Behind the Book: Secret military experiments inspire thriller
Psychic spies. Remote viewers. It sounds like the stuff of fiction. Our latest thriller, The Solomon Effect, features a remote viewer named Tobie Guinness and her reluctant, skeptical partner, CIA agent Jax Alexander. But the truth behind the fiction is that virtually every United States intelligence agency in existence actually has dabbled in the paranormal for decades. Of course, military and government types generally like to avoid admitting they’re spending taxpayers’ money investigating something as woo-woo as clairvoyance. So they came up with their own name for it: remote viewing.
What exactly is remote viewing? Basically, it’s a method for experiencing and describing events, objects, and people from a distance, using only the mind. Does it really work? Yes. Do we know how or why it works? No. But we do know that anyone can be trained to do it, while those with a natural talent can learn to do it very, very well.
My own experience with the U.S. Army’s remote viewing program dates back to the 1980s. By that time I’d been an Army Intelligence officer for many years. Most of those years were spent doing typical espionage stuff like running agents in Southeast Asia, flying into Laos with Air America types, infiltrating and spying on domestic organizations like the SDS and the John Birch Society, and studying Soviet weapons systems. But then one memorable spring day the Army sent me—along with bunch of other majors and captains—for a weeklong course at the Monroe Institute to learn how to have out of body experiences.
Hard to believe, I know. But it was all part of a top secret program that saw colonels and generals attending “spoon bending parties” and learning to walk barefoot over live coals. The U.S. government was obsessed with the idea that the Soviet Union was using clairvoyants to spy on America. Our mission was to find a way to bridge the perceived gap in the “psychic arms race.”
Did we succeed? Well, much of that information is still secret. But in 1995/96, the government officially shut down all remote viewing projects and declassified the program’s existence. Which means that I’m now free to use my knowledge of remote viewing in novels.
Written in partnership with my wife, the novelist Candice Proctor (who also writes the Sebastian St. Cyr Regency-era mystery series as C.S. Harris), The Solomon Effect is a rollercoaster ride of a romp through Russia, the Middle East, and Germany, as Iraq War vet October (Tobie) Guinness uses her remote viewing talents to track down a sunken Nazi U-boat and the deadly secret it once hid.
Yes, this is fiction. But it’s based on a real program that once existed—and may still exist. While all remote viewing projects were officially ended in 1996, the British government recently admitted to using remote viewers to try to track down Osama bin Laden after 9/1l, and there are rumors that American programs likewise persist. It was Major General Ed Thompson, a former Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, who once said, "I never liked to get into debates with skeptics, because if you didn't believe that remote viewing was real, you hadn't done your homework."
Lt. Col. Steven Harris (Ret.) and Candice Proctor, who write together as C.S. Graham, now live in New Orleans. Their latest novel, The Solomon Effect, is being published this month by HarperCollins.