The creepy chemist behind CIA's search for a mind control drug

In the 1950s and 1960s, creepy chemist Sidney Gottlieb headed the CIA's efforts to find a mind control drug. Gottlieb and his delightful associates in the MK-Ultra project thought LSD, still legally manufactured, held the most promise. So they bought every drop of acid in the world and ran numerous horrible experiments on unwitting civilians to test its efficacy. Journalist Stephen Kinzer tells the tale in a new book out this week titled Poisoner In Chief. From an NPR interview with Kinzer:

Some of Gottlieb's experiments were covertly funded at universities and research centers, Kinzer says, while others were conducted in American prisons and in detention centers in Japan, Germany and the Philippines. Many of his unwitting subjects endured psychological torture ranging from electroshock to high doses of LSD, according to Kinzer's research.

"Gottlieb wanted to create a way to seize control of people's minds, and he realized it was a two-part process," Kinzer says. "First, you had to blast away the existing mind. Second, you had to find a way to insert a new mind into that resulting void. We didn't get too far on number two, but he did a lot of work on number one..."

Whitey Bulger was one of the prisoners who volunteered for what he was told was an experiment aimed at finding a cure for schizophrenia. As part of this experiment, he was given LSD every day for more than a year. He later realized that this had nothing to do with schizophrenia and he was a guinea pig in a government experiment aimed at seeing what people's long-term reactions to LSD was.

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John Waters' new book, "Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder"

Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder, John Waters' new book, sounds like a demented must-have:

It “serves it up raw: how to fail upward in Hollywood; how to develop musical taste from Nervous Norvus to Maria Callas; how to build a home so ugly and trendy that no one but you would dare live in it; more important, how to tell someone you love them without emotional risk; and yes, how to cheat death itself. Through it all, Waters swears by one undeniable truth: ‘Whatever you might have heard, there is absolutely no downside to being famous. None at all.'”

He devotes an entire chapter in the book to dropping acid at age 70, which he describes in a recent interview with the Washington Blade:

That’s something that I did that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think if there’s a sentimental chapter in the book about friendship, then maybe that is that. If I had known how strong the LSD was that I took, I probably would have been uptight. But I didn’t and it was great. I spent eight months getting the right acid from the purest source I could find, practically from Timothy Leary’s asshole... But the provenance of it was high and it was great. I don’t have to ever do it again. Just like I don’t have to ever hitchhike across the country again. Why would I? I did it...

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Magnificent photos from a psychedelic family's California trip

For more than 50 years, Roger Steffens has traveled the electric arteries of the counterculture embracing mind-expanding experiences, deep social connection, and unadulterated fun at every turn. And he’s captured it all on film. After serving in Vietnam during the final 26 months of the ‘60s, where he won a Bronze Star for founding a refugee campaign that raised over 100 tons of food and clothing, he spent a year lecturing against the war before settling in Marrakech. Finally returning Stateside in 1972, he immersed himself in the vibrant bohemias of Berkeley, Los Angeles, and beyond, touring his highly-acclaimed one-man show, “Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry.” A psychedelic polymath, Steffens worked as an actor, poet, editor, archivist, lecturer, author, NPR radio DJ and interviewer and, yes, photographer. Driven by his own insatiable curiosity and passion, he was on a perpetual quest for the eccentric, the outlandish, the transcendent. Just as often, it found him, smiling, a camera in one hand and a joint in the other.

Roger Steffens is an intrepid explorer of the fringe but he’s also a family man. He met his wife Mary under a lunar eclipse in a pygmy forest in Mendocino, California while on LSD. Soon after, they conjured up a daughter, Kate, and son, Devon. Family vacations took the foursome up and down the West Coast, from the gritty glam of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to reggae festivals in Humboldt, fiery protests in Berkeley to the ancient redwoods of Big Sur and the wilds of Death Valley. Read the rest

Psychedelics pioneer Ralph Metzner, RIP

Pioneering psychonaut Ralph Metzner who co-led the seminal psychedelic research at Harvard University in the early 1960s with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) and co-authored The Psychedelic Experience, has died at age 82. (Above image, Metzner at left with Leary.) Through his life, Metzner helped a great many people through his psychotherapist practice, spoke frequently on eco-consciousness, and also composed visionary ballads. (Erowid)

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Fancy apothecary-style jars to hold your peyote, hash, LSD, and shrooms

These porcelain druggist jars by Jonathan Adler are certainly conversation starters but do you really want to label your drug stash so obviously?

