- September 2016 Eris of the Month: ‘Goth Eris’ by Victoria Grimalkin
- Giger Meets Illuminatus!
- CHASING ERIS: On The Trail of Kerry Thornley (and his kitties)
- A Barrage of Three (3) Popes
- Discordianism Meets Ufology (Part 00003)
- August 2016 Eris of the Month: Eris Arrives At Festival 23
- Greg Hill’s Emperor Norton Poster
- Cosmic Trigger Online Reading Group, Week 19
- Boy Howdy! Hail Eris! Discordianism Meets Creem Magazine
- July 2016 Eris of the Month: Kallisti – Find the Others
- When Hell Froze Over In L5P
- Greg Hill Gets Letters (Part 00011)
- June 2016 Eris of the Month: ‘Our Lady of Confusion’ by Steve Bellitt
- Kill The Buddha! Smash The State!
- Greg Hill Gets Letters (Part 00010)
- June 5th: This Day In Discordian History
- She Was Lost, And Is Found: The Lost Treasure of Eris!
- May 2016 Eris of the Month: ‘Lady Eris’ by Victoria Grimalkin
- A Discordian Directory
- Recently Discovered Poems by Greg Hill
- April 2016 Eris of the Month – Eris Provocateur by Mylene Cagnoli
- Discordianism Meets Ufology (Part 00002)
- SMI^2LE! Cosmic Trigger Group Reading Enters Chapel Perilous… Never To Be Heard From Again
- Information Awareness Office (IAO) Revisited
- March 2016 Eris of the Month – Erismorphing Project by Cpt. Bucky Saia (Part 00002)
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Over at our Early Discordians facebook group, Sirius Mazzu posted a rather illuminating link that seemed to be news to everyone in the group concerning a 1978 H. R. Giger Illuminatus! illustration, which incorporated Tim Leary, H.P. Lovecraft, and possibly Aleister Crowley as characters in addition to little alien dudes on stilts numbered 5, 17, and 23!
For more on this fascinating story, navigate here.
The book documents my worldwide adventure to experience modern Discordian culture, meet its personalities, and discover elusive Erisian mysteries.
In our meeting we talk about what it was like to live with Kerry in Little Five Points, Atlanta. It seems important to mention that at the time they met, Kerry was, according to some, veering off into paranoia. I myself remain agnostic on some of his claims and skeptical of some others, especially his theory that his “real father” was a Nazi Admiral.
Tantra greets me at the entrance of her house, near a garden filled with gigantic cacti. She is smiley and excitable, and her passion for life is contagious.
She grew up in Indiana, in an area where very few people were around, few enough that one didn’t need to put clothes on to collect the mail on a hot day. She would go to Alabama, now and then, to see relatives. It was the kind of town where you couldn’t really admit to not being religious. She would attend Straight Creek Holiness Church, where people would yell and run around the congregation when the spirit seized them. When the spirit seized preachers, they would handle the snakes; a sign on the church quoted Mark 16:18, They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. The spirit never seemed to seize them in her presence. When she was in Alabama, she missed the people she could engage with in California, and when she was away she missed the nature.
Tantra has a special relationship with nature. She spent years traveling the country in her van, sometimes driving out to a natural place, and finding a spot to sleep out in the open. It was during this period of travel that she began to develop her skills in Tantric yoga, healing, and her own construction of a form of effortless movement, called ‘Lucid Play.’
Tantra was in Little Five Points when she met someone who connected her with Kerry Thornley, who was to take a significant place in her life.
“I had been in Atlanta in Little Five Points and I met this guy who was the figurehead of Little Five Points. He would stand there and he would ring his bell and he would burn his sage and he would figure out who should meet whom. So he was telling me about Kerry Thornley and showing these broadsheets that he had put up and they were great political activism mixed with absurd, wild craziness. And so I wanted to meet him, and I thought, I want to come back to Atlanta to spend time with Kerry Thornley. And he was, I guess, 60 or something like that.
“And so then later I was going to Atlanta. I thought it was going to be just for a weekend but then my van broke down so I had to find a place to live. I was reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was dedicated to Kerry. I stayed with that guy that I mentioned. His friend Wilson Leary, Timothy Leary’s cousin, came by, he and I started dating. So I’ve got all these things in the world of Kerry Thornley like…” she waves her arms and makes sounds to imitate the ineffable presence of Thornleyness that was entering her sphere.
“So I was trying to figure out where I was going to live and this guy just came up to me in Little Five Points and said, ‘If you’re looking for a place to live, you can live with me, I’ve got a porch.’ I checked out this house and they’ve got a big porch and so I moved in. It was a really wild artistic kind of place. I found out that Kerry Thornley lived there in this little mother-in-law right out the back. So I went there looking for Kerry Thornley, and moved in next to him without even knowing it.”
“Do you remember the first time you actually met him?” I ask.
“Uh-huh. Coming out of my room it was like, ‘There’s Kerry Thornley!’ Or, Omar Khyaam Ravenhurst.”
“What did you two talk about the first time you met?”
“Oh, I probably was just kind of squealing and telling him how glad I was, and him just doing this great laugh. I love his laugh. It was unlike anyone else’s. I wouldn’t even try to imitate it. He had thirteen cats or something like that, some huge number of cats so you’d always hear him calling them. He was just this really sweet little cat man, and son of a Nazi, such an odd combination, he claimed. In my life I always run into these MK-ULTRA kind of people, which was a little scary sometimes, that that happens, and that’s what he was, he said.
