6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

In the 1970s, a guy named Robert Graham ran a lab dubbed 'the Nobel Prize sperm bank.' How horribly wrong could that have gone?
6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

If you've made the joke recently about how Idiocracy is coming true, ask yourself this: How would you fix it? If the problem is that all of the dumbest people are breeding with each other, do you set up a system to cultivate the best genes from society's greatest geniuses to breed a superior race?

Well, that's actually been tried. And we're about to show you how it can go horribly wrong.

In the 1970s, a guy named Robert Graham ran a lab dubbed "the Nobel Prize sperm bank." He aimed to collect the semen of Nobel laureates and impregnate as many women as possible with their superior seed. We talked to one of the products of this experiment, Nick, who explained that the result wasn't exactly what Graham had in mind ...

Learning The Truth Was Exactly Like Being Accepted To Hogwarts

Even before I learned I was born thanks to a eugenics experiment, I suspected there was something weird going on with me in the parenting department. My supposed father looked nothing like me and we had totally different personalities. He was also physically abusive, which is more common among step-parents, a phenomenon known as the Cinderella effect. When he died in 2016, I hadn't spoken to him in years, and I refused to go to the funeral. In the end, my mother and sister had to drag me there.

Then there were the occasional odd hints from my mother. Every time I seemed unambitious about my future -- I was talking of going to professional wrestling school -- she'd mutter something mysterious about me being meant for greater things. Because she knew, for some reason, that I could do better.

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Tabercil/Wiki Commons

Bullshit. If flying elbow drops aren't a pinnacle of man's accomplishment, then nothing is.

Then at breakfast one morning when I was 15, my mother sat me down and told me the truth. "Nick," she said. "Have you ever heard of the Repository for Germinal Choice?"

Seven years into their marriage, my mom and her husband had been unable to get pregnant, possibly because the latter had been kicked hard in the testicles back in Vietnam. When my mom asked her doctor about using a sperm donor, he told her about the Repository, a sperm bank that accepted only Nobel prize winners' semen. Getting impregnated there required her to put down a $500+ deposit, but it gave her a child with a destiny. What could possibly be shady about that? Nothing.

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam
Nobel Foundation

Honestly, 500 bucks seems a little light for the jelly of Steinbeck's grapes of wrath.

For me, it was like one of those movies where the hero learns his father was a super-assassin or a wizard. I gained new hope (for starters, I took school more seriously). When I read up more on the Nobel sperm bank, I learned donors included a professor who was also a musician and a leading scientist who scales mountains. One was even Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine. Was my father Jonas Salk?! Spoiler: No. But keep reading anyway, because the truth is weirder.

Yes, There've Been Eugenics Sperm Banks, And More Recently Than You'd Think

The Repository for Germinal Choice was started by Robert Graham, eyewear tycoon and amateur eugenicist. You probably associate eugenics with the Nazis, but as Cracked has mentioned, before that, it was an American movement. For some reason, we've always been slow to take credit for this innovation. Read Graham's writings and you'll see the exact argument from Idiocracy: Evolution no longer favors the fittest, because the people most likely to reproduce are rarely the best among us. ("You want me to take time off building this interstellar ion drive to go raise a family!?!")

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

"You know the rule: No unauthorized breeding until we're all aboard the space ark."

He wasn't suggesting genocide. Instead, he proposed a series of solutions, such as paying college students to have kids, corporations paying for promising couples' childcare, and reorganizing cities to encourage child rearing. Then he suggested storing and distributing the sperm of the nation's most promising men.

Graham began scouting and hiring talent who already had experience in the "sperm collection industry" (and it's the brave soul who responds to that particular listing in the classifieds). With their help, he quietly began operations in the 1970s. He first considered using West Point cadets as donors but then decided on the Nobel prize as the best indicator of worth.

He started by contacting every Nobel winner in California. When any showed interest, they'd meet at a hotel, Graham providing a specimen cup. He adamantly bragged that his donors needed only their imagination, not porn, to produce a sample -- long considered the mark of true genius.

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

"If you can't seal the deal with thoughts about plowing Marie Curie or Mary Shelley, then you're not what we're looking for."

