Louis Jolyon West’s relatively rocky start with the CIA: How a ‘talkative,’ ‘unconventional’ ‘champion of the underdog’ became the face of MKULTRA

At some point in our lives, all of us has learned the valuable lesson that…pardon my French…💩 happens. By this, I mean that not everything is going to go exactly as planned. Sometimes, there’ll be the occasional hiccup, even though no one is really at fault. 

As a matter of fact, 💩 happened to me very recently. That’s not surprising for someone who spends a lot of their time doing what I do. But you know what? As all-powerful as the CIA has been throughout its history, sometimes 💩 happens to the CIA too. That’ll play a part in the story that I’ll be sharing with you today.  

Let’s do this the fun way…Q&A. The floor is now open. 

What was the bad thing that happened to you recently?

You know my Labor Day post on Facebook? The one where I was discussing a memo that I felt was describing Louis Jolyon West to a “T”? (I still feel that’s the case, by the way.) In my post, I made the bold claim that the number at the top of the memo—A/B, 5, 44/14—was an important clue, and that any document with a similar alphanumeric pattern and a number 44 in the second-to-last position would have something to do with Jolly West. Not only that, but I felt that two memos within that classification were probably describing St. Clair Switzer. Unfortunately, I came to realize later on that I’d gotten some details in my theory wrong, including the part about Switzer. 

Of course, I felt horrible because I really hate to say wrong things and mislead you all. But then, after doing a lot more digging, I’ve come to believe that I wasn’t that far off the mark. Yes, some things I got wrong, but I also feel confident that I got a number of things right. So I’m feeling a lot better now.

Here’s a copy of the memo, which was written on April 16, 1954, by the CIA’s Technical Branch chief, Morse Allen, to the chief of the CIA’s Security Research Staff. Paragraph 2 is what convinced me that he was referring to West.

The April 16, 1954 memo which shows its A/B classification number. Note that the CIA sometimes used Roman numerals and sometimes they separated the last two numbers by a slash instead of a comma. For consistency, I’ve chosen to use Arabic numerals and a slash between the last two numbers. Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackVault.com.

Why are you so sure that April 16, 1954, memo is describing Jolly West?

I’d like to answer your question a little bit now, and a little more later. Based on documents that I found in UCLA’s Archives, West had become disenchanted with his position at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) not too long after his arrival in July 1952. Back then, he was a 20-something hot-shot psychiatrist and hypnosis researcher who’d performed his residency training in psychiatry at Cornell University’s Payne Whitney Clinic in NYC. West viewed his time at Cornell with fondness, and he’d thought that he might like to return there one day as a faculty member. However, because the Air Force had made it financially possible for him to take his residency training in psychiatry, he was obligated to serve four years at the hospital on base.

In July 1953, when a neurologist who West didn’t seem to care for at Lackland was promoted to supervisor over both the neurology and psychiatry programs, West felt as if his wings had been clipped. He also worried that this development would jeopardize the plans he was cooking up with Sidney Gottlieb in regard to hypnosis and drug research under CIA’s Artichoke program. The last thing he needed was someone looking over his shoulder, especially when that someone wasn’t a believer in the use of hypnosis on patients.

Fast forward to April 1954, when Jolly was being courted by the University of Oklahoma for the position of professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Behavioral Sciences. Five days after Morse Allen had written his memo to the chief of the Security Research Staff, the dean of the University of Oklahoma’s School of Medicine wrote to Surgeon General Harry G. Armstrong, asking him to please relieve Jolly West of his duties with the Air Force so they could hire him. Armstrong wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, but by the end of September, under a new surgeon general named Dan Ogle, Jolly was permitted to begin his transition to the University of Oklahoma. It took some fancy finagling by an Agency representative named Major Hughes (I think it was a pseudonym used by Sidney Gottlieb) to help convince Air Force officials that this move would be in everyone’s best interest. 

Before we move on, can we talk about the letters and numbers at the top of the memo? What do you think they mean?

Many (though not all) of the MKULTRA documents have similar notations in the upper righthand corner. The A/B is consistently in the front. According to Colin A. Ross, M.D., a psychiatrist, author, and MKULTRA expert, the A/B stands for Artichoke/Bluebird. After the A/B is a number between 1 and 7, which is sometimes written as a Roman numeral. This number represents a grouping of like files. Although I’m not sure about the meaning of the other numbers, the number 5 appears to represent consultants of some sort. The second-to-last number—in this case, 44—is unique to a person or group of people who seem to be linked somehow. The last number is the number assigned to each document within the category. In 44’s case, the last number runs from 1 to 17, with a couple numbers (9 and 11) being skipped over, probably because the CIA decided we shouldn’t see them. One thing I’ve noticed is that the last numbers weren’t assigned in chronological order. Some seem to run in reverse chronological order. This makes me think that they were numbered by someone after MKULTRA became public in 1977.

This question is a two-parter: What was your hypothesis when you wrote your Facebook post on Labor Day and how has that changed?

It has to do with document A/B, 5, 44/1 (aka # 146319), which has the title “RESEARCH PLAN” typed in all caps at the top of the first page. The document describes a research project in which a team of researchers plans to study a demographic group referred to as criminal sexual psychopaths who were being hospitalized in the same facility. The point of the research was to use narco-analysis (psychoanalysis with the assistance of drugs) and hypnosis to see if the patients would admit to actions that they denied but that were documented through police reports and other records. In other words, they wanted to see if they could get people who made a practice of being deceptive to admit the truth.

What I initially thought

First of all, I knew that Jolly West was named in the January 14, 1953, memo as being part of the “well-balanced interrogation research center.” I also knew that Jolly West had written articles on the topic of homosexuality in the Air Force, and had studied airmen who were gay or who were accused of being gay at Lackland AFB from 1952 through 1956. Because it was the 1950s, I’d thought that perhaps it was an archaic term for gay individuals who’d been incarcerated, but I was mistaken. The term “criminal sexual psychopath” generally was used to describe people who’d committed sexual crimes against children and, what’s more, it wasn’t a term that was used universally back then. Canada used it as did the states of Indiana and Michigan. There may have been others, but I wasn’t seeing it in use in Texas or in the military. 

I later learned through old news accounts that the study on criminal sexual psychopaths was conducted by Alan Canty, Sr., a psychologist and executive director of the Recorder’s Court Psychopathic Clinic in Detroit, whose work included the analysis and placement of individuals whose cases had gone through the Wayne County criminal justice system. The selected location for the CIA’s project was Ionia State Hospital, in Ionia, Michigan, where 142 individuals labeled as criminal sexual psychopaths had been residing at that time. 

What I think now

Because references to Jolly West can be found in documents occupying the same “44” category as the researchers from Michigan, and because the researchers were receiving assistance from at least one outside consultant, my current hypothesis is that West had been providing guidance to them on occasion. Sidney Gottlieb signed off on the Ionia State Hospital project, listed as MKULTRA Subproject 39, on December 9, 1954. By that date, Jolly was spending roughly one week out of every month in his newly acquired academic role in Oklahoma City.

By the by? I still have my suspicions regarding whether Jolly may have been conducting his own studies on gay airmen stationed at Lackland AFB. In 1953, Air Force Regulation (AFR) 35-66 mandated that homosexuals were not permitted in the Air Force. If someone was caught in the act or if someone reported their suspicions to the authorities, that person would be subjected to a lengthy investigation, a portion of which included a psychiatric examination, which is when Jolly West would enter the picture. What’s more, during the investigative period, these men were placed on “casual status,” and relocated to a special barracks to await the results of their respective investigations and final rulings, a process which could take months. Somehow, I can’t imagine West walking by the special barracks and not thinking that these men sequestered together with little else to do would make good test subjects in the detection of deception.

Now that we know what the criminal sexual psychopath study was about, can I address the rest of the question that you’d asked earlier about how I’m sure that the April 1954 memo is referring to Jolly West?

Yeah, sure. Why else do you think the April 1954 memo is referring to Jolly West?

I’ve researched the primary participants in the criminal sexual psychopath study, and everyone was steadfastly employed in their positions in April 1954. Ostensibly, no one was looking for work elsewhere as evidenced by the fact that no one left. In addition, a psychiatrist and an anesthesiologist from the University of Minnesota whom I suspected had offered guidance to the Michiganders were happy in their jobs as well. To the best of my knowledge, no one directly or peripherally tied to that project was being considered for another job in April 1954. Only Louis Jolyon West.

Interesting. I noticed that you said there were ‘references’—plural—to Jolly West in documents occupying the same ‘44’ category as the researchers from Michigan. Where else have you found a reference to West?

Excellent catch! This is where our story gets fun…and it’s also where, as I noted earlier, the CIA was experiencing some, um, difficulty of the “💩’s a-happenin’” variety.

It all began when I was using the searchable, sortable MKULTRA index that Good Man friend and history buff Julie Miles created, and focusing heavily on the documents that were dated within the window of 1952 through 1954. I noticed that, at some point, a psychiatrist was having a tough time getting through the CIA’s clearance process. I’ve read that CIA clearance is a lengthy process that’s stricter than any of the other federal agencies, so it didn’t surprise me that it wouldn’t be easy. Fleetingly, I may have wondered who it might have been, but I didn’t get all that hung up over it.

Then I read document A/B, 5, 44/3 (#146321), dated July 24, 1953. The document is a memo from Morse Allen, chief of the Technical Branch, to the chief of the Security Research Staff, and he’s seriously worked up over the clearance issue. 

Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackvault.com.
Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackvault.com.

Apparently, when the CIA’s Special Security Division (SSD) was conducting its preliminary investigation into Morse’s man of interest, they discovered that another entity had conducted an investigation into that same person in mid-June 1953.

The other investigation was described as a “full field investigation,” which is an intensive background check into new government hires in which interviews are conducted with former bosses, family members, neighbors, clergy, you name it, and their comments are written up into summaries called “synopses.” Although full field investigations had been used before in the federal government, they were more notably implemented after Exec. Order 10450 was signed in April 1953. At that point, all civilian federal agencies were required to conduct full field investigations on new hires to make sure they wouldn’t be putting the nation at risk by giving information to the communists. The military required a full field investigation for Top Secret classifications. (As you may recall, the real reason behind Exec. Order 10450 was to purge the federal government of homosexuals because they claimed that they could be blackmailed.) 

So, to quickly recap: someone other than the CIA had conducted a full field investigation on Morse Allen’s man of interest and the memo which discusses the findings is labeled under the #44 category.

Moreover, this particular full field investigation had something to do with the military. I believe this is true because, over New Year’s this year, this blog site took advantage of the down time to decode what some of the letters in the margins of the MKULTRA documents mean. For example, we determined that an “A” stands for an Agency employee; a “C” stands for a contractor; and so on. (They didn’t always start with the same letter, but in those cases, they did.) In the July 24, 1953, document, the margins are filled with A’s, C’s, and H’s, the latter of which, we determined, was used for the Department of Defense or one of its military branches.

That’s extremely interesting, because none of the other people associated with the proposed research project at Ionia State Hospital had anything to do with the military. They would have needed to undergo the CIA’s clearance process, but they wouldn’t have to be subjected to a full field investigation by the military in June 1953.

There’s a lot in this memo, which we can discuss in the comments if you’d like. For now, let’s go to my favorite paragraph, which is paragraph number 5:

“You will note that these synopses indicate that REDACTED is ‘talkative,’ somewhat ‘unconventional’ and a ‘champion of the underdog’ but, according to all informants, he does not discuss classified information and can be trusted with Top Secret matters.”

That’s it. That’s the giveaway. Morse Allen is talking about Louis Jolyon West.

Wait—why is that the giveaway? Was Jolly West talkative? Unconventional? Was he a champion of the underdog? 

The answers are yes, yes, and, although you may find this surprising, yes he was. But don’t take my word for it. I have a few anecdotes to share. 

On being talkative

First, there was his nickname—Jolly West—which is an indicator of his gigantic personality that seemed to match his size 2XL frame. A 1985 Los Angeles Times article on Jolly and his wife Kathryn said: “Psychiatrist West’s nickname, Jolly, seems unlikely to casual acquaintances, for his manner is serious, attentive, concerned. But he lightens up with frequent moments of laughter, and he can convey a measure of humor even in moments of stress.” 

That was written when Jolly was a mellow 61. Imagine him when he was 28 and eager to impress his superiors and overpower his competition.

In an article that appeared in the U.K. publication The Independent after his death, a colleague of West’s, Dr. Milton H. Miller, said he was: “above all, a colourful figure, an alive person who loved to be on stage.” 

On being unconventional

This is a broad term—what does it even mean? But yes, it’s safe to say that Jolly West wasn’t your run-of-the-mill psychiatrist who’d been sent to medical school by monied parents. His father had immigrated to the United States from Ukraine, and according to The Independent, his mother taught piano lessons in Brooklyn. His family, who’d later moved to Madison, WI, struggled financially, and he had to work hard and think creatively to find his way in the world. 

“We were, in fact, quite poor,” West said in the 1985 L.A. Times article. “Some of our neighbors didn’t have jobs. Some had no books. The family across the street had no bathtub. It was strictly the wrong side of the tracks. But in our house there was an attitude of ‘Thank God, we’re in America,’ and there was always a willingness to help others.”

According to that same article, West enlisted in the Army during WWII because, as a Jewish teen, he took Hitler’s fascism personally and he wanted to fight and kill.

“I was a bloodthirsty young fellow,” he said.

Because there was a shortage of Army physicians, the Army steered Jolly West to medical school, first at the University of Iowa, and later at the University of Minnesota. As mentioned earlier, the Air Force had financially supported his residency at Cornell, which is why he was obligated to serve at Lackland AFB for four years before finally severing his military ties.

On being a champion of the underdog

This one is so fascinating, knowing what we now know about West and some of his more questionable actions during the MKULTRA years. But he truly was a believer in civil rights. 

A 2001 article on Charlton Heston in the Los Angeles Magazine said that Heston and Louis Jolyon West were best friends(!) and that in the 1950s, after Jolly had moved to the University of Oklahoma, he’d reached out to Heston, and “the two friends teamed up with a black colleague of West’s to desegregate local lunch counters.”

In 1983 and 1984, Jolly flew to South Africa to speak out against apartheid.

“Everybody makes a difference,” he said in the 1985 L.A. Times article. “You can fight city hall. You can change the world. It might not seem like much of a change at the time, but you have the power as an individual to do a great deal.”

