Chasing Rabbits: My First Experiments With Hallucinogens

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November 13, 2006

'And if you go chasing rabbits, and you're sure you're going to fall, tell 'em a hookah smoking character has given you the fall . . . call Alice . . . when she was just small . . . .' ~ From 'White Rabbit' by Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow, 1967)

My first trip down the rabbit hole: It was purple mescaline, as I recall. I was 13, maybe 14, and in a friend's cellar where his father ran a model train shop--Lionel and all that. As I let the small purple pill dissolve on my tongue to the point where I had to finally swallow it, my buddy told a group of us a story about a friend of his father's who also ran a train shop elsewhere in Massachusetts .

Seems the cops were rather interested in the fact that this fellow had mail-ordered an enormous amount of brass screen material--the kind dope smokers like to use for their pipes, bowls, and bongs. Unaware, for whatever reason, that the suspect ran a model train shop and hosted a model train club once a month, the fuzz planned a raid.

With the suspect's house now under constant surveillance, a bust was but a radio call away. And as the cops oh-so cannily predicted, a night soon arrived when several cars showed up at the suspect's residence. This was it. The word was passed and a surfeit of officers in unmarked vehicles swarmed to the scene. Guns drawn, and armed with a search warrant, the boys in blue crashed through the door, certain they were about to shut down a huge pot smuggling ring.

Stunned, a group of seven or eight model train buffs greeted the pigs, and were indeed in possession of a huge amount of brass screening--which they were in the process of fitting to the bottom of a train track so the electrical current would conduct more effectively over an unusually extensive length.

Around the time I stopped laughing, things started to get just a little different. Spatial perception; that was the first of my sensory faculties to become altered in this Brave New World of somatic exploration. I looked down at my legs as I stood watching an electric choo-choo wend its way through a series of ersatz scale-model mountains, and they looked about a foot long. At the same time, the gray cement floor looked as if it was some impossible distance away. Miles, maybe. Or light years.

I don't remember what music was playing upstairs on the stereo as we talked, smoked cigarettes, and cracked up laughing by the cash register, but at some point I do remember we played Zinc with Eddie Jobson. Everything seemed to have a slight greenish hue. Everything was outrageously comical.

That was one hit, mind you. Fun, a little freaky, and giddy as hell. But my friends had told me about dropping 5 or 6 out at a place down the road known as Stickney's Boulder a couple of weeks earlier where they'd actually watched trees melt, blasted off into outer space riding on top of the boulder itself, and turned into werewolves.

This of course, I had to explore.

Over the next couple of years I took more purple mesc, DMT, orange sunshine, musical note, green dove, black Chinese, apple pie (taken at a Grateful Dead concert in Maine, and no, Mom nor Old Glory were anywhere in the vicinity), blue microdot, and whatever other types or forms of pills or paper blotters Tim Leary's ambrosia happened to come my way in than I could ever possibly recall--along, of course, with bags and bags of grass. But I have to say that of all the sensations and emotions I experienced while under the influence of those chemicals (tasting sounds, hearing colors, closing your eyes only to see fantastic, geometrically impossible sculptures), never was there a loss of control or any entirely unpleasant episode. A bummer, in other words. At worst, the feelings and images flickering through me like shadows on some holographic plane lended suggestion to the idea of a darker realm. Some Halloween world where the derangement was fathomless and inescapable. A place where there was horror.

I never found that place, to my good fortune--not entirely. One of the first things dropping acid taught me (your boy won't be a boy no more . . . young, but not a child) was that LSD and mesc were no things to be fucking around with at all if your psyche wasn't bolted together at least halfway solid. I guess I must've fit into that category somewhat; I'm still here to tell the tale.

However, I did have one episode that teetered on the brink. Oh, yes. And it's funny--almost surreal in itself--to think that most of the real nasty stuff occurred in the living room of a kid whose last name was Rabbit.

