MKUltra: The strangest project ever!


Early MKUltra

The CIA started Project ARTICHOKE on August 20, 1951. They wanted to see if participants would unwillingly attempt to assassinate others. Also, the CIA ran several experiments to determine the usefulness of hypnosis, forced addiction, withdrawal, and LSD during interrogation.

Eventually, ARTICHOKE turned into MKUltra in 1953. The name MKUltra came from MK, meaning that the Technical Services Staff greenlighted the project. Ultra came from the most secret classification of WWII intelligence.

MKUltra’s work was a continuation of WWII experiments performed in Japan and Nazi camps. The ultimate aim was to control human minds. The use of mescaline on unwitting subjects started in Dachau concentration camps. The CIA adopted the practice; there is evidence that the CIA even recruited Nazi torturers to continue the experiments at Fort Detrick. In one particular experiment, the Nazis instructed CIA officers on how to test lethal limits of sarin gas.

A Broader Range of Tests

Many of the experiments performed during MKUltra were illegal, including experimentation on US and Canadian citizens without their knowledge. The CIA used several techniques to manipulate mental states. Secretly administering high doses of LSD was a favorite. But they also studied other chemicals, electroshocks, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, and various types of abuse and torture.
The institutions taking part in the research were as varied as the experiments themselves. More than eighty colleges, universities, and prisons took part.

Nearing the End

The project’s scope was reduced in the mid-1960s and then finally brought to an end in 1973. MKUltra was brought to the public’s attention in 1975 by Gerald Ford’s Rockefeller Commission. CIA Director Richard Helm attempted to destroy all files related to MKUltra, but several documents survived. You can see some of those files here:

Operation Midnight Climax

In one strange experiment, government-employed prostitutes took their Johns into a CIA safe house. The Johns were given LSD and alcohol while CIA agents watched behind a two-way mirror. The agents reported that a “party-like atmosphere” prevailed. Thank god for that.

In my series, The Haber Effect, the main character, Dr. Michael Haber, was a scientist for MKUltra. It was during his time with the CIA that he found his love for fringe science. Check out the series on Amazon!



Dylan Callens

About the Author...

Dylan Callens is a writer and educator living in Sudbury, Ontario. 

His debut novel, Operation Cosmic Teapot, was a resounding success. Since then, Dylan has written a number of other books, including the upcoming series, The Haber Effect