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Phenomena

The Secret History of the U.S. Government's Investigations into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis
Narrated by: Annie Jacobsen
Length: 17 hrs and 30 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century
4.5 out of 5 stars (40 ratings)

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Summary

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 best seller Area 51.

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

For more than 40 years, the US government has researched extrasensory perception, using it in attempts to locate hostages, fugitives, secret bases, and downed fighter jets, to divine other nations' secrets, and even to predict future threats to national security. The intelligence agencies and military services involved include CIA, DIA, NSA, DEA, the Navy, Air Force, and Army - and even the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Now, for the first time, New York Times best-selling author Annie Jacobsen tells the story of these radical, controversial programs, using never before seen declassified documents as well as exclusive interviews with, and unprecedented access to, more than 50 of the individuals involved. Speaking on the record, many for the first time, are former CIA and Defense Department scientists, analysts, and program managers, as well as the government psychics themselves.

Who did the US government hire for these top secret programs, and how do they explain their military and intelligence work? How do scientists approach such enigmatic subject matter? What interested the government in these supposed powers and does the research continue? Phenomena is a riveting investigation into how far governments will go in the name of national security.

©2017 Annie Jacobsen (P)2017 Hachette Audio

Critic reviews

"As comprehensive as it is critical, this latest expose from Jacobsen is perhaps her most important work to date...Jacobsen persuasively shows that it in fact happened and aptly frames the dilemma...Rife with hypocrisy, lies, and deceit, Jacobsen's story explores a conveniently overlooked bit of history." ( Publishers Weekly, starred review)
"With Phenomena, Annie Jacobsen has once again produced an utterly absorbing and brilliantly reported chronicle that truly breaks new ground. This is a boundary-breaking story of mental phenomena - extra sensory perception techniques - that is truly a pleasure to read. A mind-bending triumph!" (Alex Kershaw, best-selling author of The Liberator and Avenue of Spies)
"Chilling, compelling, and comprehensive accounting...Jacobsen's impressive book plumbs the dark depths of this postwar recruiting and shows the historical truths behind the space race and postwar US dominance. Highly recommended for readers in World War II history, espionage, government cover-ups, or the Cold War." ( Library Journal, starred review)

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Bit Of A Curate's Egg

Or, good in parts, as the saying goes.

Firstly, credit should be given to the author for extensive research and illuminating an esoteric subject. The book is generally well written too.

But, there are a number of problems. In common with her other audiobooks where she is the narrator her pronunciation of many names, places and even some fairly common English words is mangled and ear - grating. I'm never sure what the cause of this is, but a little practise might help.

Then, there are some errors of fact which are obvious even while listening. Along with this and again in common with her other works is a fairly extensive padding of content. I would estimate that of the approximately 17 hours of this book a good 3 or 4 is content not pertinent to the subject of US government research into the topic.

My most serious criticism though is the way the author presents some material as fact when the incidents she described have been described differently in the literature or can easily be explained in another way.

For example, the Swann experiments at SRI were deemed to be the result of equipment malfunction at the time by some of the participants and this is not mentioned. Also, her image test with Geller is presented as inexplicable and yet can really be explained with a little thought. The idea that "nobody on earth has explained Geller's powers" is nonsense and indeed she seems to have been bamboozled by this character.

So, as I say good in parts.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Annie Jacobsen Is an outstanding narrator

Another amazing and super interesting book by the awesome Annie Jacobsen, she writes and narrates her own books which is a real treat:)

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Interesting material

I was familiar with much of this but it was very interesting to hear the origins of ESP studies. Well-researched.
However the narration was rather irritating, staccato and with continual mid-pronunciations of names and places. Almost made me give up or turn to the printed copy.

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  • Rulon
  • 07-06-18

Best non fiction book ever

I loved this book, it changed my sense of reality. It is thoroughly documented and assembled in a way that the reader can make sense of a complex history involving hundreds of people over a seventy year span.

