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The True Story Behind "Push"
think government-trained psychic spies are a bunch of hooey?
Col. John Alexander would like to politely disagree.
Eric Alt / Source: Maxim.com
In the movie Push, civilians with psychic
powers—people who can manipulate thoughts, see the future, or toss
objects with their minds—find themselves on the run from a shadowy
government agency intent on using their beautiful minds for military
Pure Hollywood hokum, right? Slow down. Retired Army
Colonel John Alexander—once a Special Forces commander in Vietnam—knows
differently. You see, he was once one of the key members of Stargate—a
U.S. intelligence agency designed to prove that psychics could be more
effective Cold War weapons than spy satellites or wire taps. The most
unsettling part? He was right…
First of all, can you explain a little bit about, well, just what the
hell you were involved with on behalf of the Army?
We were watching what the Soviets were doing—we're talking late-'70s,
early-'80s—and had reason to believe they were taking the whole "Psi" area
very seriously. We had what was then a classified program going. Part
of it was an R&D program in "remote viewing" that became
actually operational, meaning that it was being used to target a wide
range of things—initially Soviet, later on drug smugglers and things
of that nature. Psychokinesis, mind over matter kinds of things. I was
conducting… well, beyond "experiments" because the colloquial
press likes to make light of that. But the metal-bending effect was absolutely
You mean like Uri Geller or the kid in The Matrix who could bend spoons
with their minds?
Uri Gellar happens to be a personal friend, but it's not folks like Uri.
It was average, everyday kinds of, in our case, senior officers. So we
were concerned because of the implications of what you could do. People
would say, "What are you going to do? Bend tank barrels?" And
you say, "No. We're just going to move electrons. Make computers
either not work, or render them unreliable." This was right at the
beginning of the Information Age, of course. That this worked is 100
Were you a believer from the start, or were you skeptical at first?
Well, I considered myself the quintessential skeptic, as opposed to a
debunker. Now, when you deal with Psy-cops and those kinds of organizations,
they're not skeptical—they're debunkers. Meaning "it can't
be, therefore it isn't." As opposed to us, because we've had enough
incidents happen with folks right in front of us. The problem was,
they didn't happen 100 percent of the time. And control was a significant
issue, as were the theoretical models. Are you familiar with the "white
The saying goes that it takes only one white crow to prove all crows
aren't black. We saw absolutely certain kinds of things occur under
pretty good observational conditions. We weren't being faked. These
were, as I say, everyday people. In fact, there was something called
the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEARL) at
Princeton. It was run by Bob Jahn, a supreme astrophysicist and dean
of engineering at Princeton, and because of the things that they saw,
they set up their laboratory. But if you came in and said, "I'm
a psychic, I'd like to be tested," they'd say, "Thank you
very much. We won't do that." The only people they would test
were normal people. What they didn't want was somebody to come in and
run some tests and put on their business card, "As tested by Princeton."
Do you remember the first thing you saw that made you a believer?
I had what we call a PK (psychokinesis) party at my house. We had a guy
by the name of Jack Houck, who had invented a process whereby we could
teach these techniques to large numbers of people. My boss, who was
a three-star general, and a bunch of others were there. But we had
a woman hold a fork by the bottom and this thing just dropped a full
90 degrees with no physical contact.
That's what we said, "Wow." It was like, "somebody needs
to look at this." And then I learned the process and was able to
do it again, teaching hundreds to thousands of people over time, many
of them pretty senior officials. And we protected who they were because
this is not career-enhancing stuff in most cases. The final codename
for the operation was Stargate. But it lasted over 20 years and had a
number of different names: Grillflame, Centerlane, Sunstreak. Over time
we changed the names just to protect the program. But the results are
pretty spectacular. The ability to gain information at a distance? Absolutely
So…can you do these things?
Well, I'm not sure how to answer that. I come from a school that says
everybody has capabilities, and psi-ability is like physical capability.
As fast as I train, as hard as I run, I'm never going to break a four-minute
mile. But there are people that do that routinely today. I think the
same thing is true with these phenomena, that everybody has some capabilities.
There are those that have more than others. By the way, the thesis
in the movie Push is you have people trying to get away from the government.
