If You Were A Crayon, What Color Would You Be?

While I wasn't in on the conversation between Peter Steele and his sister Pat, I do believe that Peter either didn't realize he was having this experience consciously, or he didn't realize it until having a conversation with Pat, and then he realized he was experiencing synesthesia.  While I'm not sure if people who see chakras are the same people who experience color associations -- it was a good point to note. Was Peter having a synesthesia moment when he saw people as colors or was he really just reading their chakras? Also, while he was a left-handed person who was immensely creative, I'm not sure we can say that the correlation between left-handedness and synesthesia is the norm. Pat isn't left handed, yet she has experienced a couple of forms of this phenomenon and I'm not left-handed. But, I might add that neither she nor I play musical instruments - though as many of you know, we are related. So ... not sure what all these means,
but still ... pretty ... darn ... interesting.

I was feeling a little green today


Synesthetes often report that they were unaware their experiences were unusual until they realized other people did not have them, while others report on how they discovered synesthesia in their childhood. The automatic and ineffable nature of a synesthetic experience means that the neural pairing may not seem out of the ordinary, and the involuntary and consistent nature helps define synesthesia as a real experience. Most synesthetes report that their experiences are pleasant or neutral, although some report that their experiences can lead to a degree of sensory overload.

Though often stereotyped in the popular media as a medical condition or neurological aberration, many synesthetes report it as a gift—an additional "hidden" sense—something they would not want to miss. Some have learned how to apply this gift in daily life and work in memorizing names and telephone numbers, mental arithmetic, but also in more complex creative activities like producing visual art, music, and theater.

Various forms
Synesthesia can occur between nearly any two senses or perceptual modes, and research has discovered one synesthete that linked all five senses. Given the large number of forms of synesthesia, researchers have adopted a convention of indicating the type of synesthesia by using the following notation x y, where x is the "inducer" or trigger experience, and y is the "concurrent" or additional experience. For example, perceiving letters and numbers (collectively called graphemes) as colored would be indicated as grapheme color synesthesia. Similarly, when synesthetes see colors and movement as a result of hearing musical tones, it would be indicated as tone (color, movement) synesthesia.

While nearly every logically possible combination of experiences can occur, several types are more common than others.

Grapheme color synesthesia
In one of the most common forms of synesthesia, grapheme color synesthesia, individual letters of the alphabet and numbers (collectively referred to as graphemes), are "shaded" or "tinged" with a color. While different individuals usually do not report the same colors for all letters and numbers, studies with large numbers of synesthetes find some commonalities across letters.

As a child told her father, "I realized that to make an R all I had to do was first write a P and draw a line down from its loop. And I was so surprised that I could turn a yellow letter into an orange letter just by adding a line." Another grapheme synesthete says, "When I read, about five words around the exact one I'm reading are in color. It's also the only way I can spell. In elementary school I remember knowing how to spell the word 'priority' [with an "i" rather than an "e"] because ... an 'e' was out of place in that word because 'e's were yellow and didn't fit.”

Sound Color Synesthesia
Sound color synesthesia is "something like fireworks": voice, music, and assorted environmental sounds such as clattering dishes or dog barks trigger color and firework shapes that arise, move around, and then fade when the sound ends. For some, the stimulus type is limited; for others, a wide variety of sounds triggers synesthesia.

Sound often changes the perceived hue, brightness, scintillation, and directional movement. Some individuals see music on a "screen" in front of their face, while for some music produces waving line configurations moving in color, often metallic and with height, width and depth.  Individuals rarely agree on what color a given sound is (composers Liszt and Rimsky-Korsakov famously disagreed on the colors of music keys); however, synesthetes show the same trends as non-synesthetes do, that loud tones are brighter than soft tones, and that lower tones are darker than higher tones.

Number-Form Synesthesia
A number form is a mental map of numbers that involuntarily appears whenever someone who experiences number-forms thinks of numbers. It has been suggested that number-forms are a result of "cross-activation" between regions of the parietal lobe that are involved in numerical cognition and spatial cognition.

Ordinal Linguistic Personification
OLP, or personification for short, is a form of synesthesia in which ordered sequences, such as ordinal numbers, days, months and letters are associated with personalities. Documented in the 1890s, only recent modern research has paid attention to this form. For some, in addition to numbers and ordinal sequences, objects are sometimes imbued with a sense of personality.

One synesthete says, "T’s are generally crabbed, ungenerous creatures. U is a soulless sort of thing. 4 is honest, but… 3 I cannot trust… 9 is dark, a gentleman, tall and graceful, but politic under his suavity." And, "I is a bit of a worrier at times, although easy-going; J is male; appearing jocular, but with strength of character; K is female; quiet, responsible...."

Lexical Gustatory Synesthesia
In the rare lexical gustatory synesthesia, individual words and the phonemes of spoken language evoke taste sensations in the mouth.  Additionally, these food experiences are often paired with tastes based on the phonemes in the name of the word (e.g., I, n, and s trigger a taste of mince, f triggers serbert.  Another source of tastes comes from semantic influences, so that food names tend to taste of the food they match, e.g., the word "blue" tastes "inky."

