Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction. This story is so absurd, so mind-boggling, and so, so real. If you've never heard this legend about the Titanic, get ready for a mystery as deep as the ship's eventual plunge.
Vanity Fair recalls the story of how the cast and crew of the Titanic, uh, unintentionally got high on angel dust, or PCP during the filming of the movie. Yes, this really happened.
Before we get into the story, let's go over what PCP actually is. It's an animal tranquilizer, and in humans, it causes all kinds of scary symptoms. Users can experience hallucinations, severe anxiety, memory loss, mania, and may exhibit violent behavior. An overdose of the drug can also cause death. It goes without saying that you should not do this drug.
Back to the Titanic! Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were not on set at the time, but Bill Paxton and Suzy Amis were, along with director David Cameron. The cast and crew had just broken for a meal break, and were served catered food. One of the food they were served was a chowder. Soon afterwards, those who had eaten the chowder began feeling funny.
"I get back to the set and nobody’s there," Cameron told Vanity Fair in 2009. "I'm standing at the monitors, near the camera, and the room is empty. It was like the twilight zone."
Paxton said that he experienced the anxiety that is common with the drug. "One minute I felt okay. The next minute I felt so goddamn anxious I wanted to breathe in a paper bag. Cameron was feeling the same way," he said to Entertainment Weekly back in 1996.
The set devolved into chaos, with staffers high out of their minds. They were then shuttled to a nearby hospital. "People are moaning and crying, wailing, collapsed on tables and gurneys. The D.P., Caleb Deschanel, is leading a number of crew down the hall in a highly vocal conga line. You can't make this stuff up," said Cameron. Set painter Marilyn McAvoy told Vice that "eventually we all got put in these cubicles with the curtains around us, but no one wanted to stay in their cubicles. Everyone was out in the aisles and jumping into other people's cubicles. People had a lot of energy. Some were in wheelchairs, flying down the hallways." Doctors determined that the chowder has been spiked with PCP.
An official investigation was performed, but no one discovered the source of the uh, special ingredient. Cameron did point out a disgruntled former employee as a likely culprit, saying that "we had fired a crew member the day before because they were creating trouble with the caterers. So we believe the poisoning was this idiot's plan to get back at the caterers, whom of course we promptly fired the next day. So it worked."
Well then. The takeaway here is, uh, don't trust the chowder?