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Full Version: "A Terrible Mistake" by H.P. Albarelli, Jr. - Alchemy and Borderlands
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Hank Albarelli, Jr., author of the seminal A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Cold War Experiments, graciously has agreed to join us at the Deep Politics Forum.

This extraordinarily important and courageous book is to be lauded not just for the breadth of its subject matters, but also for the manners in which it links them operationally and, for lack of a more precise word, philosophically.

I am starting Albarelli-related threads here and on the JFK and Books sections of our forum -- and that's just for starters.

A Terrible Mistake is published by the redoubtable TrineDay. It is not to be missed.

You devoted entire chapters of your book to "Bluebird," "Artichoke," and the intriguingly titled "Magic, Hypnosis, and High Strangeness." How would you describe "magic" and "high strangeness" in terms of their practical applications to intel ops?
Here is a brief section of my book's coverage of that subject:

Other Agency Magical Pursuits
The CIA did not confine its magical pursuits to Mulholland’s sleight-of-hand deception training. For a while, before such projects were transferred away from the purview of Morse Allen’s SRS to Gottlieb’s TSS, the Agency delved deeper into the black arts. Amazingly, this aspect of CIA activities has nearly completely escaped any public scrutiny until now. What we know is sketchy but most intriguing. Says former CIA-TSS official Edward Bensinger:
For a while it became pretty bizarre. We were looking into all sorts of strange matters, meeting with some pretty kooky characters, but a few were interesting… scary, but interesting. I saw some demonstrations that were unbelievable…. For some of us the task was uncomfortable and crazy. We had had little to no exposure to these sorts of things apart from Hollywood movies. It was unsettling, to say the least.

One hint of the depth of research is found in the introduction to the CIA’s assassination manual, which will be covered in greater detail in an upcoming chapter. A 1952 draft version of the manual describes a man named Hasan-Dan-Sabah who used the drug hashish to “induce motivation in his followers, who were assigned to carry out political and other murders, usually at the cost of their lives.” Hasan-Dan-Sabah’s credo with his closest initiates and most skilled assassins was: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” States the CIA’s manual, “Assassination is a term thought to be derived from ‘Hashish,’ a drug similar to marijuana.” It is certainly intriguing, for a number of reasons, that the Agency included this reference in its assassination manual. First and foremost is the nexus among Hasan-Dan-Sabah (also known as The Old Man of the Mountain), Hassan-I-Sabbah, an Iranian born in 1056 near modern-day Tehran, and the Knights Templar, a legendary group that nearly all of the CIA’s founders and earliest employees openly admired and sought to emulate.
Respected writer and former Newsweek editor, Evan Thomas, writes in his masterful book, The Very Best Men, that William Colby, an OSS officer who later became DCI, “credited [Frank] Wisner [the former OSS officer who founded the CIA] with creating the atmosphere of an order of Knights Templars, to save Western freedom from Communist darkness.” Other prominent early CIA officials strove to perform “work worthy the Knights Templar” and to belong to a “cultish crusade.” Frequently, the Agency characterized itself as “the good guys versus the evil empire.” Several heavily redacted CIA documents reveal a keen interest in the Ark of the Covenant, Solomon’s Temple, and the “peculiar apparatus reportedly witnessed by Ezekiel.” ‘Ezekiel’s Vision’ is a biblical passage extremely important to Jewish mystics. It has also long been a source of fascination and mystery to many in the UFO community. Biblical passages about the “rock at Horeb” led the CIA to investigate the science of dousing to locate “concealed springs and water” and “other hidden sources of valuable natural resources.” One document reads, in part:
These subjects without doubt appear strange and extreme, but one cannot easily escape the reality of their effects and impacts. Exploration of a thorough nature is wise, and may well prove beneficial in a number of areas. Thusly, concerns about appearances, or ill comments, should be put aside, but caution should be exerted at every step.

