The Strange Case Of Ingo Swann: Anomalous Mental Phenomena, I

Posted in Anomaly, Consciousness, History, Parapsychology, Science on  | 7 minutes | 4 Comments →

Ingo Douglas Swan (Ingo Swann) is a Colorado-native and consciousness researcher who, along with laser experts Russell Targ and Harold ‘Hal’ Puthoff at Stanford Research Institute, pioneered the field of remote viewing (RV), an anomalous mental phenomenon where subjects appear to gain information by means outside the traditional senses.

Swann sees remote viewing as an innate human ability that can be activated and practiced like any other muscle, and not all parapsychologists or practitioners share this view. Swann claims to have had paranormal experiences since youth. In one experiment, conducted by Gertrude Schmeidler, a professor at City University in New York, Swann was apparently able to cause temperature fluctuations in sensitive equipment presumably by pure thought. Some of these thermometers were spread openly about the room, others were locked safely inside Thermos containers. The test went by sequence, in which Swann focused on a specific thermometer during each stage of the test. He was not allowed to move around the room and was given 45 seconds to rest between stages. Even amongst the sealed instruments, Swann was able to effect changes in temperature up to almost a full degree Celsius.1

Skeptics can plug their ears all they want, but if we aren’t satisfied to just stick our heads in the sand and claim fraud, bias or methodological inferiority explains the full sum of parapsychological and pastoral literature, the results of these and other studies we’ll discuss still need to be accounted for. These results definitely call into question the modern cerebro-centric view of consciousness, matter, and the human mind.

The results of the next experiment are truly remarkable, such that if even 90% of them could be demonstrated fraudulent beyond all reasonable doubt, the remaining 10% would still represent an undeniable instance of anomalous mental phenomena. It was late April, 1973. NASA’s spaceprobes Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were scheduled to pass Jupiter soon after and would be transmitting the first photographs of this planet back to Earth. In the interest of testing the phenomenon of remote viewing over extremely long distances, Swann suggested a viewing of Jupiter before the probes sent their photos back, which could then be compared to the photos. The results of this study were disseminated to various individuals in the scientific, educational and journalistic communities, including two astrophysicists working for Jet Propulsion Laboratories, and a reporter right here in San Francisco. So the story goes.

The experiment began around 6:00pm, local time, at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park. After three or four minutes, Swann began with the following:

‘There is a big planet there with stripes. I hope it is Jupiter… Very high in the atmosphere there are crystals, they glitter, maybe the stripes are like bands of crystals, maybe like rings of Saturn, though not far out like that, very close within the atmosphere.’

Swann also relayed his perception of a ring or rings around the planet, which even he found a bit unnerving. Since Galileo first peered at them through his telescope, the existence of Saturn’s rings were already a well-known fact. Swann had doubts that maybe he’d accidentally visited Saturn, and the astronomers had doubts that maybe the whole thing was a sham! Worse, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 failed to return any evidence of Swann’s alleged ring(s) around the planet, and the experiment became mostly an unremarkable anecdote.

Then, in 1979, pictures from Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were transmitted back to Earth, and with them a remarkable discovery: the existence of the Jovian ring system. Not only did Swann apparently get that it existed, but he also nailed its precise location inside what he referred to as “crystallized” atmospheric layers.” Note that Puthoff and Targ had published the results of their experiment with Swann two years earlier, in their book Mind Reach in 1977. A statistician at SRI Radio Physics Laboratories named Beverly Humphries wrote up a 300-page report of this incident titled ‘Swann’s Remote Viewing Attempt of the Planet Jupiter.’ As far as I can see, the only two things that might explain this are conspiracy, and lucky guess.

