Ingo Swann portrait

Ingo Swann

The father of remote viewing. Swann developed the protocol for and conducted the first-ever remote viewing experiment, and coined the term for it in 1971 while working with researchers at the American Society of Psychical Research in New York. Shortly thereafter, he and Dr. Harold E. Puthoff, Ph.D. conducted a remote viewing experiment that caught the attention of the CIA, leading to more than two decades of government involvement in the remote viewing program.

The ESP Experience and the ESP Impact

- Ingo Swann -

          SELF-EXPERIENCE and impact are two elements necessary to give reality to any phenomenon.

Without these two elements, we can have only a shallow touch with the phenomena of life. They ground us in reality. In their absence, we have only a conception of what something is like, a conception that can be over-intellectualized and glued together with labels, all of which is likely to leave us feeling a little foolish once we come up against the real thing.

I think it should be admitted that no one can truly value extrasensory perception (or the paranormal in general) until he has experienced some phase of it. A few experiences might not lead to complete knowledge and understanding; but basic values will have shifted.

Between 1971 and the present time, I've taken part in well over a half million different kinds of ESP experiments and test trials. I've also been able to make a good survey of all the intellectual surmises that have come to surround ESP and its problems. None of these experiments and ESP tests has been more poignant than those that began my career as a psychic test subject.

These first experiments are representative of the self-experience and impacts that anyone will experience to some degree if they use this book as a guide, and seek to touch upon their own ESP core. It was as a result of these experiments that I discovered the special elements that are the topic of this book.

In the summer of 1971, I was invited, through friends, to become a test subject at the venerable American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in New York. This society was first founded in 1885, and has had a variable career since then. It was established as the American counterpart to the British Psychical Research Society (SPR) founded a few years earlier in 1882. A French counterpart was formed in Paris in 1918 as the Institut Metapsychique International. These three societies are mentioned here because their archives contain much that will be discussed later on. Their common goal was to research the many different kinds of psychic phenomena, although since their founding, the direction of the research has taken different path, depending on who was at the helm.

Between 1971 and 1972, I went to the ASPR three times a week to be a subject in ongoing experiments. Research at that time was directed by Dr. Karlis Osis, a veteran parapsychologist born in Riga, Utvia. His assistant was Janet Mitchell, who has since earned her doctorate in parapsychology. Osis and Mitchell were involved in exploring the out-of-body experience, and they were busy recruiting guinea pigs for their tests.

At the beginning of these experiments, I believed in the existence of ESP, but did not believe that I possessed any particular talent for it. I was interested, however, or I would not have bothered to volunteer for the tests. It is important to emphasize this because there will be many readers in the same situation: believing in the existence of ESP, but also believing that they themselves don't possess such talents. What was to follow for me amounted to revelation, and began a psychic career that has endured for over sixteen years.

All the testing at the ASPR consisted of the standard form of concealing some object out of sight of the subject, who was then required to perceive what the object was. These objects were placed on tables in other rooms, concealed in machines, suspended in boxes from the ceiling. Sometimes they involved "target areas" at locations a distance from the ASPR, especially in rooms in the Museum of Natural History some ten city blocks away. The latter type experiment was the first long-distance one in modern times to be called "remote viewing," although, unknown to me, and generally forgotten by researchers at the time, the first "remote viewing" had already taken place some fifty-five years earlier.

The principal method Dr. Osis was using to test for out-of-body perception consisted of placing some targets flat on a tray box which was then suspended two feet beneath the high-ceilinged experimental room. An eight-stepped ladder was used to place and retrieve the targets. The subject's brain waves were being monitored by brain wave-recording equipment, and he or she was literally tied to a chair by wires. The subject could barely move without disturbing the recording machine. The goal was to "float up out of the body" and try to identify the targets lying on the tray some eight feet above the head.

The winter of 1971 was especially disagreeable, filled with days of early cold, snow, and sleet. On each day of a scheduled experiment, I'd make the long subway trip from my home to the ASPR rooms, usually arriving with a running nose. I'd sit for a half hour or more while the leads to the polygraph were pasted on various parts of my scalp, wrists, and ankles. Another lead was pasted on my finger (to measure blood pressure), while another was placed on my chest (to count heartbeats).

When all this was ready, I was led into the room where the targets were suspended from the ceiling on the tray. I sat in a chair, and all the leads were plugged into the wall fixture directly behind my chair. I had hardly any freedom of movement, since any large movement created "artifacts" on the machines in the other room.

When everything was in working order, the lights were dimmed, and I was asked to try to go out of body, float up to the tray, and peer down at it from the ceiling. If my nose continued to run, I was out of luck. There was no way of reaching into my pocket for a tissue without disrupting the entire EEG system.

If I merely imagined I was up at the ceiling, there was little chance of "seeing" what was on the tray. Yet there were all sorts of impressions whirling through my mind - the action in the street outside the building, what was going on in other rooms nearby, and a few fleeting images of what I took to be views of the tray's contents. I'd try to dictate the impressions into the intercom and tape recorder.

