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Seeing dead people: ‘Remote viewers’ in Nevada help solve California murder

Practitioners of paranormal practice gather at Green Valley Ranch next month


Leila Navidi

Angela Thompson Smith, a remote viewer, at her home in Boulder City on Tuesday, April 24, 2012.

Sat, May 5, 2012 (2 a.m.)

When practitioners of paranormal “remote viewing” gather here in June, they will enjoy a little more swagger than in the past.

Last year, a California court convicted a swindler of murder in a case that was solved partly, the lead police investigator said, with the help of remote viewing, a type of extrasensory perception (ESP) that was studied by the U.S. military starting in the 1970s as a way to gather intelligence.

Remote viewing calls for people to look at random numbers and letters and then let their mind wander, during which they will be able to conjure mental images of people, events and places.

Dozens of books have been written about remote viewing by those who were part of the government program, all of them talking about the government’s funding of the Stargate program for some 20 years.

In 1979, during a discussion of remote viewing in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Charlie Rose, D-N.C., surmised that “it seems to me a hell of a cheap radar system. And if the Russians have it and we don’t, we’re in serious trouble.”

Military applications aside, others seek out remote viewers for reasons ranging from business interests to locating missing people.


In 2006, Robert Knight, a Las Vegas-based photographer known in rock ’n’ roll circles for concert photos and portraits of iconic guitarists, was worried that he hadn’t heard from his close buddy, Stephen B. Williams, for more than a month and was concerned for his well-being. The two had been friends since childhood, and as Knight built a photography career around music, Williams became a successful DJ, pulling down $250,000 a year at a Denver radio station in the 1980s.

Knight, who said he became a student of paranormal sciences as a teenager after watching a flying saucer rise out of the water off a Hawaiian beach, turned to Angela Thompson Smith in 2006 for help in finding Williams.

He knew Smith as a teacher of remote viewing, and she apparently knew her stuff. From the late 1980s through 1992, she worked with Princeton University’s Engineering Anomalies Research team. She then moved to Boulder City and became research coordinator for the Bigelow Foundation, which engaged in paranormal research for its founder, Robert T. Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America chain and founder of Bigelow Aerospace.

Smith, who founded Nevada Remote Viewing Group in 2002, is one of the scheduled speakers when the International Remote Viewing Association gathers at Green Valley Ranch Resort to commemorate remote viewing’s 40th anniversary. The keynote speaker: Dr. Christopher “Kit” Green, a former analyst at the CIA’s Office of Scientific and Weapons Intelligence and the CIA contract monitor assigned to a significant remote viewing project conducted by the Stanford Research Institute.

When Knight came to her in 2006, Smith and six remote viewers she had trained went to work. They included a retired airline captain from Henderson; a retired U.S. Air Force nurse from Dayton, Ohio; a civilian Air Force contractor from Texas; a civil engineer from Virginia; a photographer from Baltimore, Md.; and a university librarian from Provo, Utah. Each was given a coordinate — a random series of letters and numbers — on which to focus.

The viewers each did from one to three remote viewing sessions of about an hour each. They were seeking information unknown at the time, working blind with only the random numbers and letters provided by Smith to focus on. Smith began the work with an initial viewing of the missing man, a follow-up viewing of the suspect’s location, then a profile of the suspect. The other viewers helped seek possible accomplices and the location of the suspect after he fled.

The images they gleaned painted a picture of a body in water, perhaps in criss-crossed netting, near Catalina Island off the Southern California coast.

Knight didn’t want to believe it.

He received Smith’s report while in California on a photo job. That night in his hotel room, Knight’s wife caught the tail end of a newscast about an unidentified body found off Catalina Island. He knew immediately it was his friend.

The next morning he called the county morgue.

“I know the identity of that body,” he said.

The nonchalant voice on the other end of the phone sounded skeptical: “Oh, you do? And how would you know that?”

Knight said the body would be missing three fingers from its left hand, the result of an accident in ninth-grade shop class almost 50 years earlier.

