The Cannabis Cup has a center of gravity, and I can feel it. The crew and I are sitting down to breakfast at the Barbizon Palace across the the street from Amsterdam’s Central Station. If anything were to happen to us, this event would certainly spin into instant chaos. In fact, it already has, since we’ve just discovered the annual Sinterklaas parade is shutting down the city tomorrow exactly when we’re supposed to be launching a fleet of buses from the front of the Victoria Hotel.
“No battle plan survives first contact with friction,” I mutter as I survey the $45 breakfast served in a room with no windows and really bad feng shui. I knew it was going to be difficult surviving the recent collapse of the dollar versus the euro, but I didn’t realize the Dutch version of Santa Claus was going to sabotage us. How would we get our attendees to the expo on the outskirts of the city if the smoker-friendly buses couldn’t get through? The 20th Cup hadn’t even officially started and already we’d slammed into a major clog.
THE FUNCTION OF CEREMONIES
Everything is made from energy and energy travels in waves. Some like to define human energy through channels they dub “chakras,” but I like to define telepathy as being psychic gravity because even though people can’t see it, touch it or hear it, everyone knows it’s there because they feel it every time they walk up stairs. You can’t see, touch nor hear telepathy, but you feel its impact during ceremonies. The bigger the ceremony, the stronger the telepathy. Telepathy comes in flavors so a peace circle and a panic-stricken mob produce much different states of mind.
The science of affecting telepathy is called “magic.” Energies can harmonize, repel or remain neutral. The mind is a complex system with many facets but the integration has a center of gravity. When your psyche loses its center, confusion arises. Societies have a center of gravity and so do ceremonies.
All ceremonies run on magic. Most family ceremonies are designed to amplify empathy, and the center is revealed by the seating arrangement at the ceremonial feast. Ceremonies are the best defense against depression, but they can also be triggers for breakdowns because positive energy attracts negativity. So while ceremonies can create harmony, they can also expose dissonance and create flame-outs, burnouts and meltdowns. The counterculture learned to deal with dissonance, friction, fog and clogs in a somewhat kinder, gentler fashion, something known as “staying in the flow.” A true master of ceremonies can drain energy off an antagonist.
Clogs are the natural enemy of energy. Friction can slow things down, but clogs result when movement stops. Depression is a psychic clog. It’s perfectly okay to have unhappy feelings, but that becomes a problem if you can’t move on to more positive ground. The most important thing Stephen Gaskin taught me is that enlightenment is not like ringing a bell or climbing a mountain. “It’s not like you get somewhere and stay there forever,” explained Gaskin. “Nobody is enlightened all the time.” Ceremonies can lead people to a positive place, but nobody can stay positive forever.
Fog is like friction in that it slows down movement, but different in that it’s not based on dissonance, unexpected snafus or communication breakdowns but self-delusion, similar to being love-struck or paralyzed with fear. Fog creates bliss bunnies who can’t fix problems because they don’t see them. In moderation, cannabis enhances empathy and harmonization, but in excess, it produces fog.
I didn’t start my journalism career seeking to evolve into an expert on magic and religion, but once I created the Cannabis Cup, I couldn’t help but investigate that history. The word “cannabis” came down to us from the Scythians, who built the road linking Europe with China and India. “Ma,” “magi,” “magic” and “marijuana” all stem from the Chinese word for cannabis, and this history has mostly been eradicated, but enough traces remain to conclude Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity were all born as cannabis cults, a tradition that also runs through Pythagoras, the Oracle at Delphi, and Socrates (who was assassinated by the state for the crime of “corrupting the youth”).
Many revelations regarding magic were revealed to me through my organizing ceremonies around cannabis for decades, starting in 1967 and continuing to the present. My sensitivity to telepathic energy became enhanced as a result, and this was especially so through the Cannabis Cup.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CUP
I had no idea what I was getting into when I created the Cannabis Cup. I thought I might help bring attention to the importance of breeding quality cannabis seeds. When the event started in 1987, there were only a handful of cannabis-seed merchants around the world. Now there are thousands. The first Cup was attended by me, a photographer and a former grower, Dr. Indoors. Three seed companies entered: two Dutch, one American. The entire event was a two-day affair; there wasn’t even an awards show. It was so under-funded that I refused to attend the next four Cups, also run on shoestring budgets. When I heard the publisher was trying to kill the event, saying I was using company funds so me and my friends could get a junket, a different member of my staff was sent. During this time, the Dutch laws regarding seed companies kept shifting, and we were never sure which were actually willing to enter until days before the event. One year all the seed companies dropped out and it turned into a coffeeshop crawl. All the entries were low-grade, the sort of commercial fare offered at tourist traps.
So I decided to return for the 6th Cup, and also opened the event to tourists. Fifty Americans bought tickets. The first 420 ceremony took place and the silver cups handcrafted by Robin “The Hammer” Ludwig appeared.
The next Cup included the world’s first Hemp Expo, which quickly inspired similar events all over Europe as hemp became closely tied with the green movement.
The 8th Cup was the first to fully engage the issue of spiritual rights for cannabis users. Alex Grey, the world’s most celebrated psychedelic artist, created the official art, and Stephen Gaskin, who had petitioned the Supreme Court for cannabis spiritual rights, delivered the first 420 address at the expo.
Gray and Gaskin were two of the most enlightened people I knew, and along with Garrick Beck from the Rainbow Family, they created an interpretation of the Rig Veda’s Soma ritual for the opening ceremony. Garrick brought over the Rainbow Gypsy Theater to stage an Alice in Wonderland production for the awards show that included dancers, singers, drummers, along with stage and costume designers, all happening on a scale I couldn’t have imagined five years earlier. The production budget had ballooned to the point there was a concerted effort to kill the Cup immediately afterward because it cost so much, but I was able to save the event by licensing it to the tour operator. Mike Esterson and I had developed a good working relationship and Esterson sensed untapped value. He agreed to allow me to continue directing the ceremonies and even covered the expenses for my volunteer video crew so I could also keep documenting the evolution of the event. I believed the ceremonies were historically important.
For the 10th Cup, I created the Counterculture Hall of Fame, and Bob Marley became the first inductee. Rita Marley flew in from Jamaica to help celebrate. At the end of the awards show, Rita invited the winners up onstage. She grabbed a red display box containing the Sensi Seeds entries, and threw samples into the crowd. A giant freestyle jam spontaneously broke out, one that included dueling raps from rival coffeeshop managers. All the winners ended up dancing together on stage. I had an epiphany as Rita convinced me of the importance of improvisation. From that year forth, we ended the awards with the winners dancing on stage as the performers improvised.
