Mainstream and Academic Writings
Selected & Presented For Your Edification by Patrick The Lama
May-13, 1957. Perhaps the most important, and certainly one of the most vital articles on hallucinogens ever to appear in a major magazine, this extensive feature of Gordon Wasson's discovery of a Mexican mushroom cult had repercussions for decades afterwards. The piece, written by Wasson himself, is terrific by itself, and made even more appealing by huge color photographs and drawings of psilocybe shrooms. The basic story has been retold many times, but it's a special feeling to read it in the 1957 context. A fact seldom mentioned is that Wasson had picked the mushrooms for his first trip himself, rather than receiving them from the curandera. It's also worth noting how little was known about the mushroom taxonomy and chemical contents at this point, and the contributions from French mycologist Roger Heim do not extend far beyond preliminary notes. Not long after, Dr Albert Hofmann would join Wasson and Heim in the research, which led to the identification and isolation of psilocybin as the active component in most of these mushroom species.
For this Life article Wasson changed the names of the Mexican region and curandera ("Mixeteco" = Oaxaca: "Eva Mendez" = Maria Sabina), although they would still receive many uninvited gringo visitors in the coming years.
An LP record documenting one of the Wasson couples' mushroom sessions in Mexico was released by Folkways in 1957, read more about it here.
March-26, 1966. Interesting and ambitious pre-hippie LSD exposé in a national magazine. Despite the scare headline, the tone is more puzzled and curious than condemning. Great 10-page feature with plenty of photos. This article and the interest it generated led to the famous "LSD" LP on Capitol, Life photographer Lawrence Schiller being involved in both projects.
September-9, 1966. Still no anti-acid propaganda in this cool and surprising multi-page coverage of LSD-inspired artists and their often bizarre work. Plenty of photos in both b/w and color, mostly from NYC.
July-22, 1964. 1-page briefing on Leary/Alpert's formation of Castalia at Millbrook, the scandal at Harvard and subsequent events, the gentlemen still posing as square scientists at this stage. No front cover scan available, but image above is clickable for the full low-down.
May-6, 1966. Despite the superb cover, a somewhat disappointing look at the new "mind drugs", dry and distanced in tone. Still, useful as a snapshot of where LSD was standing at this point. 5pp.
Nov-2, 1963. An early and pretty interesting 6-page article on the "mind-distorting drugs" with a strong focus on the Leary/Alpert camp, who had just been thrown out of Mexico. Plenty of details from the IfIf scene in Zihuatenjo which I believe were unique to this piece, plus some fun photos.
September 1966. A long Timothy Leary interview (12 pp) made just as he was taking the last steps from serious research into global acid PR; he already had most of his spiel down and the end-result is predictable and unexciting. This being Playboy, Leary pushed the sexual aspects of the trip and makes a bunch of statements in that area that could be characterized as "bullshit". Very few photos. No need to pick this mag up, unless it is to look at the unusually gorgeous centrefold.
December 1967. Wellknown geek mag decides to look into the LSD phenomena at a late stage in the game. A "non-cop, non-hippie" report features freelance (?) writer Robert Gannon actually dropping acid, using Sandoz' research-strength product in a "controlled environment"... meaning a mental hospital, with a nut-doctor by his side. Set & setting less than optional in other words, but obviously necessary as not to constitute a felony. The dosage of 170 micrograms is reported as equalling much more in a "street" substance, and it certainly is a wild ride being described. As far as acid trip reports go, not bad at all, with some fun and touching aspects. Well worth reading. Some background data is given. No pics. Article is 8 pp.
1954-Sep-21. One of the earliest LSD features I've found in a national magazine, this is pre-Huxley and pre- pretty much everything else, dealing exclusively with the psychotomimetic aspects of the drug, suggesting that this may help us understand schizophrenics. This line of research continued throughout the 1950s but was ultimately abandoned when it was shown that the similarities between lysergics and schizophrenia were superficial and non-conclusive. 4pp article.
1966-June-28. This is a rather terrific theme issue about "California" which captures the forward-looking 60s westcoast in an appealing way. Music and drugs are covered only in passing, unfortunately, with a spread abouot the Sunset Strip and a hostile paragraph about the Acid Tests.
