John Alexander: Paranormal Colonel

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Meet US Army Colonel John Alexander, a former Green Beret in Vietnam, world-renowned expert in non-lethal weapons technology, and explorer of fringe science and paranormal possibilities. In 1980, Alexander contributed an article, titled "The New Mental Battlefield," to the Army's Military Review, arguing that remote viewing and other psychic phenomena could be militarized. During his military career and after, Alexander has had his hand in research on remote viewing, UFOs, near-death experiences, zero-point energy, and a variety of other curious matters. To some conspiracy theorists and self-proclaimed victims of mind control, he is Darth Vader. I first interviewed Alexander in 1994 for my Wired column "Reality Check" and found him delightful. (The online archive is here, but a chunk of the article is missing.) At the time, Alexander was head of the nonlethal weaponry program at Los Alamos National Laboratory. I've followed Alexander since, and was delighted to read about him in Jon Ronson's fun book The Men Who Stare At Goats. (For the record though, Alexander told me that the book is riddled with factual errors. For example, he says that it wasn't staring that killed the goat but rather a karate chop administered earlier that day.) Science writer Jim Schnabel, author of the excellent book "Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America's Psychic Spies," recently interviewed Alexander for Fortean Times. From FT:
JS: I remember that you helped organise some “PK parties” in the DC area, with Boeing engineer Jack Houck, who had popular­ised these events on the West Coast. Apparently some high-ranking government officials attended those PK parties in the early 1980s, including John McMahon from the CIA, who somehow bent a spoon.

JA: Yeah, John was at one party. And I didn’t know it, but as a result of his experience he went back and caused some things to happen [in favour of psi-related programmes] at the Agency, that I didn’t find out about for a decade.

There was also one early party, organised by Jack, in which a woman named Anne Gehman held a fork that bent over with no direct phys­ical force. That happened right in front of Major General Stubblebine, and got our attention. That’s why we got more serious about PK.

JS: Did you ever get any good video evidence of cutlery-bending?

JA: Jack had made some videos of it. But the problem was that although the really dramatic events happened on occasion, you would never know when it was going to happen. So it became sort of anecdotal. Nonetheless, it happened with sufficient frequency for us to keep going forward.
"Paranormal Soldier: John Alexander"


  1. “it wasn’t staring that killed the goat but rather a karate chop administered earlier that day”

    So it was a lamb chop, then.

  2. A piece written by another controversial Military Intel officer, Lt. Col. Michael A. Aqunio, PhD in response to the kind of research Alexander was advocating and engaged with.

    “Originally written in 1996, this paper was reprinted in 2000 in the national journal of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. It examines and refutes the concept of “remote viewing” and discusses what types of ESP are and are not physically possible.”

    1. This is from a guy that left the Church of Satan to form the Church of Set, conducted a magic ritual at a German SS castle while on a NATO tour to call in the powers of darkness while claiming to be the second beast of Revelations (Newsweek,) was investigated for child molesting charges at several military daycares, and is mentioned in several mind control victim’s biographies, the most frightening Johnny Gosch’s.

      The pot calling the kettle black perhaps? No there’s nothing to see here–keep moving…

      1. Above reply was re the Church of Set (officially recognized by the DOD) founder, Army Intel officer, Lt. Col. Michael A. Aqunio, PhD who after his mind blowing history, was placed at the Space Command!

  3. With all due respect to the Colonel, there’s a way that scientists classify events that are anecdotal and not recorded: they’re called “imaginary.”

  4. Considering that this is a multi-billion dollar industry/lobby designed in large part to develope new ways to kill and torture people, the fact that a small percentage of that ocean of cash was siphoned off to study pallor tricks hardly seems like the most significant cause for anger here. On the positive side, it was money spent on wholly ineffective methods of killing and torturing people.

    1. the fact that a small percentage of that ocean of cash was siphoned off to study pallor tricks hardly seems like the most significant cause for anger here

      I think it’s appropriate “here”.

      You should take another look at the title of this thread in your browser window.

    2. This isn’t just a waste of time and money. This kind of thought is what’s lead to the development of non-lethal weapons. It might seem like a kinder/gentler way to wage war, but in fate, they are much more likely to be used and especially used on non-combatants. All of the military’s non-lethal weapons will eventually end up in the hands of cops.

      Not all of the methods of torturing people are ineffective, they just don’t leave marks or cause permanent physical damage. Just because it doesn’t kill or disable you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like hell.

      1. Also this guff lead to the kind of psyops techniques we’ve seen used against “enemy combatants” in places like Abu Ghraib. Read the Goats book and follow up materials. It’s a crazy world out there and there are some unscrupulous bastards prepared to manipulate anyone to their advantage. The ESPers were a valuable foil for those who wished to develop techniques to break people’s minds. dodgy stuff that probably deserve more attention. Easy to dismiss when it’s all about the bent spoons and kumbaya.

