Slim showed up a short while after I went to work for the Foster Awning Co. He occupied the same desk I did on the shift before mine, and about the second day he was there, Slim left some notes with Japanese writing on the desk so that I would be sure and notice them. I turned to him and said: “Hey – were you ever in Japan.” That is how Slim and I met. He didn’t act at all surprised. 1
Thornley received his Marine Corps discharge in October of 1961, his last assignment at the U.S. air base in Atsugi, Japan. Kerry later suspected that Slim’s notes referencing Japan were more than mere coincidence, and that Slim had been working covertly as his handler. Elsewhere in Thornley/Oswald, Kerry writes:
Slim was a down and out lumpen prole, a seaman who was in drydock with a case of TB. Greg [Hill] says he was also a cat burglar who could climb up walls like a human fly. Basically, I think he functioned as an errand boy for Gary.
I believe that Gary K*rst*n (or whatever his real name was) probably served in Naval Intelligence during WWII and continued to perform free-lance “dirty work” and small-time “surveillance” assignments for them after he got out. People ask me why Naval Intelligence would have a Nazi working for them—for the same reason the CIA has Nazis working for them in the Third World.2
The “Gary K*rst*n” that Thornley referenced was Gary Kirstein, aka Brother-in-Law, a neo Nazi type character who claimed intelligence community and underworld connections. Kerry, over time, grew to believe that Kirstein was, in reality, notorious Watergate burglar and CIA spy-master, E. Howard Hunt. Hunt was later rumored—by the likes of A.J. Weberman—to be one of the three mystery tramps picked up by Dallas Police in Dealey Plaza following the assassination. In fact, it was an article by Weberman in The Yipster Times that first clued in Thornley to the possibility that Kirstein was E. Howard Hunt in disguise.
Thornley was hanging out with Brooks and Kirstein one evening in the fall of 1962 and at that time engaged in what Kerry considered to be a theoretical discussion about how to kill a President, and in specific, JFK. Kerry’s contributions to the conversation included the use of a poison dart that would “blow his stomach apart,” as well as another scenario involving a remote control plane carrying a bomb.
After Thornley finished with his mock assassination plots, Kirstein added, “And next we’ll get Martin Luther King.” Of course, this was all big fun to Kerry, planning a murder that he never seriously intended going through with. At the time, Thornley considered these conversations nothing more than a morbid intellectual exercise; later they would come back to haunt him.
Thornley speculated that this conversation with Slim and Kirstein might have been surreptitiously recorded, a tape that could later be used to set him up as a fall guy. Kerry later grew to suspect that the true identity of Slim was that of Jerry Milton Brooks, who Journalist J. Harry Jones, Jr. described as “a thirty-eight-year-old enigma who emerged from the fringe of the East St. Louis underworld to spy on Communists for the Minutemen, then spy on Minutemen for the FBI and the U.S. Treasury Department.”3
According to an FBI memo dated Oct 30, 1973, Jerry Brooks:
…had been found guilty in an extortion case in November, 1957, in the Eastern District of Illinois, and had been placed on probation.
Springfield Division [of the FBI] advised that BROOKS was considered a “nut” who related fantastic stories which led people in the USA’s office to consider him mentally unbalanced…on 4/1/66 and 4/4/66 BROOKS contacted SA [Special Agent] George A. Arnett of the Kansas City Division and made outlandish claims, such as, Earl Warren and Vice President Humphrey were both Communists, and also that Bobby Kennedy killed Marilyn Monroe.
SA Arnett stated that BROOKS, whom he had known for several years, appeared extremely nervous and emotionally upset, and even described himself as a “nut” and a “kook”…
I met Slim several times, didn’t really feel I knew him. All the things Kerry writes about Slim don’t tally with anything I was privy to in him. All I ever saw was the laconic, sort of “country” affect he cultivated. . . I THINK I may have heard about Brother-in-Law back then, but it’s possible I only heard about him later, in letters from Kerry. You know, though, it’s also a fact that the mention of Brother-in-Law gives me a dark feeling, the kind it’s hard to imagine I got by without ever setting eyes on him.4
But not only was Slim a man of intrigue and seemingly shady talents, he was also one of the original members of the New Orleans branch of the Discordian Society, known by his pope name of “The Keeper of the Submarine Keys.”
Slim’s singular contribution to Discordian lore (or at least his only contribution that I’m aware of) is exhibited in the form of the “Facetious Harbor” map below.
1 Thornley/Oswald manuscript, Page 10.
2 Thornley/Oswald manuscript, Page 11.
3 Jones, J. Harry, Jr., The Minutemen, Doubleday 1968, New York. (p. 10)
“When Robert Anton Wilson printed up letterheads for the Bavarian Illuminati, they carried the notice: ‘Safeguard this letter; it may be an important historical document.’ That was very much how I felt about my first little notebook, penned in 1975. I had just begun to figure out how I was involved in the JFK assassination—in a way related only indirectly to my service in the Marines with Oswald—and I felt I was recording important facts for posterity. These ranged from license numbers of cars that seemed to be following me to suspicious characters, besides me, who hung out in Plaza Drug Store in Atlanta, to nearly lost memories of conversations in the three years leading up to November 22, 1963.” —Notes of a Neon Gringo, Kerry Thornley, Pretzal Press, 1987
The first iteration of Kerry’s writings related to his so-called “involvement” in the JFK assassination started, as noted, in 1975, and it was Greg Hill who ultimately brought some order to this chaotic process (order out of chaos) by compiling Kerry’s various letters, memos, journal entries and affidavits into the collection titled Thornley/Oswald.
In the letter, Thornley mentions his love interest at the time, Judith Abrams, later identified in Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger I as one of the Early Discordians. Also mentioned was one of the more colorful characters to emerge from the 1960s counterculture, A.J. Weberman, a notorious yippie activist and dumpster diving Dylan-documentarian, otherwise known as the foremost “Dylanologist” of his generation—at least in his own estimation.