“I was also was a little bit uneasy about how much, living with him, was that going to involve me? How much was I being watched because of it? So it became like The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Black helicopters were going over all the time, and just becoming more and more like those books.”
Kerry said there were flying helicopters over his house,” I say. I was thinking of what a friend of Kerry, Louise Lacey, had told me of Kerry’s time in Florida when I said this, though I’d forgotten the details of what I’d heard. She had told me that Jim Garrison had sent helicopters over his house.
“They were, they were,” Bensko says. “They were doing it a lot. They would even follow me around. He seemed to know what he’s talking about. People always think that he was making up these stories in his head about the mind controllers and stuff, but I don’t know. He might have been.”
It was once while they lived in this close proximity that Tantra decided to perform a Discordian ritual, after a comment Kerry made.
“He said that the beauty of Discordianism was that he didn’t have to see any other Discordian-ists. And so there were no rituals. So to fly in the face of that then and give it a little chaotic shuffle, I told him, ‘we’ve got to do a ritual then.’ He thought that was a great idea.
“So I got a stick of butter and I molded it into the shape of Eris the Goddess and I put it on the floor. We said something over it you know, and his thirteen cats came and positioned themselves around the butter so there was no space in between them. They were all just jammed into where their tongues were right in there in the butter and they all started spinning around in a circle all at the same time, so you had this circling cat-thing around Eris, licking it until it was gone while Kerry and I were just laughing.”
“So that was the core moment that I remember about that ritual. His cats after that walked off but kind of continuing to circle and just ‘woah hey’ and wobble off to the edges.”
“Did you spend much time with Kerry after that?” I ask.
“Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time with him when I lived in Atlanta because I was there a couple of years, and so we were really good friends. I think I spent as much time with him over those years as everyone else did altogether. He didn’t really have a lot of people come by. And the other people in the house didn’t go to see him that much. But we were buddies. We hung out. I just deeply love Kerry.
“I don’t agree with some of his politics like, ‘Kill Kennedy.’ But yeah, I really liked Kerry a lot. I felt like his writing with Eris might have had something to do with his feeling like he did inadvertently kill Kennedy by suggesting someone like Oswald could be a patsy. But who knows; it’s one layer after another it’s so complex at the time.”
When I first talked to Bensko over the Internet she pointed out that she wasn’t a Discordian and wasn’t any kind of expert, but when I spoke to her in person, she said she was identifying sometimes with the title. I asked her to tell me what about the ideology meant to her.
“It’s postmodernist,” she says. “There’s many angles, and none of them are true.” She likes that Discordia is essentially difficult to take too seriously, and finds the attitude of believing without believing useful to her work. “There’s lots of Gods in Tantra Yoga too, and I see them as physics principles,” she tells me.
We chat for a long time; Tantra is someone who it is immensely easy to be around. She carries an effortless friendliness that invites you in and asks you to engage, without needing to say the words. She talks about many things, including her time in Little Five Points, her Yoga experience and her book, Collapsible Horizon.
I walk home. The air is warm and still. I arrive back to the marijuana-scented hostel doors, and make my way up the winding stairs to my room.
After seeing this “Barrage of Popes” ad in the June 19th, 1970 edition of The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Greg Hill (aka Dr. Ignotum P. Ignotius—Successor to Malaclypse) sent the following pithy letter along with three (3) Pope Cards—in addition to a five pointed gold star—to the three (3) Popes in question who were starting three (3) new religions at a “Divine Intervention” planned for Las Vegas later that year.
TO NOTE: Hill uses the exiting salutation “FLIEGENDE KINDERSCHEISSE!” in his letter to the three (3) Popes, which translates from the German to “Flying Baby Shit!”
This term appears on Page 00031 of the Principia Discordia as part of the “THE POEE MYSTEREE OATH”.
Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) explored the UFO mystery over the years and one of his earliest writings on the topic appeared in the May 1975 Berkeley Barb entitled “Awaiting The News from Galactic Central” about a story then circulating which predicted ETs would soon be broadcasting over worldwide TV.
Also included in the article are comments from a number of personalities, among them Malaclypse the Younger (Greg Hill): “There is no doubt at all that proof of galactic Higher Intelligences will appear on TV screens everywhere between September and November 1975,” he said flatly. “I stake my reputation on this.”
Apparently this ET broadcast that RAW wrote about in the article never happened—at least not in this spacetime continuum—but something of a similar sort occurred a couple years after the fact (or fiction) on November 26th, 1977 during a regional newscast in the UK when an entity named Asteron interrupted the telecast with this startling message!
RAW’s first encounter with a UFO (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) occurred in rural New Jersey in the mid 1960s when in the presence of friends and family members, he witnessed a silvery something from afar.
Each of the witnesses took turns examining the object through a pair of binoculars, and some were of the opinion that what they witnessed resembled a classic flying saucer craft accompanied by humanoids in silvery costumes. When RAW looked through the binocs, he observed something similar to a geodesic dome, sans the silver clad spacemen. RAW went on to state in Cosmic Trigger Vol. 1: “That afternoon, my son, Graham, encountered an ‘extraterrestrial’ in the woods behind our house, at the foot of the hill. She was a female, with silvery skin, and she told Graham (he was five at the time) that he should become a physicist when he grew up… Years later, Graham did indeed study to become a physicist.”
