Originally published in Eleusis, n. 7, p. 33, 1997
During a recent trip to China, the American mycologist David Arora observed that in some regions more than 50 different boletes are sold and eaten. Most popular are strongly blueing species.
Arora was surprised to learn that everybody, i.e. farmers, pickers, sellers and shopkeepers gave warnings which all amounted to the same thing: if you don't cook those boletes well enough, you will see "the little men".
This was of course most intriguing, and Arora actually interviewed some persons who could matter-of-factly recount their experiences. A young woman working as a computer operator remembered vividly that, when she was a child, she and her sister (the two youngest in the family) showed symptoms after having eaten blueing boletes at home. She recalled very clearly that walls and shapes were moving, and when she stared at a dripping water faucet, each droplet falling in the sink would turn into an insect and crawl away. This continued for as long as two days (!), and their mother never again served boletes to her family.
A more recent case concerned a university graduate who consumed apparently unsufficiently cooked boletes and soon after saw a whole regiment of 2 cm tall soldiers marching over the table-cloth.
This is rather odd, since psychoactive boletes are unknown in Europe and in the USA. There is only the well-known work of Roger Heim et al. mentioning the use of boletes by the Kuma tribe of New Guinea to induce a kind of collective mania. However, these authors were unable to isolate any active principle, and its very existence has been questioned. The self-experiments made by the investigators did not convince them.
I would appreciate to hear from readers who heard about or underwent similar experiences, in China or elsewhere. Any suggestions as to the identity of these boletes would be most welcome.