Weberman’s initial claim to fame (or infamy, as the case may be) started on a lark one night when he was passing by Dylan’s Harlem townhouse and the thought struck him that he might be able to find some interesting material by sifting through Mr. Zimmerman’s garbage. Thus began Weberman’s adventures in Garbology. According to My Life in Garbology:
“Garbology, as we know it today, is the study of human personality and contemporary civilization through analysis of garbage, or ‘garbanalysis.’ The basic premise is ‘You Are What You Throw Away.’ Garbage is a macrocosmic reflection, a mirror on life. The unassailable reality is that every living being makes waste. Excretion is both natural and universal, a process in which all lifeforms participate; the more sophisticated the organism, the more sophisticated the waste it produces…”
Part of Weberman’s dumpster diving proclivities brought him into proximity to the Watergate Break-In caper, and by the early 1970s he had shifted his focus from collecting Dylan’s garbage to, among other things, investigating the JFK assassination and its possible connection a couple of the Watergate burglars, namely E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis.
Greg Hill was living in NYC during this period, and during a visit from Thornley the duo came across a Yipster Times article authored by Weberman that included a photo of E. Howard Hunt comparing him to one of the three mystery tramps picked up Dealey Plaza in the aftermath of the assassination. Kerry recognized Hunt as possibly the same person he’d met in New Orleans in the early 1960s, who went by the name of Gary Kirstein, and who Kerry suspected had been involved in Kennedy’s assassination. Weberman’s evidence that Hunt was one of the mystery tramps was later expanded upon in Coup D’état in America: The CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy co-written with Michael Canfield.
Previous correspondence between Hill and Thornley (discovered in the Discordian Archives—though I can’t lay my hands on it at the moment!) included a back and forth about getting in touch with Weberman, presumably in the prospect of learning more about what he knew about Hunt’s alleged role in the assassination. Ultimately the connection between the two was made, and Weberman sent Kerry the following letter:
Kerry ultimately closed the loop on his interest in talking to Weberman as stated in the below letter to Greg Hill where he commented on how he was “really burned out on the assassination… fuck Weberman… I’m so tired of my own paranoia, let alone other peoples’…”
Among the more prodigious correspondents of the 1970s Discordian letter writing circle was a fellow named Stan Jamison (aka Coman Ra – Lt. Colonel, Commanding 1st Intergalactic Confederacy Advance Detail—Planet Shan) who was a rather enigmatic sort in that he didn’t fit the typical mold of what some might consider a Discordian. Of course, using the term “typical” to describe a Discordian is oxymoronic, as there was nothing close to typical about any of the Early Discordians.
Many have associated the early Discordians with the hippie movement (whatever that actually was) and it can’t be denied that Greg Hill and his fellow travelers were heavily immersed in and influenced by the 1960s counterculture, and were students and practitioners of its myriad forms of expression, including alternative religions, non violent political protest, Anarcho-Libertarianism, and an irreverent sense humor that permeated their colorful network of guerilla ontologists.
Even though he was described, at times, as a semi-fascist right wing kind of guy, Jamison was into what some might consider some pretty hippy dippy type shit himself, and to some degree his interactions with Discordian Society members certainly rubbed off on him in terms of being able to see different sides of an issue and immerse himself in different reality tunnels he might not have normally ventured into or engaged in.
Jamison was a self described “naturopath,” a practitioner of natural healing and out of the box therapies who ran a mailing list dedicated to a wide range of topics such as growing organic sprouts, how to cure cancer via oxidation, and other alternative healing cures.
In this circa 1970 memo to Louise Lacey, Greg Hill shared his thoughts about the semi-enigmatic Doc Jamison.
To this end, Greg Hill’s comment (re Jamison supporting EPP) was emblematic of the sort of out of the box strategic thinking he often showcased in his writings. In this case the notion that Jamison could help promote a left leaning concept like EPP to a right wing audience who under normal circumstances might view EPP as a manifestation of Socialism. In reality, EPP slid more toward the anarchic side of the political scale, i.e. less government, which was the sweet spot where mutual interests between the left and the right sides of the political spectrum could find common ground.
Like his fellow Discordian conspirators, Jamison took part in many of the prank letter writing campaigns referred to as “jakes.” Once such jake was initiated by Discordian Thomas Patrick McNamara (aka Thomas the Gnostic) to The Rag, a counterculture mag out of Austin, Texas.
Others, of course, soon joined in on the fun, including Jamison with his own Illuminati letter to The Rag that included an honest to goddess pope card for The Rag’s “Illuminati Editor.”
During the late 1960s, Jamison resided in Irwin, California, or—as he called it—“The Free City of Irwin” where I guess he had his own branch of The Universal Life Church (ULC), a non-profit ministry whose headquarters were located in the nearby town of Modesto.
ULC became famous (or infamous, as the case may be) for ordaining ministers for a “free will love offering” and was a huge influence on The Discordian Society. Greg Hill, in fact, became an ordained ULC minister, and in the decades to follow thousands in the U.S. and abroad would receive their minister’s credentials through the organization.
One aspect of ULC that resonated with Greg Hill—and that became part of the Discordian ethos—was the idea that anyone anywhere at any given time could become a holy man or holy woman (a pope or mome.) ULC became popular during the Vietnam War era when many potential draftees from across this great land of ours obtained their very own ministerial credentials in the hopes it would help them steer clear of the war (on religious grounds), a notion that resonated deeply within the Discordian ranks and led to other like-minded correspondences/interactions, one of which was with Archbishop Gordon L. Cruikshank, an anti-gov/anti-tax advocate/militant of a certain stripe who had created his own religious organization called The Life Science Church in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
Greg Hill was also a card carrying member of this outfit. (Of course there was never an alternative religion that Greg Hill met that he didn’t like.)
Another colorful character who came into the orbit of Hill and Jamison was W. John Weilgart, an Austrian philologist/psychoanalyst and the mastermind/madman behind “aUI,” a so-called constructed language or what Weilgart referred to as “the language of space.”
According to Brad Steiger, as a child Weilgart learned about aUI from a literal “little green spaceman” who informed him that this “space language” was used by all sentient beings throughout the cosmos, and that if adopted by humankind it could cure every one of irrational thinking patterns.
Weilgart’s motivation for inventing the language was to create a form of communication based on what he proposed to be universal, basic elements of human thought and expression, and incorporated it into his psychotherapy work.
Jamison forwarded three items to Louise Lacey that included a one page explainer on aUI; a letter about aUI and how it could be used as the official language of Earth People’s Park; and a letter from Weilgart to Jamison and Doc Iggy (aka Greg Hill) that apparently was in response to material The Discordians were circulating about nudes in San Francisco that “were soldiers in the Om United New World Nude Brigade.”
Jamison received a couple more letters from Weilgart detailing plans for a summer of 1970 West Coast visit that would be coordinated by Jamison and Hill to include speaking gigs and media appearances not to mention Weilgart trying to wrangle some nudie models for a body painting exhibit dedicated to his space language.
