May 10, 1941 -- April 24, 2017
May 5, 2017
Citation: Scully T. "Erowid Character Vaults: Nick Sand Biography". Erowid.org. May 4, 2017.
Nick Sand, who died suddenly on April 24, 2017, was widely known and highly respected in the psychedelic community as a dauntless manufacturer of psychedelics. He was a red diaper baby, born May 10, 1941, in Brooklyn, New York. Both of Nick's parents were idealistic communists in the 1930s. His father, Clarence Hiskey, was a chemist who worked on the Manhattan project during World War II. In 1944, army counter-intelligence agents observed Hiskey meeting with a Soviet agent named Arthur Adams. This eventually led to his dismissal from the Manhattan project.
Photo by Jon Hanna
Clarence Hiskey divorced Nick's mother Marcia Sand while Nick was very young and remarried, eventually fathering a daughter, Nick's half-sister Iris. Marcia Sand took back her maiden name and gave it to Nick. After the divorce Nick lived with his mother but visited his father occasionally.
Clarence Hiskey and Marcia Sand eventually were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, but refused to testify about their friends. Nick Sand believed that his father, who shared his impish sense of humor and love of adventure, only flirted with the Soviet spy but did not give him bomb secrets.
Raised in Brooklyn, Nick Sand graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in 1959. In his youth, he was filled with intense enthusiasm for everything that interested him. He loved the natural world, photography, and as a young man he became fascinated by anthropology. Nick was handsome, charismatic, and bursting with energy.
Nick was married to his childhood friend Maxine (Melly) Lee Solomon in June of 1961 by the Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court. From October 1961 to October 1962 they lived and worked on a kibbutz in Israel.
In the fall of 1962, Nick started taking classes at Brooklyn College night school, obtaining his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and anthropology in 1966. Nick later said he was on the honor roll, the Dean's list, and graduated Cum Laude.
During his college studies Nick read about psychedelics and met intellectuals who took them. He immediately tracked down some mescaline sulfate and had his first psychedelic experience in December of 1962. Eventually he took peyote several times and began smoking cannabis while listening to Indian music. Nick soon became convinced that his life's work would be making psychedelic drugs widely available.
In the summer of 1963, Nick Sand taught himself chemistry and set up his first tiny lab in the attic of his mother's house. He initially learned how to make dimethyltryptamine (DMT) because it was the simplest psychedelic to manufacture. At the time, the only known method for taking the drug was by injection, as DMT is inactive orally.
In the summer of 1963, Nick Sand taught himself chemistry and set up his first tiny lab in the attic of his mother's house.
Nick Sand met Dr. Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), when he gave a lecture at Brooklyn College in 1964. Nick invited Dr. Alpert to see his lab and turned him on to DMT. Richard Alpert in return invited Nick to visit Millbrook, a farm in upstate New York, owned by Tommy and Billy Hitchcock, where Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Ralph Metzner, and others had established an experimental psychedelic community. Nick took his first LSD trip at Millbrook and was introduced to George Gurdjieff's writing; these became lifelong interests of his.
In 1965, a carboy of sulfuric acid in Nick's lab spilled, dripped downstairs, and ruined fabric in the garment factory's shop. Nick hastily relocated Bell Perfume Labs to a building filled with dental labs not far from the Brooklyn City Hall. At the new location he continued to scale up his manufacturing of psychedelics; by this time he was using 72-liter flasks. Nick experimented with making LSD but wasn't able to figure out how to purify it. His DMT wasn't very pure at that stage either.
Nick's marriage to Melly ended in 1965 because she was unable to convince Nick to give up his obsession with making psychedelics. Nick remained immersed in the psychedelic community, eventually meeting people from California including LSD manufacturer Owsley Stanley.
In May of 1966, Richard Alpert returned from testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing in Washington and told Nick Sand that LSD would be outlawed. Nick soon decided that he would have to go underground to continue his work.
In the fall of 1966, Nick made a trip to California and briefly visited Owsley Stanley's Point Richmond Lab. Owsley suggested to him that he should move to California.
While visiting New York City, David Mantell met Nick. David was a former UC-Berkeley organic chemistry student who dropped out to rent a ranch near Cloverdale, California, and establish a small commune. David joined Nick at his Bell Perfume Lab in Brooklyn, where Nick worked out improvements in purifying DMT and diethyltryptamine, a related psychedelic.
In September of 1966, Timothy Leary formed the League for Spiritual Discovery as a religion that incorporated psychedelics drugs as sacraments. Sometime after that he wrote a letter appointing Nick Sand as alchemist for the League for Spiritual Discovery and instructing law enforcement officials not to impede his work.
