March, 1850. A group of revellers celebrated Mardi gras at a Paris cafe… After drinking “copious” rounds of “flaming punch”, all were generally “prepared for anything or everything” until a local physician arrived with a powerful cannabis concoction. The good doctor had acquired some potent “hashish extract” and, in the name of science, had “resolved upon trying it on the neighbours.” Before long, the unsuspecting crowd was pouring the extract liberally into drinks and onto cigarettes. Many used moderation, experiencing only a mild intoxication. However, others took far too much…
First came the laughter. Then came the screaming. One man slept like the dead, while one young woman revealed “all her little love secrets.” Finally, most were overcome by “an invincible tendency to sleep; the benches were strewn with the slain, and delightful dreams, producing strange laughter, repaid the adventurous tasters for their curiosity.”
“HASHISH” IN A FRENCH CAFÉ
The Guardian, March 13, 1850
The Paris correspondent of the Medical Times gives the following singular account of the physiological effects of the Indian hemp, which has only just been introduced into France:
“Finding the hemp so strong, the physician alluded to in a former part of my letter resolved upon trying it on the neighbours. He therefore betook himself, with about fifteen grains of the extract, to a café close by, to the habitués of which he was well known. It was Mardi gras, and copious libations of flaming punch had prepared the natives for anything or everything. Monte-Christo, besides, had made the wonders of hashish familiar to them, and all were anxious to test the properties of the unknown drug.
Not more than a single grain was given to each. Some bolted it like a bolus; others smoked it; one individual merely smeared about a quarter of a grain over his cigarette paper. About one grain was dissolved in a glass of Curacoa; and this was allotted to the master of the house.
His two young and handsome daughters were forbidden to taste of the drug; but the physician had here evidently forgotten his scriptural history. About three-quarters of an hour passed quietly over, and the curious were rapidly lapsing into incredulity, when a short laugh, followed by an awful and most piercing shriek, issued from an inner apartment. The youngest daughter, following traditional example, had tasted of the forbidden object, and was suddenly struck with delirium and hysterical movements of a very alarming appearance. Consciousness was only half obliterated, and the mid seemed to make supernatural efforts to escape from the chain about to be thrown round it. The shrieks were rapid, most violent, and of a peculiar kind. The girl felt conscious that she was raving, and earnestly entreated all around her not to conclude that she was mad; each appeal being terminated by a heart-rending scream. Some internal sensation also compelled her to cry, every now and then, that she was dying. With great difficulty she was conveyed to bed, where the delirium continued for four hours; all her little love secrets &c. being revealed to the astonished auditors.
As if a signal were set by this mischance, the young men in the cafe went off about the same moment. The effects were not, however, so violent. They were extremely varied. The individual who had smoked hemp (half a grain) in his cigarette, was suddenly attacked by violent fits of laughter, which compelled him to roll on the floor, during which he exclaimed that something was raising him up to heaven. These fits, resembling hysteria, did not last more than ten minutes. Another individual, instead of being agitated, fell suddenly into a deep sleep, bolt up right against the wall, with the chin sunk on his chest, and the features in the most perfect calm. Were it not for the deep, slow inspirations, one would have thought him defunct, for the face was deadly pale. So profound was the sleep, that it continued for three hours, despite the shouts and screams of the excited bacchanal who danced around him; for, in the majority, the hemp merely produced intoxication.
In all, the excitement was soon followed by an invincible tendency to sleep; the benches were strewn with the slain, and delightful dreams, producing strange laughter, repaid the adventurous tasters for their curiosity.”