Museum of Hoaxes
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Web Hoax Museum


#1: Elephants on Acid
imageWhat happens if you give an elephant LSD? On Friday August 3, 1962, a group of Oklahoma City researchers decided to find out.

Warren Thomas, Director of the City Zoo, fired a cartridge-syringe containing 297 milligrams of LSD into Tusko the Elephant's rump. With Thomas were two scientific colleagues from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Louis Jolyon West and Chester M. Pierce.

297 milligrams is a lot of LSD — about 3000 times the level of a typical human dose. In fact, it remains the largest dose of LSD ever given to a living creature. The researchers figured that, if they were going to give an elephant LSD, they better not give him too little.

Thomas, West, and Pierce later explained that the experiment was designed to find out if LSD would induce musth in an elephant — musth being a kind of temporary madness male elephants sometimes experience during which they become highly aggressive and secrete a sticky fluid from their temporal glands. But one suspects a small element of ghoulish curiosity might also have been involved.

Whatever the reason for the experiment, it almost immediately went awry. Tusko reacted to the shot as if a bee had stung him. He trumpeted around his pen for a few minutes, and then keeled over on his side. Horrified, the researchers tried to revive him, but about an hour later he was dead. The three scientists sheepishly concluded that, "It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD."

In the years that followed controversy lingered over whether it was the LSD that killed Tusko, or the drugs used to revive him. So twenty years later, Ronald Siegel of UCLA decided to settle the debate by giving two elephants a dose similar to what Tusko received. Reportedly he had to sign an agreement promising to replace the animals in the event of their deaths.

Instead of injecting the elephants with LSD, Siegel mixed the drug into their water, and when it was administered in this way, the elephants not only survived but didn't seem too upset at all. They acted sluggish, rocked back and forth, and made some strange vocalizations such as chirping and squeaking, but within a few hours they were back to normal. However, Siegel noted that the dosage Tusko received may have exceeded some threshold of toxicity, so he couldn't rule out that LSD was the cause of his death. The controversy continues.

Listed in chronological order. Newest comments at the end.
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At the risk of sounding like a PeTA nutjob... these assholes had no right to play with that elephants life.
Posted by Andrew  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  07:23 AM
I think its horrible that JUST to satisfy some curiosity, you would murder an elephant and put to risk more. and then the world tries to be aware of 'endangered animals'?! i wonder why!
Posted by Kanupriya Jhunjhunwala  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  08:40 AM
"these assholes had no right to play with that elephants life"
But people locked in mental hospital/prisons do deserve to be played with right? A jury of their peers deemed them insane right? No, just one person.
Posted by Mark  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  08:42 AM
What I want to know is where/how they got that much lsd & was it legal?
Posted by steve  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  09:12 AM
If there would have been any good reason to conduct this experiment, perhaps I would feel differently. As it stands, I find it sick and wrong that a team of "scientists" would act in such a way.
Posted by Emily  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  10:21 AM
This was in 1962. Acid wasn't illegal at this point, especially not for medical study. Do some research. 😊
Posted by Taylor  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  11:15 AM
Mark, it's not an "either/or" situation. This article is about elephants, so obviously the comments are going to be about the elephants.
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Thu Aug 30, 2007  at  04:54 PM
I'm totally trying this.
Posted by Brendan  on  Fri Aug 31, 2007  at  11:53 PM
This certainly explains that Nellie The Elephant song.
Posted by Steve  on  Wed Sep 05, 2007  at  07:03 AM
What results were they looking for? Why? Did they expect a different effect? This is not scientific, it is morbid curiosity. Its not like the elephant could even thell them it was high.
Posted by julia rose  on  Wed Sep 05, 2007  at  01:27 PM
Explains that Syd Barrett song "The Effervescing Elephant" too:

(Song starts about 0:30 in the video.)
Posted by MadMolecule  on  Tue Sep 11, 2007  at  12:54 AM
What a horrible thing to do to an innocent creature and have it die as a result.I hope that those responsible never rest in peace for they are the worst sort of vermin imaginable.For shame,especially when a drug like LSD has no real value or legit uses.Experiment with people only or do not experiment at all.I value all life on our planet equally and I'm not specious in the least little bit.
Posted by Bob  on  Sun Sep 16, 2007  at  10:07 AM
The number of animals abused and killed to satisfy the warped curiosity of researchers runs into the hundreds of millions.

Many researchers and vivisectors are in obvious need of psychiatric help.

They'll still be giving Ecstasy to monkeys and rats 500 years from now, as long as they can get the grants. And as long as we're not all exctint by then, of course.

LSD remains one of the most helpful substances for human health and well being ever discovered. The ****** made it illegal. TYPICAL.
Posted by Deano  on  Sun Sep 16, 2007  at  05:23 PM
The elephants were given LSD as an experiment to see if it incuded "AMOK", a state of psychotic rage.

If LSD induced amok, then the cause might be psychotic, and perhaps such animals could be treated with the newly invented anti psychotics such as thorazine, instead of the standard treatment which is killing the beast.
See Orwell:

The experiment seems silly, but it was not: it was part of research that could have led to treatments to prevent and treat amok and save the lives of men and elephants.
Posted by tioedong  on  Sun Sep 16, 2007  at  10:55 PM
In about 1968 or 69 I once injected LSD intravenously and that was enough to last me several lifetimes. I had tripped well over 100 times by then so it wasn't the acid, it was the instantaneous acceleration from zero-to-lightspeed that was scary. I barely got the needle out of my arm before I started tripping.
I never quite caught up with the trip and was greatly relieved when it finally ebbed about 6 hours later.

As for doing that do the poor elephant, yuck~!
Posted by Stannous Flouride  on  Mon Sep 17, 2007  at  10:25 PM
Elephant is highly sensitive. Well. Thats kind of an overkill. Maybe sensitive. I say that only because they injected the poor elephant with a massive dose. Of course I once read a case report where some people were given 80% pure LSD powder which was thought to have been cocaine, and they took in around 9 grams of it, only experiencing severe hallucinations, none of them died
the report is on Erowid if anyones interested.
Posted by Dezamasezon  on  Tue Sep 18, 2007  at  01:58 PM
I remember reading about this a while back; from what I remember they dosed the elephants with a tranquiliser after injecting them with LSD, and it was the tranquiliser that killed one of them (after falling over its heart couldn't cope with the strain). Or something along those lines.
Posted by Ashley Pomeroy  on  Thu Sep 20, 2007  at  02:35 AM
HAHA BRENDON.. yo this shit is ill. i actually have this much acid in my room right now.. here i go!!
Posted by brad  on  Thu Sep 20, 2007  at  11:12 PM
I wonder if this experiment was also watched by the people responsible for the MKULTRA LSD and mind control experiments that were being done at the time. Seems like it might have been a genuine experiment to figure out how to control a rampaging elephant (first, make the elephant rampage...maybe LSD will do it! Shades of "Let Mikey try it", but disgusting), but the MKULTRA people might have been interested too.
Posted by John S  on  Sat Sep 22, 2007  at  02:56 AM
I thinks its possible the elephant died of a heart attack. They are more sensitive animals than most people realize. If injecting LSD produces a instant trip, and this elephant recieved 3,000 hits worth...not to mention LSD affects the brain, and elephants brains are not all that big.
These reseachers shouldve started out with like 100 hits at the most, although it does seem to be a reckless morbid curiousity thing than anything else.
Posted by Randy  on  Sat Sep 22, 2007  at  07:40 PM
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