Two bottles of Cointreau sat on the table in front of Frank Olson. Both were open. Both were the same. He reached out for one of the bottles to pour himself an after-dinner drink. He was relaxing in a cabin with other men who had been forced to attend a three-day retreat at Deep Creek Lake from 11/18-20.
He hadn’t wanted to attend. He was having doubts about the ethicality of his work. He didn’t need to about the results of the work in which he was involved at Camp Detrick, in Frederick. He needed to think and clear his mind.
He knew the men he was sharing the large cabin on the lake with. They were members of the Special Operations Division and the CIA. Vincent Ruwet, Olson’s division chief and friend, had picked him up at his house and they had driven west to find this somewhat isolated cabin. It was a large, two-story rental cabin, off of Route 219 about 30 yards from Deep Creek Lake and 100 yards from the nearest neighbor.
The invitation to the “Deep Creek Rendezvous” said that a cover story had been given for the meeting. “CAMOUFLAGE: Winter meeting of script writers, editors, authors, lecturers, sports magazines.”
Olson believed they were there to talk about the joint projects of the Special Operations Division and CIA involving things like biological warfare and using drugs for mind control.
Unbeknownst to Olson, this was also a camouflage story to get him and others to the cabin for an experiment.
The men enjoyed a hearty dinner on Thursday, November 19, and then settled down in the cabin’s living room for after-dinner drinks. Robert Lashbrook, a CIA employee and one of the attendees, poured drinks for eight of the men present. He served the drinks and then poured himself and Sidney Gottlieb drinks from a separate bottle, although there was still liqueur in the first. If it struck anyone as odd or if anyone even noticed, no one remarked on it. Olson took the drink offered him. It was a simple choice, but one that would cost him his life.
He drank the Cointreau and then lost himself in his own thoughts. Sometime between then and Friday afternoon, Olson and the men were told their drinks had been dosed with LSD, according to the Church Committee report.
When Olson returned home that evening, his wife, Alice, “sensed something was wrong the moment he walked in the door. There was a stiffness in the way he kissed her hellow and held her. Like he was doing something mechanical, devoid of any meaning or affection,” H. P. Albarelli wrote in A Terrible Mistake.
Olson’s thoughts now were definitely elsewhere. Later that evening, he admitted to her, “I’ve made a terrible mistake.”
On Monday morning at 7:30 a.m., Olson was waiting for Ruwet when he arrived. Olson admitted he doubts about the work he was doing and said that he wanted to resign.
Olson told his wife later, “I talked to Vin. He said that I didn’t make a mistake. Everything is fine. I’m not going to resign.
The next day, Ruwet and Lashbrook convinced Olson to see a psychiatric doctor in New York. Actually, he was meeting with Harold Abramson, an allergist-pediatrician, who was working with the CIA.
Lashbrook and Olson shared a hotel room on the 13th floor of the Statler Hotel. Early in the morning of November 28, a loud crashing noise woke him up. According to the CIA, Olson threw himself out of the window, committing suicide.
The truth turned out to be something far darker and disturbing.