(This review appeared in Aperture, Vol. 1, No. 3, the newsletter of the International Remote Viewing Association.)
One wouldn't know it, given all the words flying around about the topic, but remote viewing remains for now a relatively undocumented field. Except for books and/or articles by Schnabel, Graff, Targ, Puthoff, Atwater, Schwartz, and a few others, what facts have been published either are often served up smothered in an artery-clogging coating of sensationalism, or show up in out-of-the-way specialty journals where only a clued-in few ever get a look at them.
For that reason, it is time to rejoice whenever a new piece of the remote viewing saga comes to light. One of those pieces has newly emerged with the release of Joe McMoneagle's long-anticipated The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy, published this past September by Hampton Roads Publishing Company. McMoneagle's new book joins his previous three to make him easily the most prolifically-published of the former government remote viewers. Chronicles was promised at long-last to give us a good look into the character and personal history of one who is arguably remote viewing's most publicly accomplished celebrity. And in that regard the book does not disappoint. We find out a lot about what made Joe who he is, we learn where he "came from," we hear about his adventures in his pre-remote viewing life, and we get his first-person account of how he came to be Remote Viewer 001 in the Army's operational remote viewing program at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.
He tells in sometimes excruciating detail of his growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Florida, the son of alcoholic parents. This is followed by an overview of his pre-RV military career, with pauses now and again for fascinating vignettes, such as weathering a hurricane in the Bahamas while tucked inside an electronics shelter tethered to the ground by only a few cables; or being seriously "sunburned" by a passing UFO; or how he became a respected master of the Army's electronic warfare trade. Along the way we also learn of Joe's combat tour in Vietnam and how dodging enemy fire began to hone his fledgling psychic skills. And he tells again of a seminal event in his life, the near-death experience he had in the street outside a German restaurant while stationed in Europe.
All this gives us a great deal of insight into what makes Joe McMoneagle tick. But with that as the appetizer, we then get to hear how he was recruited to be in the first group of viewers to be assigned to what eventually became Project STAR GATE. Most who read the book would never imagine the cautious dance that had to go on before Joe and his soon-to-be-colleagues, among them Mel Riley and another star viewer, Ken Bell could be "brought on board." It is almost humorous to read of the wary courting made necessary by the stodgy military culture and unwieldy security procedures that would never allow anyone to actually come right out and say "we want you to become an Army psychic spy." Both the prospective recruits and those doing the recruiting had to gingerly check each other out before everyone could know what sort of deal was being pitched.
Once on board, Joe tells us of his early introduction to remote viewing, his first visit to SRI-International for evaluation and "training," and his first remote viewing sessions. Some readers will be astonished to discover that Joe wasn't a miracle worker from the start. Like a goodly number who have tried it since, he struggled through many failed sessions before it all finally gelled and he went on to a string of remarkable successes, with no end in sight.
And, thanks to The Stargate Chronicles, we finally get to hear Joe's own version of some of the classic stories from the "old days" of which he was a central figure - the Typhoon submarine project, in which he accurately described the construction by the Soviets of the world's largest submarine, and closely estimated the correct date of its launching - this despite the fact that most national-level intelligence analysts disbelieved his reports until satellite reconnaissance finally confirmed what he had been telling them all along.
Joe also tells us of the trickery intelligence community customers sometimes resorted to in order to ensure that the remote viewers were really remote viewing and not just coming up with the data through some other means. An example of this was when Joe was asked to view an object inside a closed hanger surrounded by airplanes. The target turned out to be a prototype of the then-highly secret Abrams main battle tank. The clients hoped that if RV was really just smoke and mirrors, hiding the tank in an airplane hanger would throw the viewer off by making him think the target had something to do with aviation.
In this case, the joke was on them. Joe produced an exceptional description and sketch of the interior of the state-of-the-art vehicle. Other projects he tells us about include the long series of RV sessions during the Iranian hostage situation in Tehran during 1979-1981, and the case where Red Brigades radicals kidnapped Brigadier-general James Dozier, a senior American army officer stationed in Italy.
Joe's story continues with his retirement and departure from the Ft. Meade unit, his subsequent civilian life, and how he became an important contributor to remote viewing research right up to the present time. In the course of this we are treated to an account of his harrowing June, 1985 heart-attack. There is much that is revealing and exciting in the pages of this book.