Later in Cosmic Trigger, RAW writes:
“Prof. Jacques Vallee, who has analyzed all such Contact stories that have occurred since 1890 with a computer to find statistical patterns, informs us that this is drearily typical. The majority of child contactees, Vallee has discovered, report female extraterrestrials. (The majority of adults report males, in two standard types — small green men or giant blue men.) In fact, Dr. Vallee has found 44 parallels (similarities of image, word and detail) between the average experience of child Contactees …” (p. 39)
“Contactees generally report Her, according to Vallee, and the silvery globe was also around in some of Her miracles, under the guise of the B.V.M., at Lourdes and Fatima. In one of Her miracles at Fatima, She caused the sun to plunge directly toward Earth, in the shared experience or hallucination of over 100,000 witnesses…” (pp. 40-41)
“Naturally, I did not suspect for a long time that our Lady Eris, goddess of confusion, was just the Space Lady coming back to haunt me in a different guise.” (p. 59)
RAW’s second UFO-related experience (sort of) occurred on July 23rd 1973. Leading up to this event, he’d been programming himself with LSD while conducting a series of Crowleyean rituals known as the Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel. On top of all this, RAW was using Dr. John Lilly’s “Beliefs Unlimited” hypnosis-tape to access the astral plane… or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
It was at this time that RAW established apparent contact (maybe) with certain critters from the Sirius star system… or it might have been a Giant Pookah named Harvey, for all we know. Or a bunny named Bugs.Crowley, it has been conjectured, met with his own host of alien looking chaps, among them Aiwass and also a curious character named Lam who looked somewhat like the alien grays that would later claim their fame in Whitley Strieber’s Communion and The X-Files. It was Aiwass who dictated (though psychic channeling) The Book of the Law, which formed the basis of Crowley’s “religion” Thelema. But Thelema, like Discordianism, should be more aptly termed an irreligion, “Where every man and woman is a Pope,” in the same respect that in Thelema, “Every man and woman is a star.”
In one account, RAW recalled his Sirius experience occurring in a hypnogogic dream state when the perceived entity (or Ascended Master or whatever it was) whispered in his inner ear something about the significance of the Sirius star system that RAW immediately scribbled down in his magickal diary: “Sirius is very important!”
Intrigued by this cryptic message, RAW afterwards visited the Berkeley Public Library to conduct more in depth research where he stumbled upon a passage in a book revealing that July 23rd is the very day when Sirius rises behind the Sun, known as the Dog Days. July 23rd is now considered a High Holy Day in Discordianism, known as Robert Anton Wilson Day or Maybe Day. Oddly enough, it is also National Hot Dog Day. (Buns optional.)Around the same time as RAW’s Sirius synch, science fiction author Philip K. Dick had some sort of “mystical experience” involving three-eyed crab clawed beings from (you guessed it!) Sirius. This led to Dick’s trilogy of books based on the VALIS theme.
Concurrently, British author Doris Lessing also established some sort of contact with Sirius, which inspired her to pen a Sci-Fi novel entitled The Sirian Experiments. In this regard, neither RAW, Dick or Lessing were aware of one another’s experiences until well after their own respective experiences occurred. These are the type of synchronicities that frequently avail themselves to those who dabble in the occult, psychedelics and Forteana.
Somebutnotall of RAW’s Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel rituals occurred on the astral plane (which could also be interpreted as the subconscious mind or collective unconscious) where he met up with a number of perceived entities, one of whom was his old friend Dr. Timothy Leary:
“I was continually interrupted during my voyages by impressions of Leary doing similar experiments in his cell at Folsom. I also had visions of him flying over the walls of the prison.”
In Cosmic Trigger, RAW notes that in October 1973 he received permission to begin corresponding with Leary at Folsom Prison and “started out with a letter about the general philosophical implications of tuning the nervous system to higher fidelity of signal-reception and very carefully did not mention my July 23 experience with Sirius. (I was fairly sure that my July-August impressions that Timothy was doing telepathic experiments had been accurate, but I had no idea yet that he was attempting interstellar telepathy.) Tim’s answer was full of characteristic humor.”:
“The prison administration is perfect. They act as a Van Allen belt protecting my privacy, screening out distractions… The people they refuse visiting privileges are exactly those people who come to exploit me or whose love for me is flawed. My gratitude toward the prison warden must not be misunderstood. They are too possessive and jealous — terrible states to be in. Their love and dependence on me are too restricting. They are terrorized that I might leave them… in the lurch, so to say.” (pp. 102-103)
To the above letter, RAW wrote back, “but remained mum about Sirius. Instead, just for the hell of it, I used my official Discordian Society letterhead. The stationery bears the imprint of the Joshua Norton Cabal… Timothy, however, seems to have thought Joshua Norton Cabal was the name of a living person. Actually, Joshua Norton—or Norton I, as he preferred—was a San Franciscan of the last century who elected himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Bay Area historians still argue as to whether Norton was a psychotic or a clever con-man; in any event, he was ‘humored’ by the citizenry of the time and, in effect, lived like an Emperor. As Greg Hill, co-founder of Discordianism, has written, ‘Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Herman Hesse. Hardly anybody understands Einstein. And nobody understands Emperor Norton.’ (The Discordian Society, we repeat again, is not a complicated joke disguised as a new religion but really a new religion disguised as a complicated joke.)” (p. 103)
To the above, RAW “wrote back discussing the odd links between Leary’s work and that of Crowley and Gurdjieff, and mentioning the evidence that the latter two were both taught certain advanced techniques of consciousness-expansion by the Sufi lodges of the Near East. [RAW] also mentioned that Rasputin might have had the same sort of Sufi training during his wanderings. Leary’s reply blew [his] mind…” (p. 104).
