Created January 29, 2009. Revised May 27, 2012; April 30, 2013; and May 27, 2013.
Copyright 1998-2013 by John W. Allen.

A Review of Andy Letcher's book
"Shrooms: A Cultural History."

John W. Allen


My Review of Andy Letcher's book, "Shroom: A Cultural History

TEO Teonanacatl: The Journal of Psychoactive Mushrooms Volume Number 25:3-17. August 2008.

Page 13 – paragraph 2. [Quote] There are currently 192 [now over 200 known species of active Psilocybes.] – That figure keeps rising all the time. 76 of those Psilocybes occur in Mexico alone. To pick a random mushroom in Mexico is to stand a very good chance of picking a hallucinogenic one.[/quote]

As the author of the oldest selling field guide on magic mushrooms, Magic Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest, 1st published in July of 1976, and having sold over 100,000 copies, I am appalled that Mr. Letcher failed to note this fact in his book, “Shrooms; A Cultural History.” I have just a short point of view on this and some issues here should be noted in my review.

I remember that Mr. Letcher once wrote me an email asking about use of photographs and data but I never heard from him again.

Two major points:
First off.

Although there were three or four minor books published between 1968 and 1974, Mr. Letcher made no mention whatsoever of not only my book, Magic Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest in his book, but he failed to note any of the dozen or so Magic Mushroom Field Identification guides of the half-dozen cultivation manuals that were also published durring that same [period between 1968-1978.

That was the oldest and longest selling field guide to magic mushrooms in the world, published July of 1976, and now after a few months short of 31–years of sales, over 103,000 copies have been sold and distributed all over the United States and some shroomers living in foreign locations have also used the guide as well. It also outsold both of Paul Stamet’s two high quality field guides durring the past 33-years (Psilocybe Mushrooms and their Allies, and Psilocybine Mushrooms of the World). I also want to mention to Mr. Letcher, that it was I who also sold the first 100 copies of Paul’s first field guide for him). Mr. Letcher's omission of Magic Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest from his book, along with that of almost a dozen other field guides to ‘magic mushrooms’, shows that he was not fully aware of the historical spread of magic mushroom awareness in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest of the United States of America throughout the 1970s, and the many contributions in the literature used to spread the awareness of psilocybian consciousness throughout the world.

Mr. Letcher’s blatant attempt to lure readers into his viewpoint that England, as well as the rest of the UK shroomers were solely responsible for the spread of 'psilocybian consciousness' throughout the world as portrayed by Mr. Letcher as fact when in reality it is a false presumption.

A second error I was upset about was his footnote to my website, where, on several occasions, he listed the incorrect URL for my site. In his book, he notes that my site address was This is incorrect. My site at the time his book was published was at Because of that error I had to changed my site's URL from .com to .org.

I later note his mention and page and footnote to that error. This error with the URL was referred to in a few references to my published papers in the reference section of the book. The incorrect URL was also noted in the reference to Merlin and Allen’s papers with me on Hawaii and some in references of German ethnomycologist Dr. Jochen Gartz and also im a paper by me and Dr. Gastón Guzmán.

I also kind of stayed away from his Comments regarding Amanita (Soma, Santa Clause, etc) since another scholar whom I am not allowed to mention, is preparing, for publication, a manuscript that now claims that he has proof that Soma of the Rig Veda was not Amanita muscaria. That is, I was asked not to print any news about this author’s recent findings. I also stayed out of the Wasson fray and his stretching and embellishing tales from Wasson’s field notes obtained at Harvard University. Additionally I also decided not to comment on his observations regarding the theories of the Brother's McKenna in their writings regarding their experiences with the sacred mushrooms.

In the meantime, some points and observations with chapter numbers, page numbers, and paragraph numbers starting at either whole or continued paragraphs at the top of each pertinent page. I use quote brackets for his words and for chapters.

Chapter One: The Mushroom People. Page 3 – paragraph 2. [quote] buy mushroom omelettes or cola-mushroom shakes from the surreptitious locals, illicit fuel for their all night dancing.[/quote].

I would like to point out that no one on Koh Phanghan Island; during a full moon festival sells any mushroom shake with coca-cola. Omelettes, smoothies (with fruit juices and ice-creams), soups and pizzas are common, but no cola shakes.

Later I will present more of his errors on Thailand. I have been to over 13 Full Moon festivals on that island and I know many restaurant owners who provide shroom foods to tourists and I am aware of who sells mushrooms to many of those restaurants on Koh Phanghan. And to my knowledge, no one has ever sold a Coca-Cola mushroom shake or beverage on that island. And Mr. Letcher cites my paper with Dr. Merlin as his source for that bit of false information.

Page 8 – Paragraph 5. [quote] Though this is certainly caused by a bizarre medical condition called synaesthesia (more commonly a symptom of eating magic mushrooms), in which colors are sensed as sounds, numbers as shapes, sounds as smells and so on, mushrooms seem so strange to us that it is easy to believe Halek’s claim that they really do sing out in otherworldly tones.[/quote].

I only note here that he left the physical euphoric effects of the shrooms from this note.

I have called the euphoria that occurs during a shroom vigil as, ‘psilophoria’ to describe the warmth of the experience in its physical attributes.

Chapter 2: Science and Magic
Page 12 – Paragraph 1.
[quote]There are, according to current estimates, 209 species of hallucinogenic mushroom[s], which fall into two broad groups.[/quote]

Page 13 – paragraph 2.
[Quote]There are currently 192 [now over 200] known species of active Psilocybes. world wide. – That figure keeps rising all the time. 76 of those Psilocybes occur in Mexico alone. To pick a random mushroom in Mexico is to stand a very good chance of picking a hallucinogenic one.[/quote]

53 species of Psilocybe are to be found in Mexico and the Indians employ over 32 varieties, depending on sickness or health or divination to find lost objects or help someone in need. Of the 192 species he refers to above, only 120 are of the genera Psilocybe that are proven to be psychoactive.

