Prominent American psychic research subject, parapsychologist,
and author. Born September 14, 1933, at Telluride, Colorado, he studied
at Westminster College, Salt Lake City, Utah, receiving a double bachelor's
degree in biology and art. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and served three
years in Korea, after which he worked for twelve years at the United
Nations Secretariat while pursuing an independent art career.
Swann's active participation in parapsychology research began
in 1969 when he was 36 years old. During the next twenty years he worked
only in controlled laboratory settings with scientific researchers.
Although he lectured widely on the importance of psychic faculties and
potentials, he has never publicly demonstrated his abilities. Because
of his participation in hundreds of thousands of experimental trials,
author Martin Ebon wrote of him as "parapsychology's most tested guinea
pig," andPsychic News and other media often refer to him as "the scientific
During the 1950s and 1960s, because of psychic potentials partly
evident in childhood, he became actively interested in occult and parapsychological
literature and in a variety of novel mind-development programs which
took positive approaches to the enhancement of ESP potentials.
Swann early distinguished between psychic phenomenon and psychic
mind-dynamic processes. He especially noticed that while parapsychology
researched the existence of paranormal phenomena (such as ESP, telepathy,
and psychokinesis), there was little interest in the mental processes
involved in producing evidence of them. From this distinction he slowly
developed unique theoretical approaches to process enhancement of psi
perceptions, which was in keeping with ancient descriptions of Siddhis
as found in various Eastern Yoga literature and Abraham Maslow's developmental
In 1970-71 Swann experimented with Cleve Backster in attempting
to influence plants by mental activity. In 1971-72 psychokinetic experiments
involved successfully influencing temperature recorded in a controlled
setting devised by parapsychologists Gertrude Schmeidler and Larry Lewis
at City College, New York. this involved PK effects upon target thermistors
(temperature measuring devices) in insulted thermos bottles at a distance
of 25 feet from Swann. (For a report, see G.R. Schmeidler, "PK Effects
Upon Continuously Recorded Temperature," Journal of the American Society
for Psychical Research, no. 4, Oct. 1973).
Swann was also the subject of experiments in out-of-body travel,
or psychic perception at a distance. These took place during 1971-73
at the American Society for Psychical Research. They involved Swann
sitting in a chair and attempting to project his consciousness into
sealed boxes on a small platform several feet above his head, in which
there was a target symbol completely shielded from view. Swann was monitored
by electrodes that would have recorded any movement from the chair.
Under these difficult laboratory conditions, Swann nevertheless
scored significant successes in describing the targets. In one test
he was actually able to state correctly that a light that should have
illuminated the target was inoperative. There was no normal way of ascertaining
this fact without opening the box.
In 1972-73, at the American Society for Psychical Research, Swann
began suggesting experimental protocols to test for the existence of
mind-dynamic processes that would enhance ESP and Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler,
he coined the term "remote viewing" to describe the experiments in which
subjects attempted to view targets at a far distance. His original remote-viewing
protocols were later utilized and expanded upon in collaboration with
the researchers Dr. H.E. Puthoff and Russell Targ. Other laboratories
ultimately repeated various kinds of remote-viewing experiments.
Swann's successes on the East Coast attracted the attention of
the quantum physicist Harold E. Puthoff, at the Standford Research Institute,
in Menlo Park, California (later renamed SRI International). From late
1973 until 1989 Swann worked principally at SRI's "psychoenergetics
project" established by Puthoff to examine important psi faculties (rather
than psychic phenomena per se).
One of the first most remarkable experiments involved a successful
attempt to influence the stable magnetic field of a super-cooled Josephson
junction inside a quark detector (a complex apparatus designed to detect
subatomic particles). The apparatus was completely inaccessible, being
encased in aluminum and copper containers and buried in five feet of
concrete. When Swann mentally visualized the hidden target, significant
variations were recorded in sine waves. This PK effect was reported
at a conference on quantum physics and parapsychology.
