Synth repairman claims he got high by touching decades-old LSD

An old synthesizer. Getty Images Archive

While working on a project from home, Eliot Curtis’s night took an unexpected turn recently as he ended up on a surprise trip of a lifetime — at least in his mind.

Curtis is the broadcast operations manager for San Francisco’s KPIX Television and deals with a variety of different technical problems and malfunctions which he is tasked to fix on a daily basis. This time around, however, Curtis volunteered himself to do some repairs.

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He brought home a vintage synthesizer owned by the music department of California State University, which was left in the institute since the late 1960s, according to KPIX 5.

When cleaning the instrument in his workshop, Curtis came across what he described as a “crust” or “crystalline residue” stuck under a knob.

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In an attempt to clean the mysterious substance, he sprayed it down with cleaning solvent and tried scraping it off with his finger.

Around 45 minutes later, according to Curtis, something triggered inside his mind and he began feeling loopy and “tingly.” “It felt like I was tripping on LSD,” he told KPIX 5.

Drugs and drug-taking equipment – a sheet of LSD tabs. Paul Faith - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

The broadcast station asserts the repairman was in fact tripping on LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide, or “acid”).

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After a series of chemical tests, the substance was confirmed to be LSD. Curtis’s accidental trip lasted nearly nine hours. He was accompanied by his wife, Holly.

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Although Curtis did not orally ingest the drug, an undisclosed yet supposedly “well-known” LSD researcher told KPIX that the hallucinogen could be ingested through the skin, given “the right conditions.” He also referred to late scientist Albert Hoffman, who was the first recorded person to ingest LSD.

In his memoir, LSD My Problem Child: Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism and Science, Hoffman claimed he experienced a trip by touching the drug.

The anonymous expert added that LSD can stay potent for decades if it is stored in a cold, dark place.

People dance at the ‘Acid Test Graduation,’ a celebration organized by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, in which participants graduated beyond acid. The Warehouse, Harriet Street, San Francisco, Calif. Ted Streshinsky/Corbis via Getty Images

How the drug got there is unclear, but experimentation with hallucinogens and instruments in the 1960s was not an uncommon occurrence.

The abandoned synthesizer in question — which hadn’t been used in more than 50 years — was a Buchla Model 100, created by the late Don Buchla.

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In its broken state, it sat in a cool, dark corner of Cal State University’s music department.

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Buchla, who died in 2016, was heavily involved in the 1960s counterculture movement, which saw a mass increase of recreational drug usage, specifically in the United States.

In his time, Buchla was close friends with the late Owsley Stanley, who was not only the longstanding sound engineer for The Grateful Dead, but a chemist who produced some of the most potent strains of LSD in the U.S., according to Rolling Stone.

Stanley’s concoctions were supposedly preferred by not only The Dead, but the late Ken Kesey and his followers, the Merry Pranksters.

The late-Jerry Garcia, leader of ‘The Grateful Dead.’
The late-Jerry Garcia, leader of ‘The Grateful Dead.’. AP Photo

Kesey was best-known as the host of a series of “Acid Test” parties in the late ’60s, which were fueled by the hallucinogen. Stanley and the rest of the band reportedly attended many of these parties.

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In that time he reportedly bought an old bus filled with a number of Buchla’s instruments, which made their way into the drug-fueled parties.

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While it’s unclear if it was one of these “Acid Test” synthesizers which ended up in the hands of Cal State’s music department, it’s likely that the counterculture movement in general may have inspired some students back in the ’60s to experiment with LSD themselves.

After Curtis had his own accidental taste of the drug, he equipped himself with a pair of gloves and finished cleaning and repairing the Buchla instrument.

It’s now back in the hands of Cal State, LSD-free, ready for curious young musicians to find its potential while sober.

— You can find the full story at KPIX 5

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