An equal opportunity troublemaker, Broshears eventually pissed off nearly everyone who entered his orbit regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. Due to a disagreement with fellow Gay Pride parade organizers, the following year (1973) Broshears staged his own gay pride event in competition with the official one, which in due course led to a mini-schism within the San Francisco gay rights community. (Hail Eris! All Hail Broshears!)
Although a polarizing figure, Broshears was a tireless advocate of the homeless, poor and elderly, operating a community center in the Tenderloin called “Helping Hands” that provided free lunches for senior citizens. Other volunteer efforts included an annual Christmas event he organized for patients at Fort Miley Hospital called the “Gay U.S.O. Show.”
To publicize his political activism, Broshears started a newsletter called The Gay Crusader and was continually firing off letters to political figures of the era—from Harvey Milk to Dianne Feinstein to George Moscone—and damn near anybody else who came into prominence during the late-60s and 70s San Francisco political scene. More often than not, these letters (found in abundance in the Broshears Archive at the GLBT library) consisted of long-winded rants not easy to track (even for someone like yours truly who is sort of a kook-whisperer). The Broshears Archive includes this letter from Harvey Milk, who seemed equally mystified by whatever Broshears may have been getting himself wrapped around the axle about.
Broshears enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame when he formed a group called the Lavender Panthers in response to gay bashing incidents that occurred in San Francisco during the early-70s. This led to a feature story in the October 8, 1973 issue of TIME Magazine describing the Lavender Panthers as a “stiff-wristed team of gay vigilantes… The basic band numbers 21 homosexuals, including two lesbians who are reputedly the toughest hombres in the lot.” The Lavender Panther’s mission, Rev. Broshears informed TIME, was to strike terror in the hearts of “all those young punks who have been beating up my faggots.”
The Lavender Panthers used the same sort of agitprop that the Black Panther Party became infamous for: openly carrying fire arms and training in hand-to-hand combat tactics, such as the martial arts, although much of these activities appeared to be a PR stunt to generate a media buzz, particularly in regards to the Lavender Panthers.
Broshears resided in a hotel in the Tenderloin, and in his room he maintained a printing press for various newsletters he published over the years that included Light and Understanding; The S.F. Crusader (later called The Gay Crusader), and his last production, Focus.
According to a lengthy Broshears’ obit in the January 14, 1982 edition of the Bay Area Reporter,
“A former Golden Gate Business Association official told Bay Area Reporter that many Gay businesses felt they were being extorted by Broshears because they would not advertise in his newspaper. He revealed that in 1979 some GGBA officials and others met to share their knowledge of what they saw as Broshears’ continuing and costly harassment, but they did not know of any legal action they could take. One obstacle they faced was attorney B.J. Beckwith, who was constantly pressing cases against them for Broshears…. Beckwith helped Broshears sue numerous private parties and some businesses, including Bay Area Reporter, on a variety of charges. They were considered by many to be “nuisance” suits that involved the hiring of attorneys by those sued while Broshears enjoyed Beckwith’s services gratis…
“Local Gay businesses were regularly affected by Broshears’ behind the scenes reporting to the police and city agencies. Although he attacked city officials for crackdowns on sex-related businesses in his newspaper, he had his own continuing crusade. Gay bars, bath houses, sex clubs, adult book stores and most recently video cassette stores were constantly threatened by Broshears’ challenges to their permits and licenses. He telephoned and wrote city officials and police officials, plus appeared (often as the only complainant) at hearings to revoke or deny permits and licenses…”
“In 1978, Broshears personally and somewhat gleefully ‘exposed’ an alleged male prostitution operation in the city. Many Gay activists never forgave Broshears for this act because it resulted in the arrest of the popular Jack Campbell, an official of the Club Baths chain and a major financial supporter of Gay rights over many years…”
During our conversation, we referenced Rev. Broshears and his connection to famed ufologist Dr. Frank Stranges, mentioned in Part 00003 of this startling series.
In the course of our discussion, I noted how I’d recently happened upon an episode of NPR’s Radio Lab concerning Oliver Sipple, a tragic figure who reluctantly became a national hero over night. On September 22, 1975, Sipple was standing in a crowd of spectators outside of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco—awaiting an appearance by President Gerald Ford—at which time Sara Jane Moore pulled a .44 caliber Charter Arms revolver out of her pantsuit and fired a single shot that missed the President and ricocheted off a nearby wall. When Moore attempted a second shot, Sipple grabbed her arm. As Sipple recalled: “I saw [her gun] pointed out there and I grabbed for it… I lunged and grabbed the woman’s arm and the gun went off.”
Sipple made every effort to avoid the limelight, mainly because he felt he wasn’t the hero everyone was making him out to be. However—when he arrived home that evening—Sipple was met by a gaggle of reporters who had learned he was a former Marine that had served in Vietnam. Sipple told the reporters not to mention that he was a vet, and added that he didn’t really consider himself a hero. But as much as Sipple attempted to slip into the shadows, the national media quickly latched on to his story, and the following day he was the front page headline in newspapers across the country, basically presented as a war veteran who had heroically saved the President’s life.
Initially, Sipple was hoping his new found fame would blow over in a day or two; that he’d simply be treated to a round of drinks at a local tavern and be done with all the hoo-hah, but a couple days after the story broke, prominent San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen received a message on his answering machine from none other than Harvey Milk, who informed him that Sipple was an active member of the San Francisco gay community. This was during the timeframe when Milk, with great gusto, was encouraging fellow gays to come out of their respective closets. This, it appears, was the main motivation why Milk contacted Caen, along with an agenda to place stories in the media that portrayed the gay community in a more positive light.
Sipple, it turns out, was long time pals with Harvey Milk, and actually worked on one of Milk’s political campaigns. Although Sipple was a guy who clearly wanted to stay in the closet to a certain extent, the gay activist movement of the early 1970s swept up everyone in its path, and unfortunately for Sipple, he got caught up in the shifting winds of a generational change he didn’t have the emotional tools to deal with.
Broshears, independent of Harvey Milk, also called Herb Caen to inform him that Sipple was gay. Broshears, like Milk, thought it would help break the negative stereotype of gay men as limp-wristed sissy-boys who would never raise a finger to save the life of a President. To this end, it’s in no way an understatement to suggest that Sipple most likely saved President Ford’s life. Geri Spieler’s Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot At Gerald Ford details how Sara Jane Moore’s trusty .44 caliber had been confiscated by the SFPD a day before her assassination attempt, and how the following day Moore purchased a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson. Fortunately for Gerald Ford, the gun sights on the Smith & Wesson were six inches off the point-of-impact, causing Moore’s first shot to just narrowly miss Ford’s noggin. Her second shot would have been at even closer range, and Moore probably wouldn’t have missed that one, had not Sipple intervened.
The revelation of Sipple’s sexual preference soon leaked to other reporters via Caen, and once the genie was out of the bottle Sipple’s fifteen minutes of fame had been given another shot in the arm as national media outlets seized on part two of Sipple’s story, and this news eventually made its way to his parents and friends in Detroit, who were unaware of Sipple’s sexual proclivities, which was the main reason he’d been trying to keep under wraps to begin with. Afterwards, Broshears became a witness in a defamation lawsuit filed by Sipple against the San Francisco Chronicle, claiming that the newspaper had shared his private information against his wishes.
The Radio Lab episode I mentioned featured an interview with Oliver’s nephew, a fellow named George Sipple. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the very same George Sipple had contacted me in August 2016 with some Discordian-related information concerning CREEM magazine.
At the time, I really had no idea who George’s uncle, Oliver Sipple, was, nor was it relevant to our Discordian-related communiqués. After my Radio Misterioso appearance—and the mention therein of his late uncle—George Sipple contacted me to say, “Hey, I was the guy who sent you that info on CREEM magazine a couple years ago, and I happened to hear you on Radio Misterioso… and oh, btw, I was on that episode of Radio Lab you mentioned. I’m Oliver Sipple’s nephew!”
These are the sort of synchronicities that always seem to happen to me, Hail Eris!
Oliver Sipple was never really the same after the assassination attempt on Ford, not to mention when the personal revelations of his private life became a national story. These dramatic events no doubt contributed to Sipple slowly drinking himself to death by 1989.
As for Rev. Broshears’ demise, the January 14, 1982 edition of the Bay Area Reporter noted that: “The most controversial Gay personality in San Francisco was found dead in a hallway of his 990 Geary Street apartment on Sunday night [January 10]… of a cerebral stroke.” Broshears was 46 years of age.
Subsequent rumors surfaced that Broshears died of HIV, although this has never been confirmed. Broshears passing was just after the discovery of AIDS became public, so such conjecture may have certainly some substance.
In our next and final installment of this series, we’ll explore some recently discovered FOIA files pertaining to the one and only Reverend Raymond Broshears.
