Urban Legends

The Russian Sleep Experiment Urban Legend

Urban Legends go digital. Image by Mystic Art Design.

Warning, rated: Gruesome

Urban Legends are not just an American thing. Cultures far and wide have their Urban Legends, as evidenced in the classic Japanese horror flick and novel, The Ring. But now scary stories are going viral.

The Digital Answer to Urban Legends

With our new world of technology, it seems as if the internet has replaced Urban Legend with the term Creepy Pasta. These are the digital counterparts to Urban Legends, but shared via the internet. Different from Urban Legends, many of the creepy stories shared on the internet are user generated.

There’s an actual website named Creepy Pasta which features horror stories of all kinds, if you’re interested. My son recently sent me one of their features from July 2012. Apparently, it’s a legend which has been around for a while. It’s called the Russian Sleep Experiment.

The Story

In 1947, a group of Russian Scientist enticed five prisoners to participate in a sleep study by falsely promising them their freedom after the experiment was over. The subjects were to spend thirty days in a sealed gas chamber and stay awake for the entire time. The scientists pumped in an experimental gas stimulant continually to keep the subjects awake.

A porthole with five inch glass was the only way for the scientists to view the subjects. Image by:

This was before closed circuit cameras. Therefore, scientists communicated with the subjects through a microphone and a porthole with five inches of glass.

The military stocked the bunker with books, water, a toilet, enough dried food for over a month, and cots—but no bedding. All the comforts of home. And for five days, things were okay. Except, the subjects’ conversations became increasingly dark.

Paranoia crept in. On the ninth day one of them began screaming. Uncontrollably. For hours. To the extent he tore his vocal cords and became a mute. But none of the other subjects reacted to the screaming man other than to whisper into the microphone.

When the second subject began screaming, the others tore pages from books and pasted them to the porthole with their feces. The scientist could not see in to monitor the subjects. Abruptly, the screaming stopped as well as the whispering.

For days, all was silent within the chamber.

The experimenters’ only way to check on the test subjects was by monitoring their oxygen levels, which showed all prisoners were still alive. But on the fourteenth day, to evoke a response and out of desperation, the scientists did something they said they wouldn’t do. Over the chamber intercom, they announced they were entering the chamber to check the microphones and told the prisoners to stand back. Lie flat on the ground or we’ll shoot you. Compliance would earn immediate freedom for one of them.

A weak reply said, “We no longer want to be freed. Go away.”

What Was Found

Self-cannibalism was found. Image by: Isabella Quintana

On the fifteenth day, the scientists flushed the gas from the chamber and filled it with fresh air. The subjects begged for the gas to be turned back on. They were afraid they’d fall asleep.

When the scientists entered, they found only four of the five subjects alive. Chunks of flesh from the dead one were blocking the drain and causing four inches of blood and water to accumulate. Self-cannibalism was evident among the remaining subjects.

They had removed their organs below the rib cage and torn their flesh off to the bone. Heart, diaphragm, and lungs remained intact, but visibly exposed. The surviving subjects refused to leave, killing one soldier and injuring another. They begged to be left alone and for the gas to be turned back on.

Kept on Smiling

When the military finally removed the test subjects, the doctors attempted to treat their injuries. However, they found the subjects possessed unprecedented strength, and an abnormal resistance to anesthesia and sedation. They tore through restraints, resisted treatment, and begged to be returned to the chamber with the gas turned on.

The first screamer exhibited the most severe injuries. When the doctors tried to put him under to repair what they could, the screamer, unable to speak, thrashed his head violently back and forth. One of the nurse suggested they attempt the procedure of returning his organs to their proper position without anesthesia. The screamer smiled.

He continued to smile throughout the procedure. Even though the doctor noted it wasn’t humanly impossible to undergo such pain without sedation. When the surgery was complete, the screamer tried to say something but merely wheezed. The nurse brought him a pad to write on. He wrote: Keep cutting.


Consequentially, surgeons operated on the other survivors without anesthesia. They did, however, give the subjects a paralytic. The doctor said he couldn’t perform the surgeries with the patients laughing hysterically.

Once treated, researchers asked the subjects why they mutilated their own bodies? The survivors answered, “I must stay awake.”

A Covert Military Experiment

The military funded the experiment, and when the researchers recommended euthanizing the survivors, the commander refused. He saw it as an opportunity to see what would happen if they returned the subjects to the chamber and given the gas.

Nurses connected EEGs and soldiers heavily padded the restraints. The subjects quit struggling the minute they knew they were returning to the chamber. And to the gas.

The researchers monitored the brain waves of the first subject connected to the EEG. They observed sometimes the brain waves were normal and sometimes they flatlined, showing no activity whatsoever. As they observed, the subject’s eyes shut. Shortly after, he flatlined and died when he went into a deep sleep.

“I am the evil you bury while you sleep,” Image by: Mystic Art Design

The commander immediately ordered the remaining survivors sealed into the chamber and the gas turned on, along with three of the researchers. One researcher pulled a gun and shot the commander in the head. Then shot the second screamer.

He aimed his gun at one of the remaining, restrained subjects and said, “I won’t be locked me in with this thing,” and screamed, “What are you?”

The subject replied, “I am the evil you bury while you sleep.” The researcher shot the subject in the heart and, as he flatlined, he muttered, “So… nearly… free.”


When the last subject said: “So… nearly… free.” Was he referring to himself or was evil talking through him?

Areas of Debate

Publications have traced the origins of this creepypasta to Creepypasta wiki, August 10, 2010, posted by OrangeSoda. Real name unknown. This is debatable, however, since there is evidence that it may have originated August 8, 2009 in a WordPress blog by Rip747.

For me, I ask, does it matter? The story is out running free on the web. The question for me is, could it be true? Noting all the horrible things done to innocent people during the Holocaust and World War II, the legend seems to suggest plausibility.

The debate my son and I are having concerns: What caused the test subjects’ erratic behaviors? I think they became addicted to the gas. Like one who becomes addicted to meth and exhibits violent behavior, paranoia, and hallucinations. My son believes they became addicted to staying awake, which the stimulating gas provided.

What do you think?


You may have noticed a rating at the beginning of this blog post. Henceforth, I will add a rating to protect those readers who’d rather not have their minds exposed to such thoughts as self-mutilation, cannibalism, gore, and all-around gruesomeness.

I would have preferred to have been warned about the Russian Sleep Experiment before reading. Because once you read it, it’s hard to erase the images. Or forget them. Or wonder about the evilness of humankind. 

Clara Bush
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5 replies on “The Russian Sleep Experiment Urban Legend”

Hiya RCattle817, So great to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. And yes, when I read your comment, it totally freaked me out. And sent chills up and down my spine.To think one of subjects is still alive. OMG. Can you tell us more about your experience? How did you survive? What’s it like to be awake for all these years? I’d love to hear from you, again. —Clara.

This is a really creepy story, but so interesting. It’s probably just made up like you say, an urban legend. It may have started anywhere and got more gruesome with each telling. However, there have been horrible experiments done for real on people, plus outright murder. I’m thinking of the gas chambers. I’ve personally been in one of those when we lived in Germany. We visited the museum and memorial at Dachau. I swear to getting a creepy feeling just being there. It was like I could feel the presence of all those souls that perished there.

Hi Barbara,
Thank you for your comment. I totally agree. With the knowledge we have on the Holocaust, the undertaking of human experiments is plausible. And I always believe there is some truth in every Urban Legend. Still. This particular legend has probably been embellished with its own brand of gruesomeness to some extent. Thanks, always great to hear from you.—Clara

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