When RAW got in touch with Michael Horowitz, he heard, for the first time, about the “Starseed Transmissions” although it wasn’t until 1977 that RAW got the full lowdown from Lynn Wayne Benner, Leary’s closest friend in Folsom, who informed RAW that the Starseed Transmissions started (you guess it) in August of 1977 during the peak of the very same Dog Days that did a number on his head.During this same period (circa 1973-1974), Dr. John Lilly (whose “Beliefs Unlimited” tape RAW had used as part of his metaprogramming curriculum) was meanwhile going through his own series of interstellar communications with a network of alien entities known as ECCO, an acronym for “Earth Coincidence Control Office.” These communications were achieved through the use of the drug Ketamine.
Over the years, RAW stayed hep to the flying saucer trip by interacting with cutting edge Ufological thinkers such as the aforementioned Jacques Vallee, who became a heavy influence on RAW’s Ufological worldview:
“After October 1974 (due to a meeting with Dr. Jacques Vallee, an extraordinarily erudite astronomer, cyberneticist and UFOlogist), I began to develop new belief systems to explain my Sirius experience…
“Dr. Vallee has been concerned with UFOs since the early 1960s, when he was two of the beasties. Over the years Vallee has broadened his investigations to include ‘psychic’2 experiences that relate in one way or another to UFOs, such as my Sirius experiences. He believes that this whole area of other-worldly communications has been going on for centuries and will probably not turn out to be extraterrestrial. The extraterrestrial content of the experience these days, he says, is just an adaptation to 20th Century beliefs. The phenomenon took other and spookier forms, his data indicate, in other epochs.
“This made perfect sense to me, since I had originally gotten in touch with ‘the entity’ by means of Crowleyan occultism. The extraterrestrial explanation was not the real explanation, as I had thought; it was just the latest model for it in the Middle Ages, or dead relatives speaking through mediums had been a model in the 19th Century.
“Then, on Sunday, March 13, 1976, a dispatch from Reuters News Service appeared in newspapers around the world. I read it in the San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle and it was like opening a door in my own house and finding Ming the Merciless shooting it out with Flash Gordon.
“The dispatch concerned Robert K. Temple, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of England, a scientist of dignity and status, who was propounding a theory wild enough to come from the pages of von Daniken himself. Temple claimed that Earth had been visited by an advanced race from a planet in the system of the double star, Sirius, around 4500 B.C. Temple based this assertion on the fact that definite and specific knowledge of the Sirius can be found in the mythology of the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and some surviving African tribes—knowledge which modern astronomy has only rediscovered with the fantastically delicate instruments of the last two decades…”
The Emperor’s Bridge Campaign, inquiring about an Emperor Norton poster that’s part of their digital archive.I recently received an email from John Lumea, President of the San Francisco-based nonprofit,
John discovered this poster at an online archive for The Rag, an underground mag published in Austin, Texas during the early 1970s.
Among other things, John was wondering who designed the poster, and if the illustration of Emperor Norton was original to it.
I immediately recognized the poster as the work of none other than Discordian Malaclypse the Younger (aka Greg Hill) and, in fact, an original print of this same poster resides in The Discordian Archives, along with a couple other iterations.
While I couldn’t specifically pin down the date of the Norton poster, I would say sometime around 1970 is my best guess. Hill’s interest in Norton began around 1969 when he formed the Joshua Norton Cabal, and it appears Hill sent out this poster to a variety of underground newspapers, among them The Rag.
As to the artist of the image, it appears Hill lifted it from one of the San Francisco newspapers (the Chronicle or Examiner) as revealed in this newspaper clipping I came across which Greg Hill evidently used as clip art (old school style) for the poster.The clipping in question appears to have been some sort of ad or campaign dedicated to the good Emperor. In the Archives there is also a pin that says “Emperor Norton lives” which evidently was part of this same campaign. This leads me to believe that the phrase “Emperor Norton Lives” inspired Greg Hill’s “Live Like Norton” motto.
In the Norton files, I also noticed an Examiner newspaper article from October 13, 1982, which indicated at one time or another there was an annual Joshua Norton Awards that had been established by a group called the Friends of Emperor Norton.
I’m guessing this news article must have spurred renewed interest with Greg Hill, as that same year he concocted this new iteration of the Norton poster that incorporated an assortment of images taken from the pages of Principia Discordia.
…And now you know the rest of the story.
Cosmic Trigger reading. I ended up writing a lot more than I’d initially intended… but sometimes that happens! (I blame it on the Dog Days.)Thanks to Charles Faris for inviting me take the helm for this week’s
We pick up with The horrors begin (page 150 of the Hilaritas edition) through to Ishtar’s Walk: a guided tour of Hell, a section that covers RAW’s lean years after he quit his cushy Playboy job and tossed caution in the wind to devote himself to full time freelancing. This was a difficult period when he went on public assistance (the dreaded “W” word: “Welfare”) to keep his family fed and a roof over their heads in a rundown Berkeley apartment complex with neighbors on either side who appeared to be going off their heads—like so many others who emerged from the madness that’d gripped the country at the end of the 60s—from the highs of the Woodstock Nation to the lows of Altamont, Kent State and the riots of Chicago, which RAW witnessed first-hand. RAW was smack dab in the middle of the cultural sea change taking place—that all of the sudden seemed to have lost traction, like Hunter Thompson’s wave that “finally broke and rolled back.”