West was also fiercely opposed to capital punishment. In 1975, he published a paper in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry which provided one of the most strongly-worded abstracts I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot of them:

“Capital punishment is outdated, immoral, wasteful, cruel, brutalizing, unfair, irrevocable, useless, dangerous, and obstructive of justice. In addition, psychiatric observations reveal that it generates disease through the torture of death row; it perverts the identity of physicians from trials to prison wards to executions; and, paradoxically, it breeds more murder than it deters.”

So, yeah. I can see someone describing Jolly West with the words used in the memo. That the CIA would consider someone being characterized as a “champion of the underdog” as a knock against him kind of tells you all you need to know about the CIA of the 1950s.`

But what about the last part of paragraph 5? The part that said: “according to all informants, he does not discuss classified information and can be trusted with Top Secret matters.” Under what scenario would Jolly West come into contact with “informants”—again, plural—and be in a position to discuss classified information with them?

That line threw me too until I thought about the people West associated with when he was at Cornell. Two of the faculty members that he would have known well were Harold G. Wolff, a personal friend of Allen Dulles, and Lawrence E. Hinkle, who published a study with Wolff titled “Communist Interrogation and Indoctrination of ‘Enemies of the State’” in 1956. They were the CIA’s go-to’s in brainwashing. 

In 1955, Wolff created the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology (later referred to as the Human Ecology Fund), which supported the Ionia State Hospital study. Hinkle, who was also in a leadership role in the society, was one of the primary contacts for the study’s researchers. It’s certainly plausible that Harold Wolff, Lawrence Hinkle, and Jolly West could have discussed national secrets when Jolly was conducting hypnosis studies at Cornell. For Morse Allen to identify Hinkle and Wolff as CIA informants in July 1953 doesn’t seem like a stretch of the imagination. Not in the least.

Oh my gosh. I just thought of something.


Read Paragraph 6 of the July 24, 1953, memo. Morse Allen says the following:

“In further consideration, it should be remembered that REDACTED will be dealing with close personal friends and close professional associates of his in the REDACTED ARTICHOKE work and further if he works with us his professional reputation may conceivably be greatly enhanced by successful development of our program. These elements should be weighed, of course, in the evaluation of REDACTED.”

When you consider paragraphs 5 and 6 together, Morse Allen is saying: yes, I agree, West is currently an immature idealist. But if he could be cleared according to our plan—which is at the Secret level, not even Top Secret—he’ll be in close contact with CIA-sanctioned researchers Harold Wolff and Lawrence Hinkle, which will “greatly enhance” his “professional reputation.” In other words, if Security would just clear him, Morse and his pals could mold Jolly West into the person they desire him to be. Less angry young man—more “this is the way the world works.” Because Wolff and Hinkle were closely tied to the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, and the society funded the Ionia State Hospital study, it’s conceivable that Louis Jolyon West played a role in the study too, which was good reason to have his documents marked with a “44.”

Harold G. Wolff (credit: 1957 Annual Report or the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology) Fair Use
Lawrence E. Hinkle, Jr. (credit: 1957 Annual Report of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology) Fair Use

[You can link to the 1957 Annual Report of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology.]

Very interesting. But how does that impact your hypothesis regarding St. Clair Switzer?

I’m happy you brought this up. You’re absolutely right—that’s why we’re here. We’re trying to understand how Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor St. Clair Switzer might have been used in Project Artichoke and, in turn, what might have happened to Ronald Tammen after he went missing from Miami University’s campus.

I haven’t budged from my belief that, in January 1953, St. Clair Switzer was mentioned in the same paragraph as Louis J. West for a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” In fact, I feel stronger about that hypothesis now more than ever. 

Let’s zoom in on the names of the Major and the Lt. Colonel in paragraph 3 of the January 14 memo. When we zoom in on the Major, we can see the letters of West’s first name—the L, the o, the u, the dotted i, and the s—even though it’s crossed out. We can see the J. We can sort of see the West. It’s him. Also, we know that Sidney Gottlieb was having conversations with West about a hypnosis and drug research center in June and early July 1953—roughly the time when the CIA’s Security office was conducting its preliminary investigation into the person who was talkative and unconventional.

The Lt. Colonel’s name is harder to see, but I definitely see a capital S. Without a doubt. I happen to see a w and a z as well. (Oh, who am I kidding? I see all the letters.) And I’ll be honest—I haven’t come across very many lieutenant colonels in the Air Force in 1953 with last names that began with S that were also hypnosis experts. In fact, I only know of one. (Switzer.) We’re still waiting on our Mandatory Declassification Review to see if we can finally remove the redactions and put that question to rest.

But there’s more. Do you recall how, at first, the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office wasn’t entirely on board with having the CIA using one of its bases as a testing ground for hypnosis and drugs? A memo dated September 23, 1952, was focused upon two individuals who were under consideration for the endeavor. Person A, a U.S. commander, had “nothing to contribute in the line of research.” (See paragraph 2.) 

Click on image for a closer view, thanks to theBlackvault.com.

As for Person B, a CIA rep said they were “inclined to go easy on him from a security standpoint, because of his propensity to talk.” (See paragraph 3.)

In paragraph 4, a colonel in the Surgeon General’s Office was speaking of Person A (I believe) when he said that “he thinks very highly of REDACTED, and that it will be essential to keep him cut into the picture.” The words “air research” were handwritten above the essential person’s blackened name.

In a former blog post, I argued that Person A, the one whom the colonel thought very highly of, was likely St. Clair Switzer, since he’d recently spent a summer working for the Air Research and Development Command, and he and the surgeon general had a connection with Wright Patterson AFB. Perhaps Switzer’s name was being floated as a liaison between the interrogation research center at Lackland AFB and the Office of the Surgeon General.

Today, I’m adding to that hypothesis. I’d suggest that Person B, who had the “propensity to talk,” was Jolly West. Perhaps the Office of the Surgeon General thought West a wee bit too chatty, and St. Clair Switzer—quiet, conventional, obsequious to the powerful—was brought in to appease the brass. 

OK! I think that’s all for today. Questions? Concerns?


To demonstrate how well Jolly West knew the guys at Cornell, he’s written Dr. Harold G. Wolff’s name as a character reference on a form he’d filled out on November 4, 1955. (I don’t know the purpose of the form.) Wolff’s name is directly below West’s adviser at Cornell, Dr. Oskar Diethelm.

When Doc met Jolly: the sequel

I think it’s time we elaborated a little on our theory about St. Clair (Doc) Switzer and famed MKULTRA researcher Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West. For a while now, I’ve been frantically waving a document in everyone’s faces from January 1953, and using it as evidence that the two men must have known each other and even worked together in some capacity.  

So…THEN what, right?

Right. This blog post is all about what happened to Doc and Jolly AFTER the January 14th memo. Admittedly, it mostly has to do with Jolly, but, based on events that came to pass in his career, we can deduce how Doc was affected as well. 

But first, let’s have a little recap.

Our running theory 

In September 1952, the CIA was rounding up experts to conduct research for Project Artichoke. One of the locations at the top of their list was an Air Force Base—Lackland AFB, to be exact, in San Antonio. The reason they were drawn to Lackland was likely two-fold. First, it was where all incoming basic trainees were psychiatrically screened and where “questionable” Air Force officer candidates and pre-flight cadets were more fully evaluated psychiatrically. That’s a lot of baseline data concerning what was going on inside pretty much every airman’s head. 

Second, the new chief of the Psychiatric Service had arrived at Lackland AFB in July 1952—Jolly West. He had just completed his residency at the Payne Whitney Clinic in New York City, which was part of Cornell University Medical College. As it so happens, people in the Payne Whitney Clinic were friends with people in the CIA. Harold G. Wolff, an expert on headache and psychosomatic illness, was one of those people. He would go on to head the Human Ecology Fund, which funded MKULTRA-focused research, and to coauthor a 1956 comprehensive report on communist interrogation and indoctrination methods—aka brainwashing. Jolly, having developed strong skills in hypnosis while at Payne Whitney, was now in charge of the entire psychiatric division at Lackland’s 3700th USAF Hospital. If that’s not a perfect fit for Project Artichoke, I don’t know what is.

At roughly the same time in which the CIA was scrutinizing Jolly West, someone else’s name had made a little ping on their radar. That person was Miami University psychology professor Doc Switzer, who was brought to their attention by way of a memo written on March 25, 1952. Chief among Doc’s selling points were his having worked under noted psychologist and hypnosis expert Clark Hull and for his being a pharmacist before becoming a psychology professor. By September, however, the CIA was having their doubts about someone—Doc, I believe—and, despite his Artichoke-friendly credentials, they didn’t think he had much to contribute toward the research they desired. 

As it turns out, Doc could be useful in a different way. Doc was well-connected in the Air Force, whose surgeon general would have to approve whether Lackland could be a site for CIA-funded Artichoke research. Not only had Doc made a name for himself during WWII, but he was on the rolls of the Air Force Reserves, and, most recently, during the summer of 1951, he’d served in a prestigious post at the Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) in Baltimore.  

On September 23, 1952, a CIA rep had spoken with a colonel in the Air Force’s Office of the Surgeon General, and the colonel had said that the person whom the CIA was uncertain about—the person I believe to be Doc Switzer—would be “essential” to be “cut into the picture” because they thought very highly of him. Four months later, on January 14, 1953, Jolly (I’m 100% sure) and Doc (I strongly believe) are named in a memo with regards to the creation of a “well-balanced interrogation research center.”

Jolly West; Credit: Oklahoma Department of Public Welfare; Fair use.

The hot shot and his rival 

The winter of 1953 turned into the spring of 1953, with all of its happy trappings:  

the flowers were blooming… 

the birds were singing…

 the bees were buzzing… 

…and, on April 13… 

…the director of the CIA was signing a memo establishing MKULTRA, an amped-up version of Project Artichoke. 

(Due to a lack of time, we’ll forgo discussing how, six days later, a certain student from Miami University who had Doc Switzer for his psychology professor seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. We can discuss that little coinkidink another day.)

Our story picks up two months later, in the summer of 1953, when Jolly West and Sidney Gottlieb, who oversaw the CIA’s MKULTRA program, are discussing the to-be-implemented operation at Lackland AFB. Jolly couldn’t have been more gung-ho. On June 11, a 28-year-old West wrote to a 34-year-old Gottlieb a detailed letter about his short-term and long-term goals with regards to the hypnotizing of human subjects—a resource he ostensibly had an endless supply of—as part of his new project for the CIA. Among those readily available subjects were basic airmen, whom he could summon by simply telling the folks in HR to: “Send us 10 high I.Q. airmen at 0900 tomorrow,” he bragged. Other potential subjects would include volunteers who worked on the base, hospital patients, and a miscellaneous category of “others,” including prisoners in the local stockade and returning POWs.

He had the subjects. He had the know-how. He had the drive. He had the space—though he’d need to purchase some suitable new equipment. He could hire the necessary staff. 

But there was a problem, Jolly informed Sidney. The problem’s name was Robert Williams, who, by the way, should not be confused with Robert J. Williams, who oversaw Project Artichoke in the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence before it was reassigned to Inspection and Security. Nope, this guy was Robert L. Williams, who was chief of Neurology at Lackland AFB. Jolly informed Sidney that, after Williams had received his certification by the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry—with coaching from Jolly in preparation for the psychiatry portion of the exam, he pointed out—Williams started eyeing Jolly’s territory. Williams persuaded Colonel Robert S. Brua, commander of Lackland’s 3700th Medical Group, to combine the two divisions into one and to put Williams on top. 

As you can imagine, Jolly was fuming over this power grab. Here was someone Jolly described as being “several years my senior professionally although his experience in psychiatry is considerably less than mine” getting in the way of Jolly doing whatever he wanted. He’d be a giant roadblock to the hypnosis research the two men were discussing, Jolly contended. 

“This is a most unhappy turn of events from the point of view of our experiments,” he lamented. 

“Dr. Williams is extremely acquisitive and will be an uncomfortably close scrutinizer of my activities,” he said. “The fact that I am still Chief of Psychiatry doesn’t alter the fact that it is now merely a section in this new Service, and that many of my administrative and even professional decisions can be hamstrung.”

He later added: “And, most unfortunately, he is one of those conservative traditionalists who actively opposes research or treatment involving hypnosis, states that it is ‘tampering with the soul,’ and spoken out against some of my previous work; he will undoubtedly hamper my efforts in many ways.” 

Jolly had some suggestions on how to fix this unlivable situation. Going back to the old organizational structure was one possibility. Transferring Williams the heck out of San Antonio to some other base was another one. Or, geez, maybe Jolly should, you know…leave. That last option wasn’t very realistic though. Because the Air Force had foot the bill for Jolly’s medical training, he was obligated to serve there until June 1956. For him to even entertain the possibility of leaving in July of 1953 was indicative of…what…his immaturity? His arrogance? His bullheadedness? Take your pick—I can’t decide.

“The ultimate solution to the repeated occurrence of this type of situational crisis is, of course, a return to civilian status. If I were back on the staff at Cornell Medical Center where my previous research was done, there would be no problem. I could receive some funds from you disguised as a U.S. Public Health Service grant, or some such thing, gon [sic] onto a half-time research basis, and plub [sic?] away at the problem with considerable independence. This future eventuality we’ll have to discuss at a later date; meanwhile, we have the local problem to solve. If someone in the Surgeon General’s office, or the Surgeon General himself, were in on this whole complicated situation, it might make the solutions a little easier.” 

Um, I’m sorry, but has this 28-year-old never had a boss before? I mean, sure, it’s a drag that his division got usurped and all, but who among us hasn’t had something like that happen at our jobs without our feeling the need to run to our boss’s boss’s boss in hopes that they’ll fix it? Plus, some might say that Jolly could have used a little more supervision at that time, don’tya think? (Did I mention he was 28?)**

**Dear 28-year-olds: I have nothing against you. If you happen to be in this age group, that’s fantastic. It’s a super fun age to be. It’s just that, occasionally, people in your age bracket have been known to think they have all the answers when in fact they really don’t. (Not you. Other people.)

Listen to the Traveling Wilburys. They’ll tell you what I mean.

Sidney Gottlieb was undeterred by the likes of Robert L. Williams. He asked Jolly for the names and contact information of Lackland’s top brass, which were Col. Brua, Col. Cowles (who oversaw the Human Resources Research Center), and Brigadier General Steele (who commanded the entire base). Although Sidney wasn’t willing to give these men all the goods on MKULTRA just yet, he would explore obtaining Top Secret clearance for each one, just in case. He also would contact Donald Hastings, a psychiatrist at the University of Minnesota who was to collaborate with Jolly on the project. Hastings had been chief of psychiatry for the Army Air Forces during WWII, so he was much more seasoned in dealing with military brass. If anyone could arm wrestle them into acquiescence, he could probably do it without their having to bother the surgeon general over trivial workplace politics. 

