Synth engineer goes on a 9-hour trip while cleaning LSD-laced Buchla 100 module

Any deep modular synthesis dive can feel like a welcome escape from the real world, but techhead Eliot Curtis went to another place entirely recently while he was cleaning a Buchla 100 module from the ‘60s.

The unlikely incident took place in San Francisco. Curtis, the Broadcast Operations Manager at KPIX Television, had been asked by Cal State University to overhaul the Buchla module, which had been sitting in storage and fallen into disrepair.  

While he was at work, he noticed something under one of the knobs: “There was like a residue … a crust or a crystalline residue on it,” Curtis told KPIX.

After spraying cleaning solvent on the substance, he attempted to remove it with his finger; about 45 minutes later, things took a turn for the weird. Curtis began to feel strange and to experience a weird, tingling sensation, which continued for a further nine hours.

Tests later confirmed that the unknown substance was LSD, and that Curtis’s unexpected trip was the result of him ingesting it through his skin. How it ended up inside the synth in the first place remains a mystery, but, as KPIX reports, there were links between the West Coast synthesis and counterculture worlds in the ‘60s, and rumours of LSD-loaded modulars have existed for years.

The synth is now back at the university in the hands of students. However, having been thoroughly cleaned, the only thing that’ll be altering their minds is its sound...

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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