In the treasure troves of Erowid I found a very old experience report for psilocybin mushrooms — a ‘trip report’ from long before that term was coined. It predates mycologist R. Gordon Wasson’s groundbreaking article, Seeking the Magic Mushroom — which exposed psilocybin mushrooms to a much wider audience in 1957 — by over forty years. It is as funny as it is historically interesting, so I am taking the liberty of re-posting it.
Erowid Note: The following report is from the September 18, 1914 issue of Science magazine, generously contributed to Erowid by archivist Michael Horowitz, as a silvered, heavily-aged copy from old microfiche. This stands out as one of the earliest known experience reports for psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Although the author identifies the mushrooms as Panaeolus papilionaceus, Paul Stamets suggests that Verrill’s identification may have been wrong and the mushrooms might have instead been Panaeolus subbalteatus. (Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World, 1996, page 79)]
A Recent Case of Mushroom Intoxication
Although it has been stated, in standard works on fungi, that a common and otherwise edible species (Panaeolus papilionaceus) sometimes has intoxicating properties, it seems desirable to record the recent experience of two persons who ate considerable numbers of this species unmixed with other kinds.
At this time Mrs. Y. saw nearly everything green, but the sky was blue; her white handkerchief appeared green to her; and the tips of her fingers seemed to be like the heads of snakes.
Mr. W., whose narrative is here given, is a middle-aged vigorous man, strictly temperate in his habits. He is a good botanist, and has made a special study of fungi. The account of his experience was dictated to me by him about a week after the event, while fresh in his memory.
The lady referred to as Mrs. Y., who also ate the mushrooms, is his niece by marriage. Her husband (Mr. Y.) was present, but ate no mushrooms. He could observe some things not noticed by the victims, both of whom experienced nearly the same effects. Mrs. Y. also gave the writer a personal account of some of her symptoms, essentially the same as those here narrated. This article in its present form has been read by Mr. W. and approved by him.
The parties are natives of Oxford County, Maine, where the event occurred. Their real names are withheld, by request. The effects experienced are in some respects similar to those caused by hashish; others are like those experienced by some opium smokers, especially the multiplication of objects and their bright colors. The appearance of vivid colors recalls the symptoms described by Dr. Weir Mitchell, when he took Mexican mescal pills, as an experiment. The loss of the power of estimating time and distance, as in some dreams, is interesting, as existing when other faculties were active.
Narrative of Mr. W.
On July 10, 1914, I gathered a good mess of the mushrooms (Panaeolus papilionaceus) and had them cooked for dinner. There may have been about a pound of them as gathered, but when fried in butter they made no great quantity, owing to their softness and delicate structure.
Soon both of us became very hilarious, with an irresistible impulse to laugh and joke immoderately, and almost hysterically at times.
Next, say about half an hour after eating, both of us had an irresistible impulse to run and jump, which we did freely. I did not stagger, but all my motions seemed to be mechanical or automatic, and my muscles did not properly nor fully obey my will. Soon both of us became very hilarious, with an irresistible impulse to laugh and joke immoderately, and almost hysterically at times. The laughing could be controlled only with great difficulty; at the same time we were indulging extravagantly in joking and what seemed to us funny or witty remarks. Mr. Y., who was with us, said that some of the jokes were successful; others not so, but I can not remember what they were about.
Mr. Y. says that at this time the pupils of our eyes were very much dilated, and that. Mrs. Y. at times rolled up her eyes and had some facial contortions, and slight frothing of saliva at the mouth. Later we returned to the house, about one quarter of a mile. At this time I had no distinct comprehension of time; a very short time seemed long drawn out, and a longer time seemed very short; the same as to distances walked; though not so when estimated by the eye. The hilarious condition continued, but no visual illusions occurred at this time.
After entering the house, I noticed that the irregular figures on the wall-paper seemed to have creepy and crawling motions, contracting and expanding continually, though not changing their forms; finally they began to project from the wall and grew out toward me from it with uncanny motions.
About this time I noticed a bouquet of large red roses, all of one kind, on the table and another on the secretary; then at once the room seemed to become filled with roses of various red colors and of all sizes, in great bunches, wreaths and chains, and with regular banks of them, all around me, but mixed with some green foliage, as in the real bouquets. This beautiful illusion lasted only a short time. About this time I had a decided rush of blood to my head, with marked congestion, which caused me to lie down. I then had a very disagreeable illusion. Innumerable human faces, of all sorts and sizes, but all hideous, seemed to fill the room and to extend off in multitudes to interminable distances, while many were close to me on all sides. They were all grimacing rapidly and horribly and undergoing contortions, all the time growing more and more hideous. Some were upside down.
The faces appeared in all sorts of bright and even intense colors–so intense that I could only liken them to flames of fire, in red, purple, green and yellow colors, like fireworks.
Innumerable human faces, of all sorts and sizes, but all hideous, seemed to fill the room and to extend off in multitudes to interminable distances… They were all grimacing rapidly and horribly and undergoing contortions, all the time growing more and more hideous.
At this time I began to become alarmed and sent for the doctor, but he did nothing, for the effects were wearing off when he came. Real objects at this time appeared in their true forms, but if colored they assumed far more intense or vivid colors than natural; dull red becoming brilliant red, etc. A little later, when standing up, I had the unpleasant sensation of having my body elongate upward to the ceiling, which receding, I grew far up, like Jack’s bean-stalk, but retained my natural thickness. Collapsed suddenly to my natural height.
At this time I noticed the parlor organ and tried to play on it, to see the effect, but could not concentrate my mind nor manage my fingers. About this time my mind became confused and my remembrance of what happened next is dim and chaotic. Probably there was a partial and brief loss of consciousness. Laid down to wait for the doctor. Looking at my hands, they seemed to become small, emaciated, shrunken and bony, like those of a mummy. Mrs. Y. says that at this time her hands and arms seemed to grow unnaturally large.
When I attempted to scratch a spot on my neck, it felt like scratching a rough cloth meal-bag full of meal, and it seemed as large as a barrel, and the scratching seemed quite impersonal. Later I imagined I was able, by a sort of clairvoyance, to tell the thoughts of those around me. Soon after this our conditions rapidly assumed the very hilarious phase, similar to that of the early stages, with much involuntary laughing and joking. This condition gradually diminished after three o’clock, until our mental conditions became perfectly normal, at about six o’clock P.M. The entire experience lasted about six hours. No ill effects followed. There was no headache, nor any disturbance of the digestion.
A. E. VERRILL
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