Mind Control | The CIA's MK Ultra Program

mk ultra program

Introduction | MKUltra Conducted Experiments

Government mind-control experiments have been the subject of popular fiction for decades. Books, movies and tv shows use covert United States government experiments as a plot line, if not the answer to someone’s criminal or erratic behavior. It’s an easy solve for a detective when it’s discovered that the criminal was drugged by the government.  

But with government mind-control stories such a firm part of our entertainment culture, are we losing the sense of seriousness and horror at what the test subject, even test victims, went through?

Date: 9/17/2022

Name of Podcast: Our Republic Matters

Episode Title and Number:  MK Ultra Program/17

Brief Summary

In this episode we discuss the MK Ultra Program including what it is and who started the program.  We will get into some conspiracy theories and some related projects. You will see several really good videos on MK Ultra in this episode.  We will also cover Operation Paperclip in a future episode.

MK-Ultra Project was a notorious CIA mind control research program, aimed at developing techniques for interrogation and brainwashing during the Cold War.

According to historian Stephen Kinzer, the MK-Ultra Project began in the 1950s and was officially declassified in the 1970s. The program was run by the CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence, and aimed to research the use of drugs, hypnosis, and other means of mind control to extract information from enemy agents and foreign dignitaries.

According to a 1977 report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the MK-Ultra Project utilized various techniques, including administering LSD and other mind-altering drugs to unwitting subjects, including prisoners, patients in psychiatric hospitals, and members of the military. The program was highly secretive, with even its existence being denied by the CIA for many years.

Frequently asked questions about MK-Ultra Project:

  • What was the purpose of the MK-Ultra Project?The purpose of the MK-Ultra Project was to research the potential use of mind control techniques for interrogation and espionage purposes during the Cold War.
  • Who was involved in the MK-Ultra Project?The MK-Ultra Project was run by the CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence and involved a number of government agencies, including the US military, as well as several universities and hospitals.
  • Did the MK-Ultra Project use human subjects?Yes, the MK-Ultra Project used human subjects, including prisoners, patients in psychiatric hospitals, and members of the military, who were often unwitting participants in the program's experiments.
  • When did the MK-Ultra Project end?The MK-Ultra Project officially ended in the 1970s, but its effects and legacy continue to be felt today.

What is MK Ultra?

what is project mk ultra

The MK Ultra program was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) response to reports of Soviet, Chinese and North Korea mind-altering experiments on US Prisoners of War during the Cold War from 1953-1964. The aim of the CIA program was to find drugs, including LSD, that would manipulate a person’s mental faculties, weaken them and even force confessions and military secrets from them as a truth serum. Additionally, the hope was to be able to develop an anti-mind control drug that would prevent the use of mind-control drugs on any American POWs or agents. [1]

Who ran MK Ultra?

The MK ULTRA was run by chemist Sidney Gottlieb. He wanted to “create a way to seize control of people's minds, and he realized it was a two-part process,” journalist Stephen Kinzer reported, "First, you had to blast away the existing mind. Second, you had to find a way to insert a new mind into that resulting void. We didn't get too far on number two, but he did a lot of work on number one."[2]

How was MK Ultra Carried out?

The project began with illegally using U.S. and Canadian human test subjects without their knowledge, attempting to manipulate their mental state using drugs (LSD was a favorite), sensory deprivation, abuse (verbal and physical) and various other forms of torture. [3]

Who are the MK Ultra Test Subjects

Over 1,100 US Army soldiers were given LSD. Prostitutes were hired and LSD was secretly put in their drinks while they were watched from behind 2-way mirrors also referred to as Operation Midnight Climax.  Heroin addicts were offered more heroin if they would participate. After all, they would willingly participate for more heroin and addicts living on the street wouldn’t typically be missed by family or friends. [4]

