Citation: Nunatak. "Phantom Soiree: An Experience with Trihexyphenidyl (exp76758)". Erowid.org. Oct 22, 2012. erowid.org/exp/76758
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Phantom Soirée: My Tremin Experience
In the early 1970s, at the age of 16, I unwittingly ingested a powerful hallucinogen known as tremin. A high-school acquaintance had offered me a few tablets, describing the drug as “a mild form of mescaline that makes you laugh a lot.” Since I liked to laugh as much as the next guy—and was foolish enough to take this teenage know-nothing as an authority—I readily agreed to sample the goods.
Years later I learned that, far from being a gentle variant on mescaline, tremin—a trade name for the chemical compound trihexyphenidyl hydrochloride—was classified as an antiparkinsonian medication used to alleviate involuntary muscular tremors. Rumor had it that tremin was also administered to patients suffering from schizophrenia and other mental disorders, which may well have explained its availability in my hometown of Utica, New York, the site of the state’s largest mental hospital. Though I never encountered the drug anywhere else on my far-flung travels, tremin was regularly available to thrill-seekers on Utica’s underground drug circuit, sometimes under the corrupted name “tremblin.”
On a rainy weeknight I met up with three of my friends to try out the tremin. Each of us swallowed two small white tablets—I have no way of estimating the dosage level—and went for a walk in our neighborhood, eagerly awaiting the promised merriment. After trudging around in steady rain for several hours without feeling any noticeable effect, we disappointedly concluded that the tremin was either weak or bogus. Hoping to salvage what was left of the evening, I invited my companions back to my house to escape the rain, reassuring them that my mother had gone out with friends, in the event that tremin might still kick in. We killed time shooting pool in my basement but still registered no effect from the drug, so my friends headed home around 11 P.M. Tired and feeling a bit let down, I sat down to eat a late-night bowl of cereal before going to bed.
While digging into my Total, I began to hear my friends talking in the room behind me. I listened intently to their conversation for a few moments, then remembered with a start that they had already gone home. After a brief pause the voices returned. Unlike the voices one typically ‘hears’ in the mind’s ear, these disembodied utterances had an uncanny immediacy. The speakers soon started badgering me with questions; I felt an almost involuntary compulsion to join in the dialogue. Suddenly I felt as though a bubble had burst, and the scene returned to normal. ‘Wow, I guess this tremin works after all,’ I thought, but by this late hour on a school night I had lost my enthusiasm for tripping into the wee hours, so I finished my cereal and went off to bed, leaving a few lights on for my mother. Eerily, the voices persisted right up to the moment I dropped off to sleep.
Some time later—I have no idea how long—I awoke under the full influence of the drug. The voices were back, even more distinct than before. I noticed that the house lights had all been turned off, indicating that my mother had come home and was sleeping in the adjacent bedroom. I lay restlessly in bed in a corner of the room, facing the wall. The voices insistently plied me with questions, but by now I no longer had the will to resist answering them aloud. And now things were really getting interesting… After several minutes of speaking to my fellow tremin-droppers over my shoulder, I rolled over to find them visibly present—a party had somehow materialized in my bedroom.
While I never lost sight of the fact that that I had taken tremin, I still believed that most of the outlandish events taking place around me that night were real. It's important to mention that when one is under the influence of tremin, the mind invariably comes up with convincing explanations for whatever unlikely phenomena might occur. In retrospect, it seems ludicrous that I had really believed my friends were present, but as is always the case with tremin, a plausible rationale presented itself: my friends had also experienced the belated effect of the drug and had returned to my house for an impromptu party, mistakenly thinking that my mother was out of town rather than out for the evening.
But how to explain the fact that others who had not taken the tremin were also present? By this time quite a crowd had gathered in my bedroom—apparently word had spread quickly about the party at my house. Again, I didn’t find it improbable that teenagers would be prowling around the city at 2 A.M. on a school night, rapping on each others' windows and sneaking out in the dark.
Another striking characteristic of the tremin experience is that one enters a state of cyclical forgetfulness. No sooner would I feel that I’d gotten a grip on the situation than I would instantly forget what I’d been thinking about in the first place, and it would all start over again.
New guests arrived by the minute. Under normal circumstances I would have welcomed a nocturnal party, but not with my unsuspecting mother asleep in the next room. Mortified at the prospect of her bursting in on our bacchanal, I repeatedly admonished my guests to be quiet, but without success. The ‘tremin people’ were full of questions—provocative ones at that—but I had begun to notice that whenever I asked a question of my own, it was invariably met with silence. Duped into a state of trusting receptivity by the tremin, I chattered away endlessly in response to my guests’ queries, but all attempts to initiate conversations on my own terms failed. The voices had a curiously persuasive gravitational pull that reminded me of the seductive “Saruman voice” in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
I grew increasingly paranoid that so many people were freely roaming around my house, oblivious to my snoozing mother. At one point I could clearly hear people shooting pool in the basement, right down to the clicks of the colliding balls. In alarm, I dispatched a friend to the cellar to tell the pool sharks to cut their game short. In a rare display of cooperation, he dutifully left the room and the noise from downstairs soon ceased.
