Feb 20, 2023 I Brent Swancer

A Bizarre Secret Project and the Strange Story of a Government Psychic Spy

In every good conspiracy theory or tale of a nefarious top secret government project there is often a heady mix of elements that propel them further into the strange. You have evidence that can't be corroborated, lost files or evidence, sometimes photos if you are lucky, and reams of supposed documents that are either classified and beyond our reach, or heavily redacted and possibly altered or surpressed. One of the Holy Grails of any such conspiracy is that of the insider coming forward to shed light on the dark corners of the government's dark underbelly, and one of these is certainly a self-professed state santioned psychic who came forward to blow the lid off a secret government program to train and utilize psychics for warfare. Here is his story. 

In 1978, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) launched a secret U.S. Army program called the Stargate Project, at first known as project “Grill Flame,” at Fort Meade, Maryland. The program was created in response to what was being seen as an increasing threat posed by what was perceived as intense Soviet research into the application of psychic phenomena for military and intelligence applications, something that had the U.S. government spooked and not a little on edge. The CIA and DIA decided they should also investigate and know as much about various psychic phenomena as possible in order to keep up with the growing Soviet threat in this area, and so to this end the project was launched under the leadership of Lt. Frederick Holmes "Skip" Atwater, an aide and "psychic headhunter" to a Maj. Gen. Albert Stubblebine. It was a program that had actually been gestating for years, driven by intelligence suggesting that the Soviets were seeing results with their research, as well as the constant need for one-upmanship against the Soviet threat and pure paranoia, in addition to previous research done within the United States that showed there could be applications for what is called “remote viewing,” the purported ability to psychically "see" events, sites, or information from a great distance.

The Stargate Project had its genesis with physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff, who had been testing psychics since 1972 at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, and had posted alleged positive results, claiming that the remote viewers they had tested had achieved a 65% minimum accuracy rate, often much more. This was enough to draw interest from the U.S. Department of Defense, who investigated their claims and came to the conclusion that they were really onto something, eventually officially formalizing the project to "evaluate potential adversary applications of remote viewing." Indeed, the main focus of the Stargate Project was remote viewing, and they would pursue this all the way up until 1995, when an evaluation by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) found no practical and reliable use for these psychic abilities in military applications, despite occasional striking cases of remarkable accuracy. The report would conclude:

The foregoing observations provide a compelling argument against continuation of the program within the intelligence community. Even though a statistically significant effect has been observed in the laboratory, it remains unclear whether the existence of a paranormal phenomenon, remote viewing, has been demonstrated. The laboratory studies do not provide evidence regarding the origins or nature of the phenomenon, assuming it exists, nor do they address an important methodological issue of inter-judge reliability. Further, even if it could be demonstrated unequivocally that a paranormal phenomenon occurs under the conditions present in the laboratory paradigm, these conditions have limited applicability and utility for intelligence gathering operations. For example, the nature of the remote viewing targets are vastly dissimilar, as are the specific tasks required of the remote viewers. Most importantly, the information provided by remote viewing is vague and ambiguous, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the technique to yield information of sufficient quality and accuracy of information for actionable intelligence. Thus, we conclude that continued use of remote viewing in intelligence gathering operations is not warranted.

Project Stargate was then subsequently shuttered, its top secret files locked away, and as far as the U.S. government was concerned that was that. Since then Project Stargate has been seen as a sort of oddity and wellsprinf of conspiracy theories, with much discussion on how effective it really was and if the government is hiding something from the public, while skeptics denounce the results of its research at absolute best no more accurate than random chance. Fueling the debate are those individuals who claim to have inside information on the project, and one of these must certainly be retired U.S. Army Major Ed Dames, who claims to have been one of five officers trained to monitor and analyze 'remote viewing' during the Stargate Project and would come forward with a very bizarre tale to tell, indeed. Dames is a self-professed psychic and remote viewer who claims he was a high level intelligence officer when he first became aware of the military uses of remote viewing. He would later be brought into the Stargate Project in January of 1986 to oversee, train, and run teams of remote viewers to spy on the Soviets and China, and he says of how this happened in an interview for the publication Sputnik:

