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ESP Experiments

The History of ESP Experiments

Humanity’s interest in ESP goes back for centuries, and it stays an intriguing phenomenon still experienced by thousands of people around the world.

Extrasensory perception (ESP) is often called a “sixth sense.” While individuals have the five standard senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, there’s a theory that humans also have another sense between the brain. The expression “ESP” was initially employed by a French writer named Dr. Paul Joire in 1892 when he used the expression to describe how people who had been hypnotized could still feel things around them without even using the five senses.

Forms of ESP usually fall into four basic classes:

  • Telepathy: Reading another individual’s mind
  • Clairvoyance: Obtaining knowledge about a distant object or occasion
  • Precognition: Predicting future events
  • Psychokinesis: Influencing the entire world through the only idea.

The Earliest ESP Research

Serious scientific study of this ESP phenomenon began in the 1930s.

American parapsychologist Joseph Banks Rhine was among the first researchers to experiment with all the ESP phenomenon in the lab. Rhine had subjects try to predict the order of a string of five symbols when pulled from a randomly shuffled deck of 25 “ESP cards.” Rhine categorized subjects as having ESP based on a calculation of the likelihood of their blessed guesses against the odds of chance alone.

Starting in the mid-1960s, Canadian Sheila Ostrander and American Lynn Schroeder, two investigators and writers, spent years studying the work of Soviet scientists on this subject. Beneath the more open-door atmosphere created by the new Troika rulership, Schroder and Ostrander spent three years collecting info about Soviet parapsychology research. In 1971, they published Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. This book became an instant hit in New Age circles. However, also, it caught the eye of the U.S. government.

U.S. Intelligence Notices ESP

A Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document dated July 1972 (declassified from the mid-1990s) shows the degree to which the revelations in Ostrander/Schroeder book concerned U.S. intelligence. The Court reads:

“Based on Ostrander and Schroeder, the USSR is ahead of the US in some areas of technical psi research.”

The report suggested that DIA concern focused on the possibility that Soviet victory with ESP may allow the Soviets to:

  1. Obtain knowledge of U.S. secrets, military positions, and plan
  2. Safety the thoughts of U.S. leaders
  3. Remotely kill any U.S. official
  4. Remotely disable U.S. equipment or weaponry

U.S. Government ESP Research

At the same time that the U.S. Intelligence community became concerned about developments in the Soviet Union, a lecturer in the electrical engineering division of Stanford University by the name of Harold (Hal) Puthoff decided to enter the field of PSI research.

Previously an NSA (National Security Agency) officer, Hal was an accomplished physicist in the field of laser research. It is unsure what caused Hal’s surprising departure from science fiction into the contentious world of psychic study in 1971.

In 1971, Hal Puthoff attained degree OTVII in Scientology. Also, based on Jeffrey Richelson in his publication The Wizards of Langley, Puthoff’s financing for his SRI (Stanford Research Institute) laser-related research dwindled. Therefore he got permission from his manager. Then he obtained a $10,000 investment in the owner of the Church’s Chicken franchise to begin conducting ESP experiments to ascertain the existence of psychic abilities.

The Birth of Remote Viewing

esp remote viewing

Only a year later, Puthoff was the head of SRI’s government contract, with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to research and determine if what the Soviets intended to utilize the occurrence for was possible. From 1970 through 1985, Puthoff and SRI have been the central focus of government investments in exploring the phenomenon. The initial research began at the CIA division of Science and Technology, and then transferred to the Department of Defense(DoD) and eventually the DIA. The Air Force and Navy both invested significant funds into exploring the phenomenon and enlisted SRI’s assistance. SRI’s work in this field resulted in an entirely new expression for the occurrence of clairvoyance that Ingo Swann called “Remote Viewing.” Hal Puthoff is considered the father of remote viewing by people who claim to exercise it today.

In 1995, the CIA ran the last evaluation of this 24 year government-sponsored ESP experiments and applications. The AIR released its evaluation to the general public on November 28, 1995. The three researchers commissioned to compose the report requested two practitioners to provide individual evaluations of the program.

The two evaluations were very conflicting. Jessica Utts, in her test, said that the statistical effects reported at the SAIC experiments suggested that psychic functioning is well recognized. Ray Hyman agreed that effect sizes were bigger than opportunity, but argued whether those non-chance effects justified concluding that the reality of psychic functioning can be established.

ESP Remains a Mystery

Surprisingly, following ESP experiments stretching from the 1930s most of the way through the 24 years of U.S. Government sponsored parapsychology study, there is still no definitive response. No scientist could point to some pair of parameters which will create a synergistic effect to prove the reality of the ESP phenomenon. Anecdotal evidence abounds, and there are intriguing stories to be found throughout all of the society. Skeptics and believers continue to debate whether the weak effects identified in the laboratory represent a seed of something much bigger that might be hidden deep within the human mind. Many skeptics still assert that so-called powers of extrasensory perception are merely nothing more than the inadequate methodology and hopeful imagination of parapsychologists.

Perhaps time will reveal the truth.