by Paul H. Smith
Remote viewing (RV) did
not spring into existence overnight. Its earliest ancestors can be
traced back thousands of years to the days of the early Greeks and
beyond. But RV's most direct precursors date from the 1930's,
beginning with experiments in clairvoyance under conscientious
scientists like J.B. Rhine.
Research into telepathy and "thought
transference" by notables such as Upton Sinclair (described
in his book
Mental Radio) and Rene Warcollier (Mind to Mind),
together with investigations into out-of-body states contributed
further to developments that would eventually produce remote
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, out-of-body experiments were
conducted in New York City by researchers at the American Society
for Psychical Research. One of the subjects of these experiments
Ingo Swann, an artist and
student of the paranormal who had come to New York years before from
Colorado. Tiring of the standard research protocols, Swann suggested
a number of changes in and improvements to the experiments, which
among other things led to a successful series of attempts to
mentally describe the current weather in various cities around the
US. After Ingo's descriptions, the weather conditions in these
cities were verified by a phone call to a weather station or other
These experiments suggested to others that something unusual to
current understanding was involved by the "remotely viewed"
locations and objects otherwise inaccessible to direct human
perception. The results were provocative and underscored the value
of further research.
In 1972 Dr.
Hal Puthoff, a physicist at
California-based research institute that had been spun off from
Stanford University, expressed his interest to a researcher in New
York in conducting research into a form of non-conventional
communications. The New York researcher was an acquaintance of
Swann's, which fact eventually led to Swann and Puthoff getting
together to conduct an experiment that ultimately attracted
attention and funding from the Central Intelligence Agency.
Russell Targ soon joined Swann
and Puthoff at SRI, forming the core of a team that researched and
refined understanding of what had now become known as "remote
viewing." For the next two decades most remote viewing research was
funded by the government and performed in secret. But a few
less-secretive sources also provided support, and a limited amount
of non-classified information about RV was published.
In the mid-'70s government support for the growing RV program moved
from the CIA to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA),
as well as certain other military organizations. Subsequent
experiments and research explored the edges of what remote reviewing
could do and tried to improve quality and consistency of the
In 1978 the US Army created a unit to use RV operationally in
collecting intelligence against foreign adversaries. This program
continued under Army sponsorship until 1986, when the operational
and research arms of the government remote viewing program were
combined under the leadership of DIA. In about 1991 DIA renamed the
By this time, the research part of the program had itself been
SRI to Science Applications International
Corporation (SAIC), and was directed by Dr.
Edwin May, who had replaced Hal
Puthoff in 1985 when Puthoff moved to assume directorship of the
Institute of Advanced Studies in Austin, TX.
Concurrent with the government RV program, civilian researchers were
exploring phenomena related to remote viewing. Some of these were
replications of SRI's experiments, while others followed
complementary avenues of research. Most prominent of the latter were
Charles Honorton's "Ganzfeld" techniques, and the "remote
perception" experiments conducted at the Princeton Engineering
Anomalies Research Laboratory. Civilian applications were being
explored as well.
In 1995, an act of Congress transferred responsibility for the Star
Gate program from DIA back to CIA. That fall, the CIA declassified
portions of the program and released a controversial research report
purporting to show that remote viewing was not useful as an
intelligence collection tool. By the time this document was
released, the CIA had already terminated the remote viewing program.
In the years since the 1995 closure of the government program, a
number of persons previously associated with it have gone public by
publishing books, giving media interviews, and/or offering training
commercially in remote viewing methodology.