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From Pin-Up Girl to Spy
CIA conspiracy theories, hypnotizing victims into doing the government's dirty work, torture and international intrigue are things you might expect from an old X-Files episode. But as the saying goes, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
The story of 1940s pin-up girl, Candy Jones, is a fascinating one. In The CIA's Control of Candy Jones by Donald Bain, her double life of model, author, entrepreneur and loving wife on one side and terrorized tool of the Central Intelligence Agency on the other is exposed in detail.
It's a far-fetched tale, one you may have a hard time believing. But the story of Candy Jones has become part of the history of the CIA MK-Ultra program, one in which unwilling US and Canadian citizens were experimented on with drugs and allegedly abused in order to create the perfect spy.
What Was MK-Ultra?
Before I relate Candy's story, it will help you to know some facts about Project MK-Ultra. It was started by CIA Director, Allen Dulles, and headed by chemist Sydney Gottlieb. This was at the height of the Cold War and the director was fascinated with the idea of using mind control techniques that were supposedly used on American POWs in the Korean War. The project used mind-altering substances including LSD on unwilling and some willing subjects. One of the goals of these experiments was to create spies that wouldn't reveal secrets when being tortured by the enemy.
Other techniques were purportedly used including hypnosis and abuse. The project became widely known within the CIA when John K. Vance, a member of the CIA's Inspector General's staff, uncovered the experiments while conducting a survey of the technical services division. The Inspector General's report stated:
"The concepts involved in manipulating human behavior are found by many people both within and outside the agency to be distasteful and unethical."
After this report, the project was supposedly halted in 1963, though that has been questioned by conspiracy theorists and alleged survivors of the program. In 1973, most of the documents related to MK-Ultra were ordered destroyed by the then CIA director as there was fear of the program becoming more widely known. It did become known in 1975, and in 1977 hearings were held by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The CIA, however, has been generally close-mouthed about the project since.
Source: Holley, Joe. John K. Vance; Uncovered LSD Project at CIA. Obituary at Washington Post, June 16, 2005.
MK Ultra in Canada
Ongoing Mind Control
Setting the Stage for Control
Mr. Bain goes into some detail describing the early life of Candy Jones. She was born Jessica Arline Wilcox in 1925. Her father left the family when she was young and her mother was incredibly controlling and withheld her love from her young daughter often dispensing harsh punishments for small slights. The light of Jessica's life was her grandmother who gave her the love her mother seemed unable to.
Her mother wouldn't let her play with neighborhood kids except for the daughter of the domestic help. Jessica retreated into her own world creating imaginary friends to play with including one named Arlene. This aspect of her childhood was later exploited with hypnotism to split her into two personalities.
Jessica won her first beauty contest as a teenager and was quickly discovered. Her name was changed to Candy Jones, and she became a successful model, pin-up girl and toured with the USO during World War II where she met Gilbert Jensen, the man who would later become her CIA tormentor.
Long John Nebel, Candy's Husband and Hypnotist
After a failed marriage and debt troubles, Candy opened a modeling school. She married her second husband, John Nebel, in 1972. Also known as Long John Nebel, he was a well-known and popular radio personality who pioneered the long paranormal-focused radio shows that later became the standard fare of radio hosts like Art Bell.
Shortly after their marriage, Nebel began to notice Candy would sometimes seem to be a completely different person and almost appear to be in a trance. He had been interested in hypnosis and started to conduct sessions on her at first to help her combat insomnia. What was revealed in these sessions shocked him. He found out that Candy had been subjected to experiments in hypnosis in which a separate personality had been created. Named after her childhood imaginary friend, Arlene, this personality was used as a courier for the CIA. It would be activated by a telephone cue and Candy would do a pre-programmed task when she heard this cue. She didn't remember the event after.
Bain presents the dialogue of these sessions in the book. Taken at face value, they're a fascinating but deeply disturbing peek into alleged abuse by a CIA psychiatrist as part of an unwilling spy training program.
Repressed Memories Poll
Hypnosis and False Memory Syndrome
Gilbert Jensen is the pseudonym used by Bain for the spy-chiatrist who hypnotized Candy. Hypnosis had become the Cold War experiment du jour in no small part due to George Estabrooks, a psychologist who worked on Project MK-Ultra. He wrote the book titled Hypnotism in 1946. He admitted in a 1971 Science Digest article to using hypnosis to program spies during WWII and induce multiple personalities in subjects for that purpose.
It's been suggested that Candy had false memory syndrome and that her memories retrieved under hypnosis were the product of an active imagination. If the public hadn't become aware of the program until after Candy's hypnosis sessions and Candy herself wasn't privy to a well of public conspiracy theories surrounding MK-Ultra as we are now, false memory syndrome is a questionable diagnosis. Had she read the article mentioned above? Had this set something off in her mind? Skeptics were very critical at the time and while there isn't definite proof that what Nebel unearthed in these hypnotic sessions is true, there has been enough admitted by the CIA about the project that it isn't unreasonable to believe at least some of Candy's story.
