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Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  938 ratings  ·  160 reviews
The definitive history of the military's decades-long investigation into mental powers and phenomena, from the author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Pentagon's Brain and international bestseller Area 51

This is a book about a team of scientists and psychics with top secret clearances.

For more than forty years, the U.S. government has researched extrasensory perception, usin
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published March 28th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  938 ratings  ·  160 reviews

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Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a really informative book on ESP and Psychic Investigations within the Government and CIA throughout history. From Uri Gellar and his spoon bending to astronauts sending ESP from space to stations on the ground. This touch's on lots of different now declassified experiments and various Phenomena and is really fascinating. Really enjoyed this and if you like to dig deep into unexplained Phenomena and especially within government then this is the book to read. ...more
Otis Chandler
A fascinating history of ESP and psychic's in the military. I didn't know that the US Military for ~30 years had a secret ESP program, but this is a well researched book that apparently went through a lot of declassified documents and interviewed people directly too to tell the story. I hoped that it would shed new light on paranormal activity and how real it might be/not be, and it did... but just slightly.

The book does a decent amount of history of ESP and government programs. Did you know tha
11811 (Eleven)
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Most of what I knew about secret government investigations into the paranormal came from reading Stephen King’s Firestarter in the 80’s. I furthered my research into the subject while watching two seasons of Stranger Things on Netflix. This book delves a little deeper.

This is my fourth book by the author who is becoming a fast favorite for “new” history. In all four books, she takes the curtain off of the things we’ve been wondering about since the end of WWII and all the secret cold war stuff t
Sonali Marwaha
Mar 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
Annie Jacobsen’s Phenomena is far from being a “definitive history of the military’s decades-long investigation into mental powers and phenomena.” It is best read as book of personal anecdotes of some players in the Star Gate program – the well-known psi research program at SRI and SAIC (1973-1995), and an extensive write up on several persons unrelated to the program. SAIC is never mentioned in this book.

Jacobsen has given undue attention and space to Puharich and Mitchel (amongst others) who
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a complimentary book from Little Brown and Company for an unbiased review.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The author interviewed many of the key people involved as well as had access to newly released declassified documents. Jacobsen examined the Department of Defense’s research into the paranormal. The main thrust was examining ESP and telepathy for use by the intelligence agencies. As well as the hunt for an ESP-enhancing drugs.
The author included many photogra
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Well, in my case, my thoughts as I don’t do formal reviews.

The first thing that comes to mind after reading this is simply amazement in terms of the amount time it must have taken to research this so thoroughly. It is essentially a history book. The topic just happens to be that of the U.S. government’s investigations into extrasensory perception and psychokinesis.

I’m not sure where remote v
Jun 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction

The morning after I finished Phenomena, I'm asking myself questions like: why did I read this book? Why did I FINISH this book? What on earth was I thinking when I checked it out of the library? (I had to request this through ILL, you know!)

Annie Jacobsen comes off as a very credulous person who either already believed in ESP and PK (psychokinesis) before she began the book, or was easily convinced. She presents the little bits of evidenc
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, 2017-reads
As a kid I desperately wanted to be psychic. I was fascinated by all things paranormal: telekinesis, extrasensory perception, clairvoyance - and I think the paranormal was part of the 1970s Zeitgeist. Today, maybe it has been absorbed into the culture so much it doesn't stand out like it did in that era - i.e., it's still fringe, but it's been assimilated, or else we're bombarded with so much nonsense that we're blasé. I did learn from this book that the US, Chinese, Russian, and Israeli militar ...more
Sharon A.
May 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
From the first page, we are provided with the framing that will follow throughout: psychics exist and science "rejects" them. Jacobsen provides a false choice - the psychics are truly gifted or they were skilled magicians (p. 7). The critical evaluation of the various military psi ops projects is given short shrift. The majority of the book content is derived from interviews. The reader has no means to judge the veracity of these claims. The psychics and officers involved say the tests were rema ...more
Erik Graff
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: publisher
Shelves: psychology
I've had only one apparent ESP experience. It was during elementary school. My family was visiting the Lake Forest, Illinois family who had been living nextdoor to them in Chicago when I and their first child were born, only days apart. These family affairs were generally boring so their son, Bruce, and I went out to play amidst the mansions and ravines near their home. One of them, an enormous, white-framed structure with outbuildings, appeared long deserted so we proceeded to check windows unt ...more
Allen Adams
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it

Do you believe in ESP?

