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Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain

After an afternoon nap on Wednesday I was idly having a sip of tea and a smoke and deciding what film to go and see, when my ears pricked up at a brief item on the radio news. The Home Office had introduced something called the Psychoactive Substances Act and announced that a blanket ban on legal highs was to come into effect in England and Wales on the 26th May – the next day!

Home Office minister Karen Bradley said: “This Act will bring to an end the open sale on our high streets of these potentially harmful drugs and deliver new powers for law enforcement to tackle this issue at every level in communities, at our borders, on UK websites and in our prisons.” As of 12 pm that night the legals would become ill.

I almost splurted my tea. The roll-up I was smoking had been liberally sprinkled with dusty green flakes from a packet of Bud Extreme, my usual legal high, which I’ve been smoking regularly for the last 3 years. The news decided my itinerary. The first priority was to head for my local head shop in Camden Town and buy a stash of packets before they stopped selling them. I wasn’t going cold turkey. I needed a stockpile to wean myself off my suddenly criminal smoking substance before I found something to replace it. Marijuana would always have been my first choice, but that being illegal, I decided to play their game and went for the legal, the Mambas and the Spices which I could buy over the counter and had the similar effects of strong cannabis. Nice and easy. Not like in the Eighties when I got a week in prison for possession of a gramme of weed.

On the way to Camden on the tube I calculated how much I should buy. I usually got through three packets a week for 20 pounds, so I decided to buy nine with 60 quid, bearing in mind that there would be no more such simple transactions in the future. My usual Bud had sold out, but I was offered a better deal and left with 6 bigger packets of ‘slightly stronger’ Kronik Black Label, bidding farewell to the shopkeeper and commiserating on the loss of trade the new law would inflict on them. However, after a visit to the local cinema (X-Men Apocalypse), I decided to go back and buy 3 more packets before the 12 pm deadline and went back to the shop, smoking a ready-rolled spliff as I went. I found the shop had shut at eight, so my supply would have to suffice.

On my way to get the tube home it happened. I suddenly felt my knees stiffen and wobble and my body wheeled round. Unable to walk forward, I began to walk backwards, my head sufficiently turned to be aware of approaching obstacles and pedestrians, propelled down the street and round the corner into the tube station, through the barriers and down the escalator, along the platform and onto the train, walking backwards all the way. Likewise when I arrived at my station. Backwards home. This has been happening to me a lot recently, and occurs after I have smoked one of my spice-laced spliffs.

It started a while ago. Here’s a record from 2014:

I was at the Starbucks in Hampstead (am now again in fact) online and went out for a smoke on the bench outside and was then possessed by the demon or genie that has been tracking me recently (I was suddenly taken over while walking round Parliament Square a couple of days ago – suddenly pulled by gravitational forces, walking backwards,whirled in circles, almost moondancing, pulled towards the statue of Nelson Mandela.) The same thing happened last night. I was pulled into all sort of contortions on the bench, spilling coffee and eventually dropping the mug, fighting off an evil force, calling on Allah, it’s like an electric force trying to control me. After a while I tried to throw it off and managed to escape into the Starbucks, heading for my table and laptop, when suddenly my body started dancing (amazing steps and turns) to the Starbucks current music disc (Randy Crawford and black groups of that era) around the polished floor. Customers carried on talking but I was aware that it must be a rather extraordinary sight as I dervished round the room, miraculously avoiding obstacles and performing intricate footwork. Eventually I managed to DRAG myself to the laptop and sit myself down, but the force was strong, and pulled me backwards in the seat, as I tried with groans to get to the keyboard. I thought I might not be able to fight off the ‘evil’ that was upon me, suspecting that Starbucks might be part of the evil. I thought I’d better tell someone, and with great effort, managed to type what I did. Then when I sent it, there was a message saying “Ooops! For some reason your message has not been sent”. I groaned fiercely and loudly. Then I sent it again, beginning to feel a bit better, and eventually came back to normal.

Then later, when I was walking in the Street to St John’s Church, heading for my tent in the cemetery, I was suddenly pulled around and forced to walk backwards quite fast towards the gates with my arms outstretched, longing to be free.”

And this from 2015:

“ Yesterday in the graveyard in Hampstead where I slept for 5 weeks last summer. I went for a visit. I like the isolated quietness. After smoking a spliff on a bench under the trees I was making my way out of the cemetery when I felt the invisible forces that sometimes invade and take control of my body. I was pulled all around, stumbling and spinning, one moment my back magnetised to an upright tombstone, then pinned face-down on a raised altar, my neck stretched back as though to be slit. It was impossible to fight. Then down by the side I was forced earthward, where I found a small sodden piece of cloth, scarlet as blood in the mud, which I laid on the altar, symbolic of my own. Whirled to another raised tomb, I had to arrange some twigs into a cross before I could pull myself away from the force, and it dragged me hard backwards, making progess out of the churchyard very difficult, like walking in slow motion on the moon. Similar experiences have happened to me there before, but never so strong.

