The Russian Sleep Experiment

One of the craziest stories I’ve ever read about was the Russian Sleep Experiment. If you’ve read it, I know you probably feel the same. There are books and I think there’s even a movie out about it. There’s insanity and cannibalism and it makes you wonder about other experiments used on humans.

The Russian Sleep Experiment happened in the 1940s when Russian researchers kept five people, deemed political enemies during WW2, awake for fifteen days under an experimental gas. Since this was back before monitoring cameras, the subjects were monitored with microphones and five inch glass windows into a controlled room. They monitored their oxygen intake and left them with books, cots, water, a toilet, and enough food to last enough.

The first five days went by smoothly. The subjects barely complained since they were (falsely) promised that they would be freed if they stayed awake for thirty days. Their activities and conversations were monitored continuously and it was noted that their conversations took a darker turn after four days. They talked about increasingly traumatic incidents in their past.

After the fifth day they started demonstrating severe paranoia and complained about the conditions and events that led them to where they were. They stopped talking to each other, but rather whispered to the microphones and one-way mirror windows. They tried to win over the researchers by turning over their comrades that were in the room with them. Te researchers started to believe it was the gas itself causing the strange effects.

After nine days was when the screaming started. One of the subjects screamed continuously and ran the length of the room for three hours until all he could produce was squeaks. The researchers concluded he had physically torn his vocal cords. The most surprising part of the incident was the lack of reaction from the other subjects. Absolutely nothings. The others continued to whisper to the microphones until the second one started to scream. The others had started to tear apart the books and smear their feces on the pages before plastering them on the windows. That’s when the whispering stopped.

Three more days passed. The researchers checked the microphones hourly to make sure they were still working since it seemed impossible that five men couldn’t make noise. The amount of oxygen in the chamber was equivalent to that of what someone would take in after strenuous exercise so they should all be alive. On the 14th day, the researchers did something they said they would not do: they used the intercom to provoke a reaction.

They announced: “We are opening the chamber to test the microphones; step away from the door and lie flat on the floor or you will get shot. Compliance will earn one of you immediate freedom.”

To their surprise they heard a single phrase in a calm voice say, “We no longer want to be free.”

Unable to provoke anymore of a response, they decided to open the chamber at midnight on the fifteenth night. They flushed the chamber of the experimental gas and that’s when the voices started up. Three voices started begging for the gas to be turned back on, as if begging for a loved one. The door open and soldiers were sent in to retrieve them. The screams started again, louder than before. Not just from the subjects, but from the soldiers as well from what they saw. Four of the five were still alive, if that’s what you want to call it.

“The food rations past day five had not been so much as touched. There were chunks of meat from the dead test subject’s thighs and chest stuffed into the drain in the center of the chamber, blocking the drain and allowing four inches of water to accumulate on the floor. Precisely how much of the water on the floor was actually blood was never determined. All four ‘surviving’ test subjects also had large portions of muscle and skin torn away from their bodies. The destruction of flesh and exposed bone on their fingertips indicated that the wounds were inflicted by hand, not with teeth as the researchers initially thought. Closer examination of the position and angles of the wounds indicated that most if not all of them were self-inflicted.

“The abdominal organs below the ribcage of all four test subjects had been removed. While the heart, lungs and diaphragm remained in place, the skin and most of the muscles attached to the ribs had been ripped off, exposing the lungs through the ribcage. All the blood vessels and organs remained intact, they had just been taken out and laid on the floor, fanning out around the eviscerated but still living bodies of the subjects. The digestive tract of all four could be seen to be working, digesting food. It quickly became apparent that what they were digesting was their own flesh that they had ripped off and eaten over the course of days.”

Even though most of the soldiers were special ops, they refused to return to the chamber to retrieve the subjects. The subjects continued to scream and beg to be left in the chamber and the gas be turned back on, lest they fall asleep.

To everyone’s surprise, the subjects put up a fight to being taken out. One man died from having his throat ripped out, another was severely injured from one of the men ripping off his testicles and severing an artery in his leg with his teeth. Five other soldiers committed suicide weeks after the incident.

