On the night of July 4th 1954, the city of San Antonio was rattled by the news of a rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl. The man accused of this unspeakably evil crime was named Jimmy N. Shaver. Shaver was an airman stationed at Lackland Air Force Base. Jimmy Shaver had neither a criminal past nor any memory of committing this horrific crime.
The victim was Chere Jo Horton, a 3 year old who had been left unattended in the parking lot of a bar on the outskirts of the Air Force Base with her 5 year old brother while their white trash parents shamelessly drank inside.. Around midnight the parents went outside to check on their children and realized their little girl was missing. They formed a search party and within the hour a group of people came upon a car parked next to a gravel pit where underwear, the size a toddler would wear could be seen hanging off of the side-view mirror on the drivers side.
Shaver, shirtless, covered in blood and scratches wandered out of the darkness nearby. Jimmy appeared not to be drunk yet he could not explain where he had come from nor could he explain whose blood he was covered in. Nearly all eyewitness accounts described Shaver as appearing to be in some sort of daze. He made no attempt to escape. Shaver fell in line with the search party as they began to trace the edge of the highway from where he emerged. At one point Jimmy Shaver turned to a member of the search party and inquired, “What’s going on here?”
Chere Jo Horton’s body was discovered in a gravel pit. Her neck was broken, her legs had been torn open and she’d been raped.
Deputies arrested Shaver. At 29, Jimmy Shaver had recently remarried with two children and possessed no history of violence. A friend of Shaver puts him at the bar where Horton had been abducted from but the friend insists that neither he or Shaver were drunk; though he admitted that Shaver appeared to be high on something.
Oddly, before deputies could take Shaver into custody and escort him to a county jail a constable from another county arrived on the scene with orders he’d received from military police and took Shaver into custody. Around three hours later, roughly four in the morning, an air force marshal and two doctors concluded their examination and were unanimous in agreement: Shaver was not drunk. In fact, later at Jimmy Shaver’s trial one of these doctors would read from the stand his observational notes he had made that night: “[Shaver] probably was not normal … he was very composed outside, which I did not expect him to be under these circumstances.”
Investigators continued to interrogate Shaver through the morning. At around 10 AM Shaver’s wife arrived and he was adamant in his claim of having no idea who she was. One hour later, which means Shaver had been questioned for ten hours at that point, he made his first statement: “I thought she was four.”
In his statement, Shaver was resolute in stating that another man was responsible; going so far as to describe him as having blond hair and tattoos.
Later, that same afternoon when Shaver had returned to the original arresting officer he signed a second statement saying “she swore she was almost five.” While shaking his head and muttering “yeah, probably too soon” he then amended his statement and took full responsibility.
Though he maintained he did not have a single memory of having done anything; he signed the statement in resignation or more accurately he reasoned that everyone else believed he was the culprit; so he must have done it. What kind of Mickey Mouse, peer pressure type of bullshit reasoning is that? How many bugs and boogers do you think this go with the flow gimp has eaten over his lifetime? I’ve heard of herd mentality but this is unheard of.
Two months passed and old “Okey Dokey” Jimmy Shaver remained under care at the base hospital. Despite the lapse of eight weeks Shaver was still unable to recall a single memory of him committing the crime so the commander of the base hospital, Col. Robert S. Bray ordered a psychiatric evaluation to be performed by Dr. Louis Jolyon West, the head of psychiatric services at Lackland.
Shaver spent two weeks under West’s supervision during which they returned to the scene of the crime in an attempt to jog his memory. Later, Dr. West hypnotized Shaver and gave him an injection of sodium pentothal or “truth serum,” to see if it would clear his amnesia.
Quick explanation on the meaning of “truth serum”: Sodium pentothal is referred to as truth serum but not any sense of holding any scientific validity. Sodium pentothal as well some other common barbiturates like sodium amytal and sodium pentothal are known as being part of narcoanalysis, which came into existence around 1915 when an obstetrician, named Dr. House noticed that when he administered scopolamine (an anesthetic drug) his patients would enter into a state where they seemed to deliver information in a way that seemed automatic and unfiltered. From this sprung a new scientific method known as narcoanalysis which involves administering psychoactive drugs for interrogation purposes but it became very apparent how easy it was to manipulate people…that you’ve just drugged no less…seeing how this would never hold up in court the whole field was abandoned.
