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The Secret Doctors of NASA: A Dentist’s Discovery

A Dentist's DiscoveryReading Time: 6 minutes 

“The Secret Doctors of NASA” is a series of memoirs, diaries, and reports from actual doctors employed by an undisclosed arm of NASA between 1970 and 2001. These writings contain true accounts of the unusual and often highly-classified medical conditions experienced by astronauts during and after their space missions. Following the defunding of the clandestine medical program after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, the majority of these accounts were left, forgotten, on tape drives in a NASA storage facility. In 2016, a former intern, whose job was to clean out one of these facilities, discovered them. Two years later, he is ready to release what he found.


A Dentist’s Discovery

Arnold F. A*******, DDS
August 4th, 1989

I met the astronaut after a half-year mission on the Russian space station. He’d gone through his preliminary post-landing physical but complained about pain in his jaw and gums. His health, aside from those complaints, was fair.

It was my job to find out what was wrong with him before moving him on to the next specialist. The urologist, I think. The order always changes.

The patient was in decent spirits when we met, although I could tell something was on his mind. We chatted for a little bit. It turned out he’d been working on the Feng-Lee Discovery. My heart sank.

When Feng and Lee discovered what they initially called “the Venus tic-tacs” in 1982, no one in-the-know was surprised. Just another alien organism to add to the list of hundreds. A team was formed to conduct research and determine its risks and benefits, and there were no expectations that anything would come of it.

Well, as is so often the case, those in-the-know knew nothing. Give those Venus tic-tacs an electric shock in the right place for the right amount of time and what do you get? Pluripotent stem cells. They had the potential to be a game changer in the field of regenerative medicine. I don’t think anyone expected to discover them when we did; all the data we had showed we were at least a decade away from inducing pluripotency. Hell, we assumed civilian doctors might figure them out first. This was Big. Capital B.

In dentistry, it meant we might be able to regrow missing teeth and reverse jaw deterioration. I followed the studies with great interest.

The animal tests were successful. New teeth, better jaws, nice smiles all around. Success. Good. Great.

The researchers moved onto human subjects. Failure. Nothing. Zilch.

No reason. No god damn reason whatsoever. No one could figure out why there was 100% success with animal subjects and 0% with people. The cells wouldn’t grow AT ALL.

Then, a doctor named Franco T******, who’d been on the team since the beginning, suggested they try using the tic-tac cells on people in space. He didn’t give a reason, and I don’t think he had one. It was probably something like “well f**k it, it doesn’t work here so let’s try it up there.”

So we did.

And it worked.

Sort of.

The effects were different for everyone. Sometimes cavities were repaired. Sometimes jaw bones grew again. Then again, sometimes teeth fell out. And jaws collapsed. That’s what happened to Jose G********. No one wanted to use Venus tic-tacs ever again.

That’s why, when this astronaut came to me with pain in his gums and jaw and told me he’d been working on the Feng-Lee Discovery, I was less than thrilled with what I’d find. There’d been a six-year moratorium on Venus tic-tac human experimentation since the Jose incident. It had only been lifted a year ago. Apparently someone on that team wanted to pick up right where they’d left off.

While I talked to the astronaut, he informed me that there’d been new research on the tic-tacs. I frowned and told him I wasn’t aware of anything new. He filled me in.

Apparently there’d been some civilian advances in stem-cell technology that ended up contributing to our own knowledge of the science. New experiments were drawn up, plausibility was determined, and one of the team leaders impressed the brass at NASA’s ethics division. That, combined with the limited number of Venus tic-tacs that’d been recovered and the uncertainty surrounding how much longer they’d live, ended the moratorium.

That was all well and good. At that point, I still hadn’t looked inside the astronaut’s mouth. Before we’d started chatting, I had my assistant do some x-rays of his jaw. They developed while we talked. Then they were ready.

I’m going to digress for a second. Have you ever seen what a child’s skull looks like before their adult teeth have come in? It’s unsettling. Look at this. That was all of us at one point. I’ve been a dentist for the last 36 years. I’ve dealt with a lot of crazy stuff, but just thinking about all those holes makes me uneasy. Some things just stick with you, I guess.

Why am I mentioning this? This astronaut – this grown man – had what looked like new teeth forming above his adult ones. I consulted with the x-rays we took before his mission. There was nothing unusual about them – just the filled cavities and mild bone-loss in his jaw that had made him a test candidate for the tic-tac cells.

Now, as I stared at the new x-ray, I saw the cavities were still there. The jaw was still decaying. But those dark smudges on the x-ray indicated new teeth deep in there. I’d never seen anything like it.

I remained professional. I asked him to lean back and open his mouth so I could begin the examination.