I suspect that the author was very skeptical as she started putting the history into order, but eventually became overwhelmed by the evidence. She takes you along for the ride in a brilliant and beautifully written history. She made a believer out of me!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Max Casey
  • 20-07-18

Annie does it again

I really enjoyed this book. Annie Jacobsen seems to always deliver. It’s a long book but very well researched and a very interesting story.

2 people found this helpful

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  • RK
  • 11-06-17

Strong beginning and ending but sags in the middle

This was an interesting book and well researched but the anecdotal stories in the middle tend to drag on and become almost unbearably maudlin in parts. The strength of the book is in the beginning and end parts where the author talks about the post-war programs that were initiated by the government looking into these areas and the cold war aspects of the programs. It is fascinating how much money has been poured into these programs over the past few decades. The book really drags in the middle and there is far too much time spent on Uri Geller. Nothing really new is revealed but it takes up a significant chunk of the book and it appears that the author has become something of a fangirl of Uri. This story has been told over and over and the book would have benefited from a stronger editor.

The narration of this book was painful. The publisher really should have gotten someone other than the author to narrate. Dull monotone voice that required me to speed up the narration just to get through it. I might have enjoyed this more if they had a more dynamic narrator.

5 people found this helpful

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  • C K
  • 10-12-18

Superb

An insightful look at a complex topic. Well written and meticulously researched. Jacobsen maintains an objective stance throughout.

Well performed by the author.

4 people found this helpful

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  • philip
  • 18-05-17

Phenomenally mediocre narration of a good book

Any additional comments?

I have listened to 3 annie jacobsen books. I listen to well over a hundred books a yr. and have come to believe that the narration is as important as the information. I have struggled through very poor narrations that has made me want to give up or nod off to sleep, but struggled through to get the story. I have also discovered with few exceptions (Malcom Gladwell being the only one that readily comes to mind) that the author make the worst narrator. I loved all three stories in the Jacobsen books, but was very put off by her breathy pronunciation, badly acted and badly paced narration. I know I could never do better, but I have heard many professional narrators that can. Please get one. I almost stopped listening several times and I'm glad I didn't, but it was a struggle. I'll have to get any other books she does on Kindle and forgo the audible. The story was worth the pain, but please try out some other options. Love the story, the narration not so much.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Matty D
  • 12-03-20

This is our tax money at work

I love this book and Annie Jacobsen’s catalog in declassified government programs. I’m not reading this to shoot holes in theories or to credit/discredit the underlying research. What is interesting to me is how long and persistently our government ran these programs. That is our government at work. When I hear that old schools can’t get new books or dilapidated roads cannot be paved, I will think about how our government paid to strap a polygraph (lie detector) to a houseplant and then set the plant on fire to “read its thoughts.”

Jacobsen gives a well rounded portrait of the figures involved, revealing their beliefs and their apprehensions as the work proceeded. She does a great job of giving an honest, document/witness-based account of events, without coloring it with her own beliefs about the validity of the work. She only really gives her own opinions briefly at the end of the book, and I largely agree with her position.

What are we left with? More questions. As most government programs go, it grows and grows until it becomes impossible to tune out the signal from the noise. There are notable outcomes that defy all expectations and leave you wondering how to explain what happened, but it gets lost in the feuds and noise of people who are resistant to change their own thinking about the unexplainable.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Karen
  • 09-04-18

Fascinating

I recommend this read to anyone interested in paranormal phenomena.

The narration was ok, but please, authors, hire professional narration. It's the difference between ok and awesome.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Steven Ray Hill
  • 22-05-20

Very interesting!

No man or book can accurately predict the future other than the Holy Scriptures period.

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  • barbara a. luttrell
  • 27-04-20

fascinating,

very informative and in depth. you will want to listen to it several times. loved it.

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  • mike
  • 07-01-20

Great dive in to the ESP remote projects

Very well written and narrated. It also ties together alot of what i have read in the past on this subject. But places 0 bias on one way or another and very informative look in to the remote viewing projected funded by the US goverment.