Why you should care
Because causality is a bitch.
James “Whitey” Bulger, who wrote this feature for OZY last year, was found dead in prison on Oct. 30, 2018.
In 1957, while a prisoner at the Atlanta penitentiary, I was recruited by Dr. Carl Pfeiffer of Emory University to join a medical project that was researching a cure for schizophrenia. For our participation, we would receive three days of good time for each month on the project. Each week we would be locked in a secure room in the basement of the prison hospital, in an area where mental patients were housed. We went in from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Wednesday. We were injected with massive doses of LSD-25.
In minutes the drug would take over, and about eight or nine men — Dr. Pfeiffer and several men in suits who were not doctors — would give us tests to see how we reacted. Eight convicts in a panic and paranoid state. Total loss of appetite. Hallucinating. The room would change shape. Hours of paranoia and feeling violent. We experienced horrible periods of living nightmares and even blood coming out of the walls. Guys turning to skeletons in front of me. I saw a camera change into the head of a dog. I felt like I was going insane.
The men in suits would be in a room and hook me up to machines, asking questions like: Did you ever kill anyone? Would you kill someone? Two men went psychotic. They had all the symptoms of schizophrenia. They had to be pried loose from under their beds, growling, barking and frothing at the mouth. They put them in a strip cell down the hall. I never saw or heard of them again. They failed the Babinski test.
Lots of tests that have caused me sleeping problems and nightmares to the present. They told us we were helping find a cure for schizophrenia. When it was all over, everyone would feel suicidal and depressed, wrung out emotionally. Time would stand still. I tried to quit, but Dr. Pfeiffer would appeal to me: “Please, you’re my best subject, and we are close to finding the cure.”
Years later, when I read the book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, which came out in 1979 and was written by State Department whistle-blower John Marks, I found out there was a CIA project code-named MK Ultra. The project was a violation of my rights, using prisoners for dangerous tests. I was angry reading that because I’d never mentioned how I felt hallucinating. I kept silent because I thought they might commit me to a mental institution.
I never slept more than two or three hours a night, waking up in cold sweats with side effects. The tests damaged my sleep and gave me nightmares. I had to sleep with the lights on and only for a few hours at a time. The government used us and never tried to help us out after injecting us with government LSD. I’ve had brain scans that told me I was damaged by the tests. The government did a number on us and walked. If anybody opened a shop selling LSD in my neighborhood he would have lost his life.
Prison has changed for the worse. Longer sentences, no mandatory release, no parole after one-third of your time. More laws covering weirdos. They are everywhere you look. In this place they banded together and said to the guards, “You have TVs for Blacks, whites, Native Americans and Spanish. What about a TV for sex offenders?” Needless to say, the guards flipped out. I was there when they formed their little gang. They’re protected by the hate crime statutes.
In my case three cooperating killers — Kevin Weeks, Stephen Flemmi, John Martorano — took deals from prosecutors that allowed them to keep all their assets, sign book deals to make money and not have to pay any fines. My lawyer asked Martorano in court how many murders he committed, and he answered, “I can’t remember them all.” This guy cut someone’s head off. He used a knife, a shotgun and a machine gun with a silencer. He’s been freed for more than 10 years. Weeks did eight months for each murder he committed. [Kevin Weeks was not indicted for murder but on 29 counts of racketeering and narcotics trafficking. — Eds.]
I was found guilty of murder, extortion, gun possession and using violence in furtherance of organized crime. They had 53 weapons that they said I kept for my own personal arsenal. One of the killers testified that I “wanted them handy” in case I “wanted to kill somebody in a hurry,” and called them my “murder kit.” There was a grenade in this “murder kit” too.
Kevin Weeks and the other cooperating killers confessed to all their murders and more, but they said, “I did it, but Whitey told me to do it.” The feds came up with seven bodies that the cooperating killers led them to, but they told the feds, “Whitey killed them, and I buried them.” I never said anything during trial, but twice I’d had enough of their lies and said to FBI agent John Morris, “You’re a fucking liar.” I had to laugh when the prosecutor told the judge, “Your honor, Mr. Bulger said the FBI agent is a fucking liar.” When he did, I repeated, “He is.” The judge told me to be quiet or I would be removed from the court.
I cooled it then because I didn’t want to make this sideshow bigger than the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. My lawyer was threatened with legal actions if he mentioned certain names at my trial or even offered up what my defense was. My attorney argued, Why can’t we tell the jury and let them decide? But no, no. In the county jail they told me that I couldn’t talk to anyone and no one could talk to me. The guards used to harass me five times a day to make my bed and get up even though I never left the cell or talked to anyone. They said they were following the orders of the U.S. government.
Additional reporting by Seth Ferranti.