Folio — From the July 2013 issue

Blood Spore

Of murder and mushrooms

( 3 of 17 )

In August 1977 Gary Lincoff had not yet authored the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms, nor was he yet the president of the North American Mycological Association or the chair of their prestigious Mycophagy Committee. His first book, Toxic and Hallucinogenic Mushroom Poisoning, was going to press that winter and, despite a lack of formal mycological training (he held only a BA in philosophy), he was on his way to becoming a world-class authority on bioactive mushrooms. He appeared professional, wore a suit, and publicly discussed the hallucinogenic varieties primarily in regard to modes of treatment for those who had consumed them. Yet he was part of a burgeoning group of mycologists whose interest in “toxic” mushrooms, particularly those of the genus Psilocybe, extended to their possible therapeutic applications. It was in that summer of 1977 that Lincoff attended the Second International Mycological Congress in Tampa, Florida.

Lincoff was particularly interested in a talk titled “The Hallucinogenic Species of the Genus Psilocybe in the World” being given by the leading Psilocybe taxonomist Gastón Guzmán. There was another IMC2 attendee who shared Lincoff’s fascination with Guzmán, but unlike Lincoff he wasn’t waiting in the air-conditioned convention center; instead he’d chosen to stand outside, conspicuously sorting mushrooms in front of a hand-painted Winnebago Chieftain that he had converted into a rolling mycological laboratory. This was Steven Pollock. Young, hirsute, and wearing a Day-Glo T-shirt, Pollock fixedly examined mushroom specimens in the parking lot, totally oblivious to the withering glances of academic passersby. Intrigued, Lincoff approached Pollock to ask what species he’d been collecting, and Pollock brought him inside the Winnebago to have a look. Pollock had outfitted the interior with an autoclave, petri dishes, desiccators, and everything else necessary to culture and preserve mushrooms on the road, plus stacks of his first book, Magic Mushroom Cultivation (1977). Lincoff immediately realized that he had met IMC2’s most interesting attendee, and so he didn’t hesitate to forgo the rest of the afternoon’s presentations when Pollock invited him to go hunting for a species of bluing Panaeolus rumored to grow on the outskirts of Tampa.

’s last article for Harper’s Magazine, “I Walked with a Zombie,” appeared in the November 2011 issue.

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  • Peter Mork

    You are overlooking the shinola dude. If there are extinct shrooms or scrotums or whatever they are growing in the BK parking lot in San Cootch, maybe that means Whoppers are the grow medium everyone is horning for. Bodacious imps!

    Also I’m pretty sure this guy Bob knows more than he is saying. You NEED to check this out!

  • Stephen O’Malley

    Great article

  • purps

    TL;DR summary: I got my hands on a tape that ended up being irrelevant b/c the case had already been solved (but not prosecuted). Now watch as I fill my word count w/ things I learned about psychedelic mushrooms.

  • M Reilly

    Whatever Hamilton Morris is, he clearly isn’t a journalist or a writer. Harper’s is hurting its reputation by continuing to publish his shoddy work.

  • Milkshake Man

    Worthless bs article. Pollock didn’t ‘[grow] psychedelic mushrooms on Purina Dog Chow’, Paul Stamets is not the delusional messianic figure you describe, and on and on and on. Typical yellow journalism. And, your radio piece was even more cringe worthy. Really. You should be ashamed.

    • Hamilton Morris

      Pollock most certainly did grow mushrooms on Purina dog chow, it’s described on page 26 of his book “Magic Mushroom Cultivation”. I’m not sure why you would find that objectionable as DFA or “dog food agar” is widely used in both licit and illicit mushroom cultivation. Also I never said Stamets was delusional, I think he’s brilliant.

  • April

    It feels so good to read actual journalism. Thank you so much. I will think of Pollock (only happy thoughts) next time I have his fabulous truffles.

  • Chris Tharp

    Great article. Takes me back to those couple of years in my early 20′s when I learned to identify Psilocybin mushrooms. Spent many hours combing lawns, fields and forests for Psilocybe semilanceanta, Psilocbye cyanescens, and Psilocybe stunzi. Despite much searching I never could find Psilocybe baeocystis,though, which were said to be the most potent ones in the Pacific Northwest. Glad to know it wasn’t just me.

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