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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Did the CIA Dose Pont-Saint-Esprit?

A picturesque village in Southern France suddenly went "insane" one day in 1951. People insulted and fought one another; one man jumped from a hospital window, claiming to be a dragonfly; the mailman zigzagged on his bike and toppled. The bizarre behavior and "mass hallucinations" continued for several days.

Originally, a local baker was thought to have made bread with contaminated yeast, but this theory was later disproven. The mystery remained for nearly 60 years... until an American author, seeking to uncover what had lead to the 1953 murder of a US biochemist who worked on many of the CIA's secret programs during the Cold War came across information which lead him to conclude that the strange events in 1951 Pont-Saint-Esprit were the result of the CIA.

Hank Albarelli's A Terrible Mistake, recently released in the US, tells how the author sifted through thousands of government documents and continually found references to the small, French village. According to Albarelli, his research uncovered that Pont-Saint-Esprit was targeted by the CIA for testing, and that they may have dosed the bread with LSD. Further, the event was tied to the 1953 murder of Frank Olson, an Army biochemost who worked on the CIA's mind-control experiments during the Cold War.

The Pont-Saint-Esprit "field test" was carried-out under the name "Operation Span." Albarelli points to various documents which openly discuss using LSD and other, "mind-altering chemicals," and even call for field tests. Several of these documents actually refer to Pont-Saint-Esprit by name.

Albarelli's coup-de-grace came in the form of documents detailing a discussion between a former CIA spy and Swedish chemist from the Sandoz Laboratory, in which the agent openly admitted the incident was an experiment. The Sandoz Lab is where the effects of LSD were first discovered. Sandoz Lab was providing the US Army and CIA with LSD in 1951.

Those who lived through the 1951 incident agree that it will never be fully explained and what actually happened may never be known, but said learning of the CIA's possible involvement is "disturbing."

© C Harris Lynn, 2010

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