Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stranger Things: Uncle Sam's Secret Sorcerers

We've looked at the phenomenon of the Netflix series Stranger Things and its reintroduction of MK-ULTRA into the cultural conversation. Both Gordon White and I have speculated on whether the series is acting as a "limited hangout", a kind of inoculation in which a dangerous topic is explored but done so in a controlled and sanitized fashion.

But I'm starting to wonder if that analysis of the series isn't in fact missing the point: that MKULTRA is not what people should be discussing in relation to the experimentation depicted in the series but its sister program, the even more controversial and even more secretive MK-OFTEN.

Because if one could argue that MK-ULTRA occasionally seemed to cross over from science into wizardry, OFTEN allegedly swore off science altogether and veered from wizardry to sorcery to sheer bloody madness.

For several years researchers have claimed that while presenting itself as another drug study program, MK-OFTEN was in fact a campaign to weaponize the occult. That CIA agents and scientists began consulting with psychics and witches and looking into the feasibility of voodoo and black magic as tools of their trade.

OFTEN's actual documentation may be scanty but if you look at the culture large its footprints are stamped deep into society's face.

The British journalist Gordon Thomas-- who made his bones when he was given inside access to the Mossad-- brought MK-OFTEN into the mainstream in his 2007 book on CIA mind control, Secrets and Lies. 
Operation Often was also initiated by the chief of the CIA's Technical Services Branch, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, to "explore the world of black magic" and "harness the forces of darkness and challenge the concept that the inner reaches of the mind are beyond reach". As part of Operation Often, Dr. Gottlieb and other CIA employees visited with and recruited fortune-tellers, palm-readers, clairvoyants, astrologers, mediums, psychics, specialists in demonology, witches and wizards, Satanists, other occult practitioners, and more. 
As reader Recluse (auteur of the must-read VISUP, the parapolitical history blog), Thomas's claims were controversial amongst his peers:
Other journalists with inside sources (i.e. John Marks, Martin A. Lee and H.P. Albarelli) have turned up nothing to confirm Thomas's account of OFTEN and some of Thomas's other information involving the CIA's behavior modification experiments (i.e. those concerning Frank Olson) are rather debatable as well.  
This isn't to say that OFTEN was not engaged in strange research --there is certainly compelling evidence of this --but I seriously question it's ties to MKULTRA and Cameron. 
So the controversy isn't so much over the nature of OFTEN's work, but more about the people involved in it. As Recluse notes: 
John Marks indicates that OFTEN was under the direction of a Dr. Stephen Aldrich who ran the project out of the Office of Research and Development (ORD). Aldrich was a veteran of the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) and had been involved in ARTICHOKE during the early 1950s, a point in which it had formally begun to investigate parapsychology and other fringe topics (including lobotomies, radiation, ultrasonics, etc).

Researcher Alex Constantine wrote this about Aldrich in his 1995 book, Psychic Dictatorship in the USA: 
At Langley, the experiments were presided over by Dr. Stephen Aldrich, a patron of occult research, foreshadowing the use of mind control technology by satanic cults in the 1980's and 90's, according to Julianne McKinney, director of the Electronic Surveillance Project of the Association of National Security Alumni. Dr. Aldrich, a graduate of Amherst and Northwestern, took control of The Firm's Office of Research and Development (ORD) in 1962 upon the departure of Sidney Gottlieb. The occasion marked the birth of Operation Often, an investigation of the occult. With Houston sorceress Sybil Leek as their guide, CIA behaviorists studied the arcana of the occult underground.  
The SEI contributed a social laboratory to Often in 1972 at the University of South Carolina in the form of a course in rituals of demonology and voodoo.  
What was the SEI?
The Scientific Engineering Institute in Boston, another CIA cover, was established in 1956 to study radar. 
Radar again. Huh.

