The Fear Experiment

June 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Introduction

In over ten years of continuous travel, I have encountered many peculiar and fascinating individuals. Usually the most interesting encounters are those with other travellers: men and women with no particular destination; or at least no destination they care to share. I like the idea that one can spend a fleeting evening with a stranger in the middle of a foreign metropolis, only to wave goodbye the following day and never hear from them again. We are merely ships that pass in the night.
As I contemplate modern technology–social media and the like–I fear the ships are becoming all too visible. The subtle nuances, silent expressions and secrets that define us are now exposed to the prying spotlight of a lethargic civilisation.
So I look to places where secrets still exist: hidden nooks and passageways; the world beneath the disembodied voice of the many; the past. And there–by chance–a friend and I encountered an individual so out of touch with the modern world that he could have passed for a ghost. In what could very well have been his last year on this earth, he told us of a strange and profound experiment he was party to in his youth.

A Cold Winter’s Morning

February 2008
Keleti Train Station
Budapest, Hungary

The train bound for Sighisoara, Romania rolled in at around 11am. If memory serves its final destination was Bucharest. The journey time was estimated at eight hours so we were pretty sure we’d be spending the whole day on board. As well as the two of us, several others boarded. We located an empty compartment and stowed our luggage.
Within ten minutes the train was ready to depart. Upon doing so, the ticket lady approached us almost immediately. I’ll never forget the vacant look on her face as she studied my ticket.
Some five or so minutes into the journey, an elderly gentlemen clutching a brown leather briefcase opened the door to our compartment. He hovered in the doorway for several seconds before finally choosing to enter. Nodding in our direction as he entered, we responded in kind as he sat opposite us. His weathered face was chock-full of gorge-deep lines.
My first thought was how unusual it was for an elderly gentleman to choose to join a pair of twenty-somethings on a train that was practically empty. It would soon be revealed however, that we were precisely the kind of company he was looking for.
The man–who I came to refer as _Mr. Grey_–sat in silence as he watched the world go by outside. My friend and I were idly gossiping, mostly about the things we had seen in Hungary and would undoubtedly see in Transylvania. Towards the end of our conversation, the man carefully opened the brown leather briefcase atop his lap and began to inspect the contents. Among a bundle of papers–written in more than one language–were a number of Soviet Military Orders: all of which looked weathered and tarnished, rather like the man himself. He looked down at the Orders, and then back up at us whispering in a thick Russian accent, “Tell me what you know of fear.”

The Man from Tbilisi

1920s
Tbilisi, Georgia

Mr. Grey grew up in Tbilisi, Georgia in the 1920s. His father was a military figure and a great admirer of Joseph Stalin. He claimed to have been heavily brainwashed in his formative years: becoming a strong believer in the Soviet regime and communism in general. So, when he approached adulthood, his heart was inevitably set on military service.
Upon reaching the age of 18, he relocated to the Soviet Union, specifically Moscow. He rose to prominence as a young and dedicated officer with an increasing interest in the human condition. This he attributed to his commanding officer’s interest in experimental psychology.
Throughout the Second World War, Mr. Grey worked as a practicing psychologist in a Russian laboratory on the outskirts of Moscow. There, he and his commanding officer – a man whom he referred to as Mr. Red – conducted a variety of experiments on unwitting subjects: often prisoners of war, although it wasn’t unusual for volunteers to arrive at the laboratory, including would-be soldiers unfit for frontline warfare.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Grey’s interest in this field grew exponentially after the end of the Second World War, and almost a decade later during the height of the Cold War, he was conducting his own experiments.