Of course, a reviewer's job is not just to describe a book and tell what is good about it. Part of the job is also to point out some of a book's faults as well. And, unfortunately, along with the good things it offers, The Stargate Chronicles also has a few blemishes. The first complaint to be made is that while there are some new things here, there is still not enough said about the remote viewing operations in which Joe was engaged while assigned to the remote viewing unit. This is not really Joe's fault. At the time of his writing, much of the operational material that was produced while he was at Ft. Meade had yet to become accessible to the public [Note: Thanks to the release of the Star Gate Archives, much of this material is now available; click here for further information]. Fortunately, he makes up for this lack by telling us of some of his more recent remote viewing coups that occurred both in the laboratory and in the numerous media appearances he has made since remote viewing burst into the news at the end of 1995.
But there are other problems for which, alas, Joe is more responsible. Many of these seem to be a result of depending too much on his memory of things and not checking it against both what public records are available and against other people's reminiscences. Some of these are relatively trivial - for example, in discussing the Typhoon project, he notes that among the National Security Staffers who rejected his data about the giant submarine was Robert Gates, who on the 1995 Nightline television news program was to dismiss remote viewing as operationally useless. According to Joe, "Gates one day became deputy director of the CIA" (p. 122). However, in reality Gates became director of the Central Intelligence Agency, serving from 1991 to 1993.
In that same passage, Joe says Ted Koppel's Nightline program "openly and deliberately exposed to the public and systematically ridiculed" the STAR GATE remote viewing program. But most people who have watched the program seem to agree that, though Gates and others were dismissive, Koppel tried very hard to be objective and fair, and allowed both sides to tell their story (at least as far as a 30 minute program length would permit). In fact, by the end of the program Koppel seemed almost supportive of remote viewing.
Joe also remembers Mel Riley as having returned to Ft. Meade before the end of 1984 (p. 165) to help lift the operational remote viewing burden from Joe's departing shoulders. That timing is off, however. Mel didn't return to the remote viewing unit until June 1986, two years after Joe was gone. There are other, similar chronology problems, but they aren't important for now.
Perhaps the most regrettable error Joe makes is to claim that he and his Ft. Meade colleagues helped locate a downed Soviet bomber in Zaire, Africa sometime in 1980 or 1981 (p. 114-115). He gives a detailed account of how he and the other viewers drew interlocking circles on a map, fixing the aircraft's position within eight kilometers of where it actually turned out to be (he credits an SRI viewer with coming within one kilometer of the downed aircraft).
But this is not really how it occurred. The real story is that the aircraft (a Tupolev-22 "Blinder") went down and was recovered in March 1979 - before Joe had ever worked a single operational remote viewing session. He was correct is saying there was a remote viewer working out of SRI involved in the project - a man named Gary Langford, who gave an excellent description of the wreckage's setting but did not provide a location. But a different viewer - a young Air Force enlisted woman named Rosemary Smith who was working with Dale Graff at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base - placed the location within three miles of where the aircraft actually was, and hers was the data that actually led to the aircraft being recovered.
I know Joe to be a man of integrity, and he would never intentionally take credit for someone else's success. What I believe may have happened was that he was remembering a different search project in which he did participate, involving an airplane crash in the Mediterranean in May 1980. I suspect he may have conflated his memories of that project with several subsequent recountings of the Tu-22 incident (in Schnabel's and Graff's books, in a Jack Anderson column, and in a few television documentaries). It is an easy mistake to make, the sort of thing that nearly all of us fall prey to at one time or another. We just usually have the luck not to have it printed and made widely available in public. This does, however, highlight the problems that come with relying too heavily on one's own memory when putting together history.
I feel compelled to discuss one last error as a matter of fairness to the people involved. On pages 209 and 210 Joe discusses the lack of participation of the Ft. Meade viewers as subjects in the laboratory research Ed May was conducting with Joe and others. In one series of experiments that was performed in the 1980s (Joe estimates the time at around 1987; my records show it began in the fall of 1989), he first says "neither the management nor the remote viewers back at my old project [Ft. Meade] were willing to participate." On the following page he notes of the same research project "The viewers at Fort Meade participated half-heartedly in the first few targets, then ceased to cooperate." Beyond this inconsistency, his description of viewer involvement is correct about the attitude but wrong about the level of participation. I myself contributed 12 weekly sessions of a total of 16 possible, and others of my Ft. Meade colleagues contributed at equal or greater levels. Joe's comment about our half-heartedness was correct, as we were attempting to fill the experiment's requirements in addition to our regular operational load and working under a protocol jumbled by too many links in the bureaucratic chain between us and the experimenters (as an example of only one of several glitches, sometimes we were working as many as two and three sessions ahead before getting feedback for the sessions we had worked weeks previously, even though, as explained to us, the protocol required we receive feedback before going on to the next session). It made for some real confusion, with a resulting decrease in an already diminished level of enthusiasm.
But that is not the main bone I have to pick here. In mentioning subsequent experiments, Joe lauds the participation in the research of one of my former Ft. Meade colleagues, Angela Ford, but strongly implies that no other Ft. Meade viewers besides her were willing to be involved. In fact, though, at least five of the remaining Star Gate viewers traveled to Los Alamos at least twice in the early 1990s to serve as test subjects in a number of interrelated psi experiments. Some of these viewers' results were even included in the body of research data that Ed May's lab at SAIC provided for the evaluation performed by the American Institutes of Research under contract to the CIA. And Greg "Sloan" (his pseudonym in Jim Schnabel's book Remote Viewers) was involved not only in the Los Alamos experiments, but also volunteered to be a subject in the lucid dreaming research Joe discusses at length in The Stargate Chronicles (though Greg had to withdraw before the start of the experiment because the electronic head-gear used to signal the onset of REM sleep caused him migraines). And later at Fort Meade the remaining viewers still assigned to the project were involved in other remote viewing experiments managed by Ed May-associate Nevin Lantz. To be fair to those viewers (I was not one of them, by the way), their involvement needs to be acknowledged.
Beyond various unintentional errors, there are also a few remote viewing controversies that The Stargate Chronicles flirts with. One of these has turned up regularly in remote viewing discussion circles: whether or not one can be trained to become a remote viewer, or whether it is mostly talent that lies behind remote viewing success. This particular subject is an article in its own right, and I shall put off its discussion until a later issue of Aperture.
There are other relatively minor mistakes in the book, but I have focused already too much on negative things. I want to turn away once again from what is wrong with the book to what is right with it. One very useful passage is an excellent description of the difficulties with search problems (p. 115-120) that unfolds as Joe describes his input to the Dozier kidnapping case. (A "search problem" is one where an object or person is missing and the viewer is tasked to find the location of what is missing.) One can almost feel the frustration as Joe's attempt to help are overwhelmed by bureaucratic distrust and the impenetrable barrier of "chaff" - or noise - thrown up by the innumerable psychics and sensitives peppering the authorities with false leads and confusing reports.
It is also a real eye-opener to read Joe's account of the grueling, marathon series of remote viewings done over the course of many months to provide data about US diplomats being held hostage in Tehran from November 1979 to early 1981. This was made even more difficult by the requirement that all the viewers avoid newspaper and television news reports to prevent them forming notions about what was going on that might artificially creep into their viewing.
I especially found fascinating his account of his lucid dreaming experiences. One startling case involved an eerie, Fantasia-esque sequence where Joe kept dreaming he had awakened only to discover that he was still dreaming. By the time many readers are done with that passage they will undoubtedly start to question whether even they are awake!
All in all, The Stargate Chronicles is a refreshing, fascinating read. Joe does his best to tell his story fully and honestly. He is justifiably proud of his accomplishments, but not too proud to acknowledge past errors, particularly in his personal life. Some of the books most poignant moments are when he reflects on how his loved ones have often suffered because of the things that Joe himself has had to go through. Through the pages of this book we not only see a stellar remote viewer maturing, but a flawed, yet striving human becoming more than he may have ever thought he could be.
Joe McMoneagle has a reputation for consistent, stellar performance untainted by the carnival atmosphere that surrounds too many other remote viewing luminaries. His credentials in both the operational and science side of RV are undisputed. It's good finally to hear some of the things he couldn't tell us in his first book. We can only hope there will be yet more to come.
The Stargate Chronicles: Memoirs of a Psychic Spy, by Joseph McMoneagle. Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc. (Charlottesville, VA), 2002. 292 pp., + index. List $24.95.