8. George Estabrooks
In the early 1940s, Dr. George Estabrooks made a startling claim. The chairman of the Department of Psychology at Colgate University, who was then working with the US Army during World War II, asserted that, “I can hypnotize a man—without his knowledge or consent—into committing treason against the United States.”
Before becoming an expert on hypnosis, Estabrooks was a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of Harvard who penned several articles about the application of clinical hypnosis and its effects on human behavior. In 1943, Estabrooks collected together his experience, research, and thoughts on the subject in order to write Hypnotism, a foundational text concerning the various uses of hypnotism. Before long, the US government took an interest, and Estabrook was called upon to participate in experiments involving hypnotism, which were overseen by military intelligence.
In a 1971 article for Science Digest, Estabrooks not only claimed that using hypnotism as part of intelligence gathering was dangerous, but he also highlighted several strange occurrences that happened while he performed hypnotism on US service members. Undoubtedly, Estabrooks’s early hypnotism experiments, as well as his belief that hypnotism could be used to manipulate minds on a long-term basis, influenced the CIA’s MKULTRA thought control program.