1955
Gabala, Azerbaijan

For reasons undisclosed, Mr. Grey relocated to Gabala, Azerbaijan and established a psychological research facility with a team of seven medical practitioners. The team was assembled to conduct a highly controversial and secret experiment dubbed _Project Sleep_. But for those of whom were involved, it would later come to be known as _Project Fear_.
In their search for willing subjects, villages in the neighbouring countries of Armenia, Russia and Mr. Grey’s native Georgia were systematically searched. Vague but intriguing advertisements were posted in strategic locations throughout small and often poor communities. Mr. Grey was carrying one of the advertisements in his briefcase. Written in Georgian, he read the text aloud in broken English which, if translated, would have looked something like this on paper:

_VOLUNTEERS REQUIRED_
_CIVIL SERVANTS_
_MEDICAL RESEARCH_
_WELL PAID_
_SUPPORT MEDICAL SCIENCE_

The applications poured in. Twelve candidates were selected and subsequently invited to eligibility hearings. Of the twelve initially selected, seven were formally invited to participate in Project Sleep. The experiment was to be conducted in two stages, though candidates would only be made aware of the first.

Project Sleep: Stage One

Candidates were to be kept awake for a period of 72 hours in solitary confinement. To ensure their consciousness, candidates were under constant supervision. Alarms were triggered remotely and repeatedly if candidates appeared to be falling asleep.
Periodically, at the 24th, 48th and 72nd hours, candidates were asked to describe their worst fear. As each period passed, three out of the seven candidates exaggerated the fear they had initially described. For example, Candidate #2 had initially described a generic fear of crustaceans, specifically woodlice. Upon questioning at the 72nd hour, his fear was not only of woodlice, but of the possibility his closest friends and family members would eventually mutate into woodlice.
The 48th hour brought about strange, dark fears for candidates #3 and #5. Fears that greatly worried the practitioners. Unsurprisingly though, the 72nd hour instilled a heightened sense of anxiety and paranoia in all seven candidates, though it was specifically noted that Candidate #5 was said to be experiencing severe, apathetic gloom.
And then it was on to Stage Two.

Intermission: Train Compartment

Even the notion of describing Stage Two filled Mr. Grey with visible unease. He was sweating and clutching haphazardly at tattered bits of paper.
I recall with perfect clarity the moment Mr. Grey withdrew a handkerchief and slowly wiped his brow. His motion was pained and unsteady. But in that instant I could have sworn his obscured mouth was grinning.

Project Sleep: Stage Two

Upon completion of the 72nd hour, each candidate was permitted to sleep. In fact, they were given a sleeping agent which ensured they wouldn’t be aware of what was to follow.
All candidates were driven to a secret facility in the mountains somewhere outside Gabala, the team referred to it secretly as _The Mansion_. The sleeping candidates were strategically placed in various locations throughout the complex and were left to awaken naturally. The team allotted 24 hours for them to remain inside. The facility was locked from the outside and metal panels were used to seal the windows. No surveillance equipment was used. They would rely purely upon the candidate’s statements upon release at the end of the time period.
It is interesting to note that according to Mr. Grey there was nothing particularly unusual about the facility, other than its convenient, isolated location.

Results

Upon completion of the 24th hour, The Mansion’s heavy doors were opened. There Mr. Grey and his team discovered two emaciated candidates: numbers #5 and #7. Following the first sweep of the facility, the remaining candidates were nowhere to be found, though bizarre evidence to suggest they encountered unspeakable things was everywhere.
Candidate #5 was comatose and as such was placed under supervision. Candidate #7 however was surprisingly calm and coherent. He described an experience unlike anything any member of the team had heard of before. It began with him waking in a quiet room–one eerily similar to his bedroom at home in Armenia–and hearing strange sounds, including the fearful cries of unfamiliar voices.
Approximately ten minutes elapsed before a stranger burst into his room shouting maniacally, alluding to an insect of giant proportions pursuing him throughout dilapidated, maze-like corridors. Ready to dismiss the stranger’s story as nonsense, he became aware of a distant humming – or buzzing – sound. Some inexplicable, winged creature was on the prowl, tirelessly searching for a victim to fulfill its unknowable desires. The stranger left the room amid uncontainable shrieks and disappeared into the darkness of a gloomy corridor. The buzzing sound continued for a while until #7 heard what he could only describe as a bloodcurdling scream.
#7 exited the room, only to discover thick, coarse hairs strewn about the corridor, accompanied by sporadic pools of an unidentifiable viscous fluid.
Mr. Grey and his team referred to the notes made during Stage One with Candidate #7. He had repeatedly described a fear of helplessness, a fear that had remained consistent even after sleep deprivation. And so throughout Stage Two, as he wandered throughout The Mansion, he continued to experience circumstances beyond his control. He described labyrinthine corridors surrounding him that seemed to grow in height as he explored them. Doors seemed to move away from him, and his attempts to open them failed. He repeatedly came upon dead ends beyond which he heard manic voices, giving rise to the notion that the owners of those voices were being pursued.
In the end it was nothing more than blind luck that led candidate #7 to the exit. And up until the moment the doors were opened, he had believed he was slouched against a cold, brick wall rather that a set of perfectly ordinary oak doors.
Mr Grey’s discoveries within the facility were both fascinating and horrifying. In what appeared to be confirmation of the presence of a large crustacean, the team discovered a giant exoskeleton complete with a number of jointed limbs. And although it was retrieved for further analysis, it inexplicably disappeared from safe storage several days later.
Puddles of coagulated blood were also discovered, supporting the idea that something malevolent had been wandering the halls, and furthermore, that something or someone had been injured.

