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CIA Paranormal Program Finds New Life In Utah

Renee Bright

Paul Smith’s psychic school is located in an industrial park on the outskirts of Cedar City. It could be an accountant's office except for a decal of a pyramid and an all-seeing eye on the door.

It’s called Remote Viewing Instructional Services, and inside half a dozen students hailing from Colorado to Canada are practicing before their first session.

Remote viewing is a form of extrasensory perception, or ESP, where practitioners learn to describe an object, which might be on the other side of the world, without using any of their five senses.

Justin Higgenbottom for KUER
The entrance to Remote Viewing Instructional Services where students learn the psychic method of remote viewing is seen in Cedar City, Utah.

In Smith’s version, a “manager” gives a “viewer” an arbitrary number. It represents a target that could be anything from the Eiffel Tower to a terrorist’s location. But the student doesn’t know what that is.

The viewer listens to the number and then something happens. Even Smith said he doesn’t know what exactly. But the students quickly sketch the target, and before them on paper appears whatever impression they received.

“I teach them how to get that number and then their subconscious goes out and finds out what the target is from that. There's a little hand waving going on here because we don't know exactly how it works. But it does work if you set people up in the right circumstances,” he said.

Smith learned the technique as a recruit to a CIA program.

“While I was in what has become known as the Stargate program I was an operational remote viewer, which meant that I actually did applied remote viewing projects to try and gain intelligence information from potential foreign threats,” said Smith. Those threats included the Soviet Union, Chinese businesses and narco traffickers.

Smith grew up in a small town in Nevada. He joined the Army as an Arabic linguist and was in intelligence at Fort Meade, Maryland, when he was recruited into Stargate. The program lasted from 1978 to 1995 and cost as much as $20 million according to declassified documents and former operators.

Although Stargate was abandoned by the military, a cottage industry has grown around remote viewing. Some two-dozen schools offer lessons and services to civilians. Smith’s week-long program costs $3,000. He said it’s the Cadillac option because of his CIA training.

“My own particular approach is the closest to the original that is actually available out there,” said Smith.

Renee Bright

Applying Paranormal Science

People have recently been using remote viewing for things like financial investments. There’s even an app, called Remote Viewing Tournament, that crowdsources psychic talent to play the market. On-call viewers are hired for everything from business research to archeological explorations.

Tonya Gunnarson, a health care worker from California, signed up for Smith’s class to help families find their loved ones.

“I've had some training with maybe discovering why somebody is deceased and the story behind it when there's an investigation going on. It can be very useful,” said Gunnarson.

But for some students, the appeal isn’t just the practical applications. Joffre Perrault traveled to Smith’s classroom from Canada.

Justin Higgenbottom for KUER
Paul Smith, former member of the CIA's Stargate program, teaches remote viewing in Cedar City, Utah. His classes cost around $3,000.

“It shows me our potential as human beings, beyond our physical self and beyond our physical surroundings. You can help people, you better yourself. And anything that illustrates and illuminates our human potential is something that really strikes a chord with me,” said Perrault.

Joseph Baker is a sociologist at East Tennessee State University where he studies religions, politics and paranormal subcultures. He said our scientific era can leave a void for some, which explains student’s attraction to remote viewing.

“Science is useful, but the idea that it’s going to take over these things that have previously been the province of religion or the paranormal, it can’t fully go all the way there,” said Baker.

He said mainstream science can’t always explain bizarre experiences. And the more science tries, the more some push back.

“People may be alienated about the cold, empirical nature of it all and think, ‘well, that can’t explain how I saw my dead relative come to me,’” said Baker.

After all, the paranormal search for explanations and meaning isn’t new. “Religion doesn’t have this stigma at all. It’s a cultural distinction between one being normative and one being considered deviant,” said Baker.

Paul Smith thinks a major lure for his students is self-actualization: the possibility that humans aren’t just “meat machines.” He thinks we are capable of more.

“[The students] definitely leave here with a much broader understanding of what human nature is about and what it consists of.”

The fact that remote viewing is still in use shows there are people searching for answers, even without CIA backing.

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