At the time, Vankin noted that he was considering writing Thornley’s biography, a notion that excited me immensely, as Vankin’s portrayal of Kerry in Conspiracies, Cover-ups and Crimes only whet my appetite for further revelations of one of the most curious characters to inhabit the counterculture and JFK assassination research scene of the 60s and 70s.
Here’s a fascinating article discussing Vankin’s coverage of Thornley from 1991 by John Strausbaugh, then-contributor and editor of The New York Press, then later host of the The New York Times’s “Weekend Explorer” podcast. This was a turning-point in Kerry’s life as IllumiNet Press was starting to publish Kerry’s works in a serious format, and subsequent coverage of Thornley, his works, and his story was being picked-up by earnest media types.
On Page 45, a haunting specter from Kerry Thornley’s past is summoned in this passage:
(Back at the Grassy Knoll, Howard Hunt’s picture is being snapped and will later turn up in the files of New Orleans D.A. Jim “The Jolly Green Giant” Garrison: not that Garrison ever came within light years of the real truth…)
For those unfamiliar with Thornley’s strange journey down the JFK assassination rabbit hole, I’ll refer them to a previous Historia Discordia post:
How E. Howard Hunt fits into Thornley’s JFK assassination odyssey dates back to the period in the early-60s when he was living in New Orleans and met a shadowy character referred to as “Brother-In-Law.” Kerry later grew to suspect that “Brother-in-Law” was actually the legendary aforementioned CIA spook, E. Howard Hunt, and that Hunt had manipulated Kerry into the role of a potential JFK assassination patsy had the Lee Harvey Oswald setup gone awry.
As for photos of Hunt in Dealey Plaza that later turned up in Jim Garrison’s files, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson were no doubt referring to the photos of the infamous Three Tramps that were picked up by the Dallas Police right after the assassination and then subsequently released, one of whom was dubbed the Old Man Tramp that many suspect was actually Hunt in disguise. Garrison contended that the Three Tramps were trigger men in the assassination, and Garrison actually showed the Tramp photos for the first time to a national TV audience on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show on January 31, 1968. During this period, Kerry Thornley became one of Garrison’s suspects in the case. In this regard, Kerry found himself in a somewhat awkward position, that of being a target of the underground press, as over the years he had written for such publications as the L.A. Free Press who now embraced Garrison as a counterculture hero, and so accepted the Garrison party line that Kerry was somehow involved in a JFK assassination conspiracy. This irony did not go unnoticed by RAW, who encountered a media blackout when trying to address Kerry’s case. As RAW later explained:
In ’67 or ’68, most of the underground press was publishing a lot of stuff pro-Jim Garrison, and this included Kerry’s role in the assassination. And I had lots of contacts in the underground press, so I started sending out articles defending Kerry, which nobody would print, because the underground press was behind Garrison and the official corporate media was totally anti-Garrison—I was trying to send the message to the wrong place.
On Page 50, Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon examine three alternatives to explain the apparent Illuminati plot they’ve uncovered:
(1) It is all true, exactly as the memos suggest; (2) it is partly true, and partly false; (3) it is all false, and there is no secret society that has endured from 1090 A.D. to the present.
In a previous post, I commented how Illuminatus! is a mental exercise of sorts in trying to distinguish what is true and what is false in the book. In their quest to bust the Illuminati, Goodman and Muldoon arrive at the theory that the clues they’ve uncovered suggest the same thing: that the reality of the Illuminati is both true and false. And perhaps that’s the final secret of Illuminatus! (maybe): that it’s partly true and partly false and it’s ultimately up to the reader to decide for themselves which parts are true and which are false—so it becomes a different reality tunnel for each reader/experiencer.
As I previously noted, the Teenset article was a perfect example of this, a real article in a real magazine, featuring a mix of fact and fiction, credited to a certain Sandra Glass, who never really existed to begin with and was actually Bob Shea in drag (and probably to some extent, RAW) making modern myths out of conspiratorial legends and pop culture influences while smoking a fair measure of pot for inspiration, one would imagine.
In Week 4, the “Illuminati Project: Memo #7” quotes The Roger Spark article “Daley Linked With Illuminati” which was another real article in a real newsletter (originating from the Chicago neighborhood, Roger’s Park) written by an anonymous author who once again was either Shea or RAW or both. This was during the time frame both Shea and RAW worked for Playboy magazine in Chicago, so I imagine one or both lived in or near Roger’s Park.
The Roger Spark piece contained a lot of the same information as the Teenset article, repeating the spurious rumor that Mayor Daley had shouted “Ewige Blumenkraft!” at the 1968 Democratic Convention, all part of Bavarian Illuminati shenanigans.
