From People on Psychedelics
Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor.
- During this period when he was still seeking “a higher state of consciousness,” we experimented with mind-expanding drugs. We tried marijuana a few times and neither of us especially liked it. We felt tired and groggy and we’d become ravenously hungry. After a few raids on the refrigerator—and carrying the resulting extra poundage—we decided to stay away from the stuff.
- Although he abhorred street drugs he was curious enough to try LSD once. When he initiated our experiment, he made sure Sonny West was on hand at all times to supervise. The night we tried it Lamar, Jerry, Larry, Elvis, and I took seats around the conference table in Elvis’ office upstairs at Graceland.
- Elvis and I took half a tab. At first, nothing happened. Then we started staring at each other and laughing—our faces were becoming distorted. I became engrossed in Elvis’ multicolored shirt. It started to grow, getting larger and larger until I thought he was going to burst. It was captivating, but I did not like the feeling. I thought: This isn’t real, be careful, you’re losing it. I tried to hang on to sanity.
- We gathered around the large aquarium outside the master bedroom, fascinated by the tropical fish. Funny—there were only two or three, but suddenly I saw an ocean of brightly colored fish. I strolled off and found myself in Elvis’ huge walk-in closet, purring like a kitten.
- It was early morning when Elvis and I went downstairs and walked outside. Dew came down, creating rainbows in the mist, glistening on the trees and the lawn. We studied the leaves, trying to count each dewdrop. The veins in the grass became visible, breathing slowly, rhythmically. We went from tree to tree, observing nature in detail.
- It was an extraordinary experience. However, realizing it was too dangerous a drug to fool around with, we never tried LSD again.
- - Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley, p. 213
- Presley's journey also included reading Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, a 1954 book chronicling the British intellectual’s experiment with mescaline, an organic psychedelic. Schilling said Huxley’s sublime experience—“Everything shone with the Inner Light, and was infinite in its significance,” he wrote—appealed to Presley.
- Hoping to discover this “Inner Light,” Presley enlisted Schilling, the entertainer's girlfriend (and later wife) Priscilla Beaulieu, and hairdresser Larry Geller to join him on an LSD “trip.” Schilling remembers the surrealism of the night. “Elvis and I started having an entire conversation just by laughing,” he said. “I stared at Elvis, and he seemed to morph into a child. He was this plump little boy, at times insecure. The more I stared, the more he changed. Eventually, I saw him as a baby smiling back at me, contented as could be.”
- - Remembering Elvis With Memories of Friendship, The Beatles, and LSD
- After reading Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception and Timothy Leary's The Psychedelic Experience, Elvis did try LSD — but just once. He first persuaded Red and Sonny West to try it in Los Angeles, with Larry Geller, Charlie Hodge, and himself watching the whole time to make sure they were safe. Then he and Priscilla tried it a few months later during his Christmas break at Graceland. They invited Geller, Lamar Fike, and Jerry Schilling to accompany them on their trip, while Sonny West was appointed to keep an eye on them.
- They started by sitting around a conference table in Elvis's upstairs office. After a while they saw each other's faces distorting and broke into laughter. Priscilla witnessed her husband's multicolored shirt grow larger and larger, spreading out so far that it seemed ready to burst. After about ninety minutes they stood up to stretch and realized that Jerry Schilling had somehow disappeared. They searched and found him under a pile of clothes in Elvis's closet. Then they became fascinated by a large aquarium containing two or three fish, which appeared to them as an ocean teeming with fish.
- After a while Priscilla broke into tears. She dropped to her knees in front of Elvis and said, "You really don't love me. You just say you do." She then accused Larry and Jerry of not liking her, and called herself ugly. Eventually, that mood passed. The movie The Time Machine came on television. Elvis became fascinated by it. He asked for a pizza and spent most of the trip eating, while watching the film and observing his fellow trippers.
- At dawn they went outside. The rising sun created rainbows in the moist air that left them dazzled, and they examined dewdrops on the leaves. Then they got down on the lawn to inspect individual blades of grass. They could see the veins, and they watched the grass breathing slowly, in and out. They told each other how lucky they were to be such friends. The experience fascinated Elvis and Priscilla, but they found LSD much too powerful and neither tried it again.
- - The Seeker King: A Spiritual Biography of Elvis Presley by Gary Tillery