The list, at the time of Mr. Letcher’s book, now lists more than 230 species, which also include several species of Amanita sp., and the 'Madness' mushrooms of New Guinea (Boletus and Russula sp.), and a possible 10 families of mushrooms containing psilocybian alkaloids, of which the most common family consists of species that are in the Genus Psilocybe and have the largest number of active species.

Page 15 –Paragraph 2 – bottom portion of page.
[quote]And in India and South East Asia, especially Vietnam and Thailand.[/quote]
Andy provides some distribution and omits Cambodia from his statements on Southeast Asia. Heim and Hofmann, along with Wasson, all studied specimens of Psilocybe cubensis from Cambodia and Thailand, eventually they also published papers on their studies and findings in late 1958. These were never mentioned by Mr. Letcher, nor was the existence of Psilocybe cubensis, known of from Hanoi, Vietnam, was never mentioned as a source for the distribution of that species by Mr. Letcher. These early researchers cultivated Cambodian cubes in the mid 1950s and published papers in French journals and incorporated the Cambodian materials into the Heim and Wasson, 1958 volume, Les Champignons Hallucinogènes du Mexique.

Page 16 – paragraph 3
I will not quote the whole paragraph but will explain that Mr. Letcher provides a short mention of different names of mushrooms from around the world, He leaves a footnote which reads 7 in footnotes of chapter 2 where he provides the wrong URL which he cites as his source for the mushroom epithets.
It reads as:
[quote]A list of common names may be accessed at[/quote]

At the time Mr. Letcher’s book, ‘Shrooms’ was published, my web site URL was:
The .org error is also noted in the reference section of the book on a few occasions.

Chapter 2 –Page 23:
Paragraph 3.

Again I won’t quote him here in the sentence beginning with:
[Quote] This legal situation is the predominant…[/quote]

However, in this chapter, Andy makes no mention of Weston LaBarre’s classic book, “The Ghost Dance, The Origins of Religion.”

I think this was a deliberate omission of a theory, sometimes more plausible than Mr. Letcher’s.

I do agree with his thesis that, we today, are the center of the mushroom cult, but, it may also have been true of 2000 to 9000 years ago and faded into obscurity with the changing times throughout the centuries and millennia. He barely made a mention of Dr. Mark D. Merlin’s Old World Plants articles and a few other obscure papers by LaBarre.

Chapter 3: The Archeology of Ecstasy.

Page 1 – whole page and into a few more.

 I will not quote here but I do believe that primitive humankind did follow large migratory herds of mammals in search of food, and in doing so, most likely saw, mushrooms in the manure trails they would follow to find and catch up to a large migratory herd of mammals.

 I also believe that most religious ideas came from the consumption of such plants in primitive societies, again fading with the past and the constant change of time.

 Chapter 3 – page 27

2nd Paragraph 

 I object to the use of the word drug when applied to mushrooms or the war on drugs or war on mushrooms.  I get uptight about the phrase ‘drug abuse.’  However, I do like the phrase, ‘misuse of drugs’ rather than that of the use of the phrase, ‘drug abuse’.  One abuses their own bodies.  While I also believe that one does not and cannot abuse the drug.  Okay. I am past that now.

 Page 28 – Paragraph 2

Beginning with:

[Quote] To illustrate the first point .[/quote]

 It would be quite wrong of us to address the question of why from forest to pasture lands.

 I bring this up because in all primitive societies, The first building of a village, usually occurred along streams and riverbanks and along trails which eventually became roads.. This was necessary for commerce and trade.  When you clear the land, the reforestation of the region changes and weeds come into the new open land areas.  Marijuana is a good example as a weed plant, so is Panaeolus subbalteatus.  However, today, the abundance of magic mushrooms can be greatly attributed to the spreading of fertilizers and wood chip mulches and barks into man-made environments, thus creating an abundance of certain species, which apparently changes with the commercial logging of trees which become illegal in certain areas and mushrooms then disappear as new mulches from different trees are planted and spread around, changing the species which are common and then are not.

 I note that in the 1970s to 1980s, over 80% of all new lawns in the Pacific Northwest of America had sod laid in gardens that had both P. fimetaria and P. stuntzii on them.  Wood chip gardens, especially at banks and public parks, and government buildings, as well as apartments and condos, had an abundance of Psilocybe baeocystis and Psilocybe cyanescens.  Today, P. cyanescens can still be observed fruiting in large quantities in the PNW.  The Psilocybe stuntzii and P. fimetaria are now very common in the suburban lawns, but are still visible in the larger metropolitan cities of the region. 

 Chapter 3 – Page 28.

Paragraph 3-4

 [b] The second point[/b]……….

 Here Mr. Letcher talks about the alleged ergot fungal poisoning in France in 1953, which he carries to the pages of his book, the error was first brought to the attention of the public in the book, "St. Anthony’s Fire,"  which, as I was told by Dick Schultes, that the theory of ergotism in that unfortunate poisoning outbreak incident, has since been disproved, and that ergot was not responsible for that horrible plague outbreak which occurred in France in 1953.

 Here, in this chapter of ‘Shrooms,’ Letcher adds to the fire that it was ergot that was responsible.

 Even the late Dr. Albert Hofmann, in his book, “LSD- My Problem Child” wrote that ergot was not the cause of the French Poisoning in the early 1950s.  It is known that the poisoning was caused by Mercury.

 Chapter 3 – Page 29

 Paragraph 1.

 Regarding the Nonda shrooms, Russula, Heimiella, and some Boletus species.

