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Louis Jolyon West
Brooklyn, New York
DiedJanuary 2, 1999
Los Angeles, California

Louis Jolyon ("Jolly") West (1924 in Brooklyn, New York - January 2, 1999 in Los Angeles) was an American psychiatrist, human rights activist and expert on brainwashing, mind control, torture, substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder and violence[citation needed].

Early life[]

Louis "Jolly" West was born in Brooklyn to immigrant Russian Jewish parents and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. His family was poor, but he was determined to get a good education. During World War II, shortly after he had entered University of Wisconsin-Madison, he enlisted in the army air force, eventually rising to the rank of colonel. In the Army Specialized Training Program he studied at the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota School of Medicine from which he graduated in 1948.


Deprogramming POWs[]

West transferred to the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps and in 1952 later he was appointed Chief of Psychiatry Service at the Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. In this position, together with Margaret Singer, he examined U.S. pilots and veterans after 36 American prisoners of war had confessed to U.S. war crimes in the Korean War, such as the use of bacteriological warfare. West testified at their court martial hearings, claiming that they were not traitors but that the confessions had been coerced from them by brainwashing and various enhanced interrogation techniques.


While holding his position at Lackland he was also appointed professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Neurology and Bio-behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine. At the age of 29 he was the youngest man to have held a chairmanship in psychiatry in the United States so far. West moved to Oklahoma City in April 1955 but returned to Lackland on a weekly basis to serve out his contract. During the 1950s and early 1960s, both at Lackland Base's Wilford Hall Medical Facility and Oklahoma, he performed experiments on unwitting subjects using a combination of LSD, hypnosis, isolation and sleep deprivation. This was part of what was later to be revealed as the C.I.A.'s top secret Project MKULTRA. The purpose of these experiments was to develop methods for erasing memories and planting false ones in their place. This could both enhance interrogation and undermine it. The subjects of these experiments were paid volunteers (who did not know what the experiments involved), airmen, (mental health) patients and prisoners. His superior was head of the MKULTRA program, Sidney J. Gottlieb, who corresponded with West under the name Sherman R. Grifford, or simply "SG". Besides LSD, he dosed his research subjects with other drugs such as amphetamines, chlorpromazine and reserpine.

Tusko the Elephant[]

One of the more unusual incidents of West's career came in August 1962, when he and two co-workers attempted to investigate the phenomenon of musth by dosing Tusko, a bull elephant in Oklahoma Zoo with LSD. They expected that the drug would trigger a state similar to musth; instead, the animal collapsed, and after an hour and 40 minutes, expired.[1]. Later, many had theories about why Tusko had died. One prominent theory was that West and his colleagues had made the mistake of scaling up the dose in proportion to the animal's body weight without considering other factors such as its metabolic rate.[2][3]. Another theory was that while the LSD had caused Tusko distress, it was the drugs administered in an attempt to revive him that actually caused death. Attempting to prove that the LSD alone had not been the cause of death, Ronald K. Siegel of UCLA repeated a variant of West's experiment on two elephants; he administered to two elephants equivalent doses (in milligrams per kilogram) to that which had been given to Tusko, mixing the LSD in their drinking water rather than directly injecting it as had been done with Tusko. Neither elephant expired or exhibited any great distress, although both behaved strangely for a number of hours.[4]

Expert witness[]

He remained interested in the subject of mind control throughout his career. As an expert witness he examined a number of high profile crime cases that were politically motivated or involved cults. After examining Lee Harvey Oswald's assassin Jack Ruby alone in his jail cell, West concluded in 1964 that he was suffering from "major mental illness", thereby narrowing down Ruby's possible motives. Other people he examined were Sirhan B. Sirhan, Patricia Hearst and Timothy McVeigh.

San Francisco[]

In 1966 West arrived in San Francisco to study the new hippie movement. To recruit subjects for his LSD research he started the Haight-Ashbury Project (HAP) in June 1967. Located on Frederick Street, it was, in his own words, a “laboratory disguised as a hippie crash pad”, where he had six graduate students dressed up as hippies examine the behavior of actual hippies. To promote HAP, he also took an office at the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic (HAFMC) at the same time it was frequented by Charles Manson and his followers. HAP was funded by the Foundations Fund for Research in Psychiatry, Inc., which was a C.I.A., front. Before HAP, West had conducted a similar project in Oklahoma City to infiltrate teenage gangs for the purpose of changing their members' behavior. Labeled "Mass Conversion", this project was funded by Sidney Gottlieb.

UCLA Violence Project[]

In 1969 West was appointed as head of department and director of UCLA's Neuropsychiatry Institute. His research covered many fields: alcoholism, hallucinogenic drugs, sleep deprivation, violent behavior, the hippie culture and cults. In 1972 initiated the UCLA Violence Project, which was approved by Governor Ronald Reagan. Before it was discontinued due to public outcry, one of the initial plans of UCLA Violence Project was to implant electrodes and remote monitoring devices in the brains of violent sex offenders at Vaccaville State Prison.