The 16th Cup was dubbed the Conspiracy Cup and there was a lot of that going on inside the company, most fomented to remove me from the magazine and events I’d created. It was certainly obvious to the staff the lawyer Michael Kennedy despised me and he kept hiring new publishers in the hope one might fire me. Most of publishers he hired, however, felt my leadership had been driving the profits, and Kennedy’s obsession with having me removed made little sense from a business perspective. But eventually Kennedy found his stooge in Mike Edison, a bottom-feeder known for cranking out dozens of fetish porn novels while playing drums for G.G. Allin, whose trademark was defecating on stage.
The problem was always that sales would sink immediately after my demotion, and pressure from the other majority share owners would force Kennedy to put me back in the saddle so the golden eggs might return. Kennedy ran the company like an intelligence operation and much later I would discover why.
Staffers sympathetic to my vision were purged, while Kennedy stuffed the ranks with offspring selected from his connections in New York society, the rungs of which he’d been steadily climbing for decades through the determined efforts of his wife, who’d gained access through a carefully cultivated friendship with Ivana Trump. The Trumps spent a summer renting the Kennedy guest house inside the Yale enclave in the Hamptons. It was the summer Ivanka was born. Later, although inexperienced in divorce, Kennedy would convince Ivana to dispute Roy Cohn’s iron-clad prenup, for which he was undoubtedly paid a small fortune.
“I knew the 15th Cup, initially dubbed the “Peace” Cup in my promotional campaign, might not turn out so peaceful after all after I received a letter from Holland’s Queen of Hashish regarding a two-page feature in the December issue. Melting under the photographer’s lights, some samples looked like caramel, others like chocolate. The article, “Bubble All the Way” by Kyle Kushman provoked the ire of Mila Jansen, who was not mentioned although the process used to create the hash was based on something she invented.
“What a nasty piece of mistake,” wrote Mila angrily. “I cannot say stop publishing an enthusiastic article about bags that are a copy of my invention, that’s okay. What I would like is maybe an article on how since 1995, my inventions (the Pollinator and Ice-o-lator) have helped win 11 out of 21 Cannabis Cup hash prizes.”
At the time, hash judging was not a strong suit for Americans. Despite its popularity in Europe, hash had remained largely unexplored on this side of the Atlantic. American judges arrived jet-lagged and culture-shocked, and if you threw in a couple hits of Dutch water-hash you threatened to provoke a major meltdown. The antidote was drinking a glass of water while hanging onto the table with pressed fingertips. Nederbubble could be as high as 99.8% resin and despite being frighteningly strong, it was unexpectedly mild to taste. Although introduced by Nevil in 1988, water-hash didn’t appear en masse at the Cup until 1994.
Ten years earlier, Wernard Bruning of Positronic Seed Company, had sent a photo of one of his greenhouses to the Ask Ed column in High Times. Bruning had earlier founded Amsterdam’s first coffeehouse (Dutch code for weed shop) in 1973 (the now-defunct Mellow Yellow). He partnered with original Provo Kees Hoekert to re-create the Lowland Seed Company, founded in 1969 by Hoekert and Jasper Grootveld, which originally sold sprouted seedlings for home growing. In 1985, Bruning founded the nation’s biggest non-profit grow-store, seed/clone distribution center, Positronics. Eventually, he pivoted to medical marijuana and added a weekly newspaper Soft Secrets to his weed empire. Although he sold it in 1994, Soft Secrets became the largest cannabis publication in the world with a circulation over a million and published in seven countries.
Bruning had learned about sinsemilla after a trip to the East Coast and eventually brought over Ed Holloway to help build and run a greenhouse. Rosenthal made contact with Bruning after receiving a picture of the greenhouse. He informed Bruning about a grower named Sam the Skunkman in Santa Cruz. At the time, Bruning was working with an American living in Amsterdam who had the best connection in town for temple balls from Nepal. His name was Michael “Rich” Taylor. Bruning says he paid the airline tickets for both Rosenthal and Sam to visit Amsterdam in order to make suggestions for the operations. Bruning only wanted one of them to be hired as consultant, and the team picked Sam. At the time, none of them knew the mysterious Skunkman had recently been arrested and charged with cannabis cultivation in Santa Cruz, but had bailed out and fled the country, departing with 250,000 seeds. Sam’s partnership with Bruning was short-lived, however, as Bruning grew alarmed by the scope of Sam’s vision. Sam set up Cultivators Choice Seed Company as his replacement for Sacred Seeds.
Sam eventually secured a monopoly on production of medical marijuana in Holland under the name HortaPharm B.V., an agreement that required certification from the DEA. Several official DEA plaques were posted in Sam’s high-tech office and grow center created in 1990.
Some wondered how Sam built such an elaborate and professional operation so quickly after having allegedly arrived penniless, speculating he might have been supporting himself through an illegal operation. The real money at the time was smuggling weed into Germany where it reaped twice the price. Right after Bruning ended the partnership, his greenhouses were busted, the first grow busts in Holland’s history, which was convenient for Sam if he was launching his own distribution system.
In 1986, I penned the story that launched a thousand grow ops: The Man Who Would be King of Cannabis. The next year, I created the Cannabis Cup. The event didn’t evolve past a magazine dinner party/cover story for the first five years, but even so, it swiftly established a global standard for cannabis, as well as a center-of-gravity on developments in cannabis and hemp. The Cup also drove a horde of stoner tourists to the Netherlands duringThanksgiving week, when the Dutch celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas (who rides a white horse), and Zwarte Piet, a boy in blackface dressed in Moorish attire (who carries a birch switch for punishing bad children, and bag of candy for rewarding good ones).
In 1987, John Gallardin of Rockford, IL, invented the Motorized Master Sifter, and began advertising in Sensimilla Tips, a trade magazine for cannabis cultivators. Growers had recently become aware of the benefits of sifting shake on screens in order to harvest trichomes. Wily growers discovered they could shake resin off frozen buds before selling them, and it didn’t seem to affect the weight nor appearance. In other words: endless free head-stash for any grower.
