For decades, after a French village was struck by mass insanity and hallucinations in 1951, it was widely believed that a local bakery’s flour had become contaminated by ergot, a poisonous fungus that occurs naturally on rye and causes hallucinations. However, a discovery by an investigative journalist doing research for a book about the incident uncovered damning evidence that the village’s food was intentionally contaminated with LSD as part of a secret CIA mind control experiment.
On August 16, 1951, numerous locals were suddenly stricken with horrifying hallucinations of fire, dragons, and snakes, with dozens being committed to asylums and hundreds left with varying degrees of madness. The incident was known locally as the mystery of Le Pain Maudit (Cursed Bread).
Time 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 molten lead.”
A local postman at the time, Leon Armunier, was doing his rounds in the town of Pont-Saint-Esprit when he was suddenly overcome by a feeling of nausea and wild hallucinations.
“It was terrible. I had the sensation of shrinking and shrinking, and the fire and the serpents coiling around my arms,” he told the BBC.
Armunier, now 87, fell off his bike and was taken to the hospital in Avignon.
He recalls being put in a straitjacket and sharing a room with three teenagers who had been chained to their beds to keep them under control.
“Some of my friends tried to get out of the window. They were thrashing wildly… screaming, and the sound of the metal beds and the jumping up and down… the noise was terrible.
“I’d prefer to die rather than go through that again,” Armunier said.