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Albino Penis Envy mushrooms
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Albino Penis Envy mushrooms

Penis Envy Mushrooms: Murder & Conspiracy Behind the World’s Trippiest Shroom

Penis Envy mushrooms were encountered by ethnobotanist Terence McKenna in the Amazon...the story unfolds from there.

Updated October 27, 2021

DoubleBlind Mag is devoted to fair, rigorous reporting by leading experts and journalists in the field of psychedelics. Read more about our editorial process and fact-checking here. Editorially reviewed by Madison Margolin.
Penis envy magic mushrooms
Penis Envy magic mushrooms are the most potent variety of Psilocybe cubensis mushroom

Penis Envy (PE) magic mushrooms are a very unique and interesting variety of Psilocybe cubensis mushroom, with an equally unique and interesting history. This “strain” is colloquially known as the most potent Psilocybe cubensis magic mushroom variety, but unfortunately due to the current legality surrounding shrooms, there are no easily accessible test results to confirm exactly how much more potent this variety is.

Several anecdotal reports have claimed that the experience elicited by consuming Penis Envy mushrooms is much more intense, visual, and euphoric than other magic mushrooms of the Cubensis species, and some have even analogized the experience to that which is elicited by other considerably “stronger” psychedelics like DMT or LSD. It’s theorized that this stronger effect is due to both a higher concentration of psychotropic alkaloids, and a higher ratio of psilocin/psilocybin (psilocybin metabolizes into psilocin, once it’s been consumed). 

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PE mushrooms also have a fascinating origin story that has become somewhat of a legend in the psychedelic space, involving several high-profile names (like Terence McKenna), international smuggling, genetic mutations, prescription drug dealing, robbery, and murder! 

Because they are significantly more potent, and because they are notoriously difficult to cultivate (as they possess characteristics which result in light/ineffective sporulation) this variety has become especially rare and desirable. As Psilocybin mushrooms gain popularity, Penis Envy is sure to become known as the preeminent variety to choose if you are looking for an exceptionally euphoric, distinctly visual, and profoundly introspective mushroom experience.

Penis Envy Mushroom History

Legend has it that Penis Envy originated from an exceptionally large and healthy mushroom found deep in the Amazon Rainforest, by fabled ethnobotanist, mystic, psychonaut, lecturer, author, and advocate for the responsible use of naturally occurring psychedelic plants—Terence McKenna. 

McKenna, with the help of indigenous guides, is said to have found (and sampled) a “colossal” patch of mushrooms growing deep in the rainforest. At the time (in the early 1970s) magic mushrooms had already been made illegal in most countries by the 1971 UN Psychotropic Substances Act, but mushroom spores were not actually prohibited by the Psychotropic Substances Act (as they contain no psilocybin or psilocin—the active compounds in magic mushrooms). So McKenna simply took several spore prints from this culture and sandwiched the innocuous purple-black prints between two microscopy slides, labeled the slides with a rare agaricus genus name (an extra precaution), and boarded a flight to the USA. Luckily this smuggling operation went off without a hitch, and soon Terence was back in his home state of Colorado. 

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He soon began cultivating mushrooms from these prints, using some techniques he had learned in the Amazon, and developing some entirely new techniques (which would be featured in his 1976 book “Psilocybin: Magic Mushroom Growers Guide”). In the spirit of sharing that is still to this day prevalent among psychedelic enthusiasts, McKenna also sent several prints from the exceptional Amazonian specimen to many of his ethno-mycologist colleagues.