The main difference between 1986 and 1987 was the sudden appearance of screens mounted on wood frames, not just on all the tables at Cannabis Castle, but in grow ops all across the globe. The higher the micron number on the screen, the wider the gap. A 36-micron screen might produce a precious golden powder, while a 100-micron screen captured more green. The Master Sifter used a steel screen in place of silk or nylon screen because it was designed for sifting very large quantities of shake.
“Don’t discard those valuable leaves before removing the bare essence of your growing efforts,” wrote Gallardin. “The Motorized Master Sifter separates the glands without using your hands. Glands are sifted through a stainless steel filter and collected on a gathering tray. Electronic vibration does the work. Hand crafted mahogany with polyurethane finish for long life. Deluxe model with timer & light: $199.95.”
In 1989, the DEA launched a sweeping nationwide raid on High Times advertisers. It was an attempt to shut down the indoor grow industry, including the Seed Bank and High Times. But High Times was protected by the First Amendment and Nevil remained safe from extradition in Holland.
In 1990, Nevil tried to slip back into Australia to visit relatives, but was arrested at the behest of the DEA, who demanded his deportation to New Orleans. Nevil was held in jail for 11 months before he was able to secure bail and disappear. Nobody knew where he went, except for a few trusted friends. He simply sold the Seed Bank to Ben Dronkers under an agreement that allowed him to move back into Cannabis Castle to continue running the Seed Bank in secret while making other alliances.
In 1994, Mila Jansen invented a tumbler for dry sifting and named it the Pollinator. It was a modified dryer with heater removed. Robert Clark had recently shifted from smoking dry sift to smoking water-hash as it had a higher purity rate and unpressed powder could be harsh on the throat. Clark coined the phrase “if it doesn’t bubble, it’s not worth the trouble,” and spread the mantra around the Cup while allowing sips of his bubbly hash from his pipe. Interest in water hash at the Cup exploded.
In 1997, Reinhard Delph arrived at the Cup with a recently patented Ice-Cold Extractor, a five-gallon conical stainless steel vessel with paper filter that deployed pressurized air bubbles to separate resin heads. The next year, Delph signed an agreement with Mila, who created a water-hash extraction device using a modified washing machine. Mila sewed four screens into two bags to create the first water-hash bag-system. (In 2000 Delph filed for an improved patent on his water-hash device.)
In June of 1998, Clark released “Hashish,” which included a description of the Aqua-X-Tractor, a PVC water-hash device allegedly invented by “Baba Bob.” No mention of Nevil, Mila nor Delph. Along with the earlier ad placed in High Times by his partner Sadhu Sam, these efforts seemed designed to establish grandfather rights on water-hash extraction. Meanwhile, Fritz Chess of Eden Labs in California had also been experimenting with extraction devices between 1993 and 1996.
Marcus Richardson attended the Cannabis Cup in 1999 from British Columbia, and approached Mila about distributing the Ice-O-Lator in Canada, an offer she rejected. So Richardson modified her system by adding several additional smaller micron-sized bags with a pressing screen to wick moisture from the resin. He began wholesaling his “Bubble Bags,” while changing his name to Bubbleman.
Richardson’s product was as good as his instinct for branding. But his two distributors, Fresh Headies and Crystal Mountain, were quickly taken to court by Delph. Richardson settled out-of-court, agreeing to pay royalties. Over the years, Bubbleman became famous, and Delph faded away and died a forgotten man in 2017. After his death, Delph’s family filed litigation to shore up their water-hash patent.
Nevil eventually partnered with Howard Marks and Scott Blakey to create Mr. Nice Seeds. Blakey was the first insider to post extensively on these matters online using a forum on the Mr. Nice website under the name Shantibaba. He remains one of the few reliable narrators in this drama and his story is best told from his own words:
Howard Marks (Mr Nice) and I (Shantibaba) met during the late 1990’s while I was living and working in Holland. A few years previously (1994), I had set up the Greenhouse Seed Company [for Arjan Roskum]. Coincidentally, at the same time, Howard was released from a lengthy imprisonment in the USA. During the next few years, we became very good friends and with the success of my breeding work and help from Nevil, Howard and I discussed the possibility of working together. We decided to start a seed company. Nevil and I were already working together on various seed projects.
In 1998, when Nevil co-owned the Greenhouse coffeeshop in the Red Light Area, and I co-owned and worked with the Greenhouse Seed Company, we decided to do our best at the High Times Cannabis Cup. Until then, Nevil and I, operating as individuals, had won almost every prize for cannabis breeding. On behalf of Greenhouse, we blitzed the 1998 Cup, winning every prize other than that awarded for clothing. We came first and second in the overall Cup. I did not particularly like the event so decided to retire from it that year.
Coincidentally my relationship with my Dutch partner [Arjan] deteriorated. As a result, I sold my interest in the Greenhouse Seed Company and, as a sole trader, set up Mr Nice Seedbank (MNS), which has always been and remains a Dutch company. Shortly afterward, Nevil also left Greenhouse. MNS never entrusted plants to non-growers, including our ex-Dutch partners. Inevitably, confusion results when different companies use the same names for different sub-species, so MNS renamed them all. Seed companies’ most valuable assets are the original mother and father plants, which take many years to collect and select. MNS uses a collection of both Nevil and Shantibaba’s plants, the most pedigreed cannabis plants ever bred.
In 1999, Dutch law changed and no longer permitted the production of seeds. Due to the Gedogen law. however, selling seed imported from another country remained legal. We wanted to fulfill our project without breaking any laws. Accordingly, MNS moved its growing operations to Switzerland, where the law permits growing cannabis for seed production.
Nevil remained in Holland and continued to produce seeds and refine breeding techniques. Howard pursued his agenda by writing articles, books, and doing stand-up shows. I established Gene Bank Technology in the Swiss canton of Ticino, producing strains and seeds for other companies, as well as furthering the use of cannabis as a medicine and producing unique flower essential oils for the cosmetic industry.
All went well, with Ticino eventually playing host to the legally permitted establishment of over seventy growing shops and countless farms producing seeds. The Swiss authorities regularly inspected the premises and the activities taking place, tenaciously collecting any taxes due.
Then suddenly, in 2003, without any hint of a warning, a Ticino-based Prosecutor launched Operation Indoor, an avalanche of arrests, closures and headlines. The Ticino authorities seized GBT, shut it down, and imprisoned scores of innocent people. To this day, a state of confusion exists in Switzerland as cantons interpret Swiss law whichever way the local politicians want. I received a two-year term of imprisonment in Ticino. (However, I still have all the mother and father plants.)
