Why you should care
Because a lot can happen in the name of power.
New York’s controversial radio host Long John Nebel was feeling pretty lucky when he got to marry his favorite World War II pinup, Candy Jones, in 1972. But he quickly discovered that his wife suffered mood swings that saw her voice and temperament change. Even odder? When she snapped out of the violent fits, she didn’t remember a thing.
Nebel grew suspicious after Jones explained that she occasionally worked for the U.S. government and needed to leave town periodically. Fearing that she was cheating on him, Nebel offered to help Jones alleviate her chronic insomnia through hypnosis, something he dabbled in, while aiming to uncover the truth about her getaways. What he discovered, or so he claimed, wasn’t another man but his wife’s alter ego — an aggressive woman named Arlene.
There have been pervasive, systematic violations of human rights by American psychiatrists over the last 65 years.
Nebel claimed that Jones had been the victim of a CIA mind-control program that started in the early 1950s and lasted almost two decades, during which intelligence operatives used various methods to influence people’s mental states and change their brain functions. These purportedly included drugs, hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation and even torture.
Born Jessica Arline Wilcox on December 31, 1925, Jones had a nightmarish childhood. Her mother physically abused her and often locked her in dark rooms by way of punishment, according to The CIA Doctors by Dr. Colin A. Ross, a psychiatrist and trauma specialist. His book describes experiments conducted by CIA psychiatrists that caused amnesia and created new identities in the minds of subjects. To cope, Wilcox developed imaginary friends to keep her company, and while these characters fell away as she grew up, “Arlene” — the tough, domineering one — survived. Wilcox graduated from high school and began her modeling career, changing her name to Jones. While touring military bases with the USO in 1945 during World War II, Candy fell ill with undulant fever and malaria and was hospitalized in the Philippines. According to The Control of Candy Jones by Donald Bain, it was there that she met a man named Dr. Gilbert Jensen — an encounter, she later claimed, that changed her life forever.
In the early 1960s and following a failed marriage, Jones opened a modeling school that also served as a mail drop for the FBI at the request, she said, of an unnamed old acquaintance and retired army general — an act she embraced as patriotic. Later, she claimed she was asked to carry a letter for the U.S. government to a man in San Francisco. That man turned out to be Jensen, the doctor from the Philippines. According to Jones’ accounts, the two of them had dinner in San Francisco on November 16, 1960, and he confessed to her that he was managing a group of undercover agents for the CIA through mind-control experiments. Jones, who was short of cash at the time, agreed to join.
Nebel and Jones claimed that Jensen became her control agent. While submitting Candy to hypnosis with injections of highly experimental drugs like LSD, he discovered “Arlene.” Jensen brought this alter ego to the forefront of Jones’ mind so that she could eclipse her host and send her on experimental missions. In this way Jensen created a perfect messenger, one who could not reveal, even under torture, anything about a mission, according to Bain’s account. She was trained to use explosives, fight in close combat with improvised weapons and kill with her bare hands, and she was conditioned to resist pain and taught about disguises and communications. From the audiotapes of Jones speaking under hypnosis, Nebel reported creepy details, like Jensen supposedly putting a lit candle in Jones’ open vagina without her registering pain or fear. According to Arlene’s memories during hypnosis, best illustrated in Bain’s book, Jensen demonstrated this before 24 doctors in an auditorium at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
As Arlene, she claimed to have visited many training camps, military bases and secret medical facilities across America, while her visit to South Vietnam in 1970 with the USO would later make her suspect that it had some connection to a failed attempt to free American prisoners of war from North Vietnam. Bain also writes in his book that another piece of evidence surfaced when “Candy inadvertently held onto a passport of Arlene Grant: Candy in a dark wig and dark makeup.” Jones, however, claimed no recollection of posing for the passport.
Skeptics doubted Nebel’s and Jones’ assertions — some labeled it a hoax by the radio DJ, who was known for stunts, while others pointed to an alleged false memory syndrome as the most logical explanation. But Jones’ claims gained more credibility when it was discovered that the CIA had been running extensive mind-control tests and experiments under a program named Project MKUltra. “People with whom she had contact had documented military and intelligence connections,” says Ross about the credibility of Jones’ claims. “Rather than being turned into a case of multiple personality by her handlers, it appears to me that the doctor who worked on her took advantage of a preexisting dissociative disorder from her childhood.”
CIA historians did not respond to OZY’s requests for comments, but Ross has written that, based on 15,000 pages of documents obtained from the CIA through the Freedom of Information Act, “there have been pervasive, systematic violations of human rights by American psychiatrists over the last 65 years.”
Many continue to dismiss the claims. But Ross? “In my opinion, it is very likely that Candy Jones was in fact an operational Manchurian Candidate,” he says.