The project would run until shortly after Graham died in 1997, the bank having never charged recipients enough to cover operating costs. Still, over its lifespan, it produced 215 babies, including both me and my sister. The children weren't in touch with each other or informed of their unwilling role in a science experiment that at this point was no longer being monitored.

I didn't have a way to find who my biological father was, even after my mom broke the news. Then came a lucky break ...

My Father Was ... Not What I Expected

I saw an article called "Help Slate tell the story of the Nobel Prize sperm bank." The author, David Plotz, was inviting anyone connected to the bank to reach out to him. I did, and soon learned of the first flaw in Graham's utopian vision -- it had very few actual Nobel laureates as donors. Still, he was drawing from the best and brightest, so my father had probably won some slightly less prestigious awards.

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

You can reliably pick up a 7-10 split? Welcome to the future of humanity.

The article's author spent a year following scattered clues about who my father could be until one day, he called me with the news that my bio dad was a Florida doctor named "Jeremy Sampson" , and he wanted to talk to me.

The first time he called, we talked for over two hours, we were both so curious about each other's lives and astonished that we had actually come into contact. He truly was extremely intelligent. He said he was an author, spoke and read over seven languages, worked for NASA before becoming a doctor, and scored in the top 1 percent on his MCAT. He had a great sense of humor and a relaxed, laid-back personality ... the exact opposite of the man who'd raised me.

He seemed to love the idea of being a father to me. It was, you could say, too good to be true.

Just once we'd like to type that without needing to cue ominous thunder.

He mentioned that he had donated to the Nobel Bank many times and also had several children conceived normally from multiple mothers, including his current wife. In later years, he told me about another son, Kevin, who was murdered in a case being investigated by the FBI.

Then David arranged for me to travel to Florida to meet Jeremy in person. When he drove me there, I found the place was ... a grimy ranch duplex house surrounded by a chain link fence with a ruined car in the yard. The windows were boarded up, roaches ran over the floor, and the whole place was lit by a single dim bulb.

I'd brought my baby son along and Jeremy kept asking to give him a bath, but I was scared to even let him crawl in this filthy place. Jeremy seemed very interested in getting paid for the movie rights to this story. As David recounts in his book, Jeremy was delighted to hear I was married and told me I was right to pick a foreign bride because she'd let me cheat. "You can tell her, 'Oh, it's normal for me to want two girls. I was raised by my mom and my sister, so I need to have two women in my life.'"


"Sorry sweetie, but who am I to question a Nobel Laureate?"

I felt sorry for him. It was obvious that he was struggling financially from (according to him) all of the child support he was paying out, and I was disappointed by whatever choices he had made in the past that led to him being in the situation he was in. I kept up intermittent contact after we first met, trying on some level to fill the void left behind by Kevin's death but not wanting to ever be too pushy at the same time. But then ...

That's When The Agents Started To Follow Me

Sometimes they'd be in a taxi, just a few cars behind me. Other times, it would be a limo. Most alarmingly, it would be a helicopter, hovering in the sky and staring down at me.

It was pretty clear that my connection to the Repository for Germinal Choice was somehow responsible for this. I read Robert Graham's book Future of Man, and it explained that people with high IQ have historically been persecuted by society and are, as a result, less likely to survive even though they paradoxically benefit that society. As a bearer of high-IQ genes myself, I was now a target for both government surveillance and perhaps more sinister action. It sounds unlikely written out like this, but I knew it was true because my birth really was part of a conspiracy of sorts that had been kept from me. So this new development was merely an extension of that.

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A bizarre, difficult to justify extension.

I didn't want to tell anyone else without obtaining some kind of proof. There was also the issue of who to trust. If some person or government agency has the resources required to hire multiple people to follow me around, who is to say that they didn't also employ my wife or friends to keep an even closer eye on me? What could their nefarious intentions be?

For a while, in secret, I wrote down license plate numbers everywhere I went while I was driving and constantly monitored how many times I had seen each one. I even tailed one or two of the more suspicious people to their homes and recorded their addresses. My wife was possibly planning to poison my food, so I stopped eating anything that didn't come prepackaged from a gas station.

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam
Tarlc Alani/flickr

Though maybe a diet of gas station sandwiches isn't the best way to avoid being poisoned.

Then one day, I received an email from Jeremy's sister, part of the extended family with whom I was now in touch. She told me that Jeremy was in jail. The charge: spousal rape.

