Why was Britain's Defence Ministry testing psychic powers?

March 14, 2007

A report declassified in late February 2007 under the UK's Freedom of Information Act reveals that Britain's Ministry of Defence has been testing psychics. The series of tests took place in a secret location and without any press coverage until a few weeks ago.


British media report that in 2002, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) attempted to get 12 professional psychics to prove their powers, apparently in an effort to determine whether they could offer their services in defense of their country. A Defence Ministry spokesperson has alluded to "remote viewing" in a statement to the press, and that appears to have been the skill for which the researchers were testing. In remote viewing, a person can accurately picture an actual, distant location in his or her mind.

The 12 pros, who MoD researchers located through ads on the Internet, refused to take part in the scientific study. So the researchers found 12 amateur psychics to come in and focus on a series of opaque envelopes. Inside each envelope was a different image. Mother Teresa, a knife and "an Asian individual" were reportedly among the hidden pictures.

The self-proclaimed psychics focused on the envelopes. According to the declassified documents, one psychic focused himself to sleep during the process. In the end, the psychics got pretty darn close to figuring out what was in the envelopes 28 percent of the time. The Ministry of Defense ended the research when the initial results came in, having concluded that remote viewing was not going to help defend the UK.

Some British taxpayers are perturbed to find out they spent 18,000 pounds -- about $35,000 -- to see if people could figure out what was in a sealed envelope. The Guardian reports that Nick Pope, a retired MoD researcher who once headed up the organization's UFO program, has made an educated guess as to the purpose of the psychic research: Could psychic powers, and remote viewing in particular, be used to fight terrorism? He speculates from the timing of the research that the Defence Ministry was wondering if psychics might be able to remotely view Bin Laden's location or find the elusive weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The Brits probably shouldn't feel so bad. Reports that were declassified in 1995 show that the U.S. Department of Defense, and specifically the CIA and NSA, spent more than $20 million on psychic experiments over roughly two decades. Remote viewing, precognition and spoon-bending were among the skills U.S. researchers were looking for, in the hopes that these powers could assist authorities in everything from locating weapons caches to finding lost children to fighting the drug war to killing goats just by looking at them. U.S. media outlets have reported that the military consulted psychics during Desert Storm on ways it could successfully capture Saddam Hussein. None of the recommendations worked out.

For more information of psychic powers, remote viewing and related topics, check out the following links:


  • "British Government Hired Wizards to Find Bin Laden." The Korea Times. Feb. 26, 2007. http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/special/200702/ kt2007022616180411440.htm
  • "Did the U.S. government fund psychic research?" The Straight Dope. Jan. 7, 2000. http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mpsychicfed.html
  • Fay, Joe. "UK forces tested, rejected psychic techniques." The Register. Feb. 23, 2007. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/02/23/remote_viewing/
  • "MoD defends psychic powers study." GuardianUnlimited. Feb. 23, 2007. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6433834,00.html