Russell Targ

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Russell Targ
Born (1934-04-11) April 11, 1934 (age 89)
Known forRemote viewing
  • (died 1998)
  • Patricia Kathleen Phillips
    (m. 2003)
Children3, including Elisabeth Targ
RelativesBobby Fischer (brother-in-law)

Russell Targ (born April 11, 1934) is an American physicist, parapsychologist, and author who is best known for his work on remote viewing.[1]

Targ joined Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1972 where he and Harold E. Puthoff coined the term "remote viewing" for the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target using parapsychological means. Later, he worked with Puthoff on the US Defense Intelligence Agency's Stargate Project.

Targ's work on remote viewing has been characterized as pseudoscience[2][3] and has also been criticized for lack of rigor.[4][5]

Early life, education and career[edit]

Targ was born in Chicago.[1] He is the son of William Targ, an American book editor who was well known and respected in the field of commercial publishing.[6][7] According to Martin Gardner, Targ was introduced to the paranormal by his father whose Chicago bookstore carried a variety of paranormal works and whose later published works at Putnam included a biography of Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, and Erich von Däniken's Chariots of the Gods.[8]

Targ received a B.S. in physics from Queens College in 1954. From 1954 to 1956, he completed two years of graduate work in physics at Columbia University without taking a degree.[1][9][10]

Lasers and engineering research[edit]

Russell Targ was involved in early laser research at Technical Research Group where he co-authored, with Gordon Gould among others, a 1962 paper describing the use of homodyne detection with laser light.[11] Later, at Sylvania Electronic Systems, he contributed to the development of frequency modulation and mode-locking of lasers,[12][13][14][15][16][17] and co-authored a 1969 paper which described the operation of a kilowatt continuous wave laser.[18][19]

In 1972, Targ joined the Electronics and Bioengineering Laboratory at SRI as a senior research physicist in a program founded by Harold E. Puthoff.[20] The two conducted research into psychic abilities and their operational use for the U.S. intelligence community, including NASA, the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency and Army Intelligence.[1][21] Targ worked at SRI until 1982.[22]

From 1986 to 1998 Targ worked in electro-optics as a senior staff scientist at the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company,[23] where he contributed to aviation windshear sensing applications of Doppler heterodyne lidar technology.[24][25][26]

Parapsychology research[edit]

Remote viewing[edit]

Remote viewing (or RV) is the practice of seeking impressions about a distant or unseen target using subjective means, in particular, extra-sensory perception (ESP) or "sensing with mind".[2] Typically a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object, event, person or location that is hidden from physical view and separated at some distance.[27][28] The term was coined in the 1970s by Targ and Puthoff, while working as researchers at SRI, to differentiate it from clairvoyance.[29][30]

In 1972 Puthoff and Targ tested remote viewer Ingo Swann at SRI, and the experiment led to a visit from two employees of the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology.[31][32][non-primary source needed] The result was a CIA-sponsored project known as the Stargate Project.[31][non-primary source needed] The SRI team published papers in Nature[33] and Proceedings of the IEEE.[34] They also presented their work in a symposium on consciousness at a national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[35]

A number of scientific reviews of the SRI (and later) experiments on remote viewing found no credible evidence that remote viewing works, and the topic of remote viewing is regarded as pseudoscience.[2][36][37][38]


The psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann attempted to replicate Targ and Puthoff's remote viewing experiments and disputed the claims that the experiments were successful; for example, they were able to successfully identify targets from cues given by the investigators and recorded in the transcripts. They concluded: "Until remote viewing can be confirmed in conditions which prevent sensory cueing the conclusions of Targ and Puthoff remain an unsubstantiated hypothesis."[39] The researchers said that Targ and Puthoff had not provided unpublished transcripts when requested, but that after obtaining them from a judge in the study they were able to find "a wealth of cues".[40]

Simon Hoggart and Mike Hutchinson described Targ as willing to believe and overly credulous.[41] A 1988 report by the United States National Research Council (NRC) concluded: "There should remain little doubt that the Targ–Puthoff studies are fatally flawed."[42]

Remote viewing was popularized in the 1990s upon the declassification of certain documents related to the Stargate Project, a US$20 million research program that had started in 1975 and was sponsored by the U.S. government in an attempt to determine any potential military application of psychic phenomena. The program was terminated in 1995 after it failed to produce any useful intelligence information. David Goslin, of the American Institutes for Research said: "There's no documented evidence it had any value to the intelligence community."[43]