One of these colleagues was Steven Pollock, a medical doctor who had a passion for psychedelic shrooms, and was 40 years ahead of his time in believing that they were “the most effective medicine” for the treatment of several psychological conditions. Pollock was also the first person to document the existence of Psilocybe Tampanensis (along with several other species). P. Tampanensis is a truffle-like species, best described as halfway between mycelium and mushroom, which is unique because it contains significantly higher mycelial psilocybin/psilocin concentration (as high as 0.6 percent by dry weight—almost comparable to the 0.8 percent average for Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms). Although Pollock is quite unknown, rarely credited for the several innovations that he contributed to human understanding of Psilocybin mushrooms, and was largely forgotten about after his 1981 murder, he can rest vindicated by the fact that the contributions that he risked his freedom and his life to make were not in vain, as both Psilocybe Tampanensis and Penis Envy Cubensis are now cultivated throughout the world, and are recognized as two of the most desirable Psilocybe varieties.

Terence McKenna and Steven H. Pollock

Back to the history of Penis Envy mushrooms: Pollock received a spore print from the exceptional Amazon mushroom culture from McKenna, and set about propagating and refining this culture on an agar medium (agar is a gelatinous medium used for the culturing of fungi and bacteria). Over several years he refined the culture by performing isolation on agar, fruiting mushrooms, then taking tissue samples from the largest mushrooms in each “batch”, narrowing and strengthening the genetic profile of the culture with every generation until one day a large, odd looking mutation occurred. 

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This mutation towered above other mushrooms in its immediate vicinity, and was distinctly identifiable by an exceptionally thick and dense stem, and pale underdeveloped cap. Additionally this mushroom differed from all other known cubensis varieties because it lacked what’s called in mycological terms a “velum” or veil, which separates the cap and stem of a mushroom, and serves to hold spores until the mushroom is fully mature. Pollock immediately harvested this mushroom, sterilized a surgical scalpel, sliced the mushroom longitudinally to expose fresh inner tissue, and placed a tissue sample on an agar petri dish. The mushrooms that resulted from his propagation all had similar characteristics to the original specimen, meaning he had successfully transferred the genetics of this mutated mushroom, and thus the Penis Envy mushroom strain was born.

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Now the interesting portion of the story—the part involving conspiracy and murder—begins. Pollock, aside from his medical career, had an intense desire to further research, and expand human understanding of psychoactive mushrooms. He was determined to build the first legal mushroom cultivation and research laboratory, and estimated that this facility would cost $2,000,000 to build. Despite a philanthropic motivation and ultimate goal of helping people suffering from mental health issues, he was willing to use any means necessary in order to generate the funds necessary to build his “superlab”. 

In 1979, Pollock and fellow mycophile Michael Forbes founded a company called “Hidden Creek,” which sold P. Tampanensis Sclerotia (a.k.a. magic truffles) and mushroom growing kits. The partners intelligently placed advertisements in several high-profile magazines (most notably High Times) and within one year had become the largest distributor of magic mushroom products in the world! Hidden Creek was by no means the first company to sell magic mushroom genetics, however the company separated itself from competitors by offering live mushroom cultures instead of mushroom spore syringes/prints, offering an unmatched variety of rare strains/species, and selling an “active” product (P. Tampanensis Sclerotia/truffles; note that these truffles were legal under the Psychotropic substances act).

Despite the success of Hidden Creek, money was simply not coming in fast enough, so Pollock began to engage in several other quasi and outright illegal actions to accelerate the timeline of his research laboratory build. Some of these endeavours included planting more than an acre of cannabis, performing under-the-table surgery on gunshot victims who did not want their injuries reported to the police, and risking his medical license by prescribing pharmaceuticals like Quaaludes and Preludin (which had recently been regulated) to any patient, in whatever quantity they wanted, as long as they paid in cash. 

Pollock worked seven days a week, from sunrise until late in the evening, and saw so many patients that he often took in amounts in excess of $10,000 in a single day (in addition to profits from Hidden Creek and various other endeavours). For Pollock, this questionable activity was simply a “means to an end” that would allow him to realize his goal of becoming the man who not only brought mushrooms into the closets of clandestine cultivators throughout the world, but also put them on fluorescent-lit pharmacy shelves. Unfortunately for him, the many Hidden Creek customers, and the many individuals who suffer from psilocybin-treatable conditions, this delve into “real” criminality would serve as his undoing.

