Out the Window


Defenestration is a term describing a method of murder popular during several eastern European revolutions.  It means to throw someone out a high window.  Being higher than 75 feet is considered a guarantee of fatality.

On 28 November 1953, in NYC, in Manhattan, at the Stafford Hotel, (now The Pennsylvania), Army and CIA biochemist Frank Olsen went through a window in his tenth-floor room and fell to the pavement.  He did not open the window first.  He would have had to have gotten a running start, then vault a wide room-air unit, hit it head or face first, break through tempered glass, and make a big enough hole to go entirely through.  No word on the distance from the building he was found, but he did fly outward, then down.  Sideward velocity was involved.

Most thought he’d have bounced off, maybe cracking the window, certainly not going through the way he did, had he tried it on his own.

He was not alone in his room, however. 

His family thinks he was murdered.  So how did Frank Olson get to this last awful point in his truncated life?

Recently-released FOIA documents link the Olson case to high levels, even reaching White House awareness.  He was involved with research into bacterial research at Fort Dietrich, in Maryland, the Army’s bio-chemical warfare labs.  Many think he was about to blow the whistle on some of what he knew, just before his death.

He was in Special Operations, SpecOp, darkest of the dark.

He researched classified, semi-legal biochemical weapons. Think of The Satan Bug by Alistair MacLean, a book published early on, under his pen name Ian Stuart, in 1962, only nine years after Olson’s death.  

Nazi pseudo-scientist Kurt Sloan, sentenced to death at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity and for war crimes, had his sentence commuted so Operation:  PAPERCLIP could whisk him stateside, where his work weaponizing anthrax and the plague became some of what Frank Olson would extend and refine.  Soldiers were used as guinea pigs.  Then urban areas such as San Francisco Bay, the NYC subway, and the PA turnpike, along with highway tunnels.  

Windage tests drifted some of what they sprayed over wide random areas, to be labeled “flu outbreaks” as doctors reported demographics to the CDC and other monitoring agencies.

One thinks, too, of Elisa Lam, the Canadian college student who died so mysteriously in the water tank at the Cecil Hotel, (now called Stay On Main, which is either location or advice, it being near Skid Row), and the many conspiratorial links seen to her and the LAM-ELISA test for pulmonary tuberculosis, a new resistant strain of which spread among denizens of Skid Row soon after Elisa’s death.  Interestingly, she was from British Columbia, where one finds the TB Research Center at the U of BC.

But that’s a digression for another essay.

Operation:  ARTICHOKE, a CIA program researching enhanced interrogation, (new ways to torture), held trials and tests in 1961 in Germany, where Frank Olson witnessed soldiers and captured ‘enemy’ subjected to appalling things involving his biochemistry work.  Many feel this traumatized him, and certainly opened his eyes to the end use of his labors.

His family say that, while he was upset at the lack of ethics he’d seen, and been part of, he was not in room 1018-A, front side, of the Stafford Hotel out of depression, and they feel it unlikely he could physically have done to himself what happened to him.

The radiator and window remain the same to this day.  He went through the glass rather than open the window and crawl out.  The room does offer a twenty-foot run at the window, but physics tells us he would’ve had to reach 30 miles per hour to punch through the window of that type and size, and needed to vault the nearly two-feet wide radiator and sill to reach the window.  Even the homicide detective who investigated it doubts this scene.

Robert Verne Lashbrook claims he was sleeping.  He woke, he says, to the sound of glass breaking.  Getting up, he saw Olson on the sidewalk ten floors below, so naturally he made a quick phone call, but not to police or emergency responders.  He then sat calmly in the room and did nothing, told no one.  

A hotel operator overhead his brief phone call and reports this:

“He’s gone.”

“That’s too bad; I’m sorry.”

And that was all either man said.

The first to speak was Lashbrook, the second is unknown.

Was he dosed by LSD?  Programmed to make the leap?  He was 6’2” tall, weighed about 220 pounds, but was not in anything like good shape, being a sedentary and lachrymose scientist.  He was almost certainly unable to pull off the macho stunt of going through the window’s glass.

He had a closed-casket funeral at the strong urging of his employers, the CIA, to which his family acquiesced.  “His face is all cut up.  You don’t need to see that.  You don’t want to remember him that way.”  Words to that effect sealed the deal and the casket, at the time.

A grieving family was in no fit state to balk.

Fell or Jumped, the headlines said.  His death certificate says, ‘suicide’.

Frank Olson was in psychoactive chemical research at the time.  LSD-24 was key, the current hot item.  From ergot mold that in damp conditions grew on rye, wheat, and other grains, a Swiss chemist named Hoffman first discovered LSD-25 and its psychoactive properties.  It affects the brains serotonin levels and receptivity, effectively blending into one experience all the separate parts of the brain.  Thought and emotion are interpenetrative and connected.  This withers concentration on assigned tasks and other organized abilities.  Olson saw our own soldiers dosed without being asked or told.  They were random guinea pigs, victims instead of informed volunteers.  Being soldiers, they did as told.  Until LSD made it impossible for them to follow through on even the simplest task.  They became giggly and disorganized when tripping.

Categorized as a non-lethal weapon, LSD-25 and other psychoactive drugs seemed perfect for field-tests as enhanced interrogation tools.  It was hoped secrets would blurt out under the recipients trippy experience combined with hard-nosed, and often violent and injurious, questioning.