A variety of scientific studies of remote viewing have been conducted. Some earlier, less sophisticated experiments produced positive results, but they had invalidating flaws.[37] None of the more recent experiments have shown positive results when conducted under properly controlled conditions.[29][43][44] This lack of successful experiments has led the mainstream scientific community to reject remote viewing, based upon the absence of an evidence base, the lack of a theory which would explain remote viewing, and the lack of experimental techniques which can provide reliably positive results.[38]

Science writers including Gary Bennett, Martin Gardner, Michael Shermer, and professor of neurology Terence Hines describe the topic of remote viewing as pseudoscience.[3][45][46][47] According to Martin Gardner, Targ and Puthoff "imagined they could do research in parapsychology but instead dealt with 'psychics' who were cleverer than they were".[48]

Further work on parapsychology[edit]

The SRI remote viewing project also encompassed the work of such consulting "consciousness researchers" as the artist/writer Ingo Swann and Military Intelligence Corps chief warrant officer Joseph McMoneagle.[40][43][49]

Targ and Puthoff both expressed the belief that Uri Geller, retired police commissioner Pat Price and artist Ingo Swann all had genuine psychic abilities;[50] however, flaws were found with the controls in the experiments and Geller was caught using sleight of hand on many other occasions.[51] The SRI tests gave Geller substantial control over the procedures used to test him, with few limits on his behavior during the test.[52]

In 1982, Targ with Keith Harary and Anthony White formed a company, Delphi Associates, to sell psychic consulting services to individuals and businesses.[22][53] In the book Mind Race,[54] Targ and Harary claimed that all nine silver futures predictions made at Delphi in 1982 were correct; however, a later attempt failed.[55] According to Henry Gordon, "As with most psychic claims, there is little documentation to back them up."[56] Ray Hyman has written "Targ and Harary's much-publicized case for the reality of psi and the validity of remote viewing is filled with exaggerated and unsupported conclusions. Their careless scholarship leads to new deceptions."[53]

Personal life[edit]

Russell was married to Joan Fischer Targ, who died in 1998.[57] Russell and Joan had a daughter, Elisabeth Targ, who was a psychiatrist and parapsychologist[8][58][59] and two sons Alexander and Nicholas.[57] In 2003 Targ married artist Patricia Kathleen Phillips.[60]

Joan Fischer Targ was the sister of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer.[57] In 2004 Targ assisted Fischer, who had been a fugitive in the United States since violating a trade embargo with his 1992 victory over Boris Spassky.[61] While Fischer was detained in Japan with extradition pending, Targ worked to support a claim of German citizenship for Fischer.[62]

In Pawn Sacrifice, a 2014 biopic of Fischer, Targ appears briefly, portrayed by Marco Verdoni.

Targ, who is legally blind, is an avid motorcyclist and has published a memoir on his experiences as a "blind biker".[60]


Books authored[edit]

  • Limitless Mind: A Guide to Remote Viewing and Transformation of Consciousness. San Francisco: New World Library. 2004. ISBN 9781577314134.
  • Do You See What I See: Memoirs of a Blind Biker. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads. 2010. ISBN 9781571746306.
  • The Reality of ESP: A Physicist's Proof of Psychic Abilities. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books. 2012. ISBN 9780835608848.

Books co-authored[edit]

Journal articles[edit]

