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MIND GAMES by Jim Bronskill

September 3, 2012


“This image, drawn by “Mary” recounts the mind-control and brainwashing experiments she claims were done to her as a child. The drawing shows a wire/needle she says was inserted through her nostril and behind her eyeball to effect programming on her mind using popular songs or rhymes. “The doctor was screaming, ‘Do you hear me?’, in the program sequence,” she writes.] When she speaks of the Playhouse, Mary describes a chamber of horrors.  She remembers an elevated platform with walls, but no ceiling, where she served as a child guinea pig. Scientists implanted a device, through her right nostril, behind the eyeball, then suspended her above the platform. Surges of electric current controlled her movements. “It was horrible, because my head was conscious, but they made my body do things, and I couldn’t stop it,” she says. “It was like being a robot.”

Mary has no official documentation to substantiate her stories of the room she says her tormentors called the Playhouse. Dates are fuzzy, names of towns and buildings uncertain. Her childhood is still much like a jigsaw puzzle scattered on a tabletop. But she has assembled enough pieces to arrive at her unshakable conclusion she is a victim of Cold War mind-control experiments. Mary was born in 1947 in Halifax, shortly after her father left the army. She spent most of her early years in southern Ontario, and recalls being taken from home in cars, small civilian aircraft and military planes. She believes she was experimented upon at locations in upper New York State and at Canadian Forces Base Uplands near Ottawa. Her memories include sensory deprivation experiments, electroshock, drugging, sexual abuse, and other unspeakable acts. She suspects some of the treatments were intended to make her forget the horrors. In recent years, memories have come creeping back, piece by piece. The identity of Mary, not her real name, is being withheld to protect the privacy of her parents and siblings. Family members say she had a normal upbringing, and that there is no substance to her claims.

Investigating the history of government-sponsored mind experimentation of people has been largely an exercise in frustration for those who have delved into the subject. Alleged victims rarely have documentation to support their claims and records are extremely difficult to obtain. Alan Scheflin, a California law professor and researcher, has been pressing the U.S. government since the 1970’s to reveal the full extent of its involvement in mind control. Mr. Scheflin, who teaches at Santa Clara University, co-authored a 1978 book based partly on a flurry of material released by the Central Intelligence Agency under freedom-of-information legislation. The documents shed light on the CIA’s extensive behavior-control projects, including work by McGill University’s Ewen Cameron, who brainwashed patients with a gency funding in Montreal. But many records had already been destroyed. Still other files remain locked away to this day. “A person who claims to have been a victim of government mind-control programs is generally not going to be believed and is going to be considered mentally ill,” said Mr. Scheflin. “And, indeed, a lot of people suffer from the neurotic delusion that they were victims of mind control. But not all of them are delusional. Otherwise there would be no victims. We know there are victims, because we know the experiments were done.” Mary acknowledges her stories are downright bizarre. She has frequently doubted her own sanity. But she takes comfort in the fact she is not alone.

In March 1995, New Orleans therapist, Valerie Wolf and two clients travelled to Washington to address a U.S. presidential advisory committee probing government sponsored radiation experiments on humans in the decades following the Second World War. Ms. Wolf told the committee members the two women had been subjected as children not only to radiation doses but mind control and pain-induction techniques including electric shock, use of hallucinogens, sensory deprivation, hypnosis, dislocation of limbs and sexual abuse. Chris Denicola recounted being made available at a young age by her father for secret government procedures in Kansas City and Tucson, Arizona intended to turn her into a spy assassin. She said the experiments, conducted between 1966 and 1976, have left her with a multiple identity disorder. “I believe it is by the grace of God that I am still alive,” Ms. Denicola told the committee. “These horrible experiments have profoundly affected my life.” Claudia Mullen recalled being abused from 1957 until 1984, a pawn in the U.S. government’s efforts “to create the perfect spy.” Both said they were conditioned to carry out clandestine assignments. Ms. Mullen described her role in entrapping prominent men in sexual blackmail schemes at a lodge in Maryland. “I would love nothing more than to say I dreamed this all up and need to just forget it. But that would be a tragic mistake. It would also be a lie,” she told the committee.

