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Taking the fun out of fungus

by Samantha Grice

In August of 1830, surgeon D.O. Edwards was called to the waiting room of Westminster Hospital in London. There he found Frederick Bickerton, age 25, his 23-year-old wife, Anne, and their son, George, aged four, all of whom appeared to be quite drunk. Further examination revealed “that the inebriation proceeded from no ordinary cause.” Edwards wrote that the family were taken with the “highest hilarity.” Giggling hysterically, they strode around in “continual motion, either dancing or throwing themselves in grotesque attitudes.” The couple vehemently denied they were drunk and the doctor was perplexed as to a diagnosis — until he learned what the Bickertons had for lunch. It seems Frederick, a labourer, had been without work for some time. In an attempt to bring in some money to buy food, the family had picked mushrooms in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to sell. Without a single sale, they returned home and cooked their pickings into a mushroom broth upon which they dined. According to medical records, the symptoms came on fast. Frederick was first “affected with giddiness; this gradually increased until a dimness of sight supervened.” He saw himself surrounded by flames and “became confused to the eye. He occasionally felt a sentiment of uncontrollable gladness, which prompted him to the muscular movement. Yet he remained fully conscious that he was in a state of preternatural excitement.”

Read the original article at: National Post

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