Intermission: Train Compartment

Mr. Grey looked at my friend and me with cold, vacant eyes. “The experiment was a success,” he said in that thick, Russian accent. “Although now I wish it hadn’t been so.” Once again he reached into his briefcase and produced a bundle of papers.

Further Results

1956
Undisclosed location, Azerbaijan

Candidate #5 spent almost six months in a coma, and had been under constant medical supervision in an undisclosed location, where the team hoped he would eventually recover. Much to their relief, he awoke on February 23rd, 1956. Several days passed before he felt well enough to discuss the events leading up to his coma.
The middle-aged Azerbaijani librarian disturbed Mr. Grey and his team of practitioners with his account, so much so, that all plans for subsequent experiments were abandoned.
Mr. Grey recalled the librarian’s unique fear as described in Stage One: the fear that human beings were vessels for a single, greater entity; a being with one desire: to compartmentalise itself into a theoretically infinite number of finite individuals. The fear intensified as the time periods passed, with #5 describing the entity as present in mammals, birds and fish, but more worryingly present in all human beings, living and dead. An entity that took the form of absolutely everything capable of breath in an endless attempt to escape the truth of itself as an impossibly lonely, omnipotent being.
Candidate #5’s conclusion and ultimate fear was that he too was an aspect of this faceless, mass of a thing, and that in a universe of infinite possibilities, he would be forced to live every single inconceivably horrible life imaginable from start to finish, over and over again, forever. In line with Project Sleep, deep within the walls of The Mansion, this all-consuming fear came alive. And as it did, almost instantaneously, candidate #5 saw through the eyes of the other candidates. He saw their fears, and lived them. He watched as they fled from untold horrors, and screamed each of their screams. His mind wandered further still, deep into the strange, half-imagined minds of the creatures made flesh by the candidates and their fears. He felt things only monsters were supposed to feel, and merged them with emotions unthinkable to man. And as this hapless wandering consumed him, his mind began to collapse, almost as though the matter in which he was made was coming apart, torn asunder by the unseen forces of an exotic dimension, a place where only fear, pain and agonising confusion could exist. And there he stayed for almost six months.
Candidate #5 addressed Mr. Grey and his team, telling them of their fates, explaining the intricate, invisible tapestry binding each and every one of them together, regurgitating memories, thoughts, hopes and dreams from the deepest and darkest recesses of their minds.
After what Mr. Grey described as _almost an eternity_ of outpouring, the Azerbaijani librarian returned to that deep, dark coma the team had found him in following the experiment.

