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The Russian Woodpecker: experiments in global mind control?

In 1978, various US researchers argued that a signal originating from within the Soviet Union, the so-called Russian Woodpecker, was an experiment in global mind control. Thirty years on, what do we know?

Philip Coppens


The Duga-3 array outside Chernobyl

Before sentencing Ira Einhorn to life in prison in 2002, Judge William Mazzola called him an “intellectual dilettante who prayed on uninitiated, uninformed, unsuspecting, inexperienced people.” Judge Mazzola also berated Einhorn for mentioning psychotronics, a word he stated that was not in his dictionary and therefore did not exist.
Despite omissions from dictionaries – including Microsoft Word which continues to underline it in red – psychotronics is an interdisciplinary science concerned with the interactions of consciousness, energy fields and matter. There are thousands of references to it on the internet, and, especially, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) used the word in introducing “The Space Preservation Act of 2001” (H.R. 2977), on October 2, 2001, well before Mazzola’s judgment. Kucinich described “psychotronic” devices as weapons that were “directed at individual persons or targeted populations for the purpose of ... mood management, or mind control.” And whereas Mazzola seemed to think Einhorn had invented this “pseudo-science,” in truth, Einhorn was merely one of the first promoters of the potential dangers relatively new technology was posing to the nations of the Earth.
Writing in the Winter 1977/78 edition of CoEvolution Quarterly, Einhorn wrote about the exact synchronicity between the so-called Woodpecker’s shortwave pulses and naturally occurring alpha brainwave frequencies. In his article A Disturbing Communiqué, he advanced the opinion that the Russians were engaged in a sinister mind control experiment of Orwellian dimensions: they were sending out a specific “beam” across the Western world. Were they trying to brainwash the non-communist countries?
Posing the question was sufficient for “the Russian Woodpecker” to become associated with Einhorn. It was, for the Woodpecker, an unfortunate situation to be in, as soon, Einhorn would become the subject of a high-profile murder investigation. From the late 1970s onwards, the Woodpecker signal was thus primarily used to “prove” that Einhorn was largely “an intellectual dilettante;” research into the signal itself became marginalised.

Beam it out, Russkis

Chernobyl, after the explosion

The Russian Woodpecker was a Soviet signal that could be heard on the shortwave radio bands worldwide between July 1976 and December 1989 – the latter date marking the collapse of the communist regime in the Soviet Union. It sounded like a sharp, repetitive tapping noise – giving rise to the “Woodpecker” name. The signal could be replicated by tapping a pencil on a table between eight and fourteen times each second.
The random frequency was heard on disrupted legitimate broadcast, amateur radio, and utility transmissions and resulted in thousands of complaints by countries worldwide to Moscow. The complaints were however non-specific: it seemed that whatever the Russians were doing, was interfering with “business as usual” in the West, and could the Russians please rectify the problem. The answer was “njet,” but also invited another question: what was the signal?

Today, it is known that the signal came from the Duga-3 system, which was officially part of the Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missiles early-warning network, also known as an over-the-horizon radar (OTH) system and it is this that the Soviet Union post 1989 gave as the official explanation. In principle, it therefore seemed to be a mundane cause and purpose, tied in with the Soviet’s defence system and not with a global mind control technology.
However, though Einhorn’s name has become mostly associated with the conspiracy theories of the Russian Woodpecker, he was not the first to put these thoughts to paper. In The Zapping of America, published in 1977, Paul Brodeur wrote that “a report published in The New York Times on October 30, 1976, revealed that in recent months a mysterious broadband, short-wave radio signal had been broadcast intermittently from the Soviet Union. The signal was so powerful that it disrupted radio and telecommunications through the world […] Dr Zaret is concerned about the Russian signal […] because of its potential hazard to human beings […] It was very clear that such an encoding impressed onto carrier wave-lengths could have a central-nervous-system effect.” Dr Milton Zaret had previously been retained to investigate the so-called “Moscow signal,” in which the US Embassy in Moscow was found to be subjected to a microwave beam by Soviet authorities.

Today, most researchers tackling the Woodpecker refer to Einhorn’s article, and not to Brodeur’s book. Even though Mazzola argued Einhorn often tried to pass himself off as a legitimate scientist, when he was not, Einhorn seldom if ever made unsupported allegations. In this instance, he was not merely agreeing with Brodeur, but was also supported by his good friend and former military intelligence officer Lt. Colonel Thomas Bearden, USAF (Ret.), who – in retrospect correctly – claimed this signal emanated from the Soviet Union and had been traced to an installation in the cities of Riga and Gomel – near Chernobyl. He added that it was emanating from a “Tesla Generator” and even claimed that the signal was responsible for weather modification wars covertly waged upon an unsuspecting United States citizenry by the wily and unscrupulous Russians. Specifically, he held the machine to be responsible for a drought in the western states, which ostensibly caused severe effects on farming and the economy in 1976. As far as “conspiracy theories” go, Bearden’s went beyond the scope of Einhorn’s.

