The Project MK-ULTRA Blog

(all block quotes taken from The History Channel)

Alright, you got me. This one isn’t *exactly* a conspiracy since, yanno, it actually happened. But either way it’s a wild story that I’m sure you’ve either heard, read versions of, or seen referenced throughout popular culture. Everyone in college has seen that video above. I don’t even know if this specific one is real, nor do I care, because what is super real was the widespread testing of LSD on humans throughout the 1960s. Not just LSD, but most drugs as it was a curious time for humanity. And the government, as it’s one to do, decided why let civilians have all the fun? Let’s see if we can control spies’ minds with this shit.

MK-Ultra was a top-secret CIA project in which the agency conducted hundreds of clandestine experiments—sometimes on unwitting U.S. citizens—to assess the potential use of LSD and other drugs for mind control, information gathering and psychological torture. Though Project MK-Ultra lasted from 1953 until about 1973, details of the illicit program didn’t become public until 1975, during a congressional investigation into widespread illegal CIA activities within the United States and around the world.

While the genesis of MK-ULTRA was born out of fear that the Soviets, Chinese, and North Koreans were already using mind control tactics against U.S. prisoners of war, the program quickly escalated from controlled tests in laboratories to dosing unknowing civilians in public to see what would happen.


Under the auspices of Project MK-Ultra, the CIA began to fund studies at Columbia University, Stanford University and other colleges on the effects of the drug. After a series of tests, the drug was deemed too unpredictable for use in counterintelligence.

I, for one, am shocked that LSD was found to be too unpredictable to use as a weapon against foreign prisoners of war. I’m also shocked that it took damn near 20 years to come to this conclusion. If you’ve ever seen anyone on acid once you’d know that person was out to lunch and not coming back any time soon. What’s crazy to me is the extent in which they took some of these controlled experiments. One mental patient in Kentucky was said to have received a dosing of LSD for 174 straight days. Not even the most loyal Dead Head would go a half year straight dropping sid like this. That’s mayhem. Again in Kentucky, seven volunteers were said to have received 77 straight days of dosings. Which, again, is madness, and starts to explain a lot about modern day Kentucky since everyones’ parents apparently were fucking rocked off White Rabbit for an entire decade.

Ken Kesey, author of the 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, volunteered for MK-Ultra experiments with LSD while he was a college student at Stanford University.

Kesey later went on to promote the drug, hosting LSD-fueled parties that he called “Acid Tests.” Acid Tests combined drug use with musical performances by bands including the Grateful Dead and psychedelic effects such as fluorescent paint and black lights. These parties influenced the early development of hippie culture and kick-started the 1960s psychedelic drug scene.

While Project MK-ULTRA didn’t exactly lead to the government’s ability to mind control civilians and army generals alike, it did seem to spur the most loving decade in American history. It also may have accidentally created some of the worst people to have ever lived.

Other notable people who reportedly volunteered for CIA-backed experiments with LSD include Robert Hunter, the Grateful Dead lyricist; Ted Kaczynski, better known as the “Unabomber”; and James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger, the notorious Boston mobster.

Whoopsie-daisies. Listen you’ve gotta crack a few eggs to make an omelette everyone knows that…

While this program initially leaned on volunteers, mental patients, prisoners, drug addicts, and sex workers, it eventually did make its way into uncontrolled environments. Which is why I chose this topic today. During the 1960s, Cambridge, Massachusetts was bustling with new ideas, debates about The Beatles vs. The Stones, and its own, non-government funded Psilocybin Project, which was also testing the effects of hallucinogens on human beings. With Boston and Cambridge being some of the richest property for bright young minds in America due to the mass amounts of college students, it was really a perfect breeding ground for these government and university led experiments. While some of these experiments were done in labs and under a watchful eye, plenty were done in bars and coffee shops across the city.

My father was always brilliant. Too smart for his own good sometimes. He was a teenager during the ‘60s and was a student at Boston Latin. Back when Boston Latin was boys only and you had to wear a jacket and tie every day. He was so curious and advanced he was invited to take classes at MIT and Harvard despite being years away from graduation. While he spent time in Cambridge he would often stop and just enjoy being a fake college kid, and would often find himself enthralled in bouts with pinball machines where the lights and whistles were perhaps a little brighter and louder than they were for people who hadn’t been dosed by government distributed LSD. It’s always been wild to me that the 1960s were a “Fuck it, we’ll run it live” time where everyone was just throwing shit at the wall to see what stuck. And it was always special to me to hear about it from someone who really lived that shit. I’m talking went to Woodstock via hitchhiking from Boston type of lived that shit.

February 17 has always been a date I’ve know. As a child of the ‘90s I grew up a massive Michael Jordan fan, and as Bomani Jones once pointed out – Michael Jordan fans love to know even the smallest of details about MJ. February 17 is, of course, Jordan’s birthday, so it’s a date that has always stuck out in my mind. And as I’m sitting here, on February 17, in Charlotte, North Carolina, for All Star Weekend, in Michael Jordan’s city, my mind is stuck on February 17, 2017. I was sitting at the office, waiting to go to some charity event at Madison Square Garden, I looked at my phone to see a missed call from my mother. My mother never calls. My father was gone. I’d never hear another wild story like this from him again.

A few months after he passed I was at a Cher concert in DC. That’s right, a Cher concert. Cher has bangers and is a legend and will be treated as such. While she was belting out “Life After Love,” I noticed I received a text. From my very deceased father. Which, as you may understand, scared the absolute fuck out of me. It was a bunch of pictures from the previous Christmas, the last we’d ever spend together. Between the ghost text and Cher blaring over the speakers, it was probably the closest I’ll ever be to tripping out on government created LSD in the ‘60s. The next day I called my mother and asked if she also got the text. She told me she was on his phone and was trying to send herself the pictures. Rather than explaining to me in real time that it was her on his phone, she decided to fuck with my brain for about 12 hours for really no reason at all. Which taught me a very important life lesson: Fellas, even in death, your girl will still go through your phone. Be careful out there.