The Elementary Kool-Aid Acid Test

32 min
 (Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections/ KQED)

In the early 1960’s, a psychologist named Gary Fisher carried out a radical experiment on severely emotionally disturbed children at a residential hospital in Southern California. Fisher believed these children’s behavioral problems could be traced back to profound trauma they had suffered in their early childhoods, but had never adequately processed. He thought very large doses of LSD might cure them.

Whether Fisher’s experiment was reckless or whether it was heroic depends on how you think about science, and what risks we’re willing to take in pursuit of something groundbreaking.

Nancy, a patient at Fairview Developmental Center in the 1960s, before she began LSD treatment with Gary Fisher.
Nancy, a patient at Fairview Developmental Center in the 1960s, before she began LSD treatment with Gary Fisher. (Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections/ KQED)
Before treatment, Nancy spent much of her time in restraints, in order to keep her from injuring herself. (Courtesy of Erowid and Gary Fisher's family/ KQED)
Nancy, after beginning treatment with Gary Fisher, cutting cake at a birthday party.
Nancy, after beginning treatment with Gary Fisher, cutting cake at a birthday party. (Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections/ KQED)
After receiving large doses of LSD and psilocybin, Nancy (center) was no longer injuring herself, according to Fisher and Fairview records.
After receiving large doses of LSD and psilocybin, Nancy (center) was no longer injuring herself, according to Fisher and Fairview records. (Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections/ KQED)
Psychologist Gary Fisher and Nancy.
Psychologist Gary Fisher and Nancy. (Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections/ KQED)
Fairview psychologist Gary Fisher (far left) and Nancy (center) in the 1960s.
Fairview psychologist Gary Fisher (far left) and Nancy (center) in the 1960s. (Courtesy of Purdue University Libraries, Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections/ KQED)
Canadian psychologist Gary Fisher tried LSD for the first time in 1959.
Psychologist Gary Fisher tried LSD for the first time in 1959. (Courtesy of the Fisher family/ KQED)
Gary Fisher holding his daughter, Bess.
Gary Fisher holding his daughter, Bess. (Courtesy of the Fisher family/ KQED)
Fisher and Bess.
Fisher and Bess. (Courtesy of the Fisher family/ KQED)
Recent photo of Fairview Developmental Center.
Recent photo of Fairview Developmental Center, a hospital for individuals with developmental disabilities. California plans to close this center by 2021. (Courtesy of Fairview Developmental Center/ KQED)
Recent photo of a hallway in Fairview Developmental Center.
Recent photo of a hallway in Fairview Developmental Center. (Courtesy of The Center for Investigative Reporting/ KQED)

 

 

 

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