There are plenty of conspiracy theories out there about the CIA and, in particular, CIA mind control. When it comes to Project MKUltra, however, the conspiracies are frighteningly accurate. The public doesn’t have to rely on hearsay and rumors to judge the project, as there are still MKUltra survivors alive and willing to share their stories, as well as a host of highly redacted documents somewhat detailing the experiments of the program.
MKUltra, a CIA program that ran from 1953-1973, involved the use of LSD and other drugs in an attempt to control minds and, more specifically, pull information from said minds during interrogations. The history behind the program is nearly as insane as the experiments carried out in its name, but the most unbelievable aspect of this entire story is the fact it went on for so long unchecked. Even after the rest of the country caught wind of Project MKUltra and it was finally stopped, the people behind it faced very few actual consequences.
The project was intended to "develop a capability in the covert use of biological and chemical materials," but the way the CIA went about it has been deemed unethical and controversial by the public and fellow government agencies alike.
It can never be known how many people died as a result of MKUltra, but at least one death is entirely confirmed. Frank Olson was a US Army biochemist who was given LSD without prior knowledge. Other government employees were also part of this experiment and recovered, but Olson never did. The LSD caused a psychotic breakdown in Olson, who was subsequently kept under close observation. That ended, along with his life, when Olson plunged to the street from his tenth story hotel window - even though he had been under the direct supervision of a CIA doctor at the time.
Conspiracies abounded, and Olson’s family maintains he was murdered, but Project MKUltra was the cause of his death in one way or another. It was not the only alleged death.
There are many scandalous details about Project MKUltra, but the most salacious has to be Operation: Midnight Climax, a sub-program in the CIA’s overall mind control scheme. Through Midnight Climax, sex workers were hired to lure johns back to a CIA safe house, where the men would be secretly drugged. Agents would be on hand to watch the hallucinogenic sex from behind two-way mirrors, observing closely, taking notes, and drinking (non-spiked) martinis. The walls of the safe houses were reportedly covered with images of women in bondage.
CIA agents weren’t the only ones who had to worry about being secretly dosed with LSD. Frequently - and illegally - agents would dose random people in bars and other public places with hallucinogens, and then quietly follow them and observe the results. Not only is such experimentation against several laws, it’s also incredibly dangerous. Due to the eventual destruction of MKUltra files, the public will never know how many individuals went out for a beer after work and ended up on a psychedelic trip.
Every respectable conspiracy theory involves the Nazis in some fashion, and the real-life tale of Project MKUltra is no different. American intelligence officials first became aware of the existence of LSD thanks to the reports of Nazi scientists that had been brought to the USA under Project Paperclip, a controversial operation meant to capitalize on Nazi science after World War II. The scientists reported on a drug with “military potential” which was allegedly being worked on by Swiss chemists. The drug was LSD, and the CIA would soon begin to start testing the bounds of that “military potential.”