Men who stare at goats

Synchronicity. My whole career has been guided by meaningful coincidences, the threads that seem to be woven into life’s tapestry by the hand of God.



The posters looked great, but I have two problems with the film. The first is that they picked George Clooney to play the psychic spy, the guy with the mindpower super-weapon.

 I was in my twenties when intelligence operatives tried to recruit me, after conducting batteries of incredible experiments. I suppose Clooney is not so bad-looking… but couldn’t they get anyone younger?

 The second problem is this: the story is based on events that were almost dull, compared to the amazing phenomena that erupted around me on my first visit to America.


As I explained to Jon Ronson, the Guardian journalist who wrote the book that inspired this film, I refused to use my mental energy to stop the hearts of lab animals. My handler wanted me to focus, not on a goat, but on a pig, and kill it — pig anatomy is very similar to the human body, and I knew instinctively that this was a test to discover whether I could kill enemy soldiers or agents.

 The next test would have been to kill an animal from a distance, without seeing it. Maybe Jon’s sequel will be called The Men Who Think About Goats.

 And the third test would have been to try to kill a human being. Perhaps the target would have been a criminal on death row, but my intuition told me that the head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, was the ultimate target.

 I refused point-blank, and walked out to the programme. Nothing the spooks could say would ever induce me to change my mind.

 It is not just that I am a vegetarian and that I don’t kill animals for food, and certainly not for twisted experiments.

 There are ancient laws that govern the power of the mind. One of the most powerful was explained to me once by a witch who was steeped in the rites and lores of her craft: it is called the Threefold Law Of Return. That means that whatever you wish upon others will come back to you, three times as strong.

 My friend John Lennon had another name for it… Instant Karma.

 All this adds up to a weird episode in my career. But the tests at Stanford Research Institute which convinced the spy chiefs that my powers were real were much weirder… because I didn’t walk out. Instead, my curiosity was aroused — what could happen when I tried to exert my mind to the max?

 I didn’t need to be telepathic to know that the experiments had aroused the interest of the spooks. In every room, there always seemed to be a couple of guys who were alert, tense, cagey… exactly the opposite of the boffins, who were so absorbed in their analysis that they probably wouldn’t have noticed if their lab coats caught fire.

 The scientists in charge of investigating me, Hal Puthoff and Russell Targ, were both sceptical men. They thought it likely that I was using conjuring tricks, and they used professional magicians to watch me for any sleight of hand.

 “We were salting magicians in as physicists and lab people,” Hal told my biographer, Jonathan Margolis, “and we had an expert in psychic magicianship come in and carefully view videotapes of experiments, and he couldn’t work out hopw they were done.”

 One lunchtime, Russell stripped a pack of cards from their cellophane wrapper and handed them to me. “Know any card tricks?” he joked.

 There was a serious angle to his question. He wanted to see if I handled the pack easily. That might suggest that I was a trained conjuror, or that I had at least been interested in magic tricks as a boy.

 In fact, I’m hopeless with cards. I tried to cut the deck, and spilled half of it across the table.

 Incredibly, the cards seemed to slice into the wooden tabletop, with their corners digging in. And when Russell swept the cards up, the corners had been cut away.

 It was a bizarre moment, and I remember it almost like a dream. I couldn’t believe what my own eyes had seen, until Hal and Russell confirmed it. They even called the manufacturers, to ask whether some flawed packs had their corners shaved off. The answer was an indignant No.

 But perhaps the most convincing test came in a phone call to Washington DC, on the other side of the country. I was told I’d be speaking to a scientist: in fact, he was a very senior spymaster.

 The voice on the phone told me he was looking at something on his desk — could I see it, by telepathy or remote viewing?

 I tried. I strained my brain. I focused every ounce of my energy, until I was sweating and my heart was racing. After twenty minutes, I flopped back exhausted and looked at my pad.

 All I had written was the word ‘Architecture’ with a scribble below it that looked like a plate of scrambled eggs.

 Failure. Abject failure… except that the object on the desk was a medical textbook, open to a double-page diagram of the human brain. And the page was headed, in bold black type, “Architecture Of The Brain”.

 That would make a spine-chilling sequence for a movie. I just don’t want to be played by George Clooney.

Christina is a captain in the Athens police — her assignment is to look after ambassadors and visiting royalty. I’m over six feet tall, but I got a crick in my neck looking up at her.

George Papadakis is one of the best-known interviewers in Greece. He invited me onto his breakfast show for a fascinating chat.


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