There was more back and forth correspondence, but suffice it to say I could no evidence that this Discordian-Weilgart hook-up ever actually took place, though the vision of voluptuous nudes with aUI body paint shines bright in my mind’s eye.
In his 1986 broadsheet Kultcha Issue #28 entitled “Coman-Ra,” Jamison’s Discordian name, Kerry Thornley wrote:
Since 1970, though, Greg Hill and I both had been receiving from him everything from advice about how to grow organic sprouts to racist newspapers published by White Christians who were armed and quite dangerous. In reply to one of my memos about Kirstein [aka Brother-in-Law] that had fallen into his hands indirectly, he wrote me to say that the tragedy in Dallas [Kennedy’s assassination] was plotted by the Secret Order of Thule in such a way as to assure that no cover-up could remain convincing forever. Motive: to make the American public paranoid about their government and mass media. For paranoia, he told me, is a big step in the direction of mental health.
People who become paranoid, Coman-Ra [Stan Jamison] wrote, will not rest until they discover every last shred of truth. Among the devices used to encourage awareness of conspiracy were the many crude Oswald impersonations that occurred just previous to the assassination. Puzzled for more than a decade about exactly that mystery, I had to admit this was the first credible hypothesis to explain it without making the assassins look like idiots. And had they been less than geniuses, there’d have been no cover-up at all.
Coman-Ra further informed me that the conspiracy was constructed in concentric circles, like Chinese boxes, with descending levels, so that only the “man at the center” understood afterwards exactly what had happened. Of course, I could not ignore the possibility that man might have been the person I call Brother-in-law.
What brought the many loose ends in the John Kennedy murder mystery together for me was this realization that it was a maximum complicity crime. Various factions must have been deliberately implicated on a blind-alliance basis, so that once the event occurred, every group of conspirators was startled at evidence of participation by someone besides themselves.
What brought the many loose ends in the John Kennedy murder mystery together for me was this realization that it was a maximum complicity crime. Various factions must have been deliberately implicated on a blind-alliance basis, so that once the event occurred, every group of conspirators was startled at evidence of participation by someone besides themselves.
Like Brother-in-law, Jamison seemed morbidly fascinated with Hitler and Nazi Germany. Both men mentioned in particular little-known aspects of the Third Reich — such as the secret pagan rituals of the SS and the occult beliefs of Hitler’s cohorts. Both repeated a rumor that Nazi rocket scientists discovered energy secrets the oil companies were repressing to this day. And whether either or both were living some kind of macabre hoax or were absolutely fanatical was impossible to decide, since neither man was without humor. For instance, [Jamison] always signed off with: “Love is Alive and Well.”
As might be anticipated, it struck me that perhaps Jamison and Gary Kirstein were the same person, so in 1977 I dropped in on Jamison unexpectedly at his address in Turlock, California. Not only was he not the same man I had conversed with in New Orleans, but it was plain that the spine-chilling ranting in his letters was just a big put-on. That isn’t to say his information about the assassination could not have been valid. A warm, intelligent human being obviously unsympathetic to Fascism, he nevertheless seemed quite versed in secret society politics.
“I come on all hairy like that in my letters,” he told me, “to scare off government agents.”
Even though he put out a lot of articles about how to cure cancer with oxidation and live forever by eating wheat germ, it appears (according to the U.S. Social Security Index) that Jamison lived only to the age of 75, dying in California on April 29, 1996, around that same time period (give or take a year or two) that so many of his Discordian brethren likewise cashed in their chips: Thornley in 1998, Camden Benares in 1999, and Greg Hill in 2000.
To follow is a multi-part part series on Roger Lovin, one of the more mercurial characters of the Early Discordian scene. Lovin’s story does indeed have a dark tinge to it, as the subtitle suggests, all of which will be unveiled in our final installment with an audio interview of Jean Marie Stine recorded June 24, 2016… but let us begin at the beginning.
Born Roger Watlington in Knoxville, Tennessee on May 11, 1941, he later changed his name to Roger Lovin which would prove apropos in terms of the footloose and fancy free lifestyle he later adopted.
In the early 1960s, Lovin managed a French Quarter coffee house called The Gryphon, which doubled as a bohemian art gallery and hangout for French Quarter beatniks. In this regard, a curious news article appeared in the Oct 12, 1964 The Times-Picayune about a smoke bomb attack at The Gryphon that caused minor damage and one injury.
It’s unknown if the bombing was in any way directed at Lovin, although that wouldn’t come as a surprise as he was always a somewhat controversial character fond of ruffling the feathers of the squares. However, I suspect this incident may have had something to do with the bohemian clientele that frequented The Gryphon and a certain conservative element in New Orleans that was probably none too thrilled about it. As noted in the news article, a similar smoke bomb attack went down at the Quorum Coffee House (also known as The Quorum Club), another establishment with deep Discordian ties. A Wikipedia entry describes The Quorum as “a coffee house in New Orleans, known as a model for multicultural exchanges in the politically and racially charged atmosphere of the 1960s. It became a frequent target of segregationist harassment in New Orleans after it opened to persons from all racial backgrounds in 1963. In 1964, police raided The Quorum and arrested 73 people on charges such as ‘playing guitars out of tune.’”
Although The Quorum was a multicultural beatnik mecca, Kerry Thornley returned to New Orleans in the summer of 1964 and delivered a decidedly un-beatnik type lecture there on Ayn Rand and Objectivism—but that was typical Thornley: an iconoclast who reveled in tweaking people’s sensibilities on either side of the cultural or political spectrum. It’s also important to note that Kerry’s last meeting with the notorious Gary Kirstein (aka Brother-in-law who supposedly lured him into the JFK assassination) took place on the back patio of The Quorum (cast in creepy shadows) following Kerry’s lecture there that night.
Another Early Discordian, Barbara Reid (the main witness against Kerry in the Jim Garrison fiasco), became known as a “den mother” to a group of hippie kids that hung out at The Quorum, so the Discordian connections ran deep and weird. Apparently, there’s a film documentary about The Quorum called, appropriately enough (yes, you guessed it), The Quorum, which speaks to the influence this coffee house had on French Quarter culture. The website for The Quorum film describes how it was started in 1963 “by an idealistic group of individuals most of whom had met at the Ryder, an earlier, short-lived, racially integrated coffee house on Rampart Street in the New Orleans French Quarter. When the Ryder was shut down by city officials on the pretext of needing the space to construct a hotel, approximately twelve of the former Ryder patrons banded together to establish a similar sort of establishment with a similar purpose….”
