Monthly Archives: October 2009
Which Side Are Ya On, Jim?

In 1992 I attended the TREAT conference in Atlanta, Georgia, organised by psychiatrist and UFO abduction researcher Rima Laibow. One of the speakers was a new name to me, and to nearly all of the 200 attendees – Major Edward Dames, recently retired from the U.S. Army.

Dames stunned the crowd with what struck me as a preposterous tale, even in the context of the dozen other presentations dealing with such arcane topics as the UFO abduction claims. He spoke about a psychic skill called remote viewing, developed in secrecy at the Stanford Research Institute, and then applied by teams of military “viewers” on a systematic basis to gain information about operational targets of great interest to the American intelligence community. Remote viewing, said Dames, was a latent ability common to the human species, but it required long and demanding training.

Another name unfamiliar to me was invoked several times during this presentation, by way of singling out the central figure in the development of remote viewing. Later, I got the spelling right: Ingo Swann.

Upon returning from Atlanta, I called a friend who has spent decades in parapsychology, including laboratory work. “Psychic phenomena” was a subject of only passing interest to me. I was unread and untutored, and didn’t really care that much about it in the first place. But I wanted to run the Dames story by my learned friend, and fully expected him to draw on his fund of special knowledge and dismiss “remote viewing” as arrant nonsense. To my great surprise, he said that such a skill does indeed appear to exist, and has been replicated at various laboratories over the years. He was unaware of the military programme, but knew through the parapsychological grapevine about the work done at SRI, presumably under CIA sponsorship.

With this sobering confirmation in hand, I wondered out loud why this skill had not been followed up. Where was the parapsychological community? Where was the scientific community at large? The response was an exercise in studied diffidence. Yes, this seemed to be real ESP. But there were many other examples, and researchers had no funding, and all positive findings in the field were instantly attacked by the organised sceptics, and the press always misrepresented the work, and who cares, anyhow? This was my introduction to the mind-set of academic parapsychologists – diligent researchers but beaten down by an unthinking skeptical culture to the point where they avoid the most dramatic evidential results, and instead hide behind clouds of statistics.

Several months after this conversation I was invited to an afternoon at the summer place of a prominent Manhattan psychiatrist with a long-standing interest in the paranormal. The guest of honour was none other than this mysterious fellow, Ingo Swann. I listened to his rather short talk, and then introduced myself over cocktails. That was the beginning of a deep friendship, and a pivotal point in my life.

By 1994 I had done enough reading on remote viewing, interspersed with discussions with Swann, to persuade me to take the plunge. Swann was not teaching, and said he would never teach again, having had enough of that at SRI, among other vaguely proffered reasons. So I signed up with Ed Dames, who at the time was the only source of instruction using the Swann protocols. Also, I knew Dames had been trained by Swann, which gave me some confidence that I would have a tutorial pipeline back to the exhaustive research and development my tax money had paid for. Nor did Swann try to dissuade me when I announced my intentions.

Two weeks before I was to depart for Albuquerque, Swann called. “I’ve decided to teach a fellow named Jim Schnabel, and I can teach two about as easily as just one, and you are welcome, if you want.”

This was one of those offers one can’t refuse. I cancelled my appointment with Ed Dames, who was upset but gentlemanly about it. And I learned that Schnabel had also signed up with Dames, but cancelled when Swann made him the offer of instruction.

As Swann explained the situation to me, Schnabel was a journalist who wanted to write a book about remote viewing. Schnabel had obviously done his homework on the topic, and had already interviewed most of the “names” in the open literature, but Swann told him that the only way to understand remote viewing, particularly if the goal was to write a competent book about it, was to learn the skill. That is why Schnabel had signed on with Dames. Then Swann got to ruminating about it, and decided that perhaps the writer of the definitive book on remote viewing ought to be taught by the original “armchair traveller,” as Targ and Puthoff had whimsically dubbed him during the epochal early research at SRI.

That’s what I knew about Jim Schnabel when I rang the doorbell at Swann’s lower-Manhattan townhouse in the early morning hours on Day One. My main concerns were this thing called remote viewing, the 12 days of instruction that loomed ahead, and the seeming impossibility of accomplishing the goal.

My partner turned out to be about half my age, with dark hair arranged in deliberately informal style, skin fair and smooth like a child’s, and a bit of pink in the cheeks making him appear much younger than his 30 years. His manner was reserved to the point of reticence, and there was an air of unease or even evasiveness about him. He had the disconcerting habit of rarely looking you in the eye during conversation, preferring to stare at his shoes. But he seemed to have a keen mind, the ability to express ideas precisely, and a sporadically evinced but genuine sense of humour.

The days of training that followed were long, intense ordeals. I came to appreciate Schnabel’s reserve, because a more emotional person might well have caused a serious problem in the pressure cooker of Swann’s Academy.