On April 27, 1973, in another extraordinary experiment, Swann
"visited" the planet Jupiter in a joint "psychic probe" shared by fellow
psychic Harold Sherman. Swann's drawings made during the experiment
showed a 'ring' of tiny asteroids around the planet which scientists
at the time said did not exist. The existence of the ring was later
scientifically confirmed in 1979.
From the first experiments, Swann was increasingly considered
a very unique test subject because, at the command of the experimenters,
he could reproduce and sustain the desired effects over time at a significant
rate of success. Throughout the history of parapsychology, other test
subjects had been temporarily or spontaneously successful. But these
subjects typically suffered from the well-known "decline effect" or
"psi-missing effect" which statistically erased the successes, and thus
permitted skeptics to believe that the successes were due to some outside
factor other than claimed human psi abilities.
Most books and articles written after 1973 about parapsychology
and psychic matters refer to Swann's work in some way. Many analysts
of science and parapsychology generally concede that his work and the
high levels of official sponsorship it obtained gradually influenced
positive reevaluations of the validity of psi in human experiencing.
After nineteen years on the cutting edge of psi developments,
the "longest run" of any subject on record, Swann retired from full-time
research to undertake independent research into the problems and states
of consciousness. In final interviews regarding the dimensions of his
past work, he stated that the long-term stresses of laboratory work
and the constant need to defend the validity of psi faculties and exceptional
experiencing had taken their toll. He occasionally accepts invitations
to lecture but refuses to talk to the media. In a paper read at the
United Nations in March 1994 (entitled "Scientists find the basis for
seventeen-plus human senses and perceptions"), he stated that psi faculties
and exceptional experiencing are not purely scientific issues. Their
discovery and development involve larger social, philosophical, political,
and religious problems not amenable to objective research and rational
The above encyclopedia article is alright as far as it goes, but
it was written before the full extent of government involvement in ESP
research, especially remote viewing, was widely known. Now more
of Ingo Swann’s fascinating story is available, and I will summarize
it here (many more details are available in my book, Reading the Enemy’s
Mind: Inside Star Gate America’s Psychic Espionage Program).
The most significant missing fact is that the research program
in which Hal Puthoff engaged Ingo was started and funded by the United
States intelligence community, and continued by various of the military
Services. You can read a good overview of this part of remote
viewing history on this site atThe Beginnings of Remote Viewing
Supported by the military and intelligence communities, Ingo worked
through the program at SRI-International to not only explore the boundary
conditions of remote viewing, the consciousness-based skill that he
had discovered and developed, but he used it operationally to discover
some of the secrets America’s erstwhile Cold War opponents were trying
to hide. Eventually, Swann and Puthoff were asked to develop a
teachable method of remote viewing that could be transferred to otherwise
ordinary military personnel so they, too, could function as psychic
After extensive research over a number of years, the Swann/Puthoff
team leveraged the resources of the SRI consciousness program to develop
what is now known as “controlled remote viewing” a six-stage method
that can be taught and mastered by anyone of sufficient mental competency.
Among those taught this method directly by Puthoff and Swann were Ed
Dames, Bill Ray, Tom McNear, Charlene Shufelt, and myself (Paul H. Smith)
though an undisclosed number of others were taught as well.
We in turn trained now widely-known remote viewers such as Mel Riley,
Lyn Buchanan, and David Morehouse.
Over the course of his career, Swann not only introduced revolutionary
new ways of thinking about consciousness research, but created what
is today probably the most successful and widely-used method of teaching
the practical use of consciousness-based skills. In accomplishing
those purposes, he himself performed uncountable thousands of remote
viewing sessions in support of research, training, and operational goals.
A listing of his research accomplishments can be found here.
Even in his retirement, Ingo Swann maintained an interest in the
progress of our understanding of human mental functioning, and was an
avid observer not only of the human condition itself, but of the inroads
being made to discover the full potential of the mind. At the
time of his death, on February 1, 2013, Ingo was well along in the process
of creating a new book featuring his marvelous art work.
Paul H. Smith, Ph.D.