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Twitter put the spotlight on 1970s psi research a couple of weeks ago when they featured a thread from researcher and journalist Emma Best regarding the CIA’s thoughts on Soviet research into black magic, and ‘psychotronic’ machines.

Best, whose research into secretive organisations via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) “is so extensive that the FBI considers me among the “vexsome” FOIA users and appears to have considered investigating me over it”), featured a few snippets from CIA documents recently released to them that discussed the topic of Soviet parapsychological/occult research.

One snippet from a 1977 CIA report “Soviet and East European Parapsychology” (which I think was actually first released a decade ago) described Soviet experiments into ‘black magic’:

About 1969 the Soviets reportedly established an official group in their covert program devoted to collecting information on black magic. This group, headed by D.G. Mirza, was given its own secret laboratory in Moscow and was assigned the tasks of identifying, locating and evaluating the capabilities of sorcerers, witches, and the incantations used by such individuals. It is unlikely that this avenue of investigation has produced any applied paranormal systems, but the data collected may have benefited other areas of research and may have improved their techniques for training subjects to acquire or to improve paranormal abilities. Thus, the research may still be included in the Soviet program.

While casual Twitter readers were shocked to see both the topic of Soviet ‘black magic’ research, and the CIA report casually mentioning ‘paranormal abilities’, many Grailers are no doubt well aware that during the 1970s in particular there was somewhat of a psychic ‘arms race’ between the two superpowers.

Jim Schnabel’s 1997 book Remote Viewers: The Secret History of America’s Psychic Spies perhaps provides a little insight into the type of things the CIA report is referring to:

According to émigrés and intelligence reports, the KGB and GRU (military intelligence) had scoured the mystical eastern vastnesses of the Soviet Union in order to find the toughest Siberian shamans, the best-trained Tibetan priests, the most powerful Mongolian chi gong masters. At Special Department No. 8 in Siberia, according to August Stern, shamans tried to use their PK powers to make people fall off streetcars, or to kill small animals. An émigré parapsychologist named Larissa Vilenskaya claimed that at I.M. Kogan’s lab she was once shown a film of a PK master listening to a foreign politician on the radio, and trying to send detrimental psi particles his way.

At IPPI [the ‘Institute for Problems of Information Transmission’] one day, it was said, a group of Tibetans succeeded in breaking a human skull a few yards away, just by concentrating on it. Also at IPPI, and at a laboratory in Kazakhstan, shamans took madryushka dolls, hand-carved wooden spoons, souvenir models of Sputnik – the usual beriozka store trinkets – and zapped them with evil psi energies. The gifts now supposedly emitted debilitating rays, almost as if they had been impregnated with some kind of radioactive material; they were given to hapless foreign visitors, who would thereafter, it was believed, suffer neuralgia, depression, even nervous breakdowns. It was black magic, pure and simple, cloaked in the gray vernacular of psi particles and psi radiation and transmission and reception.

Schnabel goes on to list apocryphal stories about shamans being able to stop the hearts of small animals and sometimes humans – which gave rise to the American research that would be mocked in The Men Who Stare at Goats.

But Schnabel’s mention of ‘psi particles’ and ‘psi radiation’ is linked to another of the Soviet psi research snippets posted by Best, which mentions that “a significant amount of study was devoted to the development of psychotronic generators used to duplicate psychic effects”. As Schnabel notes in Remote Viewers:

By the mid-1970s the CIA and DIA had begun to receive various reports of ‘psychotronic generators’ being designed and built along these lines. There was one device that supposedly could cause strokes or heart attacks. Another gave people a sensation of anxiety, or of a disorienting blow to the head. Another made them aggressive, or drove them mad. Some reports credited a Russian scientist named Viktor Inyushin with the development of this technology. Others cited a Czech engineer named Robert Pavlita. An émigré named Nikolai Khokhlov, apparently a former KGB officer, claimed that his erstwhile employers had ‘tested’ such generators against certain selected communities in North America.

Schnabel does note, however, that many in the U.S. intelligence community “simply regarded these stories as evidence that the Russian psi program was spiraling off into insanity”, and that they thought the greatest threat to America might be that at some point the Soviets might stop wasting money on their psi programs.

You can support Emma Best’s FOIA investigations, and resulting articles (such as this one on the NSA’s fear of ‘psychic nukes’), via their Patreon page.

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