Generally, we shared at least the mid-day meal, and there was plenty of time between training sessions when the three of us would talk. Despite the ample opportunity, I learned little about Jim Schnabel. He had a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, and had worked for a firm developing electronic devices for aviation applications, until it went out of business. This seems to have been the only “real” job he had had since graduation from college. He had written two books on paranormal topics, one on UFO abductions, the other on crop circles. He was enrolled at a university in England and was hoping to get a doctorate in the sociology of science. Much of his spare time at Swann’s was spent on the telephone – to England, he confided – and on occasion he would receive a call from England. It was hinted that most of the transatlantic telephoning had to do with a lady friend.

Other sources told me that Schnabel had worked for the CIA while in England. I didn’t raise that, it seeming to be not the sort of question a gentleman would ask of another gentleman, and I only raise it here because other parties confronted him with this and in response he freely acknowledged his employment with that “firm”, though he says it was long ago and far away. I would imagine there was nothing sinister about this, just the sort of thing many temporarily expatriate Americans are asked by their country to do from time to time, which is to report on activities of other Americans that might warrant a closer look. Which of us, if asked, wouldn’t do the same?

Swann’s curriculum began with two 12-hour days of extraordinarily intense drilling on the theory of remote viewing. We learned about the difference between automatic and autonomic, what a limin is, and what it is not. This came in fairly short doses, usually 30 to 45 minutes in duration, often accompanied by overhead projector “slides” that still had the dust of Menlo Park on them. Then we would be asked to write a short essay on what we had just learned, or tried to learn. Then on to another topic. And so on for two very wearying days.

The object was to teach us the theory of remote viewing, along with all the carefully recorded details of how it works, per the many years of research at SRI, in order to help collapse the cultural barriers that almost force us to reject the very possibility that something like remote viewing exists or can be done by mere mortals. We even had homework. This consisted of reading various technical papers, none of them dealing directly with remote viewing or any other “psychic” topic, but all of them pertinent to, and supportive of, the theory of remote viewing as developed at SRI and now taught to us by Swann.

With this out of the way, we began remote viewing. Swann uses only geographical coordinates (latitudes and longitudes), and for our course stuck entirely to geographical locations or structures. There were no events in the list of targets, just sites. Both Schnabel and I progressed at about the same pace, which is to say that we made no progress at all the first day or two, while we made repeated attempts to produce an ideogram in response to the infinitely patient droning of North and South and East and West from Swann’s end of the long table where we worked.

The sites, like the teaching slides we had seen earlier, were originals from SRI. Manila folders contained colour photos of each site, together with worksheets from previous students who used the same coordinates. The outer face of the folder showed only a latitude and longitude, and a notation about the “phase” level the particular site was meant to evoke in the trainee. When Swann left SRI, he had been given the folders, numbering no less than 2,600! On occasion Schnabel and I peeked at the work done by our predecessors, partly to judge their results against ours, and partly for the titillation of seeing some very interesting names, some of whom have no publicly known connection with remote viewing.

At some magic moment, one of us (I can’t recall which) finally let it happen, and produced a real ideogram. Whether from morphogenetic resonance or just practice I can’t say, but from that point forward both Schnabel and I were doing well. We were taken through various stages, patiently and systematically, as our “preconscious processing” got more sensitive and productive of correct data about the site. I especially remember one session that Schnabel did that astonished me and also brought out more than a bit of jealousy. The coordinate was that of a platform many miles off the east coast of the US, where the Air Force had a radar station. Schnabel made a beautifully precise sketch of the place, the platform, the sea around it, the large plastic balls enclosing the radar antennas, and, to make things better (for him), he had a little something hanging off the side of the platform that looked mighty like a small crane. When Swann showed us the feedback photo, there it all was – including the crane!

Schnabel was something of a whiner. He was forever arguing with Swann about this or that. Usually this amounted to nothing. But once Schnabel complained in the midst of a session that Swann was “leading” him.

Often during the initial phases of our training Swann would give us instant feedback on individual statements we would make, but only to the extent that what we had said or written was “correct”, “incorrect”, or “can’t feed back” in those instances where even though he knew what the site was, he could not say if a particular statement made by the viewer was correct or not. In later phases of training, we worked almost entirely in silence.

Schnabel’s complaint about being “led” evoked the only really heated exchange between the two that I observed during the entire programme. (I can attest that Swann had not been leading Schnabel.) I was resting on a couch nearby, in a reverie, and only half-listening to the action at the table, until things got loud. It was one hell of an exchange, with Swann refusing to budge, and telling Schnabel that he never, but never, led a student, and that Schnabel would either apologise or pack his bags. Schnabel wasn’t the least bit resilient, instead giving Swann what-for, but eventually he backed off. Incredibly, after all this, they simply continued the session, with a very good remote viewing job done by Schnabel on the target.