The Six Day War
On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against the Egyptian Air Force demolishing its entire fleet while parked on the tarmac, insuring air supremacy for the duration of a short war.
The Syrians were the real problem as they were plotting a shut-down of water to the Sea of Galilee, a plot uncovered by a Mossad agent high in Syrian secret services. To save Israel, the heights had to be seized. But seizing the heights insured a war with all Israel’s neighbors, a war Israel might not win (unless Israel eliminated the Egyptian Air Force from the equation). These factors became a matter of highest national importance. The Mossad agent inside the Syrian secret services had been uncovered and hanged. The Egyptians were fomenting a plot of their own, one also penetrated by Mossad. So Israel launched attacks on multiple fronts simultaneously, taking the Arabs by surprise.
An American eavesdropping (spy) ship, the U.S.S. Liberty, was unfortunately parked near the coast of the Sinai that day and without warning or notification was attacked by Israeli fighter-planes and torpedo-boats, who conducted an all-out effort to sink the boat. The 294 crew fought valiantly and heroically for hours and although 34 of the crew perished, the Liberty did not sink. Communication between the Liberty and the Pentagon was heavily jammed until long after the smoke cleared. Since the Liberty was collecting transmissions to-and-from everyone in the area, perhaps something was transmitted that required erasure. Long afterwards, Israel paid over $13 million to survivors and their families, in three payouts involving a decade of litigation.
After the Six-day war, a fund-raising campaign to support Israel’s defenses flourished globally. Israel knew the Arabs would seek retribution someday. Every possible revenue stream was milked, and that included enlisting counterculture Jews dealing red Lebanese hash produced in the Bekka Valley. Some of this involved prominent rabbis in New York City known to have young bohemians in their flock.
According to video testimony provided by Joe Barton, Tom Forcade became involved with a Mossad agent moving red leb out of Beirut, but the agent sadly ended up committing suicide. Barton was a leader in the biggest hippie commune in downtown Manhattan, a commune with a connection to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in Laguna Beach, CA, the infamous “hippie mafia” moving the majority of LSD around the world. The network was comprised of peace-loving, blue-class hippies like Barton, and led by the charismatic John Griggs, a former gang leader who believed world peace would manifest if enough people dropped acid. His entire gang joined the mission after one dose and everyone tossed their revolvers into a ravine, never to walk armed again. Barton met Forcade shortly after Tom appeared in New York, and before he started High Times. In fact, he remembers the day Tom got the idea for the magazine.
After Timothy Leary was evicted from the Mellon estate in upstate New York, and lost the support of Mellon heir Billy Hitchcock, he fled to Grigg’s tipi near Laguna Beach, which exposed the secret leader of the hippie mafia to intense scrutiny because Leary had just been declared the most dangerous man in America by President Richard Nixon. Also riding Leary’s coat-tails along with law enforcement was the mysterious Ron Stark, who claimed access to more of the essential LSD precursor than anyone thought existed. It would be used to flood the world with Orange Sunshine.
Griggs was suddenly poisoned by an experimental substance provided by the chemist working with Stark. He died in a hospital in the presence of his wife shortly after arriving at the Emergency Room in the morning after a night of agony.
Stark expanded the Brotherhood network into Europe. But someone dropped a dime causing Stark to be discovered in the Grand Hotel Baglioni in Bologna with his family.
The police search uncovered an American passport in the name of Mr. Abbott issued from the American Embassy in London. There was also an international driving license issued in Paris. Telexes and telegrams flowed between Bologna, London and Washington. The man was identified as the long-lost Ronald Stark….Among Stark’s contacts was Imam Musa Sadr, who possessed control over a section of the Shi-ite branch of the Moslem faith and boasted a personal army of 1,000 men. The area controlled by the Imam was said to include training camps used by the Palestine Liberation Organization. (Condensed from The Brotherhood of Eternal Love by Tendler and May.)
Jailed for weeks, Stark convinced a judge he worked for the CIA by exposing a terrorist assassination plot involving Germany’s Red Brigade. He was released and disappeared like a snow devil in a winter storm.
There was a lawyer who swooped in with Leary named Michael Kennedy and he was running a Communist network called The Weather Underground. Kennedy’s chief agents of chaos were Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, and they led a life of privilege while underground before coming out of the cold and getting university jobs with tenure and pensions. While their rag-tag collection of impoverished college drop-outs lived in great privation, Dohrn and Ayers relaxed in a deluxe Marin County houseboat, dining regularly at the most expensive restaurants in the area. The Weather Underground never seriously threatened the combined might of US police and armed forces but that didn’t stop them from declaring war on America. They told clueless teenage recruits it was okay to shoot police on sight. They instantly became the FBI’s most wanted and got massive media exposure far beyond any threat they actually posed. Their pathetic troops could have easily been annihilated by any special forces squad and every cell had been penetrated by FBI informants. Instead of taking down the network, the FBI disappeared the files, wiping the slate clean.
After Kennedy died, NORML created a lifetime achievement award in his honor, and strangely enough Dohrn, who had never done anything for legalization, was the first recipient. She had, however, promoted group sex, violence against police, and expressed admiration for Charlie Manson’s crew for having the guts to “stab pigs.” She’d engaged in the most outrageously violent rhetoric, and never expressed any remorse for the bombings or killings or friendly contact with agents of enemy countries.
Dohrn and Kennedy were avowed Communists allegedly working on a World Communist Revolution and they were responsible for bombing a San Francisco police station on February 15, 1970. Their shrapnel pipe bomb caused the death of Officer Brian V. McDonnell two days later. There was enough evidence to indict Kennedy and Dohrn, but somehow they escaped prosecution.
This bizarre award is a stain NORML can never remove until NORML admits Kennedy defrauded them while stealing High Times in order to enrich himself. Despite these crimes, Kennedy always remained protected by NORML founder Keith Stroup, who had gone straight from the University of Illinois to work in Senator Everett Dirkson’s office. Dirkson was the most powerful Republican in Congress at the time. From that post Stroup moved into Nader’s Raiders, recruits fresh out of law school selected from the ranks of children of the super rich. The Raiders got out in front of the counterculture revolution by creating consumer protection litigation that also paid well when they won their cases. Nader ended up on the cover of Time magazine several times, a rise to leftwing influencer so rapid it can only be attributed to some hidden hand of power.
