I have never told this story to anyone before now. I didn't even tell Neil Clark Reynolds about it on the trip back home (he drove me to the con), and I never talked about it with Jim afterwards...
real memory of Jim was at a con (Baycon or Berkleycon?) in 1969.
That was the year that everyone was playing around with Tarot Cards. Late
one afternoon I was walking down a hallway in the hotel and I saw Jim
standing at a window, looking down at the ground below. His eyes looked
bewildered when he glanced at me and he said "I've got to die."
I had no idea what was going on, but I get it in my head that maybe he
shouldn't be standing at this window, several stories above the ground,
looking, acting, and talking as he is. So I directed him into a hotel room.
At this point he gets manic and tells me that he has dropped acid and he
turned up the Death Card on a Tarot deck. He's convinced he's going to
die. He's pacing back and forth, talking about different ways to kill
This was my first experience with someone on a bad acid trip. I really had
no idea what to do. I kept telling him that the Death Card signified
Change, not Death -- but he had it in his head that he was going to die.
Over the next two hours I just kept talking calmly and reassuringly to him
-- and physically blocking the door every time he tried to get out. He
would go into very depressed states, where he would just lie on the floor
and tell me that he could see Death hovering above him, and then suddenly
he was up and pacing, talking a mile a minute about dozens of different
subjects, shifting from one subject to the next in a heartbeat.
For me it was all relatively terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing.
And of course, every time I made an argument for why he wasn't going to
die, Jim's sharp mind could come up instantly with a "valid" reason why he
*was* going to die. There was no way I could really win an argument with
But after a couple of hours he seemed to come back to earth. His eyes
began to look normal again and he said he was hungry, so I escorted him
downstairs to the hotel cafeteria where a bunch of other fans were hanging
out and Jim melded back into the group.
That wasn't the last time I saw Jim, I'm sure -- but that's my last real
memory of him.