The times they were a changin’ back in ‘64. JFK had just been takin’ out and shortly after The Beatles emerged on the landscape to breathe a little positive vibe into the National Downer that’d just gone down the rabbit hole. Against this backdrop, Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley entered into perhaps their most productive collaborative period, sowing the seeds of what would become the 1st edition of Principia Discordia: Or How The West Was Lost.
Back in ‘61, Thornley and Hill moved to New Orleans where they engaged in a number of early Discordian activities, some of which were covertly copied on New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison’s mimeograph machine by a friend who worked in the D.A.’s office, Lane Caplinger, who just happened to be the sister of Grace Caplinger, later to become known to the world as actress Grace Zabriskie, none other than Laura Palmer’s mother among other notable roles. Garrison, of course, would play a larger and much weirder role in Thornley’s consciousness in the years to come, to be covered in greater depth in my forthcoming book, Caught In The Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Oswald and Garrison’s JFK Investigation, coming later this year from Feral House.
In ’63 — after JFK’s assassination — Kerry moved from New Orleans to Arlington, Virginia for a number of reasons, one of which included being in closer proximity to D.C. where the Warren Commission had recently convened, and Kerry — looking for an angle to promote his novel in the works, The Idle Warriors (the main character of which was modeled on Oswald before the Kennedy assassination) — was hoping to wrangle an appearance before the Commission. The rest, as we know, is a weird slice of history.
The documents I’ve posted here would — in the following year, 1965 — greatly influence the 1st edition of the PD, which will soon appear in its entirely for the first time in 50 “odd” years in our forthcoming book project Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society, coming soon from RVP Publishers.
In these early years, Hill and Thornley spent an inordinate amount of time developing a Discordian Society hierarchical structure that would eventually dissolve into nothingness when Greg Hill later decided to forgo any type of formal Discordian structure and turn the whole thing into an art collage project without rules and regulations, which led to a more free form approach to later editions of the Principia Discordia.
Some items to note include Kerry’s (Omar’s) mention that he sent a copy of “Why We Think The DS Is A Hot Item” to Grace Caplinger (Zabriskie), as well as what is perhaps the first formal mention of the fabled Law Of Fives, a document lovingly adorned with a slew of Greg Hill stamps, as he was wont to do.
Back in 2004, Brian Doherty of Reason Magazine reviewed The Prankster and the Conspiracy (Amazon Kindle, Paperback) and titled his review “Historia Discordia,” a title that, with Brian’s consent, I’ve decided to use for this website, as well as the forthcoming book Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society coming soon from RVP Publishers.
Reprinted with permission, here’s Brian’s article from Reason Magazine:
In 1962, Marine Corps Pvt. Kerry W. Thornley (and Discordian Society co-founder with Greg Hill) finished writing his first novel based on a friend and fellow Marine buddy, Lee Harvey Oswald, who strangely ended up defecting to the U.S.S.R. in the middle of the Cold War.
Little did Thornley know that his former friend, Oswald, who he used as a template for his main character Johnny Shellburn in his oh-so-hot-new-first novel, The Idle Warriors, would soon become the most-hated-man-in-America, unbelievably accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. As a founder of Discordianism, perhaps a young Kerry should have expected some turn-about-is-fnord-play from his sweetheart Eris, the Goddess of Discord, in this matter.
Through the book’s fictional Oswald-based character Johnny Shellburn, The Idle Warriors gives a rare and first-hand insight into the mind of the man who allegedly committed the most infamous crime of the 20th Century.
The Idle Warriors is Thornley’s fictional book written about Lee Harvey Oswald before the John F. Kennedy Assassination, making the work the only unique and pre-assassination artifact completely free of later events and their subsequent biases regarding Oswald and the JFK Assassination. Unfortunately, after the events on 11/22/63 in Dallas, Texas and the subsequent Warren Commission investigation which ended-up hauling Thornley into testify about his personal relationship with Oswald in the Marines and included interest of Thornley’s own pre-Assassination writings about America’s First Lone Nut Assassin, the original type-written manuscript was somehow lost by Kerry Thornley to his eternal dismay.
Believed by Thornley himself and others to be forever misplaced and forgotten, a copy of the The Idle Warriors‘ original manuscript was miraculously rediscovered and rescued from the National Archives in the early 1990s by an unlikely pair of fellows attending a Dairy Queen Christmas-time franchisee convention in Washington, DC, who happened to have a side-interest in JFK Assassination lore, research, and materials.
Thornley gave his a copy of The Idle Warriors manuscript to the Warren Commission as background information to Oswald’s life and motives, and it languished as an obscure evidence item in the National Archives. Originally submitted as exposition to his testimony, the manuscript by Thornley had mostly been forgotten. Over the years, Thornley came to misplace his only other copy of The Idle Warriors and came to believe he had lost all copies of the manuscript.