Before we knew it, the 70s were upon us and something had changed. So many of the heroes of the movement had either burned out or sold out or spun out. By 1973, the sixties looked a thousand light years away in the rear view mirror as the lost idealism of that decade bled over into the early seventies. A hung-over generation awoke one morning to discover President Nixon’s “War on Drugs” in full swing, its crosshairs trained on the country’s youth, poor and minorities; draconian drug laws designed, it seemed, to create a prison state of mind, with RAW’s good friend Tim Leary—who Nixon proclaimed “the most dangerous man in America”—serving as the poster boy for all things immoral and indecent.Amid Watergate revelations of government snooping gone wild, paranoia ran high in a fragmented counterculture, as out of this era emerged a generation of damaged goods—like some of RAW’s loony Berzerkeley neighbors—or his friend Kerry Thornley, who had a job done on his head not only by the “brown acid,” but due to the trials and tribulations of the Garrison Inquisition. Operation Mindfuck had come full circle, it appeared, biting its creator, Kerry Thornley, square on the ass.
Against this backdrop, occasional self doubt crept into RAW’s reality tunnel. Since the whole world seemed to be going mad, maybe he was, as well… filled with doubts that he’d made the worst decision of his life quitting Playboy all the while the prospect hanging over his head that he’d never become a successful writer, let alone afford to pay his bills. Also the uncertainty of Illuminatus! was still dangling in the wind, yet unpublished.
In the midst of unsure times, RAW continued his path of self discovery, practicing Sufi heart-chakra exercises to free his mind of troubles and open himself up to the wonders of the universe—which all sounds pretty new agey in retrospect, but it was a sign of the times. It was the Aquarian New Age and RAW was at the forefront, not only diving headfirst into those trendy currents, but also examining them with a critical eye. Much the same way Aleister Crowley had done decades before, by examining consciousness (magick) using the scientific method, and at the same time approaching these practices in an unbiased/unconditioned manner, the ultimate goal to metaprogram one’s self and open higher circuits.
“We place no reliance on virgin or pidgeon.
Our method is science, our aim is religion.”
It was a transition period when the counterculture crossed its own abyss—from the social activism, sexual liberation and drug induced revelations of the 60s—into a state of creeping dread brought on by Watergate, Cointelpro and the War on Drugs. Out of this madness emerged the New Age Movement, which many of the old guard radical left considered a cop out, people staring at their navels when they should be overthrowing The Man.
This period witnessed a renewed interest in the JFK assassination, as well as the other political assassinations of the late 60s, as conspiracy buffs began noticing a pattern from one assassination to another, this coupled with a deepening mistrust of government, and a growing Police State, all contributed to The Paranoid Period.
Then Kerry Thornley, high priest of Eris, re-entered my life, dragging the Kennedy Assassination horrors with him. (p.151)
At this point in the narrative, RAW brings up Thornley’s feud with Jim Garrison, which I’d be remiss if I didn’t attempt to explain. But don’t tell me I didn’t tell you it gets way convoluted.
Thornley—as weird history instructs—served with Oswald in the Marines for a short period and due to this association went on to author a couple books about his Marine Corps chum titled Oswald and Idle Warriors. Garrison conjectured that these books were written as a means to portray Oswald as a commie influenced lone nutter with an itchy trigger finger in order to set him up as a patsy in the assassination… all part of a convoluted conspiracy caper that Thornley (maybe) was party to. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
As to the nature of Garrison and Thornley’s beef, this date backs to Kerry’s association with JFK researcher David Lifton, author of the classic Kennedy assassination tome, Best Evidence.
In his initial discussions with Lifton in 1965, Thornley mentioned how Oswald spoke Russian in the ranks at El Toro with a Marine whose name he thought might have been John Renee Heindel. This revelation (that Oswald conversed in the Russian tongue with Heindel) came as a surprise to Lifton, because he was quite familiar with Thornley’s Warren Commission testimony and the fact that Kerry hadn’t actually identified Heindel as the Russian speaking Marine in question. In fact, Thornley’s only mention in the Warren Report concerning this topic is a passage where he’s trying to recollect the name of the Russian speaking Marine, and he can’t. In later conversations, Kerry admitted that he’d only recalled Heindel’s name (after delivering his testimony) when he and Warren Commission attorney, Albert Jenner, were having lunch together and Jenner provided Thornley with the name “Heindel.” How Jenner came to this conclusion (that Heindel was the guy who spoke Russian) is unclear, but it stuck in Thornley’s mind only later to be repeated to Lifton. And I haven’t even started getting convoluted yet! Hang on…Another curiosity concerning Heindel (according to a Warren Commission affidavit) is that his nickname in the Marines was “Hidell,” which was certainly a head scratcher, given that fact that Oswald used the “Alec Hidell” alias when he ordered the Manlicher-Carcano rifle allegedly used to kill Kennedy.
In mid 1967, Lifton discovered that our man Heindel was then living in New Orleans, which just happened to be the base of operations for Jim Garrison’s investigation and, in mid September, Lifton contacted Garrison to pass along this info about Heindel.
