Ronald Hadley Stark: The Man Behind the LSD Curtain
Thirtyseven - Dec 02, 2010
The curse of doing research out here in Weirdoland is that the really fascinating people are nearly impossible to do research on. For instance, when you’re covertly running the world’s largest LSD manufacturing and smuggling operation for the CIA, you’re not going to be doing interviews in Newsweek or publishing an autobiography. That’s precisely the problem with Ronald Hadley Stark, who is one of the most insane characters in the history of LSD — and that’s really saying something, don’t you think?
This article has been updated considerably since I first published it. Stark’s life story is beyond belief, so I think it’s important to be meticulous. There are, no doubt, still hundreds of errors here.
For anyone unfamiliar with the tangle of political, scientific, cultural and covert forces behind spread of LSD, this article could get confusing. Ronald Stark is a central figure in David Black’s book ACID: A New Secret History of LSD, but the best overall introduction to this material would be Acid Dreams, by Lee & Shlain. It’s short and very readable, laying out the overall history in clear terms. For more serious seekers, I highly recommend HP Albarelli’s masterpiece, A Terrible Mistake, which is meticulously documented and considerably broader than mere LSD history.