CIA's San Francisco LSD-Sex House in Infamous MK-Ultra Program Now A Telegraph Hill Mansion Worth $14.4M

CIA's San Francisco LSD-Sex House in Infamous MK-Ultra Program Now A Telegraph Hill Mansion Worth $14.4MSource: SFARMLS
Tony Ng
Published on October 23, 2023

San Francisco's 225 Chestnut Street, a six-bedroom luxury property offering panoramic bay views and estimated by Redfin to be worth $14.4 million, hides a sinister past. From 1955 to 1965, this premises was used by the CIA for one of its most infamous covert programs during the Cold War: Operation Midnight Climax.

According to the SF Chronicle, CIA agents lured unwitting individuals from local bars, dosed them with LSD and observed their reactions from behind a two-way mirror, as part of the larger MK-ULTRA program. These mind-control experiments were part of a broader effort to discover an effective mind control substance for use against enemies.


Source: SFARMLS

Source: SFARMLS

Chemist Sidney Gottlieb, a firm believer in communist ability for mind control, ran the MK-ULTRA program notes an in-depth piece from NPR in 2019. His interest in mind control originated during WWII, with the OSS (the CIA’s forerunner) creating a “truth drug” initiative to find chemicals that would force subjects into revealing secrets, the Chronicle article adds.

After LSD emerged in 1943 when synthesized by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, Gottlieb saw its potential for mind control applications. Accordingly, he supervised the secret MK-ULTRA program, conducting experiments at universities, research facilities, and prisons in the United States, Japan, Germany, and the Philippines.


Source: SFARMLS

Source: SFARMLS

Gottlieb's unethical experiments involved psychological torture, ranging from heavy LSD doses to electroshock methods. San Francisco's 225 Chestnut St., under the codename "Operation Midnight Climax," was administered under George White, a former OSS captain and narcotics agent, according to the Chronice. The CIA recorded the side effects of LSD on unaware subjects, often varying between marijuana, 'knockout pills,' and LSD, through a two-way mirror.

The operation escalated, with CIA agents starting to administer LSD to people in public spaces such as restaurants or beaches. The operation broadened further to use prostitutes to attract men from a more diverse range of backgrounds.


Source: SFARMLS

Source: SFARMLS

The CIA’s inspector general uncovered and terminated these safe houses in 1963 – this included 225 Chestnut St.. They subsequently destroyed the majority of MK-ULTRA records, making it impossible to quantitatively analyze the true human cost of these illegal and unethical actions.

That said, the MK-ULTRA program has been associated with famous and infamous individuals such as mob boss Whitey Bulger, writer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey, and it is said to to be connected to Grateful Dead lyracist Robert Hunter, Charles Manson, and many others - most of whom are not officially linked.


Source: SFARMLS

Source: SFARMLS

Now, 225 Chestnut St. is a impressive property, completely different than its mysterious and shameful past. While there are no visible vestiges of its previous covert activities, the narrative of its history offers a captivating reminder of the arcane psychological tests undertaken within its confines.


Source: SFARMLS

Source: SFARMLS