A few decades ago, I read a Life magazine article about a French town, Pont St. Esprit, that had allegedly and inadvertently eaten the Ergot fungus and had purportedly gotten into the towns bread supply.
|Art by Marvin Hayes|
LSD is made from, among other things, Ergot fungus that grows on Rye wheat. It can also be found naturally in things like Morning Glory seeds, and Baby Hawaiian Woodrose seeds. Ergot has been used in migraine headache medicine now for decades.
I could not find the Life Magazine article that I had read in the 1970s and I do not know what year the magazine was from though it looked rather new. However, I did find information on it in a wikipedia article and the new show on Science channel, "Dark Matter: Twisted but True", with actor John Noble as its host. He plays "Walter" the spaced out Brilliant Scientist on "Fringe" who had been involved in every dark project ever done, it would seem, before he was put into an asylum [don't get me wrong, I love that show and I'm sure Anna Torv has nothing to do with it, or her alternate character from the other, "Earth"].
I did however, find an article from Time Magazine from Monday, September 10, 1951. The article said that it started with a few calls about intestinal and fever issues. It grew quickly, within hours the town's homes were being turned into virtual mini hospitals.
At that point, says the article:
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,815355,00.html#ixzz1ZZFVj1tn
That article ends with:
"In the Middle Ages, growing uncontrolled in wet summers, ergot was no such helpful friend. The disease was called "St. Anthony's Fire," and raged periodically through Europe. Monastic chroniclers wrote of agonizing burning sensations, of feet and hands blackened like charcoal, of vomiting, convulsions and death. Whole villages were driven mad. That, in effect, was what had happened to Pont-Saint-Esprit in 1951."
According to the Wikipedia article on it:
"In his 2009 book, A Terrible Mistake, journalist Hank P. Albarelli Jr alleges that the CIA tested the use of LSD on the population of Pont-Saint-Esprit as part of its MKULTRA biological weapons program and that Frank Olson's involvement in and knowledge of the operation is linked to his suspicious death. Albarelli says he has found a top secret report issued in 1949 by the research director of the Edgewood Arsenal, where many US government LSD experiments were carried out, which states that the army should do everything possible to launch "field experiments" using the drug.
"Using Freedom of Information legislation, he also got hold of another CIA report from 1954. In it a representative from a Swiss chemical company, Sandoz Chemicals, which was close to Pont-Saint-Esprit and produced LSD is reported to have said, "The Pont-Saint-Esprit 'secret' is that it was not the bread at all... It was not grain ergot." According to Albarelli's thesis, the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident was intended as a precursor to a similar experiment scheduled to take place in the New York City subway system. Albarelli states that Sandoz Laboratories was covertly producing LSD for the CIA at the time and that Sandoz scientists falsely pointed the finger at ergot or mercury.
"Steven Kaplan has dismissed Albarelli's claims as conspiracy theory. Kaplan criticized the theory as inconsistent with both the event's timeline and the clinical manifestations of the poisoning, calling media coverage of Albarelli's book ethically dubious. Kaplan claimed that the CIA's interest in the incident was neither a surprise nor a secret, and that Project MKULTRA would have had little interest in conducting uncontrolled experiments.
"Kaplan's critics counter that uncontrolled experiments were the norm under the CIA's MKULTRA program.
"On 23 August 2010, UK's BBC Radio 4 broadcast an investigation by journalist Mike Thompson in which residents of the town, Albarelli, and multiple academics, were all interviewed. Thompson's piece covered the victims' experiences, their treatment at the time, the similarities and differences between ergot and LSD, the feasibility of overseas CIA trials, documentary evidence that 'field trials' had been recommended and that Pont Saint Esprit operative Frank Olson had been mentioned in Whitehouse documents with instructions to "bury" the information. After becoming aware of Albarelli's investigation, an 87 year old resident volunteered information that she and a local doctor believed that ergot could not have been the cause. Their view was based upon the doctor's fingertip-only contact with the contaminant, which allegedly resulted in three days' difficulty in speaking. Since LSD is destroyed at baking temperatures, Albarelli posited that the LSD may have been added to the bread after baking."
When examining the published account of the symptoms in the British Medical Journal from September 15, 1951, it does not sound like LSD at all, but rather Ergot poisoning. Ergot is a kind of fungus, like a mushroom.
LSD does not cause extremities to turn black, does not give you intestinal damage, or kill you. As far as I know, the only recorded incidence of direct death from LSD ingestion was an elephant. As was once typical, they would give an elephant LSD to initiate its procreative tendencies. The individuals performing the procedure miscalculated the amount to give the subject and rather than weigh out an appropriate ratio for the elephant's brain weight, calculated instead its body weight and once it was administered, the subject rolled over and died, its brain effectively "fried".
LSD doesn't directly kill you. But Ergot, can.
I can speak from experience that LSD does not give the kids of effects indicated in the medical journals that these people experienced in that poor affected township in France. However, in ingesting hallucinagenic fungus, you certainly can get a range of those symptoms as described in the medical journals at the time and if it is the wrong kind of fungus (i.e., not a good digestible type), you very well could see intestinal damage, hemorrhaging in pregnant women, or death.
If the CIA did indeed give LSD to this village, then they would have had to include the Ergot fungus, perhaps as a cover. It's been reported that LSD, through the baking process, would destroy it. Then I'm not sure how the Ergot has affected people all these centuries, with other than the physical ailments described. Unless it is by the flour being around the breads that were cooked. Reportedly, in some instances not much bread was ingested for the affects to be seen. At this point, that is rather hard to know.
But in looking at the gross affect, we can deduce that Ergot was definitely involved. Whether the CIA was involved, no one can say. Although, Albarelli has claimed to have found CIA documents indicating as much, as well as an alleged plot to affect subways in New York City.
The CIA's project MKULTRA has been documented as having done some very strange things. But I have my doubts as to whether this incident was one of them. If it was, the experiment was so flawed and defective in its execution that its results would have been far less than useful in any productive way and border only on the criminal and deranged.