Not long after, Garrison called Heindel in for questioning, who denied the whole bit about speaking to Oswald in Russian. This led Garrison to somehow arrive at the conclusion that Heindel was lying. In addition, Garrison and his crew uncovered “evidence” that Heindel was seen with Oswald at several New Orleans bars during the summer of 1963. (Whether this “evidence” against Heindel was of any substance is another matter entirely.)
Long story short, Garrison wanted Thornley to travel to New Orleans to “confront” and “identify” Heindel as, you guessed it, the guy who spoke to Oswald in Russian. In the interim, Garrison requested (through Lifton) that Thornley write up a statement summarizing his memories of Oswald and Heindel. To this end, Lifton got together with Thornley (they were both living in Los Angeles at the time) and Lifton prepared an affidavit that Thornley signed and then Lifton afterwards mailed to Garrison in September 1967. Mainly, it was Lifton who behind all of this, and it’s doubtful that Thornley would have pursued the matter had not Lifton insisted.
Garrison’s ultimate plan was to call Heindel before a grand jury, and ask him if he’d ever heard Oswald speak Russian. Previously, Heindel had gone on record stating that he had not, thus it was Garrison’s assumption that Heindel would once again testify to the same tune. Then—following Heindel’s testimony—Thornley would be called into testify that he, in fact, had heard Oswald and Heindel speaking Russian—or at least that’s the convoluted scenario Garrison envisioned. As a result—according to Garrison’s madcap plan—Heindel would then be indicted for perjury. Ultimately, Garrison envisioned a far grander scenario than simply implicating Heindel as a low level player in JFK’s assassination: his eventual goal was to persuade Heindel to provide detrimental testimony against some of the other suspects in the case, like Clay Shaw.
Lifton’s willingness to cooperate with Garrison on the matter soon soured after he examined the charges against Heindel and came to the conclusion that it was a whole bunch of nothing. When Lifton informed Thornley of these developments, Kerry attempted to distance himself from Garrison’s investigation by sending this letter to the New Orleans District Attorney’s office dated October 24, 1967:
Dear Mr. Garrison,
As a personal favor to Mr. Lifton I spent a whole day with him preparing that damned affidavit. It says everything I know about the subject. I regret that I bothered.
When I said I would speak to you ON MY TERMS, as you had apparently offered to do through Mr. Lifton, I meant it. And since you chose, when I called you the first time, not to deal on those terms, to hell with it.
I have no interest to speak of in this matter and from now on intend to keep out of it, as actions on my part can only in my view stimulate the state to violate the rights of others who for all I know may be innocent. “It is far better to reward the guilty than to punish the innocent,” said Robert Ingersoll, and every time you subpoena an innocent individual you punish him to the extent that you have violated his precious and unalienable right to liberty.
But what you do is your business, sir, and you are welcome to it.
In late November 1967, Lifton met Garrison in Los Angeles, and at this time, “[Garrison] now had a brand new hypothesis. Kerry had been rapidly shifted from star-witness-to-be-list, to that of CIA agent/bad guy, who had met with and presumably conspired with Lee Oswald in the fall of 1963. The ostensive vehicle for this shift of position from star witness to culpable defendant was nothing more than a theory of the assassination postulating Kerry’s involvement invented and promulgated by Warren Report critic Harold Weisberg, and some testimony from a local New Orleans character named Barbara Reid…” —Excerpt from May 1968 letter from David Lifton to Mark Lane chronicling the Thornley/Heindel/Garrison matter. Courtesy the Discordian Archives. Read the PDF here.
Over the next three years, Thornley was repeatedly hassled by Garrison and drug through the mud. Due to all this, “[He] had begun to enter a different belief-system. He was puzzled over many aspects of the case Garrison had tried to manufacture against him, and kept brooding over the details. Basically, the case rested upon what ordinary people call coincidences. Jungians and parapsychologists call them synchronicities. Garrison called them ‘propinquities’ and said they proved the existence of “a conspiracy so vast as to stagger the imagination!” (p.151)
Garrison believed (or theorized or concocted) that Kerry Thornley was part of a JFK assassination cabal based out New Orleans, a notion that Thornley initially dismissed, but later—starting around 1973 or so—he began to suspect that Garrison might have been on the right track, at least in terms of an assassination cabal that both Oswald and Thornley were somehow associated with, or more correctly, manipulated by, and used as unwitting dupes—all of these machinations dating back to their time together in the Marines.
Thornley—as RAW notes—became obsessed with this whole notion that he’d been manipulated and perhaps even mind controlled and his paranoia grew to the extent where he began suspect that even his friends may have been in on the conspiracy, including those involved in the Discordian Society, like RAW and Bob Shea.
This scenario, among many other crazy things, are discussed in greater depth in my books The Prankster and the Conspiracy and Caught in the Crossfire, so check those out if you want to get increasingly convoluted.
Then, early in 1975, Thornley remembered an odd conversation in 1963 with a New Orleans man whom we will call Mr. M. The subject was — are you ready? — how to assassinate a President and get away with it. (p. 152).
