid of a psychic and believe me there are many more. But let’s be honest, for every success (and I know finding a dead body is a strange kind of success) there were countless failures. I’m not about to try and prove or disprove any of this, but these are the facts. 

The Cold War

As I mentioned earlier, the Soviets and Americans quickly found themselves in a stalemate during the Cold War. Battle lines had already been drawn, countries had been swayed by dodgy promises or outright political meddling and both countries now and again exchanged a few spies who had been caught in the act.

But the charade had to go on – how else are you going to keep power and retain control of a fearful nation – and it was here that we saw the first tentative steps into ESP research by both the Americans and the Soviets.

Details on the Soviet project is hazy at best. We know a lot about the Stargate Project because of a massive declassification and document dump on the internet in 2017 but the Russians are far more guarded than that. 

At the beginning of the 1970s, the U.S government believed that the Soviets were spending 60 million roubles (that was around $84 million in 1970 and roughly $500 million today) annually on psychotronic research. Also referred to as electronic harassment where agents used electromagnetic radiation, radar, and surveillance techniques to transmit sounds and thoughts directly into people’s heads, affect their bodies, and generally just make their lives difficult. I told you this was going to be a strange video, didn’t I? 

One thing you need to remember about both the Soviets and the Americans was that if one was doing something, the other would have to follow suit. It was a matter of pride and prestige and neither side could be seen to be falling behind, even when it came to mind-reading. So the U.S decided to get in on the act. In 1972, the CIA released funding for a program known as SCANATE (scan by coordinate), while remote viewing research got underway at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California under the supervision of physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff. 


Let me just say from the get-go that while there were undoubtedly successes, findings from SCANATE and the remote viewing research have been constantly criticised ever since. Much of the work was top secret which makes peer-reviewing difficult along with countless usual factors that come with scientific research which I’ll come to a little later in the video. But that being said in 1975, the CIA made this quite astonishing assessment,

“A large body of reliable experimental evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that extrasensory perception does exist as a real phenomenon….the work at SRI, using gifted individuals, has achieved some convincing and striking demonstrations of the existence of paranormal perception, and has demonstrated perhaps less convincingly the possible existence of psychokinetic influences upon sophisticated physical instrumentation”  

So what was it that made the CIA so sure about the existence of extrasensory perception? Well, it was certainly a bit hit and miss. Sometimes it worked, it also often didn’t. And over time, it’s become clear that the level of research done and the results found are not at the level needed to make sweeping claims of success. 

The testing started in fairly rudimentary fashion with participants asked to describe what was in a box sitting on the table but this was soon scaled up to see if people could use remote-viewing skills to visualize and sketch large target sites in and around San Francisco.  

One famous visitor to the Stanford Research Institute was the spoon bending phenomena, Uri Geller. Now, that’s probably a name familiar to many of you and impressions of him tend to range from the complete fraud to some kind of psychic superhero. His role in the research was said to be extensive, ranging from simple mind projections of an image to apparent matters of national security involving nuclear weapons and experimental technology.

But all of this was called into question when Ray Hyman, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon was asked to do an independent review, in which he accused Geller of being a complete fraud, which led to Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff losing their government contracts. But the program persisted and despite the CIA backing out, the Army and the Defence Intelligence Agency took up the mantle and in 1977 the GONDOLA WISH program was started to ‘evaluate potential adversary applications of remote viewing’. The following year, it became an operational program in its own right under the name GRILL FLAME, based at Fort Meade in Maryland. 

Operational Use

The Stargate Project was used operationally up until 1995 when it was officially closed down. A lot of this remains classified, one government official even went as far as to call it ‘beyond top secret’, but there are a few fascinating and bizarre stories that have emerged. 

Perhaps the most famous and most successful case came with the pinpointing of a crashed Soviet TU-22 spy plane in Africa. The U.S knew that the aircraft had gone down in the Central African Republic but despite the full weight of satellite technology behind them, they consistently failed to find the crashed plane.

Up stepped young Rosemary Smith, an airforce pilot who had been working for the program. She was told that a Soviet plane had crashed somewhere within a set area and after going into a trance, gave her superiors a set of longitude and latitude coordinates. And would you know it, the plane was where Smith had said it would be. President Carter even described the recovery mission and Smith’s role to reporters with one asking him how he processed the news that a psychic located the plane, the President replied: “With scepticism.”

Another case involved Angela Dellafiora Ford, who in 1989 was asked to help track down a former customs agent on the run. She concluded the man was hiding in Lowell, Wyoming. Shortly after, the man was apprehended about 100 miles west of not Lowell, Wyoming, but Lovell, Wyoming. 

Joseph McMoneagle, an army veteran, claimed to have been involved in 450 missions between 1978 and 1984, ranging from helping the Army locate hostages in Iran to pointing CIA agents to the shortwave radio concealed in the pocket calculator of a suspected KGB agent captured in South Africa. 