Sidney closed his letter with “I feel that we have gained quite an asset in the relationship we are developing with you. We will work this thing out one way or another. It is of the greatest importance to do so.”

Less than a year later, Jolly wanted out of Lackland. Maybe he’d predicted correctly, and Robert L. Williams had rained all over Jolly’s MKULTRA plans. Or maybe it was plain old bureaucratic red tape. The laboratory where he needed to conduct his research still hadn’t been built. No matter the reason, at some point along the way, Jolly decided to look elsewhere for a job. As far as his obligation to the Air Force was concerned, he’d have to cross that bridge when he came to it.

In April 1954, he arrived at the bridge. He’d been offered the position of professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, and he would now need to seek approval from the Office of the Surgeon General before he could accept the position. Of course, he’d have to do so strategically and with finesse, since he had no intention of taking no for an answer.

University officials did what they could to get the Air Force to relinquish Jolly. The dean of the medical school promised to build Jolly the laboratory he needed to conduct his “special research assignment” for the CIA and USAF, including technical assistance and equipment. The laboratory was to be called the Air Force Psychosomatic Laboratory, likely as camouflage. Best of all, he would be able to conduct his research as he saw fit, with no questions asked. Still, months went by as Jolly tried to convince the assorted colonels and generals that the Air Force would be better off with him in Oklahoma than in Texas. He proposed transferring to Tinker Air Force Base, in Oklahoma City, where he could split his time between the university and military base, but the Air Force said no. Practically speaking, there was no need for a psychiatrist of his stature there. 

Despite the string of disapprovals, the Office of the Surgeon General began coming around to see things Jolly’s way. In August 1954, they offered a compromise in which Jolly would be granted 60 days of unpaid leave per year over and above any accrued leave he had, all of which he could use to work for the university. On September 26, 1954, the university announced that Jolly West would be joining their faculty. 

After all was said and done, Brigadier General H.H. Twitchell, in the Office of the Surgeon General, let Jolly know what had gone on behind the scenes that brought about the Air Force’s change of heart.

“It seemed ill advised to establish the Air Force Psychosomatic Laboratory either at Lackland or an Air Force base in Oklahoma only to have to abandon the project upon your release from the service 20 months from now. Therefore, General Powell, Major Hughes, Major Kollar, and myself conferred to discuss the best way to get your special research project underway on a continuing basis. It was decided that the Air Force Medical Service should withdraw from the project as it now stands leaving you and Major Hughes free to organize the program within your department at the University on a contract basis with the Agency that Major Hughes represents. Major Hughes indicated that other than the slight delay involved in establishing your program at the University of Oklahoma this will not seriously interfere with the conduct of the research since the acceptance of your professorship was predicated upon the unquestioned full support of this project. Major Hughes also indicated that he would discuss the details of this matter with you in the near future.”

Hmmm. Major Hughes sure sounds as if he had a lot of sway in the matter, doesn’t he? But who was he? Brigadier General Twitchell and General Powell both worked in the Office of the Surgeon General. Major Kollar worked at Lackland AFB. But this was the first I’d ever heard of Major Hughes. 

My guess? I think Major Hughes was our friend Sidney Gottlieb. Here’s why:

  • Sidney liked to use pseudonyms. In his July 2, 1953, letter to Jolly West, he signed his name Sherman C. Grifford, a pretend person who was affiliated with the pretend organization Chemrophyl Associates. In a meeting with the military men, I can see him taking on a more suitable pseudonym for the occasion—something with a rank that was respectable, but not too high—and a last name that was a little more forgettable than Gottlieb. 
  • Major Hughes was representing an Agency—with a capital A. General Twitchell was being cautious with his wording, but there’s no question that he was referring to the CIA.
  • Major Hughes seemed to be closely tied to Jolly’s research project. In fact, the way General Twitchell described it, Major Hughes and Jolly would be working together to organize the program in Jolly’s new department.
  • The person from the CIA with whom Jolly was working most closely on this project since June 1953 was Sidney Gottlieb.
Credit: CIA; Was Sidney Gottlieb Major Hughes?

In December 1954, Jolly wrote to a friend telling him that he’d started at Oklahoma, and by January 1955, he’d submitted a proposal to the Geschickter Foundation (another CIA front organization) for MKULTRA funding. By March 1955, he’d received approval for a $20,000 grant to begin his infamous work which came to be known as Subproject 43.

That pretty much sums things up, except there may be a little more to the story. In an article for the investigative site The Intercept, authors Tom O’Neill and Dan Piepenbring brought to light a gut-wrenching story in which Jolly West played a critical role. It concerns a murder that took place near Lackland Air Force Base at around midnight July 4, 1954. The victim was a three-year-old girl named Chere Jo Horton who’d been playing in the parking lot of a tavern while her parents and brother were inside. (Helicopter parenting was definitely not a thing in the ‘50s.) A search went on, and, tragically, her lifeless body was found in the nearby gravel pit.

The man who was charged with the murder, Jimmy Shaver, had come walking up from the gravel pit before her body had been discovered, almost as if he was in a trance. His body was bloody and scratched from brambles. Chere Jo’s underwear were dangling from his car door. An Associated Press story that ran the following day said that Shaver had written in a statement that he remembered putting her in his car and driving away. His last memory was of removing her from the car, and “then I blacked out.” Shaver was employed at Lackland AFB as a drill instructor. Up until that moment, he’d been a law-abiding citizen.

According to the Waco Times-Herald, Jolly testified at Shaver’s trial that Shaver was “given over to his care two months after the crime.” During that period, Jolly had given Shaver sodium amytal which, according to the paper, “put Shaver into an hypnotic trance.” A United Press wire service story said that West had examined Shaver “under hypnosis and truth serum.”

Jolly stated to the court that Shaver had been ridiculed and abused as a child by a little girl, and when he saw Chere Jo, Shaver was mentally transported back to his childhood. He killed her—a voice in his head had told him to do it—but he thought he was killing the abusive girl, Jolly told the court. Shaver was “insane” at the time of the killing and “did not know right from wrong,” the paper quoted him as saying. 

Jimmy Shaver died from the electric chair on July 25, 1958. 

It’s a horrible, tragic story that I’ve avoided writing about for a while. Here’s why I want to discuss it now: First, this was all happening while Jolly was trying to leave Lackland AFB. At the time of Chere Jo’s murder, Jolly had already been offered the job, and he was trying to convince the Office of the Surgeon General that he’d be of more use to them in Oklahoma than in Texas. In September, during Shaver’s trial, Jolly’s name, along with the name of Lackland Air Force Base, was being splashed on newspapers across Texas, and beyond. It was precisely at this time when the Office of the Surgeon General gave the green light for Jolly to conduct his research elsewhere.

Could it be that the surgeon general decided to make the Jolly West P.R. problem go away by approving his early move to Oklahoma? They’d allow him to continue with his experiments, but just not on their turf.  

The reason I pose this question is that in Tom O’Neill’s and Dan Piepenbring’s piece, they raise the question of whether Jolly West may have actually been conducting hypnotic experiments on Shaver before the murder and perhaps even introduced false memories during his hypnosis sessions after the murder. You can read the story and see the evidence for yourself.

I’d like to focus on one detail. Jolly had said under oath that Jimmy Shaver was “given over to his care two months after the crime.” But in O’Neill’s and Piepenbring’s piece, O’Neill had actually spoken with another psychiatrist at Lackland, a man named Gilbert Rose, who’d taken part in the sessions with Jolly West and Shaver.

In 2002, he said the following:

“[Rose had] also never known how West had found out about the case right away. ‘We were involved from the first day,’ Rose recalled. ‘Jolly phoned me the morning of the murder. He initiated it.’”

If what Rose said is true, then Jolly had committed perjury when he told the court of his later involvement. Why would he say that if he didn’t have something to hide? And again, were any of the Air Force officials knowledgeable? 

There’s one last person we need to discuss, and that person is Doc Switzer. Where does Doc factor into all of this?

In our running theory, Doc was considered “essential” by the Office of the Surgeon General in September 1952. At that time, the surgeon general was Harry G. Armstrong. However, when Jolly West received the OK to move to Oklahoma in 1954, the surgeon general was Dan C. Ogle. And once West was doing his work at the University of Oklahoma, the Office of the Surgeon General had purposely written themselves out of the equation. 

I have no idea what Surgeon General Harry Armstrong wanted from Doc Switzer. Perhaps he helped keep him up to speed on things. But by the time Jolly West moved his laboratory to the University of Oklahoma, there would have been no need for his services, at least in that regard. 

To look at it another way, could it be that the perfect window of time when Doc Switzer was considered “essential” to Project Artichoke happened to coincide with the time that Ronald Tammen disappeared from Miami University?

In recognition of the upcoming July 4th holiday and the 57th anniversary of FOIA, I give you the Psychological Strategy Board report from Sept. 5, 1952

DC’s Union Station all decked out for July 4th; photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

If you haven’t seen my announcement on Facebook, you may be bummed to learn of my recent discovery that the September 5, 1952, report for the Psychological Strategy Board (PSB) was not, I repeat was not written by St. Clair Switzer. Instead, it was written by a psychiatrist by the name of Henry P. Laughlin, M.D. Dr. Laughlin was also a professor of psychiatry at George Washington University, which is located in the Foggy Bottom section of DC, near the State Department, the National Academies. and as luck would have it, the CIA’s former location at 2430 E Street, NW. People in the CIA were hot hot hot for the Sept. 5., 1952, PSB report. If asked, they would loan their copy out, but they would also make sure that it was returned to them asap. It was that much in demand.

So Doc Switzer didn’t write it, as I’d originally thought.

It’s fine. I’ve moved on.

In honor of the Freedom of Information Act’s 57th birthday, which is this coming Tuesday, I’m posting the report in its entirety here. Unfortunately, the bibliographies mentioned in the Table of Contents aren’t included with the report that I received. But that’s OK. The 110 pages that we do have has cost me the equivalent of a day pass to Disneyland in scanning fees, which is as much as I care to spend at present. Plus, although I’d love to see the bibliographies, if they still exist, I’m not sure we would have learned that much more.

My reasoning is that, for a while, I’d wondered if perhaps Doc Switzer might have at least helped in compiling the bibliographies. I thought this because he was so close to Dayton, Ohio, where, at that time, every technical study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) was being filed at the Armed Services Technical Information Agency (ASTIA). If we saw any mention of a military study in the bibliography, then it would have been safe to presume that ASTIA would have been the source, and, by extension, Switzer the likely researcher. But, from what I can tell, it doesn’t appear that Switzer assisted with this report in any way. Otherwise, I think Dr. Laughlin would have thanked him for his help. He seems as if he was that kind of guy. Mind you, I still believe that Doc Switzer likely helped with report writing for Project Artichoke—just not this report. I’ve been doing some additional digging in this regard, and plan to discuss this topic with you in the future, once my bruised ego has fully healed.

One bonus is a second report that has been tacked on at the end of this report, titled “Brain-Washing: A Supplemental Report.”

I should add that I’m posting this even before I’ve had a chance to read it. So far, I’ve only done an initial skimming. If you find something interesting, let us know. Enjoy, and have a happy fourth!

The OTHER report: How I think Doc Switzer spent the summer of ’52

On February 18, 1952, a Monday no less, H. Marshall Chadwell was fuming. The previous Friday, Chadwell, who was no slouch—he was the assistant director of the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI), for heaven’s sake—had been summarily snubbed by his contact for Army intelligence, and, needless to say, he was piiiiiiiiissssssed.

The issue had to do with Project Artichoke. Since March 1951, OSI had been placed in charge of this highly confidential, wildly controversial project, which was all well and good, except for one thing. As far as Chadwell was concerned, they didn’t have access to the necessary brainpower with which to lead such a project. In April 1951, several members of the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC) agreed to assist the CIA with its program. These included Army intelligence, whose shorthand name is G-2; Naval intelligence, or ONI; and Air Force intelligence, or A-2. For nearly a year, the CIA representatives and IAC designees had been meeting on an as-needed basis on Artichoke matters. An advisory panel of outside experts was also created, but the panel lacked direction and momentum. Chadwell felt as if OSI could use more help.

His reasoning was that Project Artichoke was way out of OSI’s bailiwick. It was focused on studying phenomena related to the human mind, including the feasibility of a little-understood technique called brainwashing that was appearing in news stories about U.S. prisoners of war. Because this was new territory for the OSI, Chadwell thought it would be beneficial to obtain guidance from people who understood how brains actually worked. He wanted to pick the brains, so to speak, of the Research and Development Board’s Committee on Medical Sciences. As we’ve discussed in another blog post, the Research and Development Board, or RDB, was the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) powerful arm that directed all research and development for the entire military.

The RDB’s Committee on Medical Sciences “is the only group with the requisite security clearance which has the technical competence to advise on this problem,” Chadwell wrote.

But this couldn’t be done with a phone call. The CIA and the DoD were sprawling bureaucracies.  Chadwell would need to navigate the correct path in order to get the green light. Their agreed-upon plan was that the OSI would draft a memo from the director of central intelligence (DCI), who was Walter Bedell Smith, to the chair of the RDB, who was Walter G. Whitman. Once the draft was written, they’d run it by various CIA offices, getting their needed approvals. After that, they’d pass the memo to the IAC’s designees for G-2, ONI, and A-2, who would take it to their superiors for their OK as well. Then, once eeeeeeeeveryone had given their blessing, Walter Bedell Smith would sign the memo and off it would go to Walter Whitman, who hopefully, fingers crossed, would say OK, and, bada bing, bada boom, Chadwell would get some long-needed help from the medical specialists. 

WELL, everything was going along as planned, the memo was making its way up the chain, when the G-2 designee decided that he needed more input from on high. Instead of handing off the memo to his boss and maybe his boss’s boss, he decided to give it to the Joint Intelligence Committee, or JIC, which was an intelligence advisory committee to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 100% unrelated to the question at hand. It would be as if you were attempting to get your driver’s license renewed and your local DMV insists that you need to have your application approved by your auto mechanic before your renewal form can be processed. 

So now Chadwell was faced with this ridiculously unnecessary new step that the G-2 had inserted that would only slow things down.