In 2015, a somewhat amusing bio of yours truly was posted at Discordia Wikia that is almost 23 percent accurate and presumably written by someone identified as Miley Spears, who in reality is a sock puppet of a self-styled Discordian named Reverend Loveshade who—it appears—has not only created this Miley Spears persona, but also a number of other phony Discordian characters such as Pope Hilde, Gypsie Skripto, not to mention a certain Johnny Shellburn (the same name of the protagonist in Kerry Thornley’s Idle Warriors) who operates KerryThornley.com where you can find an imaginary interview conducted by the aforementioned Pope Hilde with a supposed early Discordian named Richard Marshall who also probably never existed—or at least never existed in the sense that the interview suggests.
Richard Marshall—it so happens—also has a Discordia Wikia page which is also probably 23 percent accurate (at best!) although there actually was a real Richard Marshall who lived in San Francisco during the same period as Discordian Society co-founder Greg Hill, although none of the real Early Discordians I’ve talked to have ever heard of the guy.
According to Richard Marshall’s Discordia Wikia page (written by Miley Spears), Marshall contributed to Principia Discordia and The Illuminatus! Trilogy although I’ve never come across anything in the Discordian Archives to even remotely suggest that these claims have the slightest relation to reality or that Marshall ever knew Greg Hill or Robert Anton Wilson or Kerry Thornley—let alone Michael Arthur Quinn (aka The Midget) who is another imaginary character (based on an Illuminatus! character) apparently cooked up (once again) by Rev. Loveshade, who—it should be noted—also has a Discordia Wikia page submitted by (you guessed it!) Miley Spears, who—as previously noted—is actually the one and only Rev. Loveshade. In other words, the whole thing is a giant sock puppet circle jerk perpetrated by somebody with a lot of spare time on their hands.
In 1970s—according to Loveshade— his mother was purportedly friends with Robert Anton Wilson’s daughter and because of this Loveshade and his hippie mom became acquainted with Wilson, who he affectionately referred to as ‘Grandbob’ and along the way Loveshade “became obsessed with meeting the original Discordians” and that inspired him to (supposedly) track down Greg Hill in the 1990s at a San Francisco watering hole, an account of which appeared in Loveshade’s Ek-sen-trik-kuh Discordia: The Tales of Shamlicht.
Some might suggest that a shaggy dog story about meeting Greg Hill is perfectly acceptable from an Operation Mindfuck standpoint, as a form of pranking and modern myth making. On the one hand—being a card carrying Discordian—I can appreciate this type of culture jamming. On the other hand—with Historia Discordia and related projects — I’ve taken seriously the task of chronicling, as accurately as possible, the early days of the Discordian Society and its influence on the 1960s counterculture and onward. So when imaginary sources create imaginary history, it certainly leads us down a slippery slope.
In 2012, I was contacted by an enterprising Australian lad named Brenton Clutterbuck (which totally sounds like another made up name, but no he’s an actual dude) who informed me that he was working on a book project about modern day Discordianism entitled Chasing Eris.
While discussing with Clutterbuck different latter-day Discordians during a 2012 midnight Skype session, he informed me that as part of his Chasing Eris project he was planning a tour of the U.S. to interview prominent Discordians, including someone going by the name of Gypsie Skripto who had been introduced to him by Johnny Shellburn of KerryThornley.com, who—as previously noted—is another one of Loveshade’s alter egos.
Using the email address given to him by “Johnny Shellburn,” Brenton started a correspondence with Gypsie Skripto, who claimed that she had been friends with Greg Hill and part of the early Discordian scene in San Fran in the 1970s. In response, I told Brenton that I thought someone was yanking his chain, that the Gypsie Skripto in Greg Hill’s Principia Discordia afterword was an obvious literary construct, and that this person posing as Gypsie Skripto had basically co-opted Hill’s imaginary character as a way to troll the internet and create phony Discordian street cred.
Ultimately, Brenton’s planned meeting with Gypsie Skripto in Austin, Texas failed to materialize when she stood him up, using the pretext that she had to attend some last minute political activist hippie rally fundraiser (or some-such) and Brenton soon came to the realization that I was correct in my assumption that “Gypsie Skripto” was just one among a host of other spurious Discordian sock puppets courtesy of Rev. Loveshade.
With all this in mind, we’ll soon have a post up from Mr. Brenton Clutterbuck himself regarding his take on adventures with the Rev. Loveshade and his various sock puppets.
On August 25, 1965, Poland staged a “Nude Wade-in” along with compatriots Ina Saslow and Shirley Einseidel at Aquatic Park in San Francisco. The “Nude Wade-in”—as you might have guessed—was exactly that: the three of them wading naked into a public pool to the shock and amazement of other wide-eyed waders. If that wasn’t enough, in May 1968 at the Fillmore West, Poland orchestrated a public sex orgy in cahoots with the Diggers.
In 1970, Poland founded the Psychedelic Venus Church with bisexual Navy submariner and Vietnam vet, Brian Traynor (aka “Mother Boats”). The official sacrament of the Psychedelic Venus Church was marijuana “…and, after lighting up, at each meeting a woman was chosen to be Venus. At the beginning of services, she was placed on an altar, candles were lit on each side of her, and her vulva was smeared with honey. Each of the males (and some women if so inclined) at the meeting licked the woman’s vulva in order to honor the goddess Venus. Then the orgy began in earnest…” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_Freedom_League
The Psychedelic Venus Church had amassed 700 members before disbanding in 1973. One of these members was our Discordian co-founder Greg Hill, although it’s doubtful Hill ever partook of the divine sacrament in a group orgy setting. However, he did receive his very own membership card.
In June of 1971, Poland was attempting to start a collective known as the World Council of Psychedelic Churches, which he was encouraging the Discordian Society to join.
The Hill-Poland correspondence included the group’s newsletter, Intercourse, as well as this index card suggesting Poland, or someone in the Psychedelic Venus Church, was dealing acid at one time or another.
Poland, it so happens, had a general physical resemblance to Discordian Society co-founder Kerry Thornley, especially in his younger adulthood. There were other parallels as well:
* Like Thornley, Poland was both highly intelligent and deeply disturbed, spent most of his life living in voluntary poverty, and had *boundary issues* when it came to sexuality (he molested a preteen girl in San Diego during the 1980s, and earned jail time and Sex Offender status for that act.)
* Like Thornley, he operated under *noms de guerre* for his communications. In his last years in San Francisco he called himself “Tortuga Bi-Liberty”; earlier he’d used such monikers as “Tahanga” (“naked” in Maori) and “Jomo Kabouter.”
* Like Thornley, he spent much of his life publishing crude broadsides and zines to publicize sexual/body freedom and other causes he advocated.
* Like Thornley, he founded his own half-serious Goddess-centric religion: The Psychedelic Venus Church, an early neo-Pagan sect that used cannabis as a sacrament, and held nude orgiastic rites among Bay Area hippies.
* Not sure if the two ever met in real life, but they have a connection: Richard Thorne, a ranking member of the East Bay Sexual Freedom League, was a close associate of Poland’s. Thorne, as readers may recall, called himself “OM” and led nude parades through the streets of Berkeley and San Francisco, which earned him Discordian Pope status and a story in the SF CHRONICLE.
Mike Marinacci is the author of CALIFORNIA JESUS, WEIRD CALIFORNIA, and other books about fringe culture and history. He is currently working on a biography of Jeff Poland.
Jim Garrison not only implicated the military industrial complex, homicidal homosexuals, and anti-Castro Cubans in the plot to assassinate JFK, but he also fingered fringe religions—or “Odd Sects,” as he fancied calling them—in his everything-in-the-kitchen-sink conspiratorial cosmology.
Goddess only knows how Garrison first saddled up on this “Odd Sects” hobby horse, but there’s a good chance that one of his key witnesses, Jack Martin, was responsible for planting this curious seed—as well as our own Rev. Raymond Broshears, who also played a part in advancing the “Odd Sects” theory.
On November 25, 1963—two days after JFK’s assassination—an inebriated Jack Martin phoned the New Orleans FBI office to drop a dime on David Ferrie, implicating him as a getaway pilot in the assassination plot. On November 28, the Feds contacted Ferrie to get his side of the story:
“…FERRIE claimed that JACK S. MARTIN was a private detective who he first met in the fall of 1961. He said that since that time MARTIN has attempted to insert himself into his, FERRIE’S personal affairs. He claimed that at the time he first met MARTIN, MARTIN was working for a woman in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, named CATHERINE WILKERSON or WILKINSON or some similar name. He stated that MARTIN was endeavoring to expose various frauds in the Diploma Mills and Ecclesiastical Mills and was particularly interested in CARL J. STANLEY of Louisville, Kentucky who called himself CHRISTOPHER MARIA. He stated that MARTIN was desirous of obtaining some of the phony certificates of ordination and consecration used by STANLEY and to forward them to Washington, D.C. He said that MARTIN asked his assistance in this investigation and that he accompanied MARTIN to Louisville. He stated that he received only part of his fee for the investigation conducted with MARTIN. FERRIE said that he was slow in catching on to MARTIN but determined that MARTIN WAS dealing in phony certificates. He said that he regarded MARTIN as being an unethical and dangerous person. FERRIE claimed that in 1962 MARTIN disappeared from the scene and after several months suddenly re-appeared. He stated that MARTIN began visiting him at the office of attorney G.WRAY GILL and that Mr. GILL did not want MARTIN hanging out around his office. FERRIE claimed that in June of 1963 he put MARTIN out of Mr. GILL’S office in an undiplomatic manner and that since that time MARTIN has bedeviled him in every manner possible.