 Stearic acids have been extracted from some of these species and are said to be the cause of the madness of the Kuma.  As of today, their effects causing the madness have yet to be determined and still remain as a mystery to science..

 Chapter 3 – Page 31

Paragraph 2

 [quote] But for Chang Hua, and the later compilers of herbals that came after him, the mushrooms that ‘made you laugh incessantly’ were poisons, to be avoided or, if accidentally eaten, to be treated with herbal remedies.[/quote]

 I did read in a paper by Li, (Li, Hui-lin. 1977. Hallucinogenic plants in Chinese herbals: Panaeolus papilionaceus (Fr.). Botanical Museum Leaflets of Harvard vol. 25(6): 161-181. Also in: Journal of Psychedelic Drugs vol. 10. January-March 1978.), about a paragraph that read, Cures for the ‘laughing sickness.’  It was an infusion of topsoil with water fused through a screen and then drunk for the minerals and that potion  ‘would cause the incessant laughter to stop.’

 I think Mr. Letcher exaggerated the laughing to a negative concept.

 Chapter 3 –page 46

Paragraph 2-3

 Regarding Andy’s chapter here on the witches and their crafts.

 I have always believed that the oldest profession was not a prostitute as the joke goes, but rather was that of the simple physician, the healer, the wazir, the sorcerer, the wizard, the alchemist, the hag in the woods, the shaman, the witch doctor, the medicine man, the brujo or sabia, or curandera, etc.  A person who had vast knowledge of many subjects; including: plant substances.

 Medicinal plants.  A person with such knowledge could control an entire village and its people. They medicine men or shaman had knowledge of plants that could make you feel good or plants that could hurt one and they had plants that would make you see things that of course were unbelievable.

 Even the chiefs and leaders of such tribes feared those medicine men and their powers.  Eventually after the birth and death of the Christ, religious and Christian dogma almost wiped out entirely, those who had the knowledge of such magical plants and those who spread such knowledge beyond the confines of Christianity and what eventually became the Holy See.

 Chapter 4 – A painting of mushrooms and demons.

 Not a single mushroom in that image in Mr. Letcher’s book is really representative of magic mushrooms, except possibly the liberty cap-like shroom crawling out of the chanterelle.  It is possible that this image was just a mycophobic characterization of the artist’s impression of mushrooms in general.  I mean the chanterelle shrooms are obvious to the viewer who loves mushrooms that those are choice edible fungi the madness implicated in the painting may not fully represent a hallucinatory mood.

 Chapters 4-5

Between pages 67-68 of Chapter 4 and pages 69-72 of Chapter 5, there is no mention of the first attempt to chemically analyze mushrooms to find out what caused cerebral mycetismus in those who ate certain mushrooms.  I believe that in the early 1900s, the mushrooms identified as P. papilionaceus were more than likely Panaeolus subbalteatus or P. venonosus; the latter, a synonym of the former. 

 Now, this is not just another point of major interest, yet completely and apparently unknown to Mr. Letcher is the published research by Dr. Michael Levine (1917 [1918]), in the botanical journal, Torreya.   This is an important fact omitted by most who have studied the mushrooms.  Even Jonathan Ott was astounded when he learned of this early chemical study of psilocybian contain mushrooms.

 Unfortunately, last week the author of this review went to the University of Washington and found it had been excised from the journal.

 Here is the reference for you on the paper and then I will provide a short synopsis of what he did.

 Levine, Michael. 1917. The psychological properties of two species of poisonous fungi. Mem Torrey Botanical Club vol. 17:176-201. October.

Describes several chemical induced techniques used on animals in mans first attempt to investigate the unusual effects attributed to the consumption of fungi causing a cerebral mycetismus in humans (Panaeolus venonosus (syn.=Panaeolus subbalteatus). These laboratory tests came about after the author had read of several intoxication's caused by the accidental ingestion of certain species of Panaeolus mushrooms. 

 After reading of a few medical case histories in several botanical journals of mushroom ingestion's, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and which had  caused hallucinations in those who accidentally consumed them, Dr. Michael Levine then tested mushroom extracts of Panaeolus venonosus on rabbits, mice, ducks, turtles and frogs to mention a few and unfortunately he gave up when he could not figure out what was in the mushrooms which caused people to act silly, etc.  Remember that Dr. Albert Hofmann took almost two years of research to finally figure out that he himself would  have to try the mushrooms because the animals could not tell him what was happening.

 Chapter 5 - Feasts and Revelations.

 Pages 72, paragraph 3.

 Mr. Letcher suggests :

 [quote] Perhaps uniquely in the world, there exists in the region we now call Mexico, a genuine history of intentional psilocybin mushroom consumption that extends back at least five hundred years to the time of the Spanish Conquest, but may go back much further.[/quote] 

 Lets say 1500 A.D.-3000 B.C. years back.

 Chapter 5 – Feasts and Revelations.

 Page 75-76.

 This last paragraph on page 75 and continued on page 76, talks of the Nahuatl Indian word ‘teonanácatl,’ meaning or implying, ‘flesh of the gods,’ or as Wasson noted, ‘meat of the gods’ or ‘wondrous mushroom.’

 I only bring this point up because today, in Mexico, no Indian knows of or uses this word to describe any of the species used medicinally or ceremoniously.  Something I think Mr. Letcher was unaware of.

 Chapter 5 – Feasts and Revelations.

 Page 78 – Paragraph 2, last line.

 Andy talks of the letter from Reko on Stafford’s paper where he compared a dried peyote button to a dried mushroom cap.

 Some of the smaller dried peyote buttons do resemble a dried cap of a mushroom.  In the early 1900s, botany was still in its infancy.  I have seen dried buttons that you could think may have been dried shroom caps.  I wondered why Mr. Letcher did not think that is was  important enough to mention it.

 Chapter 5 – page 81 and into page 82.

