As a research pharmacologist, Ronald K. Siegel took the same drugs as his subjects in an effort to truly understand their experiences. In this study of the waking nightmare of paranoia, Siegel seeks to identify with patients who are “hallucinating without the use of artificial intoxicants.” The limbic system is the “neurological hideaway of the paranoia demon” but the psychological and biological triggers that engender paranoia are complex. Siegel pursues these origins like a sometimes terrified and often gleeful private eye; he emerges with mesmerizing stories which suggest a compassionate, scientifically rigorous Clive Barker. In many of the most horrifying accounts, cocaine is the ingredient which turns a bad situation into a tragic one:
• A Christmas shipment of pure Bolivian rock cocaine results in a massive “bug invasion.” Siegel sees numerous subjects covered with large, gummy lesions where they tried to dig the hallucinated creatures out of their bodies. One coke fiend shows up at his home with vials labelled “H” and “P” for “hands” and “penis”—the sites from which he has excavated the “bugs” in a sleepless three-day blitz with the help of his old high school dissecting kit and a stereo microscope.
• A beautiful, socially isolated waitress/ballet dancer interprets the placement of silverware by her love object, a gay waiter, as messages of desire. Her own desire, frustration, and paranoid obsession mount. Finally, she choreographs a dance for him which, in a twisted take on the romantic ballet Giselle, ends in murder.
• A father of five is left unemployed, humiliated and depressed by a debilitating shipyard accident followed by a false arrest. His discovery of cocaine leads to a three-year war against a spectral invasion of bugs, worms, snakes and midgets, which he records via an elaborate system of video cameras and microphones located throughout his house. His arsenal includes several propane torches, one converted into a flamethrower and dubbed “Mr. Discipline,” a term probably used by his sadistic father.
Paperback: 310 pages