Doctor Wanted to Continue MKULTRA Research for CIA While Treating Jack Ruby

Some researchers in the JFK assassination community are aware of the fact that one of the doctors that treated Jack Ruby was none other than Dr. Louis Jolyon West, equally infamous for both killing an elephant with LSD and other drugs and for his work in MKULTRA, CIA’s interrogation, hypnosis and mind control program. This is one of the many intriguing facts and coincidences surrounding the case, although attempts to prove that Dr. Jolyon West was still working with CIA at the time he was treating Jack Ruby have previously proven useless. However, a new analysis of available documents from CREST and the recovered MKULTRA files shows that Dr. Jolyon West wanted to continue his work with the Agency during that time period, and the University he did the research at thought he did.

The University is Informed

In August of 1977, CIA attorney Anthony A. Lapham sent out a form letter to eighty or more institutions which had been used in the MKULTRA program and whose identities were suddenly revealed in the cache of documents that had recently been discovered to have escaped the shredding and burning of all MKULTRA-related files ordered by Richard Helms. When Paul F. Sharp, the president of the University of Oklahoma, received his letter he wrote back to the Agency and requested “all information possible” about the project’s operations at the University. To date, neither Mr. Sharp’s letter nor the CIA’s response have been made public, although a copy of the form letter sent by Mr. Lapham is included in the document packet at the end of the article.

In a UPI article published by the New York Times, Mr. Sharp reveals the the University performed LSD tests on animals in the 1960s, which included the time period when Jolyon West killed Tusko the elephant with LSD and other drugs. According to an Associated Press article, the university president believed that this referred to the research that had been conducted by Dr. Jolyon West. According to the same article, Dr. Jolyon West said that he received funds from the Geschickter Fund sometime “before coming to Oklahoma.” Surviving MKULTRA documents and his resume show that he began MKULTRA work with money from the Geschickter Foundation for Medical Research in 1955 – the year after his resumes says he came to the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Jolyon West also said that his LSD research was limited to animals, although it’s known that he worked with humans. While he publicly denied being aware that the project was CIA funded, documents show that he was explicitly aware of it and he was in direct contact with the CIA project heads.

An Accidental Admission

It would be easy to dismiss Jolyon West responding to comments about MKULTRA activities at the University by commenting on his LSD work with animals as a denial of his work with humans. However, it seems probable that it was more than that – it was an accidental admission of his later work with the Agency. A recovered CIA document listing different MKULTRA subprojects shows that Subproject 43, associated with Jolyon West and occurring at the University of Oklahoma, began in 1955 and ended in 1956 (when he also retired from the Air Force). The LSD work with animals that he and Paul F. Sharp referred to took place years later and may or may not have involved human experimentation (although it’s known that his earlier work did).

It might be easy to dismiss this, if not for the proposal for Dr. West to continue his MKULTRA work with CIA for another eleven years.

The Second Proposal

Other researchers who examined some of the documents in the packet at the bottom of the article missed crucial facts. Colin Ross’ examination in The CIA Doctors describes the proposal, but fails to note the fact that it was written after the $20,000+ documented funds that Dr. Jolyon West received from CIA. The letter accompanied with the proposal is dated February 1956, and clearly references upcoming work for the next fiscal year.

Jolyon Letter to Gottlieb

In the first subsection of the proposal itself, Dr. Jolyon West says that he wants to continue the work for another eleven years.”It is proposed that the experiments begun during 1955-56 involving hypnotizability, suggestibility, and the roles of certain drugs in altering these attributes, be continued and extended during 1956-67.” This would place Dr. Jolyon West’s treatment of Jack Ruby about three years before the proposed end of this particular MKULTRA subproject. In the proposal, Dr. Jolyon West describes several elements of experiments that match the experience of Jack Ruby and Dr. Jolyon West’s stated reason for going to see him.

Jolyon Proposal

Comparing the proposal to Jack Ruby

Jack Ruby had an isolated cell constructed for him to live in as he awaited his fate and contemplated the possibility of being executed. The proposal stated that “There is reason to believe that environmental manipulations can affect the tendencies for dissociative phenomena to occur. Isolation, in particular, can markedly change the individual’s response to suggestion in the form of verbal communication. It is proposed that new experiments utilizing special environmental manipulations, including sensory isolation, be begun…” Dr. Jolyon West’s proposal specifies that these can produce marked personality changes, which Jack Ruby appeared to have undergone in Dr. Jolyon West’s examination of him. The report (included in the packet below) shows that Ruby was psychotic and delusional at the time.

In his report, Dr. Jolyon West said that “hypnosis and intravenous sodium pentothal were included among possible techniques” to be used on Jack Ruby. In his proposal to CIA for continuing his MKULTRA work with them, he proposed that “the combined use of hypnotic techniques and autonomic drugs be exercised.” Sodium pentothal, as a barbiturate, is an autonomic drug that was frequently used in various MKULTRA experiments and other interrogation or hypnosis related programs. In total, Dr. Jolyon West requested an additional $35,995.00 for the next year’s work, not including the other ten years of research he had proposed. This included $5000.00 for “polygraphic, electroencephalographic, electromyographic, and special stimulatory apparatus.”

Destroyed files and a new program

The Agency’s response to Dr. Jolyon West’s proposal was ordered destroyed along with all the other MKULTRA records. However, he continued to appear in CIA files as late as 1991. According to one document, Dr. Jolyon West was involved in the STARGATE program which had a surprising amount of crossover with the MKULTRA program and its sister programs. While this particular project was undertaken by DIA, CIA’s counterpart in the Department of Defense, it was considered a CIA equity. According to the document, “Serious government-funded research of both these domains began in 1973 when the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) initiated a modest effort to determine if a genuine anomalous phenomenon could be verified and to assess the degree to which it could be applied to general intelligence problems.” Coincidentally, 1973 is the same year that the MKULTRA program was officially terminated.

While the research project’s stated goal was studying anomalous phenomena such as remote viewing and remote interference, the experiments themselves focused on remotely altering someone’s perceptions and nervous system. This essentially made the research dual-purpose. If successful, the research could be used not only as part of a psychic remote viewing program but to design a way to remotely interfere with someone’s perceptions, personality or consciousness. While many of the documents relating to this program wound up in CIA files, being CIA equities and an extension of a CIA program, many more seem to remain classified.

Whatever evidence there was about CIA’s continuing relationship with Dr. Jolyon West, and whether or not they accepted his proposal to continue his MKULTRA research, was destroyed decades ago. This blanket destruction removed any chance to incriminate or exonerate the Agency, leaving just enough information to provide disturbing glimpses into the potential connections between Jack Ruby and MKULTRA after Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated.


See a selection of CIA documents relating to Dr. Jolyon West below as well as the report of his examination of Jack Ruby and his description of the latter’s psychosis.


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