 This is in regards to Schultes helping Wasson with his expedition into Mexico and who to see.

 Somehow, Mr. Letcher has here also distorted the events and the chronology of them. 

This is a long paragraph, but necessary in regards to Schulte’s letter to me

 [quote] In 1952, Wasson received two letters, arriving virtually in the same post, that alerted him to the existence of the Mesoamerican mushrooms.(39)   Immediately, he wrote to Reko expressing his interest in the matter: Reko, by then an old man, forwarded his letter to a Eunice Pike, a missionary resident in Huautla.  Pike exasperated her inability to sway locals from their heathen practices, was able to confirm that mushrooms were indeed used in curing rituals.  She added incredulously that the Mazatec believed the mushroom to have a personality, which spoke through the curanderos, the healers, divining the cause and cure of illnesses and revealing the location of lost or stolen property.  This was exactly what Wasson wanted to hear and, wasting no time, he began to organize an expedition.  In the late summer of 1953 (the rainy, mushroom season), accompanied by his wife and daughter, he made what was to become the first of ten successive trips to Mexico on the trail of the psychoactive mushrooms.

Reko had died in the interim.[/quote]

 Note 39 notes a letter to Wasson of a mushroom stone from his publisher in Switzerland and a 2nd letter from Robert Graves with papers by Dick Schultes on the Aztecs and their use of the mushrooms during the time of the conquest.

 Also, the above comments concerning Eunice Pike are from a 1959 paper by Pike and Cowan in Practical Anthropology, 7 years after Wasson made numerous trips. And his first few trips he did not find shrooms.  On the night he and Alan Richardson ate them it was in 1955, His wife and daughter arrived a day later and he gave them shrooms.

 Now, in a Pers. Comm. to me from Dick Schultes about this eventful arrangement,.

Here is the actual quote in my mail from Dick Schultes.

“One day when I was home from the Amazon, Wasson phoned me for references to Mexico.  I sent him to Reko who was very helpful to him and who introduced him to Weitlaner.  Thus Reko still had his contribution towards the study of the mushrooms.”

So Reko did meet with Wasson before his death so Mr. Letcher missed this in his book.

 Chapter 6: Wasson

 Page 97.

 Regarding the Wasson’s hiding the identity of Maria Sabina.

 In his article in Life Magazine, he referred to her as Eva Mendez.  In "Mushrooms, Russia and History," Dr. Wasson wrote that her real name which we all know, was Marìa Sabina.

 A little known fact here is that Valentina, in her article in Parade magazine and Home Garden Journal, noted that her (Marìa Sabina) ceremonies were performed in  Mixtec, when actually they were in Mazatec (Nahuatl).

 Another fact that Mr. Letcher was unaware of.

 On page 98, Mr. Letcher notes that someone referred to her as an old hag muttering Mazatecan as the language Maria Sabina spoke, but it was in Nahuautl, the Mazatecan language of his or her ancestors.

 Chapter 6 – Page 100

2nd from last paragraph

 Regarding Wasson turning on his wife and daughter to the mushrooms during a wet cold damp rainy day and feeling uncomfortable they thought shrooms might make them feel better.  And Mr. Letcher’s comments about that moment I think are rude and misleading as read in this next quote.

 Dr. Wasson said, as quoted by Mr. Letcher,

[quote] We were damp, chilled through and miserable, recalled Valentina.  ‘a few hallucinations, we decided, would be a great help.”[/quote]

 Letcher added the following comment to the above quote:

[quote] Wasson justified this particular transgression of local custom on the basis that he was conducting a ‘scientific’ investigation.[/quote].

 Who is to say that it was not a scientific investigation? I think I would agree that Dr. Wasson was justified in saying that it was a scientific investigation.

 Chapter 9: Chemistry and Conspiracy.

Page 159

 I have my own opinions of Allegros work. I did enjoy his translations of male animal figures and how their names were relegated to their own individual sexuality.  (A little humor.) I try to stay away from the Amanita mystiques.

 Chapter 12: Ripples and Waves

Page 216 – Paragraph 3.

 Another important aspect often not thought about or looked over by accident, because of its appearance in an obscure Harvard publication.

 This one is about Dr. Andrew Weil.  Dr. Weil wrote of shrooms in the Harvard Botanical Museum Leaflets and in the Journal of Altered States of Consciousness, as well as in “The Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, in Look magazine and certain local and Boston news papers.

 Here is what Andy Letcher wrote of Weil and then I will explain the reason for this paragraph.

 [quote] The luxuriantly bearded Andrew Weil is well known as America’s most vocal advocate of complementary medicine and ‘natural’ healing, but he began his career promoting other more psychoactive plants and substances.  It was while he was studying medicine at Harvard that he encountered both LSD and the Economic Botany Course run by Schultes at the Botanical Museum.  Engaged and transformed by both, he thereafter became one of the leading writers and thinkers of the psychedelic underground.  His articles appeared in the long-running American dope-mag [sic![b]High Times[/b], and his first book, "The Natural Mind"- an impassioned defense of the judicious use of natural (that is, plant-based) psychedelics – published in 1972, was a natural best seller.[/quote].

 Now, a few points here about Andrew Weil. 

 High Times magazine first appeared in 1974 and had published 4 issues in their first year and it wasn't until two years after Weil wrote and published "The Natural Mind."  not in the order Letcher presents to his readers/

 Something I learned of from intense research of the Harvard Crimson, the daily campus newspaper put out by students at Harvard.

 As many researchers in this field are aware of, it was Dr. Timothy Leary who first ate shrooms in 1961 in Cuernavaca, Mexico, obtained for him by his friend and colleague, the anthropologist-linguist-historian from the University of Mexico, Gerhard Braun.  Gerhard had been studying the Nahuatl text of the use of mushrooms during the time of the conquest and translating the texts for further research.

