BOOK REVIEW: Secret Weapons by Cheryl Hersha, et al.

Secret WeaponsSecret Weapons by Cheryl Hersha

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Secret Weapons is about two sisters who are trained in an MKULTRA-style behavior modification program to become femme fatales. This book was a rare find. I hadn’t heard of it before or seen it in my local bookstores, but I came across a copy at the Strand bookstore in New York (the “miles of books” place) on a trip several years ago.

Like Whitley Strieber’s Communion, this book leaves one engrossed but wondering what exactly one is reading. It is written as non-fiction, and not creative non-fiction that admits to blending elements of fiction into the fact. The writers are eager to convince the reader that this is not a hoax. About a quarter of the book is supporting documents to lend the book credibility. However, while I’m well aware of the “mind control” programs sponsored by the American government, this story doesn’t ring true to me. (In large part this is because we know the programs that operated were not nearly so successful as the one in Secret Weapons would have had to have been.) [I wrote a post about such programs that is available here. If you’d like to read some primary documents on the subject, this page at the National Security Archives has many of them.]

One might think that there are two possibilities: either it’s a true story or it’s a hoax. However, it’s a third possibility that makes this book so thought-provoking. What if the two sisters believe that the story is absolutely true, when–in fact–it wasn’t? How could this be? Their father is presented as an unsavory character. One possibility is that the father abused these girls and they created an elaborate backstory in their minds to cope with the fact that the one man who should have loved them, that they should have been able to trust, neither loved them nor was worthy of their trust.

Of course, another possibility is that it’s all true. While a lot of information did come out about Projects ARTICHOKE, BLUEBIRD, and MKULTRA, a lot was also shredded. The person working the shredder might have gone after the documentation of activities involving pedophilia first. If there is any activity that would have rightfully taken the situation from one of CIA employees being sent to country club federal prisons to them being strung up on the Capitol steps, it’s what’s depicted in this book.

Of course, it could all be a hoax as well. A story like this, if believed, elicits the publicity of the news media. That’s a powerful way to sell books.

I’ll leave the reader to decide which of the three possibilities they believe is most likely.

If you haven’t concluded this already, let me be explicit: This book contains disturbing descriptions (and even sketches.) It isn’t gratuitous to the story they are trying to convey, but if you have a weak stomach for such matters, I’d recommend you steer clear.

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6 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Secret Weapons by Cheryl Hersha, et al.

  1. There was a book about a government cover-up of some project in…Colorado, I think. I forget all the details, but it caused quite a stir, until it was branded a fiction. The true believers said the brand of fiction was a cover-up, and became more obsessed, and the argument continued until a mediocre book became extremely popular. Wish I could remember more of the details, but it was a brilliant piece of PR work.


    • I went to a talk a year or so ago by a historian who wrote a scholarly account of the work of Dr. Ewan Cameron of McGill University. There’s a lot of discussion of outsourcing, but not a lot of people know we (the U.S.) outsourced a lot of behavioral modification experimentation to Canada. (McGill is in Montreal for those unfamiliar.)


      • Canada, a well-behaved country – Canadians can be as out of their minds as any Americans. Wonder if they were chosen for close ties to U.S., or what? Weird World.


      • I think, as with the U.S., it was not the Canadians proudest moment. This was back in the 60’s, when they thought they could instill some sort of order in the chaos of an LSD trip or develop other chemicals that had similar properties but didn’t occasionally result in a subject jumping out a fifth story window.


      • That explains a bit more. Imagine a whole country, or even small area of people dosed on some real LSD-25. Trying to control minds with neurotransmitters bouncing around like high-powered bumper cars on the Indianapolis Speedway…


  2. Pingback: 5 Works of Nonfiction That May Be [at least in part] Fiction « Stories & Movement

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