Uri’s Impact on the US Army
By: John B. Alexander
A little over a year ago, one of the worst kept military secrets became official public knowledge. Suddenly the veil was lifted, and what everyone had suspected, if not known, was confirmed to be true, the US military was indeed interested in psychic phenomena. Specifically, remote viewing had been used to attempt to gather information about a range of topics of interest to intelligence agencies. These revelations came about as the result of the publication of a Central Intelligence Agency report addressing the study of psychic phenomena. The researchers were split, but concluded that while the effects may be real, the techniques were not sufficiently advanced to be applied on the rigorous analytic basis necessary for use by the Intelligence Community.
Much has been written and said about that infamous CIA report. On the ABC Television late night news program Nightline, Robert Gates, the former Director of Central Intelligence, admitted that CIA had been involved in exploring remote viewing. He then made the comment that no national security policy decisions had ever been made based solely on remote viewing information. This remark, while accurate, should not be seen as a condemnation of remote viewing, but rather, one of how policy is made. Common sense dictates that policy decisions at a national level are never made based on single a data point or source. Remote viewing was no different.
In response to the report, allegations by proponents and skeptics flew back and forth. Remote viewers claimed the researchers did not have access to data about specific cases. Some intelligence and drug enforcement agents came forward and stated that they had successfully used the intelligence generated by the remote viewers. Several of the US Army personnel who had engaged in remote viewing rushed out to make remarkable claims about their capabilities and the operations they had performed. In addition to the legitimate remote Viewers, many people not associated with the program also made claims about their involvement a situation that continues to this day. Due to the relative secrecy in which the programs were conducted, only a few people could challenge these impostures. A detailed discussion of the history of the military remote viewing program can be found in the Spring 1996 issue of the Journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration.
To fill a vacuum of information about how one could become involved in remote viewing, workshops and seminars on the topic quickly became a cottage industry. A few were qualified to teach me skills they had acquired most were not. Too frequently advocates took a course, became a selfanointed expert, and established their own programs. They made outrageous claims including the ability to remote view God, or to have perfect knowledge about the origins, conditions, and intentions of advanced extraterrestrial life. One, a former officer who had been forced out of the military under less than honorable conditions in lieu of general court marshal, selfrighteously proclaimed that he was actually protecting the American people by exposing a monumental coverup of the origin of Gulf War Syndrome. He actually managed to publish a book wrapping such topical hotbuttons as angels, Government conspiracies, and family values in the American flag. Of course, he failed to mention the seriousness and validity of the charges against him.
Lost in the noise was the fact that some good research had been conducted. Even the skeptics admitted that some psi effects had been observed in these programs. Though not prepared to admit the effects were real, they at least considered them to be interesting, and sufficient enough to recommend further research be conducted. However, they recommended that research be done outside the Government, and certainly not by the Intelligence Community.
In the early 1980’s I was involved in another aspect of the study of anomalous phenomena one in which Uri Geller had provided the impetus. Of course, that involved the observation, demonstration, and study of macropsychokinesis metal bending. My Fiend at Stanford Research International (SRI), Dr. Harold (Hal) Puthoff had tested Uri extensively in his laboratory. Uri, Hal, lunar astronaut Edgar Mitchell, and others have written extensively about those tests. At the time the results were sufficiently convincing to put credence in the intelligence reports we were receiving from the Soviet Union indicating they were very actively pursuing psychic phenomena.
Based on the reports of Uri’s metal bending capabilities, Jack Houck, an engineer working at Mc Donnell Douglas, developed a format for teaching the technique to average people. He called these “metal bending parties.” Through these parties, Jack was able to train average people to bend metal in a relatively short period of time, usually one to two hours. The reported success rate was very high. Success was measured subjectively by the individuals participating in the metal bending exercise. If they believed that they had affected the metal, that response was accepted. It should also be noted that for most people, two hands and a degree of physical force was involved. This was not the same as the minimal physical contact that Uri employed in his demonstrations. However, there were a number of instances in which spontaneous metal bending was observed at Houck’s parties.
In early 1982 a metal bending party was held in my apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. It was the second such function I had attended and several key people were present including my boss, Major General Bert Stubblebine, and longtime friend of Uri’s Dr. Andrija Puharich. Also present were a few people known to have proven psychic ability. Jack Houck conducted the party and within an hour most everyone was bending meted at what Jack called the “kintergarten level.” That means they were using both hands to facilitate the bending. Undoubtedly, selfdelusion was very possible. Still, it did seem like the metal was softening due to our mental capabilities.