A new type of warfare

Allen Dulles

Since that time, a whole list of Ph.Ds has added their support for such conclusions. David Brinkley testified about the Woodpecker signal on NBC Magazine, broadcast on July 18, 1981. Dr. Andrew Michrowski, Technologies Specialist with the Canadian Department of State, and President of the Planetary Association for Clean Energy (PACE), wrote that the signal was “from a number of Tesla-type transmitters” and that the “U.S.S.R. signals have been assessed by the Environmental Protection Agency […] to be psychoactive.” Dr. Robert Beck measured the Woodpecker signal, concluding: “We found the Soviet signal coming in like gangbusters […] right in the window of human psychoactivity.”
Alas, the true purpose of the Woodpecker remains the subject of speculation, largely because in the public mind, it is “merely” tied to a single allegation of a convicted murderer. But even if that were the case, what few have realised, is that Einhorn at least to some extent has been proven right.

In April 1953, CIA Allen Dulles gave a lecture at Princeton University, detailing Soviet developments in the field of mind control. He stated they were out to control the mind of free men, both individually and collectively. He argued that brainwashing had effectively enabled the Soviets to tamper with the mind until it became “a phonograph playing a disk put on its spindle by an outside genius over which it has no control.” With this control now in place, Dulles proclaimed that the Cold War was moving into a new era of psychological warfare, which Dulles characterised as the battle for men’s minds. “We might call it in its new form brain warfare.” His sentiments were echoed in 1955, when KGB chief Lavrenti Beria, Dulles’ Soviet counterpart, stated that “There will never be an atomic war, for Russia will have subjected all of her enemies.”
In the 1970s, some of this “secret war for our mind” was exposed in a number of Congressional enquiries, but most commentators seem to believe, or accept, that everything stopped, and largely that – from the little information that had not been destroyed prior to the investigation began – it had been unsuccessful. Though the latter might have been the case in the mid 1970s, it is definitely clear that it did not end.

Mind control in a small box

In 1984, Dr. Ross Adey, chief of research at the Pettis Memorial Veterans Hospital in Loma Linda, California, obtained from Soviet colleagues what is known as “a mini-Woodpecker transmitter”, labelled the LIDA, and apparently developed by Lev Rabichev and his colleagues in Soviet Armenia (see patent information). The LIDA operated on a frequency of 40 MHz and bombarded the brain with low frequency radio waves. It was used experimentally by the Russians as “a replacement for tranquilizers and their unwanted side effects.” The pulsed radio waves were said to “stimulate the brain’s own electromagnetic current and produce a trance-like state.”
Adey had obtained a copy of the Russian-language manual describing use of the mini-Woodpecker, which said that it was a “distant pulse treatment apparatus” for psychological problems, including sleeplessness, hypertension, and neurotic disturbances. Interestingly, when the Associated Press reported on Adey’s scoop, it concluded that “the LIDA may have been the forerunner of a device that is presently bombarding Europe and the United States with very powerful waves.” An interesting conclusion, and a direct reference to the “big” Woodpecker.

LIDA had not been approved for use with humans in the US, though it was known that the Russians had done so since at least 1960, according to Adey. This meant that they had ample time to build a bigger version. Officially unable to test it on humans, Adey said he had put a cat in a box and turned on the LIDA: “Within a matter of two or three minutes it is sitting there very quietly [...] it stays almost as though it were transfixed,” he said. That would definitely qualify LIDA as a behaviour modification device – mind control.
It is not the only interesting detail that resulted from this study. “The Soviets included a picture with the device that showed an entire auditorium full of people asleep with the LIDA on the podium. The LIDA put out an electric field, a magnetic field, light, heat, and sound.” And: “The purported purpose of the LIDA was for medical treatments; however, the North Koreans used it as a brain washing device during the Korean War. The big question is: what did they do with the technology? It could have been improved and/or made smaller. It is unlikely that they abandoned something that worked.”