 Dr. Braun himself, had obtained them from a woman named Crazy Juana in a public market.

 Less we not forget, both Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert were fired for their refusal to stop giving drugs to undergraduate students at Harvard.  However, Dr. Leary’s firing was publicly announced as being the result of Dr. Leary not showing up for his lectures.  Later Dr. Richard Alpert was fired for similar reasons.  Dick Alpert commented that, “Can you image I was fired from Harvard University for providing a student with the greatest educational experience of his life.”

 Well it was because of Andrew Weil that Dr. Timothy Leary was eventually let go.  Weil, at the time, was a student reporter for the Harvard Crimson, the schools newspaper.  He was also a ‘poonie.’ Weil wrote story after story about how the staff at Harvard were giving drugs to students. This inflamed the upper echelon of Harvard and the board of trustees and eventually led to their firings.  A few years later, President Richard M. Nixon made his world famous quote that ‘Timothy Leary was the most dangerous man in America.’

 So Andrew Weil was somewhat responsible for Tim losing his job.

 Then Weil received a grant from WHO (the World Health Organization) to travel throughout Mexico, Central and to South America to seek out new medicinal plants for pharmaceutical firms.  He later wrote essays of his travels and medicinal studies in journals such as Economic Botany, etc.

 Ten years later, in 1974, High Times became the first drug magazine for those who advocated the recreational use of medicinal plants.  They in kind, reprinted some of Dr. Weil’s articles on drug plants.   But again, Mr. Letcher’s chronologies of the events are out of order.

 Chapter 12

Page 219 – last paragraph about Andrew Weil who used the statement that P. stuntzii was referred to in the PNW as “Washington Blue Veils.”  Here Mr. Letcher again spreads a bit of misinformation regarding P. stuntzii and P. fimetaria that for more than 30 years have been called “Blue Ringers.”   Letcher says they acquired the name, “Washington Blue Veil.”

 That epithet was first mentioned in an article by Dr. Weil in the Journal of Altered States of Consciousness and was later reprinted three times after its original published mention.  In fact, that was the only the only time that the name was ever used or heard of by anyone.  So this is a fabrication to attach this name to the mushrooms when no one here has ever used it.

 Also on the same Page 219,

 Canadian students learned of liberty caps in the 1960s and American college students in the Pacific Northwest learned of Panaeolus subbalteatus from mycology and other students at the University of Oregon.  The students I met who were on the faculty of the U of O told of lib caps and Pan subbs as early as 1968 and 1969.  By 1972, the students on the Pacific Northwest Coast of America were picking them from Bandon, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.. I think Mr. Letcher may have read a few of the many PNW news item clippings at the Mushroom John’s Shroom World Web Site, because some of those articles are not even available on microfilm in many of the University Libraries of the West Coast.  Many of the news items on my site are not even available at the U of W.  During those early years, I use to collect every news item I saw in the two Seattle daily newspapers and papers from Oregon which I read and clipped the news items from.

 Chapter 12: Ripples and Waves

Last paragraph of page 224 and first paragraph of 225

 This one gets me the most angered because it is about Thailand, a land I have traveled to more than 30 times in 21 years.

 Here I know, Mr. Letcher has obviously read the Allen and Merlin Thai mushroom studies published in the [i] Journal of Ethnopharmacology[/i] and in the German/English publication, [i] Integration: The Journal of Mind Moving Plants and Culture[/i] papers since he cites them in the footnotes, but his information is wrong and misleading.

 I basically will only quote him regarding his coca-cola mushroom drink comment and his tsunami bullshit theory. I know this BS, because if he had been there he would have known the tsunami was not anywhere near where the full moon festival mushroom parties are held.

 He says about the mushrooms, and I quote:

 [quote] They were sold cooked in Omelets, or blended up with coca-cola in what one can only image to be a particularly foul brew.(52)    Clearly the black market in magic mushrooms formed an important part of the local economy, but the use of the past tense is necessary because it is unclear how far this has been affected by the 2004 tsunami.[/quote]

 First, I would like to ask Mr. Letcher about where his comments of mushrooms “blended up with coca-cola in what one can only imagine to be a particularly foul brew” originated from?

 Again, Mr. Letcher cites my Koh Samui paper (citation note52) as his source for the coca-cola statement and nowhere in that paper do I mention anything about coca-cola mushroom smoothies or drinks.

 (52 Allen, J. W. and M. D. Merlin. “Psychoactive Fungi Use in Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan, Thailand” published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology vol. 35(3):205-228). 

 Though Mr. Letcher cites my Koh Samui paper as his source for the Coca Cola statement, it should be noted that nowhere in that paper do I mention anything about Coco Cola mushroom smoothies and in all of my research in Southeast Asia during the past 22-years, as noted above, I have never once come across anyone who ever heard of or has had a Coca Cola drink with magic mushrooms mixed with them.

 And regarding Mr. Letcher’s 2nd comment regarding the black market commodity of psilocybian mushrooms with the everyday tourist industry in magic mushrooms to tourists at Thai resorts, I want to bring to light this paragraph Mr. Letcher wrote in the last paragraph of page 225:

 [quote] “Clearly the black market in magic mushrooms formed an important part of the local economy, but the use of the past tense is necessary because it is unclear how far this has been affected by the 2004 tsunami.” [/quote]

 The local economy of Thailand is tourism.  This also includes rice and coconut production and logging and other exportations consists of fruits, handcrafted materials and textiles, as well as fish and other resources.  Mushrooms are but one minor contribution to the Thai local economy, but are a necessary additional source of income for the local peoples of villages visited by tourists from foreign countries.  However, the local economies of Thailand in regards to the magic mushrooms includes mainly, a region such as that which borders the land of the Thai.  This includes the Gulf of Thailand.   Mushroom Omelets and smoothies are available on the Island of Koh Samet and resort area of Pataya along the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, about 1,000 kilometers from where the Tsunami struck (several smaller islands in that region also cater to tourist influence in the matter of the mushrooms).   Then we have the West Coast side of the Gulf of Thailand, also about 100 kilometers east and 200 kilometers north of where the tsunami struck. There we have the resorts along the West coast of the Gulf of Thailand at  Cha Am and Hua Hin, tourist beach resorts also known for their great mushroom omelets and smoothies.

