Major historical breakthroughs in science often come with a dark backstory. While we might be on the road to developing safe methods of treating illness, it wasn’t always the case and at one point in time, we found ourselves as the victims of some of the strangest experiments out there. During the 1950s and ‘60s, the CIA was at the height of its experimental stage, going to any number of extremes in order to break new ground in scientific research. Across the decades, the organization put patients through a number of controversial test studies, all in the name of trying to understand the human condition.
- Project MKUltra
While it might have had genuine research origins, Project MKUltra soon went off the rails completely, descending into something that has garnered an incredibly notorious following. Funded as a way of looking into mind control, the project was headed by Dr. Ewen Cameron who wanted to try and “de-pattern” individuals as a way of erasing their memories. The only trouble was, to get the ball rolling, the CIA recruited the help of ex-Nazi scientists, who had already had experience in the area. Working with schizophrenic patients, Cameron and his team tested ways of erasing his subjects’ memories, including using LSD, electric therapy and paralytic drugs. The effects were hugely destructive, with many individuals coming out of the experiment unable to either talk or walk. Despite this, the project only went on the inspire more research, leading to further investigation on the subject.
- MKUltra Subproject 68
Coming directly off the heels of the first experiment, MKUltra Subproject 68 tried to go one further, narrowing the research field of mind altering drugs. This project took an interest solely in the effects of LSD on the brain, dosing mental patients to see how their mind reacted. The goal of the project was to extract information from resistant subjects, with the aim of using the process in real life. The effects of the LSD and shock therapy were startling, with some patients falling into comas for as long as 88 days. Worse still, Cameron extended his experiments to children, seeing how their minds were affected.
- Operation Midnight Climax
An offshoot of the MK Ultra project, Operation Midnight Climax took a more refined view still of the project, focusing research on prostitutes. CIA agents were put up to roam the street for women, pinpointing the prostitutes and bringing them back to a safehouse. Without their knowledge, the agents would dose the women with huge quantities of LSD, observing the “patients” from behind one way mirrors and recording their every move. Unsurprisingly, the project set a precedent for illegal, underhand action in the CIA, with a number of officials joining the establishment purely to carry out their wildest fantasies.
- CIA LSD in France
The experimentations of the CIA soon crossed international waters, making their way across the pond to France. In 1951, the American government set out to drug an entire village, dosing the bread supply with LSD to see the effects of the drug on a population at large. Individuals started vomiting and suffering from hallucinations, with certain individuals even trying to fly off buildings. While initial concerns in the village revealed that the bread had been poisoned with a natural parasite, research soon uncovered traces of synthetic ergot. Underhand research into the subject revealed the CIA’s involvement in the case, although it remains to be seen if the French were in on the whole thing.