Sleep is an emphatically critical part of our lives. Those important hours of sleep every night give us the rest we need to power through our days, and that’s why sleep deprivation can have serious repercussions on your physical and mental strength.
So when Russian scientists performed an experiment that attempted to keep people up for weeks straight, the results were absolutely chilling.
In the late 1940s, five men who were considered enemies of the state by the Russian government were chosen to take part in an experiment involving sleep deprivation. The goal was to use small doses of an experimental gas that could supposedly eliminate the need for sleep in humans.
The subjects were kept in a sealed environment so that the researchers wouldn’t be exposed to the gas, and the prisoners only had microphones to communicate with. They were provided with books, a toilet and running water, enough food to last each of them a full month, and a cot with no bedding.
For the first three days, everything went well, with the prisoners given the false promise that if they cooperated and didn’t sleep for 30 days, they would be freed. As all of their actions and dialogue were monitored, researchers noticed the prisoners opening up about past traumas. After four days, the conversations got even darker.
By the fifth day, the prisoners started exhibiting paranoia, as well as complaining about the past circumstances and decisions that brought them here. Instead of conversing with each other, they began to whisper into their microphones. Apparently, they thought that they could win the trust of the experimenters by betraying and turning in their fellow prisoners.
By the tenth day, the screaming started. For three hours straight, a prisoner ran back and forth across the length of the room, screaming loudly. After his voice began to weaken, he only produced squeaks, which doctors attributed to the tearing of his vocal cords.
Oddly, the other prisoners did not even appear to respond to the screaming.
Soon, the experimenters were concerned that they weren’t hearing anything from inside the chamber. By the fourteenth day, they did something unplanned: they used an intercom to try to get some sort of response from the prisoners. They explained that if they cooperated, the prisoners would be freed. “We no longer want to be freed,” said a calm voice.
On the fifteenth day, the researchers removed the gas-stimulant from the chamber and replaced it with fresh air. In response, the prisoners begged for the gas to be turned back on. Soldiers arrived to retrieve the prisoners but soon discovered that only four of the five test subjects were still breathing. The food hadn’t been touched in five days. Pieces of flesh were missing from the dead man’s thighs and chest later found clogging the drain, flooding the room with four inches of water.
Even those subjects that were still alive were missing skin and flesh — wounds that appeared to be mostly self-inflicted. Even the most experienced soldiers were afraid to bring the corpse outside.
Unspeakable acts of violence ensued when attempts were made to free the prisoners, with another prisoner killed in the process. When asked why they were behaving this way, they only received one chilling sentence in response: “I must remain awake.”
Soon, soldiers and researchers began shooting at the prisoners. Only one of the original five remained. “What are you?” asked the researcher.
“Have you forgotten so easily?” the subject asked with a smile. “We are you.” The researcher shot the prisoner in the heart. Choking, the test subject said these final words: “So… close…to…freedom.”