Expand your horizons with our Druggist Canisters. Dreamy third-eye mindscapes rendered in Delft-inspired blues and accented with real sparkly gold. High-fired porcelain elevates the experience. Stash your secrets in a single trippy vista, or cluster all four to create your own surreal apothecary.

Prices range from $228 to $298 per jar. Read the rest

The BBC talks microdosing magic mushrooms and LSD in this fascinating video

This video churned out by the BBC in 2017, offers a number of frank, intelligent conversations about the microdosing of LSD and magic mushrooms. Those interviewed seem sincere in how the practice has improved their everyday lives in a manner that's medicinal, not recreational. As a guy who's traditionally limited his drug use to booze and coffee, I was fascinated by what they had to say. Read the rest

Apple's HyperCard was inspired by an acid trip

Pioneering engineer Bill Atkinson was the lead designer/developer of the Apple Lisa graphical user interface, creator of MacPaint and QuickDraw, and part of the original team that developed the Apple Macintosh. In 1985, Atkinson dropped acid and came up with HyperCard, the groundbreaking multimedia authoring program that was really a precursor to the first Web browser. Atkinson recently told Leo Laporte the story of this incredible LSD-fueled eureka moment. From Mondo 2000:

It seemed to me the universe is in a process of coming alive. Consciousness is blossoming and propagating to colonize the universe, and life on Earth is one of many bright spots in the cosmic birth of consciousness....

The street lamps reminded me of bodies of knowledge, gems of discovery and understanding, but separated from each other by distance and different languages. Poets, artists, musicians, physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians, and economists all have separate pools of knowledge, but are hindered from sharing and finding the deeper connections...

Knowledge, it seemed to me, consists of the “How” connections between pieces of information, the cause and effect relationships. How does this action bring about that result. Science is a systematic attempt to discover the “How” connections. Wisdom, it seemed to me, was a step further removed, the bigger perspective of the “Why” connections between pieces of knowledge. Why, for reasons ethical and aesthetic, should we choose one future over another?

I thought if we could encourage sharing of ideas between different areas of knowledge, perhaps more of the bigger picture would emerge, and eventually more wisdom might develop.

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JOHN WILCOCK: The Diggers' Death of Money & Other Counterculture Moments of 1966

A variety of events from 1966, including Ken Kesey's Acid Test at The Filmore, Charles Whitman's attack at The University of Texas at Austin, and John Lennon's statement about the Beatles popularity over Jesus.

New Netflix series from Erroll Morris about LSD and the CIA

I am ready for a big dose of intrigue, weirdness, and true conspiracies from filmmaker Erroll Morris's new Netflix series Wormwood about the CIA's evil and bizarre 1950s experiments in LSD and mind control. Turn on, tune in, and get creeped out December 15.

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Nicholas Sand, creator of famous 'Orange Sunshine' LSD, has died at 75

Legendary chemists and psychonauts Nicholas Sand and Nick Scully created the legendary version of LSD known as “Orange Sunshine” that was so widely used in San Francisco in 1967. Sand died on April 24 at his home in the Northern California community of Lagunitas. He was 75. Read the rest

Today is the 74th anniversary of Albert Hofmann's first LSD trip

To celebrate Bicycle Day on April 19th, the date of Albert Hofmann’s — and the world’s first LSD trip in 1943, we are publishing this excerpt from the forthcoming interview with Michael Horowitz — the third installment of the Acid Bodhisattva series, coming soon to Timothy Leary Archives.

Images: from Lysergic World (April, 1993): Albert Hofmann in 1977 (above), and the route of his famous bicycle ride on LSD through Basel, Switzerland on April 19, 1943, from Sandoz Laboratories to his house.