 Next we have Koh Samui Island.  Outside of Bangkok, this is the most popular tourist resort in Thailand.  It is on the southeastern coastline of the Gulf of Thailand.  Koh Samui is an island in the Gulf of Thailand. It is part of the Ang Thong National Park, comprised of more than 80 or more islands, of which only 6 or so are inhabited.  It is 80 kms east of Surat Thani Province that stretches to the Malaysian border in the south and is bordered on its western side by Burma and The Andaman Sea that face India and Sri Lanka.  No tsunami hit the Gulf of Thailand, or Koh Phangan Island so Dr. Letcher’s statement of how the tsunami may have affected the sale of natural shrooms or their consumption or production of in that region of Thailand is a poor study of the region he is talking about, showing that he has no knowledge of the region of which he wrote about.  If he had ever been to Thailand he would have known of this discrepancy in his statement.  And several kilometers inland from where the tsunami hit, there are many quai (buffalo) and wua (cattle) and even mushrooms which were not affected by the tsunami and now those islands along the Adaman Sea are abundant in manured mushrooms as they were before the tsunami.

 Even in America, each year the annual spring floods along rivers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, replenish the rivers receding flooded banks with fresh abundant crops of Psilocybe ovoideocystidiata and Psilocybe caerulipes, known locally as ‘blue foots.’  This shows that the flooding only helps spread the spores.

 It also appears that Mr. Letcher has so poorly presented a false chronological time line of the history behind the spread of psilocybian consciousness throughout the world, and that from what I have read, in terms of what he has written in regards to his alleged knowledge of the recreational used of said mushrooms, I stand by the fact that I can honestly state as fact, that aside from his study of mushroom use in the U. K., (which was also lacking), he knows zilch in regards to the recreational history in contemporary society.

 I find so many instances of his lack of knowledge concerning the ludible use of said mushrooms in this book that it disturbs me that he so readily failed in presenting a true study of such use.  I find that a large majority of the data he has presented in this ‘shroom’ history was poorly researched and presented without any validity to back up his claims as true facts…  I also personally feel that he has misrepresented and misinterpreted a good portion of the published literature of said history that he used to present his interpretation of what occurred within their collective tombs.  His knowledge of the history and spread of consciousness of psilocybian mushrooms leaves me to realize that I find this work to be filled with so much misinformation that I believe his attempt to properly record it underlies any credibility he may have thought that he had concerning this history and find that he has basically been inept at his study of this subject and in the fact that it appears that he may never had  even been to Thailand.

Chapter 13:  Underground, Overground.

Page 227 - Paragraph 2:

 Andy Letcher talks of the 1960s in America and the acid revolution and people flocking to Mexico, yet in the Haight-Ashbury, there was not a single dose of magic mushrooms available to anyone.  I tasted a half of a gram that year in 1966 in Los Angeles and felt only a chill. I never knew if it was a real magic mushroom or not.  Only that the person who gave it to me told me it was part of a mushroom stem and I would get high from it.   Out side of Grace Slick’s song, “White Rabbit,” no one knew of shrooms in San Francisco except for that song and then, everyone who listened to “White rabbit” thought that the mushroom was the red and white Amanita usually associated with Alice in Wonderland.  It appeared that there was no psilocybine mushrooms available in the Haight-Ashbury at all.

Chapter 13 Underground - Overground.

Page 230 Paragraph

A little trivia, Dr. Letcher talks of a mushroom movie staring English actor David Warner and Teenage singing sensation Lulu. It was a movie about a man who grew giant mushrooms in a basement of a factory that made everyone happy, singing and laughing. In the movie was a poster behind the frame of a metal bed.  In Mr. Letcher’s book he describes the poster as saying ‘Teonanacatl.’  However, I have the movie and the poster reads as, ‘Peonanacatl,” and the shroom design was a normal parasol looking mushroom.

On page 235, paragraph two; I think Mr. Letcher mistook the Ciba article about Amanita and Siberian shaman for Dick Schultes' articles on the Aztecs.

Finally my last notation. 

This took me all day reading and writing over and over.

Chapter 13 –

Page 239 paragraph 3

Dr. Letcher’s writes on this page in the 3rd paragraph about an author named Darnton who wrote a shroom article for the English mag ‘Oz.’

His quote is:

[quote] Darnton’s article was eventually followed, four-years later, by the first guidebook to the British Mycoflora, Richard Cooper’s, “A Guide to British Psilocybin Mushrooms (1974).50[/quote]

Here is note 50 from the footnotes:

[quote] The only other widely spread booklet on magic mushroom identification was published in 1979 by the drugs charity RELEASE.  This was several years after the mushrooms had gone over ground, and so it was responsible for bringing the mushroom to widespread attention,.  SEE Release, 1979.[/quote]

 This is also not true, Between 1970 and 1978 almost one dozen field guides were published and sold in the United States of America and Homestead Book Company, which published some of them, as well as distributed many of them, became their main distributor and additionally did so for High Times in 1974.  Between 1974 and 1978, most of the mushroom identification field guides were for sale to the public and in stores throughout America.  Some of those very books were also available in Great Britain.  And additionally, 7-magic mushroom cultivation guides were also published during this same period.  And as noted, my field guide, “Magic Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest” is the oldest and longest selling field guide on psilocybian mushrooms in the world, published in July 1976 and it is still in print.  Furthermore, High Times was sold in England at that time and so England was eventually able to publish its own drug magazine called Home Grown.

