Tech by VICE

Taking Acid During a Lunar Eclipse: A Scientific Study

A paper published in 2011 describes a man who says his head popped off his body and onto the moon after taking acid during a lunar eclipse.

by Jason Koebler
Jan 1 2015, 11:00am

​Image: Shutterstock

​If you were looking for a good time to try acid, a lunar eclipse sounds about as good as any. It's also especially good if you're hoping for your head to be ripped off your body and put on the moon itself so you can experience the eclipse firsthand. That's what one guy experienced 32 years ago this week, anyway.

In the course of researching articles, I sometimes come across wacky scientific papers. Most of them I gloss over, but one I found today, "​A Case Study of Space-Time Distortion During a Total Lunar Eclipse Following Street Use of LSD," and well, it was worth exploring further for the title alone. Published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2011, it tells the story of a dude who took acid with his friends and then watched a total lunar eclipse on December 30, 1982 in Western Canada.

Kym Dawson, a therapist in Vancouver, wrote that, on that day, L.S., a then-22-year-old man, along with two friends took some acid and a "portable tape-deck playing rock music" to watch the 2 AM eclipse.

NASA diagram of the December 30, 1982 eclipse. Image: NASA

Please note that what follows is unverified (although ​there was a total lunar eclipse in North America on December 30, 1982), and that as far as I know, taking acid does not allow you to astrally project to other parts of the galaxy for short periods of time.

Dawson doesn't really outright suggest that's a likelihood, either, but, well, he doesn't totally rule it out. An email I sent Dawson was bounced back and I can find little to no information about him on the internet.

Anyways, away we go. Here's what L.S. told Dawson about the experience on two separate occasions—once soon after the event and once 17 years later:

As the eclipse became total, with the sun behind us as we viewed the moon in front of us, only a point of light remained on the moon. Completely without warning, the bright rays of light from this point seemed to attach to my head, lift it off my shoulders, and physically move it (virtually instantaneously) to the edge of the moon where I was given a clear view of the entire Milky Way extending outward from my head. It seemed to flow through my head at the level of my eyes.

I do not really know that this was the Milky Way I was seeing. I had an intense feeling of recognition that I assume was based on the many photographs and planetarium shows I had seen depicting the thin, ovoid shape of our home gal­axy.

Upon reflection, the experience of having my head taken from my shoulders was, to say the least, completely unexpected, extremely surprising, and quite frightening. At the time, I felt compelled to exert my will to "come back to Earth" to check that my body and those of my friends were still intact and not suddenly headless. Once back with my friends, I looked, and everything was fine. We grinned and commented to each other about the spectacular experience.

Then, the intensity of the last remaining point of light on the moon seemed to take over again and hurtle my eyes back to the moon. During this instant, I thought I saw a shooting star skim along the opposite edge of the galaxy coincident with my eyes moving in that direction. This was most startling and brought to mind the interesting notion that my physical ac­tions might determine motions of celestial objects or-as more popularly believed-vice-versa.

Trippy, right? But like, maybe not scientifically relevant considering all the weird stuff people have seen while on acid? Not so fast, nonbeliever. Dawson wrote that while it's "unlikely" L.S. actually traveled elsewhere in the Milky Way galaxy, we can't entirely rule it out.

The eclipse was visible on Canada's west coast. Image: NASA

"Two criteria would make the experience anomalous: experiencing 'moon travel' from a distant point without knowledge of the eclipse occurring, or obtaining information about the eclipse unknown to astronomy at the time," Dawson wrote. 

"While neither of these criteria are strictly met in the present case, the ingested did have the experience of remote viewing of the galaxy. It can be speculated, therefore, that L.S. may have discovered previously unknown information about the utility of LSD in making connections between astronomical phenomena and consciousness," he added.

To be totally fair, throughout much of the paper, Dawson generally explores why, physiologically, this may have happened to L.S. He speculates that it may have something to do with the LSD user's sensitivity to light. And it is just a case study.

For those of you wondering, The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs is a fairly well-regarded, peer-reviewed journal that has been around since 1967. It's on PubMed, and I actually found the study on an NIH-sponsored website. Yes, this particular experience is totally nuts, but we have no reason to doubt the acid user's perception of these events.

Dawson noted that maybe LSD does something to our minds that allows us to more easily understand and appreciate not only space, but the machinations of it. He suggested it's "not unreasonable to suppose that one of the properties of LSD is to sensitize the brain to temporally circumscribed and predictable astronomical phenomena such as an eclipse."

It is well known that people who are on acid do experience time and space slightly differently than normal—it's part of the reason why trips seem to last so damn long (that and the fact that they do indeed often last many hours). But as far as I can tell, and as Dawson notes, there's only one other academic suggestion that LSD can cause its taker to have remote viewings, which is detailed in John Lilly's The Center of the Cyclone, a book about LSD and consciousness.

Nevertheless, Dawson suggests that it's "more than an interesting case study."

"So far as I know, there is no other report in the literature delving into the sensitization of cosmic perceptions invoked by LSD ingestion during an actual astronomical event," he wrote. "Comparison with other cases would be useful."

Adventurous people out there, you have your orders. The next total lunar eclipse is September 28, 2015.