The first arrivals had been the same friends I had dropped the tremin with earlier. When I told them how strongly the drug was affecting me, they smiled and nodded sympathetically. I’ll never forget the weird sensation of engaging these phantoms in conversation. Before long more people arrived to swell the party—first friends, then acquaintances, and later a few total strangers. Some of the guests sat on the edge of my bed, another sat quietly in a corner of the room, and still more streamed in steadily through the door. At one point I picked up a record album cover and passed it through the outstretched hand of my friend Donnie, who was sitting on my bed. We both laughed in amazement, but while I suspected that the album stunt was probably a trick of the drug, I never doubted for a moment that Donnie was actually there. Though fully aware that I was undergoing an intense drug experience, I still failed to connect the presence of my visitors with the tremin.
I can’t stress enough that the visitors looked nothing like flickering, transparent hallucinations or ghosts but instead seemed as solid and corporeal as physical humans. However, I had no sensation of actually touching them (more on that later).
Ever the good host, I eventually got up and put a record on the turntable to entertain my guests. By this time I must have sighted at least 20 different people in my room, most of them high-school classmates. Among the partygoers were some attractive girls who were only casual acquaintances. One couple made out passionately in a corner of the room. All of this somehow seemed believable in my heightened state, but when my social studies teacher, Mrs. Perritano, passed through one wall, strode purposefully across the room, and then disappeared into the opposite wall, followed by the pitchfork-holding farm couple from “American Gothic,” I realized for the first time that at least some of my visitors were phantasms. Still, I remained convinced that the more familiar apparitions were truly present, and even discussed my more outlandish hallucinations with them.
After a while I had a pressing need to urinate but was loath to get out of bed clad only in my undershorts with unfamiliar girls in the room. My pants lay on the floor on the opposite side of the room, close to the seated figure of my friend Wilson, his face shadowed by a wide-brimmed hat. I repeatedly whispered to Wilson to throw me my pants, but he made no response, so I sheepishly got out of bed, hurriedly pulled on my pants, and went off to the bathroom. I was beginning to suspect that my friends, seeing how helplessly discombobulated I was, were playing games with me, deliberately trying to amplify my disorientation.
Once back in bed, I continued to interact with my visitors until it started to grow light outside. By sunrise the guests had mostly fallen silent, but I was becoming ever more anxious that my mother would soon rise and discover them. At length I firmly announced that everyone had to leave. Typically, not a soul responded. A few minutes later I rose, pointedly opened the window, and made another trip to the bathroom.
When I returned they had all vanished. A breeze was blowing in through the window, so it seemed to make sense that my guests had left the room by that route. This only reinforced my suspicion that my friends were conspiring to “trip me out.”
With the arrival of dawn came the feeling that I had ‘come down’ and put the worst of the experience behind me. I gave up on getting any sleep and went to sit in the living room, where I sank into dozy, druggy reveries. At times I fancied that I was communicating with friends telepathically. Presently I was startled to full attention by a sharp knock on the sliding glass door that led from the kitchen to the back yard. I turned and saw my friend Dan—one of the last visitors to have left my bedroom— grinning and waving outside on the patio. I stood up and walked to the kitchen—now that I was feeling a bit more grounded, I appreciated having someone around to discuss the night’s carnivale with—but in the few seconds it took me to reach the door, he was gone.
I slid open the door but nobody was to be seen. A moment later I heard giggling and spied three pairs of shoes through a gap at the bottom of a redwood partition bordering the patio. So they were still playing games with me, were they? I called to the pranksters but got no reply. Miffed, I went back inside and sat down.
I slipped back into drowsiness until I was again interrupted by an even louder knock on the back door. I rose quickly, opened the door, and saw that my friends were still hiding behind the partition, playing their juvenile games with me. Annoyed at their determination to torment me, I snapped, “C'mon, you guys!” More silence ensued.
I returned to my chair a third time. No sooner did the tremin forgetfulness envelop me than I was jarred alert by Dan's violent pounding on the back door. I leapt up, flung the door open, and ran out into the backyard, ready to kick some ass. But by this time my friends, no doubt having anticipated my anger, were already halfway down the hill, crashing about in the woods. I could hear their laughter and the sound of twigs snapping in the underbrush. Incensed, I picked up a brick and heaved it in their direction to show them that I meant business.