 As I noted above on several occasions, Mr. Letcher’s English history of the recreational use of worldwide psilocybian consciousness allegedly begins with a Mr. Darton’s 1974 article on shrooms and then followed by Richard Cooper’s 1978 pamphlet, A Guide to British Psilocybin Mushrooms and he seems to want his report that his country was the spreader of the contemporary history and news creator about magic mushrooms.

 Here are Unsigned article references from the USA which show that mushrooms were popular in Australia before they ever became popular in the United Kingdom.

 References to early psilocybian news items:  The first news item in England about liberty cap mushrooms use first appeared as Unsigned in April of 1976 in newspaper from the UK. (see below).

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1963b. No Illusions. Newsweek Magazine. June 20, 1963.

An article concerning Timothy Leary's research with entheogenic mushrooms at Harvard University.

[B]Unsigned[/B]. 1966. (INT.). Playboy Interview. Playboy vol. 13(9):93 et seq.

An interview with Timothy Francis Leary.

[B]Unsigned[/B].   1968a. Mesoamerican use of magico-mushrooms and history. Ethnomycological Thesis (Unpublished paper). University of Washington.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1968b. Mushroom poisoning. Colorado Mushrooms. Natural Museum. Colorado.

[B]Unsigned[/B].   1968c. Psychedelic Guide to the Preparation of the Eucharist. 56p. Edited by Robert Brown and Associates.

Instructions for the cultivation and synthesis of psilocybian mushrooms is presented. See next entry for related information.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1969a. Synthesis and extractions of organic psychedelics. The Turn on Book. Sacred Mushroom Press. Gamble Gulch, Colorado.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1969b. Mushroom broadcast on psilocybian mushroom poisoning. Australian Broadcasting Commission (News Item). 7:00 Pm. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. June 3.

See below.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1969c. A follow up of June 3 broadcast. Australian Broadcasting Commission News Item. 7:00 Pm. Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1969d. (News Item). Mushrooms. Sydney Sunday Telegraph vol. 30:1. Sydney. Australia. June 29.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1969e. (News Item). The mushrooms contain Drug. Canberra Times vol. 43:9. July 11. Australia.

In Australia, four young adults are fined $200.00 dollars each for trespassing and possession of psilocybin mushrooms. See Allen, Merlin & Jansen, 1991.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1969f. (News Item). Canberra Times vol. 43:2. July 12. Australia.



 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1969g. Occurrence of psilocybin in the sporophores of P. semilanceata. Transactions of the British Mycological Society vol. 53(2):302-304. October.

The first report from Great Britain on the detection of psilocybin in Psilocybe semilanceata (the English "liberty cap" mushroom).

 [B]Unsigned[/B].   1970a. (News Item). Hippies flocking to México for mushroom trips. New York Times:6c. July 23.

An early report on the encroachment in Mexico by young long-haired adults searching for magic mushrooms.

[B]Unsigned[/B].   1970b. The Art of Maya. Putnam's Sons. New York.

[B]Unsigned[/B].   1971. Psilocybin and psilocin the `magic mushroom'. . By the Stash staff. Staff Publ. 118 South Bedford, Madison, Wisconsin.


[B]Unsigned[/B].   1972a. Magic mushrooms of British Columbia. British Columbia Access:58-67. 3rd catalogue.

A guide to the identification of psilocybian fungi in British Columbia, Canada.


[B]Unsigned[/B]. 1972b. Mushroom Poisoning in the Pacific Northwest. Puget Sound Mycological Society. Seattle, Washington. September.

[B]Unsigned[/B]. 1972c. (News Item) High school fungal eaters in Brisbane. Daily Telegraph. Sydney, Australia. November 14.

This Australian newspaper article informs readers that magic mushrooms occur in fields near a local high school.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1972d. (News Item). Magic mushrooms cause death here. Honolulu Star Bulletin:A2. Honolulu, Hawaii. Tuesday, December 26.

A 17-year-old mainland youth dies in Hawaii after allegedly eating ten magic mushrooms. (See next three entries and Unsigned, 1973b, 1973c; Allen, 1988.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1972e. (News Item). Mushroom eater dies. Honolulu Advertiser:C4. Honolulu, Hawaii. Tuesday, December 26.

See Allen, 1988.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1972f. (News Item). Autopsy scheduled in magic mushroom death. Honolulu Advertiser:B8. Honolulu, Hawaii. Wednesday, December 27.

See Allen, 1988.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1972g. (News Item). Death cause not revealed. Honolulu Advertiser:B6. Honolulu, Hawaii. Thursday, December 28.

See Allen, 1988.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1973a. (Mag.). The deadly mushroom. Newsweek. January 15.

[B]Unsigned[/B]. 1973b. (News Item). Drugs cited in mushroom eaters death. Honolulu Advertiser:A16. Honolulu, Hawaii. Thursday, March 1.

Autopsy results reveal the presence of morphine in the victims bilge. For related information, see Allen, 1988.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1973c. (News Item). Heroin apparently killed `magic mushroom' victim. Honolulu Star Bulletin:B1. Honolulu, Hawaii. Thursday, March 1.

Autopsy reveals that a 17-year-old youth in Hawaii who allegedly ate 10 "magic mushrooms" died from a probable heroin overdose. No mushrooms were found in his stomach. (For an up-to-date critique, see Allen, 1988).

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1973d. Psilocybin. Report Series vol. 16(1):13p. National Clearing House for Drug Abuse. May.