As soon as I took my first look, I knew something was dreadfully wrong. His gums were puffy and bled at the slightest touch. His teeth looked gray, as if they’d never been brushed. It didn’t make sense.

I swung the magnifying lens over and brightened the light. I think he heard me stifle my gasp when I looked through.

His teeth were covered in infinitesimal holes. They were much smaller than regular cavities. I looked closer. Each of the holes had a tiny, pink hair sticking out of its center. I touched the tip of my instrument to one of the hairs. It recoiled back into the tooth.

At this point, I was getting uneasy. I asked the astronaut if what I did hurt and he told me it did, but not badly.

I decided to numb the gums around his top front teeth. While I waited for the novacaine to take effect, I studied his molars. Those had bigger holes with thicker growths. When I reached for one of them with my instrument, rather than slip back into the tooth, the hair extended about a quarter of an inch and wrapped around the metal tip. The astronaut didn’t seem to feel it.

I gave the instrument a gentle tug. Nothing. I pulled harder – but still barely using any force. The molar came out. My patient gasped and I apologized profusely. I stopped what I was doing and put the instrument and the tooth out of his line of sight.

I decided to level with him. I told him there was some severe damage to his teeth and I didn’t know what it was. I said I needed to do more exploratory work and it would likely be very uncomfortable.

The astronaut did his best to take it in stride. He told me he knew something was very, very wrong from the moment he was brushing his teeth on the space station and the bristles would get caught inside the holes. The thought made me shudder.

I numbed his mouth the best I could and got to work. By the end of it, I’d accidentally caused nine of his teeth to fall out. All that remained in their place were those bizarre, pink hairs.

I sent him back to base with an appointment for the next day. It was to remove the rest of his teeth. I felt terrible for the guy.

I got a call in the middle of the night from the Head of Medicine at the NASA hospital. I had to come there right away.

The astronaut’s roommate had called emergency services an hour or so ago. He was in excruciating pain and bleeding from the mouth. I arrived at the hospital in ten minutes.

I expected to be able to go right into the room and see the patient, but I was stopped by security and the Head of Medicine. He instructed me to put on a clean-room suit. Right then, I knew something was deeply wrong.

I donned the suit and followed the Head into one of the two observation areas above a hermetically-sealed operating room. I looked at one of the television screens showing the astronaut’s mouth. My stomach churned.

All the man’s teeth had fallen out. In their place, growing out of his gaping, bloody gums, were swirling tangles of the pink hairs. I watched as a surgeon grasped one of the tangles in a pair of forceps and pulled. And pulled. One doctor held the astronaut’s head while the surgeon put his weight into the effort. With the sound of a heavy piece of brush being torn from the ground, the tangles gave way.

They writhed at the end of the forceps. The ones still in his mouth stretched out, as if they were trying to take it away and bring it back. The surgeon dropped the veiny clot into a bowl and the camera zoomed in on it.

At the top of of the tangle was something solid. Something that, I realized, looked very much like one of those new teeth deep inside the astronaut’s jawbone I’d seen on the x-ray that afternoon. Now, out and exposed to the light, I saw it wasn’t a tooth at all. It was a brand new Venus tic-tac — the first we’d ever discovered outside a Venusian meteorite.

So the issue of pluripotent stem cells and whether or not they’ll benefit human subjects is still a mystery. And, after hours of surgery, my patient is in a coma. As a human being, I write this with a heavy heart. As a scientist, though, I have some hope. Maybe even a little excitement. Thanks to that poor astronaut, now we know how to breed new Venus tic-tacs. Perhaps, someday, we’ll learn how to use them.

End of report.



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Rattle-Face Fever

Rattle-Face FeverReading Time: 8 minutesThe new epidemic is already beyond its patient zero. Whether or not I am infected, I am confident that Mr. Bridestar will soon have me murdered. He will do this in order to keep the disease’s name unknown. I won’t let him win, though. At least not completely.

Although this may be the most important writeup of my life, I admit that I may somehow still be wrong in my medical assessment. It is possible that I am simply losing my mind. For that reason, I will not violate my oaths as a physician, nor will I violate HIPAA. With that said, what follows are the facts of this case to the best of my knowledge.

I am a hospice physician, and a patient under my care is dying of something contagious for which there is no official name. My efforts to perform independent research are being suppressed, and I suspect that I will soon be silenced permanently. As I attend to the palliative needs of what is likely this new disease’s “index case,” I will do my best to report what I have learned during my patient’s final days.

I suspect that the virus must be a new mutation within the Rhabdoviridae family. The patient’s history suggests that this is an extreme-latency virus with a highly variable incubation period. It can likely infect a person without producing any symptoms at all (at first.) This asymptomatic period may last for an extended amount of time. The virus is probably also never fully eliminated by the immune system of an infected person, meaning that there can be relapses and transmission of the virus even if a patient seems to recover.

