A 50-year mystery
over the ‘cursed bread’ of Pont-Saint-Esprit, which left residents
suffering hallucinations, has been solved after a writer discovered
the US had spiked the bread with LSD as part of an experiment.
In 1951, a
quiet, picturesque village in southern France was suddenly and mysteriously
struck down with mass insanity and hallucinations. At least five
people died, dozens were interned in asylums and hundreds afflicted.
it was assumed that the local bread had been unwittingly poisoned
with a psychedelic mould. Now, however, an American investigative
journalist has uncovered evidence suggesting the CIA peppered local
food with the hallucinogenic drug LSD as part of a mind control
experiment at the height of the Cold War.
of Le Pain Maudit (Cursed Bread) still haunts the inhabitants of
Pont-Saint-Esprit, in the Gard, southeast France.
On August 16,
1951, the inhabitants were suddenly racked with frightful hallucinations
of terrifying beasts and fire.
One man tried
to drown himself, screaming that his belly was being eaten by snakes.
An 11-year-old tried to strangle his grandmother. Another man shouted:
"I am a plane", before jumping out of a second-floor window,
breaking his legs. He then got up and carried on for 50 yards. Another
saw his heart escaping through his feet and begged a doctor to put
it back. Many were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets.
magazine wrote at the time: "Among the stricken, delirium rose:
patients thrashed wildly on their beds, screaming that red flowers
were blossoming from their bodies, that their heads had turned to
it was determined that the best-known local baker had unwittingly
contaminated his flour with ergot, a hallucinogenic mould that infects
rye grain. Another theory was the bread had been poisoned with organic
P Albarelli Jr., an investigative journalist, claims the outbreak
resulted from a covert experiment directed by the CIA and the US
Army’s top-secret Special Operations Division (SOD) at Fort Detrick,
who produced both alternative explanations, he writes, worked for
the Swiss-based Sandoz Pharmaceutical Company, which was then secretly
supplying both the Army and CIA with LSD.