Ranking the top 13 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time (A Halloween Podcast)
In this super exciting, Halloween-themed podcast episode, Michael, Corey and Andrew rank some spooky and bizarre experiments found over the course of history. While some are vanilla in nature, outlining the way different spider’s web’s look like while they have been exposed to different drugs, some as horrifying as chopping up a dog, and keeping it alive throughout the room by circulating blood in tubes.
You can follow along with this episode by clicking on the time-stamps before each segment. Thanks for tuning it! We hope you enjoy the show!
We compiled a list of 13 crazy experiments first. Then, we combined the list with a points system, giving us a master list and allowing for conversation and discord to happen when the number that each experiment ended up ranking on the master list, shocked everyone!
Here they are, starting from number 13, you can follow along with the episode starting here!
Michael’s criteria: Did it contribute to humanity in any way?, Corey’s criteria: Prisoners, Children? Who was the victim?, And Andrew just really hated the ones with the dogs :(
#13. SPIDERS on DRUGS (3:31)
RANKINGS: Michael 5 | Andy 8 | Corey 10
These webs were created while spiders in 1955, under the study of NASA, were on various drugs. The specific webs above were created while the spiders were under the influence of: Chloral Hydrat, Benzedrine/Speed, Caffeine and Marijuana.
Michael and I believed that this was one of the more beautiful experiments, yet not so shocking or horrifying like many of the experiments you’ll see coming up. Andrew was the one to bring “Spiders on Drugs” to the table, and even ranked low on his own list.
But, here is what a sober, more responsible spider’s web looks like, if you’re super straight-edge:
#12. EMMA ECKSTEIN and SIGMUND FREUD (5:13)
RANKINGS: Michael 10| Andy 7| Corey 13
This took place in an era of psuedo-science, snake oil cures and medical experimentation gone crazy. “Hysteria and excessive masturbation” is hilarious the way the word that makes me think of someone to just become hysterical and start masturbating. Elevated mood, or what they would call hysteria, and hyper-sexual activity are two primary symptoms for mania, or bipolar disorder. And “The father of Psychology” indeed. “Say Charles have you seen Darlene?” “Why yes she’s upstairs masturbating hysterically!”
Michael brought this experiment to the table, doing an impression of Sigmund Freud that sounded something like Count Dracula?
I put this experiment in last place, finding it less shocking than most people. The only thing I found shocking was the negative light shined on Sigmund Freud, like when I found Christopher Columbus wasn’t actually a good guy- same feeling. But I just feel as though I’ve heard this story before. AHS: Season 2: Lana Banana’s Aversion therapy anybody?
#11. ALONE in the DARK (8:29)
RANKINGS: Michael 12| Andy 12| Corey 4
In the early 1960’s, NASA was naturally curious about how human beings can endure long periods of isolation. A geologist volunteers to go into this cave, for 63 days, and “only dabbed in madness” once which none of us believe. Michael calls that this is suspect: how would this only happen for one day? 63 days is a long time for anyone to be alone by themselves. If you’re naturally more introverted, it might be slightly easier. The only task he had was to ring a bell when he woke up and when he went to sleep, for researchers on the surface would keep track and he was pretty close to being on a regular schedule, which is intriguing.
This is not really that shocking, more psychologically fascinating… the fact that he only lost himself for one day suggests he did something to catch himself and pull himself back. He must be a serious introvert. Your ability to handle isolation would widely depend on your personality.
This is very similar to what we discuss happened to the people in the Stanford Prison Experiment, in our episode about it on Unpopular Culture!
Though the infamous 1970’s prison experiment drew larger implications about what happens to people in positions of power, it did result in psychological damage for the “inmates” while they were in the basement of a make-shift prison. The lack of light, with no way to tell if it was night or day and no clocks to keep track of time… they lost their minds in two days flat.
These are the glaring differences between the two, however, both show strong evidence of the psychological damage that is created by social isolation. Being away from people that love and support you, or in some cases, just being away from any and all people can make you go absolutely batshit in 2.5 seconds. I’m dreaming of Jack Nicholson, anyone else?