Moreover, Project Artichoke was highly classified. As in C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T-I-A-L. As in the fewer the number of people who knew about it, the better. He didn’t want people to be passing Artichoke memos around willy nilly, especially to groups outside the CIA. 

Of course, Chadwell wasn’t having it. In his February 18 memo, he asked Walter Bedell Smith to kindly ignore the goofball from G-2, not to mention the JIC, and sign the memo, which eventually happened on March 5, 1952. On March 13, 1952, RDB chair Walter Whitman agreed to provide assistance, although, rather than committing his Medical Sciences committee, he offered to create an ad hoc study group which he felt could devote their full attention to the issue. 

So hooray, right? One big hurdle had been cleared. Not so fast. They now had to find a study group chair, plus some members, plus obtain the necessary security clearances for those individuals before they could actually start meeting in person, which, it turns out, was no easy prospect. That seemingly straightforward task would wind up taking months.

There was something else going on at the CIA. At the same time in which representatives were pulling together the ad hoc study group, the reins for Project Artichoke were being handed over from OSI to the Inspection and Security Office (I&SO) whose director was Sheffield Edwards. The I&SO Technical Services Staff (TSS), which was overseen by Willis Gibbons, would be responsible for working with the new RDB ad hoc study group. This change was made official in September 1952. 

The person whose role seemed to be the least affected by the changeover was Morse Allen, whose position was with I&SO as part of the Security Research Staff (SRS). (Yeah, I know, the CIA’s organizational structure gets confusing.) While everyone else was busy bringing their successors up to speed, Morse could go on doing what he was already doing. 

Interestingly for us, the transition hadn’t yet occurred before OSI’s project coordinator for Artichoke, Commander Robert J. Williams, had been informed by Morse Allen that two of Clark Hull’s protégées, St. Clair Switzer and Griffith Wynne Williams (no relation to the commander), would make excellent scientific consultants for Artichoke. Oh, sure, the names Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, Griffith Williams, and even Morse Allen are redacted, but I’m confident that those individuals were indeed mentioned. Hopefully, one day, the CIA will finally reveal the names of those men, all of whom have been dead for ages and whose disclosure would have zero effect on anyone’s safety and security. As you’ll recall, Morse Allen’s memo was dated March 25, 1952, which was 12 days after Whitman had given Chadwell the OK for an ad hoc study group for Project Artichoke.

On August 15, 1952, six months after Chadwell’s draft memo, the Ad Hoc Medical Study Group had their first meeting. The members were:

Haha. Just kidding. The CIA still won’t let us see the membership of the ad hoc group for the same reason they won’t let us see the names on the March 25 memo. They don’t feel like it.

By the time of the ad hoc group’s first meeting, Project Artichoke had evolved. Although it had originally been created to focus on special interrogations concerning POWs, its purpose was now broader.

As someone in Chadwell’s OSI operation put it in a July 1952 memo, “in spite of various interim definitions, the scope of Project Artichoke is research and testing to arrive at means of control, rather than the more limited concept embodied in ‘special interrogations.’”

So the goal was now control.

As for the RDB’s ad hoc study group, their purpose was: “to determine whether effective and practical techniques exist, or could be developed, which could be utilized to render an individual subservient to an imposed will or control.” Also: “Complete effectiveness of such techniques would require the individual to be subsequently unaware of their use.” 

So the goal is control, and P.S.: don’t let anyone know they’re being controlled.

The RDB Ad Hoc Medical Study Group Report

The RDB’s ad hoc study group met a grand total of four times—in August, October, November, and December of 1952. Although a summary report of their meetings is light on detail, it didn’t sound like they did much work between those meetings. The most productive meeting was the one in October, which included presentations and discussions on POWs, interrogation, LSD 25, and other redacted topics. They’d started producing drafts of their report in November, and by December, they felt they’d seen all they needed to see.

On January 15, 1953, the study group released their report, which turned out to be, in the viewpoint of Artichoke’s insiders at the CIA, a real clunker. Its 14 pages, two of which are the title page and the table of contents, take about 20 minutes to read. There’s also a 3-page appendix that includes a chart of pertinent military-funded projects, a membership roster (which, of course, is blank), and a meeting schedule. That’s it. That’s what four months of dialogue among a roomful of experts produced. 

Here ya go: Ad Hoc Medical Study Group Report

In all fairness, they weren’t given much material to work with. Their analysis was limited to six measly studies. Also, it can be difficult to get a group of people to agree on anything, so 14 pages may be a stunning feat in that regard. Still, they offer no citations to back up why they believe something to be true. With all due respect, their report possesses the in-depth analysis and higher-order thinking of a high school book report. One of my favorite lines—and it truly is only one line—addresses the extremely important question of how to safeguard information from being intercepted by an enemy. Here’s their esteemed response that occupies the entirety of section 1.7:

“The only sure method of safeguarding secret information is to limit the amount possessed by any one person and to prevent those who must know much from coming under the influence of the enemy.”


That’s it? Couldn’t they at least suggest, I don’t know, speaking in pig latin or something?

In a January 23, 1953, memo, a blacked-out name was reported as saying “the RDB study was not of optimum use in view of the fact that much information on classified work in progress had not been made available to the group.”

The chief of the Technical Branch, which is under SRS in I&SO (I know, I know—so confusing!) was less forgiving. Although his name is blacked out, I’m sure this person is Morse Allen, since I’ve found other documents corroborating that this was his job title at another point in time, though I haven’t yet found anything documenting his job title for this time period. 

On February 16, the branch chief wrote: “In general, the writer agrees in [sic] the overall statements set out by the BLANK group, but wishes to point out certain elements in the BLANK report that are subject to dispute.” He then went through his litany of grievances, which included that he didn’t think the group had been sufficiently informed about Project Artichoke and some of the techniques that were already in use; they were too focused on long-range planning versus short-term workable strategies; and he disagreed strongly with their assertions that “drugs, hypnosis, and brain-damaging processes” are “elaborate, impractical, and unnecessary” in interrogations or that hypnosis can’t make someone do something that goes against their beliefs. Who but Morse Allen would be this defensive about Project Artichoke—his beloved baby?

But honestly? I don’t think he was as upset as he comes across. Several months before the Ad Hoc Medical Study Group had issued their 14-page final report, another report had been making the rounds among a specialized audience in D.C. This report was far more detailed about Artichoke’s main interest areas. It exceeded 84 pages. It also included an appendix containing bibliographies—plural—that cited actual research studies that could support comments made within each chapter. Whereas the RDB study group report was likely already collecting dust on office shelves in Langley, this report was in high demand—so much so that people were having trouble hanging onto their personal copies. 

“Unfortunately, copies of the Report itself are so limited that I must request return of same when you have finished with it,” the Technical Branch chief (aka Morse Allen, I’m quite sure) instructed the chief of the Psychiatric Division on May 7, 1953. 

If you’re wondering why they didn’t make more copies on the agency’s photostat machine, I have no idea. But apparently this was exactly the kind of information that everyone affiliated with Project Artichoke was hungering for.

The OTHER report

The report that was surpassing expectations was produced on September 5, 1952, for the Psychological Strategy Board, or PSB. The PSB was created on April 4, 1951, by President Truman “to authorize and provide for the more effective planning, coordination, and conduct, within the framework of approved national policies, of psychological operations.” Any initiatives designed to influence the enemy psychologically were in their purview. This would include propaganda, like sending leaflets in balloons over enemy territory through Crusade for Freedom, for example. But it would include other activities too. Needless to say, Project Artichoke would have interested them quite a bit.

The PSB’s members were the undersecretary of state, the deputy secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence or “their appropriate designees,” as well as other agency representatives as needed. Officials representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Mutual Security Agency took part, as did the PSB director, Gordon Gray, and his staff. The PSB reported to the National Security Council (NSC). 

How the PSB initially got involved in Artichoke is anyone’s guess. Here’s mine: when the chair of the RDB, Walter Whitman, was asked by CIA Director Walter B. Smith for some assistance, he likely told his boss, Robert A. Lovett, who was deputy secretary of defense. Lovett probably thought this sounded, um…pertinent?…to the PSB’s mission, and brought it before the group. 

“The military has been funding technical studies for a while now,” he may have said. “Let’s pay a consultant to produce a report of our own that summarizes the applicable studies in psychiatric and psychological research! All in favor?” 

“AYE!!,” they’d respond.

He might have followed up with: “Does anyone know someone good?”

A second possibility is that Walter B. Smith may have brought it up to the group instead. It really makes no difference. Two key players who knew that the CIA was in need of relevant background research in the PSB’s area of responsibility were seated in the same room. Whoever raised the topic first is almost a moot point.

We’ve discussed the PSB report before. Very little of it has survived: a title page, a preface, and a table of contents. The highly sought-after meat of the report and its accompanying bibliographies are long gone. The subjects in the table of contents are: hypnosis (narcohypnosis and narcoanalysis); comments on certain drugs; transorbital lobotomy; electric shock and memory; communism and communists (some thoughts in attempted analysis); psychology and psychiatry in the U.S.S.R.; prisoner treatment; and sleep deprivation.

Here it is: the PSB Report.

As some of you recall, I’ve theorized that the report was written by St. Clair Switzer—even going so far as to suggest that people back then used to call it “The Switzer Report” informally. The preface was what sold me. The verbiage just sounded as if it had been written by Switzer, especially the part about the assistance he’d received “so cheerfully given.” I know, on its own, that’s pretty weak. 

Today, I’m presenting several additional pieces of evidence regarding why I’m more convinced than ever that St. Clair Switzer was indeed the author. Moreover, I believe that Switzer was the only person on the planet with the ideal credentials for doing what the powers-that-be felt needed to be done. It was his moment to shine, and, apparently, shine he did.

The timing

We already know that Switzer’s name was likely being bandied about ever since he was mentioned in the March 25, 1952, memo from Morse Allen to Commander Robert J. Williams. That memo was written 12 days after the RDB had been asked for assistance with Project Artichoke. It could be that Commander Williams brought his name up to Marshall Chadwell, suggesting him for the RDB’s Ad Hoc Medical Study Group, and Chadwell alerted RDB chair Walter Whitman. That seems pretty feasible.

But you know what? Even if that’s how Switzer came to the RDB’s attention, I no longer think that Switzer was on their ad hoc study group. For a reason that I’ll be getting to in a second, I think there was something unique about him that made people in the DoD think that they could use him in a more productive way. Perhaps they thought he could help bolster whatever the RDB’s ad hoc group came up with. After all, more information can’t be a bad thing, can it? 

In addition, as any professor knows, one of the true perks of being in academia is to have summers off. Doc Switzer would have been free to work on this research project from early June until classes started back up in September. Interestingly, the PSB report was completed exactly two weeks before the start of classes at Miami, giving Switzer time to prepare for the 1952-53 academic year. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

His whereabouts

In the summer of 1952, Doc Switzer was in Oxford, Ohio, which seems as though it would have put him at a disadvantage for conducting research for the PSB. But the opposite was true.

In May 1951, Secretary of Defense George Marshall issued a directive to consolidate all military libraries into one agency, which he called the Armed Services Technical Information Agency, or ASTIA. He assigned oversight responsibilities to the U.S. Air Force and the RDB.

I’ll give you one guess where its headquarters was located. 

Yep! Wright Patterson Air Force Base. What’s more, it wasn’t even located on the base itself, but in downtown Dayton, at 4th and Main Streets. The building was known as the United Brethren (UB) Building at the time, which later became the Knott Building, and is now the Centre City Building. Whatever its name, it’s 42 miles from Oxford.

Although ASTIA had an office at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., all technical resources were provided through the Dayton facility. According to a June 29, 1952, article in the Dayton Daily News, “More than 900 individual military and government agencies and industries depend on ASTIA to keep them abreast of developments in the field of foreign technical progress. During the past four years, the organization has abstracted, catalogued, and filed more than 150,000 highly technical documents, dealing with 65 fields of knowledge.”

Need more proof? In the preface, the consultant has this to say: “Several librarians have devoted from part to nearly full time in aiding various parts of the research.”

In 1952, there was exactly one library building that contained all of the military’s technical studies and that library was located in Dayton, Ohio. Whatever you’re inclined to believe about the consultant who wrote the PSB report, I think we can all agree on this: he was working out of the UB Building in Dayton, Ohio, during the summer of 1952.

The people he knew

The consultant closes his preface with this: “The helpfulness and many kindnesses from the P.S.B. staff are gratefully acknowledged.”

Before I knew about ASTIA, I thought the consultant might have been working in the offices of the PSB, but we now know this wasn’t the case. He was working out of a brick building in Dayton, and any interactions he had with the PSB staff would primarily be by mail or telephone. 

I’m sure the staff were helpful, since the PSB was paying the consultant for his services. But I also think that there was one more person who helped grease the wheels for him. 

That person was Sidney Souers, a 1914 graduate of Miami University (born in Dayton!), who’d maintained strong ties with the university. During WWII, Souers was an officer in the U.S. Navy, serving in increasingly responsible posts in Naval intelligence. In 1945, he was awarded the rank of Rear Admiral. 

In January 1946, Souers was named the first director of the Central Intelligence Group, forerunner to the CIA, a position he held for five months. He then served as the first executive secretary of the NSC from 1947 to 1950. From 1950 to 1953, he served as an adviser to President Truman. It was while he was working in this role that Souers helped create the PSB in 1951. He maintained a connection with the PSB at least through the spring of 1952, when he was consulted for a one-year report for President Truman on the group’s organization and achievements.

Switzer’s connection to the university that Souers loved, in a city that Souers also loved, could be a real boost to his dealings with the PSB—don’t you think?

What do you think? Did St. Clair Switzer write the PSB report?

I don’t think Louis Jolyon West wrote the research proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger after all*

*But that doesn’t mean we should throw out our entire theory

When you’ve read as many MKULTRA documents as I have lately, you get to know people. You learn what their favorite subjects are. Their pet words and phrases. You recognize their go-to stats and data points when they’re sharing their expertise with a new audience or making a pitch for research dollars. You learn how they like to format a page as soon as they’ve cranked a sheet of onionskin paper into the old Smith Corona. You develop a feel for their gloriously, uniquely idiosyncratic THEM-ness. 

Sometimes, if a person has authored a lot of works and those documents have made their way into the public arena, we can identify something else they’ve written, even without being told who the author was. Even if their name is blacked-out. We can tell because it has their DNA all over it, figuratively speaking.

