I considered not writing about the disputatious topic of mind control, as much of the more questionable material I’ve studied came from that end of the high-strangeness spectrum. Earlier this year , however, I reviewed the entire text of the August 3, 1977 Project MKULTRA: The CIA’s Program of Research in Behavioral Modification Joint Hearing Before the Select Committee on Intelligence.
Finely put together by the venerable U.S. Government Printing Office, this document is all anyone could conceivably require in order to be convinced of the reality of such nefarious projects in history and, perhaps, present day.
Now, with six weeks before this book’s publication, I have “secured” and re-read a copy of what many consider the masterwork…Walter Bowart’s Operation Mind Control. Among the most disturbing, unpleasant books I’ve ever read, OMC is nonetheless fascinating, and more riveting than any literary or cinematic thriller could ever hope to be (many of these scoured Bowart’s book for material).
The combined impact of these works convinced me to include a chapter on mind control, and I’m of a mind (ha-ha) that no serious–or even semi-serious–researcher and/or writer on anomalous aerial phenomena and associated activity can with integrity ignore (no matter how tempting) this exceedingly dark topic. Unlike so much else covered here, hard evidence–proof if you will–exists to support the grim reality of behavioral modification programs used against unwitting, unwilling human subjects. Like Walter Bowart, I absolutely endorse “…an exercise in citizens’ intelligence…the need for informed discretion in a democracy.”
Yet a third lengthy document joins those mentioned above; one aware of both, and what I consider the third in an unacknowledged mind-control “trilogy”: Martin Cannon’s The Controllers.
First, though, I’m honor-bound to mention that Cannon has apparently disavowed his thesis, which originally was published as a long paper, and in 1996 a thick book by Feral House. In both works, Cannon’s subtitle is: A New Hypothesis of Alien Abductions. Second, Martin Cannon no longer contributes material to, or commentary on, anything associated with Ufology. The usual rumors are out there, and I bypassed them to write an article seen by many readers, wherein I asked if anyone could enlighten me on the status of Mr. Cannon. To date, I’ve received not a single response.
Ominous? Perhaps. But I doubt it. Cannon wouldn’t be the first, or the last, to turn away in disgust from the Ufology “community” if in fact that’s what transpired.
For our purposes in this chapter, though, we will explore at some length an article Cannon wrote for the premiere issue (Summer 1994) of The Anomalist: “The Numbers Game.” While Cannon’s The Controllers digs deep into mind-control lore–much of it documented–his semi-autobiographical Anomalist piece might very well have illuminated a telling aspect of mind-control operations, and why this particular process might have been employed beginning in the early 1960s.
Anyone reading this book is liable to have heard about the enigmatic “number-reading” and “rapid-fire foreign language” telephone intrusions reported to John Keel in The Mothman Prophecies. Cannon’s “The Numbers Game” shares his own experiences, which occurred during “the Reagan years”–proving the process (whatever its ultimate purpose) was active from at least 1961 (Keel’s first mention of a case in Oregon) through the early 1980s. Whatever the method, it must have been effective to remain–according to reports–essentially unchanged for over two decades.
The article opens with Cannon’s mentioning he occasionally writes about UFOs, and once in a while:
“…someone will ask me: ‘Has anything weird ever happened to you?’
“I always reply ‘No.’ But that’s not quite true. I can bear witness to one minor
but maddening enigma–one which veteran outer-limits researcher John Keel (and
a very few other authors) connect to the UFO controversy.
“In The Mothman Prophecies, Keel writes of a United Nations public
relations officer named Don Estrella, who survived a head-on automotive encounter with
an invisible, impenetrable something-or-other that accordioned the front end of his car.
Shortly after this bizarre accident, a friend of Estrella’s in Long Island received an
odd phone call. The U.N. officer reported that, ‘A voice that sounded very distant
said “Hello, Don.” My friend told him that I hadn’t arrived yet. The voice then began
to recite a series of numbers meaninglessly.’
“Keel knew of many similar incidents. In 1961, a telephone conversation between
two women in Oregon was rudely interrupted by the voice of a mysterious man
who shouted ‘Wake up down there!’ According to Keel, ‘The voice started to rattle
on in a rapid-fire language that sounded like Spanish.’ After this odd locution
ceased, the women could speak together normally once more. At the same time
next day, the women spoke on the phone again, only to ear-witness a repeat
performance by the oddball voice. After the audio interloper speed-shouted
something in a foreign tongue, it began reciting the numbers forty and twenty-five
“In 1967, during West Virginia’s great ‘Mothman’ wave of UFO-oriented oddities,
Keel encountered the phenomenon again. Every night, a young lady in the area was
called by a strange man who would speak to her in an accelerated speech that sounded
‘something like Spanish…yet I don’t think it is Spanish.’
“Now, to paraphrase an old Bill Cosby line, I told you those stories to tell you this
“Because, you see, it happened to me.”
Cannon then describes his personal circumstances: crummy apartment, bad graveyard-shift jobs which on nights off resulted in boredom:
“My brother suggested loop lines.
“He had learned of these from a computer bulletin board…
“The telephone company invented loops to serve some arcane testing purpose which
need not concern us here. The important point is that 99.9999% of the time the lines
lie dormant—officially. Unofficially, they’re a phreak phantasia. Imagine phone lines
connected to no telephone, lines that ‘float’ somewhere in the central office of the
Telco (if you’ll forgive the lapse into phreak-speak). Loops come in matched pairs,
and the numbers usually occur in the upper strata of an exchange. Thus, if you dial
(212) XXX-9977, you’ll speak to whoever might be waiting on (212) XXX-9978.
