In the annals of military history, tales of strategic brilliance and unconventional tactics abound. Yet, hidden among the chronicles of epic battles and covert operations are instances where warfare collided with the mystical and the paranormal. This article delves into ten remarkable episodes where military endeavors sought to harness the power of magic and the supernatural to achieve their objectives. From illusions and misdirection to quests for ancient relics, these stories offer a unique perspective on the intersection of warfare and the unexplained. Join us as we unravel the intriguing narratives of “Top 10 Times Magic & Supernatural Were Employed in Warfare.”
10Soviet Psychokinesis: Cold War Mind Power
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union embarked on a highly unconventional quest to explore psychokinesis, a phenomenon believed to involve influencing physical objects or events through the power of the mind. This unique endeavor led to the establishment of the Institute for Brain Research at Leningrad State University, where researchers and scientists delved into the possibilities of harnessing psychokinesis for military applications. Their primary aim was to train soldiers in the art of psychokinesis, envisioning these soldiers as potential defenders against the threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The idea was to use their psychic abilities to deflect incoming ICBMs, potentially offering a cost-effective alternative to traditional missile defense systems. Despite the intrigue surrounding psychokinesis, the Soviet experiment yielded limited practical value and eventually became a curious relic of the Cold War era’s exploration of the supernatural.
The Soviet Union’s interest in psychokinesis traces back to the 1920s, driven in part by the belief that telepathy and psychokinesis could offer more economical communication methods than traditional radio equipment. While the project may have captured the imagination of both military and scientific circles, it ultimately failed to yield substantial results.
9Houdini: The Magician Who Spied
While there are no official records to confirm his espionage activities, the legendary magician Harry Houdini is rumored to have dabbled in the world of espionage, offering his unique talents and cover as a magician to assist law enforcement agencies. The idea that the world’s most famous escape artist may have moonlighted as a spy has captured the imagination of many. A biography published in 2006, claiming to be based on over 700,000 pages of collected information, suggests that Houdini worked closely with British spy William Melville, who served at Scotland Yard during the same period when Houdini allegedly aided them. According to this account, Houdini traveled the world under the guise of his magic performances to collect secret information for both British and American law enforcement agencies.
While the exact extent of his involvement remains uncertain, the concept of a world-renowned magician utilizing their act as a cover for espionage missions is nothing short of extraordinary. Although no concrete evidence supports Houdini’s spy activities, the story of his involvement in the world of espionage persists as a captivating tale, showcasing the blurred lines between illusion and reality during a time when governments and law enforcement agencies were willing to explore unconventional avenues to gain an advantage.
8Voodoo vs. Cartels: Unconventional War Tactics
The war on drugs along the US-Mexico border has been marred by extreme violence and unorthodox methods in its battle against drug cartels. In 2010, Mexican officials, desperate to counter the brutal cartels and protect their law enforcement officers, turned to a highly unconventional source for assistance: voodoo. The concept of incorporating voodoo into law enforcement tactics might sound extraordinary, but the circumstances were dire, and officials were willing to explore any available means.
As part of their effort to harness voodoo magic, priests conducted ritualistic animal sacrifices, particularly the killing of chickens, under the light of a full moon. The blood of these animals was then smeared on police officers as a form of protection spell. This approach aimed to instill a sense of safety among the officers in the face of grave danger. Some officers claimed that the voodoo rituals were effective, emphasizing that while conventional tools like guns and body armor might fall short, faith in the protective power of these rituals remained unshaken.
7Robert-Houdin: Magic vs. Revolt
Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, a renowned illusionist and magician of his time, played an extraordinary role in history when he was called upon by Napoleon III in 1856 to help quell a potentially dangerous revolt in French Algeria. Robert-Houdin’s influence on the world of magic was so profound that he even inspired the famous escape artist Harry Houdini, who adopted his stage name as a tribute to the magician. At the time, French-occupied Algeria faced a challenge from a group known as the Marabouts. These individuals claimed to possess magical powers and employed flashy displays of illusion and trickery to influence the local population and incite revolt against French rule. Recognizing the power of magic in swaying the minds of the people, Napoleon III decided to employ a unique strategy.