I worked at very high levels of US intelligence – officer secretary of defense at virtually celestial levels as a science and technology officer. My expertise in particular was biological warfare, and I was a targeting officer – I got to choose what targets the US intelligence apparatus would pursue. Most of those were Soviet at the time of the Cold War, of course. In certain cases, some of the Soviet programs, and to a certain extent the Chinese threat programs were so classified that by hook or by crook we could not penetrate them. I had at my disposal all the tools that intelligence could provide me – satellites, agents on the ground, all kinds of exotic things, but we could not gain access or get insight into some very, very classified programs. But we had one tool – a remote viewing unit, where operators would use altered states to be able to target the inside of these facilities. They were providing me with intelligence that I could use to cross queue to redirect other systems to gain information. I began to lean on this remote viewing unit, which was an Army unit at the time, and became so enthralled with and interested in it that I stepped down from these high levels to take over as operations and training officer of this unit.

During his time with the program, he claims to have seen many instances of remote viewing being used to amazingly effective ends. He says that far from a bunch of woo woo mumbo jumbo, not only was remote viewing very real, but that it was successfully used in numerous operations against Soviet adversaries, as well as other threats to the U.S. He has said of this:

As operations officer of the unit, I know what those operations were, and they were very, very effective in supporting the US intelligence community. For instance, when used for counterintelligence, we could locate Soviet spies where other systems could not do that. It was highly classified, and only a few members of Congress were briefed on our operation, but they did not really want to be associated with us publically, because of the connection with what they perceived as the occult or paranormal. We were kind of the 'Red Light District' of the intelligence community as far as the StarGate program went. Later on, it shifted to the Defense Intelligence Agency, and that's where I was operations and training officer. When Congress decided to disband the program, and it got sent to the CIA, that's where it ended its life. But I became the keeper of the keys, and today I've evolved the techniques and the methods…which were highly effective, and which no other tool can match. I am not easily entertained. I would not have stuck with this particular technique and method for thirty plus years - I am still in awe of its capability. As someone who was definitely on the inside, I'm telling you that we have been and can still be extremely effective in those types of venues.

Dames would work with the program until 1989, and he says that during his time there they engaged in all manner of operations successfully psychically infiltrating secret compounds or locating enemy positions, subs, or people, as well as even sometimes getting inside their heads literally, such as one time he claims they were assigned to “get inside the deep mind of Saddam Hussein” to find out what his plans were. They were also often tasked with checking in on hostages held by terrorists, saying “We could easily, within a couple of hours, describe their state of being or non-being, exactly where they were being kept, their condition, their captors, we could describe all of that,” but that it was difficult to actually locate them because they were moved before the remote viewers could get a clear bead on their position. He also says that the Soviets were also hard at work with their own psychic programs and remote viewers, but it was not as sophisticated or as advanced as theirs, and he explains:

Now, the KGB had an extra-sense program, run by a KGB colonel. They never knew how to train this, so they chose very gifted psychics from Leningrad and Moscow and directed their attention to programs similar to what we were looking at in the Soviet Union. They were directed to look at US secret programs, but they weren't able to train this. The GRU, Soviet military intelligence had a program too; they were trying to induce altered states using drugs. The technology that we use now is very different. Using mind-expanding drugs like Halcion or LSD doesn't work, because the viewer – the operator, cannot maintain focus on his or her target, so that didn't work.

