The plant Mandragora officinarum, more commonly known as mandrake, is a plant that has interested people in various fields throughout history. Firstly, the root is split into two at the end, giving the uprooted plant the appearance of a human being. Secondly, it belongs to the nightshade family, containing plants such as the infamous deadly nightshade (belladonna), tobacco, Datura, petunia, tomatoes and potatoes. Like its relatives the belladonna and Datura, mandrakes contain alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine. These substances are potent (and toxic) hallucinogenics and sedatives, which is why they have had various uses ranging from witchcraft to anaesthesia to murder through poisonings.
The shape of the mandrake and its hallucinogenic effects have given it notoriety. Legend goes that when a mandrake root is dug up, it shrieks with such terror that anyone who hears it will die – possibly referring to the toxicity of the alkaloids. Historical texts give detailed instructions on digging up mandrakes by tying a hungry dog to the root and making it pull the plant out of the ground when the owner is out of earshot and he lures the dog with food.
Other folklore suggest that mandrake only grow when the ground is inseminated by semen dripping from a hanged man. This folklore is likely fuelled by the mandrake’s human-like appearance. Ancient and medieval literature associates mandrake being used to make fertility agents and love potions(again, likely related to the hallucinatory, sedative effects). Mandrake is a common ingredient in magic rituals of various kinds, such as in Wiccan rituals.
Alkaloids extracted from mandrake have been used in medicine since the Middle Ages, where extracts were used to anaesthetise patients before surgery, as it has a sedating, hypnotic effect. Eye drops made from mandrake extract were used for hallucinations and mandrake syrups were used to aide sleep. In modern medicine, scopolamine is used in motion sickness patches and atropine is used to speed up the heart rate when it slows too much.
The extensive list of supposed and actual properties of mandrake has made it a popular plant in fiction as well and it can be found in countless works throughout time, such as works of Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K. Rowling.
Clairvius Narcisse died in Haiti on May 2, 1962. In 1980, he returned to his hometown. Alive.
How did a man who was dead and buried come back to life?
According to Clairvius, he was cursed by a bokor (sorcerer) to become a zombie but returned home after the curse was undone. The sorcerer had enslaved him in a sugar plantation for 16 years and many others were working as “zombie slaves” until they revolted, killed the sorcerer then ran away.
Harvard ethnobotanist Wade Davis studied and investigated this case extensively. According to his research, most “zombies” were placed in suspended animation to fake death and were then (often after being buried) put under psychosis by the sorcerer. Many Haitians believe in the ancient African religion of voodoo, where one legend says that when a sorcerer curses a person, they are revived after death to become the sorcerer’s slave. Thus, Haitians strongly believe in the legend of zombies. In reality, the sorcerer was using drugs to zombify people and Davis used his expert knowledge in botany to deduce what the chemicals were.
The so-called zombie powder was a combination of tetrodotoxin (TTX, blowfish poison) and datura (from the poisonous plant Datura stramonium). The TTX simulates death due to its paralytic effect and datura is a powerful hallucinogenic that causes the person to confuse reality and fantasy (dissociation). Also, it may cause memory loss which allows the sorcerer to easily manipulate the victim. Long-term maintenance of the datura dose could allow the sorcerer to enslave someone for a long period of time. However, the zombification is not the same as perfect mind control and more like a strong hallucination or hypnosis (as seen as the above mentioned revolution).
As it involves the handling of poisons, only an experienced sorcerer could give the right mixture of doses while avoiding the lethal dose. Although science has advanced greatly, there are still many things we can learn from magic and sorcery. The reason being, magic and sorcery are simply undiscoveredscience.
ICU stands for intensive care unit and is the place where patients are sent after an operation to stabilise and recover under supervision. ICU patients commonly have a very unique and strange post-operative experience.
ICU syndrome is a type of delirium where the patient experiences severe anxiety, fear, hallucinations or delusions. Although the cause has not been determined, it is likely related to post-op stress, the segregation and loneliness in the ICU room and confusion from coming out of anaesthesia. This is especially the case if an emergency situation led to the surgery being longer than expected or resulted in additional surgery, causing extreme confusion in the patient.