After a period of beginners training, we moved to “graduate school.” At this level everyone held the bases of a pair of matched forks, one in each hand. Now there was no physical pressure applied. Having a fork in each hand would make cheating both difficult and obvious. Within a few minutes most people had begun to discuss a variety of events. There was one who was still concentrating very hard on her forks. It was Anne Gehman, a wellknown psychic with an established reputation. I was a short distance from her, and Bert Stubblebine was sitting directly across. A noise distracted her attention from the forks and a pivotal event happened. Suddenly, one of the forks bent over a full 90 degrees. Both Stubblebine and I saw this happen, although Anne did not. At that instant General Stubblebine and I knew for sure that the stories and reports we had heard about the potential application of psychokinesis were, in fact, true. More investigation was clearly warranted.
Following the model developed by Jack Houck, I quickly learned how to conduct PK parties. Within a few weeks it became a regular process. Naive people, open to the possibility that metal bending might be real, were shown the techniques. By naive I mean they had no prior experience with macro PK. Most had very limited knowledge about any psychic phenomena. Applying the subjective scale, the positive results were very high, usually in excess of 90 percent. In each case there would be a limited amount of spontaneous bending, frequently the tine of one fork. While not as dramatic as what Anne Gehman had demonstrated, it was sufficient to get people very excited.
From the beginning we were very conscious of the potential for fraud. I worked to learn the tricks of the trade. The spoons and forks used at PK parties were obtained from local flea markets and remained in my possession. Therefore, no one had an opportunity to rig them ahead of time. There was no magic lotion. Misdirection while physical force was applied could be ruled out. The people involved were carefully chosen by us. Most were current or former Government employees or their family members. Few, if any, claimed any special powers. There were a few psychics who attended, but none with a reputation for metal bending. Doug Henning, a worldclass magician, but one with a compatible belief system was invited to my home for a PK party. While he did not bend any metal, he was able to demonstrate how fraud could be conducted. Of course, that night it was his own manager that was the first to have successful bending. Certainly, we had not set that up. Nor had we set up the tenyearold girl that had spontaneous bending occur in front of Henning. Despite the claims of skeptics, every possible measure was taken to insure against fraud. Timeandtimeagain we saw spontaneous PK bending, albeit usually small, by naive subjects.
From the military perspective, macro PK was of interest to some of us. The smartass question would usually be, “What are you going to do, bend tank barrels?” I always felt it showed their limited ability to think about topics that exceeded their realm of knowledge. The real danger was not in large metal objects, but rather information systems. The Army at that time was just entering what has come to be known as the digital battlefield. Later, when Alvin Toffler addressed the Gulf War, he called it the first of the Third Wave wars. In other words, it was the first conflict in which information technology had played the dominant role. Computers and information processing had become to key to the battlefield. As I pointed out nearly a decade earlier, the safety of information systems was paramount. If we believed that PK was real, and some of us did, then the threat was to moving small numbers of electrons, not large objects. That was the most energy efficient concept. Still, we could not explain the process by which PK might influence computers and whether or not conservation of energy made any difference. We did theorize that unlike hittokill mechanisms, PK had an additional advantage. That is, it didn’t have to work every time. Making weapons and sensor systems unreliable would be sufficient to have a devastating effect on the battlefield. Some took us seriously, others did not. At any rate, few experiments were actually conducted after those of us involved either retired or moved to other assignments.
The military threat aside, under General Stubblebine’s leadership, we were able to use PK metal for other purposes. As the commander of the US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), General Stubblebine held quarterly meetings for his subordinate commanders who were stationed around the world. Their job was to collect intelligence on potential adversaries and Bert was always conscious of potential “blind spots.” He was concerned that if a potential enemy functioned in a way that intelligence analysts didn’t anticipate, it would be easy to miss the signs of impending conflict. Too frequently, these analysts rejected or ignored reports and data that didn’t fit their notion of what should be happening. This was particularly true if it was reported that a threat country had a capability that we could not duplicate. Americans are noted for what I have termed “cerebralcentrism,” e.g. we think we are the only smart people in the world. Therefore, if we can’t do it, no one else can. That was a danger to be avoided. By having the senior staff participate in PK parties, we had them involved in something they did not believe could be done. Yet, it happened before their own eyes, and in some cases to them.
In fact, at one such session of senior officers, the most amazing PK event I have ever personally witnessed happened. The group had moved into the “graduate session” of the PK party and was clearly showing signs of breaking up. A small group in one corner made a few loud noises and everyone turned to see what was happening. At that moment, as an officer seated in the center of the room looked over, one of his forks drooped a full 90 degrees. While he did not see it, the event was observed by the colonel next to him, and the very senior science advisor seated directly behind him. As they shouted, we all turned to look. Concerned that I was being set up, I made a benign comment like. “that’s very interesting.” Since I had not seen the bend take place, I didn’t want to risk my credibility acknowledging an event I hadn’t observed. I knew too well there were those who desperately wanted both Stubblebine and I to fail. Then as everyone watched, the fork straightened itself, bent over again, and moved back to a 45 degree angle. It was observed by all present. There was absolutely no physical force applied.
