On August 16th 1951 a number of people in the quiet southern French town of Pont St.Esprit began to fall ill. Stomach pains were soon followed by violent and often terrifying hallucinations. Local hospitals were soon overwhelmed and more than thirty people were taken to asylums in nearby towns. It was soon decided that the cause was bread poisoning and the evidence pointed to just one Bakery. The reason, it was believed was 'ergot', a fungal infection found in Rye bread which had often caused mass poisonings in Medieval times. Journalist Hank Albarelli, however, claims that a recently released CIA memo shows that the CIA were in fact testing LSD on the inhabitants of the town. [more inside]
Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem? Linda Caporael's 1976 Science article was the first sustained argument that the Salem witch scare was caused by a case of ergot poisoning. Mary Matossian's 1989 book Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics and History makes a more comprehensive argument for the effect that ergot poisoning has had specfically on European history. Barbara Comyns wrote a fabulous 1955 novel called Who Was Changed, and Who Was Dead about a 1927 ergot poisoning outbreak in Manchester, England. Pictures of the dread mold.