I have already hinted that Schnabel is not an easy man to draw out or to talk to about other than business matters. But I am much the same sort, and so is Swann. So it was a surprise when, after one particularly good session, with all of us wondering out loud about this marvel called remote viewing, that Schnabel spoke to me in a rare moment in which the wall of reserve broke down. He said that he had spent so much of his life studying anomalies, or alleged anomalies (like the crop circles and the UFO abductions about which he had written entire books) and that everywhere he looked, he discovered bunk and nonsense. “But this, this is real. This is amazing!” he said, staring me straight in the eye.

At the end of each day we were required to write summaries of what we had done, listing the sites that were remote viewed and our personal evaluations of how well we did. Those self-critiques, together with the work sheets, are stored in Swann’s files. As the course progressed, both Schnabel and I continued to add our personal appreciations to what was obvious from the work sheets.

On the evening of the tenth day of training, Swann unwrapped blocks of modelling clay and announced nonchalantly that our task for the following day would be to make a clay model of a site. This struck us as an absurd leap for a pair of neophytes. But the next day came, and I was as usual the first man at the table, Schnabel preferring to sleep late in Swann’s penthouse, while Swann and I ate breakfast at a local diner and then returned to begin work. With this routine, I would be nearly finished by the time we heard Schnabel bounding down five storeys of metal stairway to the basement workshop. The whole building would shake as he struck the steps, leaping over four or five at a time. Then he would creep, silent-Indian-like, down the remaining flight, in order not to disturb us.

Starting with nothing other than a latitude and a longitude, I constructed out of clay a fairly accurate three-dimensional model of a temple located somewhere in southeast Asia. The very unusual carved concentric designs on the temple spires are clearly depicted in the model. I am very proud of that, and Swann, to whose credit all this really redounds, has expressed himself as equally proud. He keeps the model handy, and shows it from time to time to persons who inquire about remote viewing.

Schnabel took over the table after I had cleaned up my mess. About an hour and a half later he had produced a clay model, with necessary cardboard appurtenances, that was a dead ringer for the dam at Lake Victoria. This includes the unique spillway, and the roads on either side of the dam, as well as the lake behind it and the river into which the dammed waters flow. A superb job, and a job that thrilled all of us, mainly Jim Schnabel, the very accomplished remote viewer.

That was the last time I saw Jim Schnabel. I had finished 11 days out of the agreed-upon 12, but was called away on business. Schnabel stayed for day 12, which consisted of doing one more clay model. This was of a unique building in the American Southwest, and again he proved unambiguously the power of remote viewing. These three clay models, mine and Schnabel’s two, stand as an unanswerable argument on behalf of remote viewing.

After we parted company, Schnabel and I stayed in touch for about nine months by way of sporadic telephone conversations. Shortly after finishing the Swann course, he visited Major Dames and took three days of training. His purpose was to learn anything new that he could, and also to compare the methods used by Dames with those he had been taught by Swann. Ultimately, Schnabel was preparing for his Great Book on remote viewing.

It was an enthusiastic Jim Schnabel who called to tell me about his three days with Dames. Yes, Dames used random-number coordinates instead of geographic coordinates. Yes, oddly, amazingly, that seemed to work. He described two or three targets that Dames had given him, and his success with them. Dames was definitely doing some things a lot differently from what we had seen at the hand of Swann, but the bottom line was that Schnabel came away favourably impressed. Parenthetically, Jim Schnabel is certainly the only person ever to have been taught by both Swann and Dames, and is just as certainly the only person who will ever be able to claim that accomplishment.

At the time Swann decided to cooperate with Schnabel, there was every reason to believe that Schnabel was a very competent writer. He had already produced two books, Round In Circles in 1993, and Dark White in 1994. In addition to that, he had written for learned journals, such as Science, Technology, and Human Values, the journal of the Society for Social Studies of Science. He was also published in periodicals of repute, such as the Washington Post, the Independent, New Scientist, Science, the Observer, and the Economist.

Swann had been warned that Schnabel was a die-hard skeptic, that his closest associates were to be found in the ranks of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), and that his true motive was to ridicule remote viewing, as he had ridiculed the claims for the paranormal provenance of crop circles in Round In Circles, and the claims for the anomalous nature of the UFO abduction reports in Dark White.

Both books are marked by a highly literate style, breezy, urbane, easy to read even when fairly difficult topics are involved. UFOs has been a hobby of mine for decades, and I was amazed by the range of reading that Schnabel had done for Dark White, evident in a multitude of appropriate allusions to really rare concepts and publications. Then he spent a great deal of time with principals in abduction research, and befriended “abductees” until he had spent long enough with them to get a flavour for their life styles and thought processes. Whether he was justified in ultimately dismissing the abduction claims as psychopathology, pure and simple, is another matter. I think his conclusion is premature, but that is beyond the scope of this discussion. In any event, Dark White is by far the best skeptical treatment of the abduction enigma, much more useful than Philip Klass’s humourless and frantic UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game.