“FERRIE said that he had learned that some time after he put MARTIN out of Mr. GILL’S office MARTIN was moving around to various parts of the United States contacting first one clergyman and then another who were connected with the old Catholic Church trying to get ordained and gave FERRIE’S name as a character reference… FERRIE said he also learned that MARTIN had been a sergeant in the U.S. Army and while in the service had been mixed up in obtaining phony degrees in medicine, chiropractic and naturopathy by finding a college that was not in operation but whose charter was not defunct…”
During his November 27, 1963 FBI interview, Attorney G. Wray Gill stated that “Ferrie and Martin were once close friends until they got involved in an ‘ecclesiastical’ deal.” This “ecclesiastical deal” concerned Ferrie’s membership in the Apostolic Orthodox Old Catholic Church (AOOCC). Although details are scant concerning Ferrie’s involvement with the church, Gill informed the Feds that Martin tried to use Ferrie’s standing in the AOOCC to leverage his way into the clergy, which apparently was one of the factors that led to a dispute between the two men, as Ferrie was unwilling to give Martin an endorsement. Due to these events, Ferrie and Martin had a contentious falling out, partly due to the so-called “ecclesiastical deal.” The FBI’s interview with Ferrie was followed a couple days later with this memo:
On February 22, 1967—just one day after Ferrie’s sudden and (some say) mysterious death—Carl John Stanley (aka the Most Reverend Christopher Maria Stanley) placed a call to the Louisville PD, the details of which were passed on to the FBI and captured in the memo below:
Included with the Stanley-FBI memo was the Most Reverend’s rap sheet, a portion of which I’ve included for your possible reading enjoyment. I found it somewhat humorous that a couple of Stanley’s convictions resulted from obscene letters, which—for a man of the cloth—seemed a bit odd… but what part of this story isn’t?
At some point, Garrison wove together his Odd Sects theory like a manic Carrie Mathison in the The Homeland with news clippings, push pins and red strings on the wall, connecting Ferrie to odd ducks like Carl Stanley—and a whole host of other marginal figures—all part of some feverish plot involving rogue men of the cloth moonlighting as CIA hit men.
In Garrison’s “Odd Sects” files you’ll find any number of oddball letters from fringe ministers who wrote in for no other reason, it seems, than to commend Garrison on his investigation and lend their moral support. Each time Garrison or his staff received one of these beauties, into the Odd Sects files it would go!
During Rev. Broshears deposition before Garrison, he identified a number of mail order religions he’d been involved with, such as Kirby Hensley’s Universal Life Church (ULC) in Modesto, California, that in 1967 ordained Rev. Raymond Broshears as a self styled man of the cloth.
The ULC became renowned for ordaining anyone at the drop of a hat—all you had to do was write into headquarters in Modesto, California, to request ministerial credentials and before you knew it your very own embossed certificate was speeding to you in the mail. Discordian Society founder Greg Hill was an ordained ULC minister, and in many ways modeled certain aspects of Discordianism after the ULC, in particular the mantra that anyone could become an ordained minister (or Discordian pope) just by asserting the privilege. The ULC identifies itself “as a non-denominational religious organization founded on a simple doctrine, ‘Do that which is right,’ and states that every person has the natural right (and the responsibility) to peacefully determine what is right.”
The ULC was a nexus for free thinkers, crackpots, draft dodgers, and con men alike. It was through the ULC that Broshears became associated with several of Garrison’s suspects, including Fred Crisman, who was alleged to have been one of the mystery tramps picked up in Dealey Plaza in the aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination.
In his deposition, Broshears was questioned about Crisman and an equally sketchy Crisman associate named Thomas Edward Beckham. Garrison’s investigators showed Broshears a series of photos of suspected conspirators, one of whom was Beckham.
It appears that Broshears was recruited by Garrison as an informant, due to a letter I came across in the GLBT archives dated August 26, 1968, that Broshears sent to the ULC’s Kirby Hensley with the following request:
“…Dr. Hensly[sic], do you have a pic of yourself, Dr. Crisman, Dr. Brister for publication in the next issue of LIGHT? If so, I would sure appreciate them. I already have one of Beckham. I will get one of Brother Douglas this week. This is for a special Universal life section we are preparing…”
“LIGHT” in the letter referred to Broshears’ newsletter, Light and Understanding. It appears Broshears was using this request as a come-on to obtain photos (for Garrison’s investigators) of Hensley, Crisman and other supposed “Odd Sects” suspects. To close his letter, Broshears requested that Dr. Hensley send “minister ordinations” to four members of Garrison’s team: Barbara Reid, Steve Jaffee, James Alcock, and Louis Ivon. This request was most likely a pretext to assist them in infiltrating the ULC, and gather information on other ULC members that Garrison linked to the assassination.
The key evidence that got Garrison hot on Fred Crisman’s trail came in the form of a couple dodgy letters sent from anonymous sources, one of which included the allegation that Crisman was “the first man that Clay [Shaw] called after being told he was in trouble…” However, there’s no evidence that Shaw and Crisman ever actually knew each other.
This link will take you to some of the other phony Crisman docs that ended up in Garrison’s inbox and afterwards provided endless fodder for conspiracy buffs in the years to follow. As you peruse said documents, you will notice that our friends at the FBI or CIA (or some other alphabet soup agency) stamped FABRICATION on several pages to inform future generations of conspiracy sleuths that they were big, fat fakes.
According to researcher Larry Hancock, who has probably taken the deepest dive down this Crisman-Beckham rabbit hole:
“Crisman’s self-promotion was so obsessive and all-encompassing that I strongly suspect he himself wrote the anonymous letters to Garrison, identifying himself as a suspect.”
Beckham—in his mid-twenties at the time of his testimony—described himself as an entertainer, psychologist, criminologist and evangelist. So he was a pretty busy guy. The claim of being a psychologist, it appears, was a title Beckham bestowed upon himself using phony credentials. As for being an evangelist, Beckham received his ordination papers from a shifty character in Toronto named Earl Anglin James, a bishop in the Old Roman Catholic Church.
Garrison claimed that David Ferrie had placed calls to an unlisted number in Toronto supposedly belonging to the aforementioned Earl Anglin James. In a press interview from November 1967, James denied any association with Ferrie, and stated that the only call he had ever received from New Orleans was “in March 1965 and it was from Mr. J. S. Martin. It was personal.”
In 1970, the Toronto P.D. came into possession of a stolen wallet belonging to James, and while going through its contents discovered a number of phony cards, including the sampling below, which included Louisiana law enforcement credentials. It’s my suspicion that Jack Martin was responsible for some of these fake cards. As Beckham noted in his grand jury testimony, he became a protégé of Martin’s because he wanted to acquire all of his “cards.”
As for Beckham’s criminology degree, that was a caper he and Crisman cooked up during the period they first met in late-1965, at which time our dynamic duo formed a number of dummy corporations that included the “Northwest Relief Society,” “Professional Research Bureau,” “Associated Ambulances,” and, most notably, the “National Institute of Criminology, Inc.” from which they advertised a “PHD” course costing several hundreds of dollars. The Seattle FBI Field Office determined that “the firm is very likely a confidence game aimed at those with very little educational background.” According to the Dean of Beckham research, Larry Hancock: “Crisman was involved in bunco activities with Beckham that included stolen car trafficking connected to a car lot in Miami…”
As for the entertainer bit, Beckham promoted himself as a singer going by the name of Mark Evans. During Crisman’s grand jury testimony, when asked about his first visit to New Orleans, he replied:
“I came here with a young man [in early 1966], Tom Beckham, he has a show name of Mark Evans. It was in the vain hope that we could promote a record he was getting ready to cut and I was unfortunate enough to believe that he could promote it here and I went ahead and financed the trip and it turned out to be nothing…”
According to researcher Mike Sylwester:
“While working for the radio station, Subject [Crisman] acquired some knowledge about how the music industry operated. He understood that if a singer managed to sell a certain number of records, then his records would get more air time, which increased the record sales, and this process snowballed. [Crisman] therefore got involved in a scheme to artificially purchase large amounts of records…”00001
One of the more intriguing aspects of Beckham’s testimony was his purported association with Jack Martin dating back to 1960. According to Beckham, he idolized Martin, and for some inexplicable reason modeled his life after him, which was a totally crazy thing to do given the fact that Martin (real name Edward Stewart Suggs) was an alcoholic with a sordid criminal history and sociopathic tendencies. According to researcher, Dave Reitzes:
He was arrested in January 1945 in Fort Worth, Texas, for carrying a pistol; he was fingerprinted in Los Angeles in December 1945; he was arrested in December 1947 for disturbing the peace in San Diego and again in May 1949 in Dallas. He later would be investigated on numerous occasions for allegedly impersonating a doctor, an FBI agent, a CIA employee, a US Army colonel, and an ordained priest. Subsequent to his 1949 arrest, Suggs moved to Texas.
