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Monday, 29 July 2013 10:53

Celebrating 25Years: A Spotlight on Founder Chris Gugas and the Beginning of the National Polygraph Association

In the world of polygraph the name Christ Gugas is far from unknown. His work and contributions in the field will always be remembered and highly regarded. In honor of his life and the 25 anniversary of the National Polygraph Association this article will explore his life, his work, and his legacy to the art and science of polygraph examination.

The American Polygraph Association is a nationally recognized polygraph organization. Christ Gugas Sr., renowned polygraph examiner, served as the association’s president before his passing in October of 2007. Chris Gugas was a strong advocate for both the need as well as the accuracy of polygraph examination and claimed, “It is the closest thing we have to determining the truth”.

Gugas was born August 12, 1921, in Omaha, Nebraska into a predominantly Greek family. He married in 1942 and two sons, Steven E. Gugas of Ventura and Chris Gugas Jr. of Raleigh, N.C.; as well as a daughter, Carol Hawker of Warrenton, Va, later joined the couple. Both his heritage and birthplace later served as ground for his career history working with the CIA in both Greece as well as Turkey in addition to serving as public safety director for Omaha in the early to mid-1960s. However his first experience with the world of polygraph was administered through the Marine Corps, who used his intelligence during his enlistment in the throes of World War II. After that he was committed to learn all he could about the examination that he claimed was “"part science, part art”.

Gugas went on to ultimately pen his own novel entitled The Silent Witness which was held in high esteem, and was found “worthy of a Master of Arts Degree” from the University of Beverly Hills.

His career listings continue on as assistant director of security for the Los Angeles Board of Education and also aided the Burbank Police Department through administering various polygraph examinations. In time Gugas eventually created his own firm, Dr. Chris Gugas Polygraph. He served as an examiner and worked with attorneys, psychiatrists, marriage counselors, doctors and the media. Some of Gugas’ most famous cases placed him right into the center of the media’s spotlight including James Earl Ray; the man responsible for the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gugas went into excruciating detail of his time with Ray in a chapter of The Silent Witness. Gugas revealed that James Earl Ray had in fact acquired and studied a book on polygraph examination, in efforts to thwart the test for the means of his defense. However his actions were futile as Gugas described him as “the most nervous guy I ever had” and when he questioned Ray as to whether he shot Dr. King, the man’s heart rate skyrocketed and his breathing shallowed, all classic signs of lying that resulted in the failing of his examination despite his earlier attempts to as they say “beat the box”.

As one of the world’s most exceptional polygraphists, Chris Gugas conducted over 20,000 examinations and was an integral part in the world of polygraph. He was the founder of the National Board of Polygraph Examiners and the California Academy of Polygraph Sciences. He is also remembered as a past President and Executive Director of the American Polygraph Association as well as the founder of the National Polygraph Association.

Polygraph examiner Chris Gugas has been highlighted in the media for a slew of high profile cases that have rocked the PR world. Some of his most famous cases have ranged from high profile murders investigations to proving the validity of a marriage worth billions of dollars. All of these cases are explored and documented in Gugas’ novel The Silent Witness and will be honored in this article as well.

Of course as aforementioned the James Earl Ray case was made famous given the suspect’s acquired target, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Gugas went into great detail to underscore the fact that even while Ray blamed his physical reactions to particularly difficult questions raised by the exam, Gugas was never more than absolutely certain that the man was guilty of the murder. Ray was a prime example of a man who supposedly attempted to “beat the box” by time spent studying the science of polygraph-psychophysiology and acting accordingly. His actions however were obviously to no avail.


Placed in the limelight of Hollywood Gugas also gives a detailed description of Terry Hughes, a well-known film actress, and her supposed marriage to Howard Robert Hughes. After the death of Mr. Hughes left a multibillion dollar estate up for grabs, Terry Hughes came forward claiming her marriage to Hughes despite the speculation of others to ensure the contents of the Mr. Hughes’ will was distributed to the medical institute he had earmarked the money for. After a series of questions prompting Terry Hughes about the validity of her marriage, whether or not it had ever been dissolved to her knowledge, and who was available to confirm the union, Chris Gugas determined that “ she had been telling the truth when she claimed to be married to Hughes”. This case is a prime example of the benefits that can be exhumed through polygraph examinations. While many would have surely doubted that legitimacy of Terry Hughes’ claims and cast suspicious eyes at her motives, the examination was able to verify her claims and allow the will of the deceased to be carried out appropriately.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the National Polygraph Association. The organization was founded and developed “to foster and perpetuate an accurate, reliable, and scientific means for the protection of the truthful and innocent individual.” As founding father of this organization Chris Gugas invested his time, energy, and faith into creating an organization that was backed by a steady foundation built on honesty and integrity of the truth. The National Polygraph Association was originated on the basis to offset the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, which was made to prohibit employers from using polygraph examination as part of a pre-employment screening process and as an investigative tool for internal losses. Chris Gugas originally looked to the American Polygraph Association to thwart this act but was unsatisfied with the efforts that were being made to do so.

John McGavock, a close friend of Gugas, was one of the first to hear about Gugas’ plans to create the NPA. During a breakfast meeting accompanied by their wives Gugas implored his misgivings about the lack of efforts that was being made by the APA to prevent the Employee Polygraph Protection Act and his decision to move forward with the new organization. Mr. McGavock remembers his friend fondly and recalls the passion in which Mr. Gugas spoke when he pitched his idea to him over the table. He said, “I’m going to do it John; I’m going to do this. We’re going to fight this”. And thus, the fundamentals of the organization had begun to be laid. With the help and personal funds of fellow founding members John McGavock and Claude Davis, Chris Gugas developed the National Polygraph Association, which was formed in an effort to neutralize the act from being passed by the government.

While the NPA was unsuccessful in preventing the Employee Polygraph Protection Act the NPA has thrived in various other aspects of the field. The NPA is diligent in their high quality training for both private polygraph examiners as well as those employed by law enforcement and government backgrounds. Seminars are held annually and are led by nationally renowned speakers as well as all of their offered training being accepted by all polygraph associations.

Therefore, while the NPA was unable to prevent the passing of the EPPA, it is certain and without any doubt that Chris Gugas was indeed successful in creating a dynamic organization that will carry the legacy of Christ Gugas for years to come.

A special thank you to author Megan Davis for this 25th anniversary tribute and to her grandfather Claude Davis for his input and motivation of the submission.

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