What was actually happening was a jumble of forms, vague, swiftly changing, as if in my mental perceptual apparatus there was a kaleidoscope of some kind, constantly evolving and reshaping bits and pieces of images. Every once in a while, one of these would solidify for a moment before vanishing. I'd become aware of colors and different shapes existing in some kind of relationship to each other. When I tried to verbalize these impressions, as was the design of the experiment, a typical response would go something like this: "Uh, I see a shape. It has corners, but I can't tell if it is square or oblong. I'm seeing it as a house, but I know a house can't be up there in the box, so maybe it is a toy house. But then it's not very thick, so maybe it's ... [I'd draw a blank on words] ... next to it is something small that looks like a cross or a safety pin, uh, I'm now seeing a diaper, but that's an obvious association to the safety pin, uh, the square-like thing is red or pink and seems to be about one-half inch thick."

When the experiment was over, I was unhooked from the electrodes and we viewed the target. It turned out to be a small red address book (not a toy house), and next to it was a small golden cross strung on a safety pin. But there were other things on the tray box that I hadn't perceived at all - such as a free-form cut-out of paper, and a series of numbers. So part of the experiment was a success, while another part of it drew a blank.

I was disabused of any idea that my ESP was going to operate like a TV screen in my own mind, or that my out-of-body perception was going to be crystal clear. It is at this point that most people would want to give up and get back into the real world.

But Karlis Osis and Janet Mitchell were quite pleased with the results, calling them successful, when to me they were only partial results. I was encouraged to continue the experiments.

I began to take a more attentive look at what was going on in my head vis-a-vis trying to perceive the targets. One of the things that became apparent was that when I would try to identify one of the images by the word for it, attempting to dictate my responses into the tape recorder, many different words came up. And these in turn seemed to stimulate a good deal of imagery on their own.

For example, I'd get an impression of a roundish red thing. Or was it an ovalish red thing? Perhaps it's a heart-shaped cut-out, no, maybe just a circle? And then there would be heart shapes and circles of all kinds whirling into my mind, even images of the St. Valentine's Day hearts I remember cutting out in the second grade in school. And circles galore. Soon I couldn't discriminate at all between the word-stimulated images and those that might truly represent the contents of the tray.

The Problem of Word Representations

I discussed this problem with the researchers, who were sympathetic to it. But narrating one's impressions into a tape recorder was the accepted way, and this required words. Even so, the targets on the tray were not composed of "words," but of shapes and forms which needed to be recognized before a word could be assigned correctly to them. Granted, if the out-of-body perception had the acuity of the physical eyes, then there should be no problem. But what I was perceiving were bits of shapes, forms, and colors which in themselves were not clear. Any effort to label these with a word turned them, in my mind, into many images that fit that particular word. In my mind, I would see things that obviously were not on the tray.

I began to realize that the mere action of trying to verbalize what I was "seeing" was an impediment because it caused the mind to manufacture far more images than were needed. These extra images flooded the perceptual ESP field with useless and inappropriate information.

My first results were, therefore, not very good. My taped verbal responses contained only a few target-related materials. I was very disappointed.

My First Picture Drawings

In between experiments, I kept thinking, "There has to be another way of doing this..."

The actual idea came while riding the subway one day. In the early 1970s, the world was beginning to have to consider how to make signs that did not use words, especially in airports and train stations where people of many different languages traveled. Originating in Europe, a way had been found to make a sign that did not need its meaning translated into a half-dozen languages. A No Smoking sign was now not made up of words, but was a picture of a cigarette with an X over it. The way to the telephones was not a verbal sign, but a picture of a telephone with an arrow pointing in the appropriate direction. On the subway, the seats reserved for the handicapped had a crutch or a wheelchair painted on them. On the subway platforms, there were signs for stairs, not made up of the word "stairs," but a picture of stairs with an arrow.

At the time, these signs were novelties. But I noticed how much information was really contained in them, without the use of words.

I didn't make the connection right away, but one night it came in a dream. I dreamt of the experimental room at the ASPR filled with signs such as these.

Ah ha! I said on wakening. Is this a way to get rid of the problem of words during the experiment?

When I arrived at the ASPR that day for the experiment, I made a suggestion to Osis and Mitchell. It seemed a simple suggestion, even an inane one. Why not try to sketch what I was seeing? Instead of trying to verbalize what I was "seeing," why not just portray the shapes and figures as they were appearing to me, thereby relieving the mind of trying to transliterate them into verbal form.

When it was discovered that with a pad on my knee my small finger movements did not disrupt the brain wave charts, Osis and Mitchell accepted my suggestion.

To my utter surprise and everyone else's, this seemingly insignificant shifting from word manufacturing to picture drawing soon expanded my ESP experience from a sense of irritating futility into one of excitement and hope. The new picture-drawing method produced results of quite some excellence, and we were, so to speak, "cooking with gas".

ESP Impact

In November and December of 1971, I began using picture drawings to record my psychic impressions of the targets concealed in the tray box suspended from the ceiling. There was an immediate shift in the quality of the psychic responses, of which I want to show you two examples.