For example: let’s say that a person in the future stumbles upon an old document. The writer in question is going on and on about the topic of Ronald Tammen, her FOIA requests to the FBI and CIA that have been largely ignored, and a missing interview with Carl Knox’s former secretary. Some of her other quirks include a predilection for the word “ostensibly”; a tendency to use “who” even if “whom” is probably correct (but who the heck really knows?); and an unapologetic fondness for the Q&A format. If the document finder has ever been to this blogsite, I think they could easily conclude that the author was yours truly. This is who (whom?) I’ve become, DNA-wise. 

(NOTE: We won’t be discussing AI-generated content at this time, which, as I’m sure you can imagine, is a topic that I find concerning. Please be assured that every word on this blogsite is written by yours truly. Personally, I think writing is a craft that should be performed by an honest-to-goodness human if other humans are supposed to relate, deep down, to what they have to say. Besides, isn’t human-to-human connection what writing—not to mention life here on planet earth—is all about? Controversial, I know. OK, moving on.)

And so, Good Man readers, after getting to know several key MKULTRA players a lot better lately, I find myself forced to modify my initial theory by reporting to you that Louis Jolyon West did not, I repeat did not, write the proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger during the summer of 1957.

George Hoben Estabrooks did.

I can see you have questions.

Who’s George Hoben Estabrooks?

George Hoben Estabrooks (his friends called him Esty, so we will too) was born in 1895 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, a beautiful and vibrant city on the Bay of Fundy, which is known for its primo whale watching. His education was about as stellar as you can get. He received his undergraduate degree from Acadia University, in Nova Scotia; he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar; and he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard. He became a psychology professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY, specializing in both educational psychology and abnormal psychology. He was named chair of the department in 1938. 

Esty Estabrooks had a passion for hypnosis, a skill he’d developed during WWII when he ostensibly worked in intelligence in the U.S. Army. (Interestingly, Colgate University’s president, George Cutten, had a similar passion. According to a December 1997 article in The Ottawa Citizen, Cutten had written a book on the psychology of alcoholism, for which he studied the use of hypnosis as a possible treatment.)

In 1943, when the United States was still very much at war, Esty Estabrooks published the book Hypnotism,which explained the concept of hypnosis to a general audience. He viewed hypnosis as having tremendous potential for a number of practical purposes and wanted to allay the fear and stigma attached to it. Truth be told, he was a pretty good communicator with lay audiences,  employing analogies and everyday language and even humor to help keep readers interested. (One story he shared involved a group of people who Esty was going to hypnotize using a recording he’d made of himself giving the instructions for going into a trance. When he discovered that he’d loaned his record out, he put on another record to hold the group’s attention, while he fetched the hypnosis record. When he returned, he discovered one subject had fallen into a trance-like state while listening to the other recording, which happened to be of a Swiss yodeler. I mean, that’s pretty funny, right??) As a result, Esty’s book did very well, and was even recommended reading by the Book-of-the-Month Club. In 1957, he published a revised edition, which is the version I have. Chapter 9, Hypnotism in Warfare, is a topic that was especially near and dear to his heart. We’ll discuss portions of that chapter momentarily.

The name Estabrooks may sound familiar to you. I mentioned him in my blog post titled MKULTRA and ‘U.’ His name is frequently tied to the term “Manchurian Candidate” by people who study this topic because, in a May 13, 1968, interview with the Providence (R.I.) Evening Bulletinhe very nearly admitted to creating one. (The original article isn’t available online so I’m linking to sources who have quoted him.) 

Here’s the quote that’s attributed to Esty Estabrooks: “The key to creating an effective spy or assassin rests in splitting a man’s personality, or creating multipersonality, with the aid of hypnotism. This is not science fiction. This has and is being done. I have done it.” And then he added: “It is child’s play now to develop a multiple personality through hypnotism,” which is decidedly not funny—not even a little bit.

Granted, it’s unclear if he was (merely?) admitting to splitting a man’s personality or to going all-in with the creation of an assassin, aka a Manchurian Candidate. But in 1971, he published an article that appeared in Science Digest in which he readily admitted to having created hypnotic couriers that were used as spies during WWII. I find this admission especially surprising since, in chapter nine of the 1957 edition of Hypnotism, he only says that the idea of a hypnotic courier is a proposed use of hypnosis—a possibility, as in we’re just brainstorming here. If the development of a hypnotic courier was already old hat by WWII—I mean, let’s ponder on that for a moment: he claims they were using hypnotic couriers as well as multiple personalities during World War TWO!—I’m guessing he wouldn’t have been shy about taking it to the next level and creating an assassin soon thereafter.

In a quote in the 1997 article of the Ottawa Citizen Sun, author, psychiatrist, and MKULTRA researcher Colin Ross, M.D., said, “In terms of Manchurian Candidate experimentation, he’s the number one person.”

All the while that Estabrooks was being incredibly chatty about his endeavors, particularly between 1957, when he published the second edition of his book, and 1971, when he admitted to creating the hypnotic courier during WWII, the CIA was attempting to keep its MKULTRA-related matters hidden. In the same Providence Evening Bulletin article, Estabrooks revealed that he’d consulted for the FBI and the CIA, which I’m sure pleased both organizations to no end. It also tends to make me question his assertion, since, in my experience, people who brag about being employed by the CIA are generally quite full of it. What’s more, in 1942, the FBI had already scolded Esty about making pronouncements that he was affiliated with the Bureau when they hadn’t even requested his help, which, in that case, had to do with research he was conducting on crime and hypnosis. Yet, in 1968, there he was again…bragging to a reporter about his FBI ties…while J. Edgar Hoover was still alive and well and cranky as all get out. His eagerness to go public on such highly sensitive matters as well as his tendency to state his abilities with so much swagger surely led at least several people from both agencies to view him leerily. I’ll show you what they had to say in a minute.

How do you know he wrote the proposal and not Louis Jolyon West?

Now that I know George Esty Estabrooks far better than I used to, I’m 100% positive that he was the author of the February 1957 proposal to develop a hypnotic messenger. I’m actually a little embarrassed that it took me this long to figure it out, since so many of his go-to words, phrases, and fun facts are scattered throughout the proposal, which was long on promises and short on details. (I think I’ve mentioned before that it would be considered a “trust me” proposal in research circles—a three-pager that basically says “You know me. I’m the best person to do this so can I please have $10K asap?”)

That said, it’s not as if Louis Jolyon West didn’t have an interest in developing a hypnotic courier for use by the military. He most definitely did, and he said so on page one, item #5, of his short-term goals in a six-page letter he wrote to the CIA’s Sidney Gottlieb (S.G.) in June 1953.

Page 1 of a letter written by Louis Jolyon West to Sidney Gottlieb

Also, the title of the February 1957 proposal adheres to the formula Jolly used for titling his own research proposals, which was always “Studies in blibbity blobbity blah blah blah.” Also Major Jolly West had recently ended his obligatory service in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base when the proposal was submitted. Who but a military guy with expertise in hypnosis would write a proposal on the application of hypnosis in the military? Nevertheless, for the reasons I list below, I can tell you with 100% certainty that the hypnotic messenger proposal was written by George H. Estabrooks and not Louis Jolyon West.

Here’s the link to the proposal, with special thanks to The Black Vault for making these MKULTRA documents available to all.


One of the telltale words in the proposal is “hypnotism,” which was rather out-of-date by then. People still used it sometimes, but just not so much. But Esty used the word hypnotism all the time. That’s what he titled his book, including the 1957 version, and he uses it throughout the book as well. He used the word hypnosis too, but hypnotism was his preference. West, on the other hand, was using the term “hypnosis” in all of his documents from that era. So if he’d been using “hypnosis” in 1953, why would he refer to “hypnotism” in 1957? He wouldn’t. But Esty would.


In the first sentence, the author says that “Hypnotism is now a recognized branch of the science of psychology…” yada yada yada. Why would Jolly West open his proposal with a reference to psychology instead of psychiatry? Answer: He wouldn’t. If you’re going to spend all of the time and money required to pursue a degree in psychiatry you wouldn’t lead with a field in which you didn’t pursue a degree. Furthermore, in his budget on page 3, the author says that a “psychiatrist should also be available.” Jolly West was a psychiatrist. If he was the author of the proposal, he would have made himself available. (How did I not catch that earlier?) For this reason, I believe the proposal’s author was a psychologist, namely George “Esty” Estabrooks.

Hypnotic messenger

On June 22, 1954, George H. Estabrooks submitted a memo to someone within the CIA titled “The Military Application of Hypntism [sic].” In that memo, he describes the creation of a courier, but refers to it as a “hypnotic messenger,” adding “if I may use the phrase.” That sounds as if he feels he coined the term. In his book Hypnotism, Esty refers to the hypnotic messenger almost exclusively when discussing the topic. A comparison of the wording and subject matter between the 1954 memo, which is still redacted, and Estabrooks’ book tells us that he wrote the 1954 memo, just as the similarity between those two documents and the proposal tells us that he wrote the proposal too. Oddly enough, in his 1971 Science Digest article, he didn’t call it a messenger but instead referred to it as a courier. He also cut way back on his use of the word “hypnotism” for that article, though not entirely. What can I say? People change. As for Jolly West, in his 1953 letter to Sidney Gottlieb, he used the word “courier.”

The statistic

Esty Estabrooks had one statistic that he used more than any other, and that statistic was that one out of every five adults was capable of going into the deepest hypnotic trance, which he referred to as somnambulism. He never cites the source—which probably means that he’s the source—but that statistic permeates his book to an annoying degree. (One of my chief criticisms of his book is that he’s very, very, VERY repetitive.) On page 44, he states it most strenuously: 

“One out of every five subjects will, on the average, go into deep hypnosis or somnambulism and no operator, whatever his skill, can better this average.” 

Does Esty’s mantra appear in the February 1957 proposal? Oh, you betcha. You can find it in the second paragraph, line two of the Introduction. Honestly, the moment I read that line after having read Esty’s book, I knew Esty had written the proposal. “One out of every five” was the singular phrase that sealed the deal for me.

The sign-off

We all have a favorite way of signing off in a letter. The proposal writer’s cover letter closed with a friendly and less common “Cordially yours.” Jolly West was strictly a “Sincerely” or a “Sincerely yours” kind of guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him swerve from that sentiment even once. But Esty? He preferred “Cordially yours.” It’s all over his letters in the file that the FBI kept on him. Sure, he occasionally slipped in a “Sincerely yours”—who among us hasn’t?—but “Cordially yours,” just like “hypnotism,” just like “hypnotic messenger,” was Esty’s M.O.

The file number 

Something I’ve started focusing on lately are the numbers and letters at the top righthand corner of the lion’s share of the MKULTRA documents. They begin with an A/B, a notation that Colin Ross, M.D., says means Artichoke/Bluebird, which makes sense. The A/B is followed by a number from 1 through 7, which is sometimes written as a Roman numeral. I’m not sure of the meaning of those numbers but it appears to be some type of grouping. The grouping that interests me most is group 5, or V, which appears to include various academics and others with whom the CIA may have consulted. The number after that has the broadest range. I’ve seen them reach upwards into the 300s. Following that number, sometimes after a slash mark, is another number that isn’t very big and seems to progress in numerical order. So you may find a document marked 353/1, another one marked 353/2, and so on.

Let’s direct our attention to the tops of the pages of MKULTRA document 147025 and concentrate only on the last two numbers. You’ll see a series of documents, beginning with the first, which is numbered 90/4, the next is 90/5, and the next is 90/6. (You can ignore the last two pages since they appear to have been misfiled. They have nothing to do with the preceding memos.)

Now look at the notations on the proposal. They are A/B, 5, 90/8. There’s that 90 again. I think the second-to-last number—the 90 in this case—is assigned to a particular person, and I think the last number—the 4, 5, 6, and now 8—is the number assigned to the particular piece of communication that pertains to that particular person. If Esty was the subject of the three memos from 1954, and I strongly believe he was, then I believe someone at the CIA assigned the number “90” to Esty’s records, which means that I also believe that he’s the author of the proposal.

By the way, when you have a chance, I recommend that you read the three 1954 memos. You’ll see that the CIA guys weren’t that impressed with him. Neither was the FBI for that matter.

Wow. This is a big shift in your theory.

Yes, it is, and I’m not going to lie, it bummed me out big time when I figured it out. But if we’re going to solve this mystery, we need to let go of the things that aren’t true. It’s taken me a week or so, but I’ve managed to do that and I’m hoping you’ll be able to do it too.

Does anything strike you as weird about Esty’s proposal?

As a matter of fact, yes! If Esty had indeed created a hypnotic messenger during WWII, as he claimed in 1971, I wonder why he didn’t mention that fact in his proposal. Here he was, a known braggart, and he didn’t think to mention this to his potential funder? Why did he make it sound as if this would be the first time? 

Incidentally, another copy of the proposal can be found here, and the person Esty was writing to was Morse Allen. Apparently, they were on a first-name basis, or at least Esty felt as if they were. (Morse may have felt differently.) Louis Jolyon West’s communications, on the other hand, were usually directed to the man on top—Sidney Gottlieb.

Do you think St. Clair Switzer worked with George Estabrooks instead of Louis Jolyon West in the summer of 1957?

Here’s what we know: St. Clair Switzer had been approved for a sabbatical for academic year 1956-57. However, the researcher he’d originally been planning to work with, Marion A. “Gus” Wenger (no relation), a UCLA psychologist, had decided at the last minute to travel to India to study yogis instead. There’s no way Switzer would have returned to Miami that year—not after waiting so long for his sabbatical. Not after writing in a December 1954 letter to Gus that “It’s quite a job to break out of this teaching straitjacket.” He was working with someone.

We also now know that George Estabrooks had someone working with him for the summer who was “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level.” That could certainly describe Switzer, since he’d assisted Clark Hull with his 1933 book, “Hypnosis and Suggestibility,” which was both an experimental and theoretical study of hypnosis. Also, a CIA staffer had made the notation “H/B-6” next to that person’s crossed-out name, which I believe indicates that Esty’s helper was a military officer who was affiliated with a military base with an on-site hospital. Again, that could apply to Lt. Col. Switzer, particularly if he was working closely with Wright Patterson AFB.

On the other hand, Jolly West was deep into his research on POWs that year. The focus of that research—interrogation methods—happened to be the reason Switzer’s expertise in hypnosis and drugs was likely being sought by the CIA and military. As you know, I believe the January 14, 1953, memo on “Interrogation Techniques” mentions both Louis Jolyon West (I’m 100% sure) and Switzer (I’m pretty sure) for a “well-balanced interrogation research center.” So it could be that Switzer was at the University of Oklahoma helping West in the use of hypnosis and drugs for the interrogation of POWs, while Esty Estabrooks was across the country working on his hypnotic messenger.