"That's impossible!" I said. "He's a great guy! He's so accomplished, and he's really smart, and ..."

"Nick," she replied. "You need to know that ... not that it justifies it or anything but, you do know that he's mentally ill, right? It runs in the family."

I was furious. This was clearly a lie. In fact, it was probably a lie invented by the government specifically to convince me I'm crazy.

As you've now guessed, that was not the case.

It Turned Out The Repository's Screening Process Was Far From Perfect

Even now, I often don't believe I have schizophrenia. I get delusions -- everything I wrote out to you in the last section about being followed was a delusion; the rest of this article is true -- and they seem very convincing in the moment. But the knowledge that many of my half-siblings also show symptoms persuades me of the truth.

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

Some patterns don't require genius genes to pick up on.

I learned that my half-brother, Kevin from California, struggled with mental illness right up until he hanged himself. Jeremy told me Kevin was murdered in a conspiracy, but that's his delusion.

In fact, a lot of what Jeremy had told me were delusions or outright lies. He wasn't actually an author; he self-published a book about a dream he'd had. He was no longer allowed to practice medicine and was forced into early retirement after the most recent charge. He eventually confessed to me several other previous "cringe-worthy" encounters (as he called it) with the wrong side of the law, one involving an underage girl.

He was in no way qualified to donate to the Nobel sperm bank. He'd been a young medical student when he approached the bank claiming to be a noted professional. They accepted him because he told them he had an IQ of 160. Actually, he'd never had an IQ test; he just told them the number he thought they wanted to hear.

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

Maybe this justifies something a bit more stringent than the honor system.

He donated to the bank, and to multiple others, out of a compulsive desire to spread his genetic material. He had fathered many children through six ex-wives plus 30 through the Repository, and an untold number through other banks. At the Nobel bank, he'd tried to get a pretty receptionist to join him in the donation room and masturbate him -- a request that I feel like should have raised some red flags.

It turned out the bank accepted many similarly unqualified donors. Only three to five were actual Nobel winners, and the only one who was identified publicly was later embarrassed to learn his IQ was too low for the bank's supposed cutoff. Graham went from collecting Nobel laureates, to collecting scientists, to collecting randos offering no verified qualifications who really wanted to share their sperm for some reason. In the end, not one of the 215 babies fathered through the bank was a Nobel baby.


So maybe be wary of people offering hyper-intelligent super babies for less than a moped.

So, if you haven't already figured it out ...

Sperm Donation Needs Reform

If I had known I was donor-conceived, I would have had the legal right to non-identifying information about my donor collected during their screening process. Those records no longer exist, and it was only through a year of detective work by a dedicated journalist that I learned the truth. Meeting my father earlier could have helped me catch my mental illness earlier, and for other donor-conceived individuals, this may mean the difference between life or death.


Turns out all those "Family history" forms serve a function besides just filling time in a hospital waiting room.

I've since talked with other donor children. "Genetic bewilderment" is the best term I've heard to describe the confusion one feels when they know on some level that they are not related to the family members they live with, yet feel helpless as to what to do about that.

From what I've seen, about half end up with little to no interest in searching for more information. But the other half desperately wants to know more about where they come from for reasons usually related to needing an accurate family medical history or to fulfill a lost sense of identity.

That's why many are now pushing for reform in the way sperm donation works. Including this guy who had 400 donor babies and concludes the system needs more oversight ... that seems about as qualified as an opinion as you're going to get.

6 Realities Of Growing Up The Product Of A Eugenics Scam

Can't get closer to the issue than a guy with more kids than a rural school district.

I've put together a petition laying out a few realistic steps we can take to respect the rights of future donor children. If you have an opinion on this, it's up for citizen comment until March 27.

As for me, I now have two children of my own and married my high school sweetheart. Oh, and she's Czech -- so at least I know I didn't accidentally wind up with one of Jeremy's many other offspring.

Ryan Menezes is an editor and interviewer here at Cracked. Follow him on Twitter for bits cut from this article and other stuff no one should see.

For more insider perspectives, check out I'm In History Books And I'm Only 28: 5 Weird Realities and Abortion On Request: 5 Facts Of Life As A Surrogate Mom.

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