Note from Darcie: I'm glad that we can end the week with informative reading. Some of you have asked to know more about what Peter liked to read. These are exactly the books he would have read or the discussions he would have had with you when he had a chance to sit down and REALLY talk. Some of you have wondered (via email) if Peter's synesthesia only happened when he was using drugs. It may have. We don't know. We can only tell you that this conversation happened when he was sober and he noted it was something he experienced his entire life.

To us, Peter was one in a million. Now we know that he was at least 1 in 23.

If you haven't already shared this test link with your friends and family, I encourage you to do so. It would be interested what you find and what people's reaction is to this "gift."

Take the test, The Synesthesia Battery … ://synesthete.org


  1. I wonder if Pete's use of the color green concerning TON had anything to do with his synesthesia, did he see green colorizations when (de)composing/playing TON's music...did he ever discuss this? Thanks again and have a great weekend everyone! (-)

  2. This is amazing and very interesting! Peter is extraordinary but this is beyond anything i have ever imagined. I never knew that peter's gift ever existed until now and this puts a whole new meaning to how unbelievably gifted peter is. I have always admired and appreciated peter but now it's beyond a whole new level of my appreciation/admiration for him. Thank you for sharing :)

  3. Thank you for all this additional information. It's so interesting and really got me busy thinking about it. As stated already - it was always clear to me that Peter is special in many ways but this fact is mind blowing. Also I love the fact that these would be conversations you could have with him - pretty rare. What a good question, Chris - this is something I would be interested in also. On the weekend I will check out the online test & I am very curious already what will be the result :-) Thank's again for all your sharing & have a great weekend.
    Take good care all of you
    Much love & respect
    P.S. Beautiful pic of Pete again - love it. Today I'd say that I'd be a bright orange crayon




  5. @Chris - I was wondering the same thing. Or, was that the color Pete saw himself as? Hence, "Green Man", "Creepy Green Light", etc. The synesthesia topic has been one of the most interesting ones so far Darcie. What a great insight on such a beautiful, complicated man.

  6. This is very interesting!!! And to be able to research his "gifts" certainly makes him even more intriguing!! My son says he can taste colors. And he, even at nine is showing amazing artistic flair. the drawing, the acting, the music, the dancing...he can do all of it. At what age did Peter start showing his artistic abilities??

  7. I would like to be purple... :)

  8. Hi all--

    The ironic thing about this blog is that I have learned more about this man since he passed on than I EVER knew about him when he was alive. He never ceases to amaze me. To sit and have a normal conversation with him must've been a mind-blowing experience for sure.
    As for the chakras, as far as I know, they are not visible to the human eye (unless, from what I've read, you are a highly trained Ninja), but each one does have a color association. The base chakra is red, and from there it's just like a rainbow--orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (the crown). So, it is possible Peter was seeing peoples' auras, though those are visible around a person's body, just like an outline. From what little I've been able to read a synesthete sees a brief flash of color. Though it would be interesting to have a synesthete and a person who could see auras 'read' the same person to see if they each come up with the same color. (Wonder if that study has ever been done??) Oh well, just food for thought. I imagine the book sales about Synesthesia will increase by about 1000% on Amazon and they'll all wonder why!
    Thanks Darcie--this week's posts have been informative to say the least. (And another cool photo to boot!) MORE books to add to my reading list. A good weekend to all, and Happy Autumn! :)
    Love & Gratitude--Patty P

  9. I also wondered the same as Chris and Sheri, did green end up being the colour for Peter because of how it felt to him because of his Color Synesthesis or did he see himself as green. I can understand if its something you have always had you may not even realize your doing it. Typical of the medical profession to consider it a problem or neurological abberation. It is definitely a gift and would be very helpfully in life. I wonder did this give Peter the ability to see who was a "good" person and who was not through different colours. I have read in children colours will attract them to some people and make them afraid of others. Very interesting. I say again, no wonder Peters music had such an impact on us. He had the advantage of seeing it in color and this must have given his song writing more depth.

  10. I took the test, apparently I´m a synesthete. Before you wrote about this in the blog I did´nt even know there was a name for this kind of thing, and since I never have talked to anyone about synesthesia I have always thought that it was something everyone was experiencing. Well, I was thinking about telling my mother but since she works within medicin and also is a bit crazy when it comes to different/new things she would probably try locking me up in some sort of hospital for mentally ill people. For example she strongly believe that the skincondition Psoriasis is a result of someone mentally being mentally unstable. Infact, if someone get Psoriasis it is already in the DNA and the most people getting it get it after having a bad cold or streptococcus, pneumonia or illnesses like that. Also, Psoriasis can be controlled by what kind of things you eat in combination how much sun you get. How I know this: My ex has psoriasis, and since it annoyed me that he didn´t know what to do to make it better I read a lot research about psoriasis. Even after showing my mother the articles she doesn´t learn, to her people with psoriasis are people with mental conditions that bring psoriasis to them - even small children!!