Another document speaks of “the need to be ever vigilant in our pursuits” and the “need to verify whether these claims are real or are embellishments that have taken on a life of their own over the decades.” One fragment outlined the possible use of cats as couriers because they “are highly magnetized animals” and could be utilized for the covert delivery of unidentified items.
For some time, TSS researchers were especially interested in the work of psychic Edgar Cayce According to one document, in the early 1960s, consultants acting covertly were employed to spend time at the Association for Research and Enlightenment, housed in Cayce’s Virginia Beach, Virginia headquarters. Related to these esoteric and occult explorations is another CIA-requested task for Mulholland: “an examination and explanation of certain of the Masonic designs and architectural features incorporated into the Federal City.” Among those listed for examination were “the Capitol complex, the zodiacs of the Library of Congress, Meridian Hill Park, and the recently [1952] installed Mellon Fountain.”
As already touched upon elsewhere in this book, the work of Dr. J.B. Rhine at Duke University’s Parapsychology Laboratory in North Carolina was of special interest to the CIA’s Security Research staff. One former CIA official has reported that the writings of Martin Ebon on parapsychology and the paranormal were likewise of special interest to the Agency, and that many of Ebon’s books originated in studies conducted by the CIA’s SRS and TSS branches. Ebon wrote over twenty-five books on subjects such as life after death, communication with the dead, ghosts, and exotic ESP. Born in 1917 in Hamburg, Germany, he emigrated to the United States in 1938 and worked as managing editor of the Foreign Language Division of the Overseas News Agency. During World War II, Ebon joined the staff of the U.S. Office of War Information where he became an expert on the Soviet Union. After the war, he became closely aligned with the Parapsychology Foundation in New York, and was executive editor of the International Journal of Parapsychology.
An examination of Ebon’s extensive writings reveals that he was nearly always at the forefront of paranormal studies, and that often his writings paralleled the secret research of the CIA. Ebon has written authoritatively about Faraday cages, ESP, telepathy, bio-energy, hypnosis, remote viewing (well before it became all the rage), electromagnetic waves, and out-of-body experiences. In one of his books he revealed details of a three-year CIA program designed to make “a serious effort” to advance ESP research “in the direction of reliable application to the practical problems of intelligence.”
Lastly, perhaps the most controversial of Mulholland’s consultations for the CIA was his inquiry into the phenomenon of UFO’s. That the CIA had any early interest in UFO’s may surprise some people, but in December 1952, Dr. H. Marshall Chadwell, CIA chief of scientific intelligence, sent a memorandum to then-DCI Walter Bedell Smith warning that:
[U]nexplained objects at great altitudes and traveling at high speeds in the vicinity of major U.S. defense installations are of such nature that they are not attributable to natural phenomena or known types of aerial vehicles.