A government report on the psychological and physiological effects of psilocybin.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1973e. Canadian Governments Final Report of Inquiry into the non-Medical use of Drugs. Information Canada. Ottawa.

Discussion of entheogenic mushroom use in Canada as being limited to only a few users.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1973f. Psilocybe mexicana. Legal Highs:24. Publ: 20th Century Alchemist.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1974a. (Mag.). High Times vol. 1(1):cover.

Photograph of a lady eating an alleged magic mushroom.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1974b. (Review). High Times vol. 1(1):41.

A review of the Cowan recording of a traditional Mazatec Indian mushroom ceremony from Mexico (see Sabina, 1975b).

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1974c. (Letter). Frankly it was a toadstool. High Times vol. 1(2):7.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1974d. (Underground Comic book). The Virgins Dream. Austin Stone vol. 1:1-8. Austin, Texas.

A beautifully illustrated story of a magic mushroom ingestion.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1974e. The hallucinogens. DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) vol. 2(2):25. Spring.

A not so accurate section on hallucinogens. However, this monthly government publication has published a beautiful Joy Spurr photograph of Psilocybe cyanescens Wakefield from Seattle, Washington.

[B]Unsigned[/B]. 1975a. (Mag.). Meet a girl named Maria. High Times vol. 1(4):75. Spring.

A short note on María Sabina.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1975b. (Mag.). Magic mushroom. High Times vol. 1(5):8. August-September.

 [B]Unsigned[/B]. 1975c. (Mag.). Mushroom spotting. High Times vol. 1(6):12. October-November.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1975d. (News Item). Youths looking for trip on mushrooms. Register-Guard:A7. Eugene, Oregon. Friday, November 7.

An article describing the growing popularity of P. semilanceata (the "liberty cap" mushroom) in Eugene, Oregon.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1975e. Oregonians get free legal high with mushrooms. Tri-City Herald. Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, Washington. Friday November 7.

A multitude of young adults are invading pasture lands in the Pacific Northwest in search of magic mushrooms. Comments from local police indicate that their analysis of confiscated mushrooms within their areas reportedly do not contain psilocybin. Current prices for magic mushrooms sold in the Pacific Northwest are provided.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1975-1976a. (Mag.). Dixie caps. High Times vol. 1(7):10. December-January.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1975-1976b. (Mag). Art depicting Alice in wonderland mushroom Fender amplifier advertisements). Playboy. Various issues.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1976a. Complete Psilocybin Mushroom Cultivators Bible:70p. Hongero Press. Miami, Florida.

This booklet advertised 24 colored photographs. The photographs did not appear until the 5th printing. Conocybe cyanopus is described as Pholiotina cyanapoda.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1976b. (Mag.). Mexico: Grass, mushrooms, heroin and the federales. Inside Dope vol. 1(1):46-51. See page 48. Spring.

A first hand report by a recreational user claims that psilocybin spores blow from México across the gulf to Florida and cause abundant fruitings of entheogenic mushrooms (sic!).

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1976c. (Tabloid). Imagine mushrooms in your backyard: Mycologists corner, four American psychedelic mushrooms. National Weed vol. 1(1):16-17. January.

The caption for Amanita muscaria in this guide list the mushroom as a psilocybian species. Another error pictured a photograph of a young specimen of Psilocybe cubensis listed as Panaeolus subbalteatus. This error was copied from Ghouled's, 1972 field guide.

 [B]Unsigned[/B].  1976d. (Mag.). No fungus among us. High Times vol. 1(8):12. March-April.


 [B]Unsigned[/B]. 1976e. (News Item). When a mushroom can be a drug. Daily Express. Great Britain. April 13.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1976f. (News Item). Drug peril in Great Britain. Daily Sun. Great Britain. April 13.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1976g. (News Item). Man in court over mushroom drug. Daily Telegraph. Great Britain. April 13.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1976h. (News Item). The wild drugs the law can't touch. Evening News. Great Britain. April 13.

[B]Unsigned[/B].  1976i. (News Item). We found drugs, couple tell court. Northern Echo. Great Britain. April 13.


 [B]Unsigned[/B]. 1976j. (News Item). Hallucinatory fungi not illegal judge rules. The Times. Great Britain. April 14.

A British court under the guidance of Judge Peregrine Bloomfield issues a new ruling declaring that "it may or may not be that you can get psilocin out of the mushroom. But psilocin is a chemical and mushrooms are not. You cannot on the evidence find this man guilty of possessing psilocin in these circumstances." For related information see Unsigned, 1976r.

 [B]Unsigned[/B]. 1978p. (News Item). The magic mushroom craze that could end in tragedy. Glasgow Harald:7. October 8. Scotland.

This news item discusses the sale and use of Psilocybe mushroom growing kits in Great Britain (England). A local judge rules that growing Psilocybe mushrooms at home is not an offense to the crown.

 After this ruling, few if any articles appeared as unsigned.

 John W. Allen and Jochen Gartz relegate any other information to individual journalists names in the CD-ROM, Teonanácatl: A Bibliography of Entheogenic Fungi.



[B]Cooper, Richard[/B]. 1978. A Guide to British Psilocybe Mushrooms. Edited by C. Render-2nd edition. Hassle Free Press. London Red Shift Books 1980.

An identification guide for entheogenic mushrooms occurring in England. A new edition was published in 1996 and is described as the classic handbook that lists a dozen species of psychoactive mushrooms that grow in Europe. Information about identification, chemistry and dosage, collecting and preserving and their legal aspects are presented along with line drawings and colored photographs. Photographs include a centerfold (both sides) of Psilocybe semilanceata. Descriptions are provided for several non-psychoactive related species and for Hypholoma cyanescens (syn.=Psilocybe cyanescens).[/quote]

John W. Allen, September 2008 and January 29, 2009.

Andy Letcher's Response to my Review.
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