As it so happens, the defunct Ryder coffee house (mentioned above) became of interest to Jim Garrison during his JFK assassination investigation as a supposed meeting place where Thornley had met with Lee Harvey Oswald and other suspected diabolical doings went down, which I previously covered in this post. But I digress…
The Quorum and Gryphon smoke bombings occurred during the same period Jim Garrison rolled out a campaign to “clean up” the French Quarter, and the specific targets of this campaign were strip clubs and establishments catering to the homosexual community. This is not to suggest that Garrison was in any way responsible for the smoke bomb caper, but what these events spoke to was the tension and unrest brewing across the cultural landscape, particularly in the French Quarter which had always been a fertile breeding ground for freaks and free spirits to flourish.
This period is covered in Plot Or Politics?: The Garrison Case and Its Cast (1967), authored by award winning New Orleans States-Item reporters Rosemary James and Jack Wardlaw, who covered the Garrison investigation from its very beginnings. Plot Or Politics? also covers, albeit briefly, the rise of Garrison’s political career and provides an intimate snapshot of what was brewing behind the scenes with the Garrison investigation before it became a thing. Plot Or Politics? is also of interest because it devotes a couple pages to none other than Kerry Thornley regarding his interactions with Oswald in the Marines. This section on Thornley is noteworthy because it appeared several months before Garrison painted a target on Thornley’s back.
In regards to Garrison’s campaign against “vice,” pages 21 and 22 of Plot Or Politics? informs the reader that:
Almost as soon as he took office, Garrison took aim at the city’s sin strip—“The Street”, Bourbon Street. Former New Orleans newsman Bill Stuckey recalls:
“Shortly after he became district attorney in 1962, [Garrison] launched a crackdown on homosexuals in New Orleans, raiding ‘gay bars’ frequently, arresting ‘gay kids’ on the streets of the French Quarter. After one such arrest, the New Orleans States-Item sent me to the police station to see what the formal charges were. There, on paper, probably was one of the strangest charges in U.S. legal history: ‘Being a homosexual in an establishment with a liquor license.’ The drive died down after several weeks. One benefit of it may have been the creation of a body of homosexual informants for the district attorney’s office—informants possibly involved in his Kennedy plot investigation.”
It probably appears like I’m once again digressing, but I wanted to lay out the cultural landscape of the period—a culture in which Lovin was knee deep—and the conditions that precipitated the crackdown on the homosexual community, all of which might have attributed to the coffee house smoke bombings, and a cultural sea change which was only then just beginning to make waves…
When Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley moved away from the French Quarter in the mid-60s, they left the New Orleans branch of the Discordian Society in the capably chaotic hands of Mr. Lovin, whom Thornley described in the Illuminet Press intro of Principia Discordia as “a dashing, talented and handsome con artist who was too shallow to settle into any one thing. But for years and years after he read the Principia, under his Discordian name of Fang the Unwashed, he consistently and with unswerving devotion to the task excommunicated every new person any of the rest of us initiated into the Discordian Society.”
Kerry wasn’t just lightly tossing around the assertion that Lovin excommunicated new Discordian initiates, as revealed in this December 2, 1964 letter from Greg Hill (aka Malaclypse the Younger) to pilgrims Judy Gates and Bob Yeager.
The Early Discordians become infamous for these types of humorous letters, and one of the funniest I’ve come across was composed by Lovin dated December 17, 1964, addressed to Greg Hill (who appears to have been staying with Bob Newport in Chicago at the time):
All Hail Discordia!!!!!?!!!!!!!
To: MALACLYPSE (THE YOUNGER), K.C.: OMNIPOTENT POLYFATHER OF VIRGINITY IN GOLD AND HIGH PRIEST OF THE HERETIC FRINGE AND PROTESTANT PERSAUSION
FROM: FANG (THE UNWASHED), W.K.C.: LIBERATOR OF THE THIRD EYE, PROTECTOR of the WESTERN WORLD, EXALTED LAMA of the NEW ORLEANS CABAL, and L.L.L.L.L.L. (Lovin’s Licentiously Liberated Lightning Lechers)
Concerning thy recent epistle of Excommunication: Screw Thee. Thou wilt understand, of course, that it isn’t the humble Fang; but FANG, W.K.C.: L.T.E., P.W.W., E.L.N.O.C., and L.L.L.L.L.L. and wilt therefore realize that naught of a personal nature is meant… dig?
Wouldst do me the favor of communicating Lord Omar’s current whereabouts to me in the swiftest mode. This One is plagued with constant uncertainties and apprehensions due to an extreme dearth of information concerning That One. I fear me ever that the Foul Forces of Light and Reason have fallen upon him unaware and smotten (wow!) Him severely about the shoulders and intellect. Thou wouldst earn thyself everlasting gratitude and a mention in the evening maledictions by such an action. Also; if you don’t, I’ll kill you.
As to the progress of the New Orleans Cabal: The first Temple of Eris in New Orleans was formally defecated on Nov. 3, 1964, at 519 Decatur St. (which, oddly enough, is also my home address.) It occupied a converted broom closet. Admittedly, that is rather humble quarters for such a large and far-flung organization; but in the short space of one month we have more than doubled our area. This noble word was accomplished chiefly through the untiring efforts of our noble leader, FANG, W.K.C.: L.T.E., P.W.W., E.L.N.O.C., and L.L.L.L.L.L. and his noble assistant, Charles Noble. They single-handedly (one hand, three hooks) formed K.R.U.D. (Kollectors of Revenue Under Duress) and saw to the raising of funds. Our membership already includes two beatniks, one wasp, a hunchbrain, and a genuine, card carrying square who has 2.7 kids and a wife with a cloth coat. Therefore, be of good cheer. Today New Orleans, tomorrow the Catacombs – with some scattered showers in the evening.
As I am naturally curious about what sort of person would spend his time on such drivel as this, kindly send me some data about yourself. Send also a copy of HYMN. Barring the feasibility of a picture, send a piece of fingernail and some hair…..
In closing, let me say: MARY CHRISTMAS, SAVIOR MONEY!!!
