• Graveyard Shift

The Creepiest Declassified Documents Available To The Public

Throughout history, the US government has engaged in - or encountered - all manner of covert, nefarious, and sometimes just downright strange operations. From research into paranormal phenomena to secret acid tests to UFO sightings, most of these programs were classified and sealed from the public eye, often for decades.

These programs are sometimes sealed for national security reasons or to protect "sources and methods" within the intelligence community. Other times, they're sealed because the information itself could prove damaging to the government - either because they're up to something they shouldn't be, or because someone else is.

Nothing stays classified forever, though, and sooner or later, the documentation of even the creepiest and most objectionable secret projects is declassified - often with very little fanfare, since, even years later, the government doesn't want to advertise some of the dark secrets they've been privy to over the years.

Here are some of the creepiest and weirdest declassified documents that you can read right now - and the bizarre and sometimes terrifying revelations they contain.

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  • Photo: FBI.gov

    Clandestine Documents Reveal An FBI Inquest Into Mysterious Cattle Mutilations

    In the mid-1970s, US Senators Floyd Haskell of Colorado and Carl Curtis of Nebraska personally asked the FBI to investigate a series of mysterious cattle mutilations that had purportedly occurred across as many as 21 states. In a letter dated August 29, 1975, Senator Haskell identified "at least 130 cases in Colorado alone."

    The events bore eerie similarities, as Haskell described them: "[In] virtually all the cases, the left ear, left eye, rectum, and [reproductive] organs of each animal has been cut away and the blood drained from the carcass, but with no traces of blood left on the ground and no footprints."

    Contemporary newspaper reports linked the livestock mutilations to mysterious helicopters and unidentified flying objects, while a letter from Senator Curtis to FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley blithely referred to "the series of incidents stretching from Oklahoma to Nebraska in which cattle have been dismembered in some kind of strange witchcraft cult."

    "Doors are locked and guns are loaded," Nebraska's Hastings Tribune said of the situation surrounding the mysterious mutilations. The FBI, however, assured both senators that they couldn't get involved because the strange events fell outside their jurisdiction. It wasn't until 1979 that the FBI was finally granted jurisdiction to investigate the wave of mutilations.

    When they did, they determined that most of the mutilations were the result of "normal predator and scavenger activity," but these same declassified documents revealed that some of the mutilations could not be accounted for. This was also contradicted by reports that the techniques used in the mutilations were "very professional" and sometimes conducted with surgical precision.

    In spite of the pressure placed upon the FBI, no arrests were ever made in relation to these strange cases.

  • Photo: CIA.gov

    The 'Analysis and Assessment of the Gateway Process' Examined Altered States Of Consciousness And Astral Projection

    Originally published in 1983 and declassified 20 years later, the "Analysis and Assessment of the Gateway Process" report was prepared by Wayne M. McDonnell at the request of his commanding officer in the US Army Intelligence and Security Command. McDonnell had been tasked with assessing the Gateway Experience, a meditation training that instructed people in harnessing their electromagnetic energy waves, which are emitted from the body. It also trained them to direct their own brain waves and use them to detach from time and space. 

    Created by Robert Monroe, founder of the Monroe Institute, the Gateway Experience is commercially available to anyone who wants to try. You can still buy the guided meditation program through the institute's website. The analysis prepared by McDonnell tackles a wide range of heady subjects, from astral projection to Eastern and Western belief systems, quantum physics, and more. 

    The results? "There is a sound, rational basis in terms of physical science parameters for considering Gateway to be plausible in terms of its essential objectives," McDonnell says in his conclusion. He also warns that individuals using these techniques for "terrestrial information gathering trips" and other operations should be "intellectually prepared to react to possible encounters with intelligent, non-corporeal energy forms when time-space boundaries are exceeded."

    While it seems like the Gateway Process report was never put widely into use, McDonnell certainly outlines the steps that he sees as necessary for it to be used in intelligence-gathering, ending with the sentence, "If these experiments are carried through, it is to be hoped that we will truly find a gateway to Gateway and to the realm of practical application for the whole system of techniques which comprise it."

  • Photo: U.S. Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Operation LAC Sprayed A Potentially Hazardous Chemical Over Much Of The Country

    Named Operation LAC, short for "Large Area Coverage," this Cold War-era project undertaken by the US Army Chemical Corps was designed to test whether it would be "feasible to [taint] a large area" by dropping chemical agents from planes. To do so, it dropped "a myriad of microscopic particles" from planes, covering an area "from the Rockies to the Atlantic, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico." It was the largest test that the Chemical Corps had ever undertaken.

    According to a declassified Chemical Corps document titled "Summary of Events and Major Problems," the tests "did not provide the Corps with nearly as much data as the Corps would like." The document's chilling conclusion read, "To obtain additional data the Corps planned further tests for the next fiscal year."

    While Operation LAC was the largest such test conducted, it was far from the only one. In 2012, CBS News reported on Cold War-era tests that targeted a predominantly Black neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri. The tests sprayed the neighborhood with zinc cadmium sulfide.

    At the time, locals were told that "the government was testing a smoke screen that could shield St. Louis from aerial observation in case the Russians attacked," though, decades later, the government admitted that the tests were "part of a biological weapons program." The zinc cadmium sulfide was later linked to an increased risk of cancer among the residents of the St. Louis neighborhood.

    Other areas that the Army later admitted to testing in include Minneapolis, San Francisco Bay, and Corpus Christi.

  • Photo: George Stock / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In One Document, The Crews Of Two F-4s Describe An Unexplainable UFO Encounter

    "Sometime in his career, each pilot can expect to encounter strange, unusual happenings which will never be adequately or entirely explained by logic or subsequent investigation." So begins the preamble, prepared by Captain Henry S. Shields of the US Air Forces in Europe, to an account detailing an encounter with an unidentified Flying Object as described by two F-4 crews of the Imperial Iranian Air Force in 1976. 

    "No additional information or explanation of the strange events has been forthcoming," the preamble continues, "the story will be filed away and probably forgotten, but it makes interesting, and possibly disturbing, reading."

    The account begins on a "clear autumn morning," when the Imperial Iranian Air Force receives a series of calls reporting "strange airborne objects," described either as "bird-like" or as "brightly-lit helicopters," though the Iranian Air Force command was aware of no helicopters in the area at the time. An F-4 fighter was scrambled to investigate and, upon approach, the crew of the plane confirmed that the UFO was easily visible at a distance of 70 miles. 

    As the plane continued to approach, however, they abruptly "lost all instrumentation and UHF/Intercom communications" until they broke off the intercept and turned away from the UFO, at which time their controls and communications returned to normal. A second F-4 was scrambled, encountered the same object, and attempted to fire on it, but experienced a power loss in its control panel. A second unidentified object broke off from the original UFO and headed toward the plane at a "high rate of speed."

    The crews of the planes also reported seeing another object separate from the initial UFO and land, lighting up a large area of what later proved to be a dry lake bed. They also investigated a nearby house, where residents reported loud noises and "very bright lights, like lightning." The documents, declassified in 1981, indicate that "arrangements were made to conduct various tests" in the vicinity. "Unfortunately," the report concludes, "the results of such tests have not been reported."