The lady put him on hold, then came back. Indeed, the decomposed body was missing three fingers from the left hand.

Knight said his friend’s body would not have been identified were it not for the help of Angela Smith and her team of remote viewers.

There’s some truth to that, says the lead detective in the investigation of Williams’ death.

“That’s the crucial part of any murder investigation: (finding out) who the person is,” said Sgt. Ken Clark of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Clark said investigators might have identified the body without Knight’s help, but it would have been very difficult.

“It was valuable in that Robert was able to identify Steve and tell about other things,” Clark said. “How he came about that (information) was not something that we even explored.”

In the ocean for two weeks, Williams’ body was as badly decomposed as any Clark had seen as a homicide detective since 1998. (Although some websites erroneously attribute the body identification to another California resident, Clark verified Knight was the identifier.)

Clark remembers two phone calls that day — one from Knight and the other from sheriff’s department Commander Charles “Sid” Heal, who told Clark to take the time to listen to Knight.

Heal, who retired in 2008 after almost 33 years of service, was head of the department’s technology exploration program. The Los Angeles Times in 2007 described him as “a figure whose pursuit of improving policing through advanced technologies made him a national figure in law enforcement circles. Guys without last names from the CIA seek his advice.”

Indeed, Heal’s job at the end of his police career was to travel the world to find new technologies that could be applied to law enforcement.

“We all become critics, but some of the stuff literally stretched my mind,” Heal said. “They say once it stretches, it never goes back to the way it was before.”

One of those technologies was remote viewing. By the time the Williams case came around, Heal said he “had already become somewhat convinced” that remote viewing worked.

“I would certainly not throw it out,” he said of information collected through remote viewing.

A friend of Knight’s, retired Army Col. John Alexander, had called Heal to tell him about Knight and the remote viewers. Alexander, who is now retired and lives near Summerlin, explored the use of psychokinesis and psychic abilities to create better soldiers and enhance intelligence collection.

Clark remembers what Heal told him: “It’s going to sound far-fetched, (but) I know these people and they’re pretty damn accurate in what they have to say.”

Clark doesn’t seek out psychics. None are in his Rolodex.

“We stay away from that,” he said.

But he had no problem listening.

“Frankly, I don’t discredit anybody,” he said.

Knight’s information went beyond the body identification. He told police about a man named Harvey Morrow, a supposed investment adviser, who had befriended Williams and was investing Williams’ money — a few million dollars — on his behalf.

Investigators looked into it and found that Morrow was stealing Williams’ money. By now, after Williams’ death, Morrow wasn’t to be found.

Knight told detectives that remote viewers believed Morrow had fled to the British Virgin Islands. One of the viewers even sketched a boat with Morrow on board.

Both observations turned out to be accurate.

Clark said Morrow appeared to have no clue he was a suspect. He left the Caribbean for a job as a used car salesman in Montana — for a boss who was a former cop. He Googled Morrow and discovered he was sought for questioning in the Williams homicide.

Morrow was arrested and convicted in November and is now serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.

Did remote viewing really help break the case?

Critics of remote viewing say the practice isn’t the most reliable, especially compared with human-to-human, on-the-ground intelligence. It has also proven difficult to reproduce remote viewing test results in the laboratory.

Physicist Hal Puthoff, one of the founders of the government’s Stargate remote viewing program, isn’t taken aback by skeptics.

“People seem to fall into two categories: those who have been intimately involved with the phenomenon and know it works, and those who haven’t and know it can’t,” he said.

Smith said she is beyond answering questions about whether remote viewing works. She now is trying to understand why it works.

“It’s not a matter of, ‘Do I believe in remote viewing?’ The intriguing questions now are how does it work and how can it be further developed?” she said.

For his part, Clark reaffirms that he isn’t likely to seek out a psychic or remote viewer for assistance to aid in a murder case. Still, he doesn’t discredit it, either.