A patient suffering from ICU syndrome tends to be extremely excited and unstable. They may develop intense paranoia or distrust (especially against medical professionals), which can lead to fits or dangerous acts such as pulling out cannulas and lines. A friend or loved one talking calmly to the patient has a great effect in helping the patient overcome the delirium. Therefore, allowing the family to visit to keep the patient company and calm is an effective way to prevent ICU syndrome. However, if the situation spirals out of control, a sedative or anti-psychotic may need to be administered.
A study states that about 25% of patients admitted to the ICU suffer from ICU syndrome. It is one of the most common causes of delirium and any patient can get it (elderly patients are more likely to). Interestingly, there is a theory that medical professionals are more likely to suffer ICU syndrome after an operation. Nowadays, the term ICU syndrome or ICU psychosis is discouraged and is instead grouped under delirium (which is an actual psychiatric disorder, not just a general term).
Sometimes just before you fall asleep, or just after you wake up, it is impossible to move any muscles. The panic caused by this sudden paralysis is soon followed by a sense of impending doom and unknown horror. When trying to look around to figure out what is happening, you see a ghost or demon sitting on your chest, pinning you down. This is a typical scenario of sleep paralysis. It occurs when the mind wakes up before the body (in loose terms) and is experienced by everyone at least once throughout their life.
Sleep is divided into two phases: REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. These two phases cycle to make up sleep at a 1:3 ratio (i.e. about 90 minutes non-REM, 30 minutes REM, repeat). NREM sleep is often thought of as “shallow sleep”, but this is incorrect as the third phase of NREM is literally “deep sleep”. This is followed by REM sleep, characterised by relaxation of muscle tone and the eyes darting in all directions (rapid eye movements). The brain cuts off motor signals to the body during REM sleep to prevent it acting out the movements in a dream (without this, many people would injure themselves or others during sleep). For example, patients suffering from diseases such as Parkinson’s disease with REM sleep disorder show vigorous movements during sleep, often hitting their partners in the process.
The problem occurs when the onset of REM atonia (relaxation) comes before the person fully falls asleep, or fails to disappear after waking up. As the motor system has been shut down, the muscles cannot be moved yet the person has regained consciousness. The more frightening thing is that sleep paralysis is usually accompanied by an intense visual and auditory hallucination, which is almost always related the person’s worst nightmares and fears. This explains why so many cultures associate it with demons and ghosts, and it is also possibly the cause of alien abduction experiences and ghost sightings. Reason being, the hallucination is so vivid the person easily believes that it actually happened.
Sleep paralysis can be caused by excessive drinking, stress or the induction of lucid dreams, but tend to be spontaneous and can happen to you on any day.
There is a disease called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. This causes patients to suffer massive migraines, while suffering visual hallucinations that alter their perception of what they see. For example, they see objects as bigger or smaller than what they actually are, or even see them as upside-down. Because of this, people who have experienced this syndrome say that it was like living in a fairy tale. There is no known cure, but it is often temporary and will one day disappear like magic.
When you fall in love, the other person’s weaknesses seem smaller, their strengths seem bigger, and sometimes they turn your world upside-down. So is love like living in a fairy tale, or like suffering a disease?.
To experience this peculiar effect, you require a ping-pong ball cut in half, tape, radio, headphones and a lamp tinted with red light (use cellophane).
Set the radio to an empty station so that only white noise is playing.
Plug the headphones into the radio and wear it.
Place each half of the ping-pong ball over your eyes and secure it with tape.
Shine the red light towards your eyes.
Relax on a couch or a bed for over half an hour.
What you will experience after about half an hour are powerful visual and auditory hallucinations, the result of your brain trying to fill the void created by sensory deprivation. As the brain is in constant need of stimuli, complete deprivation of the senses results in the brain becoming confused, trying to interpret what is not there. It has been reported that people see things such as horses flying through clouds or hearing the voice of dead relatives.