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.
Of course, Vankin never got around to writing Thornley’s biography, so by the early 2000s I took it upon myself to dive down that particular rabbit hole, a journey which amazingly enough is still ongoing. I eventually pulled my research together in my biography of Thornley, The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture, currently still available in all those various formats we read now. Hail Eris!
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.
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.
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:
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.
November 1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
December 1963: Kerry moves to Alexandria, Virginia, and works as a doorman at the Shirlington House.
Spring 1964: Kerry testifies before the Warren Commission.
April 1965: Kerry’s book, Oswald (Paperback), is published by New Classics House.
December 1965: Kerry marries Cara Leach at Wayfarer’s Chapel near Palos Verdes, California.
Late 1965 through early 1966: Kerry begins experimenting with psychedelics. Meets Camden Benares.
1967: Kerry helps organize and participates in the first Griffith Park Human Be-In. Begins correspondence with Robert Anton Wilson.
Late 1967: Kerry and Cara move to Tampa, Florida. Jim Garrison launches his Kennedy assassination probe.
January 1968: Kerry is served with a subpoena to testify before the New Orleans grand jury in Jim Garrison’s investigation.
Later in 1968: Operation Mindfuck begins.
1969: Greg Hill creates the Joshua Norton Cabal. Kerry’s son Kreg Thornley is born.
1970: Perjury charges against Kerry in the Garrison investigation are dropped.
Late 1971: Cara and Kerry separate.
1973: Kerry’s memories of “Brother-in-law” come flooding back, and he suspects he was part of a Kennedy assassination conspiracy.
1975-1977: Kerry’s paranoia intensifies. He now suspects that Robert Anton Wilson is his CIA controller and part of a clandestine assassination bureau.
1980s: Kerry lives the life of a vagabond, hitchhiking from coast-to-coast. Most of his time is spent in Florida or Atlanta, with occasional trips to the West Coast.
1986-1987: Kerry begins circulating The Dreadlock Recollections (recounting his unwitting participation in a JFK assassination conspiracy) via samizdat format.
1991: Kerry starts experiencing kidney problems.
November 28, 1998: Kerry dies from complications related to Wegner’s granulomatosis disease.