In February of 1967, Nick Sand and David Mantell dismantled Bell Perfume Labs and packed it into a used meat-hauling truck. In March, the two began driving across the country so that they could set up the lab in California. They failed to stop at a weighing station in Dinosaur, Colorado; and when Nick refused to pay a fine to the arresting officer, both men were jailed. The truck was eventually searched, drugs and laboratory equipment were found, and they were charged with federal controlled substance offenses in early April of 1967. After many months of legal maneuvering, the charges against them were dropped because the search of their truck was eventually found to have been illegal.
Free on bail, Nick and David made their way to California where Owsley asked his lab partner Tim Scully to tell Nick how to make DOM2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine (DOM), a still-legal psychedelic known as "STP" on the street, so that Nick could get back on his feet after his Colorado bust. Nick traveled back to Millbrook, where he seduced Jill Henry—Billy Hitchcock's beautiful governess—and convinced her to come to California with him. Initially, they lived on David Mantell's ranch near Cloverdale, California. Later that year, Nick and David set up a new chemical company in San Francisco called D&H Custom Research, using the aliases Nicholas Dashman and David Hoffman. Starting with bench-top chemistry they made STP. Owsley introduced Nick to Terry the Tramp of the Oakland Hells Angels as a possible distributor.
Nick and David soon were able to sell enough STP to finance scaling up; by the end of 1967, they were using a surplus 200-gallon stainless steel soup kettle as a reaction vessel for making larger batches of STP. They also made smaller batches of DMT and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), a psychedelic/empathogen similar to MDMA (Ecstasy).
On December 21, 1967, Owsley's tableting facility in Orinda, California, was raided by federal agents, ending his involvement in LSD manufacturing. In January of 1968, Nick Sand and Tim Scully searched together for European sources of lysergic acid or ergot alkaloids as raw material for making LSD. Over the next six months they jointly acquired over a kilogram of lysergic acid and a smaller quantity of ergotamine tartrate. But Nick Sand still needed some technical know-how to begin manufacturing LSD.
When Tim Scully's second Denver lab was raided by police in June of 1968, he was out of town and wasn't arrested. But he lost all of his lab equipment. Nick Sand eventually agreed to finance setting up a new lab for making LSD in return for Tim Scully teaching him the process Tim had learned from Owsley Stanley. As part of their agreement, Tim insisted that any LSD they made would be distributed through The Brotherhood of Eternal Love rather than the Hells Angels. Nick Sand also agreed to handle the tableting of their product.
Sand and Scully's collaboration led in November to the establishment of a lab in Windsor, California. Ultimately, this lab produced well over a kilo (more than four million 300 μg doses) of very pure LSD. Nick Sand tableted this material as small orange pills that eventually became known as Orange Sunshine. Although Jill Henry was pregnant by Nick, she still worked with Nick and David Mantell in the Windsor lab.
In late May of 1969, Nick Sand's daughter Sorrel was born. Nick closed the Windsor lab.
By this time, the ranch near Cloverdale that David Mantell had originally rented had become known to most people as Nick's ranch because of Nick's dominant personality. Nick and David pooled their money from the Windsor lab and bought the Cloverdale ranch.
In the fall of 1969, Nick Sand set up the Tekton Development Company in San Francisco to gather and construct chemistry equipment for his next laboratory.
In early 1970, Ron Stark, an American presenting himself as a biochemist and international businessman also connected with Millbrook, met Nick Sand at his Cloverdale ranch, after having been introduced to him by Tim Scully (who in turn was introduced to him by Billy Hitchcock). Stark brought with him a large amount (either a pound or a kilo) of rather impure LSD and said that he had European laboratories that were able to produce unlimited quantities of LSD. He was seeking American distribution. After insisting that Ron Stark's LSD needed to be purified before tableting, Nick and Tim eventually introduced Stark to The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. When Tim Scully ran into trouble with federal agents who had been following the tableting machine he had picked up, he dropped out. Nick Sand took over the task of setting up a purification and tableting facility for Ron Stark's LSD in a desert house near Palm Springs owned by The Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
Ron Stark and Nick Sand competed for The Brotherhood of Eternal Love's favors and Ron Stark eventually won. Nick continued to gather the equipment and materials for another new lab. Jill Henry tried to convince Nick to stop making psychedelics and settle down to raise his family. Failing to deflect Nick from his relentless pursuit of making psychedelics, they separated. They agreed to take turns with custody of their daughter.
In 1971, Nick Sand successfully wooed Judy Shaughnessy to be his lover and lab partner as he continued preparations for another lab.