Conspiracies Within Conspiracies
I believe it's always good to maintain a healthy skepticism regarding conspiracy theories. But there's just too much the CIA has withheld regarding MK-Ultra. By destroying most of the documents related to the project, the CIA has left itself open to all sorts of accusations of covering up evil doings. Do we believe this was just a Cold War era program or is it continuing to this day? Is it right versus left, left versus right, Christian versus everyone else, Muslim infiltration, Jewish conspiracy, aliens, and so on, et al?
I don't know and I don't plan on changing my politics, religion or personal philosophy of life because of conspiracy theories. But our government still should be questioned regarding illegal and unethical behavior. My thoughts on this are summed up beautifully in the book's introduction by Bain himself who says that he came to the conclusion that:
"...a blanket condemnation of the Central Intelligence Agency would be misplaced and inaccurate. I have no quarrel with the CIA as a conceptual entity. I suppose such agencies are unfortunate realities in our tense global society. ...But no matter how probing any examination of the CIA's pre-September 11 malfeasance might be, much of the agency's "business" will never come under scrutiny because the very nature and structure of the agency spawns dozens of independent cells that operate without direct supervision from above."
Manchurian Candidate: An MK-Ultra Prototype
The Manchurian Candidate was a movie inspired by experimentation done on American POWs as I mentioned above. In the film, communists program an American to be an assassin working for them in America.
This concept is what intrigued some in the CIA and sparked MK-Ultra. Here are clips from the original film and the remake starring Denzel Washington. The original is one of my favorite movies of all time and boasts a star-studded cast of talented actors. Angela Lansbury in particular does an excellent job portraying the cold, calculating mother of the lead character.
Stranger Things: A Retro Nod to the Cover-Up Through a Modern Lens
The runaway hit from Netflix, Stranger Things, has catapulted its young actors into stardom and become a vehicle for veteran actress Winona Ryder to show her acting chops once again. It's also a highly fictionalized yet fascinating look at the MK Ultra program. Filled with conspiracies within conspiracies, as well as a nod to the Dungeon and Dragons culture, this series set in 1980s middle America takes on the topic of government lies, conspiracy, mind control and cover-ups. While it's definitely fiction, it incorporates elements from MK Ultra in a way that doesn't debase real survivors of the program. While its retro 80s flare certainly adds to its success, I believe the continued public fascination with the topic of government experiments and cover-ups took it over the top.
Stranger Things Season 1 Official Trailer
About Author Donald Bain
Fans of the television series from the 80s and 90s, Murder, She Wrote, may recognize author Donald Bain's name if they're avid mystery readers. He has kept the much loved character, Jessica Fletcher, alive through the mystery book series based on the TV show.
He's a prolific author in many genres of over 100 books. He was a friend of Candy Jones and John Nebel. He discusses the abuse of Candy and hints at her being a victim of sexual humiliation, but I believe their friendship helped him bring sensitivity to the subject matter. He doesn't write for sensationalism. His style is easy to read and it was hard to put the book down.
I highly recommend reading The CIA's Control of Candy Jones. It will leave you with many questions about government mind control, multiple personalities and hypnosis. You may come to the conclusion that these concepts are only for the gullible. But I believe the book will make you want to do more research and learn more about this intriguing subject. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.
More MK-Ultra Info
- MK-Ultra - Facts & Summary - HISTORY.com
Find out more about the history of MK-Ultra, including videos, interesting articles, pictures, historical features and more. Get all the facts on HISTORY.com
- History of MK-ULTRA
CIA behavior researcvh MK-Ultra
Jones and Nebel Links: More Info on Candy and Her Husband
- Taking Control of Candy Jones
Article at Damn Ineresting Jessica Wilcox was born into a humble family on New Year's Eve of 1925. Her father left them when she was three; her mother was critical and cold to her.
- Internet Archive Search: subject:"Long John Nebel"
A few clips of Nebel's radio show stored at the Internet Archive.
- Long John Nebel Papers An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University
A short bio and collection of papers, etc.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 PatriciaJoy
Patrick Monk RN on June 21, 2017:
"The Display Of Mellisa Harding" by Hans Steinkellner.
Many years ago at a small theatre here in SF, the Julian Theatre, we staged a production of this play based on the story of Candy Jones. I played the 'evil doctor'. I have the stills and reviews in my files. Folks may also be interested in the new series on the History Channel, "Americas War On Drugs'. More interesting CIA chicanery.
PatriciaJoy (author) from Michigan on April 05, 2015:
Thanks Ken. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on March 26, 2015:
Loved this hub. What a great read. Voted up and all of the choices. I think your talent is so bright that you will touch a lot of lives with good writing like this. You and I may never know just what is going on behind the scenes with our Federal Government.
I do believe that the C.I.A. is doing more at Area 51 than they let on. I know I sound like a nut, but I love hubs such as this.
Keep up the fine work and I wish you my Very Best.
Your Friend for Life
Dancing Cowgirl Design from Texas on November 28, 2013:
I believe in a lot of this stuff. The original Manchurian Candidate movie is very good in my opinion. I actually think I like it better than the remake.
Bluejuwild on December 31, 2012:
Thanks for this, I really enjoyed reading as I've not heard of Candy Jones before.
Bluejuwild on December 31, 2012:
Thanks for this, I really enjoyed reading as I've not heard of Candy Jones before.