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CIA secrets exposed: Why ‘fiasco’ in France was covered up by agents

The Pont-Saint-Esprit mass poisoning took place in the sleepy southern French town. More than 250 people were involved, 50 of them interned at mental asylums while seven people died after jumping from windows and balconies.

At first, a food-borne illness was floated as the cause of the altered state of consciousness.

It was proposed that the bread from a local bakery that many people who had the mania had shopped at had become infected by an ergot fungus.

The fiasco soon became known as the case of the “cursed bread”.

Many, however, were unwilling to accept what they viewed as a chance happening.

They maintained that the bread had been intentionally poisoned, with further splits in opinion over who committed the act.

One of the main hypotheses followed that the CIA, on a covert operation, laced the bread with LSD in order to monitor the effects of the drug on the unknowing public.

It sounds far-fetched, but it would later be revealed that the CIA were carrying out similar experiments on US soldiers and members of the public at the same time.

In 1951, French investigators began to consider LSD as the cause of the mania.

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They called upon Albert Hoffman, the chemist who first discovered and synthesised LSD at the Sandoz Laboratory in Switzerland.

The 2015 documentary “CIA Covert Experiments” explained how Mr Hoffman “on the spot” told the investigators that the poison in question was “no doubt” LSD.

On returning to Switzerland he backtracked, claiming he was mistaken.

After being pursued by French investigators, Mr Hoffman became “unreachable”.


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A proponent of the LSD-CIA argument is Colin Ross, a psychiatrist and author of the book ‘The CIA Doctors’.

During “CIA Covert Experiments”, he claimed Mr Hoffman’s “disappearance” was likely due to the fact that his Sandoz laboratory was the only place where LSD came from and so wanted to avoid being held accountable.

He explained “I would think if Sandoz scientists are saying ‘it doesn’t seem to be LSD’ they’re just trying to cover-up the fact that it’s 100 percent for sure LSD that must have come from Sandoz.

“They were the only suppliers.

“It’s nothing more than a cover-up.”

French investigators chased so many faulty leads that, after a few months, they dropped the case.

Experiments with psychedelic drugs on members of the public and military continued in the US, making up large parts of the operations Project Artichoke, Project Bluebird, and the most notorious, MKUltra.

Officially opened in 1953, for 30 years, people, often unknowingly, were given psychoactive drugs, especially LSD, and electroshocks, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, sexual abuse as well as other forms of torture under MKUltra.

LSD played a central role for researchers as the CIA believed it harnessed the potential to compromise a person’s will and manipulate them to tell secrets.

With the backdrop of the Cold War and fears over the Soviet Union advancing, the CIA moved to targeting members of the public.

This included mental health patients, prisoners, drug addicts, and sex workers.

In San Francisco, for example, the CIA set up in several brothels, dosing men with LSD and watching the effects of the drug through a one-way mirror.

These sessions were also filmed for later reviewing and study.

Many of those forced into experiments were left scarred or permanently mentally damaged.

Since the revelations of the operations were released in 1975, survivors have filed lawsuits and demanded compensation from the US government and CIA.

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