In Houston, Suggs took up a new trade as practitioner of illegal abortions. In 1951, he fled the state when one of his unfortunate patients, one Helen Nichols, died shortly after undergoing an operation at the hands of “Dr. Suggs.” A state grand jury indicted Suggs for murder in June of that year.
Suggs was arrested in Los Angeles on May 2, 1953, as a fugitive from Texas, but he managed to get the murder charge dismissed. He would later describe his philosophy of life as, “The strong take from the weak and the smart take from the strong,” and he “considers himself one of the smart.” He related the details of the “‘murder rap’ he was involved in” and bragged that he “outsmarts everyone.”
In March 1954, Suggs was fingerprinted in Galveston, Texas, for vagrancy and a drunk-and-disorderly charge. Soon after this, he moved to New Orleans and adopted the name, John Stewart Martin, Sr. He had difficulty holding a job and was largely supported by his wife, Paula. Concerned about his erratic behavior and excessive drinking, Mrs. Martin eventually insisted that her husband enter an alcohol treatment program in the Psychiatric Department of Charity Hospital.
In January 1957, Martin caused a disturbance in a New Orleans store and told store authorities he was an FBI agent. The FBI “instituted inquiries in this matter… and determined that he [Martin] was in a psychiatric ward [at] Charity Hospital, New Orleans as of January 17, 1957. His psychiatrist informed our agents that Suggs was suffering from a character disorder…”00002
Beckham followed his mentor’s lead by getting into a number of scrapes himself. In February of 1961—during Army basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks—Beckham went AWOL, and in short order found himself in the stockade. As is typical in such cases, the Army figured it best just to let him go. Beckham resurfaced later that year in New Orleans where he was arrested for vagrancy.
In 1962, Beckham was running a scam called the “United Cuban Relief Missionary Force” that was subsequently dismantled by the FBI. As part of this con, Beckham sported a clerical collar, pretending to be a Catholic priest, while soliciting donations that he apparently pocketed. That same year he was charged with the rape of a minor, and a second vagrancy charge. Some priest.
Although Beckham repeatedly named-dropped Jack Martin as a close associate and mentor in his House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) testimony, there’s no other evidence I’ve seen to confirm that the two men had actually known one another. I recently posed this question to researcher Larry Hancock, and this was his response:
“I found indications that Beckham was known to some of the street guys who served as sources and runners for Guy Bannister and there is ample reason to think Beckham knew of Bannister and his office – Beckham was a street guy and was charged with a couple of minor robberies along with the underage wife thing before he got his DJ job with the radio station. No sign that he ever knew Jack Martin though.”00003
Like his supposed mentor Martin, Beckham had a history of psychological instability, and was in and out of loony bins during 1962 and 1963, and then later a return visit in 1974. In the latter part of the ‘60s, Beckham shifted his base of operations to Omaha, Nebraska, and spent part of his time traveling around the country preaching the good word, as documented in this letter to our very own Rev. Ray Broshears!
When quizzed by Garrison’s investigators about Rev. Broshears, Beckham gave one of his typically inscrutable answers:
At some point, Garrison got a bee in his bonnet that Beckham was a CIA assassin—but of course Garrison was convinced that everybody and his mother were CIA agents at one time or another, so make of that what you will.
When Beckham was pressed by Garrison about whether he had moonlighted with the CIA—or had known Clay Shaw or David Ferrie—Beckham steadfastly denied these allegations. However, a decade later—during testimony before the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations—Beckham was now singing a completely different tune, claiming he’d indeed been recruited as a would-be CIA assassin by none other than Fred Crisman. Around the time of his HSCA testimony, Beckham was shopping around a “300-page manuscript about the assassination,” so this may have been a ploy to wrangle a book deal. Beckham seemed to be one of those guys always on the make.
In 2005, Joan Mellen jumped the Thomas Beckham shark with A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, and the Case that Should Have Changed History. The ironically titled Farewell to Justice includes a number of Beckham-related revelations that read like JFK assassination fan fiction, including claims that Fred Crisman and Jack Martin had been Beckham’s CIA handlers, all part of some dastardly plot to groom “Tommy” (as Mellen endearingly refers to him) as an alternate patsy (ala Oswald) in a conspiracy featuring the usual Garrison suspects. Mellen’s source for the Beckham material was none other than Beckham himself, who had somehow snookered his way back into the JFK assassination fray during the 2000s, at the same time he was peddling his self published Remnants of Truth: Revealing Evidence on the Jim Garrison Investigation under the moniker of T.E. Beck’am. This alternate spelling of his name seemed associated with Beckham’s claim he’d became a full-fledged rabbi during this period. In 2003, Rabbi T.E. Beckham founded “The Spanish-American Rescue League Inc,” an LLC that received what’s known as a “Standing B” status from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). (Standing B basically means “bad”). This wasn’t Beckham’s first run-in with the BBB, as they’d been busting his chops as far back as 1967. But you can’t keep a good con down.
The key piece evidence Mellen presented in her book was a letter Fred Crisman allegedly “bestowed upon Thomas Edward Beckham…a government document meant never to be seen…The letterhead is not that of the CIA, but ‘United States Army Air Defense Command’ suggesting that many elements of President Eisenhower’s ‘military industrial complex’ contributed to a collaborative effort to murder John F. Kennedy, an effort in which the CIA stood in the front line…a number connoting his military service name is on this document, along with his correct social security number….The document describes Thomas Edward Beckham’s ‘intelligence service from October 27, 1963,’ under ‘Gov Control Fact Finding Missions.’00004 According to this letter, Beckham was “taught how to be an assassin” in 1963 at Camp Peary, a “CIA training installation…also known as The Farm.”
In my recent email exchange with Larry Hancock, I asked if he had any knowledge of this letter, and this was Larry’s reply:
“Crisman was a proven forger, with a tendency to steal blank stationary from various agencies and departments to use for his work. I advised Joan [Mellen] of that as well as gave her several warnings about Beckham but I’m afraid she decided to trust him as a sincere source…I have no doubt the letter you reference is a Crisman forgery. The ‘United States Army Air Defense Command’ did exist from ‘57 to ‘74 and its primary responsibility was NIKE anti-aircraft missile bases. Crisman may have swiped stationary from them, there were sites in Seattle and at Hanford. It goes without saying that no agency would ever put what was in that letter in print…”
“United States Army Air Defense Command” sounds strikingly similar to an outfit called “Defense Industrial Security Command” that never actually existed, and is cited in a curious tome entitled Nomenclature of an Assassination Cabal (1970).
Also known as the Torbitt Document, it was authored by the pseudonymous William Torbitt, and claimed that:
“The chain of evidence connecting Albert Osborne, Fred Lee Chrismon[sic], alias John M. Bowen, Permindex, and his co-workers became iron clad when a Black Star photographer snapped a picture a few minutes after the assassination of Chrismon, alias Bowen, and two of his charges in the process of being arrested by two young Dallas police officers at Dealey Plaza. Fritz later released all three. The Chrismon, alias Bowen, arrest picture received limited public distribution in 1969 when it was published in the Midlothian Mirror by Penn Jones, the Texas editor.
Co-Director of the Mexico based assassins, John H. Bowen, alias Fred Lee Chrismon, alias Free Lee, alias Jon Gould, alias Jon Gold, and Thomas Beckam [sic], front, and another assassin in the process of being arrested at Dealey Plaza immediately after the assassination.”
One curiosity that jumps out of the above text was the misspelling of the names of both Beckham and Crisman, which seemed intentional and perhaps a way to avoid a potential libel suit.
The smoking gun that some point to as proof of Beckham’s role in the JFK assassination is a photo of Beckham, Oswald and others in front of the New Orleans Trade Mart. According to Larry Hancock, the New Orleans Trade Mart photo “…shows Beckham chatting with his underage wife and some of her friends – they are off to the side of a photo showing Oswald on the same street passing out leaflets. Beckham appears to be paying no attention to Oswald at all…his attention is totally focused on the young women.”
In the mid-2000s, researchers started digging into Beckham’s recent activities and discovered a Kentucky LLC called the Life Management Clinic.