Train Compartment

And so Mr. Grey’s conclusion was ironic. In what was supposed to be an experiment designed to study the depths of fear, he and his team of practitioners summoned what can only be described as man’s deepest fear: the fear that he one day may know himself.
I asked what he meant by that. He said simply, “Your question is proof that we aren’t quite there yet.” Mr. Grey closed his eyes and slept.
As the Carpathian Mountains rolled by the compartment window. I thought about the being, and the frightening possibility that Mr. Grey himself, and even my friend and I on a quiet train rolling through Eastern Europe could be nothing more than aspects of an unknowable, omnipotent creature.
We reached our destination. Mr. Grey remained asleep. I took his photograph. A part of me wants to visit Gabala, Azerbaijan to seek out the old facility in the mountains nearby. Will it be there?
If the experiment truly was a success, shouldn’t whatever was summoned still be there?

Credit To – Muted Vocal

The Russian Sleep Experiment

July 8, 2012 at 12:00 AM

Russian researchers in the late 1940s kept five people awake for fifteen days using an experimental gas based stimulant. They were kept in a sealed environment to carefully monitor their oxygen intake so the gas didn’t kill them, since it was toxic in high concentrations. This was before closed circuit cameras so they had only microphones and 5 inch thick glass porthole sized windows into the chamber to monitor them. The chamber was stocked with books, cots to sleep on but no bedding, running water and toilet, and enough dried food to last all five for over a month.

The test subjects were political prisoners deemed enemies of the state during World War II.

Everything was fine for the first five days; the subjects hardly complained having been promised (falsely) that they would be freed if they submitted to the test and did not sleep for 30 days. Their conversations and activities were monitored and it was noted that they continued to talk about increasingly traumatic incidents in their past, and the general tone of their conversations took on a darker aspect after the 4 day mark.

After five days they started to complain about the circumstances and events that lead them to where they were and started to demonstrate severe paranoia. They stopped talking to each other and began alternately whispering to the microphones and one way mirrored portholes. Oddly they all seemed to think they could win the trust of the experimenters by turning over their comrades, the other subjects in captivity with them. At first the researchers suspected this was an effect of the gas itself…

After nine days the first of them started screaming. He ran the length of the chamber repeatedly yelling at the top of his lungs for 3 hours straight, he continued attempting to scream but was only able to produce occasional squeaks. The researchers postulated that he had physically torn his vocal cords. The most surprising thing about this behavior is how the other captives reacted to it… or rather didn’t react to it. They continued whispering to the microphones until the second of the captives started to scream. The 2 non-screaming captives took the books apart, smeared page after page with their own feces and pasted them calmly over the glass portholes. The screaming promptly stopped.

So did the whispering to the microphones.

After 3 more days passed, the researchers checked the microphones hourly to make sure they were working, since they thought it impossible that no sound could be coming with 5 people inside. The oxygen consumption in the chamber indicated that all 5 must still be alive. In fact it was the amount of oxygen 5 people would consume at a very heavy level of strenuous exercise. On the morning of the 14th day the researchers did something they said they would not do to get a reaction from the captives, they used the intercom inside the chamber, hoping to provoke any response from the captives they were afraid were either dead or vegetables.

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 be shot. Compliance will earn one of you your immediate freedom.”

To their surprise they heard a single phrase in a calm voice response: “We no longer want to be freed.”

Debate broke out among the researchers and the military forces funding the research. Unable to provoke any more response using the intercom it was finally decided to open the chamber at midnight on the fifteenth day.

The chamber was flushed of the stimulant gas and filled with fresh air and immediately voices from the microphones began to object. 3 different voices began begging, as if pleading for the life of loved ones to turn the gas back on. The chamber was opened and soldiers sent in to retrieve the test subjects. They began to scream louder than ever, and so did the soldiers when they saw what was inside. Four of the five subjects were still alive, although no one could rightly call the state that any of them in ‘life.’

The food rations past day 5 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 4 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 finger tips 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.

Most of the soldiers were Russian special operatives at the facility, but still many refused to return to the chamber to remove the test subjects. They continued to scream to be left in the chamber and alternately begged and demanded that the gas be turned back on, lest they fall asleep…

To everyone’s surprise the test subjects put up a fierce fight in the process of being removed from the chamber. One of the Russian soldiers died from having his throat ripped out, another was gravely injured by having his testicles ripped off and an artery in his leg severed by one of the subject’s teeth. Another 5 of the soldiers lost their lives if you count ones that committed suicide in the weeks following the incident.