This in fact was the only occasion when we exchanged sharp words, with Schnabel telling me that the UFO abduction syndrome was simple to explain: “They’re just crazy, that’s all.” I wondered, rather aggressively, what Schnabel’s credentials as a psychologist were, and why he thought the multitude of professionals in that field who had published contrary views were so egregiously wrong. Swann stepped in and told us both to shut up. We did.

But Schnabel’s grand view of the “paranormal”, in the CSICOP definition of the word, is fairly summed up in his own words from the closing sections of “Dark White”:

“Of course, the modern UFO phenomenon involves much more than tricksy abductees. It involves unusual things that fly around in the sky, and groups of people who attempt to study those things. In that sense it should fall squarely and safely within the realm of science. Yet there is something about UFOs and ufology, an obsessing oddness, that attracts like moths to a light not only psychics and hysterics and tricksters and shamans and shamanesses, but also conspiracy-theorists, schizophrenics, obsessive-compulsives, con-men, cranks, misfits, impostors, and deviants of every description. The ordinary and congenial are there, of course, and I don’t wish to offend them, but too often they are outnumbered, or at least outshouted, and whether the ufological issue at hand is abductions or crashed saucers or government cover-ups, one’s sanity is always at risk.”

Well.

“Round In Circles” has a frontispiece containing just this line, which I believe must be the guiding motto, or perhaps the accumulated wisdom of the disappointing life experiences of Jim Schnabel: “We wait for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. – Isaiah 59: 9.” Interestingly, the frontispiece of Dark White contains a quotation from another religious figure, Agobard, Bishop of Lyons (A.D. 800).

The foreword tells us that in the summer of 1991 Schnabel was a graduate student in England, and apparently had a bit of time on his hands, because he noted all the fuss in the newspapers about crop circles, and decided to go have a look for himself. What he saw, he wrote a whole book about. Here is a relevant portion of the author’s foreword:

“I never gave up hope that some kind of scientific advance would result, directly or serendipitously, from the study of crop circles. But the brief glimpse I’d had of Meaden, of his volunteers, of the assortment of other characters who had visited the secret site that day and night, convinced me that the most interesting aspect of the phenomenon was the human one – the obsession with anomaly, the longing for meaning, the would-be scientists and the would-be shamans, the paradigm shifts and conspiracy theories, the intrigues, scandals, love affairs, libel suits, con games, hoaxes, pagan rituals, demonic possessions, midnight epiphanies and countless press releases.”

A blurb written by Robin McKie of the Observer, on the back cover of the book states:

“Without judging, or being patronising, he tells the story of each happy nutcase’s involvement in the crop-circle saga, mainly through their own words. It is an endearing, absorbing account.”

“The Crop Watcher” is quoted in approbation: “an excellent and highly detailed account of how the crop circle myth was conceived and promoted; a hilarious romp through a series of disastrous mistakes, desperate eccentricity and outrageous storytelling.”

The bulk of the research for Round In Circles seems to have consisted of making social contacts with all of the characters involved, eventually focusing on those individuals who hoaxed many of the formations, working in the dead of night without permission of the landowners, and then delighting in the fiasco they caused. Schnabel is clear enough about his own participation in crop circle faking, and does not hide his admiration for his fellow fakers. In fact, some of them have become his closest friends, such as the avant-garde artist Rob Irving.

The topic of hoaxing has absorbed much of Schnabel’s attention. He wrote a paper on hoaxing entitled “Puck in the laboratory: The Construction and Deconstruction of Hoaxlike Deception in Science”, published in the journal Science, Technology, & Human Values. This is a well crafted, serious study of the general topic of hoaxing in the context of scientific debates, using five well known instances. The crop circles are covered, as is James “The Amazing” Randi’s “Project Alpha” hoax in the field of parapsychology. This was an opportunity for Schnabel to reveal himself as a crypto-PSIcop. Instead, his account of this ugly affair is factually correct and even-handed, with Randi and his supporters coming off looking like something far removed from the guardians of civility and reason that they would like us to think they are – and, I may add, that the popular press at the time portrayed them as being. As a reward for this sort of scurrilous activity, Randi received a $275,000 “genius award” from the MacArthur Foundation. Similarly, in Dark White Schnabel treats fairly the infamous Gauquelin affair in which CSICOP manipulated data that appeared to prove the validity of certain of the claims of astrology. Still, the reviewers of Circles may have had the true measure of Schnabel’s writing when they pointed out what they liked most about it, namely, the way he makes “each happy nutcase” come alive on paper, to the great entertainment of the reader.

We’ve had a brief look at Schnabel the writer, but I would be remiss if I did not say a word or two about Schnabel the researcher. Those of you who have had even a tangential connection with the federal government’s remote viewing program know Jim Schnabel, if not from personal meetings, then certainly from lengthy telephone conversations. Many of you have had more than one meeting with the man, and others have obliged him with repeated telephone interviews, over a span of several years. He is meticulous and he is tireless, and some have wondered out loud about who paid for all those immense travel and telephone charges.

