Peter Stafford Bruce Eisner
|Peter Stafford has passed on
by Bruce Eisner
Sunday July 19, 2007
Peter Stafford (1941-2007) author of Psychedelics Encyclopedia, and LSD in Action died in Santa Cruz, California of an accidental fall from a ladder while climbing down from a loft where he lived. Peter was a friend of mine since we met in Canada back in 1971 and I will miss him.
Update: As I started to write about Peter, I suddenly remember that I actually had not met Peter in 1971 but rather in 1973 (it was right around the time of the Watergate scandal). I had been invited to Regina, Canada for a presentation at the Northern Institute of Psychotronic Research by Professor Duncan Blewett, sometimes called the "Timothy Leary" of Canada for his transpersonal psychological perspective, which is described in his book, New Realms of Being. It was there that I met one of the heroes of my youth, a genuine East Village, acid-dropping, pot-smoking, book publishing then youthful appearing psychedelic writer named Peter Stafford.
At the opening meeting of the conference, held in an abandoned sanitarium in Fort San near Regina, I was introduced mistakenly as "Dr. Bruce Eisner" and the crowd was informed I would be giving a talk on the "enlightening effects of LSD. " Peter approached me enthusiastically, but because of his short hair, unusual in a day when long hair denoted "being cool," and a T-shirt which read "US Narcotics Squad," I was put off at first.
But when Peter introduced himself as" Peter Stafford," I immediately knew that he was "cool." Peter's first book, LSD - The Problem-Solving Psychedelic (published in the Shaffer Library) had served as a guidebook for my psychedelic first experiences.and I was probably Peter's biggest fan, I had even written him a fan letter afer finding his Stuyvesant Station Post Office Box listed at the end of an article he wrote called "Yage in the Valley of the Fire", which first appeared as a bright colored tabloid newspaper in the East Village and was later published in Humprehy Osmond's anthology, Psychedelics.
Peter who always like to describe himself as a Psychedelic Investigator took LSD while a student at Reed College in the early Sixties and became the archetypal hippie. He moved to New York in 1964 and began hanging out in the East Village, editing the first rock publication, Crawdaddy, together with author Paul Williams. It was there he wrote LSD The Problem-Solving Psychedelic. His co-author was Bonnie Golightly, a writer of pulp fiction who was portrayed as Hollie Golightly in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. The book had originally come out in 1965 in England and became a best seller there as the psychedelic movement was all the rage on Carnaby street that year.
Living in California, I had visited Santa Cruz a wonderful town filled with trees and beaches many times. I began regularly traveling to work with Peter on various writing projects, including my "LSD Purity, Cleanliness is Next to Godliness" and his Peter's third book, Psychedelics Encyclopedia. It was Peter's first book, LSD - The Problem-Solving Psychedelic, which had served as a guidebook for my first psychedelic experiences. I started working with Peter as apprentice and researcher on what people now call "the bible of psychedelics." Certainly it contains a lot of useful information on the subject, and remains to this day the best source of information on a variety of the psychedelic compounds.
Also during that time, Peter and I wrote an article which was part of a series I was doing for a magazine which had started up in New York that year, High Times. We called the article Who Turned On Whom -- a history of the psychedelic "turn on."
During the last few years of the Sixties, I had turned on, tuned in and dropped out of college. In early 1977, I moved to Santa Cruz to abandon my goal-less hippy life to study psychology. I was 28 when I started college again at Kresge, an experimental college of the university which then comprised eight colleges. Ten years older than the freshman at the dorms, I quickly got tired of the noisy life here and moved into an old Victorian house which I shared with Lynn Francis and Peter. During the eight months I lived there, Peter's father who had lived in a convalescent hospital in Santa Cruz for most of his life came to live with us. He died while I was there and his son Alexander (Sasha) Stafford was born. My VW bus served as the ambulance for their ride to the hospital.
In October of that year, I collaborated with Peter and Lynn on brining Albert Hofmann who discovered LSD and who I had met the previous year in Basel to Santa Cruz. We put together the first psychedelic conference since the Sixties called LSD a Generation Later. It was Hofmann's first public account of the discovery of LSD, which had served as a catalyst of the Sixties counterculture. The conference held at the University of California in October of 1977 was the first event focusing on psychedelics since 1967. The turbulence and hysteria of the Sixties had made it almost impossible for scientific meetings to be held on the subject. It brought together many of the scientific researchers and counterculture figures for the first time. These included Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Ralph Metzner, Albert Hofmann, John Lilly, Oscar Janiger, Allen Ginsberg and many others.
That was literally and metaphorically a high point of my life and all of it never would have happened if I had not met Peter. I could tell you many more stories, maybe someday I will. Right now my thoughts are with Peter. He had his dark side as most of us do but was as close as I have ever got to meeting a saint or holy man. He was friendly to a fault and helped me and many others in numerous large and small ways and I know that most of those who met him are feeling sad now that he is no longer with us.