Few subjects are as universally divisive as the idea of mental powers beyond the norm. Those who believe in things like extrasensory perception or telekinesis or clairvoyance or what have you tend to be fairly fervent in that belief. Meanwhile, the skeptical are adamantly, almost militantly so – they consider such notions to be nonsense.

But did you know that for many years, numerous agencies connected to the United States government –
Zy Marquiez
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-reviews
Phenomena -The Secret History Of The U.S. Government’s Investigation’s Into Extrasensory Perception & Psychokinesis by Annie Jacobsen is an attempt to catalogue the “definitive history” of the Government’s research into a lot of the paranormal.

Despite the book giving many facts, the information itself isn’t as interesting, nor as incisive as they could be. There are other books that take a much more fascinating and detailed approach than this one.

If you haven’t delved into this topic at all, thi
People tend to have strong opinions about paranormal phenomena, Annie Jacobsen points out early on in Phenomena. There are what one military commentator called the sheep, who believe such things are possible, and the goats, who take a skeptical view. Jacobsen takes the middle road with her book, dealing more with events and personalities than any attempt to prove or disprove the reality of 'psi' abilities. (Gut instinct tells me she preferred the sheep she met in the course of writing the book, ...more
Chris Dietzel
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Jacobsen is the master of conspiracy nonfiction. After reading this and also her 'Area 51' book, I'm hooked. Each book is basically a 400-page version of an intensively researched episode of 'Unsolved Mysteries.' However, Jacobsen's books have the added benefit of solving most of the 'mysteries' she discusses due to formerly classified documents being unclassified over the years. It's easy with books like this to feel like you're getting half of the story or getting opinion instead of fact. One ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Annie Jacobsen might just displace Mary Roach in my spooky nonfiction wheelhouse. And by that I mean, authors with whom I’d want to sit down and have long conversations over a pitcher of beer. Every one of her books is right up my alley. In this one, as she says herself in the afterword, the point is not to argue for the so-called paranormal nor against it, like most other books of its stripe. Instead, she reports on the people involved and the attempts at explanations that come to grief on the ...more
Apr 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Unlike some of the reviewers, I found nothing missing.
This is an insightful look at the way government money is wasted.
The people, places and happenings in this book open the door to much more progressive thinking, but the "powers that are" decided to not follow up on most of it.
Scary, daring, downright hair raising in parts, this book lets us know that there is something "out there", even if it is housed in the minds and souls of the people around us.
Good material, good research, and a very goo
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
True score: 3.5/5

There's been a slew of books lately written by respected journalists covering topics that have been mostly covered by small presses and written by authors of dubious credibility, and Annie Jacobsen's "Phenomena" is one of the better ones. If you want the history of the events that make up this book's title, this book is going to please you, but at the same time, if you're reading this and already aware of some of what's inside, this collection may come off as a nicely packaged h
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is well researched and I found it very interesting. Ms. Jacobsen relays the evidence she has uncovered in many interviews and document reviews.

I was familiar with many names in the book and she has done a brilliant bit of writing discussing the history. It tied much together in my mind.