Others have wondered at the bulk of minutiae collected by Schnabel, and where it was going, in the sense of whether it might not be above and beyond what any ordinary mortal book writer would be accumulating. But I think such speculations are unworthy of the man, and that he is simply doing what any journalist would do, blessed with his resources and his unwavering dedication to “getting the story” of remote viewing.

As we shall see, this noble impulse took Schnabel shoving into the psychiatric ward of a military hospital, where he confronted a man whose career and life had been shattered, and who was pharmacologically sedated, and whose equally shattered wife stood by weeping, and then wrote gleefully about all that for the consumption of his equally noble fellow journalists, and then put that story on the Internet just to make sure nobody missed the byline.

So this was the man who was invited into the home of Ingo Swann, to pick his brain about remote viewing, and to learn the skill of remote viewing as the first student Swann had taught in the decade since he parted company with the secret project at Stanford Research Institute. To those who objected to Schnabel on principle, Swann merely replied that he would prefer a skeptic, that remote viewing had withstood many onslaughts in the past from the most trenchant “official” Washington skeptics who visited SRI regularly to see how and why their funds were being wasted. These worthies were shown the marvel, and went away chastened. So would it be with this young fellow, Schnabel. And he would write the Great Book!

In the Fall of 1994 the book was shopped to the publishing trade by Sandra Martin, who had been Ingo Swann’s literary agent and had carved out a niche in the publishing industry as a specialist in books on the paranormal. The concepts were promising: a secret project at one of the Nation’s leading think-tanks designed to find the key to psychic spying before the Russians did, real and stunning results when psychics were given targets to “view,” a central character (Swann) right out of the movies, the discovery of a fantastic human potential that can be learned by everyone. And Schnabel was miles ahead of any other writer contemplating a book on the same topic. Just about anybody could write and sell a book given this raw material. Whether the book would become a tabloid style potboiler or a serious work that would attract the attention of critical readers would depend on the writing skill and artistic maturity of the writer.

In accordance with standard practice, the manuscript consisted of two chapters plus chapter headings with synopses for the remainder of the proposed book. I found it a terrible disappointment, the first chapter a rushed overview of Swann’s life and the major “psychic” events in it. We read quick summaries of Swann and the thermistor and then Swann and the magnetometer at SRI, but these are sandwiched between Swann the painter, Swann the paunchy, Swann’s bizarre Lower East Side town house. The reader is left to wonder if the magnetometer and thermistor stories are true, or if any of this is meant to be taken seriously. Chapter two did the same for Harold Puthoff. No attempt was made to build tension, despite the many obvious opportunities, nor was there any other mood created. There was a faintly supercilious tone throughout, an ominous reminder of Schnabel’s previous writing. Among the headings for the chapters that were proposed to follow, we find the following: King Ingo, Obi Swann, Young Skywalker, General Bert’s Boys and Girls, Jack and Dale, and The Biplane Pilot.

So much for the “serious” book on remote viewing. And to make matters much worse, Sandra Martin couldn’t sell the thing. Schnabel fired Martin, found another agent, and after a rewrite of the book and a very long wait, finally sold it to a publisher who specialises in the titles that are stocked in supermarkets. It should be out soon.

Schnabel was not idle. In the August 27th., 1995 number of the London Independent On Sunday he published an article titled “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Psi.” Here is how he describes remote viewing: “a unit of officers and enlisted men are searching for the dictator by way of Extra-Sensory Perception – or as they call it, ‘remote viewing.’ Some are lying in trance states in darkened rooms, and trying to visualise the dictator’s whereabouts. Others are sitting at brightly-lit tables, sketching and verbalising whatever moves their pens or enters their minds.” When the reader is given a hint that this “remote viewing” skill might be real and effective, his attention is quickly drawn away by a litany of the foibles of the “usual suspects.” And this article is the occasion where Schnabel introduces to the public that felicitous parapsychological term, “psychic blowjob.”

In a few short sentences Schnabel demolishes the credibility of remote viewing and of Dr. Jack Vorona, for many years the Director for Science and Technology at DIA, a man of outstanding accomplishment and reputation, and the principal patron of remote viewing:

“In its first few years under DIA management, the unit included the ‘witches’, two women called Angela Dellafiora and Robin Dahlgren. Dellafiora eschewed remote-viewing and instead ‘channelled’ her psychic data through a group of entities with names like ‘Maurice’ and ‘George’. Dahlgren practised tarot-card reading. Angela achieved an undue influence on the unit when she began to give personal channelling sessions, featuring advice on the most intimate matters of their lives, to Jack Vorona and other officials.”