1966-July-26. A 1-page status report on LSD. The rest of the issue is of no psychedelic interest.
1967-Aug-8. Extensive, ambitious exposé of the new drug culture sweeping across the nation. Everything from weed to heroin is discussed in an alarmed tone, bringing in sociological and historical aspects. Behind the scene reports among potheads and trippers at Midwest colleges is a highpoint, with lots of fun quotes and some pretty amazing photos of turned on youngsters. The token Leary interview has a bunch of color pics from his staging of a Hesse-based play that I've never seen before. There's also a fun journalist (senior editor Jack Shepherd, 350 mcg) first trip journal not unlike the one in Popular Science, and a report from the newly-opened Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. Great period piece, 17 pp in total.
Early exposé in a national magazine; interesting commentary on psycho-therapeutical tryouts with LSD around America. Cary Grant's well-publicized support for LSD is mentioned, including a funny pic of the great man.
Founded around the time of the first UFO sighting (1947), FATE appears to have been a publication aimed at curious housewives and weekend mysticists interested in reasonably serious stories on flying saucers, Eastern religion, ESP and so forth. While little of the contents would stand for serious scrutiny, FATE did offer a chance for several early hallucinogen researchers to get published. There are also pages upon pages of hilarious advertisments from dimestore gurus around the USA offering to solve problems and predict the future at bargain rates. Small (pocket-book) size with some basic illustrations and drawings.
This has "The Finding Of The Sacred Mushroom" (8 pp), a pretty far out account of how shroom researcher Anrija Puharich received information on where to find fly agarics in Maine via a telepathic message from a Mexican curandero! The piece is a reprint from Puharich's 1959 book, "The Sacred Mushroom". In addition there is "Dr Hyden's psychic horror drug", tricyano-amino-propene (TAP), some sort of Cold War biochemical tool that I've never heard of before. Also "Clark Gable's mystic journey" for the right occult glamour.
Main piece of interest is Jane Dunlap's 7-page "Exploring The Soul With LSD", an update on her earlier book "Exploring Inner Space" with reports from another set of acid trips. Few people have had such terrific and frictionless times in psychedelic land as Dunlap (a pseudonym for nutrionist Adelle Davis), which makes for a pleasant although somewhat bland reading. Other features include "Parapsychology vs Communist Dogma".
An interesting issue as it has an article by John W Aiken, founder of the Church Of Awakening. The piece "Can Drugs Lead You To God?" is unfortunately only 5 pages (see clickable scans below) and an introduction more than anything else, covering a bit of background and the current state of affairs for LSD, mescaline and peyote. There is also a small biographical box for Aiken (born 1902). The Church Of Awakening is not mentioned anywhere and it appears that this was founded shortly after the piece was published.
This has "What Does The Drug Experience Hold For You", a haphazard yet worthwhile 8-page report on the current situation within psychedelia, written by assistant publisher Paul Foght. Unlike earlier Fate pieces the tone is mainly negative, in the wake of the Harvard/IfIf "scandal", which is described in some detail. Other acid incidents and news items of the time are reported in the article. This issue also offers "Another look at werewolves".
A piece titled "Psychedelics: The beginning, not the end" by David Techter, a Yale graduate geologist-paleontologist with a side interest in parapsychology. Techter has obviously had some good trips and writes a sensible, rather dull piece that sums up the history and current state of affairs in acidland. No unique info or material is presented, but his homework was serious enough to include Masters/Houston and John W Aiken. 9pp.
The front cover should give a pretty good idea about the nature of this quality magazine. Of interest in this issue is some coverage of Cary Grant's acid infatuaton (still unwavering at this late stage), and a fun photo spread showing the dangerous scum known as "hippies".
This Week (Minneapolis Tribune)
November 8, 1959
This Sunday section "magazine" ran an early 3-page piece on LSD which is pretty interesting. The psychiatric and Huxley angles are covered, mainly, with some neat images. Written by wellknown journalist Joe Hyams, this was probably syndicated to many papers around the US.