He even claims that they had experiences with seeing UFOs, such as one situation where they remote viewed a Soviet sub and saw glowing white spheres that Dames assures us were “not from around here.” He also says that the official reason for ending the program is untrue. In his version of events, they were not shut down because it was ineffective, but rather because it was seen as a scary, paranormal area that the military no longer wanted to be associated with and which they wanted to cover-up, information that still purportedly remains hidden from the public despite the documents on the program being declassified in 2017. He explains of it:

It was a hot potato…When a general becomes a general, at star ranks, politics begin to enter the picture. And even at the CIA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, generals, Harry Soyster and others did not want to be associated with this unit, for reasons that I have already explained. It had shades of the paranormal, the occult, and it was scary, because in the Western scientific method…you need two things in order to substantiate a technology or scientific pursuit, replicability, and a theory. We had replicability. That was easy. We could train one remote viewer working independently of another to come up with the same information. But what we did not have, and what the Western scientific method dictates – is a theory. To this day, we have a working hypothesis of how we do what we do, but there is no theory for how our minds can discern specific targets and describe them at a distance, ergo the term remote viewing.

It was shut down for reasons I've elaborated upon. Most of the very highly sensitive operations that we conducted, particularly against drug trafficking, never made it to the public. All the records the CIA released were of jejune types of operations. Yes, some were interesting, but what was never released, and what probably will never be released, is our very, very highly effective operations against Soviet offensive weapons systems, describing them so that we could develop defensive means to protect our troops against these kinds of thing. That will not be released.

When he left the program, Dames formed a civilian team of remote viewers and started his own private outfit called Psi Tech, and he claims they helped find fugitives or missing children, solved cold cases, assisted doctors in diagnosing patients, doing work for Fortune 500 companies, and various other contracts. He would eventually leave that company due to various legal issues and start a new one called the TRV Institute, which then morphed into LearnRV.com. Not everyone buys his claims or his company’s effectiveness, and to be sure there are skeptics. The Rational Wiki gives a typical critique of Dames and his outfit:

Dames has spent a lifetime trying to convince people they can mentally leave their bodies and access hidden knowledge. And he can teach them —if only they will pay him money. After he abandoned Psi Tech due to legal troubles, he opened up shop as TRV Institute which then morphed into LearnRV.com, but it was all his own unique brand of snake oil called "technical remote viewing" with the emphasis on technical. His website is peppered with buzzwords like "target-associated gestalt patterns of information" to form a liberally-seasoned word salad of technojargon. According to Ed, paying customers can obtain such miraculous abilities by using a set of random eight-digit numbers separated by a hyphen. And it's not cheap. He charges anywhere from a few thousand bucks to attend his seminars to a few hundred for packaged DVD training courses. Of course, if remote viewing actually worked, everyone would be stock market billionaires, missing persons would be immediately found, and no crime would ever go unsolved. Heck, people would be too busy digging up treasures and winning lotteries to commit crimes. And Ed Dames could avoid his various legal problems by using remote viewing to foresee impending lawsuits in advance. But so far, that hasn't happened.

Not helping his credibility is a series of increasingly bizarre claims he has made over the years. Among these are the various surreal predictions he has made, adding clairvoyance to his repertoire of psychic abilities. Some of his bonkers predictions include ones that stated Martians would be caught stealing fertilizer from U.S. companies, that the existence of Satan would be proven by science, Bill Clinton would be killed in April 1998 on a golf course by lightning, a cylindrical object containing deadly fungus spores released by an alien intelligence would arrive at Earth in 1998, that Africa would be hit with major famine due to a wheat fungus that would eventually spread to the Americas, and many other absurd predictions, none of which have come to pass. Perhaps his most sinister prediction was that "a series of powerful, deadly solar flares" he termed "the killshot" would wipe out most life on Earth between 2011 and 2013, and he graciously offered his services to use remote viewing to locate places that would be safe, for a price of course. 

Of course in addition to making these weird and failed predictions he has also made some pretty eyebrow raising claims about his remote viewing endeavors. For instance, he has said that he knows the location of Amelia Earhart's plane, and of course there are the aliens. He has claimed that in 1993 his team located UFOs landed in the New Mexico desert, as well as “colonies of hibernating aliens from a dying planet.” None of these claims has done Dame’s credibility any favors, and it taints his Stargate Project claims and leaves one to wonder just where fact ends and fantasy begins with it all. Just what are we dealing with here? Is this guy for real or is he a fraud? Considering the secretive, classified nature of what he is claiming it seems impossible to conclusively verify, and so we may never know for sure. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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