Constantine again:
 Aldrich took control of the Office of Research and Development (ORD) in 1962 from Gottlieb. CIA behaviorists carefully studied every aspect of the occult underground. In 1972 the Scientific Engineering Institute (SEI) sponsored a course at the University of South Carolina in rituals of demonology and voodoo…Aldrich focused on remote brain manipulation and the occult, the thread that runs through SEI. 
Aldrich's interest in the occult (shared by scores of others in the intelligence world.) may explain his penchant for remote brain manipulation, based as it is in "psychic" technology. Under the direction of Aldrich, writes John Marks in The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, ORD technocrats "kept probing for ways to control human behavior, and they were doing so with space-age technology that made the days of MKULTRA look like the horse-and buggy era." 
What do we know about Stephen Aldrich?
Dr. Aldrich was born in Evanston, Illinois. He attended Deerfield Academy and Amherst College before entering Northwestern Medical School from which he received his medical doctorate in 1947. Following his residency in Internal Medicine at St. Luke's Hospital (Chicago) and a year as the Parmly Fellow (teaching and research) at Northwestern University Medical School, he joined the Central Intelligence Agency and served until 1979. While with the CIA, he established their overseas medical support program and created and managed the first national life sciences program in scientific intelligence.

He subsequently was appointed Deputy Director, Research and Development; Deputy Director, Medical Services; and Program Manager of a major national government-industry technical intelligence program.
He served as a consultant to the President's Scientific Advisory Committee, the National Institutes of Health, and the Departments of Defense and Justice.
Peter Levenda writes this in Sinister Forces:
Initially, Operation [MK-]OFTEN was a joint CIA/Army Chemical Corps drug project, based out of Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland and using inmates of the Holmesburg State Prison in Philadelphia as test subjects. It came under the aegis of the CIA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), which was concerned with parapsychology and the application of supernatural powers for military purposes. 
Levenda notes that from those humble beginnings came the deluge:
Later, OFTEN would become a kind of grab bag of CIA investigations into the paranormal, and would include everything from séances and witchcraft to remote viewing and exotic drugs.
Although the CIA had been investigating ESP and the paranormal, and infiltrating occult groups, since 1952, when Andrija Puharich began contact with The Nine, someone at the CIA evidently felt that the occult underground in 1969 might have access to special techniques for the manipulation of consciousness and memory, and they took to their study with renewed vigor.  
1966 not only saw the kickoff of Project MKOFTEN but also the beginning of a major paradigm shift, not only in the conduct of psychological warfare but the tone and content of the overall culture as well. 

In fact, so much occultism would creep into the public consciousness in 1966 that one author chose it as his year zero for the book, Here’s To My Sweet Satan: How the Occult Haunted Music, Movies, and Pop Culture, 1966-1980.

Dark forces would begin to swirl and hover over the psychic landscape and would carry out periodic bombing runs on the body politic, leaving lasting collective traumas in their wake. 

How many of these shocks were orchestrated and how many arose in the poisoned atmosphere is sometimes hard to determine, and in the long run probably immaterial. Once the genie's been let out of the bottle it's going to do whatever it wants to do.

Most of you are familiar with the events in question. They've been discussed time and again in print, on podcasts, or on film and other media.

But if you start to look at them not as random events, or even as events manipulated by various, generic intelligence agencies, but as specific events orchestrated by a specific working group within a specific agency for a specific purpose, then they take on an entirely different character. They start to seem like acts in a play, or chapters in a book.

Or more accurately, the workings of a black magic spell.

Concurrent with the birth of MK OFTEN, 1966 saw the establishment of the Church of Satan in San Francisco, created by Anton Szandor LaVey (birthname: Howard Stanton Levey). LaVey claimed to have worked as a former police photographer and according to Jacques Vallee, continued to work for the SFPD as a credentialed special agent. 

