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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