In October of 1971, Nick Sand was selected by the Narcotics Traffickers Program as a target for investigation by a joint federal narcotics and tax task force. The investigation began with IRS agents interviewing Peter Buchanan, Nick's tax attorney, and reviewing his tax returns. The investigating agents soon became suspicious that Peter Buchanan was more than a tax attorney to Nick Sand and started investigating his law firm's bank accounts. They found evidence that Peter Buchanan had bought many cashier's checks for cash using false names and deposited them into his law firm's trust accounts. Confronted with this evidence, Peter Buchanan asked for immunity from prosecution and agreed to testify before a grand jury.
In 1972, Nick (using the alias Leland Jordan) and Judy went on to set up a very sophisticated lab in downtown St. Louis, and a smaller lab in the basement of their rented house in Fenton, Missouri, where they made substantial amounts (millions of doses) of LSD and other psychedelics.
While Nick and Judy were cooking in St. Louis, a San Francisco grand jury was grilling Peter Buchanan about Nick Sand, Tim Scully, Billy Hitchcock, and Ron Stark. Having been warned about the grand jury by Peter Buchanan, Tim Scully and Billy Hitchcock left the United States to avoid being subpoenaed by the grand jury.
In the summer of 1972, a local California investigation (Operation BEL) of The Brotherhood of Eternal Love resulted in a massive state grand jury conspiracy indictment against 29 people allegedly in The Brotherhood, including Nick Sand. On August 5, 1972, 16 major Brotherhood figures were arrested along with 37 others in coordinated raids in Hawaii, Oregon, and numerous Southern California locations. Nick Sand was featured on a wanted poster along with many other Brotherhood fugitives.
At the end of 1972, Nick and Judy left their home in Fenton and their lab in St. Louis for a short vacation. They forgot to put a stop order on mail delivery and their mailbox near the street overflowed. The mailman called the police, who later said that they had noticed water running out from under the front door. (The heating system in the house had failed, causing a water pipe to freeze and break.) The police said they entered the house to stop further damage, but were surprised to find drugs in the upstairs bedroom closet and a laboratory in the basement. When Nick and Judy returned from their vacation they were arrested.
In early 1973, Billy Hitchcock was indicted for income tax evasion and violations of Regulation T of the Securities and Exchange Act. Faced with massive evidence that could send him to prison for many years, Billy Hitchcock agreed to make a deal: he testified against Ron Stark, Charles Druce, Lester Friedman, Nick Sand, and Tim Scully, and a federal indictment was returned against them in April 1973.
The charges against Nick and Judy in St. Louis were eventually dismissed due to illegal search and seizure. Nick was transferred from the jail in Missouri to the jail in San Francisco where he remained in custody during pretrial preparations and during the conspiracy trial, which began with opening statements on November 12, 1973. Nick and Judy married while he was in the San Francisco jail. The trial lasted for several months, concluding with closing statements on January 25, 1974. Nick Sand and Tim Scully were both convicted on multiple charges on January 30, 1974, and sentenced on March 8, 1974, respectively to 15 and 20 years in prison. Nick was eventually sent to McNeil Island penitentiary to begin serving his 15-year sentence.
Nick was not able to post bail initially because Judge Conti had set his appeal bail at $500,000, all required in cash. After several months at McNeil Island, Tim Scully won an appeal for bail reduction and Nick was able to ride on his coattails. Nick was released on appeal bond August 21, 1974. He returned to the San Francisco Bay Area where he lived on a houseboat in Sausalito and trained to be an operating room technician as the appeals unfolded.
In September of 1976, Nick got word that his appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court was about to be denied. Without hesitation, he chose to become a fugitive and managed to elude federal surveillance with the help of Nancy Pinney as his getaway driver. He threw away his wallet and his old ID as Nick Sand. He eventually made his way to Canada, carrying a fishing pole to mislead Canada customs.
By November of 1976, Judy Shaughnessy was able to join Nick in Canada. They settled on Maple Lake Road in Lumby, just outside of Vernon in the Okanogan, and grew psilocybin mushrooms for a living. Their daughter Sorrel eventually joined them. Once he was settled in Canada, Nick spent some time researching birth and death records and put together several complete false identities by using the names of dead infants. He kept most of those identities in reserve (updating them every year), but started using the first one, Ted Parody.
In the fall of 1977, Nick travelled to Vancouver to make a food run. A friend there gave him a copy of a book by the Indian mystic Shree Rajneesh; Nick was blown away when he read it. He bought more of Rajneesh's books and brought them home. Judy was also impressed with Rajneesh. They saved enough money from mushroom growing to travel to India in the spring of 1978, so that they could spend time in person with the holy man.
