The inept mind-control experiment that led to 20 years of CIA funding

Illustration for article titled The inept mind-control experiment that led to 20 years of CIA funding

Ewen Cameron was the doctor in charge of the infamous CIA mind-control project MKULTRA, which drugged and tortured unwitting subjects. How does a guy get a job dosing people with LSD for a CIA brainwashing experiment? Turns out it's a pretty weird story.


Cameron, a psychiatrist working at a hospital in Montreal, started his career in intelligence by doing something ridiculously incompetent.

Imagine that you are a psychiatric patient. One day, you are driven away from the psychiatric hospital by your psychiatrist. He takes you to an empty gymnasium. In the very middle of the floor, there is a piece of paper. What do you do? If your answer is, "I would probably go over to the paper and pick it up to examine it," congratulations! You just got your psychiatrist a job at the CIA.


Cameron was interested in something called "psychic driving." Originally thought of as a way to "brainwash" schizophrenic patients out of their harmful behaviors and beliefs, it became a practice for Doctor Cameron to use on all his patients, no matter how minor their malady.

He would wait until the patients were asleep, or strap them to a couch, drug them heavily, and make them listen to tapes that played the same message over and over. Sometimes the messages said things like, "you have confidence in yourself," but eventually Cameron stopped trying to make people feel better and started trying to make them do whatever he wanted. Prior to the gymnasium excursion, people were played the message, "When you see a piece of paper, you want to pick it up." When many people, in the gym, did pick up that single piece of paper, he considered his experiments successful.

Apparently the CIA agreed with him. Twenty years of surreptitious LSD, sensory deprivation, and torture later, the CIA found that such methods were not as useful as Cameron believed them to be.

[Via Mad Science Museum.]

Top Image: Loty


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that led to 20 years of CIA funding
I don't know. Sounds like it worked pretty well to me.