Although this link no longer lists Beckham’s bio, back in 2006 the Life Management Clinic website provided the following info:
r. Thomas Edward Beckham
Dr. Beckham has a degree in Osteopathic Medicine and is educated in both non-allopathic and allopathic medicine, as well as multiple mental health disciplines. He is an internationally known author and speaker…His professional certifications and memberships include the National Association of Forensic Counselors, International Association of Counselors and Therapists, American Medical Directors Association, American Institute of Clinical Psychotherapists, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and International Association of Pastoral Psychologists. Dr. Beckham serves as our Clinical Director making him responsible for all staff, oversight, budgeting and general actions of Life Management Inc. His experience in this role is without parallel.
Beckham continued creating sketchy LLC’s in the years to come. In 2008, he launched a corporation called “World Congress For Justice and Human Rights, Inc.”
In 2012, an individual I assume to be our very own Dr. Beckham rolled out another sketchy enterprise called “The American Institute of Clinical Psychotherapists, Inc.” Beckham’s apparent partner in this operation was an evangelical minister named Josiah Drawhorn.
If that wasn’t enough, I was surprised to find a Youtube video of “Rabbi Dr. Beckham” preaching before a congregation in 2011. Admittedly, I only lasted a couple of minutes with this video, so if you want to torture yourself further go here.
The video is linked to a website no longer active called http://www.shalomrabbi.net/ which I’m guessing was registered our beloved Dr. Rabbi Beckham. However, if you’re jonesin’ for more Dr. Beckham goodness, I discovered he has a blog which appears to be active! On it, Dr. Rabbi dispenses pearls of wisdom he probably copy and pasted from other sources.
Jim Garrison’s “Odd Sects” was further fleshed out by author Peter Levenda with his “Wandering Bishops” theory concerning a network of consecrated con men engaged in political witchcraft. According to Levenda, this lineage of Wandering Bishops started with a schism in Catholicism at the end of the 19th century that resulted in the emergence of the Old Roman Catholic Church, which also appears to have spun-off from the Russian Orthodox Church. This, in turn, gave rise to a smattering of splinter sects which produced “a weird world of monks, priests, and bishops” that crept clandestinely about the country, concealed in the cloak of religion.
This supposed band of Wandering Bishops included the usual “Odd Sects” suspects: Beckham, Crisman, Martin and Ferrie, not to mention our very own Rev. Ray Broshears who got lumped into Levenda’s mix of religious nuts, no doubt due to his association with the Garrison investigation. It’s Levenda’s contention that these Wandering Bishops basically used their religious organizations as fronts for intelligence operations to promote fascist agendas that included the assassinations of U.S. political figures.
Levenda’s entrée into the weird world of Wandering Bishops began in the late ‘60s when he was a “familiar face for about a year at the headquarters of the Old Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn, New York…as well as the American Orthodox Catholic Church headquarters in the Bronx.“ These activities involved trying to pass himself off as a priest to avoid getting shipped off to Vietnam. It was through the American Orthodox Catholic Church that Levenda became acquainted with Archbishop Walter Myron Propheta, who he has described as a right wing wacko somehow involved in the JFK assassination. While I doubt Propheta had any real connection to JFK’s assassination, he did indeed make his way into Garrison’s Odd Sects files.
I suspect Propheta’s letter was something Levenda discovered among a trove of Garrison investigation documents that were released in the early 1990s, and from it he wove together his “Wandering Bishops” storyline, which like a lot of Levenda’s material is highly entertaining while at the same time connects dots in a, shall we say, somewhat speculative fashion. Whatever the case, the connecting link—Odd Sects to Wandering Bishops—seems to be Jack Martin, who is named in Propheta’s letter. Martin, in my estimation, was probably the guiding light behind a lot of the Odd Sects conspiracies that bedeviled Garrison’s brain.
In Dead Names, Levenda—using the “Simon” pseudonym—claims that it was through his association with certain Wandering Bishops that he came upon a copy of the original Necronomicon, a grimoire featured in the tales of H.P. Lovecraft that was supposedly written in Damascus in the 8th century A.D. by the “Mad Arab,” Abdul Alhazred.
The Necronomicon was supposedly reprinted in a number of languages including Latin, Greek and English, and then at some point was lost to the ages, mainly because everyone who messed around with the cursed thing ended up dying in a mysterious and/or gruesome manner. Long story short, Simon aka Levenda claimed he came into possession of the only existing copy ofThe Necronomicon in the late-1960s, then afterwards translated it from Greek so your average Joe on the street could summon their very own Cthulhu! This translated version of The Necronomicon—mass marketed as non-fiction in 1977—is considered one of the great literary hoaxes of our times.
Curiously enough, the Cthulhu Mythos was featured in Wilson and Sheas’ Illuminatus! where it was interwoven with a kitchen sink of conspiracies that revolved around the Bavarian Illuminati, ritual magick, and nazi occultism—central themes Levenda later explored in Unholy Alliance and Sinister Forces.
This leads your humble author to conclude that The Necronomicon was deeply influenced by Illuminatus!
Levenda has been steadfast, over the years, in his denial that he was/is Simon, although The Necronomicon is registered at the U.S. Copyright Office with “Simon” listed as Levenda’s pseudonym. The one thing Levenda has been consistent about is his evasiveness in this matter, as he’s continued to try to distance himself (to the point of absurdity) from the persona of “Simon.”
More recently, Levenda has been involved with Tom Delonge’s To The Stars Academy, a group dedicated to UFO Disclosure, which segues nicely into what will be our next startling installment of this series: The Raymond Broshears Files Part 00003: Flying Saucer Attack!
Aside from Jim Garrison’s On The Trail of the Assassins (Amazon), the first book to address, in any depth, Kerry Thornley’s alleged role in the JFK assassination was Joe Biles’ In History’s Shadow: Lee Harvey Oswald, Kerry Thornley & the Garrison Investigation (Amazon).
Biles’ claimed that Thornley—on account to his supposed CIA affiliations—was well looked after by intelligence agency handlers as payment for his participation with a shadowy New Orleans cabal that conspired to assassinate JFK. According to Biles:
“Garrison investigator Jim Rose would later learn that Thornley had two homes in Florida, one in Miami and one in Tampa, as well as two cars. The Tampa residence, where Thornley lived, was a large white frame house on a one acre lot. Thornley was single and supposedly had only worked as a waiter and doorman at a few apartment houses.” 1
Yours truly has reviewed hundreds of letters in the Discordian Archives dating from the mid-60s until Thornley’s death in the late-90s, and in these letters one can trace his whereabouts and activities, in particular during the Garrison investigation period. Biles’ assertion that Thornley owned two homes in Tampa has no factual basis. Kerry lived on the edge of poverty most of his life (he never owned a house), and was homeless for extended periods. At one time he even made his home in a renovated chicken coop in Tujunga, California.
The only accurate statement—in the above passage from In History’s Shadow—is that Kerry lived in Tampa, and that his employment over the years included jobs as a waiter and doorman. Among other occupations, Kerry edited a Libertarian newsletter, The Innovator, during the mid-60s, in addition to working other odd jobs, including as a dishwasher, a job he performed at a variety of restaurants in Florida and later, Georgia.
Biles maintains that Kerry was single, another glaring goof-up. For the record, Kerry married Cara Leach in Palos Verdes, California in December 1965. They separated in the early 1970s.
Biles’ claim that Kerry owned two cars is also bunk. As was the hippie fashion of the day, he and Cara owned a VW van during the period they lived in Los Angeles, which they later sold to help fund their move to Florida in the autumn of 1967. From that point forward, Kerry never owned another vehicle.
After relocating to Florida, Kerry and Cara—with their infant son, Kreg—lived in an “inexpensive place” in the Palm River District on the outskirts of Tampa, settling there in late 1967 just as the Garrison investigation started heating up. Soon afterwards, they moved to a rented cottage on Marlin Street near the Yacht Club where Kerry worked as a dishwasher. Kerry’s mode of travel at this time was a used $8 bike he purchased from Goodwill. So much for the fantasy he was some sort of well paid CIA super spook. During this period, Greg Hill and Bud Simco visited Kerry in Tampa. According to Simco:
“The only real time we had to visit was while Kerry was at work. So Greg and I went with him and washed dishes at the Yacht Club for free—just to hang out in the kitchen to visit with Kerry… and it was a lot of fun—we did that for a day or two. And the management, they were really amazed that people would do that—these three guys back there washing dishes, two of them for free—all of them, by all appearances, over qualified to be washing dishes… And they couldn’t figure out why Kerry was back there washing dishes because he was obviously a very intelligent person, and they knew he was a writer—basically that’s what Kerry said: “I just want to write—I just want to cover the basic minimum daily requirements, and be left alone to write.” 2
Jim Rose’s entrée into the Garrison investigation came courtesy of former FBI guy William “Bill” Turner, who during this period was freelancing for Ramparts magazine and dabbling in JFK assassination research. At some point, Garrison passed on leads in the case to Ramparts editor Warren Hinkle, which Hinkle passed along to Turner. (Hinkle and Turner would later co-author The Fish is Red: The Story of the Secret War Against Castro (Amazon). Soon after, Turner inserted himself into Garrison’s investigation and brought with him Jim Rose, who had also freelanced at Ramparts.