Deviating a few degrees from our normal course, this obscure academic journal comes from my home country, and featured some of Scandinavia's leading ethnologists and ethno-botanists. Henry Wassén's research in the field began in the 1930s, and due to his special interest in aboriginal cultures of South America and the Caribbean, he covered several interesting topics in his writings. He was prominent enough to be mentioned in Terence McKenna's standard work "Food Of The Gods". Those familiar with Richard Evans-Schultes' works will recognize the approach and lines of research in "Etnologiska Studier".
Issue #28, 1965
This issue is of substantial ethno-botanical interest, and surveys several known "narcotic" scenes around the Amazon, describing the drug use, the purpose and preparation, and related paraphernalia such as snuff trays (one of Wassén's specialties). There is a summary (see scans below) of the hallucinogenic plant mixtures discussed, which include epena, parica, ayahuasca, hakudufha, yopo, and several other derivatives of Virola, Piptadenia seeds, and Banisteriopsis Caapi. Even at this relatively late stage, there was lots of confusion and uncertainty on the exact contents and chemical properties of many of the plant preparations. Plenty of b & w illustrations, including some excellent photos of zonked out native dudes. Essays by Henry Wassén (in English) and George J Seitz (in German). 132 pp.
Chapter on "The Importance Of Narcotic Seances"
Issues #3, 4 & 6 (1936-1938)
And here we head back to pre-WWII days, before academic ethnobotany even existed as a separate discipline. This didn't stop bold young men from leaving the academies and venture deep into the Amazon jungle in pursuit of knowledge and maybe some excitement. Of these three early issues, #3 is the most interesting from a hallucinogenic plant perspective, as it contains the 28-page article "Some Observations On South-American Arrow Poisons And Narcotics" by C G Santesson and Henry Wassén. Written in response to an article by Finnish ethnologist Rafael Karsten in Etnologiska Studier #2 (not present here), about half the text deals with "narcotics". The tone is somewhat harsh, as Karsten had attacked Santesson & Wassén in his earlier article, and they now explain and dismiss his (apparently) vehement diatribe. In the process, a lot of interesting 1930s research data is presented.
The piece is too lengthy to present here, but the sample scans below should give a good idea about its contents. Datura, Banisteriopsis (here, 'Banisteria') Caapi, and various native names such as tonga, natema, wilka, and maikoa, occur in the text. Ayahuasca is mentioned as 'huascar' -- "...when properly drunk, they had visions of animals, particularly snakes, until the spirit was freed, and able to travel where it desired."
Issues #4 and #6 are not quite as interesting, but feature short articles about previously undocumented 'Mexikanische Rauschdroge" by C G Santesson (of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden). Known by the native name Piule, the drugs are discussed in fairly vague terms, and these pieces seem more like preliminary notes than any full analysis. The text is in both cases in German. Issue #6 also contains an extensive report by Henry Wassén from field research in Panama, which mentions tobacco usage, and has plenty of graphics (some in color). See contents table below.
Pageant was a digest-sized general interest magazine that competed with Coronet and Reader's Digest. By 1966 the magazine was clearly aiming for a somewhat progressive audience, which among other things led to some indepth coverage of psychedelic drugs. This issue has a respectworthy editorial on LSD by Gerald A Bartell, followed by a lengthy (8 pages) interview with Art Kleps of Boo-Hoo and Millbrook fame. Kleps was at the top of his game at this point, and the interview is one of the best introductions to the field you're going to find -- still today it impresses.
Editorial & Intro
Art Kleps interview, with sidebars on the Neo-American Church and Timothy Leary
A later issue of Pageant from the same year featured more LSD-related coverage, and will be added here.
The long-running Argosy magazine had its roots as an all-fiction, pulp publication for boys and young men. By 1959 it had changed format but retained some of its focus as a men's magazine with adventure stories. This early LSD article is rather interesting, not the least for the very bad trip the subject (himself a psychiatrist) experienced, which included elements of paranoia and outbursts (including spitting) at the medical staff. Read how Dr Paul Terrell "Went Experimentally Insane" and marvel! Approx 4p.
© Patrick The Lama 2004-2008