A short time later I somehow managed to get through breakfast with my mother—I’ve often wondered what she made of my behavior, or whether I was babbling to nobody in particular over my eggs—then left for school. I showed up at Utica Free Academy to find the usual crowd of longhairs and ne'er-do-wells hanging out on the wide front steps. Among them were several faces I recognized from the previous night’s gathering in my bedroom. I walked up to some of these folks and laughed sheepishly, expecting to be ribbed about the night's misadventures, but they acted as if nothing unusual had happened and appeared puzzled by my curious demeanor.
I then approached two of the girls I had seen in my room and said, “I know I was pretty fucked up last night, but what were you guys doing at my house anyway?” Visibly flabbergasted, they protested that they had no idea what I was talking about. I insisted that I had seen them in my room, convinced that they were parties to the growing conspiracy to play mind games with me. They nervously moved away from me.
Fortunately nothing untoward seems to have occurred during my morning classes. At lunchtime I went outside and spied Dan among a group of students hanging out across the street from the school. I confronted him peevishly about the episode with the sliding door. He heatedly denied having been at my house. People around us appeared to grin knowingly. I was growing tired of this cruel joke and told him to give it a rest. “I was not at your house last night!” he roared. Our tempers flared and we nearly came to blows. Meanwhile, a gaggle of bemused onlookers had collected on the sidewalk to observe this bizarre exchange, including one well-known local psychonaut who was so impressed by my eccentric behavior that he later sought me out and became my tripping buddy. Eventually I stormed off in a huff, cursing under my breath.
At about 5 that evening I had the sensation of a veil lifting from me, and realized that only then—about 22 hours after I had ingested the tablets—had I emerged from my tremin trance. It suddenly hit me that nobody, not even the friends who had likewise taken tremin, had visited my house the night before. The entire experience had been an incredibly detailed, all-enveloping hallucination. I was mortified at the way I had behaved at school that morning, and wondered what on earth my mother had made of my nocturnal movements and mutterings, but I was still more fascinated with the peculiar nature of tremin.
The story of my hallucinatory adventure spread quickly, and before long experimentation with tremin came into vogue among my high-school peers. Teenage hipsters would gather in the woods on the fringes of town at night and take sizable doses of the drug; many of them underwent experiences very similar to my own. Conversations with ‘tremin people’ became commonplace. One particularly reckless young fellow, nicknamed Blale, made a reputation for himself as a tremin daredevil, gobbling handfuls of the pills and bringing back wild tales of nights spent with his tremin “friends.” There were even instances of collective hallucination, where a number of people would see the same apparitions. We would excitedly discuss the tremin people we saw emerging from the shadows of the forest between waves of drug-induced memory lapses. I recall one group hallucination in which we all watched a fire hydrant transform itself into a dancing biped. Amazingly, the hallucinations could occur even in broad daylight. Still, nobody else ever seemed to have gotten as gobsmacked as I did during my first tremin ordeal.
No matter how familiar one became with the tremin experience, one could always be fooled again and again by the apparitions. On one excursion, I kept repeating to myself that “I know that I’m on tremin, but this time I’m going to observe rather than participate in the experience”—but abruptly realized that I was already telling this to a tremin person.
About a year after my initial tremin trip, I made a startling discovery: Lying in bed one night under the influence of tremin, I became aware of a figure holding a painting in front of me. I noticed with annoyance that the picture was incomplete, so I reached over and picked up a pastel from my desk, then colored in the blank spot on the paper. A moment later the image vanished. It was at that point that I realized that I had never moved my arms from under the blanket. It suddenly dawned on me that, during my epic trip of the previous year, I may never have gotten out of bed—or even opened my mouth. Naturally, this raised all kinds of questions as to what we were really doing, or not doing, on our tremin voyages.
In the decades since my tremin experiences, I’ve never encountered so much as a mention of the drug again. My Web searches have produced very few results and, interestingly, only one passing reference to hallucinations as a side effect—no allusion whatsoever to the extraordinary universe of tremin phantoms that many Uticans witnessed. Was there something anomalous about the batches we were sampling? We’ll probably never know. But it’s probably just as well that tremin passed out of vogue, for it is a deeply disturbing substance that I wouldn’t recommend using for recreational purposes. I wouldn’t classify it as a psychedelic by any stretch, for it distorts rather than sharpens perception; I’ve always maintained that the visions prompted by true psychedelics are not ‘hallucinations’ in the accepted sense but rather are magnifications of the underlying structure of reality. Tremin is more apt to exacerbate angst than bring insights or pleasure—unless consorting with phantoms is your idea of a good time.
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