Note that the single sentence offered is merely the beginning of Swann’s detailed impressions of the planet Jupiter. Exact phrases indicating Swann’s impressions included, “Hydrogen mantle”, “Storms, wind”, “Something like a tornado”, “High infrared reading”, “Temperature inversion”, “Cloud color and configuration”, “Dominant orange color”, “Water and ice crystals”, “Crystal bands reflect radio probes”, “Magnetic and electromagnetic Auroras (Rainbows)”, “The RING”, “Liquid composition” and “Solid core.” Each of these impressions were later confirmed as Jovian facts, and by no means can we claim Swann could have had access to all of them beforehand. If you think you’ve got a pretty good case for conspiracy theory, well… let’s hear it.

I’m aware of some of the various skeptical responses to things like parapsychology and Ingo Swann from people like Shermer, Randi and others. Yet even Randi concedes that 6 of Swann’s 31 claims about were correct, which is just over 15%. Now, of course, I don’t expect any of this to mean anything to those of us who’ve already made up their minds about what is and is not possible in our vast and strange universe. I fully expect that certain subset of skeptics to complain about the anecdotal nature of the evidence, or point to Randi’s website, or focus on the claims Swann got wrong in the Jupiter experiment. Yet, these are just a few anecdotes from the large and extensive body of work conducted with Ingo Swann and dozens of others like him not just in America but around the globe, which occurred over a period of two decades and received funding from high-order government institutions including the CIA.2

Other empirical evidence is consistent with the claim that remote viewing represents a real phenomena. In November of 2001, Michael Persinger published an article in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences noting measurable changes in brain activity – bipolar electroencephalographic activity over the occipital, temporal and frontal lobes – during Swann’s remote viewing sessions. Persinger came to the conclusion that, “there was ‘significant congruence’ between the stimuli and Swann’s electroencephalographic activity.” 3

Swann, Targ and Puthoff conducted many fascinating experiments demonstrating the reality of remote viewing and other anomalous mental phenomena. Are we to believe the skeptics and simply dismiss all of them because they don’t fit the pre-existing paradigm of what’s considered most reasonable? Are we going to just pretend the claims being made are impossible a priori because nobody else has tried to reproduce them at will? Had you heard of Ingo Swann and either of these experiments before today? If we presume the data are correct, what conclusion would you draw? If you don’t believe in remote viewing, what might you propose as an alternatively plausible mechanism here? Do you think anomalous mental phenomena challenge the cerebro-centric view of consciousness?

Not that it matters, but author and paranormal lecturer Roy Stenman has met and interviewed Swann in person, and has come to the following conclusion: “I am satisfied that he has made a significant contribution to parapsychology and specifically to the field of remote viewing.” You can see Stenman’s article in support of Swann here, along with Swann’s full accounting of the details here.

The total data from the Jupiter experiments consisted of 3-4 letter size pages of impressions recorded by Swann. CSICOP allegedly refused to accept copies of the reports before they were published.


1. PK Effects Upon Continuously Recorded Temperature,” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 67, 1973, pp. 325-40

2. Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Ability by Russell Targ & Harold Puthoff, A Delta book, Dell Publishing Co. Inc., 1977

