Monday, March 19, 2012

Midnight in "the pad" of Good and Evil

At the US Post Office in San Francisco, Wayne Ritchie was hoisting a few drinks with other federal officers at a Christmas party, December 20, 1957. Then things went weird.  The room began to spin and he turned an awesome shade of paranoid. Everyone hated him and were clearly out to get him.  Or perhaps not so clearly, but by god they were after him. Went to his office that night, got himself two guns.  Two. Very paranoid. He went to a bar and staged a hold up in order to get enough cash to get a plane ticket.  Had to bug out, get away from them.

The plan did not pan out. A customer at the bar clocked him over the head, put him down flat. Soon, he was arrested for attempted armed robbery, pleaded guilty; five years probation.  So much for gettin' outta Dodge. He never knew what had happened to him, how he went off crazed and half cocked with two guns. Maybe that's two cocked. A puzzling and unexplained neurological episode.

Ah, but it was explainable.

Actually, it was the CIA.
Operation Midnight Climax: How the CIA Dosed S.F. Citizens with LSD
There were at least three CIA safe houses in the Bay Area where experiments went on. Chief among them was 225 Chestnut on Telegraph Hill, which operated from 1955 to 1965. The L-shaped apartment boasted sweeping waterfront views, and was just a short trip up the hill from North Beach's rowdy saloons. Inside, prostitutes paid by the government to lure clients to the apartment served up acid-laced cocktails to unsuspecting johns, while martini-swilling secret agents observed their every move from behind a two-way mirror. Recording devices were installed, some disguised as electrical outlets. 
To get the guys in the mood, the walls were adorned with photographs of tortured women in bondage and provocative posters from French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The agents grew fascinated with the kinky sex games that played out between the johns and the hookers. The two-way mirror in the bedroom gave the agents a close-up view of all the action.
The man behind that mirror was George White, a "maverick" narc famous for busting drug rings in Europe, and who thence liberally doled out LSD as part of the CIA MK ULTRA nonsense. Dosed all kinds of folks, not just the "johns" lured to "the pad."
How test subjects were chosen by the agents varied. In the case of the Telegraph Hill safe house, working girls would pick up johns in North Beach bars and restaurants, then bring them back for experimentation and observation. Other times, White and his wife would host dinner parties where guests might get dosed with a hallucinogenic cocktail without their knowledge. And seemingly random San Franciscans like Kelley were victimized for no other reason than their paths crossed with White and his men at the wrong time. White wrote in his diary how he slipped acid to unsuspecting civilians at local beaches, and in city bars and restaurants.

There were two other Bay Area safe houses where the CIA researched LSD and other chemicals: Room 49 of the Plantation Inn at Lombard and Webster streets, and 261 Green St. in Mill Valley.

People from all walks of life were potential targets. From an internal CIA memo: "The effectiveness of the substances on individuals at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign is of great significance, and testing has been performed on a variety of individuals within these categories," wrote CIA Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick in 1963.
But damn it was fun!
White enjoyed the undercover work he was doing. Perhaps a little too much. He would write in a 1971 letter to Gottlieb, "Of course I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun. Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill and cheat, steal, deceive, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the All-Highest? Pretty Good Stuff, Brudder!"

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