From mushrooms and parasites to lab-enhanced substances, nature is all about mind control. Here, we’ll examine mind-control methods and the possible causes of a zombie apocalypse.

When we wrote about Stranger Things last year, we dove into the mire of the CIA-sponsored Project MK Ultra and the role of psychedelics in mind-control research.

However, humanity isn’t the only force interested in controlling the mind. Plenty of other living beings on the Earth have already evolved to do just that.

We seek to answer this question: How do mind control techniques vary across studies and even species?

More importantly, can a species actually take over the brain of another? Is there the possibility of a zombie apocalypse occurring in the natural world? Or has it already happened?

5 Possible Causes of the Zombie ApocalypseClick To Tweet

Warning: many of these images are on the “gross” side. If you can’t handle the visual representation of a living creature losing its free will, abandon ship now.

1. Mind-Control Fungus Hiding as a Nutrition Supplement

One of the mind control stories many people know from nature involves cordyceps. These are just one of 400 species of ascomycete fungi. What’s more, the cordyceps are endoparasitoids, meaning they are parasitic mainly to insects.

Cordyceps primarily grow in China and other parts of Asia, thriving in tropical and temperate forests.

However, another entomopathogenic fungi, the ophiocordyceps unilateralis, goes further and literally takes over its host. It infects an ant host after the ant encounters fungal spores during foraging. Those spores infect the ant and the fungus spreads, eventually commandeering the central nervous system.

image of Moth with cordyceps infection for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Moth with cordyceps infection | Rainforests.smugmug.com

In true parasitic and viral fashion, the spores take control of the ant’s body to spread further. It forces the insect to climb trees or vegetation before gripping onto a twig or leaf. As it kills its victim, the mind control fungus also takes over the organism.

The creature dies, sprouting more stalks to release more mind control spores.

What is most compelling about the mind control techniques of the cordyceps is the chemicals it uses. Studies done to discern which chemicals are used reveal that chemicals vary by species.

What may be most concerning, however, is that scientists cannot identify many of the chemicals used.

But scientists did identify both sphingosine and guanidinobutyric acid. These are related to various neurological disorders.

So why are people taking cordyceps supplements?

image of Jensen Ackles from Supernatural for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Supernatural | Warner Bros. Television via Imgur

Originating from an older Tibetan and Chinese medicine tradition, Yarsa Gumba or Keera Jhar helps yaks grow stronger. Other uses include improving cow milk production, increasing vitality in humans, and even treating diseases like cancer and diabetes.

While the historical findings are compelling, more human studies need to be conducted before saying cordyceps are a panacea.

2. Your cat can Take Over Your Mind

Every few years, stories of the dangers of Toxoplasmosis surface, throwing cat owners into a state of fear. Toxoplasma gondii is the microbe responsible for toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can cause mice to sacrifice themselves to predators unknowingly.

In humans, some believe this to be the cause of a litany of things, from car accidents to mental illness.

image of protozoa parasite T. gondii for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Toxoplasmosis | CDC.gov

Though the microbe is found in many animals, it only reproduces in cats. It is found only in their feces and, naturally, in cat litter boxes. This makes it dangerous to humans as pregnant mothers can pass the infection onto their babies. The disease can also be contracted by eating improperly cooked food that contains infected cysts.

Many people who contract the microbe may experience flu-like symptoms or eye problems. In rats, it has been observed to quell their natural aversion to cat urine, stimulating sexual attraction pathways.

Despite these effects on rats, the mind-altering aspects of T. gondii seem more varied in humans.

image of scientist Jaroslav Flegr for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Jaroslav Flegr | Monika Flegrova

Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr first suggested that this microbe could be responsible for neurological issues.

The Atlantic wrote a huge piece on Flegr in 2012. In it, they discuss how his claims became corroborated by other scientists and studies.

Robert Sapolsky of Stanford conducted the rat study mentioned above. The findings showed that the protozoan “rewires” parts of the brain — specifically involving how we experience fear, sexual arousal, and anxiety. 

Flegr’s limited studies did include human tests where men were found to be oblivious, suspicious, and introverted.

Women were observed to be more trusting, extroverted, and “image-conscious”. Both groups also showcased diminished reaction times. Flegr attributes these reactions to gender-biased sociological structures regarding emotional support.

More interestingly, around 70 epidemiology studies linking T. gondii and schizophrenia have popped up. A 2003 study showed significant links between schizophrenia and the parasite. Overall, understanding this mind-control parasite could lead to better mental health care.

3. Parasitoid Wasps: All the Scary of Regular Wasps Plus Mind Control

image of Hornworm covered with cocoons for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Hornworm covered with cocoons | University of Maryland Extension

First off, let me express to you how much I loathe wasps. Growing up in Texas, we dealt with many of the critters. Luckily, I never came across this variation and member of hymenopteran superfamilies.

They are called “parasitoids” because they reproduce using other organisms. That’s right–they lay their eggs in hosts (usually arthropods).

The young wasps hatch and consume the host from within, inevitably killing the innocent third party. Of course, parasitoid wasps like to keep things diverse: they also choose flies, beetles, and/or spiders as hosts.

