This man lived with a hole in his head for 80 years after a racist experiment in 1927

Mildred Europa Taylor February 12, 2019
Hardiman Vertus. Pic credit: Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed

If you have watched the documentary; Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed, you would be left with the tragic and horrific secret that Vertus Hardiman was forced to hide under a wig for 80 years.

Hardiman, at the age of five, became the victim of a U.S. medical experiment that left him with a severe deformity.

But he kept mum about the pain without any bitterness towards the culprits before finally revealing the top-secret to a friend many years later.

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Vertus in a wig. Pic credit: Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed

Hardiman was born in Lyles Station, Indiana – one of the earliest black settlements in the United States in the 1920s. In 1928, Hardiman attended the local elementary school, Lyles Consolidated School, and this was the beginning of his woes after the experiment a year earlier.

In the mid-20th century, African-Americans were subjected to all kinds of heinous experiments. Right from slavery, black people were largely used as guinea pigs during these medical experiments, and the worst is, these experiments were done mostly without their knowledge or consent.

The true nature and purpose of these monstrous experiments were also hidden from the victims.

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Hardiman was left with a deformed skull. Pic credit: Afro-American Newspapers

Such was the case of Hardiman. At the age of 5, he was among 10 children whose parents were approached by county hospital officials for an experiment.

The officials told the parents that there was a new treatment for dermatophytosis, a fungal infection commonly known as “ringworm.”

“What the parents didn’t know was that the children were actually part of a human experiment on extreme radiation, probably chosen because they lived in such an isolated location, and probably because they were all Black,” reports

The experiment left the affected children with not only disfiguring scalp scars but head trauma. Reports said the children experienced headaches, dizziness and extreme burning of the scalp. They also lost their hair permanently.

One of the parents filed a lawsuit against the hospital, arguing that they had been misled. However, the verdict found the hospital not liable. Many of the children were compelled to wear hats and wigs to cover up the effect of the experiments.

Hardiman was the worst affected by the experiment. For the next 80 years, he experienced a slow dissolving of the bone matter of his skull. Thus, he had to use hats, wigs and toupees to cover up the deformed head and gaping hole at its top.

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Hardiman Vertus. Pic credit: Hole in the Head: A Life Revealed

He went through a series of pains at every moment of his life, as he spent an hour every day dressing the wound. Surprisingly, he never complained about his unfortunate situation and would be a devoted member at church.

He would also accrue significant wealth through his investment in real estate.

After singing next to each other in a church choir for more than 20 years, Hardiman finally revealed the horrific secret to his friend, Wilbert Smith.

Smith partnered with Brett Leonard, a renowned Hollywood director, to retell Hardiman’s story in the 2011 documentary. Before his death in 2007 at the age of 85, Hardiman worked for the County of Los Angeles General Hospital, where he served with distinction. He lived his last years in Altadena, California. Sources say that upon his death, he bequeathed eight million dollars to his church and favourite educational scholarship fund.

Watch excerpts of his documentary below:

Last Edited by:Victor Ativie Updated: March 27, 2020


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