#10. EDISON and the ELECTRIC CHAIR (14:12)
RANKINGS: Michael 4| Andy 10| Corey 2
Another Christopher Columbus complex. What the hell were our history books teaching us back in the 1990's? Thomas Edison is a dick! Or so this is our conclusion from what we’ve learned recently. Did you know that he was at odds with a man named Nikola Tesla almost his whole career? His intention was to try and disprove Tesla’s version of electricity.
Edison would electrocute elephants! This man was burned alive like in The Green Mile. Edison is a dick. Look at the difference. Edison proves by killing things and lying and Tesla proves by actually proving it.
I personally ranked this one really high (#2 most bizarre on my list) because of the obvious maliciousness behind Edison’s actions. And how the electric chair didn’t work, so they had to keep shocking the guy until he was dead. It was so inhumane and kinda messed up that in front of a live audience, they couldn’t get their shit together enough to make sure that this guy died the first time.
#9. ORANGE SODA (RUSSIAN SLEEP STUDY) (18:46)
RANKINGS: Michael 11| Andy 3| Corey 9
Not real! Although my guess is it’s based on truth. Russians are notorious assholes. The more interesting piece lies in truth…sporadic fatal insomnia(sFI). FFI has no known cure and involves progressively worsening insomnia, which leads to hallucinations, delirium, and confused states like that of dementia. The average survival span for patients diagnosed with FFI after the onset of symptoms is 18 months.
Back in the 1940s, a group of unethical Russian scientists performed a sleep deprivation experiment on a group of political dissidents that lead to a horrifying conclusion, or so the story goes. Is the story true or based upon a true story? Is it another object lesson on how a work of fiction can become urban legend? Lets take a look at the story of the Russian Sleep Experiment.
#8. THE MONSTER STUDY (19:58)
RANKINGS: Michael 5 | Andy 8 | Corey 10
For one group of kids, they praised them all the time for the way that they are speaking well and the other group of kinds, they berate them for everything they did wrong. Some of these children developed speech impediments that lasted for the rest of their lives.
This study shows the Effects of bullying. You’d go to jail if you did this to kids now. Profound implications for bullying and negative vs. positive feedback.
On our podcast, we often get back to themes that are “weird and weirdly common”
7. BAYER ASPIRIN and the HOLOCAUST (24:10)
RANKINGS: Michael 13| Andy 5| Corey 3
Not really Bayer, but their parent company. And they “officially apologized” on behalf of this parent company. Although it’s pretty fucked up that the cemetery is in front of the gate. Did you think when you were reaching for Bayer when you were having that heart attack?! No you only think about yourself.
Some of the transcripts found between the parent company and the Nazis:
“With a view to the planned experiments with a new sleep-inducing drug we would appreciate it if you could place a number of prisoners at our disposal (…)” — “We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 RM per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 RM per woman. If this is acceptable to you, the women will be placed in our possession. We need some 150 women (…)” — “We confirm your approval of the agreement. Please prepare for us 150 women in the best health possible (…)” –
“Received the order for 150 women. Despite their macerated condition they were considered satisfactory. We will keep you informed of the developments regarding the experiments (…)” –
“The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment (…)”
#6. SONOMA STATE HOSPITAL (26:57)
RANKINGS: Michael 9| Andy 4| Corey 7
Andrew brought this one to the table and it definitely pulled on all of our heart strings. At on point, the Sonoma State Hospital began experimenting on all of the children in their care that had Cerebral-Palsy. These were not only patients of the hospital, whose family were entrusting that staff with their life, but they were children. Not only were they children!!!! but they were children who could not speak up or defend themselves or even tell people what was happening to them!
Originally, Michael and I ranked this lower on our lists as less shocking, because we thought that these experiments were done to their bodies after they died (which: don’t get us wrong, would still be horrific and not at all okay). This seemed not that shocking or bizarre. This is basically about involuntary organ donors. But this was not the case. They performed other experiments without the parents of the children knowing.
During this time, the government removed their spinal fluids, and replaced them with various gases. Relatives of the children have fought relentlessly to uncover what actually happened to these poor test subjects.
#5. THE THREE JESUS’S (28:48)
RANKINGS: Michael 6| Andy 11| Corey 1
Decades ago, a psychologist brought three highly-delusional patients into one place and made them live together. They weren’t just any kind of delusional though, they literally all believed they were Jesus.