Although Rose used a number of aliases (Jim Rhodes, Vince Rose, Carl Davis and Steve Wilson) his real name was E. Carl McNabb (as far as I’ve been able to ascertain), but for clarity’s sake we’ll just call him “Jim Rose” because that’s how he’s most often identified in memos, letters and articles from the period. According to Warren Hinkle:
“We called him Jim Rose. At least that was the name by which he was known to everyone on the magazine, including one of the secretaries with whom he took up housekeeping between derrings-do. But he had a name for every day of the week. He was Jack Carter when he worked in Miami, until later he became too hot and decided to ‘kill off’ Carter by simulating a plane crash at sea, thus discouraging the spoilsports in the F.A.A. from inquiring further into the checkered history of Carter’s flight plans. He had several newspaper clippings reporting his own death, which he would exhibit with the eager shyness of someone showing you an appendix scar or bottled gallstone. He was also known as Dawes, also as McLeish, also as several other people, among which I was always partial to Rose, because of Gertrude Stein and all. But by any name he was, as Damon Runyan said about those types who stand out among other types of their type, the ‘genuine item.’ He loved adventure, and second only to that he loved talking about adventure.” 3
Although Hinkle considered Rose a real deal soldier of fortune with intelligence agency connections up the wazoo, others connected to the Garrison investigation were less enthralled with the seemingly self created legends swirling around the enigmatic Mr. Rose. Rose claimed he’d worked as a CIA contract pilot, and had flown missions—at one time or another—with one of Garrison’s key suspects, the notorious David Ferrie of red wig fame. However, Rose said many things to many people that more often than not never really panned out. Just the same, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Rose was involved in paramilitary activities linked to the CIA.
Strange bedfellows such as Jim Rose suggest that Garrison showed little hesitation about recruiting into his investigation former intelligence agents or assets from the very same agencies that he theorized were behind JFK’s assassination—such “former” agents or assets that could potentially serve as moles and undermine his own investigation. And that’s exactly what Garrison later claimed: that his investigation had been infiltrated by former CIA spies and ultimately sabotaged. In particular, a character named Bill Boxley (aka William Wood), a former CIA spook who—prior to hooking up with Garrison—had apparently been booted from the agency due to frequent bouts with the bottle. Boxley and Garrison eventually had a falling out and Boxley jumped ship and ended up working on Clay Shaw’s defense team.
Even though Garrison was knee deep in his belief that the FBI and/or CIA were attempting to sabotaged his case, he nonetheless possessed an almost fan boy fascination with former spooks. The first time Rose met with Garrison at the D.A.’s office, he was frisked by staffer Lou Ivon, who apparently overlooked a deadly ballpoint pen Rose was carrying. “It’s napalm,” Rose explained. “If I shot you, your face would go up in flames.” 4 Garrison endearingly dubbed Rose, “Winston Smith,” then later “Winnie the Pooh,” and “Rosalie.”
Although Rose wasn’t officially on Garrison’s payroll, he was compensated through a slush fund called “Truth or Consequences” that set up by a group of wealthy right wing Garrison supporters. Among his many activities, Rose was paid a thousand dollars upfront to travel to Tacoma, Washington, to investigate Fred Crisman, another among the many colorful alleged JFK assassination conspirators targeted by Garrison.
On a trip in the Northwest in 1968, Fred Newcomb (a JFK assassination researcher and graphic artist commissioned by Harold Weisberg to touch up Kerry Thornley’s photo), spent a couple of days in Tacoma, following up leads on Crisman. While there, Newcomb learned that Rose had been snooping around town earlier that year and making claims that “Chrisman [sic] had been known to transport large sums of money to several cities in the country and that he had no visible means of support.” Rose later claimed that he had been shot at while in Tacoma and barely got out of town alive. 5
As for Crisman’s alleged role in Garrison investigation bingo, he was accused of being one of the three mystery tramps (presumably up to no good in Dealey Plaza) that had been picked up by Dallas cops in the aftermath of the assassination. This was a theory originally promoted by Garrison’s “photographic expert,” Richard Sprague, based on information developed by Jim Rose’s mentor, Bill Turner, and then subsequently “investigated” by Rose.
These allegations against Crisman were later debunked in 1977 by the House Select Committee on Assassinations who determined that—on November 22nd, 1963—Crisman had been filling in as a substitute teacher at Rainer Union High School in Rainer, Oregon, his whereabouts corroborated in affidavits provided by three teachers in attendance that day: Marva Harris, Norma Chase, and Stanley Peerloom. 6
In On the Trail of the Assassins, Garrison spoke glowingly of Rose:
“…an urbane, very bright young man who had grown up in Latin America and spoke Spanish like a native; he was useful in interviews with Cuban exiles… [Rose] was accepted after a strong recommendation from Boxley, who had known him back in his agency days. Rose had a number of photographs showing himself instructing anti-Castro guerrilla trainees at the no name key training camp in Florida back in the early-60s.”
Garrison’s puffery aside, there’s no evidence that Rose actually served with the CIA. According to Big Jim’s glowing prose, Rose had been involved with training anti-Castro exiles, something that Fred Newcomb discovered after coming across a series of photos taken of these training exercises. Newcomb passed the photos along to his circle of assassination researchers that included Penn Jones, Jr., who was able to verify that Rose was indeed the mystery man in the photos identified as “Steve Wilson.” These associations cast a cloud of suspicion over Rose that he had infiltrated the Garrison investigation for dubious reasons.
1) Biles, Joe G. 2002 In History’s Shadow: Lee Harvey Oswald, Kerry Thornley & the Garrison Investigation. Writers Club Press. (Pages 66-67).
2) Author’s interview with Bud Simco, Feb 17, 2003.
3) Hinkle, Warren, April 1973, Esquire Magazine, “The Mystery of the Black Books”.
4) Mellen, Joan. 2005. A Farewell To Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, And The Case that Should Have Changed History. Potomoc Books.
5) “Memo on Jim Rose/Jim Rhodes/Vince/E. Carl McNabb with sidelights on Turner/Jaffee/Crissman/Sprague” by Fred Newcomb (Harold Weisberg archives).
6) Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives. 1979. (Page 607).
As we recently celebrated this past March, it has been FIVE years since Historia Discordia contributor Brenton Clutterbuck visited the Discordian Archives (both West and East Archive locations!) on his world-wide quest to document Modern Day Manifestations of Discordianism and meet the Discordian Popes around the world who keep Eris fnording.
And now his crazy idea has come to perfect Golden Apple fermentation on the auspicious Erisian date of May 5, 2018 (on the Kalendae Discordium date known as Setting Orange Discord 52nd, YOLD 3184), also coincidancing on Early Discordian Camden Benares‘ Discordian Holiday known as St. Gulik’s Day, with the publication of his years-long efforts now known as his newly released book Chasing Eris!
Go grab your very own copy via Lulu.com immediately.
I asked Clutterbuck for a few of his thoughts on the occasion of the release of Chasing Eris:
After years of horrifying experiments and strongly-worded letters from the Ethics Committee, my secret laboratory has finally produced the most significant marvel of International Chaos Science—my book Chasing Eris.
A note that I am totally wiped-out, weirded-out, and bedazzled by how willing people have been to get excited about this release—it’s very sweet and overwhelming to have my excitement and joy shared by so many of you weirdos, and I hope you know how simply humbled and delighted I am.
I have an e-book and some other tasty treats on the way, and if you’d like notification of when they arrive, you can sign up to my mailing list.
Keep the Lasagna Flying!
Congratulations, Clutterbuck! Eris abides on Chaos well done.
Check out a recent interview with Clutterbuck about writing Chasing Eris, some great deep-mind RAW stuff here:
Discordianism is the most influential parody religion you’ve never heard of. However, the half-century old “joke disguised as a religion” is experiencing something of a resurgence, with events such as Daisy Eris Campbell’s Cosmic Trigger play and the ‘Find the Others Festival’ organized by a team of chaotic pranksters including Ben Graham.
Now that chaos is returning to the UK (in style!), I talk to Ben Graham to look back on the long strange journey it’s taken to get here. From the pop sensation that burned a million pounds, to the reclaim the streets movement, Graham tracks chaos from comics to the Cosmic Trigger play.
Chaos culture is coming to you;
here’s where it’s coming from.
In 2015 trend forecaster K-Hole made a bold prediction; the next big thing would be Chaos Magic. To their credit, they seemed to have their finger firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist—bit by bit, Chaos seemed to start waking up. A sudden resurgence of interest in Discordianism—a chaos worshipping ‘joke religion’—saw multiple book releases from names such as Adam Gorightly and John Higgs. John Higgs also began to do a tour to promote the legacy of famous Discordian author Robert Anton Wilson. Robert Anton Wilson’s family regained copyright to his works and began publishing under the name Hilaritas press. Meanwhile his book Cosmic Trigger (Amazon) was adapted into a play by Daisy Eris Campbell, and a Discordian festival was announced in ‘a south Yorkshire woodland’.
