The Early Discordians

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

For many years, Discordians far and wide wondered if Greg Hill ever actually existed, or if he was someone Kerry Thornley invented out of whole cloth.

Any doubt that Hill was an honest-to-goddess-flesh-and-bones-card-carrying Discordian (aka Malaclypse the Younger) was put to rest with the publication of my book The Prankster and the Conspiracy, which included interviews with many of the people who knew and loved Greg throughout his all too-short life upon this chaotic planet.

Hang on to your hats! Here’s how the story goes: Hill 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 none other than Lee Harvey Oswald and was writing a novel based on Oswald entitled The Idle Warriors three years before JFK’s assassination.

Mal-2 and Lord Omar’s
high school yearbook photos.

Kerry Thornley in the Marines.

After completing his military service, Thornley—along with Greg Hill—move to the New Orleans French Quarter and recruited a number of new Discordians into the fold including Roger Lovin, Barbara Reid, and Slim Brooks.

In the Illuminet Press edition of Principia Discordia (Amazon), Thornley described Roger Lovin as “…a dashing, talented and handsome con artist who was too shallow to settle into any one thing. But for years and years after he read the Principia, under his Discordian name of Fang the Unwashed, he consistently and with unswerving devotion to the task excommunicated every new person any of the rest of us initiated into the Discordian Society.”

A writer, poet and raconteur, Lovin operated a French Quarter art gallery in the early-60s. From 1968 to 1969, Lovin published a weekly New Orleans newspaper, The Ungarbled Word, and then later worked as environmental editor for Los Angeles Free Press from 1969 to 1973. In 1974, Lovin’s first book was published, The Complete Motorcycle Nomad, which has became a classic in the field.

Early Discordian Roger Lovin in the early-70s from the back cover of his book
The Complete Motorcycle Nomad:
A Guide To Machines, Equipment,
People, And Places

Described by Kerry Thornley as a “French Quarter voodoo worker and bohemian scene maker”, Barbara Reid left an indelible mark on the French Quarter. She worked for a local television station as a writer/producer and occasionally made radio appearances on WTIX-AM where she was referred as “Mrs. Witch of the French Quarter.”

Reid frequently appeared in newspaper stories, such as a September 1964 Times-Picayune article that concerned the closing of Kerry Thornley’s favorite French Quarter hang-out, The Bourbon House. To mark the event, a mock funeral procession was staged, which—along with jazz band accompaniment—included Barbara Reid in a coffin “…clad in her usual all-black garb and sporting a black beret and cigarette holder.”

Newspaper article featuring
Barbara Reid in a coffin.
Her name is misspelled as 'Reed.'

Barbara Reid with famous trumpeter Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong.

In 1961, Reid co-founded the famous French Quarter music venue Preservation Hall which led to a revival of the traditional jazz scene in New Orleans. Reid was also instrumental in recording many of the local jazz musicians of the era and— according to her husband, Bill Edmiston —helped integrate the two New Orleans musician unions that had previously segregated blacks and whites.

In early 1968, Kerry Thornley was indicted by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as part of a JFK assassination conspiracy, a charge Kerry adamantly denied. Thornley later came to suspect that he’d been an unwitting participant in JFK’s assassination, manipulated by certain spooky individuals who included New Orleans Discordian Society member Roderick “Slim” Brooks.

Jerry Milton Brooks, aka Thornley's 'Slim' Brooks.

Thornley later suspected that the true identity of Slim Brooks was that of former Minutemen member, Jerry Milton Brooks. Journalist J. Harry Jones, Jr. described Brooks as “a thirty-eight-year-old enigma who emerged from the fringe of the East St. Louis underworld to spy on Communists for the Minutemen, then spy on Minutemen for the FBI and the U.S. Treasury Department.”

Newspaper article on Barbara Reid's accusations against Kerry Thornley.

The principal witness against Thornley in Garrison’s investigation was Discordian Barbara Reid who claimed to have seen Thornley and Lee Oswald together at the Bourbon House in September of 1963. Thornley denied this allegation, insisting that the last time he’d been in contact with Oswald was during the period the two served together in the Marines. At one time or another, Barbara Reid claimed that she was the reincarnation of Goddess Eris. Whatever the case, Reid certainly brought an immense amount of chaos to Kerry Thornley’s life during this period.