MK-ULTRA was the mind-control project using psychoactive and more coercive techniques, such as driving, a method using repeated looped recordings of commands, day and night, through earphones that could not be removed.  This was done on American civilians in hospitals, mental wards, and prisons, as well as on soldiers.  

Sidney Gottlieb ran this program, with Robert Lashbrook as his second.  Yes, the other guy in the room when Frank Olson flew.  The one admitted guy.  Colleague become guinea pig, it seems.

MK-ULTRA also linked to a small French town called Pont-Saint-Esprit, where strange things happened.  Fifty people lost their minds and tried to harm or kill others or themselves.  Six died the first day of this crisis, most of these by suicide.  Mass hysteria ensued.

Aldous Huxley would later write a book called The Devils of Loudon in which he offered the official cover story, an accidental contamination of the town’s bread by ergot mold, which he also blamed for the wild flights of paranoid fancy seen in Medieval accounts of demons, devils, and witches.

At least he got the root spores right.

Pont-Saint-Esprit, turned out, had been dosed with LSD-25, to see what the effects might be.  Some claim it was an aerosol sprayed over the town from a small plane.  Others claim LSD-25 was sprayed or even painted onto loaves of bread by hand.  Had the water and butter in bakeries been contaminated to see how it might spread?

Frank Olson was there, it seems.  42 when killed, he’d flown often to Europe for covert missions.  In the middle of August, 1951, he was there to oversee the insanity of hundreds of villagers going violently insane, trying to kill or die.  He saw ergot mold on rye bread be blamed.

Liquid LSD, Diethyl Lysergamide, was poured onto the villagers’ bread and maybe aerosol was also sprayed.  No one’s saying.

After all, this was a peacetime atrocity.

Olson was specifically linked to the Pont-Saint-Esprit event on White House papers found in the mass of FOIA-released documents.

Incidentally, Room 1018-A, Olson’s at the Stafford, is small, a one-person room.  Sharing it, especially with another man, is odd when double rooms are easily available.

Forty years down the line of time his family lobbied to get the documents and went to the extent of exhuming his body.   This proved revelatory.  They found, in the 1994 exhumation and medical examination, that his face was not lacerated, nor was any of his body.  Nothing had been shredded by passing through the window, even though a certain savage amount of damage should have occurred.

No marks on his face.  No lacerations at all on him, no injuries consistent with smashing through strong glass.  He had a subdural hematoma over his left eye, too.   

Blow to the head b a blunt instrument, the M. E. decided.  Not from the fall, not from the window or the sill.  Something rounded.  It seemed worse suspicions were revealed the more his body was examined.

The homicide detective involved, Albarelli, figured he’d been struggling, had been knocked unconscious, the window had been broken by someone, then Olson had been lifted and hurled through the already-smashed window.  This made most sense of the evidence.

Lashbrook could and would not have done the hitting or hurling.

Francois Spirito and Pierre Lafite did the murder, Detective Albarelli says; hired thugs used as deniable cut-outs by CIA and Lashbrook when Olson could not be dissuaded from wanting to spill the beans on some of the horrors perpetrated by the Cult of Secrecy.

Keep Dr. Alice B. Sheldon in mind.  She was a psychologist who’d worked for CIA.  She, too, could no longer stomach or tolerate knowing about the atrocities committed with business-as-usual aplomb by the psychopaths running things.  She wrote science fiction under the names James Tiptree, Jr. and Racoona Sheldon, easing some of her angst and venting much of her cold, bitter world view.  She eventually shot her husband, whose health was declining steeply, then herself.

We the public know appalling things.  How much worse must the hidden facts be?  It is no wonder thinking people with conscience and empathy can take only so much.

Olson had been put on that suicide train by his co-workers and bosses once he started talking about blowing the whistle.  He was vocal about wanting out and was summoned to a meeting at a retreat, Deep Creek Lake, in Maryland,  by Gottlieb and Lashbrook.  Those were both his bosses, one the MK-ULTRA program director himself.

It was a trap, not a meeting.

Drinks flowed, Olson’s dosed.  It was likely LSD-25 but who knows?

He was interrogated once toxic, but kept demanding to be allowed to resign.  He kept threatening to spill Pont-Saint-Esprit beans.  

This sealed his fate.

He was committed by his bosses to the Chestnut Lodge sanitarium to be imprisoned, silenced.  He’d be kept drugged and called schizophrenic.  Poor Frank, worked too hard, broke himself for the good of the national security, they’d say. 

Except other, more immediate action was decided.

It was the night before Frank Olson was to be locked up at the Chestnut Lodge that Lashbrook, babysitting Olson in the Stafford Hotel, let two men into the room, men who did the wet work.

Frank Olson landed face up.  Unusual for a jumper.  His suicide entered the newspaper accounts and for four plus decades no one has taken responsibility for his death, nor been indicted.

It’s as if his life and work had been through out the window, as far as the public is allowed to know.

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About Gene Stewart

Born 7 Feb 1958 Altoona, PA, USA Married 1980 Three sons, grown Have lived in Japan, Germany, all over US Currently in Nebraska I write, paint, play guitar Read widely Wide taste in music, movies Wide range of interests Hate god yap Humanist, Rationalist, Fortean Love the eerie
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