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Do audio recordings from the Good Friday experiment exist?
Q: I heard that there were audio recordings from the original Marsh Chapel Good Friday experiment with psilocybin, but can't find information about them anywhere.

A: We'd never heard this rumor before, but we spent some time looking into it and contacted a number of people who we thought might know. Although we can't be 100% certain, we believe that there were no original audio recordings made during the Marsh Chapel Experiment, either of the participants or of any part of the experiment itself.

There is, however, a recording of the sermon that the participants listened to, given by Howard Thurman. His sermon was piped down into the lower chamber where the participants were tripping. This rather long sermon has no content related to the psilocybin-ingestion experiment. You can find it here: Part 1 of Howard Thurman's Sermon and Part 2. Finally, there is evidence that Walter Pahnke recorded some of the post-experience interviews he conducted with the participants; however, after extensive work attempting to find them, documentarian Susan Gervasi believes they are either lost or destroyed. When we asked Ralph Metzner whether Dr. Pahnke had recorded the experiment itself, he replied:
Never heard that rumor before and I doubt very much the Marsh chapel event was recorded. We would have noticed it. Recording equipment in those days wasn't that easy to conceal. The post-session interviews about the experience may have been recorded, as part of Walter Pahnke's research and that would have been stated in his research reports, since he was very conscientious; but I have no knowledge of whether that occurred. -- Ralph Metzner, June 2013, private communication
Bill Richards, who knew Walter Pahnke in the 1960s, also speculated that recordings were made of the participants after the psilocybin session:
My guess is that Wally [Pahnke] had reel-to-reel recordings of his interviews with the participants afterwards, but I doubt if any are still in existence. I don't think there were recordings during the session itself. -- Bill Richards, June 2013, private communication
Michael Horowitz, lifelong psychedelic archivist, also said he didn't think they existed:
No, I never heard this rumour. I don't know of any audiotape existing of any of the Harvard Psilocybin Research experiments either, occuring at the same time. If it does exist, it might turn out to be as boring as the famous and rare LP of the Merry Prankster's acid test at the Fillmore in 1966. -- Michael Horowitz, June 2013, private communication
Susan Gervasi, who has been working on a video documentary about the Good Friday Experiment stated she did not believe there were any recordings made during the experiment itself, but that Pahnke had recorded the post-session interviews and those recordings are now lost:
My understanding is that Walter Pahnke conducted reel-to-reel taped interviews with all participants immediately afterward. His thesis quotes extensively from what I assume to be those recordings. (I'm pretty sure that some of the participants mentioned to me their memory of being recorded.) Unfortunately, I have no idea what has become of those tapes. Rick Doblin [who did an extensive followup on the experiment in 1990] believes they were lost. My understanding is that the Pahnke family does not have any knowledge of those tapes. -- Susan Gervasi, June 2013, private communication
Until and unless the original reel-to-reel spools are discovered somewhere in the Leary archives, at Harvard, or in the private collection of a Pahnke family member, there are no existing recordings of the 1962 Good Friday psilocybin experiment or of any of follow up interviews.

Asked By : T. Washington
Answered By : earth
Edited By : jon
Published Date : 8 / 14 / 2013
Last Edited Date : 8 / 14 / 2013
Question ID : 3181

Categories: [ Psilocybin & Psilocin ] [ History ] [ Effects ]

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