Museum of Hoaxes
"Very well-researched and delivered in an engaging, breezy, wink-wink tone similar to that of Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg's Why Do Men Have Nipples?, this will likely be enjoyed equally by science buffs and casual aficionados of the curious. One of the finest science/history bathroom books of all time."
-Kirkus Reviews

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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What was the point? Why LSD and why elephants? How could the sum of human knowledge have been usefully increased by any result?

Who paid for the experiment, and why?

There should be a committee that judges proposed experiments. If it falls within the category of "Things that will get on Websites like this one", the proposer should be beaten around the head and shoulders with a wet cod until he admits he's an idiot.
Posted by Gary M  in  St Albans, UK  on  Wed Sep 26, 2007  at  02:12 PM
Like. WOW. Far out, man!
Posted by eovti  in  Sandefjord, Norway  on  Fri Sep 28, 2007  at  01:57 PM
I have to say I think these experiments were sick, cruel, and unnecessary. I'm no animal rights nut, I understand that animal experimentation is sometimes necessary for furthering medicine and science, but "let's see what happens if we give an elephant acid" is not the case.

By the way, I don't think it's funny at all.
Posted by John  on  Fri Sep 28, 2007  at  05:25 PM
People People people...
Why do most people automatically jump to the negative?

I mean rally now, who can say for sure that the worst part of the experiment wasn't that the Elephants couldn't ask for some Pink Floyd and a dark room?
Posted by T. Leary  in  Beyond Nirvanna  on  Tue Oct 02, 2007  at  11:07 AM
lsd is a non-toxic substance. its virtually impossible to overdose on it... well to the point where your body shuts down. the brain is an altogether different kettle of fish, but its sounds to me like the elephant spazzed out and the guys there fucked somethin up after.
as for it being the biggest dosage of lsd ever administered.... i believe that accidental contact with spillages of lsd have led to numerous people ingesting 1000s of doses all at once through the skin, resulting in complete space-cadet trips lasting months, if not years. guys, we're on a 'humour' website. if you want to complain about the treatment of animals in experiments, you should be spending more time actually researching/ doing something about it. instead of getting all morally anal when you start reading about weird and whacky science stuff.
ask yourself how many times you've laughed at a racist joke this year, tongue in cheek or not, and then ask yourself how cruel people are.
Posted by tooley  in  blackpool  on  Tue Oct 02, 2007  at  01:19 PM
ooohhh hahahahha yeah you think thats pretty fucking funny dont you you sick fuck!!! ok how about we or i give you that much lsd and see how you like it!!!!!! you really need to get a life you do!!! grow up!!!
Posted by danielle  on  Sun Oct 07, 2007  at  02:13 PM
Tooley of Blackpool may be correct in stating that LSD is non-toxic and his certainty indicates that he is an authority.

As I understand it, Tooley is stating that LSD is non-toxic to humans, however, its reaction in elephants, would appear to be fatal. Perhaps Tooley can give us chapter and verse on the reaction of elephants to LSD?

Humans and animals often react differently to drugs depending upon the drug's pathways and the subjects' immune system or metabolism.

As far as racial jokes are concerned (a) this has nothing to do with the original topic and (b) I rather think the elephant would have preferred an elephant joke to a litre of LSD, I know I would...
Posted by Gary  in  UK  on  Tue Oct 09, 2007  at  04:59 AM
Why would they want to do that anyway?! What would happen if the elephant started freaking out?! Everyone would get trampled to death! These so called "scienists" need to start using their brains. rolleyes smirk
Posted by Sarah  in  Tulsa,OK  on  Tue Oct 09, 2007  at  10:58 AM
With one of the largest brains on the planet, and an extremely high level of intelligence, it seems an obvious choice to try out an enlightenment substance such as LSD on these amazing creatures. It would be interesting to see if their sympathetic psychic abilities were enhanced, as I have noticed that when several of us are tripping together, we often converse for hours silently. After 40 years of LSD consumption, I have found no negative effects, although I would certainly not recommend it for everyone. cool smile
Posted by BeachGoat  on  Wed Oct 10, 2007  at  01:33 PM
"sympathetic psychic abilities"
(What are these and why would they be important to an elephant out there on the great plains of Africa? Elephants already have a strong and successful social structure within the herd. "Psychic elephants"... hmmm... just doesn't sound right does it?)

"we often converse for hours silently" (Conversation implies audible speech doesn't it? I rather think that such an impression as 'silent conversation' is brought on by the mind-bending effects of LSD... it's not really a conversation you are having.... It truly is not.)

"I have found no negative effects"... (I think I may have detected some negative effects.)