As the beatniks morphed into hippies, Lovin went right along for the ride. On December 9, 1966, he hosted a “psychedelic happening” billed as an “LSD trip without LSD” that certainly sounded Discordian in nature, as documented in the December 10, 1966 States Time Advocate news article below.
On October 16, 1968, Lovin appeared on TV program called Hotseat revealing “The Truth About Hippies.” It was around this time that he started the first underground newspaper in New Orleans, The Word (later to be known as The Ungarbled Word.) While all of this was going on, Lovin became a suspect of sorts in the Garrison investigation, all of which will be discussed in more detail than you can possibly imagine in future installment of this series!
Thanks to Charles Faris for inviting me take the helm for this week’s 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.)
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.
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…
Discordian Society founder Greg Hill remained interested in UFOs over the years, as revealed by clippings on the subject discovered in The Discordian Archives. In this regard, I suspect Hill’s interest was more concerned with the phenomenon’s sociological implications as opposed to any particular belief system (BS) he held in regards to whether UFOs were “real.”
Kerry Thornley, however, claimed that UFOs originated from below West Virginia, a notion he once shared with fellow Discordian Louise Lacey aka Lady L., F.A.B. (Fucking Anarchist Bitch.)
West Virginia—it should be noted—was a hotbed for high strangeness throughout the 1950s and 60s, first with the famous Flatwoods Monster sighting and then a series of UFO reports occurring in and around Point Pleasant, West Virginia during the same period as the fabled Mothman sightings reported by Fortean journalist John Keel in his classic The Mothman Prophecies.
How Thornley latched on to this West Virginia-UFO theory, I’m not quite sure, but by the mid-70s he began to connect man-made Nazi UFOs to the string of political assassinations of the late-60s as documented in an excerpt from a December 6th, 1976 letter sent to Greg Hill:
“The Nazis invented flying saucers during WWII and the assassinations and terrorism seem to have been part of an angry publicity stunt to bring to the world’s attention the engine in the UFOs, which uses no fossil fuels or uranium, but relies on electromagnetic principles to generate cheap, clean energy from the ions in the air or something. Gary Kirstein gave me all the hints I needed to put this thing together years ago, but I did not integrate them.
“See what I mean? It even gets weirder than that—at least more elaborate. But you get the idea. I’m a pawn in some stupid game of conspiracy politics.
“The outfit of Nazis who murdered JFK, MLK, RFK, and Tate were working for is a defense industry security agency called Defense Industrial Security Command (DISC). Hail Eris! An incredible amount of secret society terrorism within the Intelligence Community seems to have been carried out in the name of the Discordian Society.
“…It is possible I have a radio in one of my tooth fillings, installed by the CIA at Atsugi, and that I have dreams which are transmitted to me by the Nazi Shambala. It is also possible that both the CIA and DISC thought they had the transmitters for me and intended to use me, each to trick the other, in an abortive plot to overthrow the government. If this is the case, then I would appear to be a humanoid robot for freedom… You don’t have to believe this, but I am sincere, and it is one of the few premises that explains most of it…”
As for Louise Lacey, she witnessed a couple UFO sightings over the years, the first occurring in Texas as a child, and the second—and most mind-blowing—in Berkeley, California in the late 1970s, as recounted in this audio clip taken from an interview with yours truly.
I recently came across a UFO incident description with accompanying illustration at Albert Rosales’s very groovy Humanoid and other strange encounters facebook page that looks a helluva lot like whatever it was Louise witnessed. (Hail Eris!)
Here’s the description from Humanoid and other strange encounters:
Laughing humanoids, France 1959
Location. Aubagne Bouches du Rhone France
Date: end of October 1959 Time: 1800
Miss Moulet, 45, was hanging out her washing in the twilight, with her 3 children, when she saw an egg-shaped object descend silently, to hover just above her. Through a wide triangular window in its front, strongly illuminated, she could see about 20 persons, tall, with wavy blond hair and very light skin, wearing white suits and short sleeves. They were smiling or perhaps laughing at her. The air became very cold. After 10-15 minutes the object took off again, disappearing in 2 or 3 seconds, leaving a slight trail.
In Caught in the Crossfire, I noted the same discrepancy Scheufele points out: that Kerry Thornley was in California during the same time-frame Baker places him in NOLA meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald and banging his wife, Marina, behind Oswald’s back. Baker’s version of events contradict Thornley’s Warren Commission testimony as having arrived in California on May 5th and then returning to New Orleans on September 4th of ‘63. (Baker claims she saw Thornley and Oswald together on May 8th and May 28th of that year.)
In response, Baker supporters will no doubt counter that Thornley fibbed about traveling to California—or about the exact timeframe of where he was and when, etc. Having reviewed hundreds of letters written to and from Thornley during this period—as well as his many JFK assassination related writings—I’ve seen no glaring inconsistencies in any of Kerry’s statements regarding his movements in the summer of ’63. It was based on Kerry’s own timeline (of having traveled through Texas on his way to California and then spending time in Mexico City on his way back to NOLA) that Jim Garrison cobbled together his theory that Kerry staged the famous doctored photo of Oswald (with his trusty Mannlicher Carcano) while passing through Texas and then on his return trip visited Mexico City in around the same time that Oswald (or someone pretending to be Oswald) was making a nuisance of himself at the Cuban and Russian Embassies.
Baker further asserts that Oswald’s “Neighbors testified to the Warren Commission that Thornley was there so often they were unsure as to which one (Lee or Thornley) was really Marina’s husband. Jim Garrison’s investigation confirmed the same point.” (Me and Lee, page 321.)
Baker’s claim that the Warren Commission investigated Thornley’s supposed relationship with Marina Oswald has no factual basis—unless someone can identify the specific Warren Report sections where the testimonies of Oswald’s neighbors presumably appear. Nor did Garrison “confirm” any of these rumors, which from what I’ve been able to piece together first surfaced in a February 22nd, 1968 letter to Garrison from John Schwegmann, Jr., owner of Schwegmann Bros. Super Markets:
In 1977, Garrison resurrected LaSavia’s allegations in a memo to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), shown below. In said memo, Garrison states that “an effort will be made to locate these neighbors’ statements…” However, there’s no evidence that Oswald’s neighbors “positively” identified Thornley, aside from the second hand account attributed to Myrtle LaSavia. Garrison never produced any of these neighbor statements (identifying Thornley) for the HSCA—for the simple reason that they probably never existed to begin with.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Sciambra paid a visit to a Mr. and Mrs. Tony LaSavia on February 29th, 1968—a week after Garrison received the Schwegmann letter. From this meeting a memo was produced, which is cataloged among Jim Garrison’s Papers (Box 7) in the National Archives. In Farewell to Justice, Joan Mellen—quoting from Sciambra’s Feb. 29th, 1968 memo—states that LaSavia and her husband identified Thornley “…as being the person who used to walk with Marina to the Winn-Dixie food store.”
