Going solo

Comic Bloom locked in a bunker

Comic Adam Bloom has been left alone in a nuclear bunker and robbed of light, sound and company for 48 hours, as part of a controversial scientific experiment.

The stand-up was one of six volunteers who took part in the sensory deprivation research for the BBC Two science programme, Horizon.

After being deprived of all stimulation, the changes in the guinea pigs’ mental agility were investigated and interpreted by psychologists Tim Green and Ian Robbins – the man who debriefed British Guantanamo detainees after their release.

The scientists tested the subjects’ memory, concentration, and ability to process information before and immediately after their incarceration.

Bloom said: ‘I thought I'd be the last person who could survive it. I was a hyperactive child and, even now, I start to feel like I'm going mad if I'm not constantly being stimulated.

‘I've spent the last 14 years spending most of the free time that I'm alone for, either thinking of new material or inventing card tricks that, up until recently, I'd only show my friends. So when I was invited to take part in an experiment to test the reactions of people living in solitary confinement, I leapt at the opportunity.

‘I was put in a nuclear bunker for 48 hours, completely alone with no light whatsoever and only a bed, a desk and a chair for company. I was monitored constantly by the director and a psychologist and if at any time we decided we'd had enough, then we'd be allowed to go home.

‘I felt very alone almost immediately. I thought it would be novel at first, but it wasn't. I tried to see the funny side of it to help get through the early stages, but it wasn't easy. I was alone in the dark and, although I knew I was being monitored, I also knew that no one was going to respond to anything I said.

He said than in his isolation he hallucinated that he saw a huge pile of oysters, but added: ‘The strangest experience was sleeping and waking in pitch black with absolutely no idea of how long I'd been asleep for. You'd doze off and wake up not knowing if you've been gone for a few seconds or a few hours.

‘At one point it occurred to me that I was, to the week, exactly halfway through my life, if I were to live to the national average of 73. It then occurred to me that, if I died at 73 and my life flashed past me, there'd be a moment of blackness to represent halftime.’

He said that after the 48 hours, ‘my mind was all over the place’ and he struggled to concentrate on the psychological tests.

‘After I was let outside and saw the sun and the sky, for the first time in 48 hours, my senses were overwhelmed,’ he said. He added that it took him a couple of days to recover fully, finding his first stand-up gigs after the experiment a little shaky.

He said the experience was ‘too mentally gruelling’ to ever consider doing again, but added: ‘It was an amazing experience that was very much worth going through once. It taught me to appreciate my senses and all forms of interaction but, above all, to appreciate being able to go to the loo whenever I want to.’

  • Horizon: Total Isolation airs on BBC Two next Tuesday (January 22) at 9pm.

Published: 15 Jan 2008

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