By Ken Korczak
Note: The following events, which happened in Caribou Township in northern Kittson County, Minnesota, were described to me by a Lancaster man by telephone. He wished to remain anonymous.
The year was 1959, it was mid-summer, and three young men from the Lancaster area were enjoying a weekend of camping and hunting in the deep woods of Caribou Township. Walking through the woods, they happened upon something that astounded them. In the caller’s words:
“It was a gigantic mushroom about three feet high … it had a thick stem, like a tree stump, and a perfect round top that I guess was four feet in diameter. It was about waist high. We could have played a game of cards on it. It was magnificent!”
Upon closer examination, they noticed the giant ‘shroom’ gave off what the caller described as “a tantalizing, savory odor.”
“The only way I can describe it is that the thing smelled like a delicious broiled steak to me. But here’s the weird part. To each of us, it smelled like something different. One of my friends swore it smelled like fresh baked bread, and my other buddy said it smelled like strawberry-flavored cotton candy.
I was astounded when one of my buddies, the one who said it smelled like bread, reached out, tore off a bit of the mushroom and popped it in his mouth! I shouted at him: ‘Are you nuts! It might be deadly poison!’”
But his friend chewed and swallowed the tender chunk of mushroom quickly, and immediately declared it was the most delicious thing he had ever eaten.
“I’ll never forget the way he described it,” the caller said. “He said it tasted like fresh bread that had been baked in heaven by sweet angles.”
We both shouted at him: “How could you be so stupid! … You might be dead in an hour! … mushroom are deadly poison, and other stuff like that.
“But amazingly, my friend was not persuaded by us. He said: ‘I don’t care if I die. I just have to eat some more of this — it’s so good it’s worth dying for!’
He then tore off another large hunk of the the tender mushroom meat and stuffed it into his mouth. He chewed and swallowed, and again exclaimed it was like nothing he had ever eaten before — that it was delicious beyond belief. Using his large hunting knife, he began slicing off slabs of the mushroom to take back to camp.
“He didn’t stop until he had cut nearly half the thing cut up,” the caller said. “He took off his outer shirt and used it to wrap up the pile of mushroom meat.
“We returned to our camp, and we kept a close watch on Ben (not his real name). We were certain he would at least get violently ill, but he seemed fine. And to be honest with you, both my other friend and I felt an almost irresistible urge to try the mushroom ourselves … I mean, this was more than a curious desire … we felt absolutely compelled to eat this thing!”
The caller said it was almost as if the mushroom was emitting a subtle hormone, or some kind of scented chemical attractant that was affecting their brains. The urge to eat it was “like a command,” he said.
About an hour later, Ben was not only feeling well, he said he felt “absolutely wonderful and even light hearted.”
Back at camp, Ben proceeded to do something that would drive his two companions wild. In the caller’s words:
“Ben took out a frying pan and placed a large dab of butter on it and put it over the campfire. When it had melted, he put a large slab of the mushroom on it an began to cook it in the butter. He cut up some fresh onions and tossed them into the butter alongside the sizzling mushroom steak.
“The savory aroma wafting out from that black frying was just too much. My mouth was watering, and all I could think about was sinking my teeth into that tender, ivory white mushroom steak. My friend and I broke down. We decided to try a hunk of the mushroom. Ben cooked it a bit more, cut the large slab into three parts, and we each settled back and began eating.
“I guess I have no words to describe to you how astoundingly delicious it was! I mean, my mouth and tongue were bursting with flavors that flooded my mind with sensations of taste so varied and so scrumptious, my entire consciousness reeled off into a state of bliss. Imagine the best broiled steak you have ever had, the best pizza, the tang of ketchup, the sweetness of a chocolate shake, the salty crunchiness of hot french fries, the warm white feeling of fragrant homemade bread on your tongue — it tasted better than all of them combined!”
After finishing off the first slab, the three men ate another, and another. Although they ate an enormous amount, their stomachs hardly seemed to register it. They washed it all down with cold Grain Belt beer, and then they all lit up a cigar, sat back and felt perfectly contented, blowing smoke rings and listening to the hushed sounds of the deep Minnesota woods.
For the rest of the night, the three campers felt “amazingly light and happy.”
“We weren’t high or drugged, or anything,” the caller said. “The only way I can describe it is that we felt light hearted in a way we never have before — as if there were no problems in the world, and that everything in the universe was not just okay, but filled with a subtle joy.”
The caller said that night he slept deeply and remembered having a dream of “floating inside a silver sphere.”
The next day, the three men went back to find the rest of the mushroom, but when they returned, they found that the giant had shriveled into a clump of black fungus.
“We realized it was gone,” the caller said, “but we had no regrets. That experience we had — that amazing feeling of light happiness — is something the three of us never forgot.”
The caller added that he has never had any signficant desire to eat wild mushrooms again, and wants to stress to others that they should not dare do what he did, since certain mushrooms are highly poisonous and can cause serious illness or death.
“I just think what happened to us was something that was not normal,” he said. “It was what I would call a paranormal experience. It’s been 40 years, but in a strange way, I would say the day we ate that mushroom was the most remarkable thing that has happened to me in my life. I’ve never seen a mushroom like that again, and as far as I know, they don’t really exist in nature, at least not here in northern Minneosta — it’s all just a big mystery, and probably always will be.”