3. The Neuropsychiatry of Paranormal Experiences, Michael A. Persinger, Ph.D., C.Psych.


  1. jim


    There is so much here to address concerning your accounting, what makes up evidence, what makes up GOOD evidence, the nature of magical thinking, the parapsychology business, etc., that I don’t know where to begin. Let me just focus in at one point…
    “Skeptics can plug their ears all they want, but if we aren’t satisfied to just stick our heads in the sand and claim fraud, bias or methodological inferiority explains the full sum of parapsychological and pastoral literature, the results of these and other studies we’ll discuss still need to be accounted for. These results definitely fly in the face of the modern cerebro-centric view of consciousness, matter, and the human mind.”
    Your loaded language says it all. Fraud, bias and methodological inferiority are all legitimate concerns here. These and others have been demonstrated to be the basis of countless false claims down through history, yet you treat them in such an offhand way as to to make any serious scrutiny seem facile and insincere. Will these ever account for the ‘full sum’ of these sorts of claims? Of course not, in the sense that every claim could ever possibly be individually examined and categorized. Of course, you could say the same about childrens’ alleged encounters with Santa Claus, or the boogerman.
    Of course, we’ve been all over this with the video games encounter, and neither of us is going to convince the other. Instead, I’ll opt for comic relief, and be off to work. Here’s a short excerpt from Wiki about some claims Swann makes in his autobiography. If the excerpts are accurate (I’ve not read the book myself), he seems like an ‘interesting’ character…
    “In his 1998 autobiography Penetration: The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy, Swann describes his work with individuals in the U.S. government who study extraterrestrials, his remote viewing of a secret E.T. base on the dark side of the moon and his “shocking” experience with a sexy scantily dressed female E.T. in a Los Angeles supermarket. He concludes that extraterrestrials are living on earth in humanoid bodies. A friend warns him that there are many extraterrestrials, that many are “bio-androids”, and that they are aware their only foes on earth are psychics. While Swann and an individual known as “Mr. Axelrod” are secretly watching a UFO appear and suck up the water of a lake, they are discovered and attacked by the UFO. Swann is injured but is dragged to safety by his colleagues.”
    This is either quite impressive evidence for all kinds of weird stuff, or a bunch of crap. You can probably guess where I stand on the matter.

  2. cl


    [Fraud, bias and methodological inferiority] and others have been demonstrated to be the basis of countless false claims down through history,

    So? Are we evaluating “countless false claims downs through history” here? Or specific claims relating to Ingo Swann? Here we are two sentences into your response and you’ve already yanked things completely out of context.

    Of course, we’ve been all over this with the video games encounter, and neither of us is going to convince the other.

    Speak for yourself. The only reason you didn’t convince me is because you simply asserted your opinion of what’s “most reasonable” accompanied by zero explanation of how it can account for the data. If you actually *showed* how or why your position should be considered “most reasonable” I’d be willing to reconsider my conclusion that gravity and sound waves are insufficient, but I’m not just going to simply accept your opinion, especially without an explanation of how it can actually account for the evidence. The ball dropped in your court on the video game incident, and you left it there.

    This is either quite impressive evidence for all kinds of weird stuff, or a bunch of crap. You can probably guess where I stand on the matter.

    Of course: it must be a bunch of crap, because that’s the “most reasonable” explanation. No investigation or intellectual heavy-lifting needed!
    IOW, jim will believe what jim will believe.

  3. Dominic Saltarelli


    Even giving Swann the full benefit of the doubt, I’m still not seeing how this affects a “cerebro-centric” view of conciousness. “Quantum weirdness” and other such action at a distance phenomenon are well known and well documented.
    If he really has magical powers, then it isn’t a stretch to say that his brain has some curious quantum entanglements that enable far viewing and the like. The line between a “cerebro-centric” view and and immaterial view is the actual presence of a brain. Your own recounting of Swann’s adventures includes brain scans!

  4. D


    Before I even get started on this, I have a question: is the claim that Swann did some strange things, or is it that humans have these abilities? If the former, I’m willing to write it off under “More things than are dreamed about;” but if the latter, then let’s do some good & proper science!
    The reason this is an important distinction is because it frames the terms for the argument. Quite simply, there is an infinitude of possible explanations for the account delivered above, and if I can’t test any of them, then I won’t endorse any of them. I’m not plugging my ears (though I can see why some might, or at least might come off that way), I just don’t care. So if we’re arguing over what Swann can do, well, then I’d like him to tell me what I have written on the pickle jar atop my desk. I mean, I’m being asked to believe in magic here, which I’m OK with – I just need to see the magic first.
    But Swann seems to believe that anyone can do this, so if that’s the case, I’d like to be told how to do it and then find out whether I can do it myself or not. Because that would be a supremely valuable skill to have! But at the end of the day, I need to do enough tests to rule out chance: after all, whether Swann’s got superpowers or not, the fact remains that he may have simply gotten lucky. I need a way to distinguish a genuine remote viewer from a lucky fraud, not simply the ability to say that he might not be a fraud.

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