Therapist Wolf, born in Vancouver, lived with her family in North Bay before moving to Hamilton [both in Ontario] to attend McMaster University. She holds a master’s degree in social work and has been a trauma therapist in Louisiana for the past 24 years, a track record that has helped bolster the claims of her clients and others who believe they are mind-controlled. Ms. Wolf is used to hearing disturbing stories, but the tales of laboratory horror have taken their toll. “I have nightmares sometimes,” she said in an interview. “I mean it affects me.” Ms. Wolf’s clients, including Ms. Denicola and Ms. Mullen, have specific memories of doctors and scientists. They claim to have overheard names, caught glimpses of documents and remember faces. Many of the men they recall have affiliations with the CIA and American military. Some were involved in the human radiation experiments that have now been extensively documented by the presidential advisory committee. Others took part in CIA-funded research into hypnosis, brainwashing and other mind-control programs revealed in the late 1970’s, the best known being MKULTRA. Ms. Wolf is struck by the similarity of her clients’ stories and their physical ailments, including thyroid problems, cysts, brittle teeth, multiple sclerosis and other muscle and connective tissue diseases. In early 1995, when word spread that Ms. Wolf would appear in Washington, nearly 40 other therapists from around the United States contacted her to tell of clients who had reported being used in mind-control and radiation experiments. Ms. Wolf pleaded with the committee to recommend further investigation and called for the release of classified documents. “It is important that we obtain all of the information contained in CIA and military files to verify or deny our clients’ memories.”

The post-war years were marked by growing western fear of communism as the Soviet Union and China flexed their muscles. The CIA began exploring the use of hypnosis and drugs in the late 1940’s, and the research intensified in response to fears that the emerging Communist powers were using brainwashing techniques or chemical substances to extract confessions from prisoners. By the 1950’s, funds were dispensed through cover agencies to some of the period’s leading researchers, including psychiatrist Ewen Cameron of McGill University’s Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal. With the help of CIA money from 1957 to 1960, Dr. Cameron used sensory deprivation, sleep induction, LSD treatment, intensive electroshock and repetition of taped messages in an effort to treat schizophrenia and other disorders by wiping the memory clean and reprogramming the mind. Canada’s Health Department also helped fund the activities, before enormous public controversy erupted. Debate continues today about whether Dr. Cameron knew of the CIA connection. A lawsuit resulted, after lengthy delays, in a CIA settlement with nine elderly Canadians in 1988. Some 80 people received Dr. Cameron’s full “depatterning treatment” at the institute, and the Canadian government eventually paid millions of dollars in compensation to survivors. Alan Scheflin believes the full story of government interest in mind control has yet to be told. “We know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the CIA and army mind-control programs were much bigger, and much broader and much more extensive that we have knowledge of at this time.” At age 20, Mary wed her sweetheart, but the union unraveled. She has been unable to sustain a relationship since. A promising career in television production fizzled, as did almost everything else she tried. In 1986, she moved, with her daughter, to the Ontario city in which she now lives. Two years later she suffered a complete breakdown. The demons that shaped Mary’s past appear to have left telltale signs. She has been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress and a dissociative disorder that involves the presence of different personality states, or identities. She now receives disability payments. “I’ve really been in crisis my whole life. That’s the bottom line.”

Five years ago, vague recollections of hospital settings and electricity led Mary to the local library, where she signed out a book about the Montreal brainwashing experiments. She remembers leafing through the volume in her kitchen later that day and seeing a photo of Ewen Cameron. A wave of fear and nausea washed over her. She became hysterical. “I felt I was going to die.” The picture, she says, triggered a flood of memories, and she now believes that Dr. Cameron was among her tormentors. She recalls him in connection with electricity doses, drug experiments and repetitive playing of songs, including “Home on the Range”. She suspects the doctors were trying to program her so that later hearing a specific song would cue her to perform certain actions. Mary sheepishly revealed her suspicions to her therapist. But she doubted even herself until she learned Claudia Mullen told the presidential commission that Dr. Cameron had given her shock treatments at Tulane University in New Orleans. Mary experiencing conflicting emotions. “I was devastated, because it brings home the reality of it,” she remembers. “But it was a relief, because I said to myself, I’m not crazy.”

Valerie Wolf has also wondered whether her clients were truly victims of government experimentation, but the detailed nature of their stories has alleviated her doubts. Ms. Wolf remembers Ms. Mullen saying that Dr. Cameron, who spoke with a Scottish burr, called her lassie, a nickname that baffled the southerner. Some time later, at a conference, Ms. Wolf watched a television news program featuring old footage of Dr. Cameron in which the doctor entered a room, put his hand on the shoulder of a patient and called her lassie. “I about fell off my chair,” says Ms. Wolf. “Little things like that convinced me. Nobody calls anybody lassie in the deep south of the United States.” Several years before Mary’s memories began to surface, she found herself expressing them in collages and a series of line drawings. The pictures feature doctors, emaciated children, babies, chambers, electronic devices, beds, helmets and wires. One drawing is of Mary, shoulders dislocated, wrapped in mummy-like bandages. In another, she sits in a chair, electrodes attached to her body. Others allude to monkeys and cages, depictions of lab settings that terrify her still. In several drawings a tiny guardian angel flutters nearby.