“Who am I to judge?” he said.

The information provided by Knight and the remote viewers, he said, reached the level of, “Oh, wow, this is more than I expected.”

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Discussion: 28 comments so far…

  1. Get over the stigma and negative feedback from the uninformed and work with what works. Science evolves despite our insisting the earth is flat.

  2. "Science evolves despite our insisting the earth is flat."

    Roslenda -- at last something we can agree on!

    "The priests of the different religious sects ... dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820

  3. Remote Viewing has been around a very long time. There is a great deal of scientific study done about it, and governments have been quietly and secretly involved with it. During the 1990s, there were even studies done here in NEVADA at UNLV, under the guidance of Professors Dean Radin (www.deanradin.com) and Marilyn Schlitz (http://noetic.org/). Most of the public internet links and traces of these studies have long been taken off the information highway, but were actually available still in 2000 and 2001.

    If my memory serves me, the Boundary Institute, had types of screenings available to anyone to test their abilities. There are links now, to follow if you wish to participate in scientifically based parapsychological experiments on (http://deanradin.blogspot.com/). Along with remote viewing, there were exercises in also doing remote suggestion and remote healing.

    One of the reasons you DON'T hear about remote viewing, is because of the immense issue of ethical use, of which, the ramifications are nearly incomprehensible. Just imagine the chaos and harm that could he done in the hands of individuals who lack any sense of deceny,using it to advance their own personal agenda and cause harm!

    There is plenty of information out there for those interested, frontiers in science that are yet to be explored.

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. Now, if they could only help find the location of that Zawahari, the al-Queada leader.

  5. Do you smell what I smell? I would imagine that if you you asked animal psychics to communicate with the animals of murder victims enough times, they'd solve one murder. If you gave a blind man ten thousand darts to throw at a dart board and just pointed him in the general direction, he'd hit a bulls eye.

    The data collected on these remote viewers can only reject or fail to reject a null hypothesis. A few isolated cases are not evidence this technique actually works and it is irresponsible to imply that remote viewing has any merit.

  6. I say give these folks some heavily used Las Vegas style numbers to concentrate on; numbers between 0 and 36 (add in a double-zero for good measure). I'll be at the "remote location" - a casino - beaming my eye-ball brainwaves back to these new-age, prescient people. When any of these clairvoyant experts can consistently, and on demand, come up with a correct winning roulette result for just 1-of-30 spins, on average, over an eight hour period, then I'll be glad to split all winnings, 50/50, with them.

  7. oh, sorry. After reading a bit more, I see their mystic power only works when spying for the government and in locating dead people. Guess calling roulette wins is asking too much of the supernatural world.

  8. I'm an agnostic not only when it comes to religion, but also ESP. I'm not going to say ESP can't exist, but I would like to see verified, repeatable results before saying it does.

    Just because we've never seen something happen doesn't mean it can't.

  9. Disbelievers: It's difficult to get a read on anything mobile so any success has limited applications. And I'm sure many imitators would jump in for a little publicity--with no useful results for law enforcement. And forget roulette.

  10. It takes years of practice and refinement of skills for remote viewers. One the first things they need to do is have mastered the skill/ability to filter through extraneous input for a specific "target." Like most anything in life, it takes time and practice to become competent in anything.

    Human beings become desensitized to stimuli as they grow. Sorting out what is "immediate and relevant" to best serve them at the moment. To remote view, one has to have a command of quieting their overactive minds in order to focus and locate a "target." Just a little background information.

    For any nay-sayers: many of you believe in God, whom you have not seen, yet by faith are convinced of, and believe in God, the Angels, etc., with limited evidence/proof.

    It is quite easy to say that there are mysteries in life that we, as humans, have limited understanding, and can only explain so far. Our life spark is energy, and when it ceases, what happens? We have a very limited understanding of our Universe, matter and anti-matter, dimensions, and parallel Universes. We, as a human race, are still evolving and learning. Those who are willing to grow, are open to the possibilities.

