PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., has had a long-standing interest in psychic phenomena and keeps tabs on the field through one of his government-paid researchers, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Pell, 69, told the Providence Sunday Journal that his 'main interest is to try and be a good senator' but he would 'probably spend more time with this' if not in the Senate.
Pell attended a national symposium on UFO abduction last year and his special assistant, C.B. Scott Jones, a former naval intelligence officer, researches such topics as telepathy, unconventional healing, near-death experiences and other psychic phenomena.
Jones retains a top secret security clearance and earns nearly $50,000 a year on the public payroll.
'The senator is concerned that qualified scientists have an equal opportunity to compete for research funding (into psychic phenomena),' Jones said, adding that scientific agencies have chosen not to underwrite such research.
'I've always been intellectually curious and I think these things should be examined,' said Pell, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
'I would like to see more emphasis made on developing human intuition and developing human potential because many times theories that seem ridiculous at the time produce greater areas of knowledge,' he said.
Pell also serves on the advisory board of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, and two years ago, helped organize a symposium in Washington on near-death experiences. He said he is curious about the subject because there 'appears to be some validity' to it.
Ray Hyman, a University of Oregon psychologist who recently evaluated the military applications of psychic research at the Army's behest, said Pell 'has been arguing very forcefully for our getting into something like a Manhattan Project-style effort to catch up with the Russians...'
Pell terms Hyman's assessment 'vastly exaggerated,' and said he favors a modest increase in financial support for 'intelligent, skeptical' research into psychic phenomena.
In 1987, Pell invited self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller to Washington, where he performed a demonstration before 30 congressional and Pentagon aides, and at least one other member of Congress.
The invitation came amid assertions by some that the Soviet Union is far more advanced in the field of paranormal research thant the United States.