  5. I don’t think it’s a waste of money at all. If unexplained phenomenon occur within your country, and in some instances, people and/or livestock are physically harmed, like the examples of radiation burns and cattle mutilations mentioned in the article, I actualy feel it’s matter of prudence and good judgement to have an institution investigating such matters.

    But then of course the 4-Star general wants to see the bendy spoon trick cause he has the say so over the funds.

    And what kind of sick shit for brain would give a karate chop to a goat?

  6. As Randi would say, “If you’re using your mind to bend a spoon, you’re doing it the hard way.”

  7. “organise some “PK parties” in the DC area, ”

    it’s a rly,rly, bad idea to conduct medical procedures at home. the commercial grade ectoplasm ppl inject at these ‘parties’ is not even sterile, over time, it can migrate to vital organs. the holy water used is generally purchased online at an internet apothecary , and , whatever the label might say, not approved by the college of cardinals.

  8. Now THIS is a pretty amazing example of rational thinking from a guy who believes in psychokinesis:

    JS: Do you think the US government now is covering up some essential truth about UFOs?

    JA: Almost certainly not. It’s funny how people tend to think the US government is incom­petent in all other areas, but is super-efficient and omniscient on the subject of UFOs.

  9. His scary reputation for being a father of non-lethal weaponry (or what some people might call torture) isn’t helped by his wife being totally Goth! (Not that goths are really into evil or torture or anything, but they’re an interesting pairing!)

  10. Hey!

    Colonel John Alexander has frequently made the accusation that a goat was karate chopped, rather than stared at, to death at Fort Bragg.

    The fact is, as I point out in my Goats book, both indignities were meted out to goats on base.

    I’ve seen rather lurid polaroids of them being karate chopped to death, and I’ve also seen videos of military goat staring experiments, along with diagrams provided by the goat starer himself, Guy Savelli, of the goat staring set up at Fort Bragg, along with photographs of him there.

    You’ll see some of it here:

    This is the first of five ten minute chunks.


    Jon Ronson

    1. @ Jon Ronson: I believe you about the goats. Loved the book! Can’t wait for your next one.

  11. Remote viewing is genuine and effective — read Russell Targ’s, Lyn Buchanan’s or Stephan Schwartz’s books, and learn the techniques yourself from a qualified source like Targ or David Morehouse.

    “Using the standards applied to any other area of science, it is concluded that psychic functioning has been well established. The statistical results of the studies examined are far beyond what is expected by chance. Arguments that these results could be due to methodological flaws in the experiments are soundly refuted.” – Jessica Utts, UC Davis, on remote viewing.

    As to spoon bending, anyone who concludes that it is fraudulent has not experienced it himself or has been watching too many YouTube vids.

    I agree with Alexander that the phenomenon is unpredictable. One moment the object is stiff and unbendable, and the next moment it heats up and becomes pliable. You can twist and wrap it around itself with the small effort you might use to coil a piece of wire. No metalworking tools or misdirection needed. Then the ‘window’ closes and it becomes stiff again.

    But of course none of these things can exist, so they don’t. Nothing to see here, move along, and don’t try this at home lest you start thinking outside the box.

    1. Remote viewing is genuine and effective — read Russell Targ’s, Lyn Buchanan’s or Stephan Schwartz’s books, and learn the techniques yourself from a qualified source like Targ or David Morehouse.

      “genuine and effective” phenomena don’t suddenly disappear when subjected to double-blind investigation.

  12. I’m curious: what exactly does the concept of zero-point energy have to do with paranormal phenommena? I can’t understand why it’s thrown in with the others things like remote viewing, and that sort of imaginary hocus pocus.

  13. We all have psychic abilities but have convinced ourselves we don’t. Yes, some folks can do stuff YOU can’t. The research of Dr. Gary Scwhartz uses double-blind tests and he’s a scientist unlike Randi. A greater understanding of our true nature and our role in the creation of experience is where we’re heading. Its not about technology its about understanding reality. Just ask the ‘good ETs”

  14. Didn’t the military have a program to investigate psychic phenomena as to how it could be useful in the military? I’m almost sure of it, as I read about it fairly recently; it was called Stargate.

    I love the comments here more than the story itself, particularly the “lamb chop” one. Funny people here! Still, for those who want to know more about science behind psychic phenomena such as telepathy, spiritual healing and clairvoyance, beyond all the websites out there, check out the DVD documentary “Something Unknown … is Doing We Don’t Know What.” It looks into the science in the world we don’t see and works to explain the miracles of the mind.

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