The article serves as a working outline for the next project designed by Schnabel to communicate the story of remote viewing to the public. This is the video titled “The Real X-Files”. I am often trapped in hotels overseas, and if I want to hear the English language on the television, I have only two options, the international version of CNN, and MTV. The international CNN repeats the same programming every hour or so, and this has forced me to watch a lot more MTV than I would like, but with that unhappy circumstance came a feel for the production values incorporated in the Schnabel video. The remote viewing community seems to think they were done a favour by this programme, but I demur. Once again the public comes away without a clue about systematised remote viewing, the skill that Schnabel learned and used with great success. I have had a number of lay persons watch the show, and then asked them to tell me about the process used by the various characters that populate the scenes showing or referring to remote viewing. They are unanimous in describing a general sort of “psychic” effort, and most wonder if it really works. The lasting impressions are of visually impressive gyrations by the cast of characters, most of whom are presented as a bit weird. As in all of Schnabel’s efforts, remote viewing gets lost in the shuffle.

It is fair to say that the video tells the story of remote viewing by, if I may paraphrase the reviewer of Circles, telling the story of each happy nutcase’s involvement with remote viewing. In the original version shown in England the viewer is struck in the face with the gratuitous “psychic blowjob”, though mercifully this was edited from the version run in the US on the Discovery cable television channel.

In the Washington Post for November 15th., 1996, Schnabel, described as “a science writer based in London”, takes on the Gulf War Syndrome with the same hyperbolic language we have gotten used to: “‘Gulf War Syndrome’ is a bit like the supernatural. Scientific culture doesn’t really believe in it, yet popular culture embraces it. In fact, the enthusiasm for gulf war syndrome goes all the way up to the White House, Congress, CNN, ’60 Minutes’ and the New York Times.” We are told that “politicians, quack doctors, and the media” are to blame, all having fallen victim to “anecdotal evidence”, “politics”, and “the power of suggestion.’

This sounds disturbingly like a displacement for remote viewing. Under the heading of “politicians” backing remote viewing we can list C. Pell, C .Rose, and A. Gore. Under “White House” we can list G. Bush, if Schnabel’s own writings are to be credited, and, again, A. Gore. There is a very long list of “quack doctors”, both of medicine and philosophy, who have slipped the bounds of reality and supported remote viewing.

With respect to the Times, I can only assume that the complaint has to do with the extensive coverage they gave to the husband and wife team of CIA analysts who independently researched the Agency’s archives relating to Gulf War Syndrome, and tried to get the CIA to advise Congress about the fact that those archives contained a great mass of “anecdotal” evidence concerning exposure of troops to toxic substances. Having failed to so persuade their employer, they quit their jobs. Schnabel has further reason to belabour the Times, because on November 25th. they carried a front-page article headlined: “2 Studies Seem to Back Veterans Who Trace Illnesses to Gulf War.”

I don’t know what the truth is about Gulf War Syndrome, but in reviewing all of Schnabel’s writing, what comes to mind is a refrain from that Depression-era union organising song, “Which side are ya on, boys? Which side are ya on?”

Schnabel’s name has become widely known among anomalists, and this has given rise to a humorous speculation which I add to this monograph by way of lightening things up a bit. In 1995 a London video store shopkeeper and minor league rock music video producer named Ray Santilli announced to the world that he had obtained 20 cans of film made in 1947 that showed an autopsy of an alien recovered from the wreckage of a UFO. This galvanised the UFO community, which to its credit did a very thorough investigation of Santilli and the story of how he obtained the film. Eventually, Santilli was shown to be a liar with respect to just about every particular of his original pronouncements, and the “alien autopsy” is now believed to be a hoax, though a well done hoax.

Millions of Americans have seen the “alien autopsy” thanks to Fox Television, which found such an eager audience that it replayed the show three times. The film was also syndicated in many other countries. But the central question – who faked this film, with its careful and presumably expensive attention to detail (the clocks, telephones and surgical instruments are all undeniably circa 1947)? – is still a great mystery. Enter Schnabel, with a well known penchant for hoaxing, with a coterie of London friends involved in the MTV social and intellectual set. And there he is, in roughly the same time frame, making his own remote viewing video. Probably just a coincidence.

If you have read this far you must be one of the remote viewing cognoscenti, and thus the name David Morehouse is not new to you, and you know more than a little bit about his long, strange story. It is not a tale one would tell the scouts around a campfire by way of edification. Nor is it the story of remote viewing.

Any field of endeavour has its share of nutcases, happy or otherwise, and detailing their faults is seldom the focus of serious writing. There is a very significant distinction between a topic, such as remote viewing, and the personal lives of those who are principals in that topic. This is a distinction made routinely in journalism, and one of the points where a publication like The New York Times differs in substance from a supermarket tabloid. The life and times of David Morehouse make for interesting reading, but what has that to do with remote viewing? Or if you really think it does, then the organised skeptics, who have played a significant part in the debate about the validity of remote viewing, ought to be singled out in similar fashion, deferring the gravamen of their complaints. I would invite the attention of Jim Schnabel to James “The Amazing” Randi, a florid example beside whom Morehouse pales by comparison in terms of “human interest”.

