Most Disturbing Human Experiments In The Last 100 Years

Human experiments have been around since there were scientists, although not every human experiment was actually carried out by scientists. Whereas today we have ethics commissions which decide whether or not you can do medical research on monkeys and even rats, this is a relatively new phenomenon. If you think current medical research on animals is bad, wait until you read about some the most disturbing human experiments of the last 100 years.


Unit 731

Not just the name of a Slayer song, it is an infamous Japanese research complex founded during the Sino-japanese war which continued its existence through the second world war. Ran by an actual scientist, microbiologist Shiro Ishii, this facility was a real house of horrors during the WWII.

Activities carried out in Unit 731 include vivisection (live dissection) and the freezing of body parts, both without anesthetic. The frozen arms and legs were not simply removed after being frozen (and following the agony of the test subject), but were then sewn back onto the bodies of the amputee, sometimes switching the positions of both appendages (so freezing both arms and/or legs and then switching the left for the right). Human subjects were also deliberately infected with diseases ranging from syphilis to the black plague, sprayed with animal and human blood, and spun around so fast and for so long that they died.

Weapons tests were also carried out on prisoners and human subjects, including placing prisoners around explosives and grenades at varying distances to evaluate their effectiveness.

Diseases which were first tested in Unit 731 were then used on civilian populations in China. One particularly crazy experiment was the release of millions of plague infected fleas from airplanes. Unfortunately for the Japanese, these plague carrying fleas were not very selective about who they bit, and infections within the Japanese army led them to curtail experiments with the plague.

When the Americans began their occupation of Japan in 1945, they discovered this macabre facility. Much of the data was under lock and key, or coded, and thus Shiro Isshi stood before the allied forces and offered a deal: he would give them all of their data and information in exchange for a clean slate and immunity for the crimes. He and his fellow experimentors were allowed to leave with their lives, and Shiro Isshi died of natural causes.


Tuskeegee Syphillis Experiment

This is one of the most well known examples of unethical human experimentation in modern US history. Between 1932 and 1972, the United States Department of Health conducted a study through the Tuskeegee Institute in regard to the sexually transmitted and madness causing syphilis. Like all of the other studies in this article, the human subjects were never asked whether they wanted to participate…


The experiment involved approximately 400 poor black farmers from Alabama, of which more than half of them had syphilis. Despite the fact that it was well known even in the early 1940s that syphilis could be cured using penicillin, the doctors were more interested in seeing what happens when you don’t cure it. For this, the doctors pretended to give treatment to these sick men while actually doing nothing, letting them suffer and die. The patients didn’t leave entirely empty-handed though… they were given a warm meal in exchange for giving blood.

This unethical and essentially racist study (all the doctors were white, and all the test subjects were black) was directly responsible for the death of 28 men, and indirectly caused more than 100 other deaths.

Guatemala Syphilis Experiment

When Susan Reverby (of Wellesley College) wrote about the Tuskegee experiments in 2000, she also discovered another often unmentioned research project by Uncle Sam into syphilis. This time, the subjects were slightly lighter and vastly more foreign.

Between 1946 and 1948, the Unites States funded and oversaw a research project designed to see what happens when you infect people with syphilis, as opposed to simply letting already infected people suffer and die.

For this “study,” infected prostitutes were paid to have sex with uninfected prisoners, although others were infected through injection (to see which route of infection was more effective). The goal was to characterize both the infection and route of infection, and also to see how effective penicillin was.

These experiments appear to have directly caused the death of 83 people, and undoubtedly the suffering of many more. A half century later, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama apologized to Guatemala for these unauthorized and unethical experiments.

Nazi Experiments

The Nazis, and specially the “doctor” Josef Mengele, are infamous for their human experiments. There were more experiments than I have place to write, but a few of the most unique and horrific should serve to paint a realistic picture.

  • Twins and half-siblings were literally sewn together to see if a “new creature” could be created.
  • Jewish children and Russians were submerged into freezing water to see how long it would take for them to die. They were trying to see if Russians had special abilities allowing them to resist freezing temperatures, but unfortunately for the Russians and the helpless children: none of us can survive freezing temperatures for very long.
  • Around 100 gypsies were sealed in a room with nothing to eat or drink, except a bucket of sea water. Within only a few days, the prisoners were so dehydrated that they took to trying to lick the freshly mopped floors of their holding area, if only to get a drop of fresh water.
  • Jews and other “sub-humans” were used as lab rats in radiation and sterilization experiments. Among the dozens of different experiments, both women and men were subjected to having their genitals irradiated or sprayed with carcinogenic chemicals.

Mengele escaped to Argentina after the war, where he founded a business and died of old age. He destroyed all available data before leaving, removing any doubt that this was more about sadism than science.


Following the second world war, the United States found itself in competition with the Soviet Union. In its attempt to get a competitive edge, the Unites States initiated programs through the CIA aimed at reducing human will to nothing: reducing their ability to withhold information or make their own decisions. This project was codenamed MK-ULTRA.

This effort manifested itself as everything from the administration of drugs, hypnosis, to sexual abuse and sleep deprivation. In one instance, the CIA apparently forced LSD onto people every day over 173 days.

The majority of this data was destroyed in 1973, and thus the majority of files and experiments remain unknown to this day. What we do know comes from ex-members of the CIA and from heavily redacted texts. We do know, though, that they determined LSD as having extremely limited use in either mind control or interrogation.

Had the CIA instead been looking for therapeutic drugs, to help treat psychic illness instead of essentially cause it, they may have been more pleased with their LSD experiments.