By early 1981, Pollock was on the radar of the DEA (who were surveilling his cannabis plantation), several other enforcement agencies (that wanted to know who was behind Hidden Creek), and the state pharmacy board (which had recently called a hearing before the Texas Medical Board that would decide the outcome of a several month investigation into Pollock’s practice). Pollock was also raising the ire, and suspicions, of his neighbors with a constant stream of “patients” lined up outside his house, out of which he operated his medical practice.

The mutation towered above other mushrooms in its immediate vicinity, and was distinctly identifiable by an exceptionally thick and dense stem, and pale underdeveloped cap. Thus, the Penis Envy mushroom strain was born.

Unfortunately for the prosecutors of this medical board hearing, on Saturday, January 31, 1981, sometime between 9:30 and 11:00 PM, Stephen Pollock’s house was broken into and ransacked—the mattress flipped off the bed frame, pillows slashed, their stuffing strewn about the floor. The furnace door was flung open, the contents of the closets scattered, chairs overturned, drawers rummaged through, papers haphazardly strewn throughout the residence, and the cord of the phone razored from the wall. Pollock was found just after 11:00 PM by his girlfriend (Mitzi Moore), slumped in a supine position next to his medical examination table. Peering through the window (because the door was locked, which was suspicious because Pollock was known to leave his house unlocked) Mitzi believed he was simply unconscious, knocked out by some sort of explosion originating from one of his many experiments (the same thing had happened just months previously). However when she shone a flashlight in through the window she soon realized that Pollock’s sweater was soaked with blood, and he had been shot in the forehead at point-blank range.

Fortunately by this time (because of Hidden Creek’s success) Pollock’s P. Tampanensis, Penis Envy, and several other rare genetics had already been dispersed throughout the world, otherwise it is likely that these strains/species (or at least Pollock’s genetically superior isolations) would have been lost forever! Although Pollock had been selling illegal prescriptions and engaging in several other dubious activities, in the relatively insular world of mycology, many of his colleagues had no knowledge of this, and were extremely surprised to hear of his murder, thinking that it lacked a clear motive. The police chalked it up to a drug-deal gone wrong, and were remarkably uninterested in the case, perhaps even pleased with the demise of Pollock (according to High Times obituarist Mike Fellner). There were several inconsistencies between the official police report and testimony from Mitzi Moore, and while witness testimony is the least credible form of evidence, one notable inconsistency was the fact that several rare specimens, and several hundred pages of Pollock’s notes, research, and patient data were missing from the house—but this was not included in the police report.

There were several additional clues found at the crime scene alluding to the notion that conspiracy was afoot, and that the murder was in fact an assassination (like a bloody towel in Pollock’s bathroom, an unexplained bullet hole in the garage wall, and two mysterious phone calls made on the night of his murder by an unidentified caller, one to Pollock’s home and one to the local morgue, asking if a doctor had recently been brought into the morgue, which was suspicious because at the time this call was made Pollocks death had not yet been reported). Even more suspicious is that, for reasons unknown, Bexar County district attorney at the time Terry Macdonald refused to prosecute the case, despite damning evidence in the form of several fingerprints, and DNA evidence found tangled in Pollock’s rigor mortis bound fingers.

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In the years following his death, several outlandish conspiracy theories were concocted, from the government and/or DEA secretly ordering his assassination to prevent the further spread of his Psilocybe genetics, to one of his business partners ordering a hit because Pollock was becoming too openly criminal for Hidden Creek to be legally defensible. Unfortunately since so much time has elapsed, unless a skilled detective is willing to take up this cold case, we will most likely never know what events occurred during the final moments of Pollock’s life, or what the true motive for his murder was. 

Penis Envy Mushrooms Effects and Characteristics

You may, after all this time, be wondering why this strain is called “Penis Envy.” 