By some Discordian Xmas miracle, the Dairy Queen franchisee amateur researchers requested, and were oddly granted, special permission by the National Archives to deconstruct the Warren Commission’s copy of the manuscript page-by-page and allowed to photocopy Thornley’s type-written The Idle Warriors pages.
Eventually this photocopy was handed over to infamous conspiracy and innovator publisher Ron Bonds of IllumiNet Press who immediately published The Idle Warriors, in conjunction with Kerry Thornley with a new introduction by Best Evidence author David S. Lifton, in 1991 under the IllumiNet Press imprint, launching the Ron Bonds conspiracy publishing empire.
The only book about Oswald before the JFK Assassination was finally published. Hail Eris and Dairy Queen dip cones!
Here’s your Christmas miracle fnord excerpt from The Idle Warriors:
April 17, 1938:Kerry Thornley is born in Los Angeles to Kenneth and Helen Thornley.
1956: Kerry Thornley meets Greg Hill and Bob Newport while attending California High School (CalHi) in East Whittier, California.
1957: Kerry Graduates from CalHi.
1958: Kerry attends the University of Southern California as a journalism student. That same year, Kerry and Greg Hill form the Discordian Society.
1959: Kerry enlists in the Marine Corps and meets Lee Harvey Oswald and Bud Simco. Begins work on The Idle Warriors (Paperback). Oswald is dishonorably discharged from the Marines and defects to Russia.
1960: Kerry is discharged from the Marines and returns to Los Angeles.
1961: Kerry and Greg Hill move to New Orleans, where they meet Slim Brooks and Gary Kirstein, aka “Brother-in-law.”
June 1962: Oswald returns to the U.S. from Russia.
Nov 22nd, also known as “JFK Assassination Day,” is a high holy day in Discordianism—or if it’s not, it should be.
Discordianism—for those not in the know—is a religion that worships Eris, the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Discord, that was created (or revealed) to a couple of lads named Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley in a Southern California bowling alley in 1958. Afterwards, the official organization (or dis-organization) of the religion was dubbed The Discordian Society.
Numerous hints as to the mystical significance of bowling alleys and their relation to Discordianism can be found in the movie The Big Lebowski, such as the Dude’s preference for Lane 23. 23—it should be noted—is one of the holiest of numbers in Discordianism, second only to the number 5. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Law of Fives and other such holy wonders you’re encouraged to read The Principia Discordia, the Bible of the Discordian religion (or irreligion, as the case may be) which, in turn, became a major influence on the underground classic Illuminatus! So much so, that the authors of Illuminatus!—Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea—dedicated the first book in the trilogy to none other than Discordian founders, Hill and Thornley. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves….
Back in 1959, Kerry Thornley served in the Marines with none other than Lee Harvey Oswald, and was actually writing a novel based on Oswald three years before JFK’s Assassination. Thornley considered Oswald a bright and interesting fellow, although somewhat of a natural born screw off who could fuck up a wet dream. With that being said, Thornley was a bit of a loose cannon himself, constantly bouncing from one political stance to the next; one minute a card-carrying commie, the next moment an Ayn Rand Libertarian, then later transforming into an acid gobbling anarchist. Somewhere along the line, Thornley grew to detest JFK, mainly because of a United Nations supported massacre that took place in the Katanga region of the Congo that was endorsed by the Kennedy administration. So when Thornley—ever the irreverent one—got wind of Kennedy’s assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, he joked openly about the Pres’s death to co-workers at a restaurant where he waited tables, then later that evening he and a friend wound up at the bar where they made tongue-in-cheek toasts to the Marine Corps drill instructor who taught Oswald how to fire his rifle, offending most everyone in earshot. A couple of days later when his old friend Oswald got pumped full of lead to the point of being dead, all of Thornley’s laughter died in sorrow… But the story doesn’t end there.
During the period Thornley and his friend Greg Hill lived together in New Orleans in 1961, some of their early Discordian writings—that later made their way into the 1st ed. of the Principia Discordia (published in 1965) —were covertly copied, after hours, on New Orleans’ District Attorney Jim Garrison’s mimeograph machine by Hill’s friend, Lane Caplinger, a secretary in the office.
Oddly enough, when Garrison launched his JFK assassination investigation in 1967, Kerry Thornley became a key suspect in the case. To this end, Garrison claimed that Thornley was a deadly CIA agent who was part of a JFK assassination conspiracy, but Kerry claimed innocence and that he was being framed. It didn’t help his case that he had earlier joked about JFK’s death. Of course, Garrison had a lot of odd theories, including that Thornley was one of the notorious Oswald doubles and that the Discordian Society was a CIA front organization that had been involved in the assassination. Hail Eris!