Thursday, November 5, 2009

Clairvoyance and Contrivances

A fairly common complaint of the walk-ins is getting messages from the Communists by thought-transference or through the fillings in their teeth. One disturbed gentleman from Buffalo claimed the Communists had kidnapped him, cut open his head, removed his brains, and substituted a radio. After warning his interviewer to say nothing the opposition should not hear, he asked CIA to remove the radio and replace the brains. For sheer imagination in fielding such a complaint, the prize probably goes to the CIA man who assured a woman she might indeed be getting radio messages by static electricity. Reminding her of the chains that drag under gasoline trucks, he linked a series of paper clips, hooked one end in her skirt, let the other end trail on the floor, and sent her happily on her way with the static safely grounded.

Then there was the man who came in to volunteer as a spy in the Czechoslovakian uranium mines. He confided that he had been stalling because he feared the radiation might make him sterile. Now, however, he had solved this problem: he planned to carry along a carton of Chesterfields and wrap the tinfoil around his private parts. The Agency secretary who transcribed a memorandum on his visit never could understand why he insisted on Chesterfields.

Some fairly far-out ideas have been seriously proposed by sensible citizens. One responsible businessman developed a mechanical chess-playing machine which countered any move according to prepunched IBM cards. He proposed to take his machine to Moscow, consolidate his position there, and then suggest that the machine could be used as a training aid for any move-and-countermove situation, such as military tactics. Instead of chessmen he would use symbols for tanks, infantry, hills, forests, planes, and fields of fire. Since he knew nothing about military tactics, the Soviet general staff would have to tell him the prescribed response to every move. As soon as he had all the responses punched on IBM cards he would deliver duplicates to the American Embassy. Then if we ever faced the USSR in battle we could always run the IBM cards and tell what the Soviets would do next.

The most intriguing case investigated by a domestic office involved a school superintendent of unassailable reliability who dabbled in hypnotism as a hobby and reported that he could induce clairvoyance in his subject, an engineering student. In 1957, while in a hypnotic trance, the subject described in minute technical detail a Soviet ballistic missile of a type unknown in the United States but consistent with expert private assessments of Soviet capabilities. The research chief of a respected American aircraft plant was present at the demonstration, framed many questions, and made a tape recording of the answers. The subject used technical and scientified terminology which neither he nor the hypnotist could be expected to know. Washington experts who studied the tape found "just enough substantive data to stimulate the imagination" but decided that clairvoyance would be "a very risky approach to the collection of Soviet guided missile data." The mystery remains unsolved.

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