The Yippies were created on December 31, 1967. Paul Krassner provided the name and Abbie Hoffman, Anita Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan, and Jerry Rubin attended the ceremony. Krassner had founded the most influential counterculture publication, The Realist, as a satire magazine in 1958.
Krassner had performed a violin solo at Carnegie Hall at age six. He would later say he had been brainwashed by constant practicing and never had anything close to a normal childhood. Inspired by Lennie Bruce, he launched a career in show business as a comic who carried a violin.
In 1962, Krassner interviewed a doctor who performed illegal abortions. The Realist soon became an abortion referral service. One day a mysterious character showed up at The Realist and soon became a co-conspirator with Krassner. He called himself Rev. George von Hilsheimer. Apparently, before launching his own religion, von Hilsheimer had been posted to military intelligence in Berlin.
Hilsheimer convinced Krassner to fund an experimental school to the tune of around $50 a month, and deployed the magazine to recruit students and staff. His first attempt (Camp Summerlane, Rosman, North Carolina) ended with the entire camp fleeing in terror from gunshots and explosions instigated by the local townspeople, who’d been enraged by rumors of nude swimming in the lake. Or maybe it was the inclusion of one girl who was half-black on the student roster. The town attack took place on July 11, 1963.
There were a few schools through the decades, up and down the East Coast, but in 1973, Hilsheimer was arrested by Volusia County deputy sheriffs and charged with practicing medicine without a license at his Green Valley School for emotionally disturbed children in Orange City, Florida. The charges were dropped after a raid of the property was deemed improper by the state attorney’s office. So Hilsheimer skipped (just like Ayers and Dohrn).
Meanwhile, kids from the school have come forth over the years with tales of hypnosis, forced injections, electroshock, psychic dreaming, sex with adults, rampant drug use and other weirdness.
Krassner and one of his favorite contributors, Robert Anton Wilson, launched fake news in 1967, inspired by Kerry Thornley, who had been stationed at the secret U-2 base in Atsugi, Japan, alongside Oswald.
You can tell by the photo Thornley was a flower child influenced by the Beats, Merry Pranksters and Maynard G. Krebs, among others. But after his Warren Commission testimony (which “proved” Oswald was a Communist), Thornley attended at a spook-infested summer camp in Colorado popular with the Koch family, co-founders of the conspiracy-mongering John Birch Society. And upon graduation of that program, he moved to California to become chummy with Johnny Roselli (one of JFK’s assassins.) Thornley then moved to Atlanta and commenced a long correspondence with Wilson during a time Wilson was letters editor of Playboy magazine, the first and perhaps only national magazine to interview DA Jim Garrison. Garrison was a rare public official with balls enough to go up against the CIA.
Wilson was heavily influenced by Thornley’s tales of secret societies running the world, a cosmology that bore similarities to the suddenly popular Morning of the Magicians, a text published in France in 1960, but released in America in 1963. One online reviewer sums the book up thusly: “Medieval alchemists producing atomic bombs and atomic fusion; the Nazi movement inspired by memory/dreams of Atlantis; the Earth is hollow and we live on the inside; the Moon, Mars and Jupiter and the stars are made of ice; and three Moons have crashed into Earth, producing great evolutionary jumps and de-evolutionary lapses, like “Gypsies, Negroes and Jews.”
Thornley wrote a similar opus to launch Discordianism, a goof religion. The opus was published in the style of an underground fanzine, a confusing mix of parody rituals, little-known Illuminati facts tossed with horror fantasies plucked out of Edward Plunkett and H.P. Lovecraft, who’d invented terrifying tales of monstrous conspiracies at the beginning of the century. Horror fantasy held a magnetic attraction in the LSD-fueled Sixties, and the higher people got, the harder it became to discern facts from fantasies, especially when so many fantasies revolved around the JFK assassination. It seems possible counterintelligence realized the Kennedy assassination could best be concealed by wrapping it inside stories of magic powers and alien visitations.
Mae Brussell came from a wealthy family, graduated from Stanford and Berkeley, and her father was a prominent rabbi in Los Angeles. She purchased all volumes of the Warren Commission as soon as available and launched a career as a radio host examining holes in the official story. Later, her research appeared in the Realist, and attracted the attention of John Lennon, who donated money to help publish her book. Much of her work involved Operation Paperclip and the MK/Ultra and Nazi connections to Kennedy’s assassination.
In 1977, after publishing Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson was interviewed in Conspiracy Digest about the JFK assassination, the Illuminati, Aleister Crowley, UFOs and other issues. Brussell wrote a scathing response accusing Wilson, John Lilly and Timothy Leary of being CIA stooges leading the youth into a fake drug-addled utopian fantasy involving space travel. “Ask Leary or Wilson anything practical about today’s miseries and they change the subject,” she wrote. Wilson responded by denying he was a CIA dupe, insisting he was “a high official of the agency since July 23, 1973.”
One of the primary precepts of Discordianism was never believe anything about anything, and Wilson never wavered from his roll as a Prankster-deceiver. In hindsight, however, most of the nonsense people believe today about the Illuminati has roots in his fantasy trilogy, and his work shows little evidence of scholarly research into the history of the Illuminati. Wilson believed the-eye-in-the-pyramid was an Illuminati invention and ridiculed the suggestion the society could have been a Jesuit penetration of freemasonry.
Actually that is certainly one of many valid possible explanations, not something to be ridiculed. According to Wilson, the Illuminati were “good guys” fighting against royalty and religion, and not some devious intelligence operation deploying ends-justify-the-means morality. Wilson introduced the idea that the number 23 was an Illuminati concept (it never was) and usually insisted the society had died out shortly after being founded. He believed Oswald shot Kennedy and Garrison’s investigation was a fraud.
Wilson’s biggest contribution to Discordianism was called Operation Mindfuck or OM, and involved disturbing a person’s reality matrix with some mind-blowing conspiracy information and then trailing off into some make-believe maze of confusion. Life as zen koan wherein any sufficiently ambiguous answer works for any question whatsoever. If you ever got really high on psychedelics and had friends fuck with your head, you’ll recognize the sadistic underpinnings of Operation Mindfuck, and how it runs contrary to real investigations into conspiracies.