On or about November 17th., 1996 an article was posted on the Internet over the signature of Jim Schnabel. This was entitled “The Truth About Dave Morehouse and Psychic Warrior”, dated November 7th. A parenthetical introduction tells us a bit about Jim Schnabel, and his forthcoming book, and then goes on: “Schnabel was commissioned to write a piece on Dave Morehouse for Esquire in 1994, when Morehouse began to claim that remote viewing and Army harassment had landed him in Walter Reed. Schnabel discovered a different story. However, the piece was not what Esquire’s editor wanted, and it was killed. Schnabel decided to write this, as a once-for-all statement, after receiving queries from other journalists about Morehouse.”

Mr. Mark Warren, a senior editor at Esquire, remembers an article submitted by Jim Schnabel. It was not “commissioned” by Esquire, but they did read it, and returned it with a request that he rewrite the piece. Among the problems Warren recalls with the original manuscript was that it didn’t really deal with remote viewing, which Esquire thought should be the central issue, and that the tone of Schnabel’s writing was offensive and didn’t fit their editorial guidelines. Schnabel never bothered to submit a revised article.

Warren’s version of these events is much different from Schnabel’s, and makes more sense. Why would an important magazine commission an article by an unknown writer about the peccadilloes of an unknown Army officer? Warren’s account also coincides with what Schnabel told me around November 1994 in a telephone conversation, during the course of which he begged me to delay any plans I might have to write on the topic. He wanted “the first shot”, and said that he had a chance with a major periodical, the name of which he declined to specify.

However, Warren’s recollection does square with the text of “The Truth” as recently published on the Internet. Any reader would want to know more – much, much more – about this thing called remote viewing, and then about the military use of it. A little “human interest” would help. But if that “human interest” was the entire story, and consisted of saying that a practitioner of remote viewing was a dangerous nut, an editor might want to leaven that part just a bit. And who the hell cares about the various characters that people the Schnabel article, seemingly taking on great importance but never elaborated with respect to their functions or personalities? Like Mel Reilly, Lyn Buchanan, Ed Dames and Jim Marrs. Esquire’s lawyers would have pulled the references to Sandra Martin because they are defamatory, even if the editors had not already scratched them because of their remote relevance to the story.

For the record, Ms. Martin is professionally something more than Schnabel’s dismissive “infomercial producer”. In addition to a flourishing literary agency, where she has been able to sell just about every author’s book on the topic of remote viewing except Schnabel’s, she has been the executive producer of three television series. These include “Cowgirls: Grit & Glory”, produced for NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting network, “The Power of Dreams”, a three-part miniseries for the Discovery Channel, and the soon-to-be-released three-part miniseries on “Intuition” for the US. Public Broadcasting System. In the works is a series based on Courtney Brown’s book that will probably appear on network television. This is being done by Mandalay Productions, an arm of SONY, a very well known name in television production. She has also done programs on Edgar Cayce for The Learning Channel.

Schnabel may simply hold a spurned author’s grudge against Martin. On the other hand, he seems to be engaged in a systematic programme of attacking every person of importance in the field of remote viewing. Quietly, behind the scenes, Martin has become a figure worthy of his venomous interest. She believes that remote viewing is a genuine skill of great importance to humanity, she has put a lot of money in the pockets of writers, and she has easy access to executives in publishing and television.

If we can credit both Schnabel and Warren, it appears that as of 1994 Schnabel was embarked on a campaign to present remote viewing in a demeaning manner. His book manuscript was rejected and his Esquire manuscript was rejected, apparently on the same grounds. Writers whose priority is to be published would attempt to revise their work. In this case the remedy would be simple: write the story of remote viewing instead of the story of the “happy nutcases” who engage in remote viewing. But Schnabel steadfastly refused to do that, and waited until he could find a venue for his special agenda. Rejected by American print media, he found a home in the British entertainment video industry.

The entire text of “The Truth” ought to be read with some care, but it is far too long a document to include in this short essay. Readers will have no trouble finding it on the Internet, where it will have a readership and availability far surpassing any of Schnabel’s previous attempts at public communication. With this in mind, I will confine my commentary to selected fragments from the article, and assume that you have studied it.

Assuming that this was in fact an article prepared for general readership , as distinguished from a report for a small coterie of intelligence community specialists who already knew about the remote viewing program, but wanted an update on the potentially embarrassing Morehouse situation, let’s see how remote viewing is treated. And remember that this is being resurrected and sent specifically to “other journalists” who have inquired about Morehouse. In the strange world of tail-wags-dog that Schnabel inhabits, these journalists care not about remote viewing, but are eager to know all the dirt about Morehouse. (Not leaving any stone unthrown, Schnabel has sent “The Truth” to police officials who have used remote viewers or who might be contemplating their use.)