I guess what’s really throwing me off right now are the two letters.

What two letters?

Around the time that Esty submitted his hypnotic messenger proposal to Morse Allen, someone who sounded a lot like St. Clair Switzer wrote two letters to a colleague of his, Griffith Wynne Williams, who was a renowned hypnosis expert and professor of psychology at Rutgers University. (Here’s a link to the December 6, 1956 letter. Here’s a link to the February 8, 1957 letter.) Williams and Switzer both studied under Clark Hull at the University of Wisconsin. Their time with him overlapped when Williams was pursuing his doctorate degree and Switzer was working on his master’s. The letters are congenial, if a little on the obsequious side, and they’re filled with extremely specific questions on hypnosis that quickly enter into the realm of the disturbing. 

The letter writer appears to be working with another researcher on a project of great importance. He makes it clear that the subject is “very highly classified” (December 6, 1956) and “sensitive” (February 8, 1957) and instructs Williams to destroy both letters immediately after he’s read them. Thankfully, we know for sure that Williams is the recipient even though his name is redacted because the CIA staffer with the black pen accidentally forgot to redact the word “Rutgers” (December 6, 1956) and he or she also allowed the word “arthritis” (February 8, 1957), which Williams was burdened with for much of his life, to remain exposed. I love when that happens.

So here’s where the letters are throwing me: in some ways they might support a collaboration between Switzer and Estabrooks, while at other times, they might be more indicative of a collaboration between Switzer and Jolly West, or someone else of his stature.

Do the letters pertain to Estabrooks’ research…

The letters are written around the time of Esty’s proposal, with the second letter being written just two days after the proposal was written. So that might lead us to presume that they were related to a collaboration between Esty and Switzer. 

Also, the letters indicate that the two secretive researchers had visited with Williams in person, once in his office, though they suggested a less visible place for their second meeting, such as the local hotel. It would be a lot easier for them to make a 4-hour drive from upstate New York to New Brunswick, N.J. than if they were traveling from Oklahoma. Of course, I’m sure the CIA could afford the plane fare, but I’m inclined to think that their interest in having multiple in-person meetings instead of talking by phone makes it sound as if it was relatively easy for them to do so. 

Or do they pertain to a researcher of higher stature, such as Jolly West?

At first, the questions that the letter writer asks in the December 1956 letter could be considered relevant to the development of a hypnotic messenger—such as the ones having to do with the production of amnesia (#1), concealed induction methods (#2), and problems with post-hypnotic control (#5). But the other questions go way beyond the scope of a hypnotic messenger, including the series of questions that are focused upon the hypnotizing of large groups of people through various means, such as TV broadcasts, speaking techniques, lighting, stage effects, and so on.

In addition, the letter writer appears open to any guidance that Williams could provide in 12 areas. But in the second edition of Esty’s book, which came out after the December letter was written, he said that the carotid artery technique (he calls it a “neck nerve”) is being done with jujitsu, and has nothing to do with a hypnotic trance, and that of course people can be hypnotized to do something that goes against their beliefs. Therefore, if it was Esty’s project, I can’t see him even asking questions #10 and #12.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier, the letter writer makes a very big deal of the fact that this is a secret project. He even uses the term “very highly classified.” Did you read what the guys in the CIA had to say about Estabrooks behind his back? Plus, you also know what a chatterbox this guy was. I’m just asking: Would those guys have given George Estabrooks a Secret or Top Secret classification? 

They had no problem designating the Top Secret classification to Louis Jolyon West, however.


P.S. I’d like to share one additional piece of evidence that St. Clair Switzer wrote the letters to Griffith Williams. You can find most of my reasoning in this blog post, and I’ll let those reasons stand as-is. 

However, one thing I mentioned in that post is the letter writer’s use of the term “Ph.D. thesis” in his December 6, 1956, letter. For most of us who don’t have a Ph.D., we think of a “master’s thesis” and a “doctoral dissertation,” and those terms are absolutely correct. But for some odd reason, some academics with doctoral degrees, not all of them, but some, will refer to a Ph.D. thesis. I don’t know why they do it, but they do.

Here’s a piece of evidence that St. Clair Switzer did it too.

In a letter he wrote to psychologist Ernest (Jack) Hilgard, St. Clair Switzer refers to his dissertation as a thesis. (See page 2, second paragraph.)

Some mothers are a bit more…complicated

A meditation on mothers and Manchurian Candidates

It’s Mother’s Day, and like you, I’ve been spending the day poring over MKULTRA documents. Oh, you haven’t been doing that today? I’m the only one? Well, not for long!

Because today, I’ll be sharing a document that could very well be the official start of the whole Manchurian Candidate thing. What’s more, it’s a true account—of the non-fiction variety.

As you may already know, “The Manchurian Candidate” was a novel by Richard Condon that came out in 1959. The movie, which starred Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, and Frank Sinatra, was released in 1962. The film is so good that it has a permanent home on my DVR.

The story is about an American POW from the Korean War who was hypnotically programmed to assassinate a U.S. presidential candidate when given a special trigger. He was also instructed to promptly forget what he’d done afterward through a post-hypnotic suggestion. I won’t tell you any more than that, just in case you haven’t seen it yet. Lansbury, the programmed assassin’s mother, is phenomenal. (Spoiler alert: Jessica Fletcher, she is not.) The “Manchuria” reference is based on the fact that POWs passed through that region between China and Russia after being freed from North Korea. (Here’s a map to help you picture it.)

As the world would learn decades later, that wasn’t too different from what the CIA was dreaming up through Projects ARTICHOKE and MKULTRA. What’s more, some of the people in charge probably wouldn’t have felt the need to stop at just one Manchurian Candidate. Once they had the bugs worked out, they could…well, to quote one redacted expert who was bragging to U.S. intelligence officers: “Two hundred trained [BLANK] operators, trained in the United States, could develop a unique, dangerous army of hypnotically controlled agents.” (See document from March 4, 1952.)

I suppose I considered Condon to be incredibly prescient to have written his book 20 or so years before everyone else discovered that a Manchurian Candidate was a thing, of sorts, or at least something that some people within our government had set their sights on. But as John Marks, author of “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control,” footnoted, “Condon consulted with a wide variety of experts while researching the book, and some inside sources may well have filled him in on the gist of a discussion that took place at a 1953 meeting at the CIA on behavior control.”

That’s the meeting that I was reading about as I was blearily clicking on some documents from July 1953 this morning. The meeting had occurred on June 18, 1953, two months after the first POWs had been exchanged with the North Koreans and Chinese (called the Little Switch), yet before the war had ended. I’m linking to the full document here, thanks to The Black Vault.

Probably after the first hour had passed in the meeting, someone had this to share:

Click on image for a closer look.

As Marks noted in his book, “The CIA and military men at this session promised to seek more information but the matter never came up again in either the documents released by the Agency or in the interviews done for this book.”

What do Manchurian Candidates have do with Ron Tammen’s story? Probably, hopefully, nothing. But the fact that these issues were being discussed at the same time that Louis Jolyon West (for sure) and St. Clair Switzer (I strongly believe) were being sought after for their expertise in hypnosis and drugs means that this topic, as well as all other related topics, automatically becomes our business.

Breaking the CIA’s MKULTRA code, part deux

Credit: Photo by Cottonbro Studio at Pexels.com

Happy New Year! 

In celebration of the first day of 2023—the 70th year in which Ron Tammen has been missing not to mention the 70th anniversary of when Allen Dulles formally signed off on MKULTRA—I’d like to offer up the following new meanings for letters in the CIA’s MKULTRA coding system. (For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, you may want to read my previous post first.)

The letter D

D is for….a subject matter expert in an area of specialization pertaining to ARTICHOKE, and someone with whom the CIA may wish to follow up. 

I guess we should have figured the whole “let’s use the first letter of the word it represents” thing wouldn’t last. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t give it a D word anyway. And the D word that seems most appropriate is: doyen (pronounced DOI-en or DWI-yan, your choice), which I’d never heard of before, but which showed up in a list of synonyms when I typed in the word “expert.”

I have a feeling that the D label was used somewhat broadly. While it might be used for someone in academia, it might also be used as a reference to a news event in which a person or group of people appeared to possess a desired knowledge or skillset that the CIA wanted to learn more about. An outlier document used Ds to highlight possible interrogation questions.

So even though the D category still seems a little squishy, here’s a link to the document that sealed the deal for me.

In that document, every time you see the letter D, you see a reference to an expert in the field. In this case, the people with Ds next to their blacked-out names knew all about certain drugs.

This document also has a few Ds in front of the names of individuals (page 3) or specific cases (pages 1, 6, and 8) that the CIA could follow up with or investigate further.

And in the case of our March 25, 1952, memo, the doyens are our three hypnosis experts: Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, and Griffith W. Williams. The CIA categorizers didn’t seem to care that the writer had said that Hull was feeble and no longer interested in hypnosis. “So? He can’t even answer the phone in the interest of national security?” the categorizers hypothetically countered in their snide little way. “He’s getting three Ds anyway.” (Of course I’m kidding. As you know, I feel nothing but gratitude for the CIA categorizers.)

Page 1 of March 25, 1952, memo; click on image for a closer view

The letter H

The letter H is for…

…wait for it…

…the Department of Defense. (I’m a little flummoxed as to why the CIA categorizers didn’t assign the letter D to the DoD. Would that have been too obvious?)

We’d almost figured it out a few days ago, but I was thinking too granularly (as I am known to do). I’d seen the document with the H next to the paragraph that talked about the pilots, and had immediately thought Air Force. But I couldn’t understand why the other military branches wouldn’t have their own letter as well, since they were doing ARTICHOKE stuff too.

As I focused on the stand-alone H’s in the MKULTRA collection, I started noticing them in places of prominence: next to names cc’d at the bottoms of memos with other higher-ups, and on Louis Jolyon West’s Subproject 43 materials, including in the “From” line of a handwritten memo. As you may recall, West was a major in the Air Force before moving on to head the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine.

Click on image for a closer view

And then I came upon a memo that we already knew about—one that I’d submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA about in August 2016 and appealed in 2019. (I’m still waiting to hear back from them, even though the last time they wrote to me, they claimed I’d have an answer by the very specific date of December 8, 2022. I guess someone will be getting a phone call tomorrow.) 

Click on image for a closer view

The heavily redacted memo is a list of the members of a study group that had been commissioned by the DoD’s Research and Development Board (RDB), a board I’d written about in May 2021. The CIA had asked the RDB to investigate the feasibility of using ARTICHOKE techniques and the RDB  chose to conduct its investigation through the ad hoc group of experts. When I reexamined that document closely, I saw that the crossed-out subject of the RDB’s study group name was assigned an H, even though its members were all Cs (consultants) who represented an assortment of Bs (research organizations). That’s when I began to think more broadly.

In another document, I noticed an H next to the black blotch before the word “officers” and I found a handwritten document with an H before the phrase “Man to contact in AF film” (the AF ostensibly refers to the Air Force) on page 1 and, on page 4, another H alongside the words “several service representatives.” Who but the DoD would have access to representatives of several branches of the military service?

Click on image for a closer view

I’m convinced—H on its own stands for the DoD as a whole, one of its service branches, or someone affiliated with the DoD, usually someone at a higher level.


The letter E

Remember the E that I talked about at the end of my last post? (Alas, I can’t find the document where I’d first seen it.)  I now believe that E stands for…a line item or account with a financial institution of some sort. 

We learn this from Louis Jolyon West’s Subproject 43 materials that say: “I hereby acknowledge receipt of check #”…blah blah blah…“drawn on the BLANK,” the latter of which is marked with an E. It happens in other places in his materials as well.

Click on image for a closer view

Unless I find another use that changes my mind, the E category seems pretty obvious. It’s an account of some sort.

The letters D/H and I

As I was focusing on H’s, I landed on a document that used the letters D/H together in a whole new nefarious way throughout pages 1-5, with the letter H flying solo on page 6. The CIA categorizers threw the letter I into the fray as well.

Page 1 of June 21, 1952, memo on ARTICHOKE Techniques; click on image for a closer view

Based on this document, the letters D/H together appear to signify a test subject who has received drugs and hypnosis. This is in contrast to page 6, where the writer is recommending that, after conducting experiments on the two human subjects (D/H and D/H), the H (DoD) should consider using the ARTICHOKE technique whenever they see fit. In his view, “there will be many a failure but also that every success with this method will be pure gravy,” which is one of the most bizarre sentences I’ve read in the MKULTRA materials.

Page 6 of the June 21, 1952, memo; click on image for a closer view

As for the I, it appears to be a country against whom the CIA is developing its interrogation techniques.

So there you have it, my attempt at cracking the CIA’s MKULTRA code so far. The plan is to post a chart on the homepage to help anyone who is researching the MKULTRA documents.

MKULTRA Shorthand Guide

A                      Agency (CIA)

B                      Research Org/Business

C                      Consultant

D                     Expert/Knowledgeable Source in ARTICHOKE-related topic

E                      Financial Account

F                      Foreign 

G                     CIA Internal Group/Office

H                     Department of Defense

I                       Enemy Country/CIA target for ARTICHOKE method 

J                       ?

D/H                 Human Subject of ARTICHOKE method 

B/1                  ?

B/3                  Military Base

B/6                  Military Officer

H-B/1              ?

H-B/3              Military Base Hospital

H-B/6              Officer/Medical Specialist at Military Base Hospital

S                      ?

(Note: We may never know S, since it only appears at the top of some docs, but not in association with redacted text.)

More evidence that St. Clair Switzer was on the CIA’s payroll

Plus a bonus puzzler: Let’s make a little history and break some CIA code

Have you had enough holiday yet? Same. You want to do something kinda wild during this down week before New Year’s? Me too.

Let’s break some CIA code.

The CIA code I’m referring to can be found on a large number of MKULTRA documents that have already been released to the public. According to Google, the project I’m proposing has never been done before. If we can do this—and I believe that we can—we’ll be ripping open a whole new portal into the top secret world of MKULTRA. 

You heard me right. Us. Remember us? The ones who, I believe, first put two and two together to reveal Commander Robert Jay Williams as the former project coordinator of Project ARTICHOKE? The first ones who let the universe at-large know about St. Clair Switzer’s MKULTRA connections? The ones who discovered—much to the consternation of the FBI—why they’d purged Ron Tammen’s fingerprints 30 years ahead of schedule? We’re qualified to do this. We’re credentialed. The good news is that we won’t even be starting at square one. I do believe I’ve figured out some of the code already. And the better news is that the code I’ve figured out tells me that St. Clair Switzer was indeed working for the CIA at some point of his career. They said so themselves. Let’s do this!