While Mary was recording memories on paper, Ms. Wolf and her clients were half a continent away in the U.S. capital, sharing their own stories with the presidential committee. In its October 1995 report, the committee, though concerned with experiments involving radiation, did recommend “all records bearing on programs of secret human research” from the late 1940’s through the early 1970’s “become a top priority for declassification review.” Mary later joined several others from across North America in a lobby group, the Advocacy Committee for Human Experimentation Survivors – Mind Control, or ACHES-MC. The group now has about 35 active members. It has identified 19 Canadians, or their surviving families, who feel they were used in mind-control experiments. In April, at a Chicago conference for abuse survivors, ACHES-MC members and supporting professionals taped a video letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien and President Bill Clinton. The Canadian government has yet to respond. The U.S. Department of Energy, which funded many of the radiation experiments, answered in late July on behalf of the White House, misspelling both Mary’s actual name and that of the advocacy group in the reply. “The Clinton Administration is deeply about individuals being used in secret experimentation without consent,” said the letter. It is noted that in March an interagency committee of the U.S. government had decided, in response to take steps to declassify additional documents on human experiments and do an independent review of the CIA’s record-keeping system. In addition, the CIA’s internal watchdog would review the agency’s human experiment programs, and the president had signed a directive to strengthen the rights and protections of people taking part in secret government-sponsored research.

Alan Scheflin doubts the promises of further disclosure will amount to much. After several boxes of CIA documents were released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act in the 1970’s, the flow slowed to a trickle. “I can’t prove, without having the documents available, that what anybody is telling me, or part of what someone is telling me, is true or not,” said Mr. Scheflin. “But I can tell you that it’s not out of the realm of possibility. And if it’s not true, it will be true of someone else who has come forward.” Psychiatrist Colin Ross, a specialist in multiple identity disorders, has heard numerous stories of government experimentation from patients since moving to Texas from Canada six years ago. “It’s really hard to tell how much of it is real. On the other hand, there’s all this documentation that a tremendous amount of this stuff did go on. So the stories aren’t impossible either.” Dr. Ross recently completed a manuscript based on the countless hours he has spent in libraries and archives uncovering information about government experiments on people and other unconventional research conducted by doctors and institutes across North America. Evidence that researchers have exposed children to LSD doses, radiation and other potentially harmful substances leads him to believe mind-control experimentation could also have occurred. “All kinds of unbelievable stuff has in fact been done to kids.” Mr. Scheflin notes that 149 projects involved work with children at juvenile facilities, but the records disclosed to date do not paint a complete picture.

Claims of government mind-control experimentation have been greeted with skepticism by proponents of false memory syndrome, who say the recollections – and many other memories of alleged child abuse – are often delusions. The U.S.-based False Memory Syndrome Foundation has helped thousands of North American parents accused of incest. Critics, however, point out that some members of the foundation’s advisory board have received funding from the CIA or other government agencies. For instance, in 1962, CIA front organizations gave $60,000 to the laboratory of Martin Orne, now a Pennsylvania psychiatry professor and foundation adviser. Ms. Wolf believes the truth about child experiments is slowly emerging, but wants to stall the disclosure as long as possible because officials realize the news will be met with outrage. “People will be very angry that this was done to children by the government.” Mary is close to completing a social work degree after years of part-time study. She does occasional work at a battered women’s shelter. But her preoccupation is clearly with the past. Four cardboard boxes of files about the history of behavioral research sit at one end of her living room. Nearby is a stack of videotapes on the subject. As she speaks, Mary’s steely eyes gaze probingly into the distance, into the mists of childhood. When she applied for disability payments, at the urging of her daughter, Mary stated plainly on the form she was a survivor of government mind-control experiments and attached copies of her drawings. The wheels of the bureaucracy rolled into motion and the clinical diagnoses were made. Whether the evaluators believed her stories or not, she began receiving payments. Though it was a form of validation, Mary says on another level it left her horrified. She chokes back tears, then pauses before speaking. “There should be no such thing as government experiments on children.”

Jim Bronskill is a reporter with the Citizen/Southam national bureau. (This version was originally found on the Mind Control and Psyops mailing list.) Source: MIND GAMES: Another woman comes forward to claim the CIA used her as a guinea pig in hideous experiments. by Jim Bronskill reports, The Observer pp. B1 & 2, The Ottawa Citizen, September 13, 1997

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