The author of a new book about the CIA’s hallucinogenic drug tests during the Cold War says there’s evidence the agency used NYC commuters as their experimental subjects. He found documentation of the subway tests—which allegedly occurred in 1950—while researching his nonfiction account. "The experiment was pretty shocking — shocking that the CIA and the Army would release LSD like that, among innocent unwitting folks," H.P. Albarelli told The Post.
One piece of evidence cited in A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA's Secret Cold War Experiments is a declassified FBI report from Aug. 25, 1950. "The BW [biological weapon] experiments to be conducted by representatives of the Department of the Army in the New York Subway System in September 1950, have been indefinitely postponed," it says. Dr. Henry Eigelsbach, a former CIA research scientist, says that the aerosol LSD tests did in fact happen, though little is known about their scale and results.
Interestingly, the timing of the hallucinogenic experiments coincides with an incident in which a French town was suddenly seized by insanity that hospitalized 32 people and led to four deaths. Officials blamed moldy rye bread, but the chemical make-up of the fungus resembled that of LSD. It doesn’t seem like an accident that Frank Olson—the CIA research scientist in charge of LSD, who himself became an unwitting subject and later committed suicide—was in France at the time of the outbreak.
Another character in the book is George Hunter White, a Bureau of Narcotics agent with CIA ties, and the administrator of the subway tests, according to Eigelsbach (unfortunately, he says, White’s diary entries about the experiments were destroyed). Sometimes posing as an artist, White would lure passersby to a “safe space” he’d set up in Greenwich Village then surreptitiously or overtly dose them with the drug. Once his subjects’ trips began, he’d interrogate them and see what came out, according to a CIA document.