During the struggles, one of the subject’s spleen ruptured and bled out almost immediately. The researchers tried sedating him but it was deemed impossible. Even after being given ten times the normal dose, he was still fighting, breaking the ribs and arm of one of the doctors. His heart continued to beat for two minutes after he bled out. When it stopped he still was able to scream and flail, crying “more” over and over for three minutes until he became silent.

The remaining “survivors” were strapped down and taken to the only medical area in the facility to have their organs put back in. They fought and were found to be immune to any sedative. When the anesthesia mask was brought out they fought even hard, nearly breaking through the four inch wide leather restraint on one wrist, even with a 200 pound soldier holding that wrist down. It took a little more anesthesia than normal to put him to sleep and as soon as his eyes closed, his heart stopped. In an autopsy, it was found that his blood had three times the normal oxygen level. The muscles still attached to the skeleton were torn horribly. Nine bones were broken in the struggle, most of them from his own exertion.

The second of the three survivors was the first one to scream and tear his vocal cords. Though he couldn’t beg, he protested by shaking his head a lot. He shook his head yes when a doctor, reluctantly, suggested the surgery with no anesthesia. He didn’t react once to the six hour surgery of his organs being placed back in his body. The surgeon stated multiple times that it was impossible that he should still be alive. One terrified nurse stated that the patient had a gruesome smile every time his eyes met hers.

After the surgery, he started wheezing as if wanting to say something. The doctor thought it was important so he had someone fetch a pen and pad of paper for him to write on. It was simple: “Keep Cutting.”

The last subject was given the same surgery, without anesthesia as well. But they has to inject him with a paralytic since it was difficult to perform the surgery with him laughing throughout it. He could then only follow them with their eyes. The paralytic wore off sooner than it should have and he started fighting against his restraints again. He started begging for the gas again once he could speak. The doctors tried to ask why they injured themselves, why they ripped out their guts, why they wanted the gas.

Only one reason was given: “I must remain awake.”

The researchers put the last two survivors in the chamber with triple restraints. After facing the wrath of their benefactors, the researchers considered eliminating the subjects. But the funders said they wanted to see what would happen if they were given the gas again.

In preparation for being sealed in the chamber again the subjects were connected to an EEG monitor and had their restraints padded for long term confinement. To everyone’s surprise, they stopped struggling the moment it was let slip that they were going back on the gas. It was obvious that at this point they were putting up a great struggle to stay awake. The subject that could speak was humming loudly and continuously; the mute subject was straining his legs against the leather bonds with all his might, first left, then right, then left again for something to focus on. Having been the first to be wired for EEG most of the researchers were monitoring his brain waves in surprise. They were normal most of the time but sometimes flat lined inexplicably. It looked as if he were repeatedly suffering brain death, before returning to normal.

The subject that could speak started screaming to be sealed in now. The commander gave the order to seal the chamber with both subjects inside, as well as three researchers. One of the named three immediately drew his gun and shot the commander point blank between the eyes, then turned the gun on the mute subject and blew his brains out as well.

He pointed his gun at the remaining subject, still restrained to a bed as the remaining members of the medical and research team fled the room. “I won’t be locked in here with these things! Not with you!” he screamed at the man strapped to the table. “WHAT ARE YOU?” he demanded. “I must know!”

The subject smiled.

“Have you forgotten so easily?” the subject asked. “We are you. We are the madness that lurks within you all, begging to be free at every moment in your deepest animal mind. We are what you hide from in your beds every night. We are what you sedate into silence and paralysis when you go to the nocturnal haven where we cannot tread.”

The researcher paused. Then aimed at the subject’s heart and fired. The EEG flatlined as the subject weakly choked out, “So… nearly… free…”


Reading this is so crazy. It’s hard to think that something like this could happen. Thankfully it never happened but you never know, it could have.

What do you think of this story? Will it keep you up at night?

Thanks for reading guys!

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