From The Controllers, an unpublished manuscript by Martin Cannon:What to do with the victims of CIA-sponsored electroshock, hypnosis, and drug experimentation?

From The Controllers, an unpublished manuscript by Martin Cannon:


According to declassified documents in the Marks files, a major difficulty faced by the MKULTRA researchers concerned the “disposal problem.” What to do with the victims of CIA-sponsored electroshock, hypnosis, and drug experimentation? The Company resorted to distressing, but characteristic, tactics: They disposed of their human guinea pigs by incarcerating them in insane asylums, by performing ice-pick lobotomies, and by ordering “executive actions.”[103]

A more sophisticated solution had to be found. One of the goals of the CIA’s mind control efforts was the erasure of memory via hypnosis (and drugs, electronics, lobotomies, etc.); not only would this hide what occurred during the experimental indoctrination/programming sessions, it would prove useful in the field. “Amnesia was a big goal,” confirms Victor Marchetti, who points out its usefulness in dealing with contract agents: “After you’ve done it, the agent doesn’t even know what he’s done…you send him in, he does the job. When he comes out, you clean his head out.”[104]

The big problem: Despite hypnotically-induced amnesia, there would be memory leaks — snippets of the repressed material would arise spontaneously, in dreams, as flashbacks, etc. A proposed solution: Give the subject a “screen memory,” a false story; thus, even if he starts to recall the material, he will recall it incorrectly.

Even the conservative Dr. Orne notes that:

A S [subject] who is able to develop good posthypnotic amnesia will also respond to suggestions to remember events which did not actually occur. On awakening, he will fail to recall the real events of the trance and will instead recall the suggested events. If anything, this phenomenon is easier to produce than total amnesia, perhaps because it eliminates the subjective feeling of an empty space in memory.[105]

Not only would the screen memories fill in the uncomfortable blanks in the subjects’ recollection, they would protect against revelation. One fear of the MKULTRA scientists was that a hypno-programmed individual used as, say, a courier, could be un-programmed by another hypnotist, perhaps working for the enemy. Thus, the MKULTRA scientists decided to instill multiple personalities — multiple cover stories, if you will — to confuse any “unauthorized” hypnotist.[106]

One case using this technique centered on an assassin named Luis Castillo, who, after his capture in the Philippines, was extensively de-briefed and studied by experts in the employ of the National Bureau of Investigation, that country’s equivalent to our FBI. Castillo was discovered to have had at
least FOUR separate personalities hypnotically instilled; each personality could be triggered by a specific cue. In one state, he claimed to be Sgt. Manuel Angel Ramirez, of the Strategic Air Tactical Command in South Vietnam; supposedly, “Ramirez” was the illegitimate son of a certain pipe-smoking, highly-placed CIA official whose initials were A.D.[107] Another personality claimed to be one of John F. Kennedy’s assassins.

The main hypnotist involved with this case labelled these hypnotic alter-egos “Zombie states.” The report on the case stated that “The Zombie phenomenon referred to here is a somnambulistic behavior displayed by the subject in a conditioned response to a series of words, phrases, and statements, apparently unknown to the subject during his normal waking state.”

Upon Castillo’s repatriation to the United States, the FBI claimed that he had fabricated the story. In his book OPERATION MIND CONTROL, Walter Bowart makes a convincing case against the FBI’s claims. Certainly, many aspects of the Castillo affair argue for his sincerity — including his hypnotically-induced insensitivity to pain[108], his maintenance of the story (or stories) even when severely inebriated, and his apparently programmed suicide attempts.

If Castillo told the truth, as I believe he did, then he manifested both hypnotically-induced multiple personality and pseudo-memory. The former remains controversial; the latter has been repeatedly replicated in experimental situations[109].


103. Lee and Shlain, ACID DREAMS, 8-9.

104. John Marks interview with Victor Marchetti, December 19, 1977 (Marks files).

105. Martin T. Orne, “On the Mechanisms of Posthypnotic Amnesia,” THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL HYPNOSIS, 1966, vol. 14, 121-134. Orne’s work with post-hypnotic amnesia was funded by NIMH, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Office of Naval Research. I should like to hear what innocent explanation, if any, the Air Force has to offer to explain their interest in post-hypnotic amnesia. [“We must not allow a post- hypnotic-amnesia gap!” of course. -jpg]

106. Bowart, OPERATION MIND CONTROL, 242-243.

107. Obviously Allan Dulles. This may have been a hypnotically-induced delusion; on the other hand, Dulles’ legendary sexual rapacity makes this claim rather less unlikely than one might first assume.

108. Always the best indicator of whether or not hypnosis is genuine; I can’t understand why Orne didn’t use this test in the Blanchi case.

109. Herbert Spiegel, “Hypnosis and evidence: Help or hindrance,” ANN. N.Y. ACAD. SCI.; 1980, 347, 73-85.


Some time ago, I attended hypnotic regression sessions in which the subject — a claimed UFO abductee — recalled undergoing a mysterious “brain operation” at a veteran’s hospital in California. The operation was performed by human beings, not aliens. Interestingly, this same hospital was mentioned in two other cases I encountered. These other claims were not made by abductees, but by people alleged to have been victims of mind control experimentation.

