Yet, Hebb was more Dr. Jekyll than Mr. Hyde. According to McCoy’s research, Hebb was described as a gifted man whose ingenuity revolutionized psychology as a science; in fact, seven years after the publication of this research, McGill University and the American Psychological Association nominated him for a Nobel Prize.


Unknowingly, Hebb reached conclusions that would set the agenda for CIA investigation on emerging techniques of psychological torture and interrogation. Five years later, Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron, this story’s Mr. Hyde, entered, with an unstoppable will to finish what Hebb had started.

Today, many journalists, doctors, and the general public see the Allan Memorial Institute in Royal Victoria Hospital as the cradle of modern torture, a cradle built and rocked by Scottish-born Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron. To the patients of Dr. Ewen Cameron, McGill University was the site of months of seemingly unending torture disguised as medical experimentation –– an experimentation that destroyed their lives and changed the course of psychological torture forever. 

Cameron’s experiments, known as MK-ULTRA subproject 68, were partially funded by the CIA and the Canadian government, and are widely known for their use of LSD, barbiturates, and amphetamines on patients. In the media, they were known as the “mind control” studies done at McGill and were reported as a brainwashing conspiracy from the CIA and the Canadian government.

When Cameron started his research, he was the head of the Allan Memorial, which at the time was McGill’s psychiatric treatment facility. Although they were separate legal entities, the Royal Victoria Hospital and McGill were unequivocally bound through their medical professionals. Cameron received a salary from McGill but was medically responsible to the hospital. Besides his work on campus, he was a world-renowned professor and a leading figure in the psychological sciences, serving as president of multiple psychiatric associations.

It was determination and ambition that made Cameron a world-renowned psychiatrist. During his most controversial experiments, he strove to break barriers in the understanding of mental illness, but at the expense of his patients’ well-being. In a report to the Canadian government in the mid 1980s, sources reveal that Cameron was “ruthless, determined, aggressive, and domineering … He seemed not to have the ability to deeply empathize with their [patients] problems or their situation.”

When the whistle blew on Allan Memorial, Cameron’s stern portrait turned into the  evil stare of a “mad scientist,” as media reports explained the nature of his research.

Dr. Dimitrije Pivnicki

Dr. Dimitrije Pivnicki, father-in-law of Brian Mulroney, came to Canada on a fellowship in 1954 to do graduate studies at  at McGill University.  His mentor at the Allan Memorial Hospital was Dr. Ewen 

Cameron, known for his experiments with psychedelic drugs and electroconvulsive therapy.

Pivnicki became Senior Psychiatrist at the Allan Memorial Hospital and later an assistant professor of psychiatry at McGill University.  As a co-worker of Dr. Cameron, Pivnicki was known to have been involved in unorthodox psychiatric experiments funded by the Central Intelligence Agency. More recently there are revelations that the Canadian military financed Pivnicki's LSD research when he was a consulting physician.


Dr. Heinz Lehmann

In 1947, Dr. Hans Lehmann was appointed the Clinical Director of Montreal's Douglas Hospital and from 1971 to 1975, he was the Chair of the McGill University Department of Psychiatry. 

“It wasn’t a criminal experiment using people as guinea pigs,” Heinz Lehmann, a psychiatric colleague of Cameron’s, said in a 1984 Montreal Gazette account of his contemporary’s efforts. Lehmann taught at McGill and became the Allan Memorial Institute’s clinical director in 1958, a position he held until 1971. “It was a heroic, very aggressive treatment based on a certain theory which proved to be wrong.”  The treatment Cameron’s patients received was no secret to Lehmann. “I knew ... and I didn’t approve,” he said. “But not for moral reasons. I didn’t believe in his theory.”  Lehmann, instead, had his own theories—and performed his own experiments, at times with fatal results.

This story begins on June 1, 1951 at a secret meeting in the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Sherbrooke. The purpose of the meeting was to launch a joint American-British-Canadian effort led by the CIA to fund studies on sensory deprivation. In attendance was Dr. Donald Hebb, then director of psychology at McGill University, who received a grant of $10,000 to study sensory deprivation. It would be fifteen years after this meeting at the Ritz that Cameron would disastrously pick up where Hebb left off.

Dr. Hebb paid a group of his own psychology students to remain isolated in a room, deprived of all senses, for an entire day. In an attempt to determine a link between sensory deprivation and the vulnerability of cognitive ability, Hebb also played recordings of voices expressing creationist or generally anti-scientific sentiments – clearly, ideas psychology students would oppose. However, the prolonged period of sensory deprivation made the students overly susceptible to sensory stimulation. Students suddenly became very tolerant of the ideas that they had readily dismissed before. As a history professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, Alfred McCoy described in his book, A Question of Torture, that during Hebb’s own experiments “the subject’s very identity had begun to disintegrate.” One can only fathom the cognitive effects of Hebb’s work.

Dr. Ewen Cameron

Dr. Donald Hebb

Dr. Peter Roper

Dr Peter Roper was a psychiatrist employed by the Royal Victoria Hospital and a steadfast disciple of Dr. Ewen Cameron's "psychic driving" treatments which devastated so many lives.  Even after Cameron was fired from the hospital, Roper was eventually let go because he had continued the same experiments.