    Blessings and Peace,

  11. First, I'm atheist. A supernatural world does not exist for me. Yet, I will affirm that we do not know the extent of the powers of the human brain. There is no connection between these powers and spiritualism, religion, sorcery, etc., which all deal with the supernatural. Unfortunately, the general public confuses the two.

    Second, I support research into this aspect of the brain's powers. I will not write off the ability of some people to be able to fathom out certain aspects of a crime or track down an international criminal like Zawahari (sp). I do not believe law enforcement or U.S. authorities are ready to write off this ability, either.

    I suppose it's, "When all else fails, bring in the Psychics."

  12. There will always be skeptics and unbelievers just as their will always be abusers of power and fakes. Somewhere in between are the true researchers, those with extraordinary abilities, and people wanting to advance the knowledge of human potential and the sciences.

    Why should anyone think that something is impossible? We have a long, detailed and twisted history of humanity and advances to dispel the thought of impossibility.

    Those who dared to go beyond the norm for the era in which they lived were ridiculed, persecuted, tortured and murdered for their beliefs. Even Newton had to renounce his theories to save his life.

    There is a HUGE part of our existence that has been neglected, denied, or "controlled" through religions and that is our "spiritual" or core energy as it relates to the Universe at every level of our make-up. Quantum theories, mechanics, and the related sciences, I believe, are closer than ever to unveiling truths and capabilities never before imagined that challenge our present "reality."

    It's a very exciting time to be alive to witness the exploration of all of the things in the unknown and unseen worlds that mystics throughout the ages have spoken of and experienced.

    The work at various universities is commendable and more people with open minds would benefit from following their studies.

    University of Arizona http://veritas.arizona.edu/

  13. @transplanted wrote - "Even Newton had to renounce his theories to save his life."

    You folks are just proving the point that uneducated people support this tripe.... try replacing "Newton" with the correct answer of "Galileo Galilei"....

  14. @Test_Guy:


    "Newton, although an unorthodox Christian, was deeply religious, and his notebooks are as much about Biblical hermeneutics and occult studies as they are about physics and mathematics. Newton secretly rejected Trinitarianism, and feared being accused of refusing holy orders.[10]"

  15. @transplanted - Apologies, however...

    You specifically stated - "Even Newton had to renounce his theories to save his life."

    in the second posting and reference you said : "Newton secretly rejected Trinitarianism, and feared being accused of refusing holy orders." ..

    "Renouncing" does not mean the same thing as "secretly rejected" and/or "feared of being accused of refusing holy orders." ....

    As to the "save his life" part of your statement, that phrase is nowhere to be found in the wiki reference you provided... I really think you took quite some extended liberties with your statement.

    Since you chose the word "Renouncing," it sure seemed that you had mixed up your founding fathers of science.

    Also, you might want to rely on a much more reliable source of information other than Wikipedia. Anyone can edit those pages.. and although it is improving, it's pretty well known, in collegiate circles, that Wikipedia is quite full of errors, omissions, and half truths. Wikipedia cannot be used as a verified source of information for any thesis or technical paper and so, I don't accept it as gospel either.

  16. @transplanted - the post to the live-science web page ...

    The posts just relate (in an all too brief way) well understood physics - the topic at hand in the Sun's article is "remote viewing" and is neither understood, nor, apparently, is it able to be reproduced under controlled conditions. That pretty much dooms it from being called any kind of science.

    It's not that I don't think things like this can exist .... it's just that I'll believe it when it can be reproduced, on command, and in a controlled environment.

  17. Test Guy says, "Wikipedia cannot be used as a verified source of information for any thesis or technical paper." I don't know of ANY encyclopedia where it's acceptable to use it for a citation in a serious paper, Wikipedia, least of all, perhaps. Yet, the Wiki is pretty damned good for a lot of my info needs.

  18. Only in Vegas would something this stupid and full of holes make news LOL