RAW’s reference to a “Mr. M” is somewhat puzzling, as in most of Thornley’s writings he refers to the mystery man in question (who conversed with him about assassinating a President) as a pro-Nazi spook named Gary Kirstein (aka Brother-in-Law) who Kerry—at one time or another—suspected was actually Watergate burglar and CIA big-shot E. Howard Hunt (in disguise.) However—for a short period of time—Kerry suspected that Kirstein/Hunt may have actually been someone named Tom Miethe, another supposed neo-Nazi intelligence community type, so maybe that’s how RAW latched on to “Mr. M.” Or perhaps RAW wanted to avoid libel charges, so just used “Mr. M” instead of Kirstein to play it safe.
Then Thornley read about the case of Robert Byron Watson. (p. 153)
In mid 1975, Thornley came across a series of articles in Atlanta newspapers concerning the case of Robert Byron Watson, a young man who claimed he’d been framed on drug charges due to information he had regarding the MLK assassination—details of which sounded strikingly similar to Kerry’s own experience with certain shadowy characters (Gary Kirstein and Slim Brooks) in New Orleans in the early-60s. Kerry contacted Watson’s lawyers and sent them this memo outlining his knowledge of The Conspiracy:
I must point out that two weeks after Thornley first made his charges against Mr. M. (to the Atlanta police) he was robbed, pistol-whipped and had his I.D. taken. (p. 154).
As a sidebar, I recently discovered that The Discordian Archives (which were passed on to yours truly in 2009) were in RAW’s safekeeping during the period Greg Hill moved to New York City in 1974. Evidently Hill couldn’t afford or didn’t want the hassle of transporting them to New York and decided to leave them with RAW (then living in Berkeley) who became the Discordian Archives curator, so to speak. So the chain of chaotic custody over the years has been this: Greg Hill > RAW > Greg Hill > Bob Newport > Me.
RAW evidently made good use of the archives, utilizing it as source material (it would appear) for portions of Cosmic Trigger. For instance, the inclusion of the thumbprint letter.
RAW attempted to bring some attention to Thornley’s plight by authoring an article called “Assassination Scene Heats Up,” which he sent to Kerry for comment. Download PDF here. Courtesy of The Discordian Archives.
As you can see, Thornley scrawled comments on each page, which became increasingly hostile as the pages turned, because he felt RAW was misinterpreting or not understanding him. However, the main reason RAW penned the piece in the first place was to help Kerry bring some attention to his claims. As far as I know, the article was never published.
Thornley began writing to me regularly about his solution to the assassinations, and insisted more and more often that his life was in danger. I tried to calm him down a bit by reminding him of the difference between theory and proof. It soon became evident, from his subsequent letters, that he was now half-convinced that I was part of the assassination conspiracy team. (p.156)
After sending out his JFK assassination related memos to Watson’s attorneys and other law enforcement officials, Kerry attended an Atlanta house party where he was given some “funny-tasting” marijuana. At this party he talked to a group of individuals about the JFK assassination, one of whom he suspected was RAW.
A few days later, Kerry met again with one of the party goers, who passed him a pipeload of weed that—after puffed upon—blistered the inside of his mouth, making him suspect someone was attempting to poison him. Kerry delivered an affidavit to the Atlanta police describing this incident, dated July 25th, 1975, along with the pot pipe and its contents:
“I have spoken to several people about the group of very nice people I met at a party at the Celestial Mansion on Flat Shoals Road last Saturday night.
“One person I met there who may or may not have been part of this group (which knew more about the JFK assassination re Gary Kirstein, it seemed, by what they said and the questions they asked me, than I do) was a guy who said his name was Jack Wolverton…
“While we sat in the kitchen rapping, I filled up the enclosed pipe with a few leftover roaches and passed it to Jack. There was a long interval when my attention was directed elsewhere and Jack had the pipe.
“When he passed it back to me, I took a drag and IMMEDIATELY felt a large blister form inside my right check. Puzzled, I passed the pipe back to Jack, running my tongue over the blister. I did not observe carefully whether Jack actually smoked the pipe or merely made a pretense of doing so. When the pipe was returned to me, Eve, who had been out, came in the door. I took another puff only to have yet another blister, pop up right next to the other one at the exact time the smoke made contact with the membrane inside my cheek.
“Thinking it might be some sort of allergic reaction, I commented on it, and passed the pipe to Eve. She took a drag and experienced no unusual reactions.
“I then went into the bathroom and examined the blisters in the mirror. They were dark red blood blisters and each was about the size of a deformed collar button.
“I have had only one other experience with blisters forming instantly from any cause other than direct burns by fire, and that was in Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare School (‘Defense’ I think they call it, not ‘Warfare’) in the Marines. That time our instructor demonstrated the effects of mustard gas to us by placing an infinitesimal amount on each of our fingertips—the result: instant blistering.
“I returned to the kitchen and commented that the blisters had formed when I had taken a drag on the pipe. Jack said: ‘Oh, I don’t think there is any relation.’ Something about the certainty of his unsolicited opinion, something about the tone of voice and timing—too hasty an interjection—has caused me to become very suspicious.
“Earlier I had asked Jack if he knew who those other people were at the Celestial Mansion or understood what we had been discussing. He said ‘no,’ that he had been playing music at the time on his guitar, which was true. He had been playing John Prine songs, which occupy a special place in my heart in relation to the Celestial Mansion because of a very high experience I had there in 1972 upon first discovering John Prine’s music. The whole incident at the Celestial Mansion had been carefully orchestrated by people who knew a great deal about me, people I correspond with, and the JFK assassination, particularly my involvement. I was made to feel as comfortable as possible, and then I was pumped just enough to see if it was Gary Kirstein that I was naming. (Does Kenner, Louisiana, mean anything to you was one of the questions I got asked.)
