The Darkest Real Human Test Subjects in History

Performing experiments on humans is nothing new to the world of science. The progress that has been made over the past 100 years or so has been a great accomplishment and reminded us of how far we have come when it comes to test studies.  But one thing that we are not always reminded of is how so many human lives were damaged or destroyed due to going through some of the most disturbing human experiments in history.

Tearoom Trade – Laud Humphreys

Laud Humphreys broke down stereotypes with his study and book Tearoom Trade – Impersonal sex in public places. The Sociologist began to wonder about the large number of men who tend to commit impersonal sexual acts with one another inside of public restrooms. He wondered why “tearoom sex” led to so many homosexual arrests in the United States. So he played the part as a “watchqueen”, which is a person who keeps watch and coughs when a cop or other stranger is near, for his Ph.D dissertation at Washington University. During his research, Humphreys saw hundreds of sexual acts take place and he also interviewed many of the participants. He found out that 54 percent of his subjects were married and 38 percent were clearly neither bisexual or homosexual.

Henrietta Lacks

In 1955, Henrietta Lacks was a poor, uneducated African-American woman from Baltimore. She was the unwitting source of cells which were then cultured for the purpose of medical research. While researchers tried to grow cells before, Henrietta’s cells were the first successfully kept alive and cloned. Her cells were later known as HeLa cells and have been instrumental in the development of the polio vaccine, cancer research, AIDS research, gene mapping and many other scientific endeavors. Henrietta died penniless and was buried without a tombstone in a family cemetery. For many years, her husband and five children did not know anything about Henrietta’s amazing contribution to modern medicine.


In 1954, the CIA wanted to come up with a way to study Chinese brainwashing techniques. They developed an experiment known as Project QKHILLTOP. They used the experiment to develop new methods of interrogation. The leader of the research tea was Dr. Harold Wolff of Cornell University Medical School. After requesting that the CIA provide him with information on imprisonment, deprivation, humiliation, torture, brainwashing, hypnoses and more. Wolff’s team started to come up with a plan where they would develop secret drugs and various brain damaging procedures. According to a letter that Dr. Wolff wrote in order for the tests to be successful and to fully test the effects of the harmful research, he expected the CIA to “make available suitable subjects.”

Dr. William Beaumont’s Stomach Experiments

In 1822, a fur trader who was traveling on Mackinac Island in Michigan was accidently shot in the stomach and treated by Dr. William Beaumont. Despite the dire predictions, the fur trader was able to make a full recovery, aside from one small problem. There was a hole (fistula) in his stomach that never completely healed. Instead of seeing this as a problem, Dr. Beaumont saw it as a way to study the digestive system. The doctor would tie food to a string, then insert it through the hole in the man’s stomach. Every few hours, he would remove the food to observe how it had been digested. While the process was gruesome, Beaumont’s experiments helped doctors and scientists learn that the digestion process was chemical and not mechanical.

Electroshock Therapy on Children

In the 1960s, Dr. Lauretta Bender of New York’s Creedmoor Hospital started what she believed to be a revolutionary treatment for children who had social or behavioral issues, electroshock therapy. Her methods included interviewing and analyzing a sensitive child in front of a large group of people. Then she would apply a gentle amount of pressure to the child’s head. Apparently, any child moved with the pressure was showing early signs of schizophrenia. Bender herself was the victim of a misunderstood childhood, and was said to be unsympathetic to the children in her care. By the time that her horrific treatments were shut down, Bender had used electroshock therapy on more than one hundred children, the youngest of which was the age of three.

Project Artichoke

In the 1950s, the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence ran a series of mind-control projects in hopes to answer the question “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?” One of these projects was known as Project Artichoke. Researchers who worked on the project studied hypnosis, forced morphine addiction, drug withdrawal, and the use of chemicals to incite amnesia in unwitting human subjects. The project was eventually shut down in the mid-1960s, but it opened up the doors to extensive research on the use of mind-control in field operations.