Graphic by: Vincentia Thatcher
Graphic by: Vincentia Thatcher

Freaky Friday: Sleep Experiment in Russia

May 17, 2023

Over the years, there have been many rumors and legends of places doing morally corrupt things. Many of these rumors are in countries committing bad deeds. Of all the different questionable actions, none are as horrifying or as gruesome as the Russian Sleep Experiment.

No Rest for the Wicked

The Russian Sleep Experiment is a creepypasta that takes place during the 1940s in the Soviet Union. The experiment entailed keeping five prisoners awake for the span of thirty days using an experimental gas. This gas was in the testing phase and was planned to be used by soldiers while fighting.

The first five days went by uneventfully. On the ninth day, one of the subjects started screaming until he tore his vocal cords. Once a second subject started screaming, the others covered the windows, so researchers couldn’t see inside the chamber. After a few days, the chamber was silent. The researchers attempted to use the intercoms to see if the subjects were alive, to which the subjects were compliant.

Once the fifteenth day came, the researchers decided to open the chamber for the first time since the experiment had begun. As the gas was flushed out of the room, three of the five subjects begged for it to be turned back on, pleading as if they were fighting for the life of a loved one. When their request was denied and the doors opened, they began screaming. Soldiers were sent to retrieve the test subjects, and when they saw what awaited them inside the chamber, they screamed too-horrified.

Four of the five test subjects were still alive, but they had all inflicted injuries upon themselves, having used only their hands to remove their own flesh from their bodies. Their still-functioning organs lay next to them on the blood-soaked floor. Their digestive tracts could visibly be seen digesting something, even though the subjects hadn’t touched their rations in days. It soon became apparent that they had begun feeding off of their own flesh for sustenance.

When attempting to remove the subjects from the room, the subjects fought back with a strength they shouldn’t have been capable of given their conditions. They quickly became violent and attacked the soldiers who tried to remove them, even killing a few. One of the living subjects died while trying to fight back, and the other three were restrained and sent to receive medical care.

When attempting to perform surgery, it was found that the subjects had a surprisingly large immunity to sedatives. The doctors were able to sedate one of the subjects despite his strong resistance. However, the second his eyes finally closed, his heart stopped beating. During the autopsy that followed, it was discovered that several of his bones had been broken by the sheer force of his muscles, and his blood had three times the amount of oxygen than a normal human. The next subject to undergo surgery had destroyed his vocal cords from screaming. Insisting that he not go near the anesthetic, he remained awake throughout the entire operation, lying motionless as the doctors worked to repair his eviscerated body. When the surgery was over, he was given a notepad so he could communicate with the medical staff. On it, he wrote a single phrase: “Keep cutting.” The last two surviving subjects were given the same surgery as the previous one, complete with no anesthetic. These subjects had to be injected with paralytics due to the surgeon not being able to focus while they laughed hysterically. Once they were able to speak again, the doctors asked them why they had so brutally mutilated themselves. One answer was given: “We must remain awake.”

After the surgeries, the commanding officer wanted to put the subjects back on the gas, much to the researchers’ protests. The subjects were hooked up to EEGs and it was discovered that one of the subjects was experiencing repeated brain death. While writing down this discovery, a nurse saw the same subject shut his eyes once his head hit a pillow, causing his brainwaves to go into a deep sleep, and then flatline once his heart stopped.

When the last subjects were sealed back inside the chamber, the commander ordered that three researchers be sealed in with them. Not wanting to go through what he had witnessed, one of the researchers drew a gun and shot the commander point blank in the head, the researcher then killed two of the remaining subjects. Before killing the last subject, he demanded to know what he was, what all five of the subjects had become. The subject responded with, “We are the madness that lurks within you all. We are what you hide from in your beds at night. We are what you sedate into silence and paralysis when you go into that nocturnal haven where we cannot tread.” Horrified by the monsters he had helped create, the researcher fired his gun at the man’s chest, shooting him directly in the heart. Before meeting his ultimate demise, the subject weakly uttered his last words: “So…nearly…free.”

Dangers of Sleep

After the story became famous, many people started wondering if this was a true tale. Fortunately, it’s purely a piece of fiction.

The Russian Sleep Experiment was originally published on a website that’s now called Creepypasta Wiki on August 10, 2010. Everything on this website is a work of pure fiction, so there’s no worry about the experiment actually happening.

Experts have also looked into the legend, and have stated that there is no substance that can keep someone awake for 30 days. One researcher talked about how drugs and caffeine in high doses could keep someone awake for a few days, but it would be impossible to stay awake for 30 days.

How long can someone stay awake in real life? In 1963, Randy Gardner achieved the world record and stayed awake for 11 days. During this time, it was reported that he experienced memory issues, paranoia, hallucinations, severe difficulty focusing, and mood swings. In studies, it was found that people wouldn’t be able to function properly if they went 48 hours without sleep, which would make people less effective as soldiers, which is the opposite of the goal of the Russian Sleep Experiment.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

The Russian Sleep Experiment has become a popular internet urban legend, and it’s no wonder why this is the case. The idea that a world government authorized a horrific experiment like this freaks people out.

Next time you’re trying to pull an all-nighter trying to complete something for work or school, think back to this experiment and get some sleep. Who knows? You could be saving yourself from madness.

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