was the cia punking the world with psychic flights to the martian past?

Could Project Stargate have been an elaborate ruse to rattle the nerves of superstitious world leaders?
hidden martians
Illustration by Alexander Koshelkov

Generally a good way to know if a psychic is lying is to watch the psychic’s lips, specifically if they’re moving. But that doesn’t stop some mad scientists from putting them to the test again and again despite centuries of failure in experiments meant to figure out if humans have any sort of extra sense that would allow them to communicate with the dead or peer through time and space. And in recent history, few mad scientists spent more time and effort on these tests than the CIA under the heading Project Stargate. What they found shouldn’t be surprising. As an intelligence agency, they needed very detailed, clear, actionable data instead of a typical cold reading’s vague and debatable generalities because missiles aren’t generally aimed at “the place where the subject’s spirit feels embodies his purpose in life” by a competent military. What they got instead were muddled, useless guesses which were only impressive for a short time because they avoided enough detail that a lenient researcher would fill in with his own conclusions. Again, this is more or less expected because this is exactly how a typical psychic con works, and it seems very likely that the Stargate researchers knew that.

Here’s why I say that. Recently, an odd story about remote viewing, another purported psychic ability being tested by the CIA, caught my eye because it was supposedly a test of just how far in space and time their subjects would really see and their target was lofty. Forget buried Soviet installations when they were just being built, no, they were aiming for Mars a million years ago and claimed to have seen fragments of a dying civilization consisting of very large humanoid shadow beings in strange clothes. Obviously there’s a whole raft of problems with that. Mars being inhabited by a dying civilization fits a popular narrative that ancient aliens made their way to our planet through either a dying Mars or from an undiscovered by us planet called Nibiru that was also facing some major natural cataclysm. Back in the 1960s, it was still a captivating tale, but definitely not in 1984 when this experiment took place and we already had landers on the surface of the planet and knew that not a trace of any advanced civilizations existed on the surface. Even if something was alive on Mars and still is, it’s microbial or extremely small.

Water on Mars turned into toxic brine billions of years ago, making life very difficult for anything other than an extremophile. Even if they were able to harness enough energy and evolve into something intelligence, the resulting descendants would be anything but humanoid bipeds. Our form is awkward enough on our world that many animals want nothing to do with us simply because we look so alien to them, the odds that the same form would evolve on a nearby cold desert with incredibly salty underground pools as the only incubators of organic life are an astronomical number to one against. Simply put, the psychics’ stories couldn’t have been true, they were giving monitors an improvised mishmash of ancient astronaut tales, classic sci-fi novels, and some personal touches to make it all sound somewhat legitimate. And there is little doubt that the CIA knew this full well, with Robert Monroe, who was one of the sources for the aforementioned story and a monitor during such an experiment saying that there was no way to validate the data so it makes no sense to him why anyone would choose this bizarre viewing target.

Well, the author, Jacob Brogan, thinks the whole point was to just play mind games with superstitious generals and politicians in foreign countries, using rumors about odd experiments like this to fuel paranoid conspiracy theories of wannabe despots in troubled hot spots to persuade them that fighting the American forces equipped with mind-reading, time-traveling wizards wasn’t in their best interests. But while this is certainly one explanation, maybe it’s wise to apply Occam’s Razor here. As we’ve all recently seen firsthand, many politicians and their appointees for important offices that handle defense or intelligence gathering aren’t necessarily paragons of sober reason and harsh, calculating skepticism. The government has a pseudoscientific center for the perpetually fruitless study of alternative medicine thanks to a few dedicated lawmakers. Maybe some people at the CIA in charge of Stargate’s very paltry budget by intelligence and defense standards were true believers and really wanted their beliefs validated? It’s not like anyone at the CIA never jumped to conclusions, approving programs with questionable scientific merit.

In fact, in the 1960s and early 1970s, the MKULTRA project was based on a set of questionable studies regarding the potential for mind control and was conducted more or less on hunches of psychologists and psychiatrists with a rather crude idea of how the mind worked, based on piecemeal documents about new findings after brain surgeries, drug experiments, and hypothesis-fishing experiments. Not only was it terrifying that the CIA was more or less kidnapping people for illegal and unethical experiments with their minds at a time when public trust in government was probably as high as it ever will be, but it was doubly disturbing that the regimens to which they subjected a lot of their unwitting subjects were little more than guesswork which rather predictably didn’t seem to have much of a desired effect and the experience itself was only good for giving their victims PTSD, hence the many lawsuits that eventually brought the program into the light despite numerous cover ups that started as soon as the program ended. That said, there have been many opportunists trying to cash in on the MKULTRA revelations, so there’s definitely some of the same happening with Project Stargate.

But overall, it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine a groupESP-obsessed CIA operatives and analysts pushing their bosses to keep approving a whole lot of experiments to justify their beliefs and get officially credited with finding such a, powerful spy tool for the agency. And at the same time, certainly a few skeptics would’ve been happy to hijack these projects for the purposes Brogan envisions because, let’s face it, nothing gets people’s attention like the words “CIA experiment” and numerous dictators have had meltdowns when they were convinced that the spy agency was tracking them or even listening to their thoughts with some bizarre technology or even magic, so it’s a hell of a propaganda tool. The bottom line here is that we don’t know why the CIA spent $20 million of experiments with psychics or have them try to observe Mars a million years ago, but considering the agency’s sheer size and the potential for both rational and irrational actors approving the budget items, it seems reasonable to conclude that Stargate may have well been both mad science and a disinformation stunt for foreign spies…

# oddities // cia / mars / project stargate / psychic

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