This is powerful confirmation that LIDA, the “mini-Woodpecker”, was able to be used on a semi-large scale (an auditorium), and had been used for brainwashing. This nefarious purpose was confirmed when Adey was testing the LIDA and an electrician was walking by and asked him where he got the “North Korean brain washing machine” from. Ross told him that it was a Russian medical device. The man said he had been brainwashed by a device like that when he was in a POW camp. Byrd said that they “placed the vertical plates alongside his head and read questions and answers to him. He said he felt like he was in a dream. Later when the Red Cross came and asked questions, he responded with what had been read to him while under the influence of the device. He said he seemed to have no control over the answers.”

A CIA-sanctioned mind control study

The story becomes even more interesting when it is noted that Dr. Adey’s work with the LIDA machine was funded by none other than Dr. Eldon Byrd, neuro-electromagnetic researcher, under contract to the US Navy. Byrd stated that “The LIDA machine was made in the 1950’s by the Soviets. The CIA purchased one through a Canadian front for Dr. Ross Adey, but didn’t give him any funds to evaluate it. I provided those funds from my project in 1981, and he determined that the LIDA would put rabbits into a stupor at a distance and make cats go into REM.” This immediately reveals the role of the CIA in its acquisition, who, via a series of fronts, distanced themselves from the actual operation and testing of the tool – plausible deniability. We note that these experiments occurred in the 1980s, post the 1970 Congressional hearings, when allegedly such research had been stopped.
In private correspondence, Einhorn told me that his friend Andrija Puharich, who very much like Adey intermittently worked for the CIA in the same field, “built a small version of the device and tested it, with permission on the inner group – mind control effects were produced […] and he tested it, without permission, in crowded buzzing restaurants. Result: there was a rapid diminution of the buzz, which returned as soon as the machine was turned off.”
Whereas the CIA were officially asking what had happened to the device since the 1950s, and noting that the Soviets could have miniaturised it since, another question could be whether they had rolled it out on a grander scale. And it is definitely a curious coincidence that a similar signal was indeed beamed out by the Russians, and heard practically all over the Western world.

As to the allegation that the Russians had used some of Nikola Tesla’s innovative technologies to accomplish such a goal, Dr. Gordon McDonald of Dartmouth College, an internationally known geophysicists and astrophysicist, had “outlined a concept in which enhanced electrical oscillations in the earth’s atmosphere might be used to impair human brains […] He said research indicates that weak oscillating electrical fields can influence the brain causing small but measurable reduction in a person’s performance […] Lightning research has shown that it might be possible to control lightning to create such low frequency oscillations in the ionosphere.”
In short, by 1984, the CIA was fully aware of the possibility to apply “the Woodpecker” on an individual or global scale. And it must have left some CIA employees to query whether this wasn’t indeed the true purpose of the Russian Woodpecker. Indeed, according to Ira Einhorn, who had infrequent contacts with the world of American intelligence, even by the late 1970s, there was unconfirmed speculation that the Woodpecker was more than it seemed and used for precisely that purpose.

A blueprint for global mind control?

The all-important question is why the Soviets would want to beam a brain-washing signal to the West. Apart from the obvious and logical answer, it was Walter Bowart, who in his revised and updated edition of his classic Operation Mind Control tackled a then emerging trend: the move away from traditional means of warfare, to non-lethal warfare, in which technologies such as ELF waves, microwaves and other forms of electromagnetic manipulation were the new rage. It was, of course, a trend that Allen Dulles had predicted. Dr. Andrew Michrowski focused on this area too, at the time stating that “The Soviets are on the verge of a break-through into a new weapons technology that will make missiles and bombers obsolete. […] They could induce panic or illness into whole nations.” In short, Dulles’ 1953 prediction by the late 1970s seemed to have been realised.

Indeed, Adey’s toying with LIDA or the Russians building a giant LIDA near Chernobyl are not one-offs. Since the 1984 report about his involvement with LIDA, Dr Ross Adey’s name has become more firmly linked with “mind control experiments”. Unsurprisingly, the work he performed largely coincides with the work he did on LIDA: researching specific behaviour modifications by electromagnetic means, as well as inducing calcium efflux events to interfere with brain function – the so-called “confusion weaponry.”
In 1976, Time Magazine reported that Washington had known for some 15 years that its Moscow Embassy had been bombarded with microwaves. The purpose was to jam the sophisticated electronic monitoring devices inside and on the roof of the building. But the State Department decided to launch a medical investigation of the thousands of US diplomats and their families who served in Moscow since the early 1960s. In the wake of the microwave disclosures, former embassy employees and their families recalled suffering strange ailments during their tenure in Moscow, ranging from eye tics and headaches to heavy menstrual flows. Some pointed out that former ambassadors to Moscow Charles Bohlen and Llewellyn Thompson both died of cancer, though an official link between the cancer and the microwave bombardments was never confirmed.

