“Kerry Thornley wrote those words in the mid 1960s and within 10 years he had become a clinical paranoid himself, in the judgment of almost all of his friends, including Dr Robert Newport, a psychiatrist who had known Kerry since high school. The moral of this seems to me: take great care which nut cases you dare to mock, for you may become one of them.”
The first chapter of “Epistle to the Paranoids” originally appeared in Principia Discordia, and the remaining two chapters were discovered in the Discordian Archives, which are reproduced here for your reading pleasure!
For further insights into Illuminatus!, you can find the group reading page at RAWIllumination.net.
On page 622 of Illuminatus!, Hagbard Celine’s Never Whistle While You’re Pissing reminded me of an early-80s letter in the Discordian Archives addressed to Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley courtesy of a Discordian named Semaj the Elder.
I really don’t know much about Semaj the Elder (or whatever his real name was) other than he resided in Davenport, Indiana and published a Discordian zine during the early-80s called A.M.O.C.K. of which there were about a half dozen copies discovered in the Discordian Archives.
For the hell of it I googled Semaj the Elder, which led me to a Google Books page for (of all things!) The Prankster and the Conspiracy and a passage from a letter I’d totally forgotten about that pertains to Semaj the Elder written by Kerry Thornley to Greg Hill in 1982, during a period when Kerry was leading a vagabond existence:
“I will be ambling out to Tampa in the latter half of June, visiting [Elayne Wechsler] in New Jersey, a delightful psych student in Boston named Sean Hugh—maybe Arthur Hlavarty in Durham on the way—Bob McDonald in Virginia—some Oklahoma Libertarian, possibly the SubGenii, certainly Semaj the Elder in Davenport, et al. No telling how long it will take me to reach California, but I’ll try to send you a postcard of advance warning…I’ll probably come back to Tampa at least another year. Paula says that’s okay if I work full time until Christmas, to which I’ve no objection. Next winter after that I’ll probably go to Miami and find work long enough to get my own home until spring. Unless, somewhere along the line, I should find a publisher for one of my books—in which case all plans will be up for rethinking….” The Prankster and the Conspiracy, pages 236 – 237.
In Semaj’s letter to Hill and Thornley, he mentions recent conversations with Bob Shea about a pamphlet project called Never Whistle While Your Pissing Part II, and was writing Greg for permission to quote from Principia Discordia. The letter indicates that Shea and RAW were contemplating at one point actually writing part 1 of Never Whistle While Your Pissing (NWWYP) but never got around to it.
Later, Semaj encourages Thornley to write HBT (The Honest Book of Truth)—assuming that HBT was the same as NWWYP1—a book that was never actually completed except for excerpts that appear in Illuminatus! However, this wasn’t the case—Kerry authored a complete version of The Honest Book of Truth, which yours truly unearthed in the Discordian Archives and that appears in its entirety in Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society available while supplies last from your finer internet book retailers.
Semaj also invites Thornley to CHICON, informing Kerry that Elayne (Wechsler) will be attending, as well. Elayne Wechsler—it should be noted—published a memorable zine back in the early days of the zine movement called Inside Joke, which featured stories and articles written by none other than Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill, and artwork by such notables as Ace Backwards and Roldo, the fellow who created the original artwork that appears on the cover of Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society available while supplies last from your finer internet book retailers.
What I find most intriguing about this letter is that Semaj mentions he’s working in cahoots on the NWWYP2 project with Mike Gunderloy, a legendary name in the annals of the Zine Revolution and publisher/editor of the famed Factsheet Five.
If it hadn’t been for Factsheet Five, I probably wouldn’t even be writing these words right now—nor would I have explored many of the arcane avenues that entered my frame of reference during those heady days of the late-80s and early-90s when I was writing for the many zines I discovered in the pages of Factsheet Five. In fact, it was in Factsheet Five that I was first introduced to Kerry Thornley who had a recurring column there called “Conspiracy Corner”.
In one way or another, Factsheet Five introduced me to many zines I wrote for and friends I made during this period with ‘zinesters like Greg Bishop, Robert Larson and Peter Stenshoel of The Excluded Middle; Kenn Thomas of Steamshovel Press; Tim Cridland’s Off The Deep End; Wes Nations of Crash Collusion; SMiles Lewis of ELF Infested Spaces; Al Hidell and Joan D’Arc of Paranoia; Johnny Walsh of INFOCULT; Tracy Twyman of Dagobert’s Revenge; Erik Bluhm and Mark Sundeen of The Great God Pan—and I’m probably forgetting a half dozen more so my apologies to any former zinesters out there I’ve failed to mention.
