Body of Man in 1953 LSD Test Exhumed
A forensic expert said the 40-year-old remains of a scientist who fell to his death days after he was given LSD in an CIA experiment were found in good condition when they were exhumed Thursday.
Frank Olson’s family wanted his remains examined to try to determine whether he jumped from the 13th floor of a New York hotel on Nov. 28, 1953, or whether he was pushed.
Olson’s death was classified as a suicide, and the CIA said Thursday it had no reason to think otherwise.
“The role of CIA employees in the events leading up to his death was extensively investigated in the 1970s. The facts were made public at that time. President Gerald R. Ford made a formal apology on behalf of the federal government and a monetary settlement was awarded to the Olson family. The investigations indicated no reason whatsoever to suspect that homicide was involved,” the agency said in a statement.
A government commission investigating the CIA indicated that the agency had experimented with LSD and other hallucinogens in the early 1950s and that a number of experiments were conducted on unwitting federal employees, including Olson, a civilian biochemist involved in biological warfare research at Ft. Detrick.
His son Eric clutched a photo of his father as a backhoe cleared the dirt covering the concrete vault at Linden Hills Cemetery.
“It’s been a pressing question for me all the time and the questions certainly were not laid to rest with the CIA story in 1975,” the 49-year-old psychologist said.
The coffin was taken to the Hagerstown police station, where Olson’s remains were removed and X-rayed.
“The remains are in exceedingly fine condition and that’s attributable to the embalming done in New York and to the container,” said James E. Starrs, professor of law and forensic sciences at George Washington University. “We have remains that are in mummified condition. We even have the opportunity to get fingerprints.”
Forensic experts plan to analyze hair, brain tissue, fingernails and bones for injuries not attributable to the fall, Starrs said. They will look for toxins and drugs, including LSD and other hallucinogens.
The body is to be transported to York, Pa., where the skeleton will be examined by Dr. John S. Levisky, chairman of the behavioral science department at York College.
A final report is expected in about a month.
Eric Olson and his brother, Nils, said they decided to have their father’s body analyzed now because they were moving it to another cemetery where their mother and sister are buried.