Was Ecco the Dolphin Inspired by a Scientist’s Ketamine Fantasies?

Ecco the Dolphin

As a child, video games were something that was reserved solely for weekends at my grandparent’s house. My cousins and I always had the latest model of Nintendo, and whatever new gaming console was on the market. While I was more of a Mario fan/Nintendo player, I have some fond memories of playing Sega’s Ecco the Dolphin

The game wasn’t particularly easy, and I remember growing bored with it pretty fast – the plot synopsis being way more interesting than the game itself – but Ecco was so cute, and swimming around as his avatar made me feel all sorts of warm inside.

Beyond the video game, one might be surprised to find out that Ecco’s psychedelic storyline ripples offline in the curious tale of John C Lilly, a scientist some-what obsessed with the idea of interspecies communication (and Ketamine).

NASA Funded Research

In the early ’60s, NASA gave Lilly funding to research whether it was possible to teach dolphins to speak. Their intention being to find data, which would lead to a better understanding of communication as a whole – in hopes that if/when we were ever able to make contact with extraterrestrials, this intel would be of great value.

Lilly assembled a team of researchers to live in the Carribean, and flooded a house in order to be as close as possible to the dolphins they were studying. One of the more infamous team-members, Margaret Howe Lovatt, apparently got so close to the dolphins, she had sex with one.

The experiment didn’t go as planned, and unfortunately nobody was able to get the dolphins to “talk”, save for a pretty close call, which you can watch in the video below.

Lilly eventually lost funding for the project, and turned his back on traditional science, in exchange for an exploration of consciousness, spirituality, and drugs, Ketamine in particular.

ETs and Experiments With Ketamine


Lilly began his experiments with Ketamine after a friend suggested it may help with his chronic migraines. He affectionately began calling it “Vitamin K”, after claiming that just a small dose of K pushed the migraines right out of his body, and subsequently cured him of his ailments.

Small doses, eventually evolved into Lilly shooting up K, then snowballed into him IV-ing it while inside of a sensory deprivation tank. He and his colleague, Dr. Craig Enright, believed that using the tank in conjunction with the drug, would allow for a greater psychedelic/consciousness-expanding experience.

During his sessions, Lilly became convinced that he was making contact with an organic extraterrestrial entity called the Earth Coincidence Control Office—ECCO. He believed that ECCO was in control of all earthly affairs, and were a benevolent, omniscient consciousness.

However, ECCO wasn’t always so benevolent, and at one point Lilly thought they’d cut off his penis, and replaced it with a mechanical one:

“They’ve cut off my penis,” Dr. Lilly exclaimed. His wife Toni came to the rescue and pointed out to John that his penis was still intact. Upon closer examination of his male member, Lilly saw that the ET’s had replaced his normal human penis with a mechanical version that could become voluntary erect when he wanted it to. An hour later, after the effects of the K wore off, John Lilly found his normal human penis in place of the mechanical one, exactly where it had always been.

On the other side of the spectrum of Lilly’s “delusions”, he also made contact with another extraterrestrial entity called Solid State intelligence (SSI). This entity was spawned from a mechanical solar system, with the intention of ravaging the earth and destroying humanity.

According to Conspiracy Archive:

“SSI was a supercomputer-like entity, much in the same techno-mystical vein as Philip K. Dick’s VALIS. But unlike VALIS, SSI was of a malevolent nature, at odds with ECCO. SSI’s apparent goal was to conquer and dominate all biological life forms on Earth. To combat SSI, ECCO enlisted Lilly in this archetypal battle of good against evil, charging him with the mission of alerting the world at large to these solid state beings of evil intent. To further confirm the dual existences of these two opposing alien intelligence networks, Lilly was given a sign, and message, in the autumn of 1974. Flying into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Dr. Lilly saw the comet Kahoutek out of the southern sky. Momentarily the comet grew brighter. At this point a message was laser-beamed into Lilly’s mind, which said: “We are Solid State Intelligence and we are going to demonstrate our power by shutting down all solid state equipment to LAX.”

Enright and Lilly’s experiments wound up being the inspiration for the 1978 novel by Paddy Chayefsky, Altered States, which was later adapted into the cult-classic movie.

In Conclusion

While the parallels between Sega’s Ecco the Dolphin and Lilly’s ketamine fantasies are pretty fascinating, the creator of Ecco, Ed Annunziata, has neither confirmed nor denied the synchronicity – only making one statement on social media in relation to the similarity:
“No, I never took LSD, but I did read a lot from John C. Lilly.”

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