At an unknown point in time, one or more persons within the CIA had gone through every surviving MKULTRA document and, on many of them, had written a letter of the alphabet and sometimes an accompanying number alongside key places of redacted text. The alphabetical list isn’t very long. It starts with the letter A and ends with H.** To the best of my knowledge, only three numbers were used: 3, 6, and, on the rarest of occasions, 1.

The letters or letter-number combos appear to refer to a person who is employed by an organization, the organization as a whole, or, very generally, a place, be it domestic or international. The CIA categorizers, as we shall refer to them, probably did this because lots and lots of names are dropped in CIA memos. It’s useful to have some additional identifying information about who Joe Blow is and what his role is in the grand scheme of things. 

I don’t know who the intended audience is or was of this helpful, categorized information. The CIA staffers of the future? The guys and gals in the business wing at Langley who were keeping the books? (If you’ll recall, most of the MKULTRA docs had been destroyed in 1973, so the only surviving records originated with the people in accounting.) Given the CIA’s distaste for the Freedom of Information Act, I doubt very much that they were doing it to help out you and me. 

But therein lies the poetic justice in all of this: even as someone at the CIA was busily crossing out names and job titles and hometowns and whatnot, someone else at the CIA was actually offering up a clue into a certain person’s identity. Very, VERY cool of you, CIA. 

The puzzle

You know the letter that I believe was written by Louis Jolyon West to the CIA on February 6, 1957? In that letter, the man whom I believe to be Jolly West refers to another man who is spending the 1956-57 academic year helping him with his research. It was (I believe) West’s intention to create a hypnotic messenger during the summer of ‘57 and to have his eminently qualified helper, well, help him. And it’s my hypothesis that his helper was St. Clair Switzer, who was Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor the semester that Tammen disappeared.

At that point in our country’s history, the CIA and U.S. military wanted to learn as much as possible about interrogation techniques that could be used on prisoners of war, such as those involving hypnosis and drugs. They wanted to learn how they could elicit treasure troves of intelligence from POWs that the Americans had captured, and, conversely, how to ensure that American POWs wouldn’t give away the store to their captors. The interrogation aspect of the CIA’s mind control endeavors was known as Project ARTICHOKE, which was later broadened in scope beyond POWs. The creation of a hypnotic messenger—someone who could be hypnotized to deliver a detailed message of high sensitivity to an intended recipient without ever knowing what the message was—would’ve been right up the CIA’s alley back then. 

Let’s begin by reexamining that letter, which was mailed to the CIA’s Morse Allen to accompany the hypnotic messenger proposal. The author (who, again, I believe to be Louis Jolyon West) has the letter C written next to his blacked-out name. The letter-number written next to his associate’s name is H-B/6. If we could figure out the meaning of H-B/6, we could further strengthen, or weaken, our argument that Jolly West’s helper was St. Clair Switzer. 

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

After rereading a lot of MKULTRA documents—especially those pertaining to Project ARTICHOKE—and comparing notations from one document to the next, I think I’ve figured out the meaning of H-B/6. And (spoiler alert!) I believe that our argument has been strengthened. What’s more, I think I’ve found additional evidence to show that the CIA welcomed St. Clair Switzer to its cadre of hypnosis researchers with open arms.

The letters

The letters and letter-number combinations that the CIA uses throughout the MKULTRA documents, some more frequently than others, are as follows:














That list may not seem too terrible, but there’s a reason that (to the best of my knowledge) this project has never been attempted before by a layperson. Reading MKULTRA documents is always irritating. No one does it for fun.

The ones I think we know for sure

Let’s start with the easy letters—the meanings for which I’m 99.9% certain:

A is the Agency itself. Anyone with an A next to his or her name is employed by the CIA. It’s written next to a lot of important job titles in the “To” and “From” lines of a CIA memo, and it’s often written next to an author’s name at the bottom of a CIA-composed letter. It’s written next to the names of CIA staffers whose identities have been revealed—people like Morse Allen and Robert Jay Williams. It’s this simple: if you have an A next to your name, you, my friend, are in the CIA.

B, I believe, stands for a Business or Organization that conducts the type of research in which the CIA was especially interested. And, in the early to mid-1950s, the type of research that the CIA’s ARTICHOKE program was especially interested in pertained to hypnosis and drugs. As you can see on the February 6, 1957, letter, an address at the top right is blacked out and marked with a B, which is likely Jolly West’s business address. 

Here’s a table in which the letter B clearly signifies a Research Organization, versus C, which stands for…

C stands for Consultant. Anyone with a C next to their blacked-out name is employed by another entity, likely a university or research organization. They may be partially supported by the CIA through a grant or contract or some other temporary means for their expertise, although not everyone with a C was paid. Some offered up their expert opinions free of charge. In the February 6 letter, ostensibly, Jolly West was considered a C, but his workplace was categorized as a B.

F is for Foreign. The letter F is used to signify a country whose name has been redacted, sometimes as a location to conduct ARTICHOKE experiments or perhaps to denote other related overseas travel or consultation.

Clever, right? Our friends at the CIA came up with alphabetical shorthand that uses the first letter of the word it represents. I don’t know if that will apply to all of the categories, but it’s a nice way to start. As you can probably imagine, the letters A and C are by far the most frequently ones used in the ARTICHOKE documents.

The tougher ones

The Bs and Hs gave me the biggest trouble, since they appeared alone as well as with numbers. I also knew that the three main branches of the military were heavily involved in ARTICHOKE, but I was having difficulty identifying which branch might be represented by a corresponding letter. I won’t bore you with why I thought this, but for a while, I thought the B might mean Navy, the H might mean Air Force, and the G might be the Army. But that system didn’t play out in the documents.

Just an example of a confusing document; click on image for a closer view

And then I started to think like the bean counters in the CIA. You know what? If they can lump all the research orgs together, and they can lump all the consultants together, and they can lump everyone in the CIA together, then they can certainly lump all of the people in uniform together. I’d concluded that the B/3s and B/6s were part of the military because of their “tour of duty” and war talk and their inclination to measure hours in a day by the hundreds. That’s when I determined that B/3 meant a military base and B/6 meant an officer who is affiliated with a military base. As for the H that precedes the B/3s or B/6s, I figured out what that meant when I read the following two paragraphs from page 5 of a lengthy document in which the writer was kvetching about how no one, particularly researchers affiliated with the military, ever briefed him on any of their ARTICHOKE-related activities. Here are the two most awesome grafs:

So, now we know, and I just want to thank the CIA categorizers for practically handing us the working definitions of an H-B/3 and an H-B/6. H-B/3 ostensibly refers to a hospital or clinic on a military base and an H-B/6 ostensibly refers to an officer, and most likely a medical specialist, who is affiliated with a military base that has a hospital or clinic on site. A hospital on a military site would be considered a huge plus in conducting ARTICHOKE research. You, as an ARTICHOKE researcher, would be among friends. You wouldn’t have to hide what you’re doing nearly as much as if you were in a non-military hospital. 

Aaaaand, guess what? Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had just completed a 314-bed, 7-floor, state-of-the-art hospital facility in June 1956. So, yeah, if psychologist St. Clair Switzer was still active in the Air Force Reserves in 1957, and he very much was, and he was known in the hallways of Wright Patterson AFB, and he no-doubt was, then an H-B/6 next to his name would be apropos. I’d think that having an H-B/6 next to your name would be one of the more glowing attributes in the eyes of Morse Allen, the recipient of (ostensibly) Jolly West’s letter.

The ones that could use more research

Before I get to the most exciting part of this post, here are the categories that I’m still stuck on. If anyone has an inkling to visit The Black Vault’s MKULTRA collection to find occurrences of the following and to help figure out their meaning, I’d be grateful:

D – The March 25, 1952, letter that (ostensibly) refers to Clark Hull, St. Clair Switzer, and Griffith Williams, the Rutgers professor and hypnosis expert who’d also worked under Clark Hull, is studded with handwritten letter Ds. Because Ds weren’t used very frequently in the MKULTRA documents I’ve examined, I haven’t yet figured out a pattern. Perhaps it indicates referrals for consideration, but I don’t know. I don’t think it stands for drugs, since neither Clark Hull nor Griffith Williams had expertise in that area.

G – I think G stands for an internal group within the CIA, such as the gadgetry group mentioned in this memo. (Good Lord, do you think it stands for Gadgetry?) A letter for various separate internal groups makes sense if we’re considering the perspective of an Agency accountant. If they need to expend money from a specific line item for a designated group within the Agency, then that would be an important distinction.

H – I’m most stymied by the letter H when used on its own, with no B/3s or B/6s nearby. At one point I thought it represented hypnosis, but I don’t think so. When I noticed the blurb about the pilots, that’s when I thought it might mean the Air Force. But that would be weird to have a special designation for the Air Force and not the other military branches, wouldn’t it?This one definitely needs to be investigated further. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

B/1 (H-B/1) – I haven’t seen enough of this designation to ascertain how it differs from the B/3 and B/6 designations, but I think it’s probably similar. I don’t think it matters for our purposes though.

The most exciting part: why I think St. Clair Switzer was on the CIA payroll

In my blog post about how St. Clair Switzer spent his 1956-57 sabbatical, including the summer of 1957, I introduced two letters that I believe were written from St. Clair Switzer to his former colleague under Clark Hull, Griffith Williams. In the letters, Switzer is hoping to obtain guidance from Williams, who was, by then, an internationally recognized expert in the field of hypnosis.

Let’s have another look at those letters with our newfound knowledge.

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

As you can see, any references to Williams have a C attached to them—in CIA lingo, he was considered a Consultant. But in the December 6, 1956, letter, references to West and Switzer were bestowed with As. They were considered Agency. Curiously enough, in the February 8, 1957, letter, West and Williams were designated as Cs, while the letter writer, whom I believe to be St. Clair Switzer, was an A-lister once again.

You may ask: are you sure that it was Switzer who wrote the two letters? Couldn’t it have been Morse Allen? I honestly don’t think so. First, the letters aren’t written in Allen’s style. Allen wasn’t an academic. The two letters were written by someone who clearly was. His words, “We grant that the above list is long and that any item individually could well deserve a Ph.D thesis,” tells me that the writer held his own doctorate degree, and he was acknowledging that the recipient did as well. He’s comfortably collegiate. In addition, the letter writer is gracious and deferential, both to the recipient, who is unquestionably Williams, but also to the researcher with whom the writer is working. He uses the term “we” quite a bit. Morse Allen worked alone. There was no “we” when he wrote his letters and memos about ARTICHOKE. From what I’ve read, Morse Allen didn’t do gracious. Switzer was no sweetheart either, but he knew how to write as if he were.

If St. Clair Switzer was the letter writer, and I continue to believe that he was, then he wasn’t a wannabe sitting on the sidelines. Switzer was CIA, at least for part of his career. That’s big. I also think he was running in those circles for quite a while.


P.S.: This post came to be because of one person’s recent email asking a question about Lackland Air Force Base. His question led me back to the MKULTRA documents, which was when I started fixating on the H-B/6 notation. I’m not sure I would have tried to figure out its meaning without that email. So…thank you…to all of you, for your input. You really do contribute to this process and influence my thinking in new ways.


** Late in the process, I noticed a faint S at the top of several documents, and on one document to date, several Js and Es. These are the exceptions to the rule. I’m going to ignore them for this blog post, since they don’t pertain to the question at hand, but I acknowledge their existence. If you can figure out what in the heck they mean, let me know!

More evidence that St. Clair Switzer was involved in something in 1956-57 that he didn’t want to talk about

I’ll keep this short. 

I’ve been thinking more about St. Clair Switzer. 

You know how I have this theory that Doc Switzer was on a sabbatical in academic year 1956-57 with Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West, the world famous psychiatrist and MKULTRA researcher who was at the University of Oklahoma at that time? And you know how I also believe that Jolly West was the author of a February 1957 CIA research proposal seeking funding for himself and a visiting academic (Switzer, imo) who was “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level” to create a hypnotic messenger that summer for use by the military?

Gosh, when I put it like that, it does seem a wee bit far-fetched, doesn’t it?

Well, I have a little more info to help back it up.

Don’t get too excited—it’s not that big. But it’s not nothing either.

We already know that Switzer had been granted permission for a sabbatical for that academic year. His original plans had been to work under psychophysiologist Marion A. (Gus) Wenger (no relation) at UCLA the prior year, but those plans had to be postponed. Everett Patten, chair of Miami’s psychology department, felt that he needed Switzer around to help with a curriculum change that was taking place at that time, and he suggested that Switzer’s sabbatical be pushed back a year. With this turn of events, Switzer checked with Wenger to see if the change was OK with him and Gus said that the new timeframe should still be fine. But in December 1956—three months into the 1956-57 academic year—Gus wrote to Switzer telling him that he’d decided to travel to India to study yogis instead. He offered a space for Switzer in September 1957, but, because Switzer’s sabbatical would have ended by then, that would be too late.

How do we know that Switzer found somewhere else to go?

We know that Switzer was definitely not working in Miami’s psychology department that year because his earnings sheet shows a total of $00 for the year 1956-57. Here’s the document:

Click on image for a closer view

The stray mark to the right of the “7” had first made me wonder if the earnings line for that year just hadn’t picked up enough inkjet toner, but I don’t think so. To me, it looks more like something had been written there but was erased. For this reason, I think it’s safe to conclude that Switzer made zero dollars and zippo cents that year from Miami.

That’s a little odd, since Clarence Kreger, Miami’s cantankerous provost, had informed Switzer that he could earn half his salary while on sabbatical. (These days, sabbaticals are usually fully paid, but times were different then.) (I feel like I say that a lot on this blog.) (I feel like I use parentheses a lot too.) Anyway, somehow, Switzer was able to make ends meet without needing that little boost. He was out of the office all year, including the summers of 1956 and 1957.

Click on image for a closer view

How do we know that he was gone during the summers too?