Having said that, Dr. West would testify that Jimmy “would definitely jump off the Brooklyn Bridge if all his boys were doing it” Shaver’s trial that while under hypnosis Shaver confessed to killing Horton. Claiming that seeing Chere Jo Horton causes the repressed memories of his cousin, “Beth Rainboat,” who’d sexually abused him as a child. Earlier that same July 4th evening, while drinking at home, Shaver claimed to have “had visions of God, who whispered in his ear to seek out and kill the evil girl Beth.”
At trial, Dr. Louis Jolyon West offered the most minimal effort in attempting to exonerate Shaver. The airman was found guilty. An appeal was immediately filed and it was agreed Shaver was not given a fair trial but the second trial ended with a guilty verdict as well and James Shaver was executed by the electric chair on his 33rd birthday all the while maintaining his innocence.
Perhaps a different outcome would have been possible if the jury was made aware of Dr. West’s past. According to West’s personal archive; papers that would not surface until after his death, 46 years later the psychiatrist was clearly tied to some of the most appalling experiments of the CIA’s Project MK Ultra. MK Ultra was a violation of international law. The Central Intelligence Agency’s own charter which forbids domestic activity.
MK Ultra began as Project ARTICHOKE in August of 1951 and was operated by the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence with the primary goal of determining whether a person could be involuntarily made to perform an act of attempted assassination. Project ARTICHOKE was the CIA’s secret code name for carrying out in-house and overseas experiments using LSD, hypnosis and total isolation as forms of physiological harassment for special interrogations on human subjects. At first agents used cocaine, marijuana, heroin, peyote and mescaline but it was LSD that appeared to be the most promising due to the fact it left the subject with faulty / vague memories of the experience. In a memo dated January 1952 the question was posed, “Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?”
Beginning in 1952 the CIA intended to further operate this illegal human experimentation program with the intent to develop procedures and further identify the use of drugs during interrogations to weaken individuals and force confessions through brainwashing and psychological torture; thus the clandestine MK Ultra project began and ran for the next twenty years before being halted in 1973.
In 1953, the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI), under a classified agreement with the US Army Chemical Corps that allowed the psychiatric institute to administer certain compounds to patients without their knowledge or consent as a means of studying the possible effects of chemical warfare. NYSPI then looked at one of their newer patients, professional tennis player Harold Blauer (age 42) who had voluntarily checked himself for help with depression following a divorce. Blauer, unknowingly became a test subject in experiments conducted by the Army Chemical Corps.
Between November 1952 and January 1953, Blauer was given five injections of various chemical analogues of mescaline. Blauer requested to withdraw from these treatments because of overwhelming hallucinations caused by these injections. Despite his requests and the fact that it was the day before his discharge Harold Blauer was injected with a fatal dose of 450 milligrams (mg) of MDA killing him within 30 minutes.
Twenty two years after Blauer’s death he would become the first death the military would cop to during its mind‐altering drug experiments that ran from the early 1950s until as late as 1976.
Incidentally, another incident that occurred in ‘53 involved Frank R. Olson, a civilian biochemist working for the Army who had surreptitiously been given LSD by the C.I.A. and subsequently plunged to his death from a 10th‐story hotel window in Manhattan. Being mindful of both focus and story length I’d like to offer two sources that further illuminates this story: Netflix did a miniseries called Wormwood that apparently is based off his life and there is also a fascinating website called https://frankolsonproject.com.
At trial, Dr. Louis Jolyon West claimed Shaver suffered “a bout of temporary insanity” in regards to the night of Horton’s killing. In the courtroom however West said Shave is “quite sane now” even though a newspaper account of the trial described Shaver, a known chain smoker, to sit like a man “in a trance” noting that Shaver never once rose to stretch or smoke during any intermissions during the trial.
Large portions of West’s “truth serum” interview while Shaver was entranced was played into court record without argument. Also without dispute was the clear violation of Dr. West leading questions that walk an entranced Shaver through the crime. For example, West said, “Tell me about when you took your clothes off, Jimmy.” The transcript of the interview, which survived among West’s papers, also showed West trying to prove that Shaver had repressed memories: “Jimmy, do you remember when something like this happened before?” Or: “After you took her clothes off, what did you do?”
“I never did take her clothes off,” Shaver replied.