A trained musician and circus showman, LaVey understood the power of spectacle and played the media like a drum (and the media were only too happy to oblige):
Anton knew the date upon which the first Church of Satan must be established. It would have to be during the traditional night of the most important demonic celebration of the year, when witches and devils roam the earth, orgiastically glorifying the fruition of the Spring equinox: Walpurgisnacht, the night of April 30th—May 1st. 
LaVey shaved his head as part of a formalized founding ritual, in the tradition of medieval executioners, carnival strongmen, and black magicians before him, to gain personal power and enhance the forces surrounding his newly-established Satanic order…To make the ritual complete, LaVey declared 1966 Year One, Anno Satanas—the first year of the reign of Satan.
Michael Aquino, a Army Intelligence officer specializing in psychological warfare (what else?), would join LaVey's Church of Satan in 1969 and rise to a leadership position before leaving to form his own Temple of Set in 1975.

1966 would be a pivotal year for another notorious Satanic cult: The London-based Process Church of the Final Judgement, formed by two disgruntled Scientologists, Robert and Mary Ann DeGrimston.
 In June, 1966, the DeGrimstons and a group of about 30 ‘Processeans’ – as they called themselves – left for Nassau. (Further suggestions included an $80,000 yacht and first class journeys to Turkey and Asia for the DeGrimstons.)  
After some wandering the group ended up in Xtul, in Mexico (the name means  ‘the end’ in Mayan) and made camp:
Living on fruit and fish, swimming, making love, having group encounters – like many people in the Sixties, the Process had ‘gone back to nature’...everyone there would remember the time for the rest of their life, as if they had gone back to Eden. It had a profound effect on Robert, who began to identify with Jesus Christ. 
But then disaster hit. A hurricane (Hurricane Inez) pummeled the group for three days. Their shelters were flattened...Local villages were devastated, but the Process emerged from the upheaval unharmed but not unchanged, DeGrimston knew. It had been their rite of passage. The true nature of the universe had been revealed to him.
(H)e had begun to receive inspired teachings, what he called The Xtul Dialogues, communications from the god forces that ruled existence. He called them Jehovah, Satan and Lucifer. And now they had a mission: to return to London and preach the word of their imminent apocalyptic unification. 
The group had made a sudden shift. They began to wear black capes and black turtle necks, and to sport shiny silver crosses. They also wore badges featuring the sinister Goat of Mendes, the devil headed demon of the witches’ sabbath... They set up a lecture hall and bookshop...
A movie theatre ran films dominated by destruction and violence. They gave classes in telepathy, self-expression and communication… 
Like so many of these cults, the Process seemed to have a lot of money at their disposal. Enough to publish a slick magazine as soon as they returned to London (magazine publishing is not only costly, it's a notorious loss-maker). And the shock-trauma aesthetic that would come to dominate popular culture was the Process's stock-in-trade:
Sporting blaring red, purple and black psychedelic graphics, the (magazine's) editorial policy favoured Hitler, Satan and gore. "Humanity is doomed" was the brief. The Tide of the End had come. "The Earth is prepared for the ultimate devastation…The scene is set."
1966 would be a pivotal year for Scientology as well, and its founder, former Naval Intelligence agent L. Ron Hubbard:
At the start of March 1966, Hubbard created the Guardian's Office (GO), a new agency within the Church of Scientology that was headed by his wife Mary Sue. It dealt with Scientology's external affairs, including public relations, legal actions and the gathering of intelligence on perceived threats.   
Finally, at the end of 1966, Hubbard acquired his own fleet of ships.The ships were crewed by the Sea Organization or Sea Org, a group of Scientologist volunteers, with the support of a couple of professional seamen. 

1966 would see another famous occultist move to San Francisco. Flush with cash from the American publication of his muckraking Hollywood Babylon, Kenneth Anger set to work on a motion picture tribute to his personal savior, Lucifer.  Anger set up shop at a famous city landmark:
The William Westerfeld Mansion got its “Russian Embassy” nickname in reference to the period in the 20’s when it was occupied by a group of Czarist Russians who also ran a night club out of it. 1198 Fulton Street also housed the first Hippie commune in the city, appeared in Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and served as residence and movie set for experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger. 
It was here Anger began work on Lucifer Rising, but the young hippie boy he cast in the lead died when he fell through a skylight. Next, Anger cast future Manson Family member Bobby Beausoleil, though Anger would claim Beausoleil took off with the negatives for the film when he split for LA.