“Why do this? Basically, it’s networking for nerds: The loops serve as a sort of
lonely-heart’s club, whereby individuals in widely separated cities can compare notes
in the safety of telephonic anonymity. Occasionally, opposite-sex phreaks loop into
each other, resulting in long-distance romances…by using loops one could ‘avoid long-
distance charges.’ In other words: free calls. Phreak samsara…
“Then I heard The Voice.
“Actually, The Voice was preceded by The Tone, a subtle electric buzz somewhat
akin to the sound you hear when you hold a seashell to your ear. This faded away,
gradually replaced by a young, male Voice reading numbers.
“As I recall, the numbers never dipped below 20 or above 60. The Voice did not
acknowledge anything I said to it. Was it a machine? Perhaps—although this was no
simple tape loop. Every so often, the voice would interrupt its strange soliloquy and
shout: ‘Wake up out there!’
“Then more numbers. (Keel’s informants recall the statement as ‘Wake up down
there!’ Since I never achieved a clear-as-a-bell connection, I suppose either reading
“More rarely, I heard gibberish sessions—the odd, sped-up instructions in a
strangely familiar foreign language…
“I had to know what was going on.
“Thereafter, whenever the gods of loopdom connected me with a seasoned phone
phreak, I would inquire about the ‘Number-Man.’ After all, the Telco used loops to
test new exchanges; wasn’t it possible that these strange monologues constituted
some part of the test?
“Negative, the experts told me…
“Had other phreaks also heard these strange messages? A few had. They were just
as puzzled as I. Moreover, the telephone company couldn’t provide any official
explanation—it doesn’t even like to admit that loop lines exist. So if anyone was
going to solve the enigma, it had to be me.”
At this point, Cannon manages to tape-record the Number Man, producing a “greatest hits” cassette that unfortunately no longer exists. This admission, from so staunch an investigator, is hard for me to take–I would have copied the cassette, sealed the original, and locked it away in a safe-deposit box. Events turned yet more mysterious:
“One night shortly thereafter, following a few unsuccessful encounters with my
numerically-obsessed nemesis, I looped into someone even more interesting—who,
I now suspect, may also have played a role in this enigmatic drama. Her name was
Joanne, and her voice was so agonizingly sexy I felt tempted to propose to her the
moment she whispered my name.”
Joanne claimed to be a stripper living in Montreal, and turned up the flame yet more by telling Cannon she wanted to meet with him. After more back-and-forth, Joanne told him she knew he was better and smarter than the men she encountered as a stripper. To his credit, Cannon admits alarms were ringing in the back of his lonely mind, validated when the too-good-to-be-true woman asked him to write a letter describing everything about his life. She provided an address. But Cannon, wisely, never took the next step:
“Nearly a decade later, Joanne’s (admittedly delightful) intrusion strikes me as
deeply mystifying. Was she really just a lonely ecdysiast? Perhaps—but there was
something oddly theatrical about the episode, which seemed designed to fulfill every
aspect of a lonely-guy’s most outlandish fantasy. Joanne was too good. Was I really
so charming a fellow that this pretty young thing felt compelled to meet me after I
had burped out no more than a hazy half-sentence or two?
“One thing’s for sure: She almost received a great deal of information about me.
“Maybe that was the point…
“And yet: I don’t think the answer lies with UFOs. I think we’re dealing with spies.”
I had never heard the Spy Theory before reading it in Cannon’s evocative article, but the more I thought about it the more sensible the notion became.
Cannon goes on to mention William Poundstone’s book Big Secrets, wherein the author wonders whether the number-reading and sped-up voices might be codes used by drug-runners. Poundstone later reported, on tabloid TV program Eye on L.A., how some victimized short-wave enthusiasts had “triangulated the broadcasts to their most probable origin point: The state of Virginia. Which pretty much gives the game away.”
Cannon continues by explaining that the rapid-fire voices might be “screech” broadcasts–sped-up in order to guarantee incomprehensibility if intercepted by the wrong ears. The message is decoded by recording it, and replaying at a slower speed. Cannon wonders whether the flirtatious woman he spoke with might have been a ploy to ferret out useful intelligence from someone who had inadvertently discovered the operation.
The article so far has done a superb job of laying down reasonable “explanations” for the enigma, except for coming to grips with an annoying fact: the apparent randomness of the telephone calls. Cannon thinks some of these might be used to induce telephonic trance, something many researchers in hypnosis do not take seriously. These researchers are wrong.
Released CIA documents from projects ARTICHOKE, BLUEBIRD, MKULTRA–the obscure paper-trail of the mind-controllers–tell a different story (findable in Bowart’s aforementioned Operation Mind Control). One document “unequivocally asserts that telephonic induction of a deep hypnotic trance was successfully tested in the early 1950s.” Cannon notes that John Keel, in The Mothman Prophecies, Operation Trojan Horse and others (probably he meant The Eighth Tower), strongly affirms that “selected” UFO witnesses seem to be affected by some form of posthypnotic suggestion.
This is a troubling thread weaving through Ufology, and even what appear to be “prosaic” phenomena such as hauntings and poltergeist reports, to say nothing of documented official projects to create mind-controlled “sleeper” agents and assassins.
From all accounts, sometimes our minds actually are not our own….