The real-life "Men Who Stare at Goats" were even weirder


How many of the kooky military research projects featured in The Men Who Stare at Goats really happened? Reality is more complicated than the movie (or the book), reports David Hambling at Wired's Danger Room blog. But reality may also be weirder. Hambling's post examines, Snopes-style, the truth or bogosity of such purported American military projects as:

• Psychic Spies
• Drug experimentation
• Killing animals with telepathy
• Sound weapons
• An army of hippies who can smite you with the sheer force of their BO.

Oh alright, I embellished the last one a bit. Read: Psychic Spies, Acid Guinea Pigs, New Age Soldiers: the True Men Who Stare at Goats (Danger Room, thanks Noah Shachtman)

Image: the First Earth Battalion manual (PDF) from the movie, which was based very closely on the original manual created by Lt. Col. Jim Channon. He "dove deep into the New Age movement, and came back to the military with a most alternative view of warfare -- one in which troops would carry flowers and symbolic animals into battle."


  1. Side topic: anybody see the movie yet? I liked the book but haven’t decided if I want to shell out $10 to see Hollywood’s take.

    1. Saw it Saturday. It’s a lot of fun, the sort of zany, satirical comedy that doesn’t get made much any more. And as the review at io9 put it, the best star Wars film Ewan McGregor ever made.

  2. I haven’t seen the movie but I’ve read the book, and the book is more grounded in reality than Xeni makes it sound. Ronson is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer and BBC guy and the book goes to great pains to stay…well. Stay as grounded as the facts of the thing warrant.

    The movie, on the other hand, is supposedly an off-handed, fictionalized romp through material that would have been even more impressive if it wasn’t Hollywooded up. At least that’s what I’ve heard, but I’ve heard it enough places to make me hesitant to go.

    And the idea of Jon Ronson’s British PoV from the book being shoved into a midwestern version of himself played by a Scot is just…kinda wrong, but fittingly bizarre.

  3. Not sure Ronson is accurately described a “BBC guy”, Jack, most of the stuff I’ve seen of his aired on Channel 4, the UK’s ‘other’ (semi-)public service broadcaster.

    The book is indeed great, and I’m looking forward to the movie. Wasn’t there going to be another highly-adapted movie of his other book, ‘Them’, with Elijah Wood as Ronson?

  4. The idea of the soldier as a warrior monk… very good. The idea of using the armies for reforestation projects and inner city youth development… excellent. Reading through “the manual” nothing really jumped out at me as that weird. I found it all very sensible and soothing. :)

  5. @8

    My fault. I forget as a derned Merkin that the BBC isn’t the be-all and end-all of British TV – most everything we get over here from Britain is BBC-branded, or at least it feels like it is.

  6. I actually worked with Channon and his designs in Hawaii. The man’s essentially your standard boomer hippie who loves to draw extreme utopian flowcharts. The amazing thing is that anyone, let alone the military, took him seriously.

  7. Dear teufelsdroch, I love that video of british troops on acid, but I had never thought of it as an attempt to weaponise lsd. I suppose it was. Like many people, I tend to look at the nifty factor in experiments, and not focus on the deadly or harmful applications.

  8. Killing animals with telepathy isn’t all that new, btw. Davy Crockett was trying to grin bears to death almost two centuries ago. At least according to Disney.

  9. It was a nice idea, and as I remember it came about the time Star Wars was first released. Who wouldn’t want to be able to stand on one hand, defend the planet with a lightsaber, and levitate a planet with the force of your mind? But the facts of total war are that you bring peace on earth by killing all the people who would prefer to kill you, which means you kill them with better technology and bigger guns, and a lot of all of it. The side that kills more of the other side fastest wins. I know the truth hurts. So does death.

  10. As a pioneer remote viewer, my involvement was to verify certain aspects of psychical dynamics. I once joked to a friend about the idea of an “Astral Spy” that could go from one place to another as such… I guess someone took me serious or already had thought of that already?

    A. Edward Moch
    Psychical Analyst-Consultant
    (pioneer Remote Viewer)

    PS: Oh yes… my real name is an origin varient of “A Warrior Monk”, which opens up some explanation?

    1. So you’re saying you were directly involved in this? I have a question. On the list in the Earth Battalion, it states “A new perspective on the use of force…use of international satellite system to influence the planetary collective conscience and world public opinion…” Do you think this type of experiment (program) is being attempted now?

  11. The character General Hopgood (played by Stephen Lang) in the movie “The Men Who Stare At Goats” is based on Maj. General Stubblebine, US Army. In reality, he was an intelligent pioneer in the development of human resource technologies. Stubblebine understood the latent potential of the human mind that warriors would eventually be trained to harness. For instance, field-tests by militaries (Mozambique and Ecuador) and scientific research published in reputable peer-reviewed journals have documented the effects of a human resource technology called Invincible Defense Technology. See the article published in The Seoul Times titled “Taking ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ Seriously” or in News Blaze titled “Don’t Stare at Goats, Read Robert Oates – Permanent Peace” . Also, do an Internet search using the words “Invincible Defense Technology.”

    David R. Leffler, Ph.D.
    Executive Director
    Center for Advanced Military Science (CAMS)

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