Federal prisoners were often enlisted as test subjects. In a Washington Post Article (August 28, 1982), four prisoners from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary filed lawsuits against the government because of the after-effects of the tests they participated in during the 1950s-1960s. They all cite mental instabilities ranging from attempted suicides and erratic behavior such as trying to gnaw off a limb to flashbacks and hallucinations.[1]

McGill University in Canada also participated in CIA and Canadian government “mind-control” experiments. These mkultra experiments quickly evolved from using drugs like LSD, barbiturates and amphetamines to alter a person’s thoughts to experiments in torture. Subjects were forced to endure days of induced sleep and sensory deprivation, leaving patients in a “child-like mental state even years after the experiments were finalized”.[2]

Victims of MK Ultra

government mind control experiments

There are some notable participants of these experiments, with different experiences and outcomes. Many of these participants were unwitting test subjects.

Frank Olson

Early in the project, Dr. Frank Olson, an Army scientist, was involved in MK ULTRA but didn’t know he was a test subject. After unknowingly being given doses of LSD Frank Olson began to suffer drug-induced depression and jumped out of a 13-story window in 1953. But the experiments continued.

Ken Kesey

Ken Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” participated in early LSD studies at Stanford University. He didn’t seem to suffer any long-lasting adverse of the experiments, but he has been quoted saying “[The testing] wasn’t being done to try to cure insane people, which is what we thought. It was being done to try to make people insane—to weaken people, and to be able to put them under the control of interrogators.[3]

Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter, singer/songwriter with the Grateful Dead participated in the same studies that Kesey did. He didn’t know until years later those experiments were part of MK ULTRA. “I couldn’t figure out why they were paying me to take these psychedelics. What they wanted to do was to check if I was more hypnotizable when I was on them.” [4]

Harold Blauer

Harold Blauer, a professional tennis player, battling depression checked himself in to a psychiatric hospital. Under a classified agreement between the hospital and the Army Chemical Corps, Blauer received regular injections of a derivative of mescaline, which killed him about a month later.[5]

Whitey Bulger

Whitey Bulger was one of the inmates in Atlanta subjected to drug testing, which he says gave him “horrible LSD experiences followed by thoughts of suicide and deep depression.”[6]

Army Drug Experimentation

According to US Senate hearing documents on MK ULTRA (August 3, 1977), even the US Army conducted tests. Appendix A, P72 describes three phases of army testing. Phase 1 included over 1,000 soldiers who volunteered to be subjects in chemical warfare experiments. 95 volunteers received LSD to evaluate the potential use of the drug for intelligence. In phase 3, 16 non-volunteer, unknowing subjects were interrogated after being given LSD as part of operational field tests. [7]

MK Ultra Conspiracy Theories

Cathy O'Brien, author states that she was part of a government mind control program titled Project Monarch and allegedly was part of the CIA controlled project MK Ultra. She claims on February 8th 1988 she was rescued from the enslavement from the project mkultra.

There are some conspiracy theorist that think some celebrities under a mind control techniques akin to MK Ultra. There was an instance where rapper Cardi B was caught staring into space unexpectedly during a 2018 red carpet interview during the grammy's. Online it was speculated that this was a sign of MKUltra programming and her spacing out was a glitch in the program.

There are also online publications which indicate a possible link between such violent acts at places like Sandy Hook or Columbine project mkultra. The claim is that these shooters were not terrorist but unknowing human subjects under mind control experiments with the strings being pulled by such evil forces.

Did These CIA Experiments end? 

Here we are, decades after the original MK ULTRA experiments started, and supposedly ended, but are government mind control experiments over? MK SEARCH was a follow-up to MK ULTRA in the late 1960s and early 1970s. in 1967, Project OFTEN tested drugs on first animals then on humans subjects and Project CHICKWIT monitored drug and research overseas. [1]


With secret government mind-control projects now exposed and our entertainment culture primed to generate stories that keep these stories alive, where do we go from here? Do we bury ourselves in the latest hot novel or tv show or do we pay attention to what victims have to say and maybe, give them a bit of credit and learn from their experiences. 

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