Nick remained in India with Judy and Sorrel until 1981. While there, he spent much of his time at the Rajneesh ashram near Pune. He learned how to cultivate plants hydroponically there, and grew fresh vegetables for the ashram in a large hydroponic garden. Nick initially rented and eventually bought a house about 15 minutes from the ashram. He, Judy, and Sorrel lived in the downstairs area of the house. Upstairs, they constructed an LSD lab. Nick had located a source of ergotamine tartrate in India and made massive amounts of LSD during the years he lived there.
Nick later said that in 1981 he helped Rajneesh get a passport and leave India. They eventually settled at a ranch about 120 miles southeast of Portland, which became a Rajneeshee community: Rajneeshpuram, near Antelope, Oregon. Posing as a Canadian, Nick initially lived there with Judy, while Sorrel lived in the "kids' house" at Rajneeshpuram. Eventually Nick and Judy broke up but never divorced. Nick began living with a German Rajneeshee, a woman named Varuni who was his partner for the next ten years. They remained at Rajneeshpuram until the ashram disbanded in late 1985, at which point Nick left Oregon and returned to Canada, settling in Aldergrove. He resumed growing psilocybin mushrooms.
Nick had a hard time making a living from mushrooms, so in 1986 he turned his hand to growing cannabis indoors using hydroponics. He was much more successful selling the pot that he grew. Eventually he went to Belize for a vacation and ran into two Canadian gold miners named Smith. Varuni liked the idea of a legitimate job, so Nick invested in machinery and worked at placer mining for a while. In the late 1980s, the Smiths stole and attempted to sell Nick's mining equipment. Fortunately he had engraved the equipment and mortgaged it to Varuni, registering it with the Ministry of Finance so he was able to block the auction of the equipment. Nick resumed growing pot in the basement of his house. The Smith brothers went to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and falsely accused Ted Parody (Nick) of arson. The resulting investigation revealed that Ted Parody's ID was false. Nick was held in jail while the RCMP ran fingerprint searches, which all came up negative because his McNeil Island fingerprints were not in the computer system. Nick managed to get out on bail before search results came back from Interpol. He abandoned the Ted Parody identity.
Nick managed to get out on bail before search results came back from Interpol. He abandoned the Ted Parody identity.
In 1996, Nick became lovers with Usha (Gina Raetze), who remained his partner until his death. On September 26, 1996, Nick was arrested at the Port Coquitlam lab with 5 kg of DMT, 3.5 kg of MDMA, 5 kg of MDA, 43 grams of LSD and 2.5 kilos of ergotamine tartrate. By December of 1996, the RCMP had figured out that the man they'd arrested was Nick Sand, who had been a fugitive for 20 years. In February of 1998, Nick pled guilty to manufacturing drugs in Canada. He was given a nine-year sentence, which the Canadian authorities agreed to let run concurrently with his US sentence. Nick's lawyer eventually made a deal with the American authorities to allow him to be transported to the United States in return for credit for time served in Canada toward his 15-year American sentence. In San Francisco, Nick was tried for bail jumping and found guilty by Judge Conti on October 15, 1998. He was sentenced to an additional consecutive five-year term on January 22, 1999.
While in prison, Nick completed writing a rough draft of a book he titled Psychedelic Secrets, which detailed various insights he'd gained from his extensive experience using psychedelics and guiding others in their thoughtful use. On December 22, 2000 Nick was released to a halfway house after winning an appeal that overturned his conviction for bail jumping because he was never given a specific date to report to the court.
Nick's parole was terminated in 2005 and he was able to travel internationally again. He spent some time in Mexico and Guatemala, and in the following years spent increasing amounts of time in Ecuador where he eventually bought a small farm. He was invited to speak at psychedelic conferences in many countries.
In 2009, National Geographic filmed an interview with Nick for a documentary they planned on LSD. Most of the interview ended up on the cutting room floor. In one scene Nick said that during his career he made about 14 kg of LSD, most of which was put up in 100 μg doses, which implies that he made nearly 140 million doses of LSD.
During 2013 and 2014, Nick participated in interviews with Cosmo Feilding Mellen; these were used in the documentary The Sunshine Makers, widely released in 2017, which focuses on Nick and Tim Scully's work making Orange Sunshine LSD.
Nick was talking about writing a memoir shortly before he died on April 24, 2017. He is survived by his daughter Sorrel, her mother Jill Henry, his wife Judy Shaughnessy, his long-term partner Usha (Gina Raetze) and his half-sister Iris.