Bill Yarborough of Clayton has lived a successful adult life. He worked for a large public accounting firm and then spent years in the financial industry. He also served president for two non-profits. He has written a novel that is currently being considered for publishing. Although it is fiction, it is based on his real-life experiences which is far from normal.
In September’s issue of the Diablo Gazette, Bill recalls his time as a young child, age 4, in what he concluded was the CIA’s notorious MK-Ultra program; an experience he endured with his younger brother and older sister.
MK-Ultra was a secret mind-control program operated by the CIA in the 1950s. The New York Times first exposed it in 1974, and a number of government investigations followed. After the program was exposed, the CIA destroyed thousands of MK-Ultra documents.
Although MK-Ultra experimented predominately on adults, it also had children in a program designed to create super soldiers and spies. The goal was to dehumanize them by putting the mind in a state of shock, and reprogram them using electroshock, drugs, isolation, psychological assault and other traumas. The experience was so tragically dark, that it took 30 years before he and his brother and sister cracked open the pandora’s box of repressed memories, an awakening that began in the 1980s. Here is his story of that awakening.
“When our repressed memories first surfaced, they did not involve MK-Ultra, but rather the disturbed behavior of my mother in the late-1950s.
It began in a startling manner. I was in my early 30s, I traveled from Dallas, Texas, where I lived at the time, to visit my older sister, in Connecticut. I’d been there a few days when during the wee early morning hours of April 10, 1986, she woke me up from a deep sleep. She looked scared, and I shot up in bed thinking someone was trying to break into the house.
She said that she had a vision, and that a voice told her she needed to give me a message. The vision had explained that our younger brother, her, and I had all blocked out a part of our past when we were young children.
‘It’s the most important thing that ever happened to us,’ she said, ‘and we’ve blocked it out completely.’
That’s what the vision told her.
At that moment, a picture of our mother flashed through my mind, wild-eyed, holding a large knife. I sensed the terror I’d felt then, at age 4.
I asked her to describe her vision.
‘It came in a blaze of light with a voice that told me that we were at an enormous crossroads in time, and if I remembered our blocked-out past, our lives would move in a new direction. But if we didn’t, then we would continue down our current path, a very dark path.’
She had my full attention now. My sister said she couldn’t think of anything, but the voice had told her to come to me and that I would remember.
I couldn’t bring myself to mention the image of my mother holding a knife just then. I ws exhausted.
My sister said good night and left me to my troubled thoughts. The haunting image of my mother with the knife swirled through my head.
When I brought the image up the following morning, it didn’t trigger an immediate reaction from my sister. I offered more details and mentioned that the three of us were lined up in a row in the dining room, and our mom came at us with a large knife. My sister’s eyes flashed, and she blurted out, ‘I remember that.’
She suggested I not provide her any more details until we both fleshed out our memories as best we could within our minds. Later, we compared notes. We agreed on such things as the lighting in the dining room, the precise area we stood, and what our mother said, we realized we had the same memory.
We used this same confirmation process for a number of other repressed memories that surfaced regarding our mother. It seemed she was in a psychotic state in the fall of 1958. She lashed out violently for no apparent reason, spent long hours staring blankly ahead, and fed us dog food. This was a time shortly after we had just left the MK-Ultra program, yet at this point in our life, we didn’t know what that was.
We had decided to discuss the memories with our younger brother. However, he had suffered a mental break-down nine years earlier, at the age of 23. Since then he had to be hospitalized periodically for psychotic episodes.
We wondered if these traumatic memories of our mother had caused or contributed to his difficulties and hoped that addressing them would help him.
My first attempt to discuss this issue with him in general terms did not stir up any memories. The second time we discussed the knife incident in more detail under his psychiatrist’s supervision, he suddenly remembered it, contributing specific details of his own that matched our memories.
Interestingly, he never had another psychotic episode requiring hospitalization again after that.
However, after that discussion, he did confront my mother about her actions. She vehemently denied it then, but over a decade later, she approached me and said the event had slowly come back to her as well. When she described the scene, it was identical to our memories. She explained she was deeply troubled during that time period, something that both my father and grandmother had previously told me.
Two years later in 1988, we began to remember what I concluded were our MK-Ultra experiences. We used the same confirmation process by withholding details from one another. Our memories often came to us in different fashion; mine, while consciously awake, my sister, while dreaming, and my brother, while in what his therapist called altered states of consciousness. However, our recollections were typically the same.
For example, one day when driving home from work, I remembered we were held captive in basement jail cells at a large and terrifying house we’d just begun to recall. When I talked to my sister next, I told her I had a memory of where we stayed in that frightening house. She said she had a dream of where we stayed, too.
‘They locked us up in jail cells,’ I said.
‘My God, that’s what came to me in my dream,” she exclaimed. ‘In the basement, right?’
When I asked my brother if he had a memory of where we stayed, he said, ‘They kept us in cages, just like monkeys in a zoo.’
From that time, it would be another ten years before we first heard the name MK-Ultra, when President Clinton released the results of a study by the Presidential Advisory committee on Human Radiation Experiments which also addressed the mind-control experiments conducted by the CIA.
Our recollections align with the testimonies of other child survivors of MK-Ultra presented in government-led investigations, including being subjected to electroshock, drugs, isolation, deprivation, psychological assault, and other traumas.
I talked to my father about my mother’s disturbed behavior right after my sister and I recalled her threatening us with a knife.
My father said, ‘Your mother was dark and hard to get close to in those days. I never left you children alone at night fearing she’d kill you. In the early 1960s, she improved, and my fears eventually went away.’
Several years later after we recalled our mind-control experiences, I raised those memories with my father, too.
He and my mother were visiting at our home, and when I caught my father alone, I described the memories of the strange program we recalled.
‘I believe we were kept in jail cells,’ I said. ‘And subjected to drugs, isolation, deprivation, and occult rituals. Do you remember anything about such a program?’
My father’s face remained expressionless, then he said. “I don’t recall anything about that, but it sounds like the kind of program your mother might have placed you into while I was in the Korean War.”
Surprised, I reminded him I wasn’t born while he was in the Korean War. “
“I don’t recall anything about that,” he said.
Then his expression changed, he glanced over his shoulders as if to see if anyone was listening and began to talk in a strange whisper.
“You know, the people who ran that program were fine individuals. They just couldn’t control their dark impulses.”
I was stunned.
He went back and forth like that. At times, in his normal voice, he claimed no knowledge, then at other times in that conspiratorial whisper he let on that he knew something.
One goal of MK-Ultra was to create split personalities. I couldn’t help but wondered if they had monkeyed with his mind, creating a split personality aware of our placement in MK-Ultra. I’ll never know. My father passed away a few months later, and we never had an opportunity to discuss this topic again.