To answer the first question that may come to mind, no, it does not have anything to do with Mr. Pollock’s endowment. It is simply because, when fresh, Penis Envy mushrooms strongly resemble a phallic object, or in other words, the mushroom looks like a penis, and a large one at that (hence the term “envy”). 

The visual characteristics of this mushroom variety include a large, thick, and exceptionally dense stem that is typically white in color, and an underdeveloped, bulbous cap that is distinctly more concave (rounded) than most other Psilocybe cubensis varieties. Additionally, the lack of a velum (veil separating cap and stem) often incites a bubbling mutation just below the mushroom cap that can look similar to a foreskin. Penis Envy mushrooms are also one of the densest varieties of magic mushrooms, and while they are typically shorter in height and smaller overall than other species, they still possess significant weight due to their density.

Penis Envy Anatomical Difference courtesy of penisenvymushroom.com

The psychoactive effects of Penis Envy magic mushrooms are reported to be similar to most other Psilocybe cubensis varieties, with added intensity, and distinctly more “wavy” visual hallucinations (as opposed to other strains like Mazatepec or Hualta, which often elicit geometric hallucinatory patterns). These effects can include vivid visual stimulation, intense feelings of euphoria, deep introspection, philosophical thoughts, tremendous joy, distortion of space and time, synesthesia (i.e. hearing colours, seeing sounds), “mystical” or spiritual feelings of connectedness to the universe, and even out of body experiences. 

While testing is not accessible to conclusively prove the following theory, it’s thought by many experts that Penis Envy mushrooms contain not only higher concentrations of psychoactive compounds, but a higher ratio of psilocin to psilocybin. (Note that a typical cubensis mushroom contains somewhere in the neighbourhood of 0.8 percent to 1.2 percent active compounds by dry weight.) Psilocin and psilocybin are the two compounds found in magic mushrooms with the highest concentration (although over 30 other alkaloids have been identified in various Psilocybe species), and therefore are the two compounds most responsible for the psychedelic effects. Interestingly, it is actually psilocin, not psilocybin, that is able to bind with the 5-HT2A receptor in the human brain and cause these effects, however psilocybin is quickly dephosphorylated into psilocin by the liver after ingestion. 

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This higher psilocin:psilocybin ratio effectively serves to make the onset of effects occur slightly sooner and “heavier” when taking Penis Envy mushrooms (since the body does not have to dephosphorylate as much psilocybin into psilocin), however it does not affect the overall duration of the experience very much. It is also commonly reported that a Penis Envy mushroom experience carries less “body load” and leaves the user feeling light, euphoric, energetic, and unencumbered. To put it succinctly, in a phrase that is possibly a little overused in the psychedelic space, it is a very “clean” mushroom high. 

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As Psilocybin mushrooms gain popularity, Penis Envy is sure to become known as the preeminent variety to choose if you are looking for an exceptionally euphoric, distinctly visual, and profoundly introspective mushroom experience.

While the recommended dose for most Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms is between 1.0 and 1.5 grams per 100 pounds of body weight, this should be adjusted by at least 30 percent for Penis Envy mushrooms. Depending on dosage, your experience level, and the amount of time that has elapsed since your last psychedelic experience, a Penis Envy mushroom trip will last between six and eight hours, which is similar to other Psilocybe cubensis varieties.

Penis Envy Shrooms Variations and Hybrids

The process of creating a mushroom strain hybrid involves inoculating grain or agar with two different mycelial mushroom cultures. These cultures will grow more or less individually from one-another, however the stronger culture will most often become dominant. When introduced to fruiting conditions, the vast majority of the resulting mushrooms will bear significant resemblance to mushrooms of whichever mycelial culture obtained dominance, however some mushrooms located where the mycelial cultures “meet” will have characteristics of both varieties. These mushrooms can then be propagated by tissue culture isolation, and over several generations of propagation and fruiting, then more tissue culture isolation can be refined to consistently display the “new” characteristics. 

