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6 Scariest Science Experiments Ever Conducted on People

Some of the scariest science experiments on humans:

If you’re eager to find out more about the scariest science experiments ever conducted, then you’ve come to the right place. First, it’s worth mentioning that back then, all the prisoners, the disabled, and the physically and mentally sick were all subjects to the cruelest experiments ever conducted. Back then, many doctors and researchers with morbid curiosity didn’t even need permission to test their ideas on the poor.

In fact, most victims didn’t even know they were the subjects of experimentation. Luckily, more than 40 years ago, the U.S. Congress decided to change the rules. Nowadays, informed consent is mandatory for any kind of government-funded medical study that involves human subjects.

However, before 1974, these ethics were almost nonexistent, oftentimes leading to the never-ending exploitation and abuse of human subjects. Here are some of the worst examples of scary experiments on humans:

scariest science experiments
Photo by Lia Koltyrina from Shutterstock

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

As you probably know, syphilis was an extreme public health problem in the 1920s. In 1928, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, a charity organization, decided to launch a public healthcare project for African-American people in the rural South.

At first, it sounded like a good prospect for the future, until the Great Depression rocked the United States in 1929 and the project lost its funding. Ultimately, some changes occurred in the program, and instead of treating health issues in underserved cities, African-American men living in Macon County, Alabama, were automatically enrolled in a program meant to treat something called “bad blood” (a term generally used for all issues, from anemia to fatigue and even syphilis).

They received free medical care, food, and other amenities, including burial insurance, because they participated in the study. However, they didn’t know it was a scam. The men in the study didn’t know they were recruited for this program because they were infected with a sexually transmitted disease, nor did they know they were taking part in a government study focused on studying untreated syphilis.

They never received proper care for the disease, even though, at the time, penicillin was on the market and was the main treatment for infection in 1945. The study ended in 1972 only after subsequent public outrage.

The Nazi medical experiments

During World War II, the Nazis conducted multiple medical experiments on adults and children imprisoned in the Dachau, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. They abused, mutilated, starved, and tortured people in something that would resemble all nine circles of hell.

Prisoners were subjected to horrendous crimes masked under the guise of military, medical, pharmaceutical, racial, and population advancement. Jewish people went through experiments intended to benefit the military, such as hypothermia studies, where they were forcefully immersed in ice water to see how long pilots could survive in similar conditions.

Some of the victims were only allowed to drink seawater to see how long pilots could survive if stuck in the sea. To no one’s surprise, the subjects died. If you want to learn more about it, then we recommend you try this audiobook called “Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazy Experiments on Humans” by Vivien Spitz.

Watson’s ‘Little Albert’ experiments

In 1920, John Watson and his graduate student Rosalie Rayner decided to conduct an emotional conditioning experiment on a 9-month-old baby. They called him “Albert B.” They aimed to prove their theory that humans are born as blank slates that can be shaped.

The child’s mother, a nurse who worked at the hospital, received one dollar for allowing them to take her son and conduct experiments on him. The “Little Albert” experiments went this way: researchers first introduced the baby to a furry white rat, which at first he did not fear.

Then they brought the rat again, but this time a loud sound rang out. The baby was exposed to the rat and its noises until he became frightened of them. Any time he saw small and furry animals, he became terrified.

As it turns out, baby Albert wasn’t a healthy subject: he repeatedly showed signs of behavioral and neurological impairment, never learned to talk or walk, and only lived to the age of six. He died at the age of six from hydrocephalus, which is water on the brain.

scariest science experiments
Photo by Gorodenkoff from Shutterstock

The Monster Study of 1939

Nowadays, we know that stuttering has many possible causes. It might be genetic—an inherited genetic quirk of the language center in our brain. It could also occur because of a brain injury, such as a stroke or other trauma.

Young kids stutter when they’re learning to talk, but oftentimes, they outgrow the problem. In some rare cases, it could be a side effect of emotional trauma. However, do you know what it’s not caused by? Criticism. In 1939, a graduate student at the University of Iowa and her advisor decided to prove that stuttering can be taught through negative reinforcement, which would mean that it’s basically a learned behavior.

They decided to experiment over the course of four months and subject 22 orphaned children to their assumptions. These children participated because they were told they’d receive speech therapy, but in reality, the poor kids received exactly the opposite. Out of all 22, only half of them were actually stutterers, and none of them received any kind of speech therapy. They split the children into four groups:

  • Half of the stutterers received negative feedback.
  • The other half received positive feedback.
  • Half of the non-stutters were told they were slowly starting to stutter and were criticized.
  • The other half of the non-stutterers were praised.

The only significant result they saw was that the third group (the non-stutterers who were still criticized) eventually developed a stutter, changed their behavior, and exhibited low self-esteem and self-conscious behavior specific to stutterers.

Stateville Penitentiary malaria study

It has been estimated that around 65% of American soldiers stationed in the South Pacific during WWII went through difficult malarial infections at some point during their service. For some, the infection was deadlier than for enemy forces, which is why finding an effective treatment was extremely important.

At that time, safe anti-malarial drugs were considered essential to winning the war. Starting in 1944 and over the course of two years, over 400 prisoners from Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois were subjected to experiments meant to find the right drug against malaria.

Prisoners who took part in the experiment were infected with malaria and then treated with all kinds of experimental treatments. The experiment didn’t have a particular hidden agenda, and the American public didn’t seem phased by the unethical methodology, as their only interest was to win WWII and bring the troops back home safe and healthy.

Milgram shock experiments

Ghostbuster Peter Venkman, the fictional character who is seen conducting ESP and electro-shock experiments on college students, was inspired by social psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram was famous for his series of shock experiments from the 1960s.

He chose different Americans, seemingly recruited for a Yale study that “implied” memory and learning. They were told that they had to read lists of words to “learners”, who were actually actors. Each and every person in the teacher role received instructions to press a lever that would deliver a shock to their learner every time a mistake was made.

Teachers thought the voltage of shocks increased with every mistake and ranged somewhere between 15 and 450 possible volts. Well, believe it or not, two-thirds of teachers decided to shock learners with the highest voltage. But in reality, it had nothing to do with memory or learning, as it was an experiment on how obedient they are to authority. No shocks were actually given.

If you enjoyed reading this piece, then you also need to read this: Every Piece of Evidence for Aliens You Should Know


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4 Responses

  1. There are 2 more things to list: Lyme disease and co-infections designed as Bio-warfare and Covid and experimental jabs.

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