I have read a few reviews attacking her for some stories and people she left out. Did she do it because she is on a three letter payroll? Did she do did it because time and resources are limited? To me i
3.5. God bless Annie Jacobsen and Mary Roach for looking into weird shit and writing good books about it.
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am usually a fiction fan. I picked this book because it was about the governments investigation of "paranormal" phenomena. This was an excellent read. Very well researched and incredibly well written. It read like a novel. I was always moving on to the next chapter because I wanted to know what happened. The discussion at the end of guantum phenomena was the most accessible I have read. The author has written other books which I plan to read as this was so good. ...more
Nick Jones
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: social-science
Interesting, though a bit rambling and much, much too credulous.
Mark Mortensen
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Annie Jacobsen has once again released a well-researched thought provoking book. Jacobsen covers the history of ESP and PK from past to present. It’s not an arms race however if you have extraordinary sixth sense abilities the United States government DOD, CIA and DIA would like to test your skills to offset our secretive world rivals.
Mar 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
''In effect, Kit Green and Garry Nolan are searching for a gene for paranormality.''

A sweeping overview of government and military research into psychic phenomena, extrasensory perception, and precognition.

If just one story in the declassified documents turns out to be true, if just one person Annie Jacobsen spoke to isn't deluded or a liar, then everything we know about everything gets turned inside out.

If nothing else, Phenomena has given me a newfound respect for Uri Geller, which is somethin
Eric Farr
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Phenomena is an improvement by leaps and bounds over Annie Jacobsen's earlier Area 51. Both books detail histories of covert government projects that have otherwise been awash in misinformation, classified projects, and the whiff of the paranormal. Both books are heavily researched and well-cited, benefiting from substantial FOIA requests and interviews conducted by the author herself. But I found a reliance on an off-the-wall account of the Roswell crash harmed the overall credibility and plaus ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history, war, 2018
Jacobsen is a serious defense historian, so a journey into the realm of parapsychology may seem out of field. She treats the topic with due seriousness, relying on FOIA'ed archives and interviews with participants to trace the history of the US military's relationship with remote viewing, with brief forays into telepathy and telekinetic weapons.

Jacobsen begins immediately after World War II with Dr. Henry Karel "Andrija" Puharich, a medical doctor and army officer. While investigating mystic ex
Joyce Yarrow
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinarily well-researched exploration of the US Military’s ESP “eyeless sight” programs that sought to harness the paranormal as a source of military intelligence. Jacobsen maintains neutrality throughout, presenting the most surprising anomalies with clarity and objectivity so the reader can judge for herself. Her portrayals of the main players in this story provide an inside view of a fascinating world, where ‘remote viewers’ search for kidnapping victims and psychics are actually dep ...more
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was torn about whether or not I should continue this book when I realized it had more mystical accounts than scientific. Ultimately, I’m glad I stuck with it as I very much enjoy Annie Jacobsen’s writing. Though I can’t say I believe every account written in these pages it was an interesting read nonetheless. Despite my personal disbeliefs or contradictions with my faith, the author remains objective, not trying to influence the reader to believe one thing or another. She states the declassifi ...more
Gregory Williams
Annie Jacobsen is an exceptional researcher and journalist, able to delve into some of the most difficult data to investigate, with intelligence, discipline and judgement. A fascinating look at the government's programs into ESP, PK, and the host of characters who, over the years, tried to expand the capabilities of human experience with mixed results. Really fascinating read. ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
DNF at 60%. The author is very obviously biased and doesn't present any compelling evidence to support her belief in psychic phenomenon. ...more
Jurij Fedorov
May 03, 2021 rated it liked it
Chapter One: The Supernatural

Basic intro. A bit about Nazi Germany and their hunt for magical objects. But overall there is not much focus on any one thing here.

Chapter Two: The Puharich Theory

It's a bit about nothing. We read (audiobook) about some individuals studying paranormal activities. And there are a lot of personal life details described here.

Chapter Three: Skeptics, Charlatans, and the U.S. Army

Largely still about a single charlatan trying to lie and c
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Annie Jacobsen is a 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist and the New York Times bestselling author of AREA 51, OPERATION PAPERCLIP, THE PENTAGON'S BRAIN, PHENOMENA—and SURPRISE, KILL, VANISH, paperback out July 7, 2020.

She also writes and produces TV (Tom Clancy's JACK RYAN) and the forthcoming PHENOMENA (Amblin/Blumhouse), a dramatic series based on her book PHENOMENA.

A graduate of Princeton University

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