In 1967, Thornley began corresponding with Playboy editor Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) during the period Kerry was editing the libertarian magazine, The Innovator. He later described his correspondence with RAW as “one of the longest, most intense, most stimulating, rewarding, enriching, enlightening—and certainly the most unusual—of my entire life.” As RAW recalled in his poignant Cosmic Trigger Volume I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati:

We began writing long letters to each other… astonished at how totally our political philosophies agreed—we were both opposed to every form of violence or coercion against individuals, whether practiced by governments or by people who claimed to be revolutionaries. We were equally disenchanted with the organized Right and the organized Left while still remaining Utopians, without a visible Utopia to believe in.

Around this time, RAW was initiated into the Discordian Society as Mordecai the Foul along with another Playboy editor, Robert Shea who adopted the Discordian moniker of Josh the Dill. These early Discordian associations would provide inspiration for RAW and Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy published in 1975, the first book of which was dedicated to none other than Discordian Society founders Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley.

RAW and Shea following the publication of Illuminatus!

Some other Discordian converts who emerged during this period were Tim Wheeler and his wife Mary (aka Harold Lord Randomfactor and Hope Springs). Wheeler was a young conservative humor columnist who worked for William F. Buckley, Jr. at The National Review, and in fact it was Buckley who turned Wheeler on to the phrase “Immanentize the Eschaton” which was later immortalized in Illuminatus!.

Early Discordians Tim and Mary Wheeler.
Photo Courtesy of Mary Wheeler.

When he wasn’t penning conservative humor articles, Wheeler spent considerable time cultivating marijuana on his farm in Indiana, thus ushering in an era of young dope smoking conservatives who worshipped the Goddess of Chaos and voted Republican. Hail Eris!>

As synchronicity would have it, Greg Hill worked 23 years for Bank of America and was instrumental in the development of BofA’s word processing department. He also developed one of the first computer Solitaire games called Joker Sol, which has probably encouraged more employees to screw off at work than any other computer game in the history of the planet. Hail Eris!

Greg Hill and his family during the Cinema Rio period.

During the early-70s—prior to his employment with Bank of America—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 near the Russian River. Hill, Newport, Thornley, Camden Benares and RAW all lived within a 5 miles radius of each other during this period.

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

Newport 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 the Hilltop School which he ran with his wife, Carole, that twenty or so kids attended, an early version of home schooling.

News article from
The Santa Rose Press Democrat
on the Hilltop School.

In conjunction with the Psychology Department at Sonoma State College, Newport conducted various group sessions on his property, including encounter groups and primal scream therapy. RAW—who was living just north of Guerneville, in Rio Nido—was an occasional visitor to this scene.

Recent photo of
Rev. Hypocrates Magoun.
Courtesy of Robert Newport.

Meanwhile, Camden Benares had his own scene going on at Camp Meeker, a few miles south of Monte Rio, where he served as Head Postmaster. The post office was located in an 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.

Camp Meeker consisted of a cluster 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 his concept of Zenarchy.

Kerry and Camden enjoying an herbal supplement sometime in the late-70s.
Photo courtesy of John F. Carr.

During his first acid trip in the mid-1960s, Camden (formerly John Overton) turned into a Zen lunatic overnight and changed his name, 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.

Benares (Discordian self-named as The Count of Fives) possessed a fondness for dressing up as a Roman Catholic cleric. On one occasion 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’s connection with Discordianism started in 1965 when she edited Thornley’s book, Oswald, while working for Novel Books in Chicago. A short time later, Louise relocated to the San Francisco 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!”)

Louise Lacey:
Lady L in the early-70s.
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 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.

RAW outfitted in Illuminati regalia and demonstrating the Freemasonic sign of distress,
London, 1986. Photo Courtesy of Duncan Harvey.

When I asked RAW 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 more information on the Early Discordians and their hijinx, check out my books on the subject:


The Origins of the
Discordian Society

in the

Kerry Thornley,
Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation

The Prankster and the Conspiracy:
The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture

Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society

Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation

The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture