The Cold War era was a pretty strange time. In this state of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, both nations found themselves constantly trying to one-up the other. This competitive spirit would lead to many technological advances, but sometimes, things got a little crazy. It was in the midst of this Cold War craziness that Project Stargate would develop. What is Project Stargate, you ask?
What is Project Stargate?
In the 1970s, reports began to surface in America that the Soviet Union had been investing heavily in psychic research. In this constant state of needing to outdo each other, the US decided that they couldn’t sit back and do nothing. So the CIA and the US Army began their own investigations into psychic powers.
Project Stargate would come to be the umbrella term for various government projects aimed at further investigating psychic phenomena. The government was primarily concerned with remote viewing, or ESP. The hope was that the Army could use psychic and supernatural phenomenon for spying and military uses. One of the main goals was to see if it was possible to view objects, events, sites, or information at a great distance through psychic means.
When Did Project Stargate Begin?
Research into remote viewing began at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1972. As part of this research, parapsychologists (people who study psychic and paranormal phenomena) began interviewing various psychics to test for telepathic abilities.
One such person was UK television personality Uri Geller, who was famous for allegedly bending spoons with his mind. The government would conclude that Geller was a fraud, but research done by the SRI was ultimately convincing enough to garner interest from the US Department of Defense.
This would lead to the formation of a secret US Army unit based at Fort Meade, Maryland, in 1978. The unit was small, consisting of 22 members at its peak, and was housed in old, wooden barracks. Members of this unit were put through various tests and experiments in an effort to harness their “powers” to be used in military and domestic intelligence operations.
Project Stargate Methods
One of the main goals of Project Stargate was to make psychic and paranormal research more scientific. Protocols were established to track and record findings, and various efforts were made to increase psychic accuracy. The term “remote viewing” would emerge to describe this more structured approach to gain information through extrasensory perception.
Declassified CIA files indicate that those who ran the project did believe they were successful, at least some of the time. But they also realized some of the limitations of their work. Project Stargate members were only given missions after other intelligence attempts or approaches had already been tried. And there was a consensus among project leaders and government officials that remote viewing should only be used in conjunction with other intelligence.
The End of Project Stargate
Project Stargate would last for nearly 20 years before it was finally terminated in 1995. Yes, the government spent nearly two decades funding remote viewing research, proof that this was viewed as more than just some crackpot scheme.
Opinions on the project would ultimately shift, however. The program ended because the CIA came to conclude that information provided by Stargate members was often vague, irrelevant, or erroneous. Furthermore, it was determined that the project was never useful in any intelligence operation.
Today, you can read through Project Stargate files here. While not mentioned by name, the project also served as the inspiration for the 2004 book, and 2009 film, The Men Who Stare at Goats.
The Cold War gave us many ridiculous government projects and schemes, and Project Stargate lives on as one of the craziest.
Okay, so you can answer the question – what is Project Stargate? Now test yourself by playing some Cold War quizzes on Sporcle.
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.