How misinformation works
Type of Spiritual Experience
This piece of truly terrifying mis-information occurred on the internet under a similar heading to mine. It cotains just enough fact to be believable and just enough invention to be dangerous. It shows how dangerous it is believing what you read on the internet [yes yes i know!]
A description of the experience
A “Drug information” website
A number of species of fish found as far afield as South Africa, Hawaii and Norfolk Island in the Pacific have been reported as 'dream fish' or 'nightmare fish' on account of the fact that they cause hallucinations. Toxic species of puffer fish have been identified as the key psychoactive ingredient in the making of the zombi drug.
Eating the so-called 'dream fish' of Norfolk Island. A species of Kyphosus (it has been suggested that it may be K. fuseus or more likely K. vaigiensis) is reputed to cause dreadful nightmares. Christian Ratsch, the German anthropologist, states that the 'dream fish' contains large amounts of the hallucinogen DMT.
Reports by the local people of Hawaii of fish having psychoactive effects led researchers from the University of Hawaii to investigate this unusual phenomenon.
They toyed with the idea of calling the syndrome ichthyosarcephialtilepsis but thankfully decided on the more straightforward 'hallucinatory mullet poisoning'!
In fact, four species of fish are known to cause such symptoms, two of the mullet family (Mugilidae), Mugil cephalus and Neomyxus chaptalli, and two belonging to the goatfish or surmullet family (Mullidae), Mulloidichthys samoensis and Upeneus arge.
The last of these is known locally as weke pahala ('the night- mare weke') and a report from 1927 states that about thirty or forty Japanese labourers unwittingly ate the fish and suffered 'mental paralysis' and delirium. Not all those who eat it report having nightmares; some seemed to have enjoyed the hallucinatory effects.
The symptoms vary from person to person. In the case of one family who shared the same fish, some members experienced intoxication whilst others were completely unaffected.
That this could be due to some kind of allergic reaction has been rejected, as individuals who experience hallucinations and other effects when eating the toxic variety of fish happily consume the non-toxic variety regularly without any problems.
Neither can the intoxication be explained away as psychosomatic; infants who have eaten it wake up screaming and try to get out of their cots, showing all the signs of having nightmares.
What causes the psychoactive effects is something of a mystery; it is unlikely to be bacterial in origin since the fish is often eaten straight from the sea, allowing no time for decay to set in.
Some local fishermen think that it may be due to the fish eating a certain kind of algae but researchers consider this unlikely [sic].
Hallucinogenic effects from these species of fish have been reported from two of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai and Molokai, and the toxins in question are apparently only present in the fish during June, July and August. Hawaiian fishermen reported that the nightmare- inducing fish could be distinguished by distinctive red blotches on the lips and sides of the head but others said that they looked the same as the non-toxic fish.
It is not clear which parts of the fish contain the toxins; some say it is only the brain or head, the head and the tail, whilst others maintain the entire fish is psychoactive.
Two further species of fish found in Hawaii are rumoured to cause similar effects - the tang or surgeonfish (Acanthurus sandvicensis), and the rudder fish (Kyphosus cinerascens), the latter being a close relative of the Norfolk Island 'dream fish'. There is no real evidence that these various different kinds of poisonous fish were ever used systematically for their dream inducing properties. Most reported cases indicate that such intoxication was, and still is, almost always accidental.
Dr Bruce Halstead of the World Life Research Institute stated in 1959 that he had discovered the presence of a hallucinogenic substance in a fish, but did not name either the species in question or the location at which it was found for fear that the Russians would make use of it for developing nerve drugs.
Ratsch has suggested that the yellow stingray (Urolophus jamaicensis) was used for its inebriating and aphrodisiac venom in pre-Columbian times by the Maya.