“On the way from The Plaza to the apartment was when I asked Jack if he knew those other people. He said he did not. I then explained to him what had happened and my suspicions concerning Gary Kirstein.
“Enclosed is the pipe and its contents, along with the plastic bottle the roaches were in before Jack got there, and to which he had no access. It seems to me this material should be analyzed. It was fished out of the trash by me a few days after the incident. Several important witnesses, including Ruby and Shaw died of cancer, for one thing, and some chemicals (nicotine for example) can stimulate cancer…”
In a follow-up memo dated July 27th, 1975, Kerry further addressed the pipe smoking incident:
“Occasionally in the past people have misinterpreted comments I have made which were only suggestive or indicative, taking them for firm opinions. I’m not at all sure whatever gave me those blisters was something intended to give me cancer, specifically. It could have been that stuff (Philip) Agee mentions in a recent PLAYBOY interview which causes a ‘nasty respiratory ailment.’ Since the smoke caused blisters in my mouth—which must have been sore in that spot—I didn’t inhale much of it. I do seem to have minor throat and lung irritation at this time. Just don’t want to seem like more of a crackpot paranoid than I really am after nearly twelve years of bizarre experience relating to JFK’s death.
“Also the ‘Celestial Mansion’ is the old name for a commune which was in the house I still call by that name. It is not the formal name of a business establishment.
“Upon checking, I have discovered that I have a sample of Jack Wolverton’s handwriting, for he wrote out his address for me in my notebook last week.
“Finally, concerning Wolverton, please give him the benefit of every doubt. I would hate to dump on him if his only mistake was that of befriending a person who happened to be feeling somewhat paranoid last week.
“I’m still very puzzled about the Celestial Mansion incident of last Saturday night. I continue to feel on a subjective level that the people who talked to me had my best interests at heart. It was as if they were checking me out to make sure I was not involved in the assassination. It was really stupid of me not to ask them how they came to know so much. One person who spoke to me, briefly, during the half-hour or so before the ‘team’ moved in, identified himself as Lew Deadmore. I find an architect by that name listed in the phone book. One of the members of the ‘team’—the one who spoke to me most—bore an uncanny intellectual and psychological resemblance to an anarchist writer friend of mine who lives-in California whom I have only met face-to-face once (in 1968), but with whom I’ve corresponded extensively. I have written him a letter about the incident, wondering if that was him. If it wasn’t he’ll probably think I’ve lost my mind.
“I doubt if I have been any too coherent about the Celestial Mansion incident. It requires more detail than I am inclined to deal with, considering the other writing I should be doing about Gary Kirstein. I’ll be glad to answer any questions about it, however. Meanwhile, let me summarize it by saying that I was questioned very informally but extremely skillfully by what seem to be a ‘team’ of five or six people who faded in and out of the crowd at a party. I’m quite sure this really happened and can give hard, objective reasons for so believing it was not just my imagination.”
In the above memo, SOME FURTHER COMMENTS ON THE PIPE SMOKING INCIDENT, Kerry notes that one member of the “team” at the Celestial Mansion, “…bore an uncanny intellectual and psychological resemblance to an anarchist writer friend of mine who lives in California whom I have only met face-to-face once (in 1968), but with whom I’ve corresponded excessively.” This “anarchist writer friend” was supposedly RAW.
In RAW’s intro to The Prankster and the Conspiracy, he wrote:
I remember my last phone conversation with Kerry, during which he announced that just a week earlier I had come to Atlanta, argued with him about my alleged CIA connections, spiked his drink with LSD, and brainwashed him again. I told him that I had not left San Francisco in months, and that if he had a bad acid trip the previous week then somebody else gave him the acid, not me. I insisted on this as persuasively as I could.
Finally, Kerry relented—a bit. “Well, maybe you believe that”, he said. “But that means your bosses have been fucking with your head and implanting false memories in you too!”
How do you argue that you haven’t had your head altered? “Look,” I said, I’ll put my wife Arlen on. She’ll tell you I haven’t left here in months.”
“That won’t prove anything,” he said with the calm certitude of a Grand Master announcing checkmate. “They probably fixed her head too.”
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I felt lost in an Escher painting…
Creem and Circus magazines but not so much Rolling Stone which by this time had become increasingly slick and mainstream, oriented more towards California cool acts like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, etc.Back in my wayward youth—in my mid-teens in the mid-70s—when I was knee-deep into heavy metal bands like Blue Oyster, Black Sab, Deep Purp, Led Zep, et al., the go-to publications for me were
Where Circus was pretty cheesy and sensational, Creem stood out as a mag with a certain gonzo journalistic ethos (“Boy Howdy!”) serving as stomping grounds for perhaps my favorite all time rock critic, none other than Lester Bangs whose reviews I didn’t always agree with, yet his writing was always top-notch-in-your-face-tell-it-like-it-is brilliance of the gonzo variety—like a Hunter Thompson, so to speak, of rock criticism.Creem also featured book reviews, and as I recall it was through the mag that I first became acquainted with the works of Harlan Ellison, another deep influence on my writing.
However—until just a few days ago—I was unaware of Creem’s association with the Discordian Society, which was revealed to me by facebook friend George Sipple, who recently picked up a copy of the December 1970 issue of Creem mainly for a Lester Bangs article and discovered “Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!” on the inside cover page.