Olson Family

Olson Family

The Olson Family

In 1976 the Olson family received a financial settlement from Congress for far less than the White House, CIA Director George Bush, the Justice Department, the Labor Department, and the Treasury Department had recommended. A single Congressman had decided to oppose the settlement, so it was enacted in drastically reduced form.

Having already received the document package from the CIA, the matter was now officially over. The Olson family signed an agreement saying that all our claims against the United States government in the death of Frank Olson were settled.

By that time the name “Frank Olson” had started to achieve the almost mythical status it subsequently acquired. “Frank Olson” became a symbol for the effects of careless human experimentation in general and reckless CIA behavior in particular.

President Gerald Ford apologizing in 1975 to the family of Frank Olson,
who died in 1953  after the C.I.A. gave him a dose of LSD.
Credit: Associated Press

(View the entire document)

The family that same year, from left,
Mr. Olson’s daughter, Lisa W. Hayward;
sons, Nils and Eric Olson, and wife, Alice W. Olson

“Something has troubled me. I never recall having told Mrs. Olson anything that was flatly untrue. I did allow her to think things that were untrue. I just would like to have that put on the record that I do regret it.”
—Colonel Vin Ruwet, Congressional Hearing, September 10, 1975


Frank Olson and family, Frederick, Maryland, early 1950s; from Errol Morris’s Wormwood. (Netflix)

The next generation

Frank Olson’s grandson, Stephan Kimbel Olson, has struggled to find his own path in the midst of his grandfather’s story, and his father’s involvement in it. In 2008 as his senior project for graduation from high school, Stephan wrote this essay, which he called “Subject Dropped.” He was eighteen at the time.
Subject Dropped – By Stephan Olson (PDF)

Stephan and his Wormwood “grandfather”

Stephan’s cross-country bike trip
In 2012, four years after he wrote “Subject Dropped,” Stephan, then twenty-two, made a 4,200 mile solo bicycle trip from Frederick, Maryland to San Francisco, retracing and expanding the trip his father (age sixteen) and uncle (age twelve) had made fifty-one years earlier, in 1961. Here’s the blog Stephan wrote along the way.
(Read the blog)

Stephan reaches the summit of the Continental Divide in 2012.

Eric and Nils a few days before taking off on their cross-country bike trip in 1961.