In the case of my terminally-ill patient, the most obvious symptoms have been largely reminiscent of textbook rabies. Statements from those listed as his family members report early behavioral changes in the man. Most notably, the reports describe facial spasms marked by characteristic back-and-forth oscillations of the eyes. This was followed by a hyperreactive and violently erratic episode during which patient zero was first hospitalized.

Most prominent in the early, prodromal stage of the disease were reports of uncontrolled eye movements. Both eyes were said to randomly “seek” rapidly across the patient’s field of vision in a back-and-forth pattern. In hospice, this motion of the eyes still occurs periodically. I have observed it myself. The patient largely suffers from prolonged absence seizures with random periods of writhing, screaming, silent crying, and semi-coherent vocalizations. These behaviors are interspersed unpredictably throughout his otherwise comatose presentation.

The coverup of this disease’s existence has been sanctioned by powerful forces. It is already active. Security cameras show that two men forced their way into my locked office last week. They somehow infiltrated the hospice facility in the middle of the night, and they carried off heaping armfuls of the medical records that I had stored there. Somehow, the facility’s alarm systems had been completely deactivated before those two men arrived. There was no security or police response until I discovered the break-in myself the next morning.

The following day, I received a phone call a call in which the caller threatened my life. It came from a self-described “government agent” who spoke with a voice like a mellified dog bark. He did not identify himself or the alleged nature of his affiliation with the United States. The honey-soaked rasp on the phone told me, “You’ll be lucky if you only lose your medical license after this is all through.” He then told me details about myself: my age and sex, my work history, and my home address. The voice said that I was very close to drawing “an unsafe kind attention” to myself. “The kind of attention,” he added just before hanging up, “that leaves you humiliated before you die in agony.”

To give a sense of the challenges in treating an advanced rhabdovirus infection, let me briefly explain the world’s only current “cure” for a rabies infection that’s been allowed to take hold in the human nervous system. The Milwaukee Protocol is believed to be only sparingly effective at best, and yet it is the best treatment that modern medicine currently has. It has saved the lives of less than a quarter of the rabies victims it has been attempted on.

The procedure involves subjecting the patient to a sustained, medically-induced coma by about by the use of broad spectrum anesthetics. Heavy antiviral doses are then administered while the patient’s nervous system is still in this “shut down” state. The patient is essentially brought into a near-death twilight, and their barely functional circulation system is then inundated with virus-hostile chemicals until the rabies virus has been eliminated within the nonresponsive body. Again, this severe treatment does not usually even work. Shutting a patient’s body down to near-death and then soaking them in antivirals has only shown promise to occasionally save a patient’s life.

Scientists think that the first HIV cases in humans occurred in the early 1900s. The first known cases in the United States were likely documented erroneously as other conditions as early as the 50s or 60s. The medical community only recognized that a new virus was there (and in need of a name) after the 1980’s had begun. This new rhabdovirus could already be anywhere, and it might already be everywhere. If I’ve started to notice it, then its evolution has probably been a long time in the works. I’ve begun taking cultures from patient zero’s body. Rabies is spread through saliva, and is usually only transmitted by a bite, but my preliminary research indicates that this new virus is still alive and shedding viably into the patient’s urine, sweat, saliva, and blood.

Cytopathic indicators are triggered in every sample that I’ve managed to take. Let me reiterate this point. Literally every type of bodily exudation from patient zero seems to carry infectious, virus-shedding material. I believe that it was my storage of these research samples from patient zero in the lab of the hospice facility that led to the military-style government intervention event that would occur later that same week.

The tremoring and full-body seizures of patient zero present in a way that is distinct from other types of involuntary movement. Often, the patient’s eyes will begin to oscillate back and forth rapidly, and this motion will then spread to his entire face and head. Patient zero will then usually begin swiveling his skull back-and-forth vigorously, as though violently rejecting something in front of him with a vehement “no” gesture of his head.

This back-and-forth of the face then spreads to the shoulders, at which point the involuntary spasms take over the rest of his body and very much resembles a standard tonic-clonic (or grand mal) seizure. It was upon seeing this presentation of the virus that I resolved to publish my research results. Backlash be damned. I was collecting my notes to submit them when the first military-style intervention inside the hospice facility occurred.

Soldiers came and ransacked my office, and upon returning home I saw that they had been there too. They took files, broke everything that wasn’t valuable to them, and were gone again without an explanation. At the hospice facility, I met their leader. The way he spoke was exactly the same as the mellified-dog-bark voice that threatened me with death over the phone. Dressed in a suit and holding a thin document folder in his hand, the man’s eyes locked onto me as soon as I found him standing there outside patient zero’s room.

