8 Bizarre Military Investigations Into the Paranormal

Governments all over the world attempt to gain whatever military advantage they can. Sometimes, these attempts even draw governments into the world of the strange and unknown. This list will delve into times the military investigated the paranormal for use in warfare.

Though some cases are bolstered only by rumors or anecdotal evidence, others include documented proof, and even admissions from the militaries themselves. At times, governments were simply acting at the behest of citizen requests; at other times, investigation of the paranormal seemed like the best way to stay ahead of foreign threats. Regardless of the reasons, this list will demonstrate military involvement with some very strange events.

Photo: CGP Grey / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

  • In the Philadelphia Experiment, the US Navy Is Rumored to Have Made a Ship Disappear

    In the Philadelphia Experiment, the US Navy Is Rumored to Have Made a Ship Disappear
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikipedia

    The Philadelphia Experiment was an alleged experiment conducted by the US Navy on October 28, 1943. 

    As the story goes, while testing advanced stealth technology, the experiment rendered the USS Eldridge DE-173 invisible and teleported from it Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Norfolk, Virginia, then back. Though the experiment was a success, it came with a price. Supposedly, the ship's crew suffered irreversible damage. Sailors returned home insane, permanently invisible, or melded into the ship itself. For these reasons, the experiment was never conducted again.

    While the US Navy firmly denies these claims, scientist Jacques Vallée has made the more probable claim that the Navy was investigating "degaussing," a technique to neutralize a ship's magnetic field and render it "invisible" to torpedoes but not to the naked eye.

  • The Nazis Tried to Prove Their Racist Theories and Ended Up Mired in the Occult

    The connection between Nazism and the occult is a long and storied one. Though most historians believe the connection is overstated, it is clear an occult fascination did exist within the Third Reich.

    The Nazis believed themselves to be descendants of an ancient Aryan race from India. This group, they argued, conquered most of Europe, with its strongest, purest members settling in Germany. They credited these Aryans with almost every notable event in European and Asian history, from the victories of the ancient Romans to the creation of Buddhism.

    Nazi officer Heinrich Himmler was obsessed with mysticism and the occult. He founded the Ahnenerbe, a Nazi institute tasked with uncovering the Aryan race’s lost history.  The Ahnenerbe took part in several archeological expeditions, traveling to Italy, France, Tibet, and other areas in hopes of unearthing lost Aryan history. However, while they were originally tasked only with researching Aryan ancestry, the group soon expanded its purview to more and more esoteric, occult research. Among other things, the Ahnenerbe attempted to establish a link between ancient Aryans and the lost city of Atlantis, and also to find the Holy Grail.

    Hitler himself considered the occult nonsense, although he did wish the Germanic people would return to a “purer” Aryan religion (that is, a mix of pagan belief systems that pre-dated Christianity) and supported the Ahnenerbe's attempts to reconstruct these earlier pagan religions.

  • At Area 51, the US Government Tested Experimental Aircraft and Perhaps Much More

    Everyone has heard of Area 51. Also known as Groom Lake, Homey Airport, and Dreamland, the exact purpose of Area 51 is unknown; however, sources indicate that the site most likely houses experimental aircraft and weapons. While the base itself has never been formally declared a secret, all research conducted there has been labeled Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI).

    Alleged paranormal activity conducted at Area 51 includes time travel, weather manipulation, energy weapon tests, and of course, UFO research. Many suspect that Area 51 is where the government has been working on reverse-engineering alien technology recovered from crashed UFOs.

    According to official documents, these rumors of UFOs were sparked by Area 51's research on experimental airplanes including the Lockheed U-2 spyplane.

    Though the CIA publicly acknowledged the base's existence in 2013 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, many still believe the government has not been totally forthcoming on the site, its purposes, and its history.

  • Stalin Tried to Create a Race of Human-Ape Hybrid Super Soldiers

    Stalin Tried to Create a Race of Human-Ape Hybrid Super Soldiers
    Photo: Public Domain / via Wikipedia

    Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov was a Soviet biologist obsessed with creating human-ape hybrids. Ivanov first attempted to create his hybrids by inseminating apes with human sperm. When that didn’t pan out, Ivanov supposedly planned to inseminate a human test subject with orangutan sperm. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately, from Ivanov’s perspective) the “donor” ape died before the procedure could be carried out.

    As the story goes, Josef Stalin desired a half-ape half-human soldier to ensure Soviet dominance throughout the world. Moscow newspapers quoted Stalin as saying, "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

    Other sources argue that Ivanov’s main goal was proving the theory of evolution and discrediting creationism. 

    Regardless of his intentions, Ivanov’s attempts ended in failure. He was exiled following a political purge.

  • Both the US and the USSR May Have Investigated Psychic Weapons

    Both the US and the USSR May Have Investigated Psychic Weapons
    Video: YouTube

    ESP, or extrasensory perception, is an umbrella term that applies to using remote viewing, telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and a host of other psychic abilities. 

    Reports of government investigations into ESP go back to at least the 1970s. According to sources cited in the New York Times, in 1977, "President Carter ordered the Central Intelligence Agency to conduct a high-level review of psychic research behind the Iron Curtain in an attempt to assess a possible Soviet threat."

    This report showed that the Soviet Union was, in fact, researching ESP. Determined not to lose in the psychic arms war, the CIA decided to begin their own research on psychic abilities under Project Stargate. (This project was the basis for the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats.) 

    According to several reports and interviews with ex-Pentagon officials, the Pentagon spent roughly $20 million dollars on ESP research from 1972 until the mid-nineties, though the Pentagon denies this claim.

    In his book The Mind Race, physicist Dr. Russell Targ claims he worked on a decade-long, ''multimillion-dollar'' program researching "remote viewing" for the Defense Department, trying to discover if some individuals can "see" things happening thousands of miles away - with some success, he claims. Other scientists claim to have worked with the Pentagon on developing psychic abilities to "see" the secret locations of missiles. 

  • Project Blue Book Investigated More Than 12,000 UFO Sightings Over 18 Years

    Project Blue Book Investigated More Than 12,000 UFO Sightings Over 18 Years
    Photo: George Stock/CIA / via Wikipedia

    Project Blue Book was the longest-running government investigation into UFO phenomena, in operation from 1952 to 1970.

    In June 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine flying objects while flying over Mount Rainier in Washington state. A multitude of later reports caused the US government to begin Project Sign. However, one year later, they produced only a single inconclusive report. Project Grudge followed, but was similarly short-lived.

    Dissatisfied with their previous efforts, top military officials and physicists formed a panel tasked with investigating UFO phenomena. Officials called this new investigation Project Blue Book (named after the blue booklets used for exams in some colleges and universities, supposedly to indicate the seriousness with which the military was finally taking this mission).

    From 1942 to 1969, Project Blue Book investigated over 12,000 UFO cases. Many of the projects findings are available online. In the end, the controversial Condon Report concluded that there was nothing unnatural about any of the UFO sightings they had studied - they were all either misidentification of conventional objects (airplanes, clouds, stars), hallucinations, or hoaxes.