Of all the urban legends I’ve ever read or heard of to me this is one of the strangest and even though I dug a little deeper (as I tend to always do) it just kept getting spookier. So for the second installment of my Urban Legend series I chose the Russian Sleep Experiment.
The story goes a little like this… back in the 1940s Soviet researchers sealed five people (supposedly prisoners) in a chamber-like room which was stocked with food, cots, and books to last a month. But without any running water. They then doused them with a sleep deprivation gas to test the effects. They were told that if they stayed awake for 30 days that they would then have earned their freedom and were told they would be monitored through two way glass, and through microphones located within the room. The first few days of the experiment were fairly uneventful. By the fifth day, however, the subjects began showing signs of stress and the researchers had observed them complaining about the environment, and of their treatment. Then they stopped talking to their fellow inmates, yet preferred to speak into the microphones and whisper compromising information about one another instead. Apparently this was supposed to be a way to win the favor and attention of the researchers.
Of course this lead to great paranoia among the others. By approximately the ninth day the persistent screaming began. It started with one prisoner who was observed running around the room wailing at the top of his lungs for endless hours. This started a chain reaction and one of the other inmates began doing the same thing. Even more disturbing was the reaction of the other inmates who remained quiet while the other two were screaming. The quieter ones started to rip apart all the books they had been given to read, smeared the pages with fecal matter, then proceeded to plaster the two way window with them so that the researchers could no longer observe their actions. Then, just as suddenly as it began, all of the screaming stopped. The subjects also stopped communicating altogether. After a few days of not hearing anything inside of the room the researchers began to get concerned and decided to address the inmates by using the installed intercom saying “we are going to open the door now to test the microphones, clear the door area and lie flat on the floor or you will be executed immediately. If you comply one of you will be set free.”
Then they heard a voice of one of the inmates from within say “we no longer want to be freed.”
Finally, after two or so more days had passed without any kind of contact the researchers decided what to do next. They came to the conclusion they should just terminate the experiment. So, around midnight on the fifteenth day the gas stimulant was ventilated and removed from the room, then replaced with fresh air to prepare the inmates for their release from the experiment. When the scientists entered the room however, they witnessed the subjects screaming in fear and begging them to please turn the stimulant gas back on. The scientists fled from the room and instead sent in armed soldiers to bring the prisoners back out.
Nothing could have prepared them for what they would see upon entering the room…
One inmate was found dead, lying face-down in six inches of bloody water. Chunks of his flesh had been torn off and stuffed into the floor drain. All of the test subjects were found to have been severely mutilated, in fact. Even more disturbing, the wounds appeared to be self-inflicted. They had ripped open their own abdomens and disemboweled themselves with their bare hands. Some of the inmates had started eating their own flesh instead of the food that had been provided for them instead. The other four who were still alive seemed terrified of falling asleep and refused to leave the chamber, again pleading with the researchers to turn the gas back on. When the soldiers attempted to remove the inmates by force, they fought back so ferociously as if they had become terrified wild animals that one had a ruptured spleen and had lost so much blood there was literally nothing left for his heart to pump, yet continued flailing for a full three minutes until his lifeless body collapsed.
The last surviving inmates were finally removed and transported to a medical facility to be treated. The first one that was operated on resisted so much against having the anesthesia administered, he tore his muscles and broke his bones during the struggle. As soon as the anesthetic took effect his heart stopped and he died. The rest underwent surgery without sedation for fear of being put to sleep. Instead they were smiling and laughing hysterically on the operating table… so hysterically that the doctors, perhaps fearing for their own sanity, administered a paralytic agent to immobilize them.
After surgery the survivors were asked why they had mutilated themselves, and why they so desperately wanted to go back on the stimulant gas.
Each one gave the same answer: “I must remain awake.”
The researchers considered euthanasia to be rid of every trace of the experiment since it had failed, but they were ordered by the commanding officer to start the experiment over immediately and have a couple of the scientists join the the new test inmates in the sealed room. One of the scientists was so horrified by the demand that he shot the commanding officer in the head, then turned the gun to one of the surviving inmates and asked “What happened to you, what are you?”
The inmate replied in an exhausted voice, grinning widely “Have you forgotten so easily? 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 Then fired his gun at the crazed inmate. The monitor flat-lined as the subject murmured these last words: “So…nearly…free.”
There you have it! That’s the story of the Russian Sleep Experiment. This too, is false. Despite the fact that yes there had been experimentation going on at the time, this one was not one of them. There is no existing historical record of this ever happening either, and is just a story that went viral on the internet after appearing on a popular horror story website back in 2010. Kudos to the person who came up with it because it does sound creepy!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of my Urban Legend Series,