In the struggle one of the four living subjects had his spleen ruptured and he bled out almost immediately. The medical researchers attempted to sedate him but this proved impossible. He was injected with more than ten times the human dose of a morphine derivative and still fought like a cornered animal, breaking the ribs and arm of one doctor. When heart was seen to beat for a full two minutes after he had bled out to the point there was more air in his vascular system than blood. Even after it stopped he continued to scream and flail for another 3 minutes, struggling to attack anyone in reach and just repeating the word “MORE” over and over, weaker and weaker, until he finally fell silent.

The surviving three test subjects were heavily restrained and moved to a medical facility, the two with intact vocal cords continuously begging for the gas demanding to be kept awake…

The most injured of the three was taken to the only surgical operating room that the facility had. In the process of preparing the subject to have his organs placed back within his body it was found that he was effectively immune to the sedative they had given him to prepare him for the surgery. He fought furiously against his restraints when the anesthetic gas was brought out to put him under. He managed to tear most of the way through a 4 inch wide leather strap on one wrist, even through the weight of a 200 pound soldier holding that wrist as well. It took only a little more anesthetic than normal to put him under, and the instant his eyelids fluttered and closed, his heart stopped. In the autopsy of the test subject that died on the operating table it was found that his blood had triple the normal level of oxygen. His muscles that were still attached to his skeleton were badly torn and he had broken 9 bones in his struggle to not be subdued. Most of them were from the force his own muscles had exerted on them.

The second survivor had been the first of the group of five to start screaming. His vocal cords destroyed he was unable to beg or object to surgery, and he only reacted by shaking his head violently in disapproval when the anesthetic gas was brought near him. He shook his head yes when someone suggested, reluctantly, they try the surgery without anesthetic, and did not react for the entire 6 hour procedure of replacing his abdominal organs and attempting to cover them with what remained of his skin. The surgeon presiding stated repeatedly that it should be medically possible for the patient to still be alive. One terrified nurse assisting the surgery stated that she had seen the patients mouth curl into a smile several times, whenever his eyes met hers.

When the surgery ended the subject looked at the surgeon and began to wheeze loudly, attempting to talk while struggling. Assuming this must be something of drastic importance the surgeon had a pen and pad fetched so the patient could write his message. It was simple. “Keep cutting.”

The other two test subjects were given the same surgery, both without anesthetic as well. Although they had to be injected with a paralytic for the duration of the operation. The surgeon found it impossible to perform the operation while the patients laughed continuously. Once paralyzed the subjects could only follow the attending researchers with their eyes. The paralytic cleared their system in an abnormally short period of time and they were soon trying to escape their bonds. The moment they could speak they were again asking for the stimulant gas. The researchers tried asking why they had injured themselves, why they had ripped out their own guts and why they wanted to be given the gas again.

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

All three subject’s restraints were reinforced and they were placed back into the chamber awaiting determination as to what should be done with them. The researchers, facing the wrath of their military ‘benefactors’ for having failed the stated goals of their project considered euthanizing the surviving subjects. The commanding officer, an ex-KGB instead saw potential, and wanted to see what would happen if they were put back on the gas. The researchers strongly objected, but were overruled.

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 all three stopped struggling the moment it was let slip that they were going back on the gas. It was obvious that at this point all three were putting up a great struggle to stay awake. One of subjects 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. The remaining subject was holding his head off his pillow and blinking rapidly. 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. As they focused on paper scrolling out of the brainwave monitor only one nurse saw his eyes slip shut at the same moment his head hit the pillow. His brainwaves immediately changed to that of deep sleep, then flatlined for the last time as his heart simultaneously stopped.

The only remaining subject that could speak started screaming to be sealed in now. His brainwaves showed the same flatlines as one who had just died from falling asleep. The commander gave the order to seal the chamber with both subjects inside, as well as 3 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…”

Creepypasta

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