Cult Awareness Network[]

As the result of the mass deaths of the members of Jim Jones' People's Temple at Jonestown, Guyana in 1978, the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was formed, of which West became one of its directors, together with his long-term research colleague Margaret Singer. For his work at CAN he received the Leo J. Ryan Award in 1990. CAN played a major role in the siege of the Branch-Davidians led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas.

West officially retired in 1988. However, in the early 1990s he was a member of the medical oversight board for Science Applications International Corp. remote-viewing research (Project Stargate / Grill Flame).

Social Control[]

In Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory, West and Ronald K. Siegel explain how drug prohibition can be used for selective social control:

The role of drugs in the exercise of political control is also coming under increasing discussion. Control can be through prohibition or supply. The total or even partial prohibition of drugs gives the government considerable leverage for other types of control. An example would be the selective application of drug laws… against selected components of the population such as members of certain minority groups or political organizations[5]

Conflict with Scientologists[]

While West was on his internship at New York's Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in the early 1950s, he discussed with J.A. Winter the recently published book Dianetics and concluded that the "auditing" described in Hubbard's book used hypnosis. Winter made him known to L. Ron Hubbard once, but West's comment was: "Winter introduced West to Hubbard on one occasion but West said: "I guess I didn't find the man very memorable. I was more interested in the book which described the auditing technique in which they had preclears -- or prereleases if just beginners -- count backwards from seven to zero repeatedly until they went into a trance, although Hubbard denied it was hypnosis." West followed the activities of Scientology from that time on and has openly said and written that he thought the organization dangerous.

According to West, his conflict with Scientologists started after he published a textbook in 1980, in which he called Scientology a cult.[6]

On one APA panel on cults where every speaker had received a long letter threatening a lawsuit if Scientology would be mentioned, no one mentioned Scientology except West, who was the last speaker: "I read parts of the letter to the 1,000-plus psychiatrists and then told any Scientologists in the crowd to pay attention. I said I would like to advise my colleagues that I consider Scientology a cult and L. Ron Hubbard a quack and a fake. I wasn't about to let them intimidate me." (Psychiatric Times, 1991)

Scientology's Freedom Magazine interpreted anti-apartheid trips to South Africa as pro-apartheid (Psychiatric Times, 1991).[citation needed]

Civil rights activist[]

West was also a civil rights activist. He was the first white psychiatrist who testified for black prisoners in South Africa during the attempt to end apartheid. He was a member of the White House Conference on Civil Rights in 1966. For many years he fought for the abolition of the death penalty.[citation needed]

Aged 74, Dr. West died from a tumor at his home in West Los Angeles.


  • Alcohol and Related Problems: Issues for the American Public, The American Assembly, Columbia University, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984
  • "Cult Phenomenon - Mental Health, Legal and Religious Implications" Several lectures by Jolly West in audio
  • West, L.J. (July 1990). "Psychiatry and Scientology". The Southern California Psychiatrist. Retrieved on 2007-10-18.
  • West, L.J. (May 1991). "Scientology II: CCHR and Narconon". The Southern California Psychiatrist. Retrieved on 2007-10-18.
  • West, L.J. (October 1991). "Scientology III". The Southern California Psychiatrist. Retrieved on 2007-10-18.
  • Pseudo-Identity and the Treatment of Personality Change in Victims of Captivity and Cults, From Dissociation: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives. 1994
  • Drug Testing : Issues and Options, 1991
  • Farber. I.E., Marlow. H. F. & West L.J. (1956). Brainwashing conditioning and DDD (debility, dependency, and dread)
  • West. L.J. & Singer. M.T. (1980). Cults, quacks and nonprofessional psychotherapies. In H.I. Kaphm A. M. Freedman, & B.J. Sadock (Eds.), Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry III. Baltimore: Williams & Willtens.
  • In Memory of Louis J. West, Presentation held in Bonn, 1981
  • West, L.J., Pierce, C.M., & Thomas, W.D. Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on male Asiatic elephant. Science, 138, 1100-1103, 1962
  • Ronald K. Siegel; Louis Jolyon West (1975). Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory. ISBN 9781135167264. 



  1. West, L.J., Pierce, C.M., & Thomas, W.D. (1962)Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on a male Asiatic elephant. Science 138: 1100-1103
  2. Harwood, P.D. (1963) Therapeutic dosage in small and large mammals. Science 139: 684-685
  3. Schmidt-Nielsen, K. (1972) How Animals Work. pp.86-89. Cambridge University Press
  4. Siegel RK. "LSD-induced effects in elephants: Comparisons with musth behavior." Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society. 1984;22(1):53-56.
  5. Ronald K. Siegel; Louis Jolyon West (1975). Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory. ISBN 9781135167264. 
  6. Welkos, Robert W.; Sappell, Joel (1990-06-29). "On the Offensive Against an Array of Suspected Foes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2007-11-05.

Additional sources[]

  • Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond. New York: Grove Press, 1992.
  • Siegel, R. K. (1984). LSD-induced effects in elephants: Comparisons with musth behavior. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 22(1), 53-56.
  • O'Neill, Tom. Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA and the Secret History of the Sixties. Little, Brown and Company, 2019.

See also[]

fr:Louis Jolyon West