The end of an era

Ira Einhorn

At the end of the Cold War, the signal was turned off, and NATO accepted the official Soviet explanation, that the signal had been an unfortunate by-product of Russia’s ABM system. There are possibly good reasons why the US, whether in 1989 or 1978, when Einhorn made his allegations, wanted to keep the controversy low-key. Jerry Smith has argued that “in 1977, the US government sold the Soviets a supermagnet knowing that it was going to become part of the Woodpecker program. This magnet was a 40-ton monster capable of generating a magnetic field 250,000 times more powerful than that of the earth’s magnetic field. […] The United States not only knew what it was for, they sent a team of scientists to help the Russians install it.” The team installed the magnet at the Gomel site, which was near and powered by the Chernobyl reactor, which in 1986 became the focus of a nuclear tragedy. There has been speculation whether the highly unlikely scenario of this tragedy (blamed, as usual, on bad design and maintenance) might have been linked to the nearby Woodpecker; so far, nothing beyond speculation has been put forward.

The big question, today, is not whether the Russian Woodpecker could have been. Today, it is no longer a question whether the Woodpeckers would have been able to, or whether Einhorn’s claims were outrageous – or dead right. Today, the question is whether the Woodpecker was coincidentally a signal that corresponded with known brainwashing frequencies, or whether it was purposefully designed as a brainwashing wave. In this scenario, allegations by Dr. Andrew Michrowski that “The Soviets are on the verge of a break-through into a new weapons technology that will make missiles and bombers obsolete. […] They could induce panic or illness into whole nations” are more than intriguing scenarios to ponder.
Should anyone dare to subject the history of the Western world between 1976 and 1989 to an analysis, might they find potential incidents in which “panic or illness” changed the course of history? Probably the biggest question to ponder is this: noting the allegation made by several qualified scientists that missiles and bombers would soon be obsolete, is it a chronological coincidence that the end of the Cold War occurred when more and more discussion about the Woodpecker began to appear in the Western media? Is it a coincidence that once the Cold War ended, the signal was turned off? Was it no longer necessary? The unthinkable question is whether the Woodpecker was indeed a form of “non-lethal warfare” that literally “eased Western minds” – zapped them with smoothing waves – into believing – or accepting – that there was no such thing as a Communist threat – paving the way for the end of the Cold War.

Scattered thinking

The question is so big, it will never receive a satisfactory answer. Some, including Judge Mazzola, will state that it is unscientific to even pose the very question. But interestingly, Francis Crick’s book The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, published in 1994, mapped Crick’s foray into the “Neural Correlates of Consciousness” (NCC), an approach which suggests that consciousness is operated from a neuronal level – and that tinkering with neurons will therefore bring changes to consciousness.
Crick, coincidentally the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, stated that the 40 Mhz wave was instrumental in our perception of reality. Most NCC studies – and hence experiments – focus on vision as a means of manipulating the perception of time and space. Though ideal for laboratory experiments, in the shadowy regions in which intelligence agencies operate, where NCC was not studied for purely scientific advances but for military applications, sound would obviously have been a more preferable method: sound travels further and easier than visual displays, which require line of sight. And that the Woodpecker travelled far and strong, was in evidence when most of the Western world complained about it to the Soviets.

Whether coincidence or design, whether it deliberately, accidentally or not all modified our brain, are questions that will forever hang over the Woodpecker. In the field of electronic harassment, whether the Moscow or Woodpecker signal, the US government has shown a general unwillingness to openly investigate. But it is clear that the Woodpecker was not the lone delusion of Ira Einhorn, but widely supported by all of those who investigated the signal and/or had inroads into the world of American intelligence. In the end, the importance of the Russian Woodpecker is that even if it wasn’t, all the information is there to realise it could have been. And that, in itself, is intriguing enough. And begs the question why all of the above, is not better known.

Further reading

Dominic Streatfeild: Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control
Jerry E. Smith: HAARP: The Ultimate Weapon of the Conspiracy
T.E. Bearden: The Solution to Tesla's Secrets and the Soviet Tesla Weapons/Reference Articles for Solution to Tesla's Secrets
Paul Brodeur: The Zapping of America: Microwaves, Their Deadly Risk, and the Coverup

This article appeared in Paranoia Magazine, Issue 48 (Fall 2008).