Early Discordian Barbara Reid was a familiar figure in New Orleans bohemia of the 1960s. Known in the French Quarter as “Mother Witch,” she was an avid voodoo practitioner, claiming to have learned the craft from an Orleanian Creole who was a spiritual descendent of Marie Laveau. According to Reid, she was the only Caucasian to whom this knowledge was passed on.00001
Reid worked as a writer and producer for New Orleans television station WDSU and made occasional appearances on local radio, including a 1970 episode of The American Legion Hour on WTIX-AM called “Witches and Metaphysics.” She frequently appeared in newspaper stories, such as a June 1969 Times-Picayune article about Friday the 13th superstitions in which Reid informed the reporter: “I am not a witch, but I’ll show you what a witch can do if you make me out as a kook.”
A Times-Picayune story from September 1964 concerned the closing of Kerry Thornley’s favorite French Quarter hang-out, The Bourbon House. To mark the event, a mock funeral procession was staged, which—along with jazz band accompaniment—included Barbara Reid in a coffin “…clad in her usual all-black garb and sporting a black beret and cigarette holder.”
Known for its rag-tag collection of beatniks, poets and jazz music aficionados, many of the Bourbon House regulars—at the urging of Barbara Reid—began staging informal jazz sessions in the early-60s at Larry Borenstein’s art gallery, an institution that would eventually be renamed—and gain international acclaim—as Preservation Hall, the legendary French Quarter music venue still in operation.
Preservation Hall officially opened its doors on June 10th, 1961, an enterprise launched by Reid and her partner in the venture, Kenn Mills. These activities—with Reid at the helm—led to a revival of the traditional jazz scene in New Orleans. However, Reid’s participation in the early days of Preservation Hall has been mostly expunged from the historical records due to a falling out she had with Larry Borenstein, the owner of the venue.
Reid was instrumental in recording many of the local jazz musicians of the era and—according to her husband, Bill Edmiston—helped integrate the two New Orleans musician unions that had previously segregated blacks and whites.
If all that wasn’t enough, Reid was one of the first members of the New Orleans branch of the Discordian Society, claiming at one time or another to be the reincarnation of Goddess Eris herself! Whatever the case, Reid certainly brought a high degree of chaos into Kerry Thornley’s life during the Jim Garrison investigation period when she placed Kerry in the company of Lee Oswald in September of 1963, a couple of months before JFK’s assassination.
According to Discordian Society co-founder Greg Hill, Barbara Reid was an aspiring politician, pot dealer and former lover of Jim Garrison:
“When Barbara ran for City Council [in 1964], Garrison was absolutely against it and, she told me, repeatedly warned her to stop playing around where she might get hurt. And that, of course, made her all the more anxious to run. I was going to be her Campaign Secretary, but the draft caught up with me and off I went Ft. Polk. When I returned for a day, 8 weeks later, the election was all over with and she placed #3 out of four (not bad, considering). She was pushing for the black vote, and had some kind of lowdown on corruption with the Fed Housing section of the city. She also had the bohemian vote; her posters depicted a caricature of her, all glasses, beret and cigarette holder. It was during this time that she told me that Garrison was an ex-lover of hers and that his warnings to her were as a friend to a friend (though later I got the impression that he was pretty exasperated with her). Like everything else she told me, I didn’t know if I should believe it or not and so, like everything else she did and said, I just enjoyed the circus and didn’t bother believing or disbelieving. I think she said that the affair was sometime ago before Garrison became prominent. She spoke of him with fondness, though annoyed with his not backing her attempted sojourn into city politics.