Within a few years, however, Antony Sutton published a factual book revealing how Yale University’s Order of Skull & Bones deploys remarkably similar rituals as the original Illuminati, and the Boners have successfully penetrated the upper levels of the CIA, investment banks and military industrial complex. Prescott Bush was a Boner and also acted as Hitler’s banker on Wall Street to the point of being chastised for trading with the enemy after the war. The society was created prior to the Civil War by the cousin of the heir of the American opium cartel (Russell & Co.) after visiting Southern Germany, and based off a secret fraternity he’d been inducted into while there. After establishing Bones, he became the biggest financial backer of John Brown, the terrorist who sparked the Civil War’s armed confrontation. No, this is not some Operation Mindfuck going down, just some simple truths that most people have yet to comprehend.
Brussell, in the meantime, was not up on Sutton’s research. Instead she began making outrageous claims, connecting dots that probably didn’t connect, accusing almost every celebrity death of being orchestrated by the CIA for some nefarious purpose, much the same way every school shooting is instantly branded a fake event by today’s Tin Foil Hat Patrol. Brussell claimed there were immense assassination plots to derail youth culture and even claimed Charles Manson was a Manchurian Candidate under hypnotic control. That was one of her wildest theories, and one that may actually have been true, although it would take decades for any solid evidence to emerge.
When Krassner began checking out her evidence of a Manson-law enforcement connection for a potential book on Manson, Krassner claimed it didn’t add up. He suffered a paranoid meltdown at his dentist’s office and departed the plains of conspiracy theory forever.
Meanwhile, Karl Koch was the son of a right-wing publisher in Germany, and he began rebelling against his dad as a teen. Karl had an early interest in computers as well as a fascination with the Illuminatus! Trilogy, claiming to have read the book 30 times. Karl may have been Wilson’s biggest fan and the two met briefly at a hacker convention. Karl was especially taken with the magic number 23 and seems to have swallowed Wilson’s imaginative suggestion that George Washington could have been assassinated and replaced by Adam Weishaupt, something based solely on a slight resemblance between the two men and the fact the eye-in-the-triangle appears on US currency (even though Weishaupt never used that symbol). Of course it was all OM and Karl got mindfucked.
Despite operating with only a primitive Commodore 64, Karl successfully penetrated a number of military-industrial websites around the world and sold passwords and other information to the KGB to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars, a connection established by his cocaine dealers. Most of the money he earned from hacking flowed back into the dealers’ hands. Karl descended into a paranoid cocaine-induced psychosis for a while. Meantime the German authorities offered up a hacker’s amnesty in order to crack the subculture and Karl took the offer, but was soon found in a forest, burnt to a crisp. Strangely, his death was ruled a suicide, but a more likely explanation is the drug dealers killed him in retaliation for going state’s evidence.
Karl died on May 23, 1989.
The Peace Cup
When planning an important ceremony, better tweak the vibes as correctly as possible going in; otherwise they’ll get more unraveled as the event progresses. The theme for the Cup was “peace,” but I wondered if peace would prevail after the outbreak of a silent war over water-hash rights.
A mind-boggling 27 coffeeshops and 17 seed companies had entered, so I knew changes had to be made in how strains were judged. How could anyone possibly be expected to judge 27 types of cannabis and 25 types of hash in four days? Also, since judges have to purchase samples from the shops, just buying a gram of each sample would necessitate spending over $600. The solution? A celebrity pre-tasting. The plan was to collect the coffeeshop weed samples, bring them to a private dinner party, and have eight experts narrow the ﬁeld of 27 strains down to a manageable number.
In the past, relatively small amounts were distributed at 420 ceremonies, banquets and other special events, while the celebrity judges received samples direct from seed merchants at the traditional kickoff dinner. But the new strategy called for a new packaging concept. Our Dutch liaison purchased 27 glass jars, each of which held 60 grams of pot. At its peak, mounted on a tiered pedestal, this became the most glorious display of quality herb I’d ever seen.
Coffeeshop owners saw this pyramid of cannabis power when they came to register their strains, and they were amazed as well. It was fascinating to watch them crack open jars, take whiffs and make cryptic comments in Dutch. Some years are better than others; last year, for example, was… disappointing. But this year’s crop easily exhibited the best quality I’d ever seen! Even Derry from Barney’s Breakfast Bar, last year’s winner, was intimidated. “I thought I had a chance,” he said. “Now I wonder.” Derry was especially rocked by Tweede Kamer’s entry, New York City Diesel, grown by Soma.
After the coffeeshop owners departed, and the strains were photographed and entered into the Temple Dragon logs, I removed all names from the 27 jars, replacing them with letters. I had one jar left over after “Z,” which happened to be New York City Diesel. It got an umlaut “Ë.
Needless to say, the Cup video crew somehow found time in their hectic schedule to sample some strains. New York City Diesel had an overpowering ruby red grapefruit aroma unlike anything else. This jar became the most poached item on the table. There were several Nederbubble hashes that looked spectacular: Daisy Cutter from Bushdoctor, Blueberry Ice from the Noon, and Scooby Snaxx from Katsu. But most spectacular was the Jelly Hash from De Dampkring, concocted out of two of Soma’s favorite organic strains. Deep chocolate in color, it snapped apart when stretched, and light showed through when a slab was held to a window. It was the most super-pure hash I’d ever seen. Was this Soma’s breakout year? Previously, he’d only won a few minor awards. By the end of the ﬁrst day, the video crew already had a mantra: “It’s all about the Jelly!”
This would be a good place to interject that Nederbubble was not universally admired as the ultimate cannabis experience. Some compared it to whiskey versus wine; “I can’t be smoking water hash,” said one breeder. “I’d never get anything done. It’s too strong.” “I like the taste of imported hash better,” said a coffeeshop owner. In the past, we’d often separated Nederhash and imported hash into two categories; this year they were lumped together, uncomfortable bedfellows, as we would soon discover.
The following day, we photographed and videotaped the seed strains. These were divided into two categories: indica and sativa-dominant. Judging of these strains was reserved for celebrity judges.
I was especially impressed by Sage from THSeeds. Run by two American refugees, THSeeds has been vying for an award since the 9th Cup, always bringing in a remarkable plant but never scoring a trophy. Would this be a winning year for them? The competition in the sativa category was intense, with a large number of Hazes, the most difﬁcult and time-consuming strain to grow. The tour operator suddenly began having hot ﬂashes over the appearance of so much weed in one place. At the eleventh hour, he was struck by a premonition the banquet was going to get busted. I chalked it up to paranoia from excessive Nederbubble testing. But clearly, I was the one on Nederbubble, as every jar contained twice the 30-gram legal limit for personal-use cannabis possession in Holland. Even coffeeshops are only allowed to have 500 grams on hand at any time. Break the 500-gram rule and the police will yank your license. Forget about personal possession—we were carrying over three times the legal limit for a coffeeshop! No wonder Mike was worried.