And then this afternoon in a Street in Camden Town (not busy, fortunately) it came on me (again shortly after a ‘legal’ smoke) and I was off again, swerving and whirling and performing amazing footwork. I went into a coffee shop but couldn’t stop the movement. It continued out in the Street. A passing couple offered to help me, and the man stretched out, but I shook off his hand, there was nothing he could do.

“It’s all right,” I explained as I lurched onwards. “I have to follow the flow. It’s happened before. I haven’t been hurt so far.”

Further up the road, after being bounced against and slid along a wire mesh fence, I crumpled and the spirit left me, and I was able to walk home in a normal manner .

It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, the feeling is so strong, as though the body is actually controlled by an alien force.”

“The strange ‘possession’ continues. Often I’m seized and forced to walk backwards. I found myself almost running backwards across Hampstead Heath returning to Highgate from the play one evening last week. I could’t stop. Luckily there weren’t many people around. I couldn’t turn the right way around. I covered the whole distance backwards without an accident.

Other times I get whirled round in circles, backwards and forwards, and walking through woods I suddenly get magnetized to certain trees, which pull me with an immense force to them so I’m plastered against the trunk and sometimes rolled around it before the pull goes. It also sometimes happens in the Street, when I’m suddenly pulled to a lampost and find myself spinning round and round it very fast. Very weird. The most extraordinary experience in my life. I’m fine otherwise.”

“Lots of backward walking possessions. It’s beginning to be embarrassing. If I try to stop it my kneecaps get wonky and I have to let it happen. The other night going backwards down the Street in Hampstead I was pulled in throu a gateway down a drive to a church and round to the front door. A homeless guy was camped in the porch bedded down for the night. When I explained that I was ‘possessed’ and had been pulled there he offered to move aside, but then I was pulled away again backwards up the drive to the Street and on my way. Today in the woods, magnetized to certain trees and round and round in circles.”

It stopped over the winter, but began again in May this year:

“Yesterday early evening I went to Camden Town, planning to do a speech at an open-mike cafe. I went for a ready-rolled smoke on a bench in a quiet park area first. Realised I needed to buy some more tobacco and headed into central Camden to gets some. Quite a lot of people, mostly tourists.

Suddenly wham! I’m wheeled round and walking backwards, managing to avoid colliding with those coming towards me. I’m a bit embarrassed, but I have to keep alert, and it’s impossible to turn around. A young guy notices as I overtake him.

“You MichaelJacksoning it today?” he asks.

“I feel he’s inside me!” I reply, pulled on, on my way to the tobacconist.

As I reach the corner outside the tube station and the large pavement area in front of it, suddenly there’s Michael Jackson blaring out of a speaker set up by some Street performers getting ready for an act.”LET’S DANCE AND SHOUT!” Ignoring a compelling urge to do so I continue round the corner to the shop and buy my bacco. Back in the buskers area the music has stopped. Tourists are standing around and people are coming home from work. I pause in front of the bank to try to get myself together and deal with the spirit when it takes control of my body. It’s easier in the countryside (I was compelled to walk across Hampstead Heath from Highgate backwards today.) Suddenly the speakers blasted out the unmistakeable hypnotic beaty opening of Michael Jackson’s Thriller!, and my body was pulled out into the area and I was whirling round backwards in circles and stops and returns, just going along with the spirit, recognizing that it might actually be Michael himself. After about 5 minutes I finally managed to get away and went home on the tube home backwards.”

There’ve been hundreds of other unrecorded extraordinary incidents and places. And last Saturday I walked the entire length of London’s busy Oxford Street backwards on my way to a Palestinian boycott protest outside a MS store without a mishap, despite the puzzled, who stopped to stare, definitely propelled by a ‘spirit’ force that is not my own, Michael Jackson or not.

God knows what they put in that stuff, but the only way I’ve been able to contact this ‘spirit’so far has been with the use of this previously legal high. I’m fascinated by what’s going on, but to stay in contact I shall be forced to find my spice from illegal traders and risk imprisonment, and – let’s face it – endanger my psychotic health with this stuff – which I would give up with pleasure if only the government would stop banning things all over the place, and instead legalize that useful, natural, helpful herb, cannabis.



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Michael Dickinson can be contacted at

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