The member of the family that prefers spiders is particularly squirm-inducing.

The larvae actually control the actions of the spider using a chemical. A spider will build a “cocoon web” until the larvae is large enough to shuck the husk of the spider off. It then finishes an actual cocoon, emerging as a fully grown wasp weeks later.

Gross.

image of candida albicans for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Candida Albicans | YouTube via user biomedik8888

4. Can Yeast and Protein Take Over Your Mind?

Two common things humans ingest on a daily basis are yeast (found in bread, wine, beer, kombucha, kimchi, and anything fermented) and protein.

Candida albicans is often responsible for yeast infections and other issues. Some studies link yeast infections to mental illness and memory loss, as well. Other studies also question if candida albicans and schizophrenia are linked.

Candida even caused Tony Orlando to write the microorganism a theme song.

(Just kidding).

A host of other symptoms from chronic fatigue to gastrointestinal issues can also be attributed to candida overgrowth. As with Toxoplasmosis, too much of candida albicans may lead to it altering the brain.

But what about protein? You’ve no doubt heard of “Mad Cow Disease” also known as “Bovine spongiform encephalopathy”.

With this disease, a misfolded protein known as a “prion” causes loss of muscle control, heightened aggression, and other symptoms in cows. Due to the infection, the creature eventually dies.

By ingesting tainted beef, humans can contract a variant of this condition called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Even after cooking or heat treatment, the prion infection sticks around. As with cows, the disease attacks and destroys the spinal cord and brain over time.

Thankfully, by banning the inclusion of bone meal and meat in cattle feed, cases of the disease have reduced dramatically. Further regulations such as designating vulnerable areas like the spinal cord and brain as “risk materials” also helped.

Lucky for us: there are several other types of prion diseases in both humans and animals. The zombie apocalypse looms ever closer.

5. The Mind Control Techniques of Project MKUltra

Mind control stories from nature also come in the form of human extracted psychedelics.

One of the most infamous, yet guarded oddities in U.S. history is the mind control experiment MKUltra. Beginning from as early as 1953, the project intended to keep up with Soviet accomplishments in mind control.

image of Will Byers in Stranger Things for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Stranger Things | Netflix via PopSuger

Of course, these Soviet advances were assumed, with Project MKUltra resulting in illegal drug testing on humans. As noted in Smithsonianmag.com, the CIA used MKUltra to discern how drugs could do the following:

  • “promote the intoxicating effects of alcohol”
  • “render the induction of hypnosis easier”
  • “enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture, and coercion”
  • produce amnesia, shock, and confusion

Due to these goals, things like combining amphetamines and barbiturates were commonplace in MKUltra. Other drugs used in the study included mescaline, heroin, MDMA, and psilocybin or “magic mushrooms”.

Many of the tests surrounded the intent to develop better interrogation tactics. Concussions were also used as a “brainwashing tool” as well as LSD (as many know). Hypnosis also featured prominently in MKUltra’s 150 experiments and subprojects.

If this wasn’t enough, other tools to bolster “mind control” attempts included:

  • Radiation
  • Electro-shock therapy
  • Experimental Drugs
  • Toxins
  • Polygraph tests
  • Chemical Exposure

However, out of all of these experiments, “Operation Midnight Climax” has to be the most insidious.

Using government-paid prostitutes, CIA agents observed individuals secretly dosed with LSD. The experiment escalated, with agents also dosing regular citizens at bars, restaurants, and beaches.

Other events, such as the death of Frank Olson, furthered the conspiracy theories surrounding Project MKUltra. However, their “mind control techniques” never amounted to much. It is peculiar though that Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber”, participated in MKUltra experiments.

As part of a study, CIA agents asked a 16-year-old Ted Kaczynski to write a manifesto of his most deep-seated and fundamental beliefs. Upon completing the task, the agents then interrogated him extensively and aggressively, breaking apart all of his most fundamental ideas. After this, they then forced him to watch a video of the event, which further exacerbated the trauma of their actions. 

The aggressive nature and young age of Ted Kaczynski during this study are often given as one of the major reasons behind his psychological break and eventual terrorist acts. 

Ultimately, Project MKUltra showed us that the most powerful form of mind control was emotional blackmail.

image of Shaun of the Dead for article 5 Mind Control Stories From Mother Nature
Shaun of the Dead | Universal Pictures & Rogue Pictures

Which Mind Control Stories are Likely to Lead to Zombies?

It is obviously unlikely that the experiments from Project MKUltra led to telekinetic, dimension-ripping people like Eleven in Stranger Things. We also haven’t seen humans react the same way to the cordyceps mushroom that insects do.

I’ll be honest–I did not have the stomach to see if a parasitoid wasp had targeted a human. But, the research I did on their preferences shows that they almost always choose insects. Biology is hard-coded into us and takes decades if not millennia to adapt.

So that leaves the protozoan T. gondii, candida albicans, and prions.

I don’t know about you, but my money is on prions.

What are your favorite mind control stories from nature or human history?

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