Woman Takes LSD in 1956: “I’ve Never Seen Such Infinite Beauty in All My Life,” “I Wish I Could Talk in Technicolor”

A decade before tens of thou­sands turned on, tuned in, and dropped out at the Human Be-In in Gold­en Gate Park, psy­chi­a­trist Sid­ney Cohen was inves­ti­gat­ing the effects of LSD on human con­scious­ness. If his vol­un­tary sub­jects at LA’s Vet­er­an’s Admin­is­tra­tion Hos­pi­tal found them­selves sud­den­ly able to “see the music” a la Lizard Queen Lisa Simp­son, they did so in a very respectable-seem­ing, mid-1950s set­ting.

Wit­ness this ses­sion with the polite young wife of a hos­pi­tal employ­ee, above. She’s a bit ner­vous, but not because of any media-fueled pre­con­cep­tions regard­ing the trip she’s about to take. It was 1956, and anoth­er of Dr. Cohen’s guinea pigs, pub­lish­er Hen­ry Luce, had yet to regale the pub­lic with some of acid’s more col­or­ful prop­er­ties via mul­ti­ple arti­cles in both Time and Life mag­a­zines.

As such, our uniden­ti­fied par­tic­i­pant is as pure as the glass of water she’s served at the one minute mark. Pur­er, actu­al­ly, giv­en that the drink has been dosed with 1/10th of a mil­ligram Lyser­gic acid diethy­lamide.

Three hours fur­ther along, she’s trip­ping her brains out, still seat­ed demure­ly in the same chair in which her intake inter­view was con­duct­ed. Had it been filmed 20 years lat­er, her rev­e­la­tions would seem trite, but the con­text ren­ders them endear­ing. If she’s bummed out about any­thing, it’s that the nice doc­tor ques­tion­ing her about her mind blow­ing jour­ney isn’t able to see the mol­e­cules too.

I’d love to know what became of her.

Cohen con­tin­ued observ­ing LSD, with sub­jects as cel­e­brat­ed as writer Aldous Hux­ley, philoso­pher Ger­ald Heard and Bill Wil­son, co-founder of Alco­holics Anony­mous. He pub­lished his find­ings in The Beyond With­in: the LSD Sto­ry. His ulti­mate take­away was that ”beat­nik micro­cul­ture”  destroyed LSD’s chances for achiev­ing its poten­tial as a psy­chother­a­py tool.

This may be why we nev­er hear him urg­ing his sub­ject to check out the drapes, which is sure­ly what sev­er­al young men of my acquain­tance would have resort­ed to, back in the day.

David Lynch-style aus­ter­i­ty of the set­ting aside, per­haps such coach­ing was unnec­es­sary. What­ev­er this woman’s brain had her see­ing, it made her want to “talk in tech­ni­col­or.”

May I sug­gest that we’re just as delu­sion­al if we assume that some­one who could be described as a 1950s “house­wife” must have inhab­it­ed  a world we can only per­ceive in black-and-white?

via Reason.com

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Artist Draws Nine Por­traits on LSD Dur­ing 1950s Research Exper­i­ment

Watch The Bicy­cle Trip: An Ani­ma­tion of The World’s First LSD Trip in 1943

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, home­school­er, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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