MKUltra was a series of CIA experiments, mostly illegal, carried out on human subjects between the 1950s and 1970s. It formally began on the orders of CIA director Allen Dulles on April 13, 1953 and was headed by Sidney Gottlieb.

The intent of the experiments was either to develop mind control techniques, better torture and interrogation techniques, or all of those things, depending on who you ask. The program used various means to manipulate subjects’ mental state, sometimes and often unwittingly. Methods included surreptitious administration of drugs or other chemicals, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal abuse, and other forms of psychological torture.

The program began in the early 50s, was officially sanctioned in 1953, was reduced in scope in 1964, then more so in 1967, then was finally halted in 1973. Allegedly. 1973 is actually the year the people running it demanded that all documents pertaining to the program’s existence be destroyed, so take that how you will.

The scope of the program was also insanely broad. It included 44 colleges and universities, as well as hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies.

Just for fun, here is a list of mind altering substances studied under the program, according to a 1955 document:

  • Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
  • Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
  • Materials which will cause the victim to age faster/slower in maturity.
  • Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
  • Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so they may be used for malingering, etc.
  • Materials which will cause temporary/permanent brain damage and loss of memory.
  • Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture, and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
  • Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
  • Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
  • Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
  • Substances which will produce a chemical that can cause blisters.
  • Substances which alter personality structure in such a way the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
  • A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
  • Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
  • Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
  • A knockout pill which can be surreptitiously administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
  • A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a person to perform physical activity.

It’s worth noting also that this isn’t a conspiracy theory…the fact that we were able to confirm its existence is a total fluke, which we’ll get to later, but this was the conclusion of that Supreme Court case: “Between 1953 and 1966, the Central Intelligence Agency financed a wide-ranging project, code-named MKULTRA, concerned with the research and development of chemical, biological, and radiological materials capable of employment in clandestine operations to control human behavior.” So this episode is less a question of whether this is real, but more a reminder that sometimes the crazy shit people say is real.

Listen to the episode for some of the experiments and stories from the program!






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About the Author
Samantha Clarke is a writer, blogger and comedian who helps Adam Tod Brown out with the dirty work. You can find her own writing on her newsletter,, or buy her poetry books on