On remote viewing

On precognition

On lasers and electro-optics[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Russell Targ". Gale Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. Gale. Retrieved 2014-04-15 – via
  2. ^ a b c Hines, Terence (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus. pp. 133–6. ISBN 9781615920853.
  3. ^ a b Gardner, Martin (2001). Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?: Debunking Pseudoscience. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 60–7. ISBN 978-0393322385.
  4. ^ Hines 2003, pp. 135-6.
  5. ^ Gilovich, Thomas (1993). How We Know What Isn't So: Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life. Free Press. pp. 166–73. ISBN 9780029117064.
  6. ^ "William Targ, 'Godfather' editor, dies at 92". New York Times. 1999-07-25.
  7. ^ Israel, Peter (2011-08-10). "Peter Israel on how The Godfather came to Putnam". Reader's Almanac (blog). Library of America.
  8. ^ a b Gardner, Martin (March–April 2001). "Notes of a fringe-watcher: Distant healing and Elisabeth Targ". Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 25, no. 2. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
  9. ^ Kaiser, David (2011). How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 70. ISBN 9780393076363.
  10. ^ Dewar, Elaine (30 July 1977). "In search of the mind's eye: In the weird world of ESP, seeing is not believing". Winnipeg Free Press Magazine. pp. 8–12.
  11. ^ Rabinowitz et al. 1962.
  12. ^ Harris, S.; McDuff, O. (September 1965). "Theory of FM laser oscillation" (PDF). IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics. 1 (6): 245–62. Bibcode:1965IJQE....1..245H. doi:10.1109/JQE.1965.1072231 – via
  13. ^ Harris, S.E. (October 1966). "Stabilization and modulation of laser oscillators by internal time-varying perturbation" (PDF). Proceedings of the IEEE. 54 (10): 1401–13. Bibcode:1966ApOpt...5.1639H. doi:10.1109/PROC.1966.5126. PMID 20057597 – via
  14. ^ Smith, P.W. (September 1970). "Mode-locking of lasers" (PDF). Proceedings of the IEEE. 58 (9): 1342–55. doi:10.1109/proc.1970.7926. PMID 19770987 – via
  15. ^ Caddes, Osternink & Targ 1968.
  16. ^ Harris & Targ 1964.
  17. ^ Massey, Oshman & Targ 1965.
  18. ^ Willett, Colin S. (1974). Introduction To Gas Lasers: Population Inversion Mechanisms: With Emphasis on Selective Excitation Processes. International Series of Monographs in Natural Philosophy. Vol. 67. Pergamon Press. p. 5. ISBN 9780080178035. OCLC 790410.
  19. ^ Tiffany, Targ & Foster 1969.
  20. ^ Kaiser 2011, pp. 69–71.
  21. ^ Kripal, Jeffrey J. (2010). Authors of the Impossible: The Paranormal and the Sacred. University of Chicago Press. p. 176. ISBN 9780226453866.
  22. ^ a b Anderson, Ian (22 November 1984). "Strange case of the psychic spy". New Scientist. Vol. 104, no. 1431. pp. 3–4 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ Marks, David; Kammann, Richard (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic (2nd ed.). Prometheus. p. 67. ISBN 9781573927987.
  24. ^ Frehlich, R. (October 2001). "Estimation of velocity error for Doppler lidar measurements" (PDF). Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology. 18 (10): 1628–39. Bibcode:2001JAtOT..18.1628F. doi:10.1175/1520-0426(2001)018<1628:EOVEFD>2.0.CO;2 – via
  25. ^ Targ et al. 1991.
  26. ^ Targ et al. 1996.
  27. ^ Zusne, Leonard; Jones, Warren H. (1989). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. p. 167. ISBN 978-0805805086.
  28. ^ Milbourne, Christopher (1979). Search for the Soul. Crowell. ISBN 9780690017601.
  29. ^ a b Nickell, Joe (March 2001). "Remotely viewed? The Charlie Jordan case". Skeptical Inquirer. Vol. 11, no. 1.
  30. ^ "Dr. Harold Puthoff". The Arlington Institute. 2008. Archived from the original on 2013-03-03.
  31. ^ a b Puthoff, Harold (1996). "CIA-initiated remote viewing program at Stanford Research Institute" (PDF). Journal of Scientific Exploration. 10 (1): 63–76. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-05-31.[unreliable source?]
  32. ^ Puthoff, H.E.; Targ, Russell (22 February 1973). A Progress Report on Contract Number 1471(S)73 (TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM ed.). Stanford Research Institute. Retrieved 18 October 2023. Approved Forf Rease 2003/03/28 : CIA-RDP79-00999A00300030030-6