When Garrison informed the HSCA that ”neighbors of the Oswald’s responded positively to Thornley’s picture”, he seems to be referring exclusively to the claims of Myrtle LaSavia, as well as her husband, Tony, who probably got roped into backing up his wife’s story. However, let’s not confuse a memo for a witness statement; documents of this nature are of subjective value, in my opinion, and in particular the many Garrison Investigation memos related to Kerry Thornley that were rarely, if ever, supported by witness statements. It confuses the matter even more when memos such as these are presented as “evidence.”
Curiously, another woman bearing the last name of LaSavia—Mary Lee LaSavia—was interviewed by Andrew Sciambra during the same time frame as Myrtle LaSavia. It’s unclear if the two LaSavia’s were related—or if Sciambra had simply misidentified Myrtle as Mary Lee, which is my suspicion.
As noted in the memo above (from March 1st, 1963, a day after Sciambra’s meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Tony LaSavia), Mary Lee LaSavia passed on information that Oswald’s former neighbor “MRS. EAMES today said that DAVID FERRIE came to see her in regards to where the OSWALDS were right after OSWALD left Texas…” Later in the memo, Mrs. Eames states “that David Ferrie did come to her house but it was not until after the assassination…”
As hard-core JFK assassination junkies should be well aware, it was right after the assassination that Jack Martin (future Garrison witness) was questioned by the FBI, and at that time leveled a number of charges against David Ferrie, including the allegation that Ferrie’s library card was discovered among Oswald’s posthumous possessions. It appears that Ferrie’s appearance at Mrs. Eames residence was probably to gather information to refute Jack Martin’s claim.
In the same memo, Mrs. Eames states that “she cannot remember seeing anybody with the OSWALDS or go to the OSWALDS home. She said that they were loners and didn’t associate with anybody.” This comment seems to refute Myrtle LaSavia’s assertion that a number of Oswald’s neighbors had seen Marina in the company of Kerry Thornley—or, at least, it appears she was the only neighbor making this claim.
It’s interesting to note that Andrew Sciambra neglected to ask Mrs. Eames about Kerry Thornley, as the timing of this interview was just a week after the emergence of the Schwegmann letter. Or perhaps Sciambra did ask Eames about Kerry Thornley, but neglected to include her answer in his memo.
On March 4th, 1968—three days after Sciambra met with Mrs. Eames, and a week after his meeting with the LaSavia’s—Garrison staff member Tom Bethell compiled a list of residents in Oswald’s neighborhood, in addition to visitors seen at the Oswald residence, none of whom included Kerry Thornley.
On instructions from Sciambra, investigator Gary Sanders interviewed Miss Rose Cavalier of 918 Upperline, the same street where the LaSavia’s lived. During this interview, Cavalier indicated that, on several occasions, she’d seen Lee and Marina Oswald pass by her residence walking in the direction of the Winn-Dixie Supermarket. However—when presented with a photo of Kerry Thornley—Miss Cavalier apparently had difficulty distinguishing between the two: Oswald and Thornley. Gary Sanders also noted that Miss Cavalier “may have eyesight problems although she told me that she did not wear glasses.”
Whatever the case, I’ve come across nothing substantive (at least not yet!) to suggest that this Kerry Thornley-Lee and Marina Oswald-love-triangle was ever “confirmed” by Garrison’s investigators, and that these allegations all seem to have originated from the same sole source: Myrtle LaSavia.
However, Kerry and Marina were spotted together on February 8th, 1968 as they passed one another in the courtroom hallway coming and going from their respective grand jury testimonies. Apparently, this “chance encounter” was staged by Garrison to place the two together in the prospect that Marina would react to Kerry’s appearance and suddenly spill the beans about their supposed romantic tryst. According to Tom Bethell’s account, Marina registered no recognition of Kerry, and when questioned by Andrew Sciambra if she knew him (Thornley), Marina responded to the contrary.
In his blogpost, Matthew Scheufele concludes that Baker is a faker, a theme trending of late at JFK assassination research forums where Judyth’s apparently been taking it on the chin (from a rather vocal anti-Baker faction) who insist that Me and Lee is a largely fictional account backed only by a pay stub from when she worked at the Reilly Coffee Company concurrent with the employment of her purported paramour, Lee Oswald.
Whether Baker actually knew (and loved and lost) Oswald is fodder for endless debate in these aforementioned JFK assassination forums dating back over the last decade. If you’re a part of this scene then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about—and if not, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. But say what you will about her, Baker is indeed a polarizing figure within the ranks of current day assassination researchers who appears to attract as many staunch supporters as she does detractors. Jesse Ventura is one such ardent Judyth Baker believer, for whatever that’s worth.
Scheufele closes out his post: “Garrison concluded that Thornley was in California visiting his relatives” at the time of the Judyth Baker sightings—although it’s hard to know what Garrison really believed, or if his many charges against Thornley were simply flavors of the week spoon-fed by the likes of Harold Weisberg and the other Dealey Plaza Irregulars. Although Garrison labeled Thornley a perjurer, he seemed content to endorse Thornley’s summer of ‘63 travel log because it dovetailed with his claims that Kerry was working behind the scenes during this period to incriminate Oswald.
But if one is seeking vindication for Kerry Thornley, why stop at Judyth Baker? Baker’s alleged Thornley sightings seem rather tame in comparison to the charges leveled by Jim Garrison in his February 21st, 1968 press release [Adobe PDF here.] that characterized Thornley as a diabolical CIA agent based on the startling revelation that Kerry had a post office box in a federal building where most post offices tend to be located… in federal buildings.
In this somewhat rambling press release (replete with footnotes), Garrison identified Kerry as part of a clandestine cabal engaged in “image creating” that falsely portrayed Oswald as a lone nut commie symp with a happy trigger finger. It could be similarly argued that Garrison played the exact same game by portraying Thornley as a rabid right wing super-spook, the ultimate intent of which was to implicate an innocent man in a convoluted JFK assassination conspiracy.
