UN Office of Scientific Investigation and Research Archives

The MKULTRA Project


Capitalizing on Cold War paranoia and rumors that Red China and the Soviet Union were achieving incredible results in their research into "brain-washing" techniques, the Central Intelligence Agency commenced research programs on mind control and human behavior modification. 

The fear of Communist superiority in any area provided a smokescreen and apparent motive for a wide range of behavior modification projects conducted by the CIA. Early projects such as BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE concentrated on a few specific techniques, most commonly mind-altering drugs, hypnosis and brain surgery. These projects resulted in some impressive successes, but the most ambitious and successful project by far was MKULTRA. 

The MKULTRA Project was in fact several research projects combined into one. Widely disparate subjects were being investigated, such as psychoactive drugs, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, cerebral implants, microwave radiation, Extra Sensory Perception and brainwashing through cult indoctrination. Most of these topics had been studied previously, and MKULTRA broke little new ground in each field independently. What made MKULTRA so successful was its study of the interaction and combination of these varied disciplines. These experiments yielded the MKULTRA team two very impressive programs. 

Through a combination of cerebral implants, psychoactive drugs and microwave transmitters, the MKULTRA scientists were able to create hidden split personalities. The test subjects were completely unaware of their condition and exhibited normal, obedient behavior until the introduction of a triggering stimulus, often via radio or microwave transmission. The triggering stimulus induced a trance-like state in which the subjects would carry out preprogrammed orders without hesitation or question. After the mission or task was completed, the subject would revert back to a normal state, completely unaware of actions taken while in the induced trance. These individuals were often used as covert assassins or couriers, unaware of their own role and therefore nearly undetectable. 

MKULTRA's experimentation involving parapsychology led another research group to develop a strong psychic Warfare (Psi-War) program. These parapsychologists took individuals who showed an aptitude for extra-sensory perception and subjected them to a regimen of psychoactive drugs, hypnosis, sensory deprivation and advanced meditation techniques. The result was a group of powerful psychics capable of impressive feats of psychic power in several disciplines. Unfortunately, the treatments often left the psychics addicts, insane, or worse. 

Public outrage when limited reports of these projects reached the press caused a Congressional investigation during which the CIA downplayed the success of the program and emphasized that the subjects were all volunteers, which was not, in many cases, true. The investigation caused the official end of the MKULTRA project in 1963. But as was often the case, the project lived on, hidden from the public, and exempt from congressional inquires or other governmental accounting. It is believed to exist to this day, although just who is controlling it is not clear.

Report by Mark Kram

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