Robert-Houdin was dispatched to Algeria with a clear mission: to use his remarkable magical talents to perform and astound the locals. It was ensured that the very Marabouts who were contemplating rebellion would be in attendance to witness the incredible feats of the “French wizard.” By captivating the audience with his magic tricks and illusions, Robert-Houdin effectively undermined the influence of the Marabouts and helped suppress the brewing revolt.
6Nazi Quest for the Holy Grail
The notion of Nazi Germany’s obsession with the supernatural and the occult has been a topic of fascination and intrigue for many, partly fueled by pop culture references such as Indiana Jones movies. It’s intriguing to consider that, to some extent, these references were rooted in reality. Specifically, the Nazis did embark on a quest for various religious artifacts, including the legendary Holy Grail. Heinrich Himmler, the notorious head of the SS and one of the most influential figures within the Nazi regime, was a strong advocate for this endeavor. Himmler believed, along with many high-ranking Nazis, that Jesus Christ was not of Jewish descent but was Aryan. Consequently, he considered the Holy Grail to be a source of immense power, something that, if found, could transform him into a supernatural being and potentially lead Nazi Germany to victory in the war.
In their quest for the Holy Grail, the Nazis believed they had traced its location to an abbey in Spain. This curious conviction was based on the loose interpretation of an ancient folk song that vaguely alluded to the existence of a life-giving cup. The search for the Grail led Himmler and the Nazis to embark on an entirely fruitless endeavor. While the existence of the Holy Grail itself remains a matter of historical debate, the fact that high-ranking Nazi officials devoted resources and energy to this quest is a testament to the extent of their ideological fervor and their willingness to explore supernatural avenues in their pursuit of power.
5Stargate Project: Psychic Spies
The mere mention of the “Stargate Project” might invoke images of interstellar travel and science fiction adventures akin to the popular film and television series of the same name. However, the actual purpose of the Stargate Project during the Cold War era was far from what its name might suggest. This project, particularly in the context of the United States, primarily centered around a phenomenon known as “remote viewing.” Remote viewing is a concept that revolves around the idea of seeing distant or hidden targets using only the power of the human mind. The Stargate Project was one of the key vehicles through which the US government explored the potential of remote viewing during the latter stages of the Cold War. Remarkably, the project received substantial funding, with the Pentagon allocating over $20 million for its activities.
Colonel John Alexander, who had served in the Special Forces during the Vietnam War, played a pivotal role in championing the cause of remote viewing. His persistence and dedication were key factors in convincing the US government to take this project seriously and invest taxpayer dollars in its research. While remote viewing might not have fulfilled the grand expectations of interstellar travel, it remains a unique chapter in the annals of military and government experimentation with the supernatural and paranormal.
4Maskelyne’s Suez Canal Illusion
Jasper Maskelyne’s exploits during World War II are the stuff of legend, so much so that his story has been ripe for adaptation into a film. In fact, a movie called “The War Magician” was inspired by his biography. One of the most remarkable aspects of Maskelyne’s contributions to the war effort was his involvement in the Camouflage Project, a mission of strategic deception. The Camouflage Project, as the name suggests, aimed to deceive and mislead the enemy, particularly German bombers, during World War II. The most daunting challenge within this project was to hide the strategically vital Suez Canal from aerial reconnaissance, a task not akin to hiding a mere object but rather a crucial waterway of immense significance.