“I left before Barbara was busted for pot (curiously enough, I felt that the Quarter was being very uncool narc wise, and predicted a giant bust by October—but nobody took me very seriously. I missed the mark by about a month, I think. Many people got it bad, according to what I heard later.). Anyway, she once spoke of not being too concerned with being busted because she ‘could take care of it.’ At the time I wondered if she meant Garrison, but didn’t press the delicate subject…”00002
According to the New Orleans States-Item, Reid was arrested on April 10th, 1966 following a six month investigation when narcotics officers seized a large quantity of marijuana from her apartment. Reid—identified as an “unsuccessful candidate last November for District C”—told officers that she was a “den mother” at the Quorum Club, a bohemian coffee house in the French Quarter where she presided over a gaggle of hippie kids. Evidently, the Quorum Club was at the center of this six month investigation. Curiously, Reid’s arrest record for the pot bust identifies her as a “fugitive from Arizona.” These charges were later dropped.
Perhaps what Reid meant by taking “care of it” was that—because of her inside track to Jim Garrison—she could either blackmail or bribe her way out of the charges. Contrary to popular mythology, Garrison was not immune to this type of corruption. In 1970—following a performance by The Grateful Dead at a New Orleans venue called “The Warehouse”—the band’s hotel rooms were raided by police and several members were arrested on drug charges, an incident recounted in their song “Truckin’” and the line: “Busted down on Bourbon Street…”00003 Afterwards, The Grateful Dead tour manager was able to bribe Garrison to take the bust off the records.00004>
In February 1965, Reid was arrested with members of the Hell’s Angels and charged with “bringing the Hell’s Angels to New Orleans.”00005 A February 25th, 1966 New Orleans States-Item article stated that the charges against Reid (identified as “Barbara Reed” in the arrest report) had been dropped, although the four Hell’s Angels “would be held as possible fugitives…”
Ed Sanders claimed that The Process Church had a “baleful influence” on Manson and his minions, while Maury Terry alleged that the group was implicated not only in the Tate-LaBianca murders, but the Son of Sam slayings, as well, and that Process Church leadership oversaw a vast Satanic network dealing in drugs, pornography and ritual murder.
In correspondence with this author, Kerry Thornley wrote that he “…first encountered the Process Church in New Orleans in Feb. ’68 when I was there to testify, reluctantly, to the Grand Jury. Barbara Reid, the principal witness against me, and a friend (!) of mine, was said to be ‘up to her ass’ in The Process, which, indeed, maintained a coffee house half a block from Barbara’s apartment. I went over there with Slim (Brooks)… and saw pamphlets about Satan On War and Lucifer on War and Jehovah on War—which I found confusing because I thought Satan and Lucifer were both the same guy, until then, (of course—heh-heh)… A bunch of pale, thin zombies were sitting around in this place. I was telling very funny Garrison stories but nobody was laughing…”
In the next installment we’ll explore Barbara Reid’s involvement with Jim Garrison’s investigation and her role as a Dealey Plaza Irregular.
To read the whole crazy story pick up my book Caught In The Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation (Amazon) while supplies last!
Thanks to Tim Cridland for unearthing many of the materials used in this post.
On page 621 of Illuminatus!, Wilhelm—of the diabolical rock super-group, The American Medical Association—states that the “Eater of Souls” is still “imprisoned inside the Pentagon,” an apparent allusion to the March on the Pentagon, the October 21st, 1967 anti-war protest that included an exorcism intended to levitate The Five-Sided Temple in a ritual of cleansing and purification.
Some suggest that the Pentagon actually was levitated on this date, such as the ever reliable Abbie Hoffman in his auto-biography Soon To Be A Major Motion Picture—but who knows what Abbie was smoking that day!
In the early stages of the March on the Pentagon, event organizer David Dillinger—of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (The Mobe)—appointed Yippie rabble rouser Jerry Rubin to lead the march. Rubin, in turn, invited his buddy Abbie Hoffman to join in the fun, as well as such luminaries as Allen Ginsberg and Ed Sanders of The Fugs—and before you knew it this mad cap plan to levitate the Pentagon was set in motion.
According to Rubin, Abbie Hoffman was the key figure who first came up with the Pentagon levitation bit, and in advance of the protest Abbie paid a site visit to the Pentagon with a two-fold purpose: 1) Drum up media interest in the march, and, 2) calculate how many bodies would be needed to completely encircle, hand-in-hand, the Five-Sided Temple during the course of the exorcism-levitation.