Granted, Kerry Thornley naturally raises some curious eyebrows—and deservedly so—due to his propinquitous associations to Oswald and Garrison’s rogue gallery of spooks. To this end, I claim no ultimate certitude as to Thornley’s innocence or guilt as a witting or unwitting participant in the JFK assassination.
My motivation for writing Caught in the Crossfire was not so much a case of seeking vindication for Kerry Thornley as to provide equal time to present Thornley’s side of the story; to dig deeper beneath the surface story (The Gospel according to Garrison) and not immediately assume that Thornley was a CIA agent (or one of the notorious Oswald doubles or was staging fake photos or writing incriminating books or bedding down Marina) just because someone entertained “theories” that have been subsequently parroted as “facts.”
“The assassination of President John Kennedy and the conspiracy theories that have developed about it might seem to have been covered in many previous books, but self-described ‘crackpot historian’ Adam Gorightly, who has written nine books so far, appears to have found a fresh angle. His new book, Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation details how Thornley, a little-known but influential counterculture figure, had to fight off accusations from conspiracy theorist and district attorney Jim Garrison of New Orleans.”
“Researcher and author Adam Gorightly joins us to discuss Kerry Thornley, a man who found himself in the hall of mirrors that was Jim Garrison’s JFK assassination investigation. We discuss on this Conspiracy Corner.”
Ground Zero with Clyde Lewis: The Tale of Two Oswalds Listen here.
“One particular conspiracy theory that is compelling and is seldom talked about is the possibility that there were doppelgangers posing as Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination even occurred. The idea of multiple assassins or Oswald doppelgangers running loose remains a troubling issue and adds a strange curve to the tragic event. It is one theory that only a hand full of JKF researchers wish to examine as it is viewed as one of those truth is out there topics, one worthy of bring a script for the X-Files.”
Coast To Coast AM JFK Assassination Special Listen here.
“In the third hour, Gorightly spoke about Kerry Thornley, who met Lee Harvey Oswald in 1959 during basic training at El Toro Marine base and, rather curiously, began writing a book featuring a main character based on Oswald (after he defected to the Soviet Union). Gorightly speculated that Oswald was at El Toro as a spy on some sort of intelligence mission. Thornley claimed he never saw Oswald after 1959 yet both men ended up in New Orleans shortly before JFK’s assassination in 1963, he said. During that period Thornley met some shadowy characters, Gary Kirstein and Slim Brooks, that would later lead him to suspect he’d been unwittingly manipulated into a JFK assassination conspiracy, Gorightly explained, noting that Thornley had been specifically asked about how one could go about killing the president.”
“Adam Gorightly is coming to England, before that he will join the gang in the lounge to take us on a trip back to our conspiratorial roots.”
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Adam Gorightly Interviewed on The Outer Edge 11/16/2014: Caught in the Crossfire Listen here.
“This Sunday night, we talk to Adam about his ground-breaking new work Caught in the Crossfire, which examines the connections between Kerry Thornley (the founder of Discordianism) and Lee Harvey Oswald.”
Caravan To Midnight – Episode 173 UFO Sightings with Adam Gorightly Listen here.
“Take a trip today with John B. and Adam Gorightly as they explore the hidden world of global conspiracies and UFO sightings with a few drops of psychedelia here and there.”
An excerpt from my latest book Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation, available at Feral House and Amazon.
Among Jim Garrison’s more colorful unofficial investigators (otherwise known as the “Irregulars”) was Allan Chapman who subscribed to the theory that the JFK assassination had been orchestrated by the Bavarian Illuminati, that infamous secret society much ballyhooed in the annals of conspiracy lore.
After catching wind of Allan Chapman’s Illuminati theory, Kerry Thornley—with the support of some of his fellow Discordian Society pranksters—initiated what became known as Operation Mindfuck (OM), a campaign designed to screw with Garrison’s head by sending out spurious announcements suggesting that he (Kerry) was an agent of the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria (AISB). Among the culprits who helped perpetrate OM was none other than Robert Anton Wilson. As Kerry later noted:
Wilson and I founded the Anarchist Bavarian Illuminati to give Jim Garrison a hard time, one of whose supporters believed that the Illuminati owned all the major TV networks, the Conspiring Bavarian Seers (CBS), the Ancient Bavarian Conspiracy (ABC) and the Nefarious Bavarian Conspirators (NBC).
Another of the “Irregulars”—assassination researcher Harold Weisberg—was also on the business end of OM communiqués as demonstrated in the following anonymous letter authored by Robert Anton Wilson:
The above letter is unfathomable unless one is familiar with the Discordian antics that Thornley and his cohorts were engaged in during this period. Wilson’s prank letter to Weisberg mentions someone named Homer Ravenhurst, another named Hassan Saba X, in addition to Simon Moon and the Illuminat Eye. In Discordian lore, Kerry Thornley’s pseudonym was Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, and so Wilson’s mention of a “Homer Ravenhurst” was a playful way of messing with Weisberg’s mind. As for Simon Moon, this was Wilson’s sometime alias and a character that later appeared in Wilson and Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Hassan Saba X (or Hassan-i-Sabbah X) was a fictitious black militant character that Thornley and Wilson created to propagate the Illuminati mythology, later to be immortalized in a put-on letter planted in the April 1969 issue of Playboy during the period Wilson was an editor at the magazine. As for the Illuminati Eye mentioned in the Weisberg letter, this was an obvious wink and nod to that aforementioned all-seeing secret society from Bavaria. No telling what Weisberg thought of this letter; however, he found it important enough to place in his files for future researchers to ponder.
These OM communiqués led Garrison to suspect that the Discordian Society was a CIA front organization involved in the JFK assassination. As outlandish as this all sounds, those of a conspiratorial bent might find some merit to this theory, due to the fact that—among the handful of people involved in the New Orleans Discordian Society—each of them was, in one way or another, connected to the Garrison investigation as either a witness, suspect or correspondent.
According to legend, the first edition of the Discordian bible, The Principia Discordia: Or How The West Was Lost, was reproduced after hours on a mimeograph machine in Jim Garrison’s office, of which only five copies were produced. This clandestine copying operation predated Garrison’s investigation by nearly two years, and was allegedly perpetrated by a typist in the District Attorney’s office named Lane Caplinger, who was friends with Discordian Society co-founder Greg Hill. (Lane just happened to be the sister of a French Quarter poet named Grace Caplinger who was friends with both Thornley and Hill. Grace later ventured to Hollywood and changed her name to Grace Zabriskie, and has made numerous Movie and TV appearances, including the role of Laura Palmer’s mother in Twin Peaks.)
