Hamilton and Krystle Cole in the missile silo
Hamilton Morris is the man behind (and in front of) the psychedelic documentary series, Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, in which he travels around the world investigating rare psychoactive drugs and extraordinary highs. Past docs have followed him into the temples of Haitian sorcerers in order to procure a secret potion used in Vodou zombification rituals, and to the Amazon jungle to hunt a sacred frog that excretes opioidergic venom. And he’s never one to shy away from doing some of his own drug experimentation along the way. In his most recent film, Hamilton travels to Kansas to spend some quality time with Krystle Cole, the ex-girlfriend of Gordon Todd Skinner, a man who both organized and destroyed the world’s largest LSD manufacturing ring.
Hamilton: I have been researching the story for five years and I still find it extremely difficult to grasp. In brief, a chemist named Leonard Pickard met a man named Gordon Todd Skinner and they organized an enormous LSD synthesis operation in Kansas, under the guise of manufacturing high performance springs for NASA. Skinner became afraid their operation was going to be busted so he preempted any legal action by turning Leonard in and destroying the lab. Now everybody involved is serving a life sentence, except Skinner’s girlfriend Krystle Cole.
What did you do with Krystle Cole in Kansas?
We visited the decommissioned nuclear missile silo where she lived during her relationship with Skinner. He had two missile silos, one to hold the LSD superlab, and another to serve as a subterranean psychedelic palace. There was some King Ludwig II level extravagance in the construction of this facility: the main missile bay alone was almost the size of a football field and covered completely with Persian carpets, his stereo system cost $120,000 and was used to blast both Sarah McLachlan and Deep Forest at extremely high volumes. He made business deals using Grover Cleveland $1000 notes, the marble walls were lined with LSD, DMT and MDMA, and he had a bathtub the size of a small swimming pool where he would hold orgiastic LSD ceremonies with the local girls. It was not low key.
Sounds hot. What was going on in the silos besides sex and drugs?
Well, aside from the obligatory drug dealer bacchanal, the LSD laboratory was doing some absolutely fascinating experimental chemistry––working with fluorinated tryptamines and novel derivatives of LSD, specifically one called LSZ.
LSZ is a little known derivative of LSD, and one of very few serotonergic psychedelics that surpasses LSD in potency. I have no proof that the lab was producing LSZ, but it’s something I have been researching.
What happened after Skinner destroyed the lab?
He went on a violent rampage rigging the houses of his enemies with psychedelic booby-traps, injecting strangers with a mysterious chemical he claimed was an HIV vaccine, and distributing a poisonous substance called “Black Tar Acid.” Eventually he kidnapped Krystle Cole and subjected her to several days of unimaginably cruel psychedelic tortures. Yet she remained in love with him, so ultimately it’s a story about the tenacity of love.
In your travels, you always test the substances you find on yourself. Why?
Self-experimentation is an ancient tradition. It’s only in the last few decades that such practices have become taboo in anthropology and medicinal chemistry. When I was in Haiti researching zombification, it was necessary for me to try the zombie powders to prove myself to the Haitian bokors. Well, it was simultaneously necessary and terrifying. On one hand I was convinced that the powders were pharmacologically inactive, but on the other hand dying of TTX poisoning deep in the Haitian countryside would have been an exceedingly unpleasant way to die. Not to mention the possibility of being resuscitated, beaten with a stick, and forced to harvest sugar cane until the end of time.
Anything in the works for your next doc?
Yeah, I’m working on a piece related to a cult of Mauritanian magicians that derive their power from the ritualistic consumption of Hyena brain.
The new episode is coming soon to VBS.TV