Earlier in September of that year, Chadwell had expressed his concern to Smith that the Soviets might be attempting to manufacture a UFO-type incident to confuse the U.S. military and the Air Warning System and perhaps mount an attack because “a fair share of our population is mentally conditioned to the acceptance of the incredible.” It seems that Chadwell really did not know what to think about unexplained objects in the sky.
Of course, no story that is inclusive of the occult and high strangeness can be complete without some reference to UFO’s. Sometime in 1956 and again in early 1957, Sidney Gottlieb asked magician John Mulholland to examine the ever-expanding number of UFO sightings and to render his opinion. Gottlieb, most likely acting on behalf of someone at a higher level within the CIA, perhaps knew that Mulholland had a firm bias against the possibility of unexplained aerial phenomena. In 1952, Mulholland had written a somewhat narrow minded article for Popular Mechanics claiming that all UFO’s were pie plates controlled by strings. Upon reading the piece, a number of credible scientists, as well as Pentagon officials still alarmed by unexplained UFO sightings, privately wished that the entire matter were as simple as Mulholland put it. But for the Army and CIA, as is well documented today, it was not that simple.
In early 1956, the Agency asked Mulholland to “discretely investigate events surrounding an unidentified-aerial object and related phenomenon [sic] witnessed in the skies and on the ground in Kentucky.” The incident, one well-known today in UFO annals, occurred near Kelly, Kentucky. There, on August 21 and 22, 1955, at a small farm owned by the Sutton family, eight adults and three children experienced an extremely frightening encounter with unexplained entities. The incident began with the sighting of a large saucer-shaped object flying over the farm emitting a multi-colored trail. A neighbor, Mr. Taylor, who had been visiting the family at the time, first saw the saucer. When he told the family about what he had seen they laughed at him, suggesting he had seen a falling star. Shortly thereafter, however, the family dog erupted in violent barking and then uncharacteristically cowered under the porch. Taylor and one of the Sutton men ventured cautiously outside to see why the dog was barking. As they stepped from the porch they spotted a strange glowing object approaching across a field. Within seconds, they realized that the object was an iridescent creature about three feet tall, with a round, oversized head.
Taylor and Sutton ran back into the house, seized a shotgun and a .22 rifle and watched the entity slowly approach the house. When it was within twenty feet of the house, they opened fire and the entity disappeared into the darkness. Minutes later, either the same entity or another just like it appeared at a side window looking in at the terrified family. Again, the two men opened fire, blasting through glass and screen; the entity did an acrobatic back-flip and vanished like the first. Certain that they had killed or wounded whatever it was, the two men and several other family members ventured outside--only to see another entity reach down from the porch roof above and touch one of the men on the head with a talon-like hand.
Everyone outside and inside the house screamed. Within minutes, several entities were surrounding the farmhouse. The men shot one that was sitting on a tree branch near a window, but it simply floated to the ground and then disappeared. The family later told police that the entities “moved in a strange way” as if their “legs were stiff” and when they moved or ran “only their hips moved” with their “long arms almost dragging on the ground.”
The frightened family at this point piled into cars and drove to the nearby police station, about 15 minutes away by car, returning with several officers to search the place. However, the entities were nowhere to be seen. Several local officers, state police, and a photographer interviewed the petrified family and recorded their accounts. The police found a strange luminous patch of earth where one of the entities had reportedly fallen to the ground. But when the entities failed to reappear, police and others eventually left the Sutton farm.
After the police left, the entities returned to the farmhouse, peering into its windows at the family huddled together in fright. The next morning the police returned, as did a number of reporters from Kentucky radio stations and newspapers, as well as from neighboring Indiana and Tennessee. The reporters and local radio personnel pestered the family with incessant questions mixed with mockery. The publicity drove the family to exhaustion and reached the point where they refused to cooperate or speak with anyone. The Sutton family became the target of snide remarks and ridicule from local townspeople, even though highly respected ufologists took them seriously.
The police found that the family seemed to be quite truthful about what they claimed they had seen, and there was no evidence at all that anyone had been drinking or doing anything else to effect their mental states.
The Kelly, Kentucky case remains on the books as unsolved and unexplained. Surviving family members and their relatives continue to stand by their story. They have never attempted to make a penny from what happened to them, despite numerous offers from various media people. American tabloids relish the Kentucky incident and often cite it when reporting on similar occurrences.
Unfortunately, there are no known documents that reveal Mulholland’s investigation, findings or any report by him on the Kentucky incident.
In 1997, former TSS chief Gottlieb, asked about UFO’s said: “They were out of my reach of knowledge. I found the subject fascinating, as do a lot of people… That something is there, and that people see something, is unquestioned. I think, for me, it’s best to leave it like that.”
Did the CIA leave it like that?
“I assume not, no.”
Asked about the Kelly, Kentucky incident, Gottlieb said he could not recall ever hearing anything about it.
From Agency financial documents, it is evident that Mulholland traveled in 1957, via Houston, to Lubbock, Texas and Alamogordo, New Mexico. TSS official Robert Lashbrook joined Mulholland on part of this jaunt, possibly also visiting his good friend and former Washington, D.C. roommate, Dr. Edwin Spoehel, who was then assigned to White Sands Proving grounds in New Mexico. Several months before their trip, on June 4, an unidentified aerial object had been sighted in Alamogordo over Holloman Air Force Base, causing alarm among security officials at the base and at nearby White Sands Proving Grounds, a highly sensitive weapons testing installation. At about 12:30 a.m., a large blue and green colored, round object had slowly approached the base from the Sierra Blanca area to the north and west. When the object was over the base, it performed odd aerial maneuvers, swinging back and forth in the sky. Stunned military officials observed the object from the ground for about fifteen minutes. Then it moved off toward the White Sands area, where it eventually disappeared.
Possibly related to this incident was another one that occurred in Levelland, Texas (near Lubbock) in early November, weeks before Mulholland visited the area. There, on November 2, around 10:50 p.m., police received a frantic report from two men whose truck had broken down just at the moment they witnessed a large object, about two hundred feet long, approach them. Within minutes, local police were inundated with additional calls from frightened people who reported seeing the same object. Around midnight, one particular caller who had been driving alone on the highway about ten miles north of Levelland, reported seeing a huge object sitting in the middle of the road. His car’s engine and electrical system simply died, and he had watched the object from inside his car for several minutes before it silently rose from the road and vanished in the night sky. About five minutes later, a college student, also driving alone, experienced a similar engine breakdown just as a large blue and green object landed about twenty-five yards away from him. Over the next hour, similar calls continued to come in to perplexed local police. Around 1:20 a.m., two patrolmen, about four miles outside of Levelland, witnessed the highway ahead of them light up as if it were mid-day and a huge object, glowing blue and green, passed over the highway in front of them. In all, police received over fifteen calls from people who claimed to have seen strange aerial objects that night.
Very interesting. I recall being shown an FOIA document nearly 20 years ago that had the US using a "Flying Saucer" flap as cover for a nuclear first strike on the Soviet Union.

It's difficult to know which idea came first the Russians using the cover of UFO's to attack the US or the US using it to attack the Russians.

But the point to remember, I suppose, is that both nations were familiar with Nazi technological developments and both knew there were no such things as Alien craft, only very advanced Nazi technology acquired by both nations (to a greater or lesser degree). Thus one might feel the need to conclude that the whole subject was simply an exercise in some sort of smoke and mirrors.

Regards the extract about the old Man of the Mountain and his Assassins now lead me to consider henceforward spelling the word assassin as Hashassins.

Except on those evenings I partake in a drop or two of medicinal fine fortified wine -- in which case I'll just call them "killers".

Reading the foregoing also makes me think that the term "Spooks" is indeed, very fitting for the profession under discussion.

Welcome Mr. Albarelli.