We know it because Switzer was a self-promoter. If there was an achievement that he wanted other people to know about, he’d alert one of the local rags, especially the easier ones to get into, like the Miami Student or the Oxford Press. This was especially true when he was an assistant professor in the 1930s. Often the hard-hitting news blurbs were about prize money he’d won for an ad or slogan he’d submitted in a contest, which he did frequently as part of his business psychology course. If he spent the summer doing something prestigious-sounding—like the time he’d worked with prisoners at Northeastern Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA—you can bet that Switzer would make sure it was brought to the attention of fellow faculty members, administrators, and the surrounding Oxford community. Promotions received, degrees earned, joining the war effort, returning from the war effort—he liked to have such things documented. (As a historical researcher, I’m not opposed to this practice.) 

Later on, as his extracurricular activities became more, um, stealth, he reined in his need for newsprint. 

During the year of his sabbatical, Switzer found two occasions to show off a little for the folks at home. In August 1956, an article appeared in one of the local papers announcing that Switzer had returned from a “tour of duty” at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado. (According to his military records, his tours of duty averaged 15 days.) During that visit, he’d helped develop the psychology curriculum for the new Air Force Academy, which had been temporarily located there while the permanent school was being constructed in Colorado Springs. A year later, a much shorter article was published saying that he’d just returned home after spending three more weeks at the Air Force Academy. 

What I’m trying to say here is that Switzer had been on a sabbatical for roughly 64 weeks, yet we only get to know what he did for five or six of those weeks. Whatever he was doing between the two Augusts, he wasn’t saying. And trust me, if Switzer was ever presented with the chance to boast about his accomplishments, he seized it. If he’d spent the year conducting psychophysiological research in Gus Wenger’s lab, the world would have heard about it. 

It was uncharacteristic for him to be so tight-lipped in those circumstances, which leads me to wonder if he used the second news item to bookend his time away. Maybe then people wouldn’t ask questions about all that time in between.

How did he manage to find a spot with Louis Jolyon West so soon after Gus Wenger let him down?

This is where the timeline gets murky. Gus Wenger’s letter was dated December 1, 1956, and by the sound of it, it was late in coming. 

“Dear Doc, I have been meaning to write you for some time about our plans,” he said. He then proceeded to describe a number of monkey wrenches that had been thrown into their original arrangements while offering an alternative date that was much too late.

The letter was addressed to Switzer’s office in the Department of Psychology, which Switzer surely wasn’t occupying by then. The department secretary would’ve probably forwarded the letter to Switzer’s home address, but that would have taken even more time away from his eroding sabbatical.

It’s possible that Switzer was biding his time at Wright Patterson as he waited on Wenger. But patience isn’t exactly a virtue that I would ascribe to St. Clair Switzer. Sometime after returning from Colorado, I can see him giving up on the prospect of spending a year in California and seeking assistance from his highly decorated contacts with the Air Force. By late fall, I think they’d put him in touch with Jolly West.

You’ve already seen the letter that I believe Switzer had written to a colleague he knew from his Clark Hull days, Griffith W. Williams, who was then at Rutgers. That letter, dated December 6, 1956, had been a follow-up to a discussion that had taken place between the three hypnosis experts, likely over the phone, on November 27. 

Here it is again:

Document provided with thanks to The Black Vault at https://www.theblackvault.com/
Document provided with thanks to The Black Vault at https://www.theblackvault.com/

By the time Wenger finally wrote to Switzer on December 1 saying “no can do,” I think Switzer had already moved on.

How about you—what do you think? 

The sabbatical: how I think St. Clair Switzer and a well-known MKULTRA psychiatrist spent the summer of 1957

There’s nothing quite like the fourth wave of a pandemic to put one in the mood to read old MKULTRA documents. For some reason, the prospect of reading indecipherable photocopies with all the good parts blacked out made me want to do anything else BUT that. However, because the delta variant has been keeping me from doing more exciting research, I’ve decided to mosey on back to The Black Vault website. I’m currently rummaging through the stash again—both the documents I’d already been through as well as the ones that were released in 2018. 

It’s been time well spent.

In my recent Facebook post, I describe a newly released document that appears to be written to Griffith Wynne Williams, a hypnosis expert who’d studied under Clark Hull at the University of Wisconsin. Williams and St. Clair Switzer (Ronald Tammen’s psychology professor) would have known one another pretty well back in the day. They were graduate students under Hull at the same time, with Williams receiving his Ph.D. in 1929, the same year that Switzer earned his master’s degree. I’ve brought up Williams’ name before on this blogsite. I believe he’s the third person mentioned in our March 25, 1952, memo, along with Hull and Switzer.

In this newly discovered letter—dated December 6, 1956—the writer mentions the recipient’s workplace, Rutgers, a revelation that somehow escaped the CIA’s black pen. I know of exactly one hypnosis expert from Rutgers during that era. Griffith Wynne Williams.

December 6, 1956 letter

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

After reading more documents on The Black Vault from that general time period, not only am I even more convinced that the recipient was Williams, but I also believe that the letter writer was St. Clair Switzer. I also think that at the time that he was writing the letter, Switzer was on sabbatical and working with…

wait for it…

Louis Jolyon (Jolly) West.

Those are some bold assertions, I know, but I have evidence. Let’s do it this way: I’ll present two additional documents that I’ve found on The Black Vault website, one that was released in 2018 and the other that had been available on CD-ROM but that has gained new significance now that we know about the two letters. After each document, I’ll submit my arguments for why I’ve reached the above conclusions. Here we go.

February 8, 1957 letter

This letter is from the same person as before, and its recipient is also Griffith Williams. I’m 100 percent confident that it’s Williams because the letter writer refers to the recipient’s recent “attack of arthritis.” Williams had a long history with rheumatoid arthritis. Also, Williams was a respected hypnosis researcher who frequently demonstrated hypnotic phenomena before large audiences. In 1947, he hypnotized members of a theater troupe between the first and second acts to see if it might improve their acting ability, a stunt that brought him national attention. The topics of discussion in both letters were right up Williams’ alley.

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

Because this letter is tougher to read, I’m including the verbiage here:

8 February 1957

Dear [BLANK],

We were delighted to receive your most interesting letter of 22 January 1957. Sorry to hear of the attack of arthritis and we hope that it is better now. [BLANK] and I have gone over your material and suggestions and find them very useful.

The problem of the use of hypnosis by a public speaker or some related technique which could be used by an individual to control or influence a crowd is of considerable importance and as you have noted there is very little information along these lines anywhere. This area is particularly interesting to [BLANK]. He told me that he will obtain [BLANK’S] book immediately.

Your comments concerning the possibility of making the subjects do something against their ethics or religious convictions were also extremely interesting. Unfortunately, these single tests, without proper conditioning or properly building a background are not too valid. In general, your examples cover most of the experience in the field. However, the next time we see you we will tell you of some unusual work and results with which we are familiar. I found your reaction to the carotid artery technique interests me. Some people insist the technique is very dangerous and your reactions convinced me that this area could stand a great deal of work. I have not tried the technique myself but have been present when it has been done. There is some debate as to whether or not this is true hypnosis or a coma-like condition produced as a result of pressure on the artery. I’ll have to start looking for volunteers.

The rest of your suggestions and ideas are very worthwhile. As I said before I hope to discuss them with you in the near future at some greater length.

[BLANK] and I know that you are very busy what with teaching and the special work you do for the [BLANK]. We were, however, very impressed with you [sic] honesty in this field and the fact that you were willing to spend some of your valuable time with us. Sometime in the near future we will get in touch with you and try to arrange it so that our visit will not interfere with any school work or other work you may be doing. I am very much in favor of informal discussions in this [field?] at some quiet spot and perhaps we can arrange it so that you could come to the local hotel and have dinner with us and talk later.

While I know it is unnecessary for me to again caution you concerning the highly sensitive nature of this material, I will ask you to destroy this letter when you have read it.

With kindest personal regards.

Very sincerely,


Why I think St. Clair Switzer wrote the 1956 and 1957 letters 

My dear BLANK 

The opening to the 1956 letter, “My dear BLANK,” is pure Clark Hull. I have dozens of Hull’s letters to both Switzer and Everett Patten, Miami’s longtime department chair in psychology, and nearly every single one of them opens with that phrase. It’s cute and endearing. I think Switzer seemed to like it too. He would use it from time to time, depending on the stature of the recipient and his relationship with them. He used it in a letter to Miami University President Upham in 1936. Because he was writing to a fellow Hull student, he probably thought it would be a nice reminder of their former mentor, who’d passed away in 1952.

His use of telltale vocabulary words 

In the 1956 letter, after the list of topics, the letter writer says “We grant that the above list is long and that any item individually could well deserve a Ph.D. thesis…”. In my experience, these are the words of someone who holds a doctoral degree. The general public frequently calls the product of someone’s doctoral research a dissertation. But among doctoral degree holders, they’ll frequently refer to their dissertation as a Ph.D. thesis. These are the words of someone in academia.

A telltale vocabulary word in the February 1957 letter is the reference to “conditioning” when talking about a subject being made to do something against his or her ethics or religious convictions. Clark Hull was a behaviorist who felt that all human behavior could be defined through conditioned responses. Conditioning was part of Switzer’s academic upbringing, probably Williams’ too. Switzer’s first scientific paper was titled “Backward Conditioning of the Lid Reflex.” The czar of conditioning himself—Pavlov!—had requested a reprint of Switzer’s paper back in 1932, which was a major coup. Clark Hull’s (endearing) response was “I think that if Pavlov should ask for anything that I had done I should have some kind of seizure – I don’t know just what!”

The insecure tone

Switzer’s words are gracious and deferential, but also self-important, which isn’t an easy vibe to pull off.  He would be obsequious to those he viewed as “better” or more knowledgeable than he was about a particular subject area or if he needed something, both of which I think applied to Williams. 

As for his self-importance—his repeated cautionary words, his bragging about being privy to insider info—I view Switzer as an insecure academic. He published very little after he returned to Oxford from WWII and he didn’t maintain strong relationships with his academic peers outside of Oxford. Therefore, he seemed to bolster his self-esteem through his association with the military.

He was writing to an old associate from his glory days with Hull

Switzer wasn’t good at making friends with colleagues. He didn’t attend professional meetings. He didn’t go to departmental picnics. He rubbed people the wrong way, especially as he got older. Because he published very little, he probably wasn’t keeping up with the scientific literature either. So, here he is, ostensibly working on a “highly classified” hypnosis project with someone big, and they have some questions about what’s currently happening in the field. Who does this letter writer contact? A person Switzer used to know in grad school.  

He was approved for a sabbatical for the 1956-57 academic year

In his 1957 letter to Williams, the letter writer talks about how busy Williams must be with teaching, which made me wonder: why isn’t this person also busy with teaching? He’s an academic too. As it so happens, Switzer had been approved for a sabbatical that year. Originally, he was planning to go to UCLA to work in the laboratory of Marion A. (Gus) Wenger. (Uncle Gus! Nah…no relation.) However, that fell through at the last minute when Gus decided to go to India to study yogis. 

So what’s a guy to do? Say “oh well” and go back to his regular teaching schedule at Miami? Hardly. That sabbatical had been approved two years earlier by President Millett and if Switzer could get out of a year of teaching, he surely would. I’m certain his friends in the Air Force helped him find a replacement gig, which leads us to the third document.

A proposal for “Studies in the Military Application of Hypnotism: 1. The Hypnotic Messenger”

As I said before, even though this document was included on the original CD-ROM I’d received from the CIA, it takes on new relevance when juxtaposed with the two letters that weren’t available until 2018. 

Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view
Document provided thanks to TheBlackVault.com; click on image for a closer view

First, note that it was written just two days before the February 1957 letter. Second, the timeframe is rather, um, ambitious, shall we say? The proposal writer calls the development of a hypnotic messenger “uncomplicated” and claims that he and his associate should be able to complete their project by the end of the summer. That’s a special kind of arrogance. Third, there’s no meat to this proposal. People who oversee federal grants might be inclined to call this a “trust me” proposal, something that a researcher—particularly one who is well known in his or her field—might send to a funding source before the details have all been fleshed out. (Thankfully, funders of today can spot a “trust me” proposal a mile away, and they’ll send it back unfunded.) But this proposal writer appears to be saying: “Hey, you guys, it’s me here. You know I can do the work. Heck, I have a couple other projects waiting in the wings that are MUCH harder. Can I expect the ten grand in the mail ASAP?” (In today’s money, that’s a little over $97,000.)

Why I think Jolly West was the proposal writer and St. Clair Switzer was his associate

  • Both West and Switzer are military officers in academia who have expertise in hypnosis. I don’t believe there would have been a large number of people meeting these qualifications back then.
  • The proposal writer seems to be a big deal. His cover letter is relatively informal, as if he’s on a first-name basis with the recipient. His tone isn’t the least bit deferential. They appear to have an “ask and you shall receive” sort of relationship.
  • The proposal writer’s cover letter also mentions a man he is fortunate to have with him “this year” who is “thoroughly familiar with hypnotism at the theoretical level.” That sounds a lot like St. Clair Switzer to me. The reference to his knowledge of hypnosis theory could certainly be attributed to his experimental work for Clark Hull’s 1933 book, Hypnosis and Suggestibility: An Experimental Approach.
  • On the last page, the proposal writer makes the point that both the principal investigator and his associate are academics and the work needs to be completed by summer. Guess when Switzer’s sabbatical likely ends?
  • West was well known to the CIA at that point. He’d communicated with Sidney Gottlieb, who headed the CIA’s MKULTRA program, about hypnosis research since at least 1953. He had other projects going on too—including his USAF study of interrogation tactics used on POWs during the Korean War and his MKULTRA Research, Subproject 43, “Psychophysiological Studies of Hypnosis and Suggestibility.”
  • The proposal states that volunteers would be recruited from military personnel as opposed to college students. West, who’d concluded his detail at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, in June 1956 and was now at the University of Oklahoma, had easy access to both demographic groups.
  • In March 1957 West had been given a SECRET security clearance for his POW interrogation research and, according to author Colin A. West, he held a TOP SECRET clearance for his work on Subproject 43. This could certainly explain why the letter writer referred to the information as “highly classified” and insisted that the letters be destroyed after they’d been read.

Since 2019, this blog has been waiting for confirmation on two CIA documents to help prove our theory: a March 25, 1952, memo that I believe recommends St. Clair Switzer and Griffith W. Williams as consultants in their hypnosis studies, and a January 14, 1953, memo that I believe recommends Major Louis J. West and the Lt. Colonel Switzer to lead a “well-balanced interrogation research center” for Project ARTICHOKE. Judging by the contents of these three documents, I don’t think our waiting is going to be in vain.


MANY THANKS to TheBlackVault.com for doing the hard work and pursuing the documents that had been missing from the CIA’s earlier release!