  33. ^ Targ & Puthoff 1974.
  34. ^ Puthoff & Targ 1976.
  35. ^ Puthoff, Harold E.; Targ, Russell; May, Edwin C. (3–8 January 1979). "Experimental psi research: Implications for physics" (PDF). In Jahn, Robert G. (ed.). The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World. 145th National Meeting American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Session: The role of consciousness in the physical world. AAAS Selected Symposia. Vol. 57. Houston, TX: Westview Press. ISBN 9780891589556 – via
  36. ^ Alcock, James (1981). Parapsychology-Science Or Magic?: A Psychological Perspective. Pergamon Press. pp. 164–79. ISBN 9780080257730.
  37. ^ a b Marks, David; Kammann, Richard. (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-798-8
  38. ^ a b Wiseman, R.; Milton, J. (1999). "Experiment one of the SAIC remote viewing program: A critical reevaluation" (PDF). Journal of Parapsychology. 62 (4): 297–308. Retrieved 2008-06-26 – via
  39. ^ Hansel, Charles Edward Mark (1980). ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Reevaluation. Science and the Paranormal. Prometheus. p. 293. ISBN 9780879751197.
  40. ^ a b Marks, D.; Scott, C. (6 February 1986). "Remote viewing exposed". Correspondence. Nature. 319 (6053): 444. Bibcode:1986Natur.319..444M. doi:10.1038/319444a0. PMID 3945330.
  41. ^ Hoggart, Simon; Hutchinson, Mike (1995). Bizarre Beliefs. Richard Cohen Books. p. 151. ISBN 9781573921565.
  42. ^ Alcock, James E.; Committee on Techniques for the Enhancement of Human Performance: Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences Education: National Research Council (NRC) (1988). "Part VI. Parapsychological Techniques". Enhancing Human Performance: Issues, Theories, and Techniques, Background Papers (Complete Set). Washington, DC: National Academies Press. p. 57 [659]. doi:10.17226/778. ISBN 978-0-309-07810-8.
  43. ^ a b c Waller, Douglas (11 December 1995). "The vision thing: Ten years and $20 million later, The Pentagon discovers that psychics are unreliable spies". Time.
  44. ^ "Remote Viewing". disclosed on 2007-02-23. UK's Ministry of Defence. June 2002. p. 94 (page 50 in second pdf). Archived from the original on 2012-10-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  45. ^ Hines 2003, p. 136.
  46. ^ Bennett, Gary L. (1994). Heretical science – Beyond the boundaries of pathological science (PDF). Washington, DC: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. pp. 1207–12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-12-13. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  47. ^ Shermer, Michael (2013). "Science and Pseudoscience". In Pigliucci, Massimo; Boudry, Maarten (eds.). Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University Of Chicago Press. p. 206. ISBN 9780226051963.
  48. ^ Ward, Ray (2017). "The Martin Gardner Correspondence with Marcello Truzzi". Skeptical Inquirer. 41 (6): 57–59.
  49. ^ Scott, C. (29 July 1982). "No 'remote viewing'". Correspondence. Nature. 298 (5873): 414. Bibcode:1982Natur.298..414S. doi:10.1038/298414c0.
  50. ^ Targ & Puthoff 1977.
  51. ^ Randi, James (1982). The Truth About Uri Geller. Prometheus. ISBN 9780879751999.
  52. ^ Hines 2003, p. 126.
  53. ^ a b Hyman, Ray (1986). "Outracing the Evidence: The Muddled 'Mind Race'". In Frazier, Kendrik (ed.). Science Confronts the Paranormal. Prometheus. pp. 91–108. ISBN 978-0879753146.
  54. ^ Targ & Harary 1984.
  55. ^ Hyman, Ray (1989). The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research. Prometheus. p. 387. ISBN 9780879755041.
  56. ^ Gordon, Henry (1988). Extrasensory Deception: ESP, Psychics, Shirley MacLaine, Ghosts, UFOs. Macmillan (Canada). p. 147. ISBN 978-0771595394.
  57. ^ a b c "Joan Fischer Targ, computer literacy activist". Palo Alto Weekly. 17 June 1998.
  58. ^ Bronson, P. (December 2002). "A Prayer Before Dying". Wired. Vol. 10, no. 12. Retrieved 2010-06-17.
  59. ^ Katra, Jane (1 December 2002). "Elisabeth F. Targ: 1961-2002". Journal of Parapsychology. 66 (4): 409.[dead link]
  60. ^ a b Targ 2010.
  61. ^ Sands, David R. (31 August 2004). "Kin boosts Fischer's bid to gain German passport". The Washington Times.[dead link]
  62. ^ Wallace, Bruce (30 July 2004). "Fischer tries citizenship maneuver". Los Angeles Times.

External links[edit]