In the film The Men Who Stare at Goats, George Clooney played a psychic recruited by the CIA as part of its ‘New Earth Army,’ a unit that seeks to employ paranormal powers to thwart America’s enemies around the world.
The film was a fictionalized version of a nonfiction book of the same name by British journalist Jon Ronson, and while Ronson largely concluded that the CIA’s efforts to get one up on their rivals using the power of the paranormal were a failure, a remarkable cache of freshly declassified documents reveals that the agency did indeed conduct a week of experiments in 1973 on one of the U.K.’s most famous TV personalities of the day: Uri Geller, who became famous for bending spoons by gently stroking them on British television.
The research on Geller, the 32-page document shows, was part of the “Stargate” program—closed in 1998—which aimed to explore “remote viewing,” a system by which it was hoped psychic spies having controlled out-of-body experiences could “observe” individuals in far-flung locations.
Geller—who has been much mocked in the British media over the years for his claims—completely convinced the CIA of “his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.”
The document published by the CIA states that Geller was taken to Stanford Research Institute in California from Aug. 4 to Aug. 11, 1973, and in a series of experiments was asked to try and copy pictures being drawn at random by CIA agents in another room “about half a mile away.”
The CIA was confident there was no “sensory leakage” between the two rooms.
The scientists opened a dictionary and picked a word at random. The first word chosen was “fuse” and a scientist drew a firecracker.
“Geller was notified via intercom when the target picture was drawn and taped on the wall outside his enclosure,” the documents state.
“His almost immediate response was that he saw a ‘cylinder with noise coming out of it.’”
He then drew an image that looked similar to the firecracker, which has been published as part of the cache.
The scientists repeated the experiment, the document says:
“The second word selected was picked, which was “bunch,” and the target was a bunch of grapes. Geller’s immediate response was that he saw “drops of water coming out of the picture.” He then talked about “purple circles.” Finally ,he said he was quite sure that he had the picture. His drawing was indeed a bunch of grapes. Both the target picture and Geller’s rendition had 24 grapes in the bunch.”
The experiments continued for more than a week. In one case, the target picture was a devil in the form of a man with a trident, and Geller drew images including a trident, the Ten Commandments, an apple with a worm in it, in response.
The report states: “The inability on Geller’s part to draw the devil may be culturally induced. Geller did draw the trident from the target picture, but he did not draw the man holding it.
“From this it seems clear that Geller does not just copy lines from the target picture, but does perform some mental processing on them before drawing them himself.”
Several attempts were not successful. However, on another occasion, the scientists drew “a flying seagull. Geller said almost immediately that he saw a flying swan on a hill.”
“He drew several birds and said he felt sure his drawing was correct, which it was,” his handlers wrote.
Geller was even able to reproduce elements of images “drawn and stored in a computer’s memory so that no visible evidence was available in the computer room after it was stored.”
The researchers could not decide whether this meant Geller was perceiving the image from the computer, or from the ‘mental contents’ of “several people in the computer room, all of whom knew the nature of the target that was stored.”
Geller did pass on various tests, saying he could not get a “clear impression.”
The documents concluded that he did better when there were no “skeptical observers” present.
Geller told the Daily Telegraph that one international agency, which he wouldn’t name, asked him to kill a pig with his mind.
“I was asked to stop the heart of a pig. It was probably so they could stop the heart of Andropov, who was head of the KGB.
"George Clooney basically played me in that film (The Men Who Stare at Goats). It wasn't a goat, it was really a pig."