    It is amazing how much Peter had to work with, how talanted he was and how many gifts he had. Such an intelligent beautiful man - and now I am starting to get a bit angry (and I am sorry about that); why did he turn to drugs and just wasted his life like that? He could have lived today if he just would have turned his back on drugs, if he never even had tried drugs.

    Well, hopefully it teaches someone else something about drugs and life. Hopefully.

    And thank you for this blog. Peter kind of still feels close to us even if he is gone. Thank you for making us a part of your mourningprocess. I wish you a really good weekend.
    By the way, I´m green, forrestgreen, and always have been...

  11. I find this topic incredibly fascinating. I've already taken part of the test. I had to stop at one point b/c of the colors. I've had seizure issues in the past. I'm also on anti-depressants, (thank you, Coney Island Hospital!) don't know if tht has anything to do with it, but I'm going to finish it by the weekend. Naturally, the corelation between psychic ability and synth is an issue. I dislike using the word psychic to describe a particular way of vision, hearing, sensing, etc, but for lack of a better word, I hope you'll indulge me. What we experience in the realm of spirit goes far beyond the five senses, and is very, very real. From what I can gather, synth is another spectrum of the pyshic experience, but not a spiritual experience. It can certainly pave the way for one to clearly perceive a spiritual communication, and I wonder how common it is with those of an increased ability of perception. It is probably a precursor to a psychic inflection. I'm not a scientist so I'm just making an observation here. I've been in the astrology/Tarot/ pyshcic readding/healing business more years than I can count, (30+-I can't count any higher!) and that realm is more about connection and communication than perception, although, of course perception is big part of it. When I was teaching Tarot classes I found that the biggest challenge for most students was learning the language of symbols. To learn the depth of symbolic language requires a big shift in persceptive. You have to learn to "read" words where there are no words, and you have to be able to make coherant sentences out of those symbols. And, much like the English language, the symbolic language of Tarot is full of alternate meanings and spellings. It depends on how they are used in a sentence. There is a syntax involved, but it doesn't read in words so much as it does in symbols, and colors. Some students got this easily, others didn't. It was a challenge to teach a language of symbolic expression as a means of spiritual communication to others, one that I relished b/c it opened up my perceptions as well. The language of spirit and symbolism came naturally to me. I often perceive situations, scenarios, communications, music,(on the Earth plane and off) in the form of a Tarot card, or as an astrolgoical alignment or reflection. Obviously one would have to be familar with those concepts in order to experience them in a synth-related way, so I don't believe this makes me, or anyone a natural synth. (The jury is still out on that). But it would be interesting to see how people of synth ability conceive of Tarot, and other occult symbols. Musical notes, colors, alphabets, seasons, etc, all have an important place in the occult realm b/c they can be used to open the Third Eye, thus enabling the student to perceive and understand spiritual communication. The idea of space is also intriguing. I had a LOT of spatial difficulty when I moved from NYC to NM in '05. I still do on occasion; I have to re-align myself with height and space when I'm in a new building here. I have many friends who I've worked with in the past in the arts of sacred space, all of them quite adept and serious about what they do. They're taking the battery as I write. I have permission to share their results (anonymously) with this group. Colors are primal, we know color instinctivly. Naturally sensual perceptions of color and sound, taste, aroma, and touch make sense. More to follow.... Oh, my color is sky blue and I love the picture. My favorite pics of Pete are when he's in his element, making music. Something otherwordly emanates from him--it's beautiful. In the Colors of Sacred Space, Leslie R. Marini

  12. Thank you for posting this - I didn't know there was a name for what I experience. For me, certain textures and smells cause me to 'taste' things, and certain tastes 'sound' like other things or feel like textures. I also saw colors with different people's voices (not everyone's). Peter's voice ranged from indigo to black and sometiems deep scarlet for me. I thought it was just another way I was messed up! Although I can't imagine life with separated senses... awesome reading. :)

  13. I'm mostly chartreuse,although will turn red sometimes.

  14. I am right-handed and I don't play any instruments right now, though I used to play the keyboards when I was a child (I somehow forgot).

    I realised I could relate words with colors in junior high, when my Art teacher talked to us about it (she has the same type of synesthesia as I do). I was surprised because I hadn't thought it was anything special. Funny, yes, but not special.

    Also, I don't know if anyone else has noticed it, but the smaller a word is, the more colorful it is. In longer words, usually one or two colors are "dominant", even though you can see the presence of other, less "significant" colors. But in smaller words... "Zero" for example gives me a headache because it's gray, lavender, brown, yellow, blue and black. Up to three colors, I'm good, but with more colorfool words, I try to think in black and white!

    Stella A. A.

  15. Peter was left handed. Does anyone know why he played right handed bass?