During its first turn around
the recreational drug circuit in the early and mid-1960’s, LSD
generated a fantastic mythology of horror stories concerning
the dangers — real and imagined — of the drug. Nearly everyone
(or so it seemed) heard or repeated one of these rumors along
Remember the one about the group
of acidheads who crawled up a mountain at dawn and stayed long
enough to totally blind themselves after staring transfixed into
the sun for hours? What about the kid who pulled his own eyeballs
out of their sockets after a particularly excruciating round
of hallucinations? (A variation on this theme had the kid jamming
out the offending visions with the points of pencils.)
There were other stories, too.
One that made the rounds for years concerned a California Highway
Partolman who ran the old heroin taste test on a cache of sugar
cube LSD he discovered in the car of a pretty young girl he’d
pulled over for speeding. The cop let the girl off with a warning
after deciding that the sugar cubes didn’t taste like any drug
he’d ever heard of. He then got back onto his motorcycle and
tooled off into the sunset, or the nearest thing to it: When
the acid hit, legend has it that the state trooper somersaulted
his motorcycle over a cliff and was killed instantly.
Justice was swift and merciless
in the horror stories that accompanied LSD’s emergence on the
street. The only problem was that, as often as not, the stories
had the ring of heavy fictionalization — when they weren’t complete
This is not to suggest that LSD
hasn’t caused its share of problems over the years; it has —
more than its share, in fact. And for more than one user, the
toughest, scariest. nerve-crackingest confrontation they’re likely
to ever experience in their lives happened when they confronted
themselves in the middle of a full-blown LSD Panic.
But for years the hysteria over
acid was everywhere, until it became virtually impossible for
millions of users to distinguish between the real risks involved
in taking the drug and the fantasies embroidered around it by
rumor and myth. And this confusion surely tipped the existential
balance in more than one user in favor of the Panic.
A similar type of hysteria has
begun to attach itself to the current resurgence of LSD use.
Probably the most popular of the new wave of LSD rumors has it
that cute lick-‘n-stick stamps or color-transfer tattoos are
being manufactured and distributed to children — free of charge,
reputedly — by dope dealers with the goal of seducing a whole
new generation of potential LSD consumers.
And while, according to the best
available evidence, cartoon acid is plain-old paper blotter LSD
with no frills — and no stamp, no sticker, and no tattoo, either
(and, like everything else you ever heard of, it’s never free
of charge) — newspapers around the country have played up the
story, using it as one more example of the treachery to which
black-hearted dope traffickers will resort to command the allegiance
of new hearts and minds.
An article in the New York Post
attributed the LSD to “a California cult composed mostly
of former followers of Dr. Timothy Leary who believe in LSD use.”
The Post article dubbed the half-inch squares of blotter embossed
with the figure of Mickey Mouse in sorcerers garb from the film
“Fantasia” as “stamps,” and it’s been off
to the races ever since in the old media LSD rumor mill.
Quickly, the acid “stamps”
turned into “stick-on LSD transfers,” then “lick-‘n-stick
transfers,” in news stories around the country — in spite
of the fact that no one could explain what reason drug dealers
would have for putting sticky adhesive on the backs of the blotter
“stamps,” especially since no one could think of any
reason whatever for sticking doses of LSD to surfaces other than
the roofs of mouths or the tips of tonsils.
Then the “lick-‘n-stick
transfers” made another transformation as newswriters across
the country scoured their Thesauruses searching for new ways
to describe something they’d evidently never seen. The “transfers”
became “decals” in some accounts, then “tattoos.”
From a casual look at the daily press, there was no apparent
end to the lengths to which LSD merchants would go to merchandise
their products to our nation’s kiddies.
And make no mistake about it,
dope dealers will go out of their way to lure a potential convert
into the fold, but according to most legitimate authorities,
there’s no way they’re doing half the devilish things suggested
in the daily press — at least not the things that end up costing
them money. And giving drugs away ends up costing them money.
“I’ve never known of anyone
trying to pass it off to kids,” Lexington, Kentucky police
Detective Fran Root recently explained to Louisville Times staff
writer Bob Deitel, who explored the origins of the rumor. For
one thing, it costs money.”
A cop in Cleveland echoed Root’s
assessment: “Very few drug dealers give anything away.”
Harrumph. Okay, so where does
that leave our Rumor?
Alive and kicking. A rumor that
seems to have originated in Colorado began to circulate concerning
a man in a clown suit who supposedly appeared one day on a street
corner in a Denver suburb and began handing out “stamps”
(or “tattoos” — no one was really sure which) to passing
schoolchildren. “Supposedly, he was just giving it away,”
Denver Police Lt. Robert Moravek told Deitel.
This new variation had even more
of the flavor and consistency of Myth than the old Rumor and
quickly achieved wide dispersal throughout the Rocky Mountain
states, the Great Plains, and Midwest.
It even spread to Rawlins, Wyoming
(courtesy of a Colorado-produced flyer that was circulated in
schools and posted at the local police department, which warned
of the availability of the “stamps”). None turned up
in Rawlins, but Rawlins police told Deitel that they’d heard
that some had been found in Riverton, some 200 miles away.
As far as we know, nobody bothered
to check in Riverton, but we’ll lay odds that if they had, they
would’ve heard something from someone who heard something about
a man in a clown suit handing out LSD samples to passing schoolchildren.
That’s the way Rumors work.