Back in 1959, Ken Kesey, then a grad student in Stanford’s creative writing program, started participating in government-sponsored medical research that tested a range of hallucinogens — LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and the rest. As part of the research project, Kesey spoke into a taperecorder and recounted the ins-and-outs of his hallucinations. These tapes were eventually stored away, and Kesey went on to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a book that now sits on TIME’s list of the 100 Best English-Language Novels since 1923.
A half century later (and ten years after Kesey’s own death), the LSD tapes live again. This week, the filmmaker Alex Gibney will release Magic Trip, a new documentary that revisits Kesey’s fabled road trip across America with the Merry Pranksters and their psychedelic “Further” bus. (Tom Wolfe, you might recall, famously covered this trip with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, published in 1968.) Taken from the new film, the sequence above mixes the rediscovered tapes with some artful animation, and it captures the whole mood of Kesey’s first trip …
Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.