Royalties from Babylon weren't Anger's only source of income, however:
With Scorpio Rising finished and Anger now living in San Francisco, he went to the Ford Foundation, which had just started a program of giving out grants to filmmakers.
And just in case there were any doubts about the Ford Foundation- from Wikipedia:
John J. McCloy, the foundation's chairman from 1958–1965, knowingly employed numerous agents and, based on the premise that a relationship with the CIA was inevitable, set up a three-person committee responsible for dealing with its requests.

The Ford Foundation was funding a rather interesting project here:
Anger filmed Invocation of My Demon Brother starring Bobby Beausoleil and Anton LaVey, and featuring music by Mick Jagger. According to this blog, "Invocation of My Demon Brother was assembled from scraps left over from Anger’s first version of Lucifer Rising he made in San Francisco. This first production came to a halt after the script was stolen by Bobby Beausoleil…. 
During this time, (Stanton LaVey) believes that his grandparents, Kenneth, Bobby, Charles Manson and Susan Atkins were all in the same place at the same time.

1966 also saw the premieres of Star Trek, Dark Shadows and Batman. Time Magazine published its infamous "Is God Dead?" cover story (during Holy Week, naturally) and Parker Brothers reintroduced America to the Ouija board. 

Rising Hollywood star Sharon Tate traveled to England in 1966 to star in the supernatural thriller Eye of the Devil. In preparation for her role, she consulted with Alex and Maxine Sanders, the self-proclaimed High Priest and High Priestess of Alexandrian Wicca.

And on August 1 of that year, former Marine Charles Whitman killed 14 and wounded 32 from a tower at the University of Texas in Austin in one of the first modern mass shooting events. Before the shootings Whitman would write, "I don't quite understand what is compelling me to type this note. I have been to a psychiatrist. I have been having fears and violent impulses."

The University of Texas was one of the institutions involved in MK ULTRA research. 

And oddly enough August 1 is the ancient harvest festival of Lammas, which has been incorporated into the s0-called witches' calendar (Peter Levenda pointed this out in Sinister Forces and other researchers have made note of this conjunction as well).

As 1966 drew to a close, reports of a giant, winged creature haunting an obscure corner of West Virginia would hit the wire services, soon to be followed by reports of weird lights in the night sky and strange men in military uniforms harassing and terrifying the local townsfolk. 

Had a portal been opened to the Veil of Shadows?


UPDATE: Peter Levenda adds the following...

February 4, 1966 Bishop Pike's son commits suicide in NYC hotel room. May, 1966, Pike resigns as Episcopal bishop of California. Pike was a friend of Philip K. Dick and medium Arthur Ford. He began an aggressive pursuit of the paranormal after having poltergeist phenomena he associated with his dead son. He and his wife died in the Judean desert in 1969.

July, 1966: Richard Speck murders eight student nurses in Chicago.

August, 1966: CBS funds an invasion of Haiti. Invasion collapses. Federal investigation ensues.

Also in 1966: "Rosemary's Baby" was born on June 25, 1966 a little after midnight at the Dakota (named "Bramford" in the novel). Five days later Dick Helms would become director of CIA.

On October 30, 1966 the Zodiac killings begin. Same day: JFK's brain is discovered missing from the National Archives.

In November, 1966: Jim Garrison begins his JFK assassination investigation.

In 1966: the Braytons acquire the Blythe, CA ranch as headquarters for the Solar Lodge (OTO).

UPDATE: 1966 also saw a major UFO wave in eastern Massachusetts. I covered that in the post "The Owls are Not What They've Seen."

Also the Hill abduction case first went public in 1966 with the publication of The Interrupted Journey by John Fuller.