My take was the complete opposite: the government is trying to make
them go away. Because we have all these people—particularly self-proclaimed
psychics—who jump up and try to intrude. I said, "You've
got this backwards," but it makes for a better movie.
Now, I heard that
one of the U.S. Psi agents was able to "remote
view" the location of a Russian submarine without any prior knowledge
of where it was or what it looked like. Is that true?
That was Joe McMoneagle, who has written several
books on this. We
recommend him because he's known for being the best of the best. In this
case, they gave him just some coordinates and he came back and described
a building. Then they showed him the building and said, "What's inside?" and
he described the submarine. But the information he provided was considerably
different from anything we knew from our human sources. One of the key
issues was that he described the torpedo launching tubes as being forward
of the sail. At that point, every nuclear submarine in the world had
the torpedo tubes behind the sail. So they gave this information
to our boat builders, they looked at it, and said, "Well you can't do
that." They dismissed it and said, "You build a submarine that big, when
it goes to depth it will crush." Well, guess what? We were looking at
the first Typhoon class submarine and didn't even know it. Once the satellites
came on and we saw it, we said, "Holy shit. There's the submarine." We
originally ignored the information because our sciences said you can't
do that. And Soviets proved, yes, you could. So that was a really solid
example of an operational capability.
Is it true there were psychic spies brought in during the Iran
There were. They were trying to find out where the people were. We couldn't
locate them. Particularly after the rescue attempt, because they scattered
and moved in a different location. But we did not have good data on where
the people were located. You know, the overhead only sees what you can
see from the outside, but they were able to come up with some pretty
specific information. One of the most important bits was they knew of
an individual, a senior official, who it turned out was pretty sick.
They were able to a) spot that, and b) actually determine when he was
going to be released. And, like I said, they had a fair amount of information
on it, but unfortunately once Desert One (the launch point for President
Jimmy Carter's failed rescue mission) happened and the hostages
got split up, it became more difficult. It made a single rescue attempt
pretty much impossible.
There have also been stories of certain KGB agents who were able
to cause physical harm with only their minds. Is that just a Cold War
ghost story, or was there real evidence to support it?
Well, I'll tell you the story. When you say, "Was there evidence?" I've
got to say I wouldn't call it evidence. But there was a guy by the name
of Nikolai Kokolov. He'd been a major in the KGB who defected. The problem
here is that the information all becomes second-hand. He was not involved
in these experiments but he did talk about getting reports from people
who were. And the report included the ability to do spinal fractures
(using psychokinesis) but, like I say, we don't have a lot of evidence
In the movie, the psychics are broken up into different categories
based on their abilities. There are "Pushers" who can inject their thoughts
into others, there are "Movers" who can manipulate objects—is this
based on anything from your own experience?
I would say
that there are some very fundamental truths, but they've been greatly extrapolated.
I mean, I saw in the movie people being thrown around through the air and stuff
like that. This past summer, though, we spent a couple of weeks in the Peruvian
Amazon at a Shamanic conference and the things that happen there are truly remarkable,
but they come from a totally different construct of reality. [In Western culture],
we talk esoterically about a spirit world and a real world. Some people believe.
Some don't. But
we tend to see those as separate locations. The shaman move seamlessly. In fact,
I've done interviews where I've had to stop them and say, "Well, wait a minute.
Are you talking about physical reality as we know it? Or are you talking about
some other world?"
We assume that our construct of reality is the only one that must be real and
they don't necessarily accept that.
When you talk to people about this stuff are they sort of dismissive
of it, like they are of stories about Area 51?
Well, Area 51 is a real place. There just aren't any aliens out there.
Like I said, we spent decades working with some very senior folks that had direct
experience. That was the reason that we did this, so people would have direct
experience and couldn't say, "Oh, that was a trick." If you do it yourself,
then you've got to explain it.
In the world in general there are enough people that have had direct experiences
with psychic phenomena—this is where the public and the scientific communities
One of the problems that people have is when scientists say, "Oh no, this couldn't
possibly be," and they say, "But here's what happened to me." UFOs are a good
example. Only seven percent of the adult population believes that they've seen
. When you get into near-death experiences, you have
tens of millions who have had such experience
. The catch-22 is when they say, "How do you do that?" And you go, "Well, we
haven't got good theories." But the experience says we ought to be looking.
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