From the outside, Fort Detrick may look like a pretty standard military installation in Frederick, Maryland. Of course, you’re probably only getting a glimpse of the base, which covers a sprawling campus that, both historically and today, hosts one of the United States military’s most terrifying and, by necessity, secret initiatives: biological weapons.
It all started, more or less, in the 1950. According to Politico, that’s when the U.S. Army determined that Fort Detrick, a mere 50 miles or so from Washington, D.C., would be the place where the military should begin developing and testing biological weapons. It was, at the time, kept top secret as scientists created bioweapons using agents and pathogens including anthrax, botulism, and tularemia. The program was retired in 1969 and replaced by a bioweapons defense program, still active today (via PBS).
Politico reports that it was also the central base for the CIA program known as MKUltra, a project in which sometimes unwitting test subjects were given LSD and other mind-altering drugs in an attempt to develop mind-control tactics. The program, which often sounds like science fiction more than fact, remains mysterious today in large part because many of the program documents were destroyed in the 1970s. Now, as Popular Mechanics reports, Fort Detrick is home to a state-of-the-art facility meant to contain all of that potentially deadly research material.