The Early Discordians

Greg Hill circa mid-80s. Photo courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

For many years, Discordians far and wide have wondered if Greg Hill ever actually existed, or if he was someone Kerry Thornley created out of whole cloth. Any doubt that Greg was an honest-to-god-flesh-and-bones-card-carrying Discordian (aka Malaclypse the Younger) was put to rest in The Prankster and the Conspiracy, which included interviews with many of the people who knew and loved Greg throughout his too short life upon this chaotic planet.

Hill—as popular history instructs—co-founded the Discordian Society in the late-50s with his pal Kerry Thornley, aka Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst. Thornley—as fickle fate would have it—served in the Marines Corps with Lee Harvey Oswald, and was writing a novel based on Oswald entitled The Idle Warriors three years before JFK’s assassination. The Idle Warriors was eventually published by IllumiNet Press in 1991.

Kerry Thornley carving Halloween pumpkins during the Garrison Investigation period. Photo courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

In 1968, Thornley was indicted by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as part of a JFK assassination conspiracy, a charge which Kerry adamantly denied. Thornley later came to suspect that he’d been an unwitting participant in JFK’s assassination, manipulated by certain spooky individuals in New Orleans where he and Greg Hill lived during the early-60s.

As synchronicity would have it, Greg Hill worked 23 years for Bank of America, and was instrumental in the development of B of A’s word processing department. He also developed one of the first computer solitaire games, Joker Sol, which has probably encouraged more employees to waste time screwing off from their real jobs than any other computer game in the history of the planet. Hail Eris!

Cinema Rio Theater as it looks today. Photo courtesy of Adam Gorightly.

During the early-70s—prior to his Bank of America gig—Greg and his wife Jeanetta (aka Sister Deacon Iona K. Fioderovna), along with Dr. Bob Newport (aka Rev. Hypocrates Magoun), operated the Cinema Rio Theater in Monte Rio, California, located along the Russian River. Hill, Newport, Thornley, Camden Benares and Robert Anton Wilson all lived within a 5 miles radius (give or take) of each other during this period.

During the Cinema Rio period, Newport also operated a psychiatry practice out of his house in nearby Guerneville, often getting paid for his services in baskets of garden vegetables or apples. Dr. Bob’s “office”—it turns out—was in a tree house on his property, located in the center of a circle of redwoods. It was a diverse operation, including a school in his garage, which twenty or so kids attended. Dr. Bob was also heavily involved with the Psych Department at nearby Sonoma State, and on his property various group sessions were conducted, including encounter groups and primal scream therapy groups. Robert Anton Wilson—who was living north of Guerneville, in Rio Nido—was also a frequent visitor to this scene.

Brenton Clutterbuck posing before the post office where Camden Benares worked, spring 2013. Photo courtesy of Adam Gorightly.

Meanwhile, Camden Benares had his own scene going on at Camp Meeker, a tiny crossroads a few miles south of Monte Rio, where he served as Head Postmaster. The post office itself was located in a quaint old railroad car, patriotically painted red, white and blue, which still exists to this day, although the patriotic paint job has faded over the years. At the time, Camp Meeker consisted of a bunch of summer cabins that had been overrun by hippies. At one point, Kerry Thornley joined Camden there in a lifestyle dedicated to sexual freedom and Zenarchy.

During his first acid trip in the mid 1960s, Camden (formerly John Overton) turned into a Zen lunatic overnight and changed his name to Camden Benares, the idea of which was to bring the teachings of the East into the West: “Camden” for Camden, New Jersey, and “Benares” after Benares, India, the city where the Buddha delivered his first sermon.

Camden Benares and his wife, June Gideon, in their priest and nun get-ups, circa 1976. Photo courtesy of John F. Carr.

Benares (aka The Count of Fives) had a fondness for dressing up for parties as a Roman Catholic cleric. On one occasion—bedecked in his cleric clothes—he talked his wife June into accompanying him to a party dressed as a nun, where they spent the entire evening holding hands and groping. After the party, Camden and June—still adorned in their priest and nun get-ups—visited a Denny’s restaurant, where they continued to make out. As would be expected, people began freaking out upon witnessing this unholy spectacle, as in between sacrilegious smooches Camden gave blessings and benedictions to the stunned Denny’s patrons.

Louise Lacey, early 1970s. Photo courtesy of Louise Lacey.

Louise Lacey—another card carrying Discordian—lived roughly 70 miles south in the Berkeley Hills, and would occasionally visit her fellow Discordians out on the Russian River. Lacey’s connection with Discordianism started in 1965 when she edited Thornley’s book, Oswald, while working for New Classic Books in Chicago. Afterwards, Louise relocated to the Bay Area where she worked as research director for Ramparts, the cutting edge political/activist magazine of its day. After her initiation into the Discordian Society, Lacey became known as Lady L., F.A.B. (The latter part of Louise’s moniker came from her friend Eldridge Cleaver, who charmed her once with the endearment: “Fucking Anarchist Bitch!”)

Kerry Thornley holding a harmonica, Berkeley, California, mid-80s. Photo courtesy of Louise Lacey.

In the late-60s, Lacey was a member of the Berkeley campus branch of the Bavarian Illuminati, which in time would merge with the Discordian-Illuminati faction. As recounted in The Prankster and the Conspiracy, Wilson, Thornley and the other Discordians helped to foster the meme that the diabolical Illuminati was alive and well, executing political assassinations and manipulating world events, and that the Discordian Society was an offshoot of the Illuminati, or conversely that the Discordians were battling the Illuminati—or something like that. These myths were later expanded upon in Wilson and Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy. As Wilson later remarked:

I appointed myself the head of the Illuminati, which led to a lot of interesting correspondences with other heads of the Illuminati in various parts of the world. One of them threatened to sue me. I told him to resubmit his letter in FORTRAN, because my computer wouldn’t accept it in English and I never heard from him again. I think that confused him.

Given these facts (or lies), it’s certainly curious that the infamous Bohemian Grove—where alleged Illuminati globalists secretly meet each year—is located within a mile of Monte Rio. So, in essence, those wild and wooly Discordians—who were spreading fanciful stories about the dreaded Illuminati through popular culture—all lived within spitting distance of this Illuminati stronghold.

Robert Anton Wilson

When I asked Bob Wilson in 2003 how it was that he and his Discordian cohorts all happened to relocate in the Russian River area—ground zero for supposed real world Illuminati activities—he seemed confused and vague about the whole thing, as if he had no knowledge whatsoever that the Illuminati had been hiding in his literal backyard. Coincidence? You decide!

For a more detailed and in-depth list of the Early Discordians check out The Prankster and the Conspiracy. This list will be revised and updated in the forthcoming book Historia Discordia.