“Get rid of two-thirds of the weed,” he cautioned. “There’s a new government in town, and the narc squads have been doing hit-and-runs on coffeeshops. There’s a clampdown going on.”
“Are you crazy?” I said. “The celebrity judges need as much as possible for the pre-test. We’ve never had any problems with the cops in Amsterdam.” Well, not exactly. At the 7th Cup, we were booked into the exclusive Okura Hotel. We’d heard Cheech and Chong had thrown a ﬁlm wrap party there in the ’70s, and assumed the hotel was cool with pot. But management called the police about “unauthorized pot-smoking” stinking up the hotel. I was asked to distribute a letter requesting that judges conﬁne their toking to the Pax Party House across the street. Privately, I told everyone to keep a towel under the door, open a window, and keep it cool, the usual tricks mastered in college dorms across America. The head of the local precinct ended up visiting the expo at the Pax, and must have picked up on our burgeoning effort to spiritualize cannabis use. I got the impression he approved of us—or at least liked us—because he ended up cooling out the Okura staff, who wanted us ejected from the premises ASAP. It had remained my sole confrontation with the authorities while throwing the town’s biggest annual pot party for the previous 14 years.
Meanwhile, my hotel room was transformed into a video-editing studio, and every spare second was spent trying to edit the video presentation for the opening ceremonies. We’d missed videotaping one or two hash varieties that had arrived late. They’d been tossed into a bag with the already-videotaped hash, so I laid all the hash on the ﬂoor in alphabetical order, and tried to match the video clips to the samples to ﬁgure out which ones were missing. Rather than pack up the hash and hide it, I left the samples on the ﬂoor and put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door before we hustled off to the pre-test dinner.
I wasn’t a big pot-smoker when I came to High Times. Not that I would ever turn down a free hit, but I never went out of my way to acquire marijuana, and it never became a major part of my life—not until I started working at High Times.
In 1969, when I was in high school, we thought of ourselves as members of “the movement.” We marched against the war in Vietnam, smoked marijuana, rejected establishment religions, and experimented with new ideas in spirituality. Many of us thought our movement was destined to take over the world. But where did this movement come from? Initially, I assumed it originated with European bohemian culture, but the more I investigated the history of the modern counterculture, the more convinced I became Europe was not the source.
Peace culture is probably as old as time, but our counterculture version began forming in New Orleans, which was established as a French colony by John Law in 1717. The colony was supposed to generate proﬁts for rich investors in France, but obviously didn’t produce quickly enough. Three years later, Law was run out of France, and immigrants who had joined his get-rich-quick scheme survived only through the help of the local Choctaw Indians.
Very quickly, a focal point for slaves, Indians, and nonconformists appeared in the city. Originally named Place des Negres, it was soon renamed Congo Square. It was the only place in North America where blacks, whites, and Native Americans could congregate and hold ceremonies—a cultural autonomous zone. Mainstream European culture had long been dominated by fundamentalist thinking, a mindset that creates crusades, inquisitions, and blind obedience to male authority ﬁgures. But Congo Square allowed for natural ceremonies to emerge. When a cultural autonomous zone is created, peace culture spontaneously erupts. Native American activist and poet John Trudell calls this “all tribes culture”; I call it “the counterculture.” The Hopis call the saviors of the earth, “Rainbow Warriors.”
Although African tribal culture played the dominant role at Congo Square, Native American culture provided a huge element as well, still in evidence at Mardi Gras today. Congo Square spawned jazz, which spawned rock’n’roll. The culture traveled up the Mississippi to Chicago, where white guys like Mezz Mezzrow got involved. Mezz was heavily persecuted because he married a black woman and created the ﬁrst mixed-race jazz band. His book Really the Blues is a masterpiece, one of the most under appreciated works of American literature. Once the culture landed in New York, it inspired the rise of the beatniks. It jumped over to San Francisco and help create the hippies.
Wherever you find this culture, you will find improvisational ceremonies, marijuana (or some similar mind-expanding sacrament), and an absence of bigotry. The counterculture fosters spontaneity and improvisation—not dogmas. That’s why counterculture people look and talk different. We are free to customize our culture on the spot, because our Bible is written in our hearts. When Louis Armstrong shaped and deﬁned the solo, he was grooving in that ceremonial space that invites spontaneous creation. Just like when Grandmaster Theodore invented scratching, or when Willie Will of the Rockwell Crew invented the head-spin. They were channeling improvisational energy. Corporate mainstream culture does not create such astonishing cultural innovation.
The more I studied the counterculture, the more I realized our goal was not to create a religion, write a book, establish dogmatic rules of behavior, or create elaborate chains of command under centralized control. The goal was to create temporary autonomous zones where improvisational ritual could take place. All we had to do was hold the ceremony and allow the vibration to emerge.
Most people know 420 started in Marin County, California with the Waldos. But the Cannabis Cup was the ﬁrst international event to embrace the 420 concept wholeheartedly, and played a major role in spreading 420 ceremonies around the world. It seemed like peak moments of improvisational ritual began emerging at every Cup, especially at the 420 moments, although you never really knew when or where the vibes might suddenly jump off. Some people had full-blown spiritual epiphanies at the event.
It wasn’t until the 8th Cup that I started trying to educate the media about the rituals that were spontaneously emerging at my ceremonies. All the press ever wanted to know was , “How can you judge so many strains in four days?” Morley Safer and a 60 Minutes crew came. At the press conference, we unveiled a portrait of Cannabia by Alex Grey, and Stephen Gaskin spoke about his experiences in jail and the refusal of the Supreme Court to hear his religious-rights argument. I explained how soma, the central sacrament of the Rig Veda, was actually cannabis. Safer didn’t attend our little show, but the 60 Minutes crew ﬁlmed it. The next day I learned my scheduled one-on-one interview with Safer had been canceled. Needless to say, no mention of counterculture spirituality appeared when the segment aired. I now realize my interview with Safer had been cancelled by Michael Kennedy, who was close friends with Shana Alexander as both spent their summers in the Boner enclave in Wainscott, NY.
