Wednesday, November 07, 2007


“Jenkem? Damn near killed ’em.” - Mr. Debonair

I was taking a ride on Leslie’s Omnibus, when I came across this intriguing sentence: “That is quite possibly the grossest thing I’ve ever read.”

Well, how can you resist clicking a link with that sort of introductory warning?

Turns out the link leads to a story at The Smoking Gun about a practice that, if it does nothing else, separates the people who can take or leave their altered states of consciousness from the ones who will do anything - anything - to get loaded, no matter how depraved.

I speak of the “drug” called “Jenkem.”

Jenkem is one of those things that may or may not be an urban legend. Its status on is “undetermined,” but that doesn’t really matter, does it? Because whether it’s true or not, it’s thoroughly disgusting, which in turn makes it perfect blogfodder.

If you believe what you read in and The Smoking Gun, Jenkem use may have originated amongst the desperately poor children of Zambia, where, apparently, the necessary raw materials come easily to hand (you should excuse the expression). Whether you believe its use has spread to North America depends on how credulous you are. In a world in which pretty much nothing surprises me, even I have trouble believing this one. It may be, to use a thoroughly appropriate expression, “a load of crap.”

The rest of this post is below the fold. It is not for the squeamish.

To make Jenkem - AKA “butthash” - is simplicity itself. Assemble some human excrement in a large bottle. Wet it down well with human urine. Cap the container with a rubber balloon to allow for the eventual pressure-induced expansion, then set aside for several days at room temperature to ferment.

After your evil brew of Wee-Wee and Bowel Chowder has had a chance to ripen, pop that balloon off and start huffing. This, according to the published reports, will Get You Off. Assuming you don’t first puke your guts up. Hey, that sounds just like psilocybin mushrooms! Except for the shit-funk.

I can see how Jenkem might actually work.

Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and go back to little Elisson’s snot-nose days. For it was back in about 1960, as a tender lad of seven or eight, that I learned about hydrogen sulfide.

We lived in a neighborhood in which sanitation was via the tried-and-true septic tank or cesspool, it being well before the era of sewer connections and centralized water treatment in our area. And one fine day, our next-door neighbor started developing Cesspool Issues. They had to have the thing pumped out - a necessary (and thankfully very occasional) Routine Maintenance Activity.

Thus my first exposure to the old Honey Wagon. The Little Yellow Stool Bus. The guy whose Preferred Method of Making a Living was to open the hatch above your cesspool, stick a huge-ass hose in there, and pump all of the contents into a tank sitting astride his filth-encrusted truck. And you thought your job sucked.

Anyway, the Honey Wagon guy shows up and opens the hatch to the cesspool. Now, that was a horrifying revelation: that there was a place in the yard under which lurked The Most Evil Smell In The World. For that, indeed, is what was released when that hatch was opened.

Take the smell of a rotten egg. Blend in some shit ’n’ piss. Multiply it by, say, a billion. That’s the pong that floated out of that nasty little opening in our neighbor’s lawn. It was...unforgettable. In a bad way.

Chemists will tell you that the aroma wafting out of that hole derived from a blend of various sulfur-bearing compounds: mercaptans, sulfides, et alia, with the overwhelming component of the bouquet being hydrogen sulfide. Some light floral notes (turdblossoms, no doubt) would also come from nitrogenous compounds like pyridines. Feh.

And I’ll be willing to bet that the “high” one gets from Jenkem comes from that hydrogen sulfide.

Hydrogen sulfide is extremely toxic...comparable to hydrogen cyanide, that mainstay of prison gas chambers and, not incidentally, of the Holocaust. Its effect on the human body is similar: it stops respiration at the cellular level by bonding with the organic iron compounds in the mitochondria. It is, in short, a chemical asphyxiant.

Asphyxiation is, as it turns out, a great way to get high. That is, if you don’t mind losing a few brain cells...or, quite possibly, your life. Just ask the fun lovin’ guys and gals who get off on sexual asphyxia, jacking up the intensity of their orgasms by choking themselves or their partners at the Critical Moment. For some of them, it’s the last bit of Jolly Fun they have in this world.

So my theory is that Jenkem huffers are simply practicing an extremely vile form of self-asphyxia through hydrogen sulfide inhalation. I’d think that most fun-loving Asphyxia Enthusiasts would go for the silken garotte instead. Not nearly as stinky, unless you take it too far and you lose bowel and bladder control. V-Man, are you paying attention?

But maybe there’s an extra thrill in Jenkem Huffing that comes from its extreme nastiness. After all, there are plenty of people who enjoy eating Époisses de Bourgogne (a cheese so stinky, it’s banned from public transport in France, where the people are pretty fragrant to begin with), or even durian fruit, both of which have a pronounced Bowelly Funk. Go right ahead, sez I.

As for me, I’ll take single-malt Scotch whisky, an excellent delivery system for my Consciousness-Altering Medicament of Choice: good old ethanol.

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