First, the reader is taken along with Schnabel into the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Hospital, where we meet sullen military medical functionaries, then a crushed Mrs. Morehouse, then the Major himself greeting his wife “not with a smile but with a contemptuous deepening of his frown “, then the news that “he is about to be court-martialled by the Army for a range of offences.”

With this as set and setting, Schnabel thinks it is time to mention the term “remote viewing”, and introduces it in the following passage:

“I explain that I am writing a book about the secret military project he was once part of. The project trained military personnel as ‘remote viewers’, psychics who tried to spy on intelligence targets around the globe.”

This is followed immediately not by an explanation of remote viewing, but by a litany of Morehouse claims leading the reader at once to assume that Morehouse is psychotic. And we get the hint that at least some of his psychotic fulminations may be fun to read about. Thus the tone is set for the rest of the article.

We learn plenty about Morehouse the pervert, liar, etc., and it makes for riveting reading. Lots of fascinating stuff about all that. But we have to wait a while for the topic of “remote viewing” to appear again. It does so in a passage immediately following the prurient material, presumably to give the reader a chance to slow his breathing and wipe the perspiration from his brow by tossing in some fluff: “He heard about the remote -viewing programme” and etcetera, but then not telling us about remote viewing, and instead burying any momentary interest that may have been aroused. Schnabel accomplishes this by invoking the names of Paul Smith and Dennis Kowal and details of their lives that make no sense to the readers of Esquire or to the crowd of journalists who are pestering Schnabel for the Morehouse story. On the other hand, this sort of skipping about and mention of key players in remote viewing does make sense if “The Truth” originated as a memo for HQ. Then, at last:

“Unfortunately, DT-S, which had always been controversial, had by this time been pushed to the outer margins of the intelligence community. Only a few intelligence consumers took it seriously, and those few had to conceal their interest by saying their use of DT-S was merely ‘experimental’. For most of the time in those little buildings at Fort Meade, a somnolent atmosphere prevailed. DT-S’s remote-viewers read books, did crosswords and logic puzzles, and otherwise tried to occupy their time. ‘It was that or sit around and stare at the walls,’ remembers former remote viewer Lyn Buchanan.”

Later, with Morehouse out of the remote viewing unit and now assigned to Team Six, Schnabel finds another suitable quote for defining remote viewing’s essential qualities:

Senior officer: “I would say that, often times, his aggressiveness got him into trouble because sometimes people are more conservative and are a bit leery of someone who comes up with ideas that don’t always agree with the normal.” Schnabel: “Among other things, Morehouse proposed that Team Six should make use of remote viewers in the counter-narcotics operations against drug lords in South America.” Senior officer: “You can pretty well tolerate aggressiveness on the part of people, as long as it doesn’t exceed the boundaries of common sense. At times I’d say Dave was on the edge of that boundary.”

And later in the article: “He and Dames also started a company called Psi Tech, which offered the moonlighting services of Morehouse and DT-S remote viewers to private and commercial clients. There were only a few takers, and the targets they provided tended to be a bit flaky. One client asked Psi Tech to uncover the truth about the mysterious ‘crop circles’ in English fields. Dames’s analysis of the remote viewers’ data suggested that the circles were being made by small, fast-moving extraterrestrial vehicles. How far Morehouse went along with this extraterrestrial enthusiasm is unclear, but during one official visit to Los Alamos on behalf of Team Six, Morehouse and Dames took a few days out to venture into the high deserts of northwestern New Mexico, apparently convinced that an alien base was somewhere out there under the mesas. Much, much later: ABC’s ’20/20′ came along, and filmed a segment on him, and he discussed remote viewing’s harmful effects, and all the mental damage he said had been suffered by those in the programme.”

In a passage about Morehouse claiming to have “remote influenced” Saddam Hussein, Schnabel manages to trash “remote influencing” and another remote viewer in one sentence:

“I had never thought this other remote viewer to be a liar, but I checked his story about remote influencing with a half-dozen sources in a position to know, all of whom told me that it was just bullshit.”

Well, by now, thanks to Schnabel’s research, we know that only nutcases could take remote viewing seriously, but that leaves open the question, were these people nuts before they began remote viewing, whatever that is or is supposed to be, or did remote viewing, whatever that is or is supposed to be, drive them nuts? Fastidious science writer that he is, Schnabel quotes an expert to enlighten us, and it is the same Team Six “senior officer”, this time doubling as a psychiatrist: “The senior officer who was with him at Team Six told me: ‘If he [Morehouse] actually engaged in [remote viewing], it didn’t become evident in his psychological being, if you will, at the time I knew him. I would not have considered him unstable or unbalanced. ‘”

But Schnabel won’t let go, and continues this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” parody, finally graciously acknowledging that in all probability no remote viewer has been driven insane by the practice. As far as I can glean from a careful reading of “The Truth”, that is the one and only kind word Jim Schnabel has to say about remote viewing.

Which side are ya on, Jim? Which side are ya on?

Categories: Uncategorized