“Dr. [REDACTED],” he said immediately. He used my full name to show that I was already known to him. “Allow my to introduce myself. I am Dr. Adam Bridestar, a specialist with the Center for Disease Control.”

“Let me see your credentials,” I said immediately. I felt confident that the man’s name and claimed association with the CDC were both surely false. I suspect that the man with the mellified voice never tells the truth, unless he’s making a threat. Bridestar waved me off with a smarmy grin as a soldier approached him.

“Sir!” began the soldier uneasily, “Are you sure it’s safe to go inside the patient’s room?” The man called Bridestar rolled his eyes and thumbed the folder in his hand open. He raised the document inside for the soldier to see, and with his other hand he pointed to a line of text.

“Right there. ‘Transmission from body fluids.’ You won’t get sick from breathing the air, you precious little thing. Now go on.” I reached forward to snatch the folder. If Bridestar was holding a report about this mystery illness, then I wanted to see it. Bridestar fought me with both hands, and after a moment of struggle, he tore the folder away with so much force that papercuts were left on my palms. He scowled silently in my direction, as though considering how to handle what I had just done. Before the man with the slime-slick voice wrestled the file away from me, however, I had managed to read the title on the document. In large, capital letters, it read:


“Go home,” Dr. Bridestar told me as he snapped the folder shut and handed it to the soldier next to him. “Immediately.” I did as I was told, because the soldiers all held rifles and were clearly under Bridestar’s command. I am sure that he is the same man who threatened my life over the phone earlier. I’ve confirmed on the internet that there is absolutely no person called “Dr. Adam Bridestar” working with the CDC.

Patient zero’s “family” told me he was born in California in 1974, but his social security number doesn’t match this story. I can’t get any of patient zero’s alleged relatives to return my calls anymore, either. I wonder what else from this man’s patient history was fabricated. Was it all done to obscure facts about how the man came to be infected by Rattle-Face Fever? He died around noon today, in any case. Severe and sudden hemorrhaging probably left him with less than half of his blood still inside the circulatory system at his time of death.

The patient’s convulsions and hematemesis in those last moments made that entire wing of the hospice ward a potential biohazard. The walls, floors, windows, and door of his room were left soaking in infectious fluid. The unidentified “government agents” came again to confiscate the body. They also forced our staff off the premises. This time, the armed soldiers arrived wearing heavy hazmat suits and helmet respirators. Bridestar was with them once again, similarly dressed in polyethylene coveralls. I could barely see his features behind the full-face ventilator mask, but I recognized his voice when he ordered me outside.

I had been in my office when patient zero began to flatline. The armed men arrived before I could even be alerted by a floor nurse that there had been a death in my unit. Bridestar’s agents barred my door from the hallway until they were ready to move me outside. I only saw the aftermath of patient zero’s final moments as I was ushered past his room. I had checked in on him quite recently, and had caught the patient in a rare moment of semi-lucidity. Patient zero had looked directly at me then, and his eyes began to oscillate rapidly as he focused on my face. The pupils scanned back-and-forth across my face with involuntary motions that were so fast and minute, yet sustained, that it looked like his eyes were vibrating in his skull. Patient zero spoke, but said only this:

“Keep your distance! Say your prayers!”

That was all he said, and then another full-body seizure took his awareness away from me. It was at this point that I retreated to my office. Bridestar’s men arrived to clear the facility of staff and patient zero’s body within a quarter hour of the dying man’s last words. Did they hide a surveillance device inside his room? How else could they have known so precisely when things would go from bad to worse?

My heart hasn’t stopped racing since I was told by those men in ventilator masks to “go home.” I’ve taken a sedative, but I still can’t sleep. I’m anxious that those same armed men are going to kill me, just like the man with the gross voice promised would happen. I keep imagining what Bridestar might have meant when he said that he’ll have me “humiliated” before I’m tortured to death. More than that, though, I am afraid because the sedative hasn’t helped at all to calm my hyperreactive responses to stimuli.

I’m feeling irritable, and sensitive to light. My eyes flit compulsively to identify the source of every noise. Is it just fear, or is it Rattle-Face Fever? Twice tonight, I’ve felt my eyes seek rapidly back-and-forth across the room, and I don’t think that I intended for them to move away from the computer screen. Left-right… Left-right-left. There it goes again. Am I just scaring myself, or am I sick?

I was so careful, but new epidemics rarely unfold just as the physician expects. For now, what else can I say?

Keep your distance, and say your prayers.


CREDIT: David Feuling

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