Department of the Unorthodox

Department of the Unorthodox

Posing as researchers from the Scientific Engineering Institute, the CIA’s Office of Research and Development scoured the country for practitioners of black magic and the occult arts.

In 1969 the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) became known as the “Department of the Unorthodox” when they became intrigued by some of the ideas suggested in earlier years by Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron, whose experiments explored the farthest reaches of the human psyche. Some of the behavior modifications achieved by Dr. Cameron seemed to some members of the ORD to tread somewhat warily into the world of the supernatural. When Cameron had worked for MK-ULTRA, the secret group had 150 subprograms involving biology, drugs, psychology, sexual activities, and even motion pictures. Many Hollywood films of the 1950s were influenced by MK-ULTRA operatives who suggested storylines about the threat of Communism, brainwashing, or invasion from monstrous aliens from outer space.

Cameron had begun his career in psychology assisting the Office of Special Services (OSS, the forerunner of the CIA) in interrogating Nazi prisoners during World War II. Cameron, a Canadian, became intrigued by the experiments conducted on concentration camp prisoners by German doctors, and he contracted to work for the OSS, then the CIA, in the field of behavior manipulation. He continued this specialty in Projects Bluebird and Artichoke, which became MK-ULTRA in 1953. According to those who knew Dr. Cameron, he was a man driven by a need to understand the workings of human behavior and an obsession to find the methods to modify and control it. He conducted numerous experiments in sensory deprivation, sensory overload, and drug inducement. He also performed a great number of prefrontal lobotomies and oversaw electroconvulsive shock treatments.

In 1957, when Cameron’s experiments in effectively creating potential “Manchurian Candidates” became known, he relocated his work to the Allen Memorial Psychiatric Institute in Montreal with the help of his friend CIA director Allen Dulles and the Canadian government. The Allen Institute soon became known as “the brain butchery” due to Cameron’s excessively harsh experiments with electroshock, LSD, bright lights, sounds, lobotomies, and drug-induced comas that sometimes lasted for months. Many of his experiments proved far too extreme for his “patients,” and many of them died.

Fortunately, most in the ORD were not inspired by Cameron’s work to become “brain butchers,” but they were fascinated by the notion of expanding the parameters of MK-ULTRA into this uncharted territory. Agents traveled across the United States searching for practitioners of black magic and the occult arts—fortune tellers, palm readers, clairvoyants, and psychic sensitives. The operatives introduced themselves as researchers from the Scientific Engineering Institute.

By 1971 Operation Often, as this subproject was code-named, had three full-time astrologers on its payroll whose specific assignment was to predict the future. Two Chinese American palm readers were added to the staff in 1972. Extensive research was conducted into black magic and witchcraft, and an analysis was formulated concerning the number and locations of covens in the United States and the effectiveness of fertility rites and rituals conducted to raise the dead. A Spiritualist medium was assigned to walk the halls of the United Nations to detect any evil or potentially evil ambassadors.

What results came of this remarkable research funded by the CIA? There are stories indicating that many agents continued to infiltrate covens of witches and Satanists. There are accounts of black magic rituals being used in brainwashing and min-dcontrol techniques. While many conspiracy theorists swear to the truth of these allegations, all records of any of MK-ULTRA’s projects, operations, and subprojects were ordered destroyed in 1972 by the then-director of the CIA, Richard Helms.

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