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books elevate the mind??
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: books elevate the mind??
- From: charles alexander <chax@THERIVER.COM>
- Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 14:42:24 -0700
- In-Reply-To: <199807032015.NAA05942@pantano.theriver.com>
- Message-Id: <199807032141.OAA18586@SUL-Server-2.Stanford.edu>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: On the web at http://www.dreamscape.com/pdverhey" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
This, seen today on another list:
"Book Fungus Can Get You High"
By Ellen Warren / Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO -- Getting high on great literature is taking on a whole new
meaning. It turns out that, if you spend enough time around old books
and decaying manuscripts in dank archives, you can start to
We're not talking psychedelia, "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" stuff,
here. But maybe only a step or two away from that.
Experts on the various fungi that feed on the pages and on the covers
of books are increasingly convinced that you can get high - or at least
little wacky -- by sniffing old books. Fungus on books, they say, is a
likely source of hallucinogenic spores.
The story of The Strangeness in the Stacks first started making its way
through the usually staid antiquarian books community late last year
with the publication of a paper in the British medical journal, The
There, Dr. R.J. Hay wrote of the possibility that "fungal
in old books could lead to "enhancement of enlightenment."
"The source of inspiration for many great literary figures may have
nothing more than a quick sniff of the bouquet of mouldy books," wrote
Hay, one of England's leading mycologists (fungus experts) and dean of
dermatology at Guy's Hospital in London.
Well, said an American expert on such matters, it may not be that
"I agree with his premise - but not his dose. It would take more than a
brief sniff," aid Monona Rossol, an authority on the health effects of
materials used in the arts world.
For all the parents out there, these revelations would seem ideal for
persuading youngsters to spend some quality time in the archives.
But attention kids: You can't get high walking through the rare books
section of the library.
Rossol said it would take a fairly concentrated exposure over a
considerable period of time for someone to breathe in enough of the
spores of hallucinogenic fungus to seriously affect behavior. There are
no studies to tell how much or how long before strange behavior takes
Still, this much seems apparent - if you want to find mold, the only
place that may rival a refrigerator is a library.
Just last week the Las Cruces, N.M., Public Library was closed
indefinitely, prompted by health concerns after a fungus outbreak in
reference section. Library director Carol Brey said the fungus promptly
spread to old history books and onward to the literature section.
The town's Mold Eradication Team, she said, shuttered the library as a
precaution. "We didn't want to take any chances," she said. A mold
removal company will address the problem, which is believed to have
originated in the air conditioning system.
Psychedelic mushrooms, the classic hallucinogenic fungus, derive their
mind-altering properties from the psilocybin and psilocin they produce
One historic example of this phenomenon, scientists now believe, is the
madness that prevailed in the late 1600s in Salem, Mass., where ergot,
hallucinogenic fungus, infected the rye crops that went into rye bread.
Ergot contains lysergic acid, a key compound of the hallucinogenic drug
LSD. This tiny fungus and its wild effects on the rye-bread-eating
may have led to the Salem witch trials.
Rossol, a New York chemist and consultant to Chicago's Field Museum of
Natural History who publishes the newsletter Acts Facts, the journal of
Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety, said that there have not been
scientific studies on the hallucinogenic effects of old books.
But, relying on accounts from newsletter readers who report their own
strange symptoms - ranging from dizziness to violent nausea - she says
there is no doubt that moldy old volumes harbor hallucinogens.