Suddenly, Chaos seemed to be creeping out from nowhere. But of course it hasn’t come from nowhere—in fact, while Anarchy may get all the attention, Chaos in the UK has a long and appropriately complicated history.
On a cold evening in London, I spoke to writer Ben Graham, an organizer of Festival 23 and author of A Gathering of Promises: The Battle for Texas’s Psychedelic Music From the 13th Floor Elevators to the Black Angels and Beyond (Amazon), who agreed to guide me through the strange trajectory of British Chaos.
I meet him at a pub up the top of Paddington Station. He has a kind of geeky manner to him, and that delightful British politeness that we see in Hugh Grant movies, shaggy sandy hair framing a friendly face well speckled with rough stubble.
From Magic Manual to Comic Book
Ben starts his tour of the chaotic in his childhood; his first forays into these concepts of chaos came as a child reading comic books. Specifically, a hugely popular series called 2000AD—the series that spawned the character Judge Dredd.
“Basically 2000AD was a British kids comic starting 1977,” he says. “It’s still going today. It started as a fairly kind of violent high-end kids comic with science-fiction themes off the back of Star Wars… it was also a primer in Chaos Magic for a few years there because the guys who were writing it were slipping all this stuff in. Alan Moore, you had Grant Morrison very into it. You also had people who never really got out—like Pat Mills did a comic strip called Slaine which had a lot of Celtic mythology—very into magic ideas. I would have been reading it as a kind of 15/16 year old.”
Grant Morrison, would go on in the late-80s to publish a strip named Zenith, notable for its themes of Chaos Magic. Here, he took influence from Chaos Magician Peter Carroll, the founder of the Chaos Magic organization Illuminates of Thanateros. The inspiration was quite overt—too overt perhaps—at one point Carroll threatened legal action against Morrison.
“You had a kind of a mainstream kids comic where three out of five strips in it would be kind of Chaos Magic primers for kids,” Ben tells me. This early transferal of Chaos Magic ideas from Carrol’s somewhat obscure special interest publications, into mainstream youth popular culture was perhaps one of the first big steps that Chaos took into the mainstream of the British public’s imagination.
Chaos Magic has another notable influence; the ostensibly jocular religion of Discordianism. In his work Oven-Ready Chaos Phil Hine describes this influence:
An important influence on the development of Chaos magic was the writing of Robert Anton Wilson & co, particularly the Discordian Society who revered Eris, the Greek goddess of Chaos. The Discordians pointed out that humor, clowning about and general light-heartedness was conspicuously absent from magic, which had a tendency to become very ‘serious and self-important’. There was (and to a certain extent remains) a tendency for occultists to think of themselves as an initiated ‘elite’ as opposed to the rest of humanity.
Unlike the variety of magical systems which are all based in some mythical or historically-derived past (such as Atlantis, Lemuria, Albion, etc), Chaos magic borrowed freely from Science Fiction, Quantum Physics, and anything else its practitioners chose to. Rather than trying to recover and maintain a tradition that links back to the past (and former glories), Chaos magic is an approach that enables the individual to use anything that s/he thinks is suitable as a temporary belief or symbol system. What matters is the results you get, not the ‘authenticity’ of the system used. So Chaos magic then, is not a system—it utilizes systems and encourages adherents to devise their own, giving magic a truly Postmodernist flavor.
Robert Anton Wilson was himself one of the original Discordians, and is probably single-handedly the person most responsible for the spread of Discordian ideas through the series of books he wrote with his friend Robert Shea—The Illuminatus! Trilogy (Amazon). This strange trilogy featured Discordians fighting against the evil plans of the Illuminati, and proposed that nearly every conspiracy theory popular at the time of writing was simultaneously true.
Epic Productions: Illuminatus! on Stage and the KLF
The event that bought Wilson’s ideas across the pond from the USA was the adaption of his Illuminatus! Trilogy into a play in 1977. Such a feat seemed impossible to do; luckily the discovery of the trilogy came to Ken Campbell; a man who regarded nothing as worth doing unless it was impossible. He was also the father Daisy Eris Campbell, who recently produced the play of Wilson’s book Cosmic Trigger.
Campbell was a theatre legend. His production of Illuminatus! into a play was a testament to his drive and creativity—the final presentation was performed as five acts across five nights, followed by an epic 10 hour presentation of all acts together. The opening date—November 23, 1976—took advantage of the Discordian obsession with the number 23.
As part of Ben’s writing career, he had the opportunity to interview one of the participants in this epic scale caper—Bill Drummond, who had developed the visionary set design of the play, creating surreal sequences with sets out of proportion to the actors, and using innovative techniques to position audiences in surprising ways, such as presenting actors horizontally to allow for a birds eye view of a tarot reading.
“So when I interviewed him, it wasn’t long after Ken Campbell had died,” Ben tells me. “So I wanted to ask him about that. And he was very effusive about the influence Ken Campbell had had on him when he worked on the 1977 production of Illuminatus! at the Liverpool Theatre and how he introduced him to those book and those ideas. Also I didn’t realize that Ken Campbell had been a lifelong friend. He would go to his house, keep in touch, for dinner, stayed like a friend with his family, more or less up to the point where he died. He said he was like a friend, not just a mentor from way back. He’d lost somebody who was an important guiding light.”
“He was always working in the now, he wasn’t thinking in terms of making films, writing books; it was always like, the event, what’s actually happening in the room,” Graham’s 2010 Quietus interview quotes Drummond as saying. “That was one of the big things I learnt from Ken Campbell. And taking risks, and just making things happen. That continued to inspire me about what he does, what he did do, right up until he died. And so I always got a lot out of getting together with Ken Campbell, or going to see a Ken Campbell production.”
Drummond is actually more famous for his role in music than for his role in the Illuminatus! play. He, together with Jimmy Cauty, founded The KLF, a sample based pop outfit. Their original name was The JAMS, a name alluding explicitly to a group in Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus! Trilogy.
By the time Ben had had his interview, the band had been long broken up. They ended their career in an extraordinary way—by announcing their retirement, shutting down their record catalogue and traveling out to a small island on Jura to burn the money they made—an entire million pounds. (For those interested, aforementioned author John Higgs has brought this strange tale back into the spotlight with his book, The KLF: Chaos, magic and the band who burned a million pounds (Amazon.)
When the band first burned the money, they followed up with a tour where they invited audiences to ‘tell them’ why they burned the money. Ben was in attendance at one of these nights in 1995, and detailed it for his fanzine News From Nowhere.
“They came to Bradford where I was staying and did a showing, a Q&A. I took part in the Q&A, so I had some interaction with the guys but it wasn’t an interview. I did write up the piece. I kind of tied it in with a lot of Discordian Illuminati type thing to sort of put my spin on why they’d done that. It did kind of get back to the KLF chaps, and I gathered that they thought that that was kind of the best piece on it at the time.”
Ben later sends me a copy of it. It is a good piece. The mood of the gathering is palpable, an audience frustrated at being asked questions rather than being given answers, in parts angry, congratulatory and indifferent.
“It was at the One in Twelve Club, Bradford, which was the kind of Anarchist underground club there, so the quotes from the people watching it were that these were kind of rich pop-stars that were burning money that could have gone to a good cause—that it was kind of an indulgent, decadent act. The guys, when they were talking, they weren’t really trying to defend themselves. Their approach was that they were trying to say, ‘we’re trying to find out why we did it, you tell us why we did it, we want to hear your stories,’ so they were being a bit of a kind of blank canvas.”
At one point Graham describes some of the outbursts of the crowd, describing the reaction of a group of punks unhappy that no explanation would be forthcoming.
“How do you get rid of piles,” they demand, amidst assorted jeers and heckles.
“Grab ‘em in your hand, right, and shove ‘em back up yer arse and hold ‘em there,” demonstrates Bill.
“It was a hostile night for them I think at the One in Twelve. My take on it; I suppose I kind of thought that one thing—it was their money. People have wasted that amount of money, music people have made that amount of money and wasted it on far more frivolous things, not many people give it to a charitable cause—they spend it on cars, houses, drugs, whatever with that money. They chose to make an art project by burning it. And I think it was quite a good reaction, they did make people think about the notion of money, money is the relationship between the paper and whatever it is you value in the world.”
His article also quotes the following passage from The Illuminatus! Trilogy:
“And you know what they do with Federal Reserve notes. Every time they get one, they burn it. Instant demurrage, they call it.”