Maskelyne, who joined the Royal Engineers in 1940, was instrumental in this endeavor. He used a unique contraption known as “dazzle lights” to create the illusion of the Suez Canal’s disappearance. These lights rotated, forming blinding cone-shaped patterns that spanned miles. The purpose of this optical trickery was to make it nearly impossible for German bombers to identify the canal from the air. The audacious tactics of Maskelyne and his team proved to be effective in confusing the enemy, providing an edge for the Allies during the war. The use of magic and illusion in a military context, such as hiding a vital waterway, is a striking example of how unconventional thinking and the talents of individuals like Maskelyne played a significant role in the larger theater of war. It’s a testament to the power of misdirection, creativity, and ingenuity during a time when deception and strategy were paramount.
3Britain’s Psychic Soldiers
In 2002, the British Ministry of Defense delved into the realm of the supernatural in a quest to explore whether soldiers could be trained as psychics. This unique endeavor arose in response to the changing global security landscape after the 9/11 attacks and the rise of Osama Bin Laden as a primary threat to global security. The Ministry’s goal was to investigate whether individuals with psychic abilities could be used to locate weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or even track down Osama Bin Laden. This curious exploration was carried out as part of a broader effort to seek innovative solutions in the face of new security challenges.
Initially, the Ministry attempted to hire “real” psychics to participate in these tests. However, these purported psychics declined the offer, leaving the Ministry to look elsewhere for participants. Ordinary individuals took advantage of the opportunity, hoping to earn easy money by participating in the research. The results were as one might expect: the participants, whether self-proclaimed psychics or not, demonstrated no more psychic ability than a common household object like a rusty doorknob. The attempt to create psychic soldiers to serve the cause of national security ultimately proved to be a fruitless pursuit.
2WWII Astrology: Fake Horoscopes
World War II was a time of immense pressure and unconventional strategies, and the notion of employing magical deception was not beyond consideration. With the backdrop of an ever-escalating conflict and Adolf Hitler’s obsession with the occult and astrological beliefs, the British were acutely aware of the power that these supernatural concepts held over the Nazi regime. To counter the influence of astrology and deceive the Nazis, the British sought the services of an astrologer named Louis de Wohl. His mission was to create false horoscopes with the intention of confusing the Nazi leadership and gaining insights into their thought processes. This ingenious stratagem was part of a broader effort to disrupt the enemy’s strategies and sow discord among the ranks.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill, recognizing the potential impact of this endeavor, even sent de Wohl to the United States with the aim of convincing the Americans to join the war effort. However, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, de Wohl’s services were rendered unnecessary, as the U.S. had now officially entered the war. Declassified documents from this era reveal that the British intelligence agency, MI5, eventually realized the astrologer was essentially “making things up.” Ironically, the British had hired de Wohl to do precisely that—create fabricated horoscopes. The fact that it took them some time to discern the veracity of his efforts adds an intriguing layer to this historical anecdote, illustrating the unpredictable and sometimes bizarre nature of wartime strategies and their engagement with the supernatural.
1John Mulholland’s CIA Deception Manual
During the Cold War, the CIA, known for its unconventional and often mysterious methods, embarked on an extraordinary mission. The agency enlisted the expertise of a professional illusionist, John Mulholland, to compile an official manual, aptly named “The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception.” Mulholland’s expertise lay in the world of magic, and his task was to teach CIA operatives the art of sleight of hand and misdirection, skills he had honed in his captivating shows. This unorthodox manual provided CIA agents with a range of techniques that extended beyond traditional espionage tactics. It delved into the realms of misdirection, secret compartments, and even seemingly innocuous signals like the way a shoe was tied. The aim was not to captivate audiences with awe and applause but to employ these techniques for more clandestine purposes, such as discreetly drugging individuals by slipping substances into their drinks.
This intriguing episode in the history of the CIA underscores the agency’s willingness to explore unconventional methods to achieve its goals, even if that meant turning to the expertise of an illusionist. It serves as a reminder of the creative and sometimes audacious strategies employed during the Cold War era, where deception and misdirection were part of the broader toolkit of intelligence agencies in their efforts to outwit adversaries.