The surviving interview tape seems to be missing a large part of the middle section. When the transcript picks up again it starts with: “Shaver is crying. He has been confronted with all the facts repeatedly.” West continues, “Now you remember it all, don’t you, Jimmy?” To which Shaver replies: “Yes, sir.”
Shaver suffered debilitating migraines all his life. When he felt one coming on he’d usually sit with his head in a bucket of ice water. During his years of service the condition was so severe he was recommended for a two-year experimental program. Dr. West never mentioned any of this at trial. Dr. West never checked or asked Shaver if he ever had been treated in the experimental program. Weirdly, according to the base’s archivist, all the records for patients in 1954 are all still maintained except for one exception: the file for last names beginning with “Sa” through “St.” They appear to have vanished.
In 1954, around the same time as Chere Jo Horton’s murder, Dr. West began to split his time between Lackland and the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, where he would lead the psychiatry department. Dr. West told his prospective employer that his Lackland duties were “purely clinical” and that he’d “been doing no research, classified or otherwise.” Dr. West asked the board of directors at Oklahoma for permission to accept money from the Geschickter Fund for Medical Research, which he called “a non-profit private research foundation.” Geschickter was a fictitious shell corp of Sydney Gottlieb the creator of the MK-Ultra program.
Years later in 1969, Dr. Louis Jolyon West moved on to becoming the chair of the Department of Psychiatry and director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. A position he held until his retirement in 1988. Over a dozen years after West’s retirement a partial letter was found dated June 11, 1953; a mere two months after MK Ultra started and also at the same time when West was chief of the psychiatric service at the air base at Lackland.
The letter is addressed to “S.G.” and in the letter West outlines the experiments he proposes to perform using a combination of psychotropic drugs and hypnosis. Beginning with a plan to discover “the degree to which information can be extracted from presumably unwilling subjects (through hypnosis alone or in combination with certain drugs), possibly with subsequent amnesia for the interrogation and/or alteration of the subject’s recollection of the information he formerly knew.” Another item proposed honing “techniques for implanting false information into particular subjects … or for inducing in them specific mental disorders.” He hoped to create “couriers” who would carry “a long and complex message” embedded secretly in their minds, and to study “the induction of trance-states by drugs.” His list lined up perfectly with the goals of MK Ultra.
The “S.G.” West was addressing is a man named Sidney Gottlieb the creator of the MK-Ultra program. Gottlieb was the chief chemist of the CIA and created poisons and innovative ways of surreptitiously administering them. Gottlieb also headed a CIA program that created high-tech gadgets for spies to use. At one point in the letter Dr. West states: “Needless to say,” these experiments “must eventually be put to test in practical trials in the field” to this end West asks Gottlieb for “some sort of carte blanche” before listing four groups: basic airmen, volunteers, patients, and “others, possibly including prisoners in the local stockade.”
Only the volunteers would be paid since the others would be unwilling participants and Dr. West continues further saying it will be easier to preserve secrecy by “inducing specific mental disorders” in people who already exhibited them. “Certain patients requiring hypnosis in therapy, or suffering from dissociative disorders (trances, fugues, amnesias, etc.) might lend themselves to our experiments.”
Gottlieb’s reply came on letterhead from “Chemrophyl Associates,” a front company he used to correspond with MK Ultra subcontractors. “My Good Friend,” he wrote, “I’d been wondering whether your apparent rapid and comprehensive grasp of our problems could possibly be real. … you have indeed developed an admirably accurate picture of exactly what we are after.
For this I am deeply grateful.” Gottlieb saluted his new recruit: “We have gained quite an asset in the relationship we are developing with you.” West returned the camaraderie: “It makes me very happy to realize that you consider me ‘an asset,’” he replied. “Surely there is no more vital undertaking conceivable in these times.”
Dr. West produced a paper for MK Ultra in 1965 titled “Dangers of Hypnosis,” where he foresaw the rise of dangerous groups led by “crackpots” who hypnotized their followers into violent criminality. Dr. West cites two cases: a double murder in Copenhagen committed by a hypno-programmed man, and a “military offense” induced experimentally at an undisclosed U.S. Army base. (This is as close a reference to the murder of Chere Jo Horton that has ever been found among the remaining MK Ultra papers.)
In the fall of 1966, Dr. West arrived in San Francisco to study hippies and further his LSD studies. In the Haight Ashbury district, Dr. West arranged for the use of a crumbling Victorian house on Frederick Street, where he sets up what he describes as a “laboratory disguised as a hippie crash pad.”
