Four Drug Culture Visions: LSD and the Mad CIA Scientists, Part Two


…by Jerome Putnam

My aim is to understand, to humanize and therefore weaken the monster called CIA. My aim is to expose some leading, self-proclaimed “intelligent agents” from the past and get to know their methods and their traps. My aim is to shed light on these irresponsible and often psychopathic types that want to rule the world.

“Of course I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill and cheat, steal, deceive, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest? Pretty Good Stuff, Brudder!”


This is from a letter that Major George Hunter White sent to his CIA partner and chemist/”spymaster” Sidney Gottlieb (born: Joseph Scheider) the prototype of a mad scientist.

Sidney Gottlieb

Sidney Gottlieb

Sidney Gottlieb (1918-1999), “Mad Scientist” for the CIA

Gottlieb joined the CIA in 1951 working as a poison expert. He supervised the many mind control experiments from 1953 called “Project MKUltra”. This “project” was officially halted in 1973.

White managed the sub-project “Operation Midnight Climax”, where CIA and FBI jointly organized to blackmail unwitting “johns”: Hired prostitutes gave drinks spiked with LSD to their unsuspecting victims and videotaped them later during compromising acts; from behind two-way mirrors at hotels in New York and San Francisco. White is also the prime suspect in the killing of CIA whistleblower Frank Olsen in 1953.


George Hunter White (? – 1975), CIA Counterintelligence

Olsen was a biological warfare scientist who worked for the CIA after a successful career at the US Army. His specialty: Aerosolized Anthrax, i.e. spraying poison from airplanes on enemy ground. Sometime after World War II, he joined the team around Dr. Sidney Gottlieb. And in August 16, 1951, a little, sleepy village in southern France was chosen as a testing ground for this new wonder war drug called LSD.

Frank Olsen (1910-1953), bacteriologist for the U.S. Army


Remember that LSD had been invented by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1938 who worked in the company Sandoz. He didn’t see any medical value at first, but rediscovered his creation as a potential psychiatric medicine in 1943, after Hofmann’s self-experiment, followed by his memorable bicycle ride on acid.

Sandoz-LSD was first bought and brought to the US in 1949 by psychiatrist Max Rinkel who couldn’t wait to start large-scale experiments with “volunteers” (patients, artists, students) to produce temporary psychoses. Dr. Robert Hyde assisted him at the “Boston Psychopathic Institute”, which was affiliated with Harvard University.

Paul Hoch and Nick Bercel conducted similar LSD-experiments and came to the following results:

“Intensity of color perception, hallucinations, depersonalization, intense anxiety, paranoia, and in some cases catatonic manifestations. LSD and Mescaline (i.e. the active ingredient in the Peyote cactus) disorganize the psychic integration of the individual.”

Rinkel, Hyde, Hoch and Bercel (knowingly or unknowingly) paved the way for the 1951 LSD-Chemtrail experiment. On Wikipedia, it’s known as the “1951 Pont-Saint-Esprit mass poisoning”, and several unlikely sources are made responsible for the poisoning, e. g. molded bread, flour bleach, mercury. The chemical attack affected 300 people resulting in 32 commitments to mental hospitals and at least seven deaths.

In the 2009 book “A Terrible Mistake”, investigative journalist Hank P. Albarelli Jr. came to the conclusion that it was a military CIA “operation”. The bacteriologist Frank Olson was involved, but wanted to blow the whistle. He was drugged with LSD, then brought to a CIA psychiatric clinic. A week later, at 2.30am on November 28, 1953, he was probably pushed down a window of a hotel, so it looked like suicide.

HankAlbarelli_smHank P. Albarelli Jr., Investigative Journalist

In 1953 the CIA seemed to be extremely satisfied with the results of LSD and ordered 10kg LSD from Sandoz (1g = 10’000 doses) The maximal order had been 40g so far. Sandoz declined. But it didn’t matter. By mid-1954 the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly in Indianapolis broke the secret formula and started producing mass amounts for the CIA.

Let’s summarize: The CIA like to experiment. They are invisible. They can do anything they want. They like spraying chemicals from the sky or drug VIPs and film them in embarrassing situations, so they can blackmail them later. It’s simply a fun power game for them.

My impression of the CIA: After reading through many texts, they don’t seem to be well-organized, unified organization (as portrayed in popular TV-shows like “Homeland”). They might be a bunch of loosely connected, mafia-like, hierarchical cliques, with dictatorial masterminds on the top, using military and scientific connections when needed.

And even Tim Leary, the self-proclaimed “rebel guru” of the psychedelic revolution admitted in an interview:

I would say that eighty percent of my movements, eighty percent of the decisions I made were suggested to me by CIA people… I like the CIA! The game they’re playing is better than the FBI. Better than the Saigon police. Better than Franco’s police. Better than the Israeli police. They’re a thousand times better than the KGB. So it comes down to: whom are you going to work for? The Yankees or the Dodgers?”


The focus of this “drug culture study” was on the variable “set” (the intention, the personality, the expectation, the mindset), not on the setting (that described in my previous article on “Peyote and the Native American Church”).

Part 3 of “Drug Culture Visions” will follow the more responsible researchers in the scientific community like Walter Pahnke (who died mysterious while scuba diving in 1971), psychoanalyst Stanislav Grof and Roland Griffiths who has recently reinstituted contemporary psychedelic and mystical research. I hope we can learn from the dark past and envision a brighter future.

Further information on the subject:

– Hank Albarelli on LSD-spraying in Pont St. Esprit France on August 16, 1951:

History of the main characters involved with LSD&CIA:

Neil Sanders‘s 2 hour presentation:

– Classic by Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain: “Acid Dreams

2 responses to “Four Drug Culture Visions: LSD and the Mad CIA Scientists, Part Two

  1. The last link seems to be dead now. Try here to read an excerpt of “Acid Dreams”:

    One of my favorite passages:
    “Burroughs was one of the first to suspect that the acid craze of the 1960s might have been a manipulated phenomenon — an opinion shared by John Sinclair, the former White Panther leader who once sang the praises of LSD as a revolutionary drug. “It makes perfect sense to me,” Sinclair stated. “We thought at the time that as a result of our LSD-inspired activities great things would happen. And, of course, it didn’t…. They were up there moving that shit around. Down on the street, nobody knew what was going on.” “


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