Ah, the 3 Christs of Yspelante and The power of Delusion. What would it take to break you if what you believe is truly what you believe. The power of rationalization and cognitive dissonance. Psychosis has its own category for “religious beliefs.” Amazing how the brain universally goes to that.
I ranked this one as what I thought was the MOST BIZARRE of all time. Just to find these three people who really felt this way… it’s so unique, like nothing I’ve ever heard. No, it’s not horrific or disgusting, but it’s surely bizarre.
#4. MILGRAM’S PUPPY (34:25)
RANKINGS: Michael 3| Andy 6| Corey 8
This experiment is a follow-up from a previous experiment that Stanley Milgram conducted in the 1970’s about blind obedience and authority. The test person’s obedience level is tested by making them shock another person (that they can’t see, but CAN hear). And this is carried out in many different ways, some where the person was giving orders from right behind the test person, some where the person was giving orders while wearing a white lab coat (this made people more likely to obey), etc.
We did an episode on this experiment and the profound implications it had on society- and even in today’s world! In Episode 4: Your comfy Compliance: The Psychology of Blind Obedience, Michael reveals that not even a decade ago, an 18-year-old woman named Louise Ogborn was strip-searched and raped in the Mcdonald’s back office, while she was working a shift, all because a “prank-caller” called in and demanded things.
This kind of thing happens all the time, as we are taught to be obedient in our culture.
Now to Milgram’s follow-up experiment that involves puppies. Many believed Stanley Milgram’s original findings to be controversial and up for question. Many speculated that the test person might have known that the screams on the other side of the wall were not real, and other things like this.
So Milgram conducted a follow-up experiment where the subject being shocked was visible, and the shocks were real. This time, though, they were conducted on a real victim, but not a person (because we can’t do that), so how about a puppy. And the puppy died, because everyone shocked it to maximum voltage because someone told them to. We are wired to respond to authority, no matter what.
3. HENRIETTA LACKS (38:57)
RANKINGS: Michael 2| Andy 9| Corey 5
An uneducated, African-American female back in the day, donated some of her cells to a medical research project. These cells went on to be part of a revolutionary experiment, where scientists tried to keep them alive. They’ve been used in cancer and aged research.
Going by Michael’s main criteria: This one hits it out of the park, as what came from it where contributed the most to humanity. Even though Henrietta Lacks died a long time ago, doesn’t mean that she died, her cells are still alive.
It’s not particularly bizarre or gross, but technically, it’s cloning! Which is crazy, and the fact that she died not knowing is a bit poetic. Or as Andrew says, “I would watch that movie.”
2. UNIT 731 (45:17)
RANKINGS: Michael 7| Andy 1| Corey 6
http://www.unit731.org/Experiments.html ← — If you dare, because yikes.
This has got to be the most haunted place on the planet. During World War II, horrific torture sessions were carried out on a mass group of prisoners in Japan. One of the lesser-known atrocities of the 20th century: vivisections done on them while they were completely awake and aware, women were impregnated by doctors, blow-torching people to see the effects of being burned.
One survivor is quoted to have said:
“The fellow knew that it was over for him, and so he didn’t struggle when they led him into the room and tied him down. But when I picked up the scalpel, that’s when he began screaming. I cut him open from the chest to the stomach, and he screamed terribly, and his face was all twisted in agony. He made this unimaginable sound, he was screaming so horribly. But then finally he stopped. This was all in a day’s work for the surgeons, but it really left an impression on me because it was my first time.”
1. ZOMBIE DOGS (41:55)
RANKINGS: Michael 1| Andy 2 | Corey 11
As Andrew cringes, we have our winner — Zombie Dogs! Or, I guess, specifically, just the one Zombie Dog. Unpopular Culture and the fans have named Zombie Dogs as the most bizarre experiment of all time! You’ll just have to watch this to see.
As much as most of this shouldn’t have been done, a lot of strong implications came from them, and we’ve learned a lot.
Our handwritten list if you’re into that sort of thing:
—Corey Stewart, @corstew91 on twitter