Outlast and the US government’s real brainwashing program

The Outlast Trials is the third part to be released but serves as a prequel to the series of the same name. The game is set in 1959, at the height of the Cold War, where players accidentally become guinea pigs for the Murkoff corporation to test brainwashing and mind control methods. In a world full of doubt, fear and violence, you will be thrust into a series of challenges, tormenting both physically and mentally. Moral boundaries are blurred, sanity is crushed, all in the name of science, progress and the national interest. You might think these things only exist in games, but in reality, the CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) once conducted a similar brainwashing experiment.


In the beginning of April 1953, when the Korean War was about to end, the New York Times published shocking information, asserting that American prisoners of war returning from this country were most likely “deformed”. ” by “Communist brainwashers.” At that time, Allen Dulles – newly appointed director of the CIA, in a meeting with Princeton alumni, also said: “In the past few years, we have heard a lot about intellectual warfare but I wonder if we are realizing the importance of this issue or not. Do we know how fierce the intellectual war became in the hands of the Soviet Union?

Dulles said that “Soviet brain distortion techniques” were effective but extremely “terrifying” and “nefarious.” American POWs returning from Korea repeatedly repeated Communist propaganda for weeks on end, and he did not know whether they were injected with chemicals, hypnotized, or something similar. He asserted that this type of forced experimentation is against American values, as well as human rights.


Fear of brainwashing and a new type of “intellectual war” intrigued and frightened Americans throughout the 1950s. Many people even thought that the Soviet Union did not only use brainwashing techniques on prisoners. soldiers but with their own people. Why do so many countries pursue such backward ideologies? Americans have no suitable answer to this question other than “brainwashing.”

Three days after his speech criticizing Soviet tactics, Dulles agreed to launch MK-Ultra, a top-secret CIA program in which people were allowed to “covertly use biological and chemical materials .” MK-Ultra’s “mind control” experiments focused on controlling behavior through electroshock therapy, hypnosis, chemicals, and poisons. Participants are volunteers, some of whom are forced, some of whom do not know the program details at all. From mentally disabled boys in state schools, to American soldiers and those with “sexual disorders,” MK-Ultra often targets society’s most vulnerable. . In addition, prisoners are also extremely ideal subjects, because they are willing to participate in exchange for leisure time or a reduced sentence.

Whitey Bulger, an organized crime boss, once shared about his experience participating in MK-Ultra’s experiment: “Eight prisoners were in a state of panic and paranoia. Completely lost appetite. Illusion. The room deformed. Hours of paranoia and violence. We went through a terrible time with nightmares, blood pouring from the walls. People turned into skeletons before my eyes, the camera in the form of a dog. I feel like I’m going crazy.”

Whitey Bulger – one of the prisoners participating in MK-Ultra’s experiments.

Bulger said that he was injected with LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide), a hallucinogen. In the late 1940s, the CIA received reports that the Soviet Union was attempting to produce LSD by purchasing the chemical from around the world. According to a CIA officer, the agency is “extremely scared”, because they do not have much knowledge about this active ingredient. On November 18, 1953, a group of 10 scientists met at a small cabin deep in the Maryland woods. After lengthy meetings, they agreed that to understand this chemical, a practical experiment was required.

The CIA is aware of how harshly the public will react if it learns about MK-Ultra’s existence, so all information is kept secret. Initially, the CIA often approached individual targets, or sought volunteers, sometimes putting drugs in the drinks of CIA employees. Gradually, the experiments became more complex, the most infamous being Operation Midnight Climax.

In 1955, at 225 Chestnut, San Francisco, the CIA assigned George White, previously working at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to undertake the task of “bedroom decoration”. White hangs paintings of French dancers on the wall, arranges flowers, hangs red curtains,… all of which evoke sexiness and charm. Then, he installed eavesdropping devices, two-way mirrors and hired prostitutes to lure men to this room. The men who came here would be injected with LSD and White would hold alcohol in his hand and sit behind the mirror to observe everything that happened.

George White hired prostitutes to seduce men, then injected them with LSD to observe their behavior.

CIA experiments with LSD continued until 1963 before John Vance, a member of the CIA’s Inspector General, pointed out the inhumane nature of the project. Although MK-Ultra’s directors tried their best to convince them, the Inspector General still requested to immediately end the experiment with forced people.

In 1977, Congress questioned former CIA employees about oversight practices and volunteer recruitment to decide whether these programs should continue. The subsequent hearing overturned a number of unfavorable details, notably the 1953 suicide of Dr. Frank Olson, a scientist who jumped out of a hotel window a few days after accidentally drinking a drink containing alcohol. mix LSD. However, when asked, CIA agents repeatedly said they “did not remember” detailed information about the human testing projects or even the number of people who participated.

In 1973, in the context of increasing disadvantages, the director of MK-Ultra decided to cancel the project. Under the pretext of ensuring the identities of the participants, they destroyed all paperwork related to the experiment and many secrets have been buried since then.


We still say games are virtual, but the line between reality and virtuality is sometimes very thin because many games are built on real-life materials. At that time, the game was no longer a completely fictional story but more like a documentary that took players back in time to learn about old events.

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