#5. The Stargate Project
Sadly having nothing to do with fighting aliens who pretend to be Egyptian gods, the Stargate Project was the CIA's way of saying goodbye to $20 million, but getting a fun story to tell the grandkids as a result. The project was an effort to discover if psychic remote viewing was real, because if it was then that would make spying a whole lot easier.
Apparently the Commies were spending a lot of money on paranormal research during the Cold War. So if they were doing it, the CIA wanted a slice too, before the Reds whipped out some dude who could kill the President with his mind. They started the Stargate project in the '70s with a crack team of gifted psychics provided by the Church of Scientology. Seriously.
What went wrong:
They realized right away there probably wasn't anything to the whole psychic/remote viewing thing. And by "right away" we mean 25 years later. The project lasted until 1995.
Research into the project's validity concluded that while the remote viewers could get some details right, they were also doing a stellar job of getting a shitload wrong. In fact, many say the results were exactly the same as having a group of random hobos make wild guesses, and that you could just as accurately uncover enemy hideouts by having a camel spit at a wall map.
Hey, did we mention that we spent $20 million to find that out? Don't feel bad, the Soviets spent 500 million rubles to find out the same thing.
#4. The Gay Bomb
In terms of great military plans, from the first ape-man who threw a rock at some other asshole ape and likely stretching into our Jetsons-like future with lasers and nanobots that will melt the faces of those who displease us, nothing is likely to ever top the Gay Bomb. The Gay Bomb is exactly what it sounds like; a weapon that would rend our enemies asunder with gay. Actual, weaponized gay.
Wright Laboratory in Ohio proposed a number of non-lethal weapons to the Pentagon, as methods of crowd control are highly in demand these days and tear gas is about as cool as hippie daisies and beaded curtains. Instead, why not bathe your targets in an aphrodisiac chemical so strong that it caused all the enemy combatants to line up for mustache rides?
So maybe it's not a room full of stoners coming up with these ideas, maybe it's a house full of frat guys.
What went wrong:
In concept, it's probably true that an enemy is less effective when engaged in a massive, frenzied man-orgy. However, science has not actually perfected a way to make this happen to just any group of males.
Apparently the "how" was not the job of the idea department here, as the same lab proposed other weapons that would make bugs and rodents attack enemies, give them bad breath or mark them with a stink so they couldn't hide in general population. Again, that's all fine and good, if and when ways of doing those things actually exists.
Despite that, the Pentagon kicked this idea around for at least seven years, perhaps based on nothing more than the private fantasy of one frustrated general.
#3. The Pain Ray
The Active Denial System, often referred to as the Pain Ray, is a futuristic sounding way of making sure someone is about to have a really terrible day or improperly cooked microwave burritos. Designed as a method of crowd control, the ADS does just what the nickname suggests, it causes pain. At a distance!
In certain situations, it seems the military doesn't want its own people getting too close to the danger, but at the same time doesn't want to start picking off rowdy crowds with a sniper hidden on some kind of grassy knoll because that makes for very bad press. So developing non-lethals that make people do what you want has recently become very popular.
Thus the Active Denial System is born, a long-range weapon that uses electromagnetic radiation at a high frequency and can be directed at targets close to 500 yards away. It causes the water molecules in a person's skin to get "excited," which is a pleasant way of saying it microwaves you. But not in a permanently damaging sort of way. Maybe.
What went wrong:
Nothing, yet. They've built the thing, and it works. The ADS was first developed over a decade ago and after many trials and tests, the US military seems to have a hankering to get them into Iraq very quickly.
A lack of research into long-term effects or prolonged exposure to the weapon have some people wondering if it's such a great idea, since probably no one has volunteered to have their eye microwaved yet to see what that's like, but meh. It's called the Pain Ray, not the Rainbow Shooter. That's what you get for not dispersing on your own, angry mob!
Another non-lethal method of crowd control and also a psychological weapon, malodorants, or stink bombs, are supposed to create a stink the likes of which you can't imagine. Worse than rotten meat, backed-up sewage or another trip to the dump with dad to find mom an anniversary present.
Military forces have been playing with this idea for decades. A number of smells have been patented, including the smell of human feces, which makes us think we probably owe a hell of a lot of royalties to someone every day at about 8AM. In the Second World War, some intrepid people invented the hilariously named Who Me? as a way to make Germans disperse as well as humiliate them by making them smell worse than people on the bus.
The US has something called US Government Standard Bathroom Malodor which is apparently so bad, people who have experienced it actually start screaming within seconds. Written accounts describe it as smelling like every bad smell you can think of, put together, times ten. Reports say it actually creates visible cartoon stink lines in the air. The military thinks that's as hilarious as we do and wants to throw it at people.
What went wrong:
Though the ideas are still being developed, the fact is, historically, they don't work out so well on account of you're going to end up smelling like unbelievable ass too. Back in WWII, Who Me? couldn't really be effectively used since it not only made the target stink, it made the bomber stink and the entire area where the bomb went off stink.
Stink is a fickle mistress, and obeys no master.
#1. Project Acoustic Kitty
When you think of spying, odds are you think of jamming a radio inside of a cat so it can listen in on stuff. And if you don't, you really need to have a good, long think about what kind of person you are. Anyway, in the '60s, the CIA hatched this idea to make a cat into a listening device and stick it to some dirty Commies.
The how and why of this project was probably torn up and shat on by whoever came up with it in an effort to save a shred of dignity, but nonetheless, what has survived is a plan to implant a battery and a microphone in a cat, with the antenna running up through its tail. They could let the cat loose and no one would be any the wiser of the mystery cat sitting nearby.
What went wrong:
Public transportation. It turns out, in a strange twist of logic, that once you put a battery, a microphone and an antenna inside a cat, it is not immune to taxis. So, after spending several millions of dollars and years in research, the CIA released their spy cat on its test run and a cab ran it over.
The project was then scrapped and no one spoke of it again.
If you liked that, you just might enjoy last week's article about 7 Insane Conspiracies That Actually Happened. Then go watch a smug 60 Minutes reporter get zapped with the Pain Ray. You know, for the sake of journalism.