Another notable incident came when he was asked to ‘look inside’ a mysterious industrial building near the Arctic Circle in Russia. He said he imagined himself drifting down into the building and came face to face with a massive twin-hulled submarine. Later, satellites appeared to confirm the find with images of the large double-hulled Typhoon submarine stationed at the Severodvinsk shipyard.  

Other Worldly ESP 

We’re going to stay with Joseph McMoneagle, who by the way was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1984, but we’re going to go much, much bigger. 

In 2017, a huge dump of documents appeared online after being declassified. We’re talking millions and millions of pages and I doubt many, if anybody, has gone all the way through the. But one document and one ESP experiment in particular, which occurred on 22nd May 1984, caught the eye. 

The experiment is described in the document as an interview between a participant (Joseph McMoneagle) and a moderator. On the table in front of McMoneagle was a sealed envelope and inside was a location along with a time period. He was then asked to “see” the location and describe what he saw. 

The transcript of what comes next is strange – very, very strange. McMoneagle begins by describing some people, saying “It’s like a perception of a shadow of people, very tall and thin, it’s only a shadow. It’s as if they were there and they’re not, not there anymore” he goes on to describe a large “obelisk” that reminds him of the Washington Monument, “rounded bottom carved channels, like road beds,” and, most noticeably, “pyramids … like shelters from storms.” In those structures, he finds the shadowy people he had seen before, hibernating. “They’re ancient people,” he tells the monitor. “They’re … they’re dying, it’s past their time or age.”

At the end of the experiment, the envelope, that had apparently remained sealed up until that point, was opened, to reveal two lines:

The planet Mars.

Time of interest – approximately 1 million years B.C. 

There is no recorded version of this event and we can only go on the documents released by the U.S government – which, let’s be honest, hasn’t always showered itself with truthful glory. But it does lead us to one important question. Unless this was some grand plan to convince the Soviets that they had perfected ESP, why would you lie about something like this? 

Project Closure

In 1995, the entire project was again handed over to the CIA who immediately carried out a thorough assessment of the entire program. But even this was strangely inconclusive. Ray Hyman, who you’ll remember helped torpedo Uri Geller two decades prior, was again involved in the evaluation. Again, his findings were fairly scathing but these were in contrast to those of parapsychologist and statistics professor Jessica Utts who claimed the results were evidence of psychic functioning. 

But the CIA had had enough and the program officially came to a close in 1995 after an estimated $20 million (close to $50 million today) had been spent on it. There have long been rumblings that the program has persisted in more, how shall I say, under the table manner, but they are but rumours and unfortunately I can’t add any information on that.  

The Stargate Project

I won’t lie, I’m not entirely sure what to think of all of this. This is a truly bizarre story that doesn’t really come to a nice convenient conclusion. You would have to be completely deluded to blindly believe all of this as any reliable evidence is painfully lacking. The Stargate Project has regularly been accused of allowing cues or sensory leakage to be involved in the experiments. Very little of it was ever replicated, which is pretty important for science, and as I mentioned earlier, the nature of it all made peer-reviewing next to impossible. Then there’s the potential conflict of interest to take into account with investigators often desperate to prove their own theories. 

Most legitimate scientists will point out that next to no reliable scientific evidence for the legitimacy of remote viewing has ever been attained, despite many years of work. Lastly, there is the absurdity of it all. Reading minds and seeing into buildings thousands of miles away, sounds like absolute nonsense doesn’t it? 

And yet, there is something that can’t quite be shaken here. Would the US government really spend 25 years on something they knew to be completely ridiculous? Would they even tell us if they found it to be true? Considering that our understanding of the world around us grows year after year, are we too quick to dismiss ideas that fall outside of our safe little paradigm? 

Who knows. This is the kind of story that stirs emotions on both sides. Those who believe in this kind of thing, and who might generously be described as a little ‘out there’, or those who fervently oppose them, in more of an ideological sense which makes reasoned investigation incredibly difficult. The problem with these kinds of positions, as is being seen with the increased spread of conspiracy theories at the moment, is that it leaves very little space for open-minded debate somewhere in the middle.   

The Stargate Project might be one of the most surreal programs that any government has ever undertaken, but for 25 years it was used and implemented at the very highest levels. Those are all the facts we have, how you perceive them, well, that’s up to you.

Stargate Project – Wikipedia

Project Star Gate: CIA makes details of its psychic control plans public | The Independent | The Independent

The Stargate Project – Marginal REVOLUTION

The CIA Recruited ‘Mind Readers’ to Spy on the Soviets in the 1970s – HISTORY

Did the CIA really astrally project to Mars in 1984? (slate.com)

Failure and Success of the Project STARGATE to Develop the Remote Viewing Capacity by Kenji Miyamoto :: SSRN

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