On November 24, 1971, I arrived at the ASPR with a light case of the flu, and the experiment transcript indicates that I did the actual experiment with a runny nose, and that my ears were ringing. When I felt I had exteriorized my senses from the body and "floated up" to the ceiling, I perceived two objects lying in the tray box. I made a quick picture drawing of them, which took about thirty seconds.

Below is a sketch of the actual targets lying in the tray box.

You will see that the targets consisted of eight separate elements: a pencil, a yellow plastic dipper, a red 1971 address book, a white card upon which were placed a subway token, a cross on a safety pin (again), and a red circle with a black number five on it.

My picture drawing response is shown below.

You will note that I did not "see" several of the items: the pencil, the yellow plastic dipper, the token, or the cross. I perceived the red square shape of the 1971 date book and gave its correct thickness. Next to it, I drew the oblong shape of the white card and correctly identified the red circle with a figure on it. This was given as an tu or a UT. We were all astonished with this because if I had added just one more very small line connecting the U to the T forms, we would have had a perfect number 5.

As a result of this particular experiment, I began to feel sure that there indeed existed a hidden extrasensory perceptual system that functioned with rules and a logic of its own. My sense of awe increased, and I began to find it necessary to deal with the implications. For one thing, if this were true, it actually meant that we do possess a very basic kind of ESP system that lies within us in an undeveloped form simply, and for no other reason, because its elements have never been acknowledged in their actual state. They have been seen only in a spontaneous form, .and those forms have been represented by labels and words that do not serve very well to describe the actual structure of this hidden extrasensory perceptual system. I reasoned that if this system can be allowed to function along its own rules and logic, it must be capable of very refined and very exact perception.

The clincher came during the experiment of December 30, 1971. As a result of it, my life was never to be the same.

I remember the day well. There were light snow showers, but it was not cold. I felt good and was eager. Yet when I had produced my picture drawing, I felt a sense of disappointment. It looked much like the others, and I wondered if they had perhaps used the same number 5 target again. I'd come to expect several objects in the tray, but in this case I perceived only one. Here is my picture drawing:

It was a few moments before the targets could be lifted .down, and then we peered into the tray box. There were three items and a row of numbers that I had not perceived at all, and there was certainly nothing with Arabic letters on it.

It was Dr. Osis who first made the connection, Ingo," he said in his charming Latvian accent, "if you turn your drawing upside down and look at it, you have drawn a perfect rendering of the 7-UP can."

And so it was. What I had seen as Arabic letters was actually 7-UP upside down.

After this day's work was done and we all had congratulated ourselves on a fine result, I recall that I got to the subway entrance. It was snowing lightly, and frankly, I was thrilled. Going down the stairs, the full impact hit me.

There actually existed a "psychic mind"!

Somewhere in my mental makeup was a psychic element - which I later termed the "ESP core" - that was capable of perceiving a hidden target and conveying a good deal of information, without having to employ intellectual word manufacturing. That is to say, without the intervention of consciousness, which, in any case, was so stupid as not to be able to immediately recognize 7-UP because the psychic mind had caused it to be drawn upside down.

Many things went through my head during that long pause on the subway stairs, along with the waves of goose bumps that were cascading along my spine. What were the implications of all this? What did it mean that unbeknownst to my conscious mind there existed a hidden level within me that was capable of extrasensory contact with an equally hidden target?

This hidden level was alien to what I had learned about ESP from reading books. It simply didn't fit with what I had expected. Yet the results were there, and continued to develop during the following experiments. The ESP mind was not part of the conscious mind, and hence had never been truly touched through conscious intellectualizing and labels. In fact, only the shift from conscious word manufacturing to semiconscious or spontaneous picture drawing had made it visible, and that shift was the result of a fluke. My God, I thought, if this can be developed, what are the implications?

As my moments of ESP impact came to a close, I once again became aware of the people passing, the pre-New Year's rush. I was simply astonished.

During the days that followed, I wondered if I was the first person to use picture drawings. I earnestly hoped that others had used them, because I would then be able to compare my work to theirs-and hopefully learn something more about this hidden ESP level.

Once you know what you are looking for research is not all that difficult. During 1972, I found that there had indeed been picture drawings before mine, and that some of the most notable had been achieved at the very beginning of organized psychical research in the nineteenth century. And yet no particular importance had ever been attached to them; they existed in the journals and books as just curiosa.

At the close of 1971, one thing had become clear to me. The psychic system at the core of the extrasensory mind mound needed to be freed of all the other mind manifestations that impeded a clear perceiving of the basic primary extrasensory perceptions. And the way to do this was to set aside all that I thought ESP was, eject the many labels under which my conscious expectations worked, and study the elements contained in the picture drawings themselves.

In this way, my ESP core eventually opened itself to me and my conscious mind had new experience-oriented information with which it eventually established new values and appreciation for raw extrasensory perception.


Ingo Swann's "Everybody's Guide to Natural ESP" (Toronto; New York: Bantam Books, 1987).

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