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Here’s an Amazing Story About a Vintage Synthesizer and an Accidental Acid Trip

There is a longstanding legend that Don Buchla—a pioneer of synthesizer design and engineering who created one of the first modern commercial synths in the late ’60s, and also a well-known acid head—dipped a particular panel of those early electronic instruments in LSD, so that “the person using it could lick it to get some inspiration,” as one blogger put it in 2015. Depending on the teller, Buchla either did this habitually, or just once, to a particular instrument; often, the panel in question is said to have been painted red. Now, it seems, there is confirmation that the myth is at least partially true.

The news comes from the local San Francisco CBS outlet KPIX, based on reporting about one of the station’s own employees. An engineer named Eliot Curtis recently volunteered to restore a Buchla modular synth owned by the music department Cal State University East Bay, which had been out of commission and stowed away in a classroom closet for years. Curtis noticed a strange feeling after opening and handling a red-painted module attached to the device. From KPIX:

During his repair work, Curtis opened the module and saw something stuck under a knob.“There was like a residue … a crust or a crystalline residue on it,” said Curtis.

He sprayed a cleaning solvent on it and started to push the dissolving crystal with his finger as he attempted to dislodge the residue and clean the area.

About 45 minutes later, Curtis began to feel a little strange. He described it as a weird, tingling sensation. He discovered this was the feeling of the beginnings of an LSD experience or trip.

The sensation lasted roughly nine hours.

According to KPIX, “three individual chemical tests” identified the crystalline substance as LSD, which is known to keep its potency for years if kept in a cool and dark place like a closet. It’s unclear how exactly the acid got into Curtis’s system. KPIX posits that he could have ingested it through his skin—a transmission method that acid enthusiasts tend to loudly disagree about: whether it’s even possible, or what herculean quantity of LSD you’d have to come in contact with to feel any effect. It also seems plausible that he touched the substance with his hands and unthinkingly put his hands in his mouth.

Either way, we hope he had a good trip. You can read the whole KPIX story here.