As for Greg Hill, his association with Garrison’s investigation was minimal, consisting of a letter he wrote to Garrison in support of Thornley. Garrison, most likely having already made up his mind as to Kerry’s guilt, probably placed said letter immediately upon receipt into his round file.
While it’s a given that Hill and Thornley were both in possession of the first edition of The Principia Discordia, what is not commonly known is that Roderick “Slim” Brooks—another key player in the New Orleans Discordian Society—also received a copy of this rare first edition.
Slim Brooks—as it turns out—was the first person Thornley met when he moved to New Orleans. In early 1961, Slim and a shadowy character named Gary Kirstein—referred to as “Brother-in-law”—engaged Thornley in conversations about how to kill a president, and in particular, JFK. Thornley later suspected that he’d been manipulated into these conversations by Brooks and Kirstein with the intent of setting him up as a JFK assassination patsy.
It appears quite likely that Slim Brooks was actually Jerry Milton Brooks, a former Guy Banister employee and member of the Minutemen, a far-right anti-communist militia organization active during the 1960s. According to former Minutemen national spokesman R.N. Taylor:
The fellow mentioned as Slim Brooks, I think he was either Jerry Milton Brooks, or Jerry’s brother… If it was Jerry, that was one of the most bizarre individuals I have ever encountered. One of a kind. For better and worse. I know he spent some time down there with Banister and that crowd in the sixties. He was a walking card reference file of names, addresses, phone numbers, etc. Had a very photographic mind, quite amazing at times. Never knew re¬ally what side he was on. He will forever remain an enigma to me.
It can also be assumed, with some degree of certainty, that the other recipients of The Principia Discordia first edition were Barbara Reid and Roger Lovin, both New Orleans Discordian Society members. In fact, a Discordian Society business card from 1965 lists Lovin as head of the New Orleans Discordian chapter.
Lovin—known in the Discordian Society as Fang the Unwashed—was identified by Garrison witness Bernard Goldsmith as being connected to Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans, as well as allegedly involved with the Bay of Pigs invasion. Whatever the case, Lovin had a reputation as a charming con man who, for all we know, might have been pulling Goldsmith’s leg about his connections to Oswald and the Bay of Pigs.
Perhaps the single most curious member of the New Orleans Discordian Society was Barbara Reid, the person most responsible—other than the District Attorney himself—for dragging Kerry, screaming and kicking, into Jim Garrison’s three-ring circus. Reid claimed to have seen Oswald and Thornley in New Orleans during September of 1963, an allegation Kerry denied, insisting that the last time he’d been in contact with Oswald was at El Toro Marine Base in the fall of 1959. Curiously enough, Reid became one of Garrison’s “Irregulars” and often accompanied Harold Weisberg during his rounds questioning French Quarter witnesses.
Among the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) files related to Kerry Thornley (now residing in the National Archives) one will find excerpts from the first edition of The Principia Discordia. It seems unlikely that Kerry would have provided these documents to the HSCA, unless he was trying to make a case that the Discordian Society had been infiltrated by the intelligence community, a theory he entertained upon occasion, particularly during the period in the late seventies when his paranoias ran high.
However, I suspect that it may have been Barbara Reid who provided these Discordian documents to the HSCA, as included among the HSCA files is a Discordian Society membership certificate awarded to Reid and signed by none other than the Bull Goose of Limbo (a.k.a. Kerry Thornley) dated September 18th, 1964. Reid also claimed, at one time or another, to be the incarnation of Goddess Eris, which would certainly explain the unbridled chaos that entered Thornley’s life during the Garrison investigation period.
Another way these Discordian documents might have found their way to the HSCA files was through Harold Weisberg, who noted in an interview he conducted with Roger Lovin, that Lovin “…acknowledged his membership in the Discordians. Today he gave me his files on that outfit…” It could then be assumed that Weisberg copied these files and later submitted them to Garrison and/or the HSCA. That Weisberg was willing to entertain the notion that a religion worshipping the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Confusion was somehow involved is certainly one of the wilder theories in JFK assassination lore, right alongside such other Garrison mainstays as the homosexual thrill kill theory and the involvement of the dreaded Bavarian Illuminati. As Robert Anton Wilson observed in Cosmic Trigger:
Try to picture a jury keeping a straight face when examining a conspiracy that worshipped the Goddess of Confusion, honored Emperor Norton as a saint, had a Holy Book called “How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her After I Found Her,” and featured personnel who called themselves Malaclypse the Younger, Ho Chi Zen, Mordecai the Foul, Lady L, F.A.B., Fang the Unwashed, Harold Lord Randomfactor, Onrak the Backwards, et al….
Allegations that Thornley and Oswald met at Ryder Coffee House came courtesy of Barbara Reid, who claimed she had evidence backing this up in the form of a guest¬book belonging to the manager of Ryder’s, Jack Frazier, that both Oswald and Thornley had allegedly signed. In a memo Harold Weisberg sent to Garrison, he noted that “several names may be disguised in this book, for example, Thornley’s in the “Discordian” language on the ninth page. You have the Discordian files that I obtained on a previous trip. These will reflect which Omar Khyam is who….” Make of this what you will, but apparently Weisberg thought he was hot on the trail of a Discordian conspiracy and provided Garrison with Frazier’s guestbook as evidence of this. A review of the guestbook reveals that Thornley did indeed sign it using his Discordian persona of Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, which indicates that Kerry visited Ryder Coffee House on at least one occasion. However, there’s no evidence that Oswald—using his real name or an alias—signed the guestbook. (Sometime Discordian conspirator Lane Caplinger’s name appears elsewhere in the guestbook, which provides further incontrovertible evidence of the Discordian Society’s sinister role in JFK’s assassination!)
Robert Karno—who in the absence of Jack Frazier was managing Ryder Coffee House during the relevant time frame—stated in an interview with Garrison investigator James Alcock that he thought he met Oswald at Ryder’s on one occasion, although he didn’t sound completely positive: “Well, I—I believe I did. I’m almost sure I did…” As for Thornley, Karno remembered meeting him there only once as well, and said nothing about having seen Thornley and Oswald together.
Thanks to Tim Cridland for unearthing the Robert Anton Wilson letter to Harold Weisberg.
Purchase Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation from Feral House and Amazon.