Beginning in the late 1970s with Stephen Pollock, there have been several entheo-mycologists and genetics vendors who have performed culture isolation/crossing on the Penis Envy strain. This has resulted in several distinguishable sub-variants, such as Albino Penis Envy (Albino PF x Penis Envy cross), Penis Envy #6 (a mutation), Texas Penis Envy (Texas Orange Caps x Penis Envy cross), Penis Envy Uncut (a mutation), and Trans Envy (Transkei x Penis Envy cross). 

Albino Penis Envy and Penis Envy Uncut varieties
Penis Envy mushroom varieties: Albino Penis Envy (left) and Penis Envy Uncut (right)
  • The Albino Penis Envy variety has the milky white colouration of the Albino PF variety and its caps are sometimes tinged dark blue. Albino Penis Envy mushrooms are also smaller than Penis Envy mushrooms on average. 
  • Penis Envy Uncut magic mushrooms have a distinct physical feature which is that its caps do not open at all, even late in the mushroom’s maturity. Additionally caps are distinctly darker than “regular” Penis Envy. They are also said to be the most potent of all of the Penis Envy varieties. 
  • Trans Envy magic mushrooms are a variety that have been isolated by a mushroom spore vendor named Spores Lab. They appear closer to a Transkei magic mushroom, with medium-thickness yellow-white stems (thicker than regular Transkei, but not quite as thick as PE), however display the distinctly pallid cap coloration that PE is known for. This variety is also slightly less potent than other Penis Envy varieties, but definitely more potent than regular Transkei.  

While each of these mutations have different physical characteristics, the potency among all Penis Envy varieties is consistently higher than all other Psilocybe cubensis varieties.

Penis Envy Cultivation

One downside, and perhaps the only downside to Penis Envy mushrooms is that they are one of the most difficult cubensis varieties to cultivate. This is because of their physical characteristics, like the lack of a velum to hold in spores until the mushroom is mature, which results in ineffective sporulation—therefore a cultivator would need quite a few Penis Envy mushrooms in order to collect enough spores to produce a viable spore syringe

Furthermore, due to the fact that this genetic line has been artificially selected, and would not have survived in nature, Penis Envy mushrooms are also less resistant to contamination. They also take about 25% longer to colonize, have a pin rate that is about half that of other Psilocybe cubensis varieties, and need specialized conditions for the incubation stage (the addition of a casing layer and a substrate with higher moisture content).

Timelapse of Albino Penis Envy mushrooms growing

Fortunately, the genetics of an individual culture play a large role in determining several growing characteristics (like pin rate and colonization speed), so if you purchase Penis Envy spore genetics from a reputable seller, or obtain a petri dish/slant of isolated, known-to-be-good genetics, you can still successfully grow Penis Envy mushrooms! 

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All in all, Penis Envy magic mushrooms are perhaps the most intriguing variety of Psilocybe cubensis, and human scientific understanding of this strain is actually quite limited. It’s visually distinct, considerably difficult to cultivate, and its potency is unmatched within the cubensis species—which has resulted in these mushrooms being highly sought after, especially by experienced psychonauts. This high demand/low supply dynamic also means that Penis Envy cultures and mushrooms are valued at a higher amount than other magic mushrooms, with some online vendors selling them for more than $12 per gram! To put this in context, the price of “regular” cubensis mushrooms ranges from $4-7 per gram.

If you are thinking of cultivating or consuming Penis Envy mushrooms, be sure to prepare yourself accordingly, keeping in mind the paramount importance that mindset and physical environment have in any psychedelic experience, and get ready to experience a mushroom trip that will make you realize why Penis Envy is oft considered the best!

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for support. If you’re looking for peer support during or after a psychedelic experience, contact Fireside Project by calling or texting 6-2FIRESIDE.

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