“I doubt that it’s literal that they kind of saw this reference in the book and either it gave them the idea or said that it justifies that. You know, it’s not like the Bible where you’re looking for quotes to justify or base your actions on. But I think the action of doing that was sort of in line with the ideas that came from Discordia and the Illuminatus!…”
“And the burning of the money—it is a random act in the sense that they—they sort of knew why they were doing it I think, but you don’t really know what the consequences are going to be. You know you’re taking this money and you’re burning it and it’s a big—it’s sort of a magical ritual. In that way I think it’s very much a Discordian thing to do. And they deleted their back catalogue. Seemed sort of very much, let’s destroy the idea of the KLF but also you’re sort of creating more of a myth you know, beyond the sort of money making, the actuality of the music business, actuality of the KLF—you’re actually furthering its mythical life.”
At one point in the article Graham quotes one of the pair saying they weren’t trying to make a big statement like “chopping off our hands or something.” The joke would have been lost on the audience—Bill publicly admitted seriously considering that mad idea in his book 45, released in 2000.
One interesting point made towards the end of the article is Graham quoting Bill talking about a gender divide; men were more likely than women to support the burning.
Temporary Autonomous Zones and Radical Rave Culture
“After the KLF, some of the Illuminati stuff did spread into more general rave culture for a few years when it was in its peak,” Graham tells me. He pronounces it Illumin-ar-tai. “Kind of in the early-90s people kind of talked on—sort of around ’87, ’88 but then it went more widespread. It was also in that period when you had in the UK, the kind of club, the rave sort of techno clubs crossed over with the older traveling free festival scene that sort of came with the guy in the 60s and 70s, Hawkwind, that had been traveling hippy dreadlocked guys, because of the ravers that had been having free festivals out in fields, they ended up teaming up with guys who’d been having hippy rock festivals in fields forever. Those guys ended up getting into a lot of techno music, but they would have been guys who were reading the Illuminatus! books in the early 70s. It had the whole kind of esoteric hippy knowledge and stuff behind it, and guys who’d been living outside society for like a decade or so, going around in buses and all sorts of stuff.”
“I don’t know how much you know about this stuff; the whole peace bus in the UK, the battle of the Beanfield at Stonehenge where police smashed up, destroyed buses and a whole community, then you had the Castlemorton Festival which led to the Criminal Justice Bill which is a law in the UK outlawing repetitive beats in public places which basically killed the outdoor bass scene. But when you had that whole scene going in the 90s, you had the club rave kids meeting the hippy travelers, one side being electronic techno music and ecstasy, and the other bringing this kind of like hippy philosophy and ethos and knowledge and it all kind of crossing over. And certainly I think a lot of the kind of Illuminati ideas. Suddenly it became cliché to be referencing the number 23 and something, for one thing.”
I mention to Ben the prevalence of the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, in the rave scene. This idea came from Hakim Bey, a philosopher, who described this concept of a space in which the usual laws did not apply in his 1991 book of the same name.
“Yeah,” says Ben. “And in practical terms that sort of crossed over into the reclaim the streets movement doesn’t it. What they were doing certainly kind of early on, there was a lot of theory behind it and the notion of Temporary Autonomous Zone was very much to do with what they were doing, going into the business area of London and having a big party and stopping the traffic. It wasn’t really a protest. Maybe a protest against business or car culture or whatever but at the same time it was the notion of the Temporary Autonomous Zone. It’s like the Situationist idea of beneath the pavements, the beach and in the heart of the city we can have a party, we can bring flowers, we can have a fete in the middle of the road, and that came out of that sort of politicized and radicalized rave culture. You know, they became the reclaim the streets movement and the anti-road protesters, it’s really the same people who’ve moved on from music just into protesting. They’re outdoors and they’re reclaiming their environment, on a kind of Utopian Situationist principle.”
He describes the recent Occupy as a natural outgrowth of reclaim the streets movement.
“It’s like William Burroughs says,” he tells me. “Artists legislate the world, they’re more powerful than politicians because artists create ideas and politicians just put things into action; good artists come up with something new and put it into the world and that kind of changes things.”
Ben Graham has joined forces with a number of other co-conspirators to be part of a contemporary Discordian celebration—Festival 23—that in part formed itself through the energies of the motley crew that came together for the ‘Conferestival’ that marked Daisy Eris Campbell’s opening of Cosmic Trigger. Festival 23 hosted a giant artwork by Jimmy Cauty—an industrial container filled with an epic post-riot miniature landscape. Ben Graham provided the writing on a leaflet that accompanied the artwork:
Both festivals and riots aspire towards freedom; both ultimately are only temporary negations of a stultifying status quo, but may lead to more long-term solutions catalysed by their unfettered expression of energy, anger, love and/or ecstasy. There is freedom in the heart of a riot; a wild abandon and a sense that suddenly anything is possible. Do what thou wilt is quite literally the whole of the law, for the law as defined by policemen, judges and politicians is shown to have no empirical natural authority. It is an assumed condition imposed by those temporarily in power, and can be overthrown both within and without by the will of the people, if only for a limited time and space. But if it can be done once, even for a few seconds, can such glorious lawlessness not be achieved again?
* * *
So did chaos jump from magic manual to comic book, find itself in fiction, transferred to stage before implanting itself in the minds of future pop superstars, whose rave hits implanted it into the culture of rave, and ultimately protest and party culture?
Well, of course not—such a story is far too clean for the messy madness that is chaos. But if there’s a lesson here, it’s that every strange step of history sets off another twenty-three steps in all sorts of directions. With so many chaotic steps bouncing off each other, how long do you think it will be before you too have the pleasure of being plunged into chaos?
My forthcoming book Chasing Eris will be released next month. The book documents my worldwide adventure to experience modern Discordian culture, meet its personalities, and the discovery of many elusive Erisian mysteries. —Brenton Clutterbuck
After leaving the Left Coast, Clutterbuck found himself in the most conservative Republican county in the United States, Cobb County, Georgia, where he got a good, hard look at the Discordian Archives East. Here are a few pics of his visit:
I recently received an email from a fellow named Ian Garlington, who goes by the handle of the Acidman. Ian wrote:
…I did my doctoral research at Osaka University’s American Literature department on the influence of psychedelics on American sf and comics and started reading a lot about Bob Wilson and then Thornley and then you. I write about Alan Moore and Grant Morrison and Thomas Disch as well and I was strongly influenced by the temperament of all of this.
I like your version of Kerry Thornley much more than his own version. You got him from all the best angles. I keep a picture of him next to my desk and used to tell my students that I was his reincarnation.
Thank you very much for the Historia Discordia… I read every page in extreme detail and took notes. I explained about it in my American history class at Kansai Gaidai University…
I found a copy Prankster and Conspiracy on a book shelf in a witch store in Osaka but when I asked they told me that none of the books were for sale. I found a note inside that said in English “Never show or tell anyone about this book.” I don’t know why anyone would say that.
Your message in that book about how greyface got Thornley in the end, may be the warning that may save my life not too far off.
No way, fate is like iron rails, right? We can only affirm that we don’t have any clue what is about to happen next but it will happen in spite of and maybe as a result of our best efforts to escape it.
And then I had a mystical vision in which Robert Williams (comix artist) appeared to me at the same time that I felt experiential knowledge of the fourth dimension. There was a lot downloaded and I tried to record what was happening with a camera and a mic but the main message of it was, “your mission is to study Spinoza. I lost interest in all else and eventually quit lecturing and moved back to devote myself to founding Portland Weed Church, Portland Association of Deleuze Studies, Oxford Cognitives, and the Adventures of Acidman (as a household brand).
I published my dissertation as a book while in Japan but have not distributed it until now. I would like to send a copy to you if you are interested in seeing any of it…
Ian did indeed send me his book, the cover of which includes his psychedelic acrylic art. The full title is The Adventures of Acidman: Psychedelics and the Evolution of Consciousness in Science Fiction and Superhero Comics from the 1960s Onward (Amazon), including chapters like “An Anatomy of Cosmic Conspiracy: The Function of Fragmentation in the Illuminatus! Trilogy” and “Comics’ Cosmic Poetry: Pyshcedelics, Chaos and the Poetics of Comics in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles.”
When I emailed Ian back asking if I could share his emails, he replied:
Yes, of course you can share that story. I was trying to find the VICE TV documentary about erotic witches in Tokyo where there are some interviews with the guy who is most likely the owner of the books on that shelf.
I met this man in person only once in a shower room in a psychiatric clinic where both patients and the doctor’s club friends were partying all night, mingling in an uninhibited environment (I believe I was invited as a “club friend” because the patients all said that they were visiting the clinic on a weekly basis, but you never know).
The warlock was completely naked. He asked me a few questions and then told me he thought it was my mission to balance the cosmic scales by forming a new branch of Discordianism capable of defeating the newest incarnations of Greyface (in Japanese). That is what I am doing now. I paraphrase this sometimes these days as “getting the heroic dose of psychedelics to the center of the singularity before Google Flesh Cyborg self lobotomizes.” Kind of a John Lilly level of cosmic dualistic struggle.
Here’s a YouTube of the Acidman creating some of his acrylic psychedelic art: