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A Brief History of Acid Spikings

That Florida family who bought Walmart steaks with acid in them just found out they'll probably never find the culprit. Stories about involuntary LSD trips rarely end well, or even cleanly.
via Wikimedia Commons user Liftarn

In March, 2014, Ronnie Morales and his girlfriend Jessica Rosado bought some allegedly LSD-spiked steaks for themselves and their two kids at a Tampa Walmart. The ensuing family trip became national news, and involved the family going to the hospital, where the nine-months-pregnant Rosado gave birth. Eight months later, no one knows where the heck that acid came from; it emerged yesterday that Tampa police have turned up nothing in their investigation, even after checking the whole supply chain from slaughterhouse to retail floor.


The story of the Walmart steaks is a bit confusing—for one thing, the acid could have easily been destroyed when the steaks were cooked, since LSD hates heat. It seems more likely that the drug was in their water, or a side dish, not the meat.

In the decades-long history of mythical acid spikings, nothing ever quite adds up. Often, between eyedropper and mouth, there's a gap in time and space where motives can become shrouded and blame is misallocated.

The CIA's MKULTRA Mind-Control Scheme - 1953

By the time former CIA agent Sidney Gottleib died in 1999, the project known as MKULTRA had ceased being regarded as a conspiracy theory that was too farfetched and too downright psychopathic to be true. Instead it turned out to just be another sad chapter in the big book of fucked-up shit perpetrated by the American government. Essentially, the CIA figured that if acid could alter perception and cognition, it only stood to reason that that power could be harnessed for mind control and interrogation purposes. That resulted in horrible experiments during which lots and lots of people—including the johns of San Francisco prostitutes, mental patients, and an entire French town—were involuntarily dosed with acid and very few of them had a good time.

Perhaps the most famous individual case of a CIA spiking is the story of Frank Olson a military scientist. One night, a colleague handed Olson a glass of Cointreau, which he assumed was just a normal glass of orange liqueur—if such a thing exists—and he drank it. According to legend, in the ensuing trip, he jumped out a window, thinking he could fly, and fell to his death instead.


But other facts lead away from the idea that he was killed by drugs: Olson was troubled, was trying to quit his job, and had also been recently roped into a violent interrogation experiment in which he'd had his skull cracked with the butt of a gun. LSD was just one of many of the stressors that had been in his life that month, which is why his death leap didn't occur until nine days after his acid trip.

The Beatles' Dentist Giving Them LSD-Laced Coffee - 1965

Something happened involving the Beatles, a dentist, and coffee in 1965, but we'll never know exactly what. The accounts we have are from the two dead Beatles, and their stories contradict each other a little—long story short, a dentist named John Riley gave John Lennon, George Harrison, and their wives some LSD-laced coffee, maybe without really telling them what was in it first. The best part of Harrison's version is the part about dentist John Riley's alleged pervy intentions:

I'm sure he thought it was an aphrodisiac. I remember his girlfriend had enormous breasts and I think he thought there was going to be a big gang-bang and that he was going to get to shag everybody.

The rest of the story is just the usual stuff: thinking an elevator is on fire, Harrison's wife trying to break a window, and driving really slow in a Mini Cooper (don't drive on acid). It's better if you hear the story in goofy Beatles accents:

Ken Kesey's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Tests - 1968


One of the central figures involved in turning LSD from a scary weaponized chemical to a counterculture staple was Ken Kesey, as Tom Wolfe documented in his seminal 1968 book on the subject:

This new San Francisco-LA LSD thing, with wacked-out kids and delirious rock 'n' roll, made it seem like the dread LSD had caught on like an infection among the youth—which, in fact, it had. Very few realized that it had all emanated from one electric source: Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

And I know, Ken Kesey is a hero of yours, but here's the thing: If you read back through the book and refresh your memory about what Kesey and his Merry Pranksters were doing back then, it kinda sucked. They weren't telling people they were giving them acid, or even what it was, since people were still figuring out what LSD was back then. When people stopped by the Magic Bus, they were just handed Kool-Aid and told to drink up.

People who didn't pass the test would freak out, and if that happened, the Pranksters would put a microphone in front of them and broadcast the sound of their terror through loudspeakers. Some of the Pranksters started to doubt the ethics of what they were doing, probably because what they were doing sounds pretty dickish.

The Horror-in-Our-Schools Era - 1970s–1998

In the 1970s and 1980s, a ton of urban myths sprang up, not just about how LSD can kill you, but about deviants trying to slip it to your kids. Since LSD is expensive (about $10 to $15 a hit unless you're getting gouged at a music festival) that doesn't really make sense. In the 1970s, when flyers started going around warning parents about " blue star tattoos," supposed LSD-spiked lick-and-stick tattoos meant to sneakily get kids high for some reason, the notion was total bullshit. Besides, what pleasure is there to be had from making kids act weird? Kids act weird anyway.


But in the 1990s, LSD went through a resurgence in popularity, and there really were some cases of LSD spikings in schools. Most of the victims were teachers, though, not students. In 1996, a high school English instructor named Linda Woodard in—where else—Florida had her soda spiked with LSD, but someone tipped her off after she'd only had one sip. She reported feeling nauseous and disoriented but didn't hallucinate, and the kids got charged with felonies.

Another case, in 1997, happened in San Diego, where a 13-year-old spiked a teacher's iced tea in order to get revenge for a bad grade, according to theLos Angeles Times story about it.

In 1998, CNN reported a bunch of elementary school kids having to be hospitalized after getting their hands on a spiked bottle of Ice Drops. During the acid renaissance of the 1990s, this was actually a popular way for dealers to prepare acid for consumption, so it was probably a mix-up, not a dastardly spiking.

Skream and Ben Fogle Getting Dosed - 2013

For some people, starting to hallucinate for no apparent reason is no big deal—they just figure they got dosed with acid and go about their business. That seems to be what happened when British dubstep guy Oliver "Skream" Jones got slipped some acid right before going on a plane. He doesn't seem to have been traumatized at all:

But that is decidedly not what happened to Ben Fogle, a British TV personality. Someone slipped him acid while he was having a normal night out in 2013. After he came home and tucked in one of his kids, he started feeling weird. When he picked up his other kid and she felt "incredibly light, like a grain of rice," he freaked out, became convinced he was going to die, and had to be locked in a bedroom until an ambulance could take him to the hospital. Of the prankster who did it, he told the Mirror, "I will never, ever forgive them."

As long as there are eyedroppers, pranksters, and LSD, people will be getting dosed against their will. That's a raw deal—tripping can be a fun or even transcendental experience, but if you start seeing things without apparently having taken a drug you'll naturally think something terrible is happening. And anyway, it's a waste of acid.

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