I think I was 15 by this time, and hardcore into the bands I grew up with in the 70's and still listen to today. I had a videocassette of the Led Zep movie The Song Remains the Same, and a buddy of mine had scored several hits of LSD-100. The plan was to drop in the afternoon, then meet Mr. Rabbit (I refrain from mentioning his real name in order to protect the innocent) at his house before Mom and Dad Rabbit got home. Mr. Rabbit had a VCR , and wanted to see the Led Zep flick, but minus the mind alterations. Fair enough.

My buddy passed out the blotters to myself and one other dude along for the ride who shall remain nameless, and we dropped right in his station wagon. The tabs were roughly double the size of postage stamps, plain white rough-milled paper with 'LSD-100' actually stamped into the paper itself. Just before laying that flavorless rectangle on my tongue, I had a premonition that this was going to be something heavy; that some previously unimagined barrier was about to be crossed. These were deeper waters, maybe. Or darker ones.

I think we stopped and talked to a group of girls downtown before we ditched the car and set out on foot. I still felt normal, and I'd been down this road so many times before that I knew what to expect--or thought I did, anyway.

We made it to Mr. Rabbit's. He came to the door and gave us a sweaty, nervous once over. We were all grinning like goblins, just starting to feel the first adrenalin rushes of the acid. I don't think Mr. Rabbit wanted us there at all--he was far more paranoid of his parents coming home than we were, and we were the ones tripping--but I think he didn't want us spreading his unhipness through the grapevine too much. At 15, for better or worse, that's still a danger.

Clambering into the Rabbit living room, we turned on the tube and VCR , and popped in Zeppelin. I was starting to feel lightheaded now, faint. Then, as was also usual with the climb to the acid peak, I began to tremble. But this time it was hard. Real fucking hard.

It wasn't until dropping blotter acid for the first time that I understood what Donovan meant by 'E-lec-trical banana' or what the Dead and Ken Kesey meant by their 'Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.' The climb to the peak of Mt. LSD is truly like a high-voltage electrical charge straight through the carbon-arc of the brain. The less potent the acid, the lower the voltage. All the previous times I'd dropped, the worst of it had felt like sticking your finger in a lamp socket. LSD-100 was like being struck by lightning, plain and simple.

I got down on the carpeted floor to see if I could ease the tremors. Somehow, I managed to get a cigarette lit. I took one drag, and already wanted another cigarette. Mr. Rabbit tossed me a pillow. On the TV, the movie was getting started. In my head, the same thing was happening.

I turned to look at the television. The entire floor I was laying on was rippling, like waves coming in towards a beach from a shallow lagoon, or the wake of a boat on a still lake. To add to the nautical theme, the Rabbits had a wooden sculpture of a peg-legged pipe smoking sea captain on a shelf above the TV who started leering, jeering, grinning, and scowling at me. Then, the pillow I was laying on became some fuzzy, furry animal with a heartbeat inside of it. I threw it across the room.

An acid trip--at least, any I've ever been on--is not like the climb in its entirety, or I'd imagine only utter lunatics from the dark side of the moon and suicides would go on them. Once one has achieved the peak, one is then rewarded with several hours of pleasant images and a relaxed mind--at least, in most cases. But to get there, you have got to hang on to that roller coaster when you've taken a large enough dose. There just is no other way.

Led Zeppelin were in full swing by now, and I tried focusing my attention on them. It seemed to help subside the tension, along with the fact that I chain smoked roughly 5,000 cigarettes. As the Zep went through their repertoire, things subsided--a tad. I was loosening up a bit, laughing. Things had been just a shade rough there, but it was going to be all right. I thought.

The concert was ending. Mr. Rabbit announced, fearfully, that Mom and Dad Rabbit were due home any minute now. I ejected the videocassette and asked if I could have a glass of water before myself and my two fellow trippers embarked into the patchy snows of mid-April to smoke grass, level off, and enjoy the rest of our visit to Wonderland. He led us upstairs to the Rabbit kitchen, poured me a glass from the sink, and handed it over.

I downed that water in almost a single swallow. The tripping and the physical trauma had left me parched. I asked Mr. Rabbit for another. He poured it, reminding me that we had to leave. Now. Yesterday.

Gotcha. I drank off my second glass of H20, handed the empty back to Mr. Rabbit, and was promptly sucked down onto the floor by an unbelievably powerful magnet. I slumped against the Rabbit kitchen counters, sitting Indian style, unable to get up. It was as if the earth's gravity suddenly transcended its usual uniform boundaries and had intensified specifically around me. I felt as though I weighed more than the world, yet was weightless as an astronaut at the same time. Mr. Rabbit was by now almost in tears, begging us to be on our way. My two buddies pulled me up off the floor with great effort (I utterly did not want to move)--and I was fine. Just like that. It was as if the last few moments had never been. Still most certainly looking through the doors of perception, we trudged out the front door, leaving Mr. Rabbit to his own devices, and headed for the woods.

Things got stranger still. We made our way through a small park, abandoned by all but the melting snow. A trail led into the trees, alongside a series of streams. After a bit, we stopped to roll some joints. I gazed up at the sky, and a cloud formation overhead looked like a whale's ribcage. A moment later, another one looked like an endless succession of Jimmy Pages playing guitar (psychosuggestion, anyone?), fanned out like a hand of playing cards.

We lit up and passed the first joint around. There was some small talk, laughter, and general fuckery. After three joints, which seemed, in conjunction with the cool air, to have a calming effect, we kept walking. At one point we stopped to sit on one of the banks where the tree cover had kept the streams frozen over. A father and daughter chanced by, cross-country skiing. A shade loudly, I pointed and said: 'Look! Don't they look just like little German wind-up dolls?' My buddies decided it was time to move on after that. I tended to agree, although I was laughing uncontrollably at the time.

Deeper into the woods, my impression was that we'd walked straight into a fairy tale: Tolkien's Middle Earth, or perhaps Oz. The trees looked too perfect to be real, too unnaturally symmetrical. One of my friends reported seeing a giant violin. For my part, I saw a giant owl, who winked at me. I also saw a gnome hiding behind a gnarled cedar. One thing I did not see was Rod Serling--though that would not have surprised me in the least.

I don't remember how I got home. But when I did, my own mom had a number of chores waiting for me which I did without the slightest complaining (though I tried my best to disguise my good cheer; it would've been a dead giveaway that all was not right in Denmark ). I seemed to have boundless energy, even though I had come down quite a bit by then. I felt almost immortal.

How I slept that night I don't know. At some point all the day's events must've caught up with me and I was sideswiped by the Sandman. But upon waking I was met with the same sensation I'd experienced on all my previous trips: You are totally, 100% straight, you are not at all high. Yet, you feel as if you are still tripping with utter, total clarity of mind.

For someone who has never tripped, that may be incomprehensible, but I must insist on its accuracy. There are many things regarding the psychedelic experience, kiddies, which cannot be explained in words. They must be experienced (Are you experienced?).

I'm not saying you should try acid or mesc or DMT or any hallucinogen if you've never done so. I'm also sure as hell no poster boy for the Nazi Drug Warriors who have never been within 10 miles of a fucking Excedrin tablet, yet feel somehow indefatigably qualified to talk about the subject in a negative light -- and throw people into prison for long years who don't happen to agree with their over-zealous bias. All I can do is relate my experiences to you, and present you with my unvarnished conclusions. Acid is what it is. Mesc is what it is. So are psylocibin mushrooms . . . but that's for another essay.

Bottom line (if there is one): If you go chasing rabbits, remember what you read here. In other words, go ask Alex . . . when he's ten feet tall.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 153

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales.  He has also written and published poetry, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues.  He currently lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University.  Alex's Amazon page can be found here, and his work may also be found at both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.  His MeWe group can be found here.