Hello, Lovelies! Welcome to this week’s blog post! As you heard we have a lot of feelings about this episode. (patriarchy roller-coaster, anyone?) Here, you’ll find Rebecca’s notes, her sources, and information on this week’s drink break.
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This week’s drink break is brought to you by the awesome Fataliteas Podcast! Fataliteas is a podcast where host, Alysa Lucas, explores true crime cases over tea with the help of her friends because without tea, friends, and good conversation, there is nothing but darkness and chaos. Make sure to give this awesome podcast a listen!
On April 13, 1953, a project led by the Central Intelligence Agency was officially sanctioned. The premise of the project was to use human experimentation to determine procedures and to develop and identify certain drugs in an attempt to gain control over individuals, with one of the ultimate goals being mind control.
This project was referred to as MKUltra.
This project was brought to public attention in 1975, and, after a Freedom of Information Act request, 20,000 documents were released. More documents were declassified in July 2001, and more information is still being uncovered as recently as December 2018, during which there was a letter to an unidentified doctor discussing work on 6 dogs made to run, turn, and stop using brain implants that allowed the to be remote controlled (but that’s another episode).
It’s still unknown exactly how many individuals, knowingly or unknowingly, participated in these experiments.
Between the years of 1953 and 1973, at the lead of Dr. Sydney Gottlieb, many unwitting participants, consisting of participants from the United States and Canada, were subjected to various methods to manipulate their mental states or alter their brain functions. Over 150 experiments were performed under the MKUltra umbrella, some of these methods included, but were not limited to:
- Sensory deprivation
- Abuse, both verbally and sexually
- Administration of various mind altering drugs
While the experiment made use of many different drugs, including heroine, morphine, cannabis, alcohol, temazepam (under the codename MKResearch, it’s a benzodiazepine typically used to treat insomnia), and, most notoriously, LSD.
LSD stands for Lysergic Acid Diethylamide and is commonly known as acid. LSD can cause the user to see or hear things that aren’t there and the effects can last up to 12 hours. (no research was done in dosage, frequency, or body type). While LSD is most commonly used recreationally or for “spiritual journeys”, a tolerance can be built up to the substance and flashbacks, called hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (or HPPD) can occur.
While sold for research purposes under the name “Delysid” in the 1950s and 1960s, LSD is most notoriously related to MKUltra and has been a schedule 1 controled substance in the US since 1971.
So why are we talking about LSD and MKUltra today? It’s because of a smaller, but equally ethically questionable experiments, performed under the MKUltra umbrella, known as Operation Midnight Climax.
Operation Midnight Climax
This happened between the years of 1955 and 1967 in New York and San Francisco
The two major players were George H. White, a former Bureau of Narcotics officer, and Sydney Gottleib, a chemist who was known in the CIA as a “poison master”, with nicknames including “Black Sorcerer” and “Dirty Trickster”.
While we know a lot about the major players, a lot was lost during the document dump that happened after the story broke by the New York Times in 1974, but the main purpose of this “experiment” was preserved.
Operation Midnight Climax had no medical supervision, and, like many experiments done under MKUltra, participants did not give consent, did not have follow up, and were not given outside counsel.
George White was paid by the CIA so set up “safe-houses”, initially in New York and eventually in San Francisco, that mimicked brothels. These brothels would be decorated with images of women in bondage and other suggestive images. There were at least 3 of these brothels in the Bay area.
Prostitutes hired for these brothels received $100 a night and were promised protection from police harassment while working.
These prostitutes would pick up Johns and bring them back to the safe houses. It was at this point the johns were given cocktails laced with LSD before proceeding with that night’s debauchery.
All of the events would be recorded through recording devices placed throughout the room, with mics being positioned in places like outlets.
Reportedly, one of these safe houses was recently renovated, during which the construction crew pulled microphones, wires, and recording devices out of the walls.
Not only were the prostitutes and drugged johns being recorded, they were also being observed by CIA agents while drinking martinis through two-way glass that were installed in the rooms of the safe house.
These observation sessions were sometimes considered “8 martini lunches” and was often considered a “frat house for spies”.
The experiments were essentially unsupervised. Early on in the experiment in one of the frat houses put together by White and Gottleib, in 1953, U.S. biological warfare specialist Frank Olson either jumped or was pushed from a 10th-floor hotel 9 days after being given LSD.
The connection between Olson and the “safe houses” was made when the address of a safehouse located in Greenwich village was found on a piece of paper in his pocket. The “experiments” were halted during the police investigation
The “purpose” of the experiment was to test the effects of LSD on unwitting subjects in conditions that mimicked that of the field and interrogation tactics used by foreign operatives.
Another “purpose” of these experiments was revealed in a memo found in the MKUltra files.
Referred to as “Jekyll-Hyde” personalities, the CIA wanted to see if they could make female spies or agents from the prostitutes in addition to alternate controllable personalities.
Even another purpose of these experiments was to test the CIA’s Manchurian Candidate prostitutes
One article I found stated that the observed activities would be used as blackmail against johns who were prominent members of society.
Ultimately, outside of research into mind control, there didn’t seem to be a purpose to these experiments
White’s experiments didn’t stay within the walls of these so-called “safe-houses”.
One night, Ruth Kelly, a singer at a San Francisco Club called the Black Sheep, rejected White’s advances before going on stage to perform
White or one of his men (it was never confirmed who did this) slipped LSD into Ruth’s pre-show cocktail.
While she didn’t let it affect the show, in a disposition by Frank Laubinger in the 1980s, he stated that he thought it definitely took effect during her act. While she was ultimately was fine, she reportedly went to the hospital after the show.
There’s reports of White and his wife hosting dinner parties, during which the guests were slipped hallucinogens into their cocktails.
White’s victims seem to be chosen at random, with one of his journal articles stating that he would slip acid to unsuspecting civilians at beaches, bars, and restaurants.
One thing written in 1963 by CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick sheds some light: “The effectiveness of the substances on individuals at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign is of great significance, and testing has been performed on a variety of individuals within these categories.”
That being said, I don’t like George White.
For a long time, many inside the CIA had no idea anything like MKUltra was happening.
While testing on unsuspecting individuals was ultimately suspended in 1964, the safe houses continued to operate for a year and a half afterwards.
White retired in 1965, became a fire marshal at Stinson Beach, and eventually wrote an autobiography titled “A Diet of Danger” boasting about his adventures in the Bureau of Narcotics, adventures that left out his part in Operation Midnight Climax.
The book was rejected by publishers in 1971.
After 14 years with the CIA and retirement in 1966, George White wrote to Gottleib, reminiscing about the work performed under Operation Midnight Climax:
“I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the all-highest? Pretty Good Stuff, Brudder!”