Below, Leary's archivist Michael Horowitz reminisces about a car ride with Albert Hofmann and Timothy Leary in February 1972.

"Tim and I took the train to Basel where Albert picked us up in his car. He drove, Tim sat in the passenger seat and me in back, trying to manage a super 8mm movie camera with one hand and a tape recorder with the other. Albert told us that we were driving the route of his first LSD trip in 1943, when he bicycled home with his Sandoz lab assistant after testing 250 micrograms. Tim cracked up when I asked Albert if he still had the bicycle. I knew it was gauche of me, but I couldn't resist. A short time later Albert pulled over."

Here is an excerpt of the conversation between Albert and Tim, after they picked us up at the train station. On the way to Albert's estate we passed by his 1943 home.

Albert: That house is where we lived at the time. I never thought I would get home that day. Read the rest

Interview with a man who manufactured 3,000,000 Doses of LSD

UPDATE 3/5/2107 Peter Sjöstedt-H emailed me: "Thank you for promoting my interview with Tim Scully. Tim has emailed me to ask if the title of your article could be altered a little as it is now factually incorrect: Scully did not manufacture "750,000,000 Doses of LSD" but only *wanted to*. He actually only manufactured about 3,000,000 doses of 300 ug.

Peter Sjöstedt-H interviewed famous 1960s acid chemist Tim Scully for High Existence.

In 1977 Tim Scully was imprisoned for the manufacture of LSD, a high-standard variety thereof well known in the 1960s as Orange Sunshine. Following his release in 1980, Scully returned to a life concerned more with electronics than with acid-infused ideology. The story of his acid adventures with Nick Sand have been documented in the new film The Sunshine Makers – philosopher Peter Sjöstedt-H here asks Tim Scully eight questions stemming therefrom.

In the documentary you complained of “bad trips” after your run in with the law. Do you believe that the so-called “bad trip” can be beneficial?

There wasn’t room in a 90 minute film to explain this point fully. During the time from late 1966 through mid-1970 I was frequently followed by federal agents. I had to lose them before doing anything important. They knew that I knew that they were following me and I knew that they knew.

In mid-1968 my 2nd Denver lab was busted as shown in the film when I was out of town. I was arrested by federal agents in the spring of 1969 on a fugitive warrant from Denver.

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ATARAXYA is one of the best animations of a psychedelic club experience

Club drugs: when they're good, they're good, and when they're bad, they're better. Five directors collaborated on this trippy animation that stands among the best depictions of a club trip I have seen. Headphones, full screen, and dark room strongly recommended. Read the rest

JOHN WILCOCK: The History of East Coast Academic Acid

Traditionally, the end of year (New Year's, especially) is a time when many on the planet indulge in LSD. To commemorate this good-minded season, here's a compact history of East Coast academic acid, including John's experience dosing at Millbrook with Tim Leary, Charles Mingus, others. Happy Holidays.

Super-trippy interactive visualizer feels like getting high for free

If you don't live in a state that allows recreational marijuana yet, perhaps this fabulous Hopalong Orbits Visualizer by Iacopo Sassarini will tide you over till then. Read the rest

Trailcam photos of naked, tripping man who thought he was a tiger

UPDATE: As I had cautioned, The Mirror indeed had its "facts" muddled. According to this October article in Vice, the photos seen here are actually from the woods around the University of Virginia’s Mountain Lake Biological Station. No idea if the fellow was actually tripping or thought he was a Siberian tiger. Shame, as the below story is quite delightful.

Original uncorrected post:

This gentleman from Liberec, Czech Republic was reportedly tripping on LSD to combat depression when he began to hallucinate that he was a Siberian tiger. He then stripped naked and pursued imaginary prey for miles along the Czech-Poland border where he was spotted on trailcams. According to the Mirror, "police said that, because the man did not have any drugs with him, he was only fined and will not face any further charges."

If this story is true, I hope the fellow had fun and that the experience alleviated his depression.

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Psychedelic microdosing makes inroads in Silicon Valley

Once the domain of countercultural psychonauts, LSD and mushrooms in one-tenth doses are becoming more popular among you professionals, especially in the tech industry. Read the rest

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