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The CIA safe house I am most familiar with is Santa Rita farm, isolated in rural, unincorporated North Livermore Valley. It is located in a covert area, far removed from neighbors and completely surrounded by ranch land, hayfields, and vineyards. Upstairs windows are boarded up. High voltage power supply runs into the second floor, where the Artichoke team worked in a special operations room. Safe house staff included Ike Feldman, who worked directly under George White. Feldman stated in an interview for Spin magazine in 1994: “The LSD was just the tip of the iceberg. Write this down: espionage, assassination, dirty tricks, drug experiments, sexual encounters, and the study of prostitutes for clandestine use. That’s what I was doing when I worked for George White and the CIA.”

Here is how it worked: handlers offered drugs to young women, to recruit them for adolescent prostitution. The prostitutes would slip LSD to unwitting Bay Area residents and tourists in North Beach, then return to a CIA safe house where the sexual encounter would be filmed. The agency itself acknowledged that these so-called experiments made little scientific sense, but they continued to record their video evidence. That’s the standard procedure.

When drugs – or persistent, coercive persuasion like you see in cults – failed to ensure further participation, blackmail and murder followed. Hence safe house staff included a behaviorally out-of-control, U. S. Navy trained assassin, alias Robert Hemphill. George White supplied Bob with large quantities of drugs.

Here is an early example of a successful MK-ULTRA test. On May 7, 1964, Pacific Airlines Flight #773 crashed into the side of a hill near San Ramon. Because of the magnitude of the tragedy, and because smoke from the crash was so bad, the principal of Sunol Glen School, Pete Corona, canceled classes. From Sunol we could see smoke from the crash just about ten or fifteen miles north of us. Life magazine ran a big story about the crash, with pictures in the May 22, 1964 issue.

The plane crashed within a couple of hundred yards of the big satellite tracking radar dish on the ridge top in San Ramon, two towns north. It was one of the worst California air disasters at the time, and the first significant use of hijacking in the United States. Among the forty-four victims were San Francisco Police Inspector George F. Lacau, San Francisco’s Waterfront Bar and Restaurant owner Paul Marty, and their wives.

Some years later, Bob Hemphill would reveal to me exactly how and why this plane crashed. William J. Bryan, Bob related, was famous for his monstrous deeds in circles of ultimate evil. Bob often boasted – in bits and pieces – how he helped Bryan, a former airline pilot, brainwash a Philippine national named Francisco Gonzales.

Hemphill told me they recruited Gonzales in San Francisco with filmed adolescent sex, then used blackmail to program him with drugs and hypnosis at Santa Rita farm. Bob told me that Dr. Bryan prepared Gonzales to crash a Reno to San Francisco bound commercial airliner into a satellite tracking station. Gonzales was drugged while at the Palace Hotel in Reno, and triggered when the plane started to descend over the North Livermore Valley.

According to the accident report, investigators discovered that Gonzales had advised both friends and relatives that he would die either Wednesday, May 6, or Thursday, May 7. In fact, he referred to his impending death daily throughout the week preceding the incident. When the Fairchild F-27A (N277OR) with forty-three other people started to descend over the safe house and mysterious ground-based wire antennae, Gonzales, fully triggered, pulled out his gun, entered the cockpit, and shot the pilot, Ernest Clark. At 6:48 pm the aircraft radioed its last message. First Officer Raymond Andress was heard saying, “Skipper’s shot. We’ve been shot. Trying to help.”

Pacific Airlines Flight #773 flew over Santa Rita farm and crashed into the side of a hill near San Ramon. Bob suggested the whole terrifying tragedy was filmed below from the safe house. “We film everything.”

Related file

Crash – 1964 May 07


Story related by David Silvey in Project Artichoke