What happened next was equally telling. The officer put the forks down and pronounced, “I wish that hadn’t have happened.” I picked up the forks and they remain in my possession today. Fortunately, we were sequestered. With the help of the staff psychologist, we put him back together over the next two days. Clearly, he had not faked the event and his own belief system had been badly shaken. I can report that after he returned to his station in Germany, he attempted the feat again in the privacy of his quarters. He was successful, but wanted nothing further to do with his abilities. (NOTE: A picture could be made available)
In addition to the INSCOM staff, many senior people were exposed to PK parties. Usually, the sessions took place at my home in Northern Virginia with a carefully selected group of people. We wanted to insure these very senior people did not have to fear that their names would appear in the Washington Post, let alone the National Enquirer. I still respect their privacy and will not make their names public. That was, and I believe still is our agreement.
The level of person I am talking about required a fair degree of security. Before one of them came to the house, a counterintelligence team came and electronically swept the house for bugs. I’m not sure if they found any or not. When I asked the team leader what they found, he responded, “Nothing that isn’t suppose to be there.” A bit ambiguous I say. During the parties my neighbors would report dark sedans parked on the street and occupied by men they did not recognize. Since the neighborhood was not particularly close knit, I’m sure they still have no idea who was visiting me, or what we were doing. Based on the results of those sessions, at least one extremely senior of official went back to his organization and started a program to explore PK. Others supported the already established programs.
There were other projects that we undertook. Based on the work of Cleve Backster, I replicated his system for monitoring human emotion at a distance. This was accomplished with no physical connection to the recording device. We also explored acceleration of learning skills and demonstrated a high degree of success. For these, and other, explorations, the reader can find them detailed in a book I coauthored titled, “The Warrior’s Edge.” (Avon 1992)
I must note that all of the work done in remote viewing and psychokinesis was greeted with very mixed enthusiasm by our superiors. Reactions could be placed into four categories. Fortunately we had firm supporters. Frequently these people had their own paranormal experiences to recount. Unexplained events, such as neardeath experiences and precognition, that had occurred during combat often had a lasting effect on these people. A large segment of the leadership was ambivalent. They expressed no interest in the topic, and, if it did not impact their daily lives, couldn’t care less about what we did. Of course, there were the skeptics. They fell into two groups. One group had no frame of reference, but were open to possibilities. The other group were in reality closer to debunkers. Their position was, “It can’t be, therefore it isn’t.” They never let facts get in the way of their established opinions.
Then there was the last category. These people believed the events were real. However, they were, “The work of the Devil.” Therefore, the military had no business participating in psychic research. This position was made crystal clear to me at a briefing I conducted in the Fall of 1987. I was addressing a science panel headed by Walt LeBerg, a former Department of Defense Director for Research and Development. At the conclusion of my presentation on certain anomalous phenomenology, LeBerg exploded. He literally screamed at me, “You’re not suppose to know that. That’s what you learn when you die!!!” I made a quiet, but snide remark indicating I made a had mistake and thought this was a science panel. As quickly as possible, I picked up me briefing slides and got the hell out of there. That was the only time in my entire 32 years in the military I ever encountered such a response.
Given the mix of people I have just described, I am always mystified by the conspiracy theorists who seem to believe the Government holds some awesome knowledge and capability and are withholding critical information from the public. The truth is psi phenomena was demonstrated to work sometimes. We are still far from having all the answers or even a basic understanding about how these events take place. Uri certainly provided a significant level of impetus for establishing research. Twenty years later there is still a great deal to be done.
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"Uri Geller gave an absolutely resonating talk on his life and career. He had every single magician in the room on the edge of their seats trying to digest as much information as they could. Uri emphasized that the path to frame is through uniqueness and charisma and that professional entertainers must be creative in their pursuits of success and never shy away from publicity."
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"There is no spoon!"
"The world needs your amazing talents. I need them"
"The man is a natural magician. He does everything with great care, meticulous misdirection and flawless instinct. The nails are real, the keys are really borrowed, the envelopes are actually sealed, there are no stooges, there are no secret radio devices and there are no props from the magic catalogues."
James Randi (In an open letter to Abracadabra Magazine)
Sir Elton John
"The Geller Effect is one of those "para" phenomena which changed the world of phusics. What the most outstanding physicists of the last decades of this country colud grasp only as theoretical implication, Uri brought as fact into everyday life.."
Dr. Walter A. Frank. Bonn University - Germany
"Eternity is down the hall And you sit there bending spoons In your mind, in your mind"
"I Have watched Uri Geller... I have seen that so I am a believer. It was my house key and the only way I would be able to use it is get a hammer and beat it out back flat again."
"Better than watching Geller bending silver spoons, better than witnessing new born nebulae's in bloom"