One of these claimants, a former Navy SEAL who undertook numerous dangerous missions in Vietnam, favorably impressed me with the wealth of detail in his story[147]. This individual — I’ve taken to calling him “the trained SEAL”– had received specialized combat training at a military base in California; he claims that at one point during this training he was drugged, hypnotized, possibly placed under some form of electronic control, and subjected to the extremes of pain/pleasure operant conditioning. One peculiar detail of his story concerns the “reward” aspect of the conditioning: When properly acquiescent, he was given unlimited sexual access to a woman who, the SEAL avers, was herself the victim of brainwashing.

Unbelievable as this last claim may seem, I found it oddly resonant when I later interviewed a prominent abductee in the Southern California area, who bravely offered me details on a puzzling, albeit quite delicate, incident in her past. Still an attractive woman, she recalled for me — indeed, seemed strangely compelled to describe — an early love affair with a young soldier training at a military base near her home. She cannot recall the soldier’s name. All she remembers is that one day he started LIVING AT HER FAMILY’S HOUSE; she has no memory of how the arrangement began, and her parents have never felt comfortable discussing the matter. Although unattracted to this soldier, she felt compelled to become intimate with him, adopting a pliant, obeisant attitude that was quite out of character for her. Later, the soldier went on to covert missions in Vietnam.

Of course, a young person’s psycho-sexual development is never smooth, and the incident related above may merely have represented one peculiarly upsetting bump in that notoriously rough road. Still, some of the details of this story — particularly the parents’ attitude, the woman’s personality shift, and her subsequent memory lapses — are striking, and I treat with respect the abductee’s intuition that this minor enigma in her personal history could, if properly understood, shed light on her later “missing time” experiences.

Could the “trained SEAL” have been right? Was there, IS there, a coterie of hypno-programmed soldiers conducting particularly hazardous missions? And do the programmers have at their disposal a “ladies’ auxiliary,” so to speak, of hypnotized camp followers?

If the SEAL’s story stood alone, skeptics could easily dismiss it (provided they did not sit, as I did, face-to- face with the story’s teller, listening to all the grisly and unsettling details). But other veterans have added their voices to this grim tale. Daniel Sheehan, of the Christic Institute, claims that his organization has spoken to half-a-dozen individuals with narratives similar to my SEAL informant. All had received “processing,” so to speak, within the context of standard military training; after programming and specialized combat instruction by mercenaries, the recruits were placed “on hold,” to be used as situations arose — and some of those situations occurred within the United States[148].

Walter Bowart began his own researches into mind control by placing an ad in SOLDIER-OF-FORTUNE-style publications, asking for correspondence from veterans who experienced inexplicable lapses in memory or strange behavior modification techniques while serving in Vietnam; he received over 100 replies. Bowart devoted an entire chapter to one of these respondents — an Air Force veteran named David, who ended his four-year tour of duty recalling only that he had spent the time “having fun, skin diving, laying on the beach, collecting shells…It never dawned on me until later that I must have DONE something while I was in the service.” (An obvious example of screen memory.) He was also “assigned” a girlfriend whose name he cannot now recall, despite the length and deep intimacy of the affair[149]. The parallels to the SEAL’s story and the abductee’s account should be obvious.

We even have a confession, of sorts, from a scientist who specialized in one aspect of this sort of training. Lt. Commander Thomas Narut, of the U.S. Naval Hospital at the NATO headquarters in Naples, Florida, admitted during a lecture in Oslo that recruits in Naples underwent CLOCKWORK- ORANGE-style behavior modification sessions. Trainees would be strapped into chairs with their eyelids clamped open while watching films of industrial accidents and African circumcision ceremonies — films frequently used by psychologists as a means of inducing stress in experimental situations. Unlike the protagonist in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, who learned revulsion at the sight of violence, Narut’s soldiers were taught to accept and enjoy bloodshed, to view it with equanimity. Similar techniques were used to dehumanize potential enemies. Graduates of this program became, in Narut’s words, “hit men and assassins,” to be placed in American embassies throughout the world.

When questioned by reporters about these claims, the American government denied the story; Narut — after a long incommunicado period and apparent coercion — later explained to journalists that he had merely spoken theoretically. If so, why did he originally describe the behavior modification procedure as an ongoing program?[150]

And while it may seem frivolous to return to the subject of abductions after examining such grim data, I should remind the reader of the many abduction accounts in which abductees recall being forced to watch certain stress- inducing motion pictures. The aliens, it seems, have learned a few lessons from Dr. Narut.


147. A mutual friend described for me an incident in which the former SEAL, mistakenly perceiving a threat, almost instantly felled, and nearly killed, a man twice his size. Whatever the truth of my informant’s other statements, he certainly has received advanced combat training.

148. Fenton Bresler, WHO KILLED JOHN LENNON? (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), 45-46.

149. Bowart, OPERATION MIND CONTROL, 27-42.

150. Denise Winn, THE MANIPULATED MIND (London, Octagon Press, 1983), 72-73; Bresler, WHO KILLED JOHN LENNON?, 41; see generally: Peter Watson, WAR ON THE MIND (London: Hutchison, 1978) (Watson broke the story on Narut for the London TIMES).


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