'Monster Science' Explores Carnivorous, Mind-control Shrooms

The good Dr. Anton Jessup is back with a new series of lectures on that curious place where monsters and science converge. No matter how outlandish and horrifying the fantasy, reality always has a way of meeting and exceeding the bar set by fiction.

And so we join the good doctor in contemplating 1963's "Matango," a film that continues to creep out modern audiences due to its bleak, oppressive body-horror vibe. Sure, "Godzilla" makers Toho Studios produced the picture, but this ain't Monster Island, full of bumbling, rubber kaiju. On the isle of Matango, a group of shipwrecked survivors encounter a terrifying fungus that swiftly warps minds, mutilates bodies and consumes human flesh.

Sure you won't find any shambling mushroom people in the real world, but the fungal realm is diverse enough to encompass all of these insidious characteristics. Our world is home to the parasitic mind-control fungi of the Cordyceps and Ophiocordyceps genuses, as you'll know if you watched the above video or read this Stuff to Blow Your Mind post. The members of these genuses don't prey on humans, but watch out, arthropods!

Plus, insanely enough, the edible oyster mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus kills and eats roundworms and spiders. It's a true carnivore! And I don't have to tell you about the varying medicinal, psychedelic and outright poisonous mushrooms out there in the wild. 

So you can think of these cinematic mushroom monsters as mere avatars that encompass the mycological world's many wonders and terrors — wonders and terrors that scientists continue to study and reveal.

We've posted a few more of Dr. Anton Jessup's monstrous adventures below, too. In the first, he waxes poetic about Medusa.

In the second, Dr. Jessup embraces the wonders of The Blob.