The “pad” officially opened in June 1967, at the dawn of the summer of love. Dr. West installs six graduate students in the “pad,” telling them to “dress like hippies” and “lure” itinerant kids into the apartment. Passersby were welcome to do as they pleased and stay as long as they liked, as long as they didn’t mind grad students taking notes on their behavior.
According to records in Dr. West’s files, his “crash pad” is funded by the Foundations Fund for Research in Psychiatry, Inc which seems to have bankrolled a number of his other projects over the decades and turns out to be a front for the CIA.
Of course this laboratory disguised as a hippie crash pad is not the CIA’s first rodeo in disguised operations in San Francisco. The evocatively titled, ‘Operation Midnight Climax’ a couple years prior saw CIA operatives open three upscale bordellos complete with one-way mirrors and pornographic photographs as wall art. George White and his colleagues hired prostitutes to entice prospective johns to these bordellos where the men were served cocktails laced with acid. The goal was to see if LSD, paired with sex, could be used to coax sensitive information from the men. White later wrote to his CIA handler, “I was a minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun.”
At the Haight-Ashbury pad, though, Dr. West’s motives were more vague than the vagina one. No one seemed to have a firm grasp of the project’s purpose — least of all those involved. The grad students hired to staff West’s “crash pad” lab were assigned to keep diaries of their work. In unguarded moments, nearly all of these students admitted that something didn’t add up. They weren’t sure what they were supposed to be doing or why West was there. One of the diaries belonging to a Stanford psychology grad student chronicled the experience was aimless to the point of worthlessness.
Little is known about the MK Ultra program. Towards the end of 1973/early 1974, as the cover-up and efforts to impede the Watergate investigation began to unravel, the director of the CIA ordered all of MK Ultra’s paperwork destroyed.
By December of 1974, Seymour Hersh reported it on the front page of the NY Times: “Huge C.I.A. Operation Reported in U.S. Against Antiwar Forces.” This was followed by three government investigations: the Rockefeller Commission, Church Committee and the Kennedy-Inouye Select Committee hearings looking into illegal domestic activities of various federal intelligence agencies, including wiretapping, mail opening, and unwitting drug testing of U.S. citizens but all three investigations were hobbled by the CIA’s destruction of its own files. When records were available they were heavily redacted and when witnesses were summoned to testify before Congress their memory failed.
Additionally, the CIA gave aliases to all scientists working within the program; funneling money as well as instructions on concealing their research from prying eyes, including those of their unknowing subjects farmed from hospitals, prisons, colleges as well as military bases.
MK Ultra’s work encompassed everything from electronic brain stimulation to sensory deprivation to “induced pain” and “psychosis.” They sought ways to cause heart attacks, severe twitching, and intense cluster headaches. If drugs didn’t do the trick, they’d try to master ESP, ultrasonic vibrations, and radiation poisoning. In one project, the aim was to harness the power of magnetic fields. Hell, they even killed Tusko the Elephant by giving him nearly 3,000 times the human recreational dose of LSD just to see what would happen.
Spoiler Alert: The elephant collapsed into seizures within five minutes and continued having fits of seizures for the next 100 minutes before his heart failed and he died.
Nowadays and only in the broadest terms does anyone know what went on within the MK Ultra project. In broad strokes, it sought to influence human behavior by paying hundreds of thousands to an Indianapolis pharmaceutical company to replicate the original Swiss formula (where it had first been first synthesized in 1938) for LSD. But what other kinds of experiments and most importantly how many other casualties paid the price for the CIA’s limitless domestic supply of drugs will remain forever a mystery.
MK Ultra was such a highly classified project that in 1961 when John McCone became the new Director of the CIA he was not informed of its existence until 1963. Fewer than a dozen agency brass were aware of it at any period during its entire history.
MK Ultra aimed to produce couriers capable of embedding hidden messages in another’s mind as well as implant false memories and remove true ones in people without their awareness.
In essence, MK Ultra hoped to create a network of hypno-programmed assassins right? Well, Charles Manson, lived in the Bay Area at the same time Dr. West lived in the Haight-Ashbury pad. And records establish that Manson participated in at least four different CIA-funded drug research studies. Jack Ruby, the man who killed Lee Harvey Oswald (who assassinated JFK) personal doctor was Dr. Louis Jolyon West….