Apparently, Hoffman was fumbling around on the Pentagon grounds with a measuring tape (back in the days when one could actually show up unannounced on the Pentagon grounds) when he was informed by the National Guard to cease and desist and then escorted from the premises. On his way out, Abbie made a formal request for a permit for the proposed Pentagon levitation, which—according to Abbie—would lift the building 300 feet. In response, the military actually granted this surreal permit request with the following stipulations: Abbie and his hairy freaks would only be authorized to elevate the Pentagon a mere three feet off the ground (so as not to damage the foundation!) and that the protesters could not surround the Pentagon, but only gather in front of the building.
In total, 50,000 peaceniks descended on the Pentagon that long ago and very strange day brandishing all the accoutrements of the era: long hair, flowers and peace signs—including Eye-In-The-Pyramid banners which it appears the Yippies adopted as their own esoteric coat of arms during this period.
In response to this massive influx of anti-war demonstrators, 10,000 military troops were called in to “keep the peace.” One of the most iconic images from this confluence of Eristic vs. Aneristic forces was the photo of the hippie chick sticking a flower into the bayoneted barrel of a rifle poised to blow the smile from her face.
The Pentagon—as we’ve noted countless times here at Historia Discordia—is an integral part of the Discordian mythos, not to mention the V-for-victory peace sign which the Discordians had adopted years prior to it becoming synonymous with the counterculture. So all of these symbols loom large in the Discordian and Illuminatus! (Amazon) iconography and it seemed that a certain amount of cross pollination was going on during this period between the Discordians and Yippies—although the Discordians were largely (Greg Hill in particular) working in a somewhat subliminal and introverted manner as opposed to the Yippies who were right there in your face, taking their theatre to the streets and TV screens of America.
RAW—as we well know—was out in the streets during the Chicago Democratic Convention demonstrations and witnessed up close and personal the heavy handed tactics of Mayor Daley’s goon squad, a narrative that wove itself in and out of Illuminatus! There’s also a good chance that RAW caught a glimpse of the Yippie “Now” freak flag flown during these demonstrations, which most likely had some influence on his fondness and subsequent use of Eye-In-The-Pyramid imagery and mythology.
The counterculture’s use of the Eye-In-The-Pyramid conjured evil spectres in the minds of John Birch Society members like John Steinbacher who authored an anti-Illuminati pamphlet entitled Senator Robert Francis Kennedy: The Man, The Mysticism, The Murder which contended that the founder of the Illuminati, Adam Weishaupt, had a profound influence on one Madame Helena Blavatsky of Theosophy fame. Due to this insidious influence, Blavatsky cooked up in her occult cauldron an ideological mix of Communism, Illuminism, and Satanism that insinuated itself into the 60s counterculture and ostensibly motivated Sirhan Sirhan to assassinate RFK. In the assassination’s aftermath—according to conspiratorial legend—Sirhan requested a copy of Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine which sent the heads of conspiracy buffs spinning with the sinister implications this implied.
In Senator Robert Francis Kennedy: The Man, The Mysticism, The Murder, Steinbacher asserts that Blavatsky had penned a murderous tome entitled “Manual for Revolution” as a blueprint for the Communist Revolution which indoctrinated the gullible drug addled dupes of the 60s anti-war movement as part of a plot to bring about a One World Government controlled by Jewish Bankers. The only problem with this theory was that Blavatsky didn’t author “Manual for Revolution”—nor, for that matter, did the book even exist. In addition, Steinbacher claimed that Sirhan had infiltrated a branch of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), all part of a grand design to undermine the 60s counterculture and bring the United States to its knees.
Such speculations were prime fodder for Wilson and Shea who incorporated into Illuminatus! these elements of a vast conspiracy that was playing both ends of the political spectrum against the middle. RAW’s infamous letter and answer in the Playboy Forum was an initial outgrowth of these Illuminati conspiracy influences, later to be expanded upon in Illuminatus!
A great issue on a variety of subjects and with this slick piece of work tucked into it:
“Aside from David Ferrie, there was no other among Jim Garrison’s sordid cast of suspects more colorful than Kerry Wendell Thornley, who not only co-founded the spoof religion Discordianism in 1958, but was also writing a novel, The Idle Warriors, based on Lee Harvey Oswald three years before JFK’s assassination. Garrison claimed that The Idle Warriors—as well as Thornley’s non-fiction work, Oswald—were attempts to set up his old Marine Corps pal prior to the assassination. If that wasn’t enough, Garrison claimed that Thornley was a CIA agent who impersonated Oswald and had an affair with his wife Marina…”