"I would certainly not recommend it for everyone." (True, very true... in fact I cannot think of anyone to whom you should recommend it.)

On the whole, Sarah from Tulsa has it about right.
Posted by Gary  in  UK  on  Wed Oct 10, 2007  at  03:39 PM
I've just followed the link: the chap who conducted the experiment dropped acid himself and did the experiment because the CIA had an interest in controlling elephants in Africa - and there was I thinking that there was no sane reason for the experiment.
Posted by Gary  in  UK  on  Wed Oct 10, 2007  at  03:54 PM
"For shame,especially when a drug like LSD has no real value or legit uses"

Who says? There are a large number of people- people who have actually experienced LSD- who would strongly disagree with this statement, myself included.
Posted by Adam  on  Tue Oct 16, 2007  at  01:19 AM
Gary: Beachgoat is talking about his own subjective experience, not objective truth. He may misuse terms, but it seems rather childish to attack him for that, doesn't it? So what if he meant to say, "we often communicate via ESP rather than vocalization" instead of "we often talk for hours silently"? So what if his comment doesn't fit into your own, equally narrow and subjective view of reality? Honestly now, if you aren't laughing at the world, you aren't getting it smile
Posted by Adam  on  Tue Oct 16, 2007  at  01:30 AM
Beachgoat's view of the world and ability to express himself seems influenced by his long-term ingestion of LSD.

All objective evidence points to taking LSD and attempting to think is equivalent to dropping an anvil on your foot and attempting to run - it's a whole new experience but not an ability enhancing one.

To suggest that the elephant, shortly to be dead, might have given its life "to see if their [elephants in general] sympathetic psychic abilities were enhanced" seems to me to be a little skewed. Not only was there anything to say that there was another elephant around to see if this were possible but Beachgoat moved the morality of the experiment into the realm of confused fantasy. In view of the result, you may agree, that this is trivialising suffering, attempted to legitimise a bad experiment and is not clear thinking.

With the addition of the link (just above Beachgoat's post) we now see

(i) why the experiment was done
(ii) something of the background of those who conducted it and
(iii) who was responsible for partial funding.

As I said originally, "How could the sum of human knowledge have been usefully increased by any result?"

I am not opposed to animal or any other experiments but, to justify them, they have to be proportionate, efficient and necessary.

The topic has produced emotion, some good black humour, and informed comment. I cannot say that Beachgoat's post helped at all other than to give an insight into why LSD is, in general, considered a bad thing.
Posted by Gary  in  UK  on  Tue Oct 16, 2007  at  06:15 AM
that's what happens to you when you have nothing to do for too long... Idiots!!!!
Posted by Victoria Ciarlo  on  Thu Oct 25, 2007  at  02:56 PM
I am ashamed to be a member of the human race when I read this shit. What is the point in giving an elephant LSD? I don't think elephants were put on this planet for people to administer LSD to. I wish that I could have forced the idiots to take 100 hits of acid against their wills----just out of curiosity of course. It baffles me to think someone with a college degree could be this senseless and cruel. Unfortunately sick people still do sick things to animals for no logical reason. My hope is that people become aware of where this goes on and stop the madness from going further.
Posted by jeff  in  ct  on  Tue Oct 30, 2007  at  06:48 PM
Dam why ppl are so fuckin stupid like this !!!!

Instead of testing poor animals why they dont test their shit on them...

Right we are human beiings so the animal are

Tabarnak que le monde fais dur!!!1
Posted by steve  on  Fri Nov 02, 2007  at  01:30 PM
How wicked. Were they not prosecuted? They KILLED this elephant with their stupid experiment. If they had not givenn hin LSD he would not have needed a revival drug, so they are responsible.
Posted by Buddy  in  England  on  Sat Nov 03, 2007  at  11:10 AM
I'm dubious about this presentation:

(a) any scientist (and zoo director) would start with small doses and work up, before giving some mega-dose.

(b) LSD selectively acts on a small part of the brain; you don't need to give a large creature much more than a small one. It's like saying that tall people need to be given longer books to read.

(c) My understanding from MKULTRA results was that LSD is not toxic (though I guess you could certainly drown in it if thrown into a vat grin

If true, this is a cruel experiment whose results could have been attained more humanely. (Why use a dart, instead of just adding a bit to some water while the elephant was drinking it?)
Posted by not-just-yeti  in  Blacksburg, VA  on  Wed Nov 14, 2007  at  08:52 AM
why inject elephants with LSD?leave the poor animals alone you want to make them a part of the narconon project?
Posted by narconon  in  Russia  on  Thu Nov 22, 2007  at  08:41 AM
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