Headlines of Yore

A 1960s state official claimed Pa. college students took LSD and went blind — and newspapers believed him

It turned out the story was a total hoax.

Street art in Philadelphia

Street art in Philadelphia

Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

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Psychedelics are becoming more and more mainstream. It’s now common for them to be used in therapy sessions, and acceptance is growing around “microdosing” to deal with everyday life. In Philly, the SoundMind Center and Philadelphia Psychedelic Society each have hundreds of people on their waiting lists.

In the 1960s, however, these drugs were symbols of the rising counterculture that continued to stoke establishment handwringing.

One Pennsylvania official was so freaked out by what he was told about LSD that he made up a scare story out of thin air. State Commissioner for the Blind Norman Yoder claimed half a dozen tripping Pa. college students stared at the sun so long they went completely blind.

Reporters dutifully reprinted his claims, with an Associated Press story noting simply that Yoder “refused to identify” which Pennsylvania college was involved. The tale followed a similarly specious report out of Los Angeles.

The governor launched an inquiry. Within a week, the hoax was revealed — but not before a random Pa. state senator decided, against all evidence, to embrace the story and push it as truth.

Check out the details and read the original newspaper clips in the thread below.

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