One of my favorite characters appeared at the 8th Cup (also called “The Rainbow Cup,” because Rainbow Gathering veteran Garrick Beck directed the ceremonies). Despite the freezing temperatures, a character arrived dressed like a sadhu from the Himalayas, barefoot and robed. But every time some signiﬁcant improvisational moment occurred, I noticed this mysterious sadhu was right there in the thick of it. I never saw anyone get so connected with the vibe so fast, before or since.
In an attempt to force the press to deal with counterculture spirituality, I established the Counterculture Hall of Fame at the 10th Cup. By honoring spiritual leaders of the culture, I also hoped to define the culture, as well as channel energy on a righteous vibe, not high-holy or bliss-ninny vibe, but truly righteous. The ﬁrst inductee was Bob Marley, and his widow, Rita, made an unexpected surprise appearance. We’d already created the Cannabis Cup Band to provide a musical backdrop for the ceremonies. Rita was so impressed with the band that when she heard them at soundcheck, she gave me a look of amazement and asked, “Who ARE these guys?” She’d never seen so many white guys cranking reggae. The band had a couple ringers from Jamaica, including a close friend of Bob’s, Ras Menelik,” who’d been Marley’s official Rastarfarian priest.
Rita closed the awards show by singing “One Draw” with the band, and she invited the winners to come up and dance on stage during the song. It was an amazing moment, and ever since, the winners were invited on stage and danced at the end. That’s how our ceremony grew. We waited for peak improvisational moments to emerge, and when they did, they got incorporated into the ceremonies.
After inducting Louis Armstrong, Mezz Mezzrow, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs into the totally sexist men’s counterculture Hall of Fame, we finally got around to inducting a woman, Ina May Gaskin, at the Goddess Cup , where the bliss factor hit a peak. The bonding and heavy support vibrations left many helpless and teary-eyed. Patti Smith provided an inspirational performance many felt was the highlight of the event. Later, I was crushed to discover French activist Michka felt cheated because a video spoof of Survivor called “Cannabis Castaways” had upstaged the goddess vibration at the kickoff dinner. Instead of presenting a documentary celebrating the Goddess, I screened a campy MTV-style reality show. I hope we made up for it with our Ina May Gaskin induction later in the week. Ina May created the modern midwife movement, and her popular classic Spiritual Midwifery remains a most enlightening birth book.
When Krassner, founder of the counterculture press, was inducted the following year, I dropped the network-TV concept and concentrated on making a serious documentary detailing Krassner’s contributions to the counterculture. It was a breakout year for the Cup’s video productions, which were becoming more and more important to setting the vibes for the event. But I wouldn’t uncover Krassner’s bizarre intel connection for decades.
For the 15th Cup, I wanted to channel Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. I tried hard to get Joan to attend and made tons of overtures to Dylan (although we were never actually sure if he got any). Later on, after reading Dylan’s brilliant memoirs (Chronicles, Vol.1), I’d learn about Dylan’s rage against being turned into any sort of counterculture spokesperson.
Joan’s cousin, Peter Baez, a California medical-marijuana activist, did attend, however. Larry Sloman, who had dogged Dylan and Baez during the historic Rolling Thunder tour in 1975, agreed to give a seminar. I picked up the new edition of Sloman’s account of the tour, On the Road with Bob Dylan, and was mesmerized to ﬁnd a peak ritual moment happened during a sunrise ceremony presided over by a Native American named Chief Rolling Thunder. It was clear from the book Dylan had an understanding of counterculture spirituality, and had even painted his face like a Native American warrior during the tour. He also wrote a song about pot called “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” If you multiply those numbers together, you get 420. How cosmic is that? I intended to play the song every night at the Melkweg, just to see if anything major would jump off afterwards.
After the pre-test, we started packing for the trip back to the editing studio (my hotel room). It was very late, and I wondered where we were going to ﬁnd a cab. One of the Amnesia crew had a vehicle parked outside: essentially a three-wheeled motorcycle with a ﬂat-bed pickup on the back. He insisted on taking us home—“Ride like a real Amsterdammer!” After we loaded the equipment and weed, there was only room for three of us. I heard some comments like “not exactly street-legal.” Wouldn’t that be funny, I thought, if we got stopped and they searched our bags? We still had over a thousand grams of weed, earmarked for the display case, the kickoff dinner, photo shoots, and Pax 420 ceremonies.
It turned into a hair-raising ride, on some bike trails, some trolley tracks, and even some real roads, but we made it back to the hotel without incident. The crew helped carry the bags up to my room on the second ﬂoor. When we stepped off the elevator, we were hit by an overpowering aroma of cannabis. “Somebody must be toking up big-time,” I said. But as we got closer to my room, we realized the smell actually emanated from within. Even worse, the “Do Not Disturb” sign had been removed, indicating penetration into our sacred Temple Dragon lair.
It appeared the night staff had changed the sheets on my bed and left a fruit bowl, so I assumed they overlooked the enormously stinky piles of hash on the ﬂoor. I turned on my computer and we started viewing tape, comforted by the knowledge that tomorrow all this weed and hash would be transported to the Pax Party House, where the ﬁnest samples were going to be placed into a display case for all the judges to see.
Some ten minutes later, I heard a noise at the door and the words, “Amsterdam Police, get on the ﬂoor!”
I didn’t even look up, assuming it was one of the crew playing a joke. I was thinking, “That’s not funny.” Then I looked up and saw a policewoman, quickly followed by what appeared to be a SWAT team. I hit the ﬂoor, and my hands were cuffed behind my back.
They pulled each of us out of the room separately. I was escorted through the lobby, which was thankfully empty, except for a dozen more police. Who did they think I was, Pablo Escobar? I was placed in the back of a police car and driven across town and put into a cell by myself. Naturally, I just wanted to get a call in to the High Times attorney in New York, but that was not Dutch policy. “No phone calls,” they told me. Someone predicted I would remain in jail for the remainder of the weekend, meaning I was going to miss the Cup kickoff banquet as well as the ofﬁcial opening festivities.”
“The cell was freezing. I napped for a few hours, but woke up cold and couldn’t get back to sleep. In the morning, I was unexpectedly loaded into a van and taken to a different station in what appeared to be the most exclusive part of old-money Amsterdam. My handcuffs were removed, and I found myself in a corner ofﬁce on a high ﬂoor, where I met the top drugs cop, who turned out to be a warm and gentle guy. All my Cup documents, the codes to the pre-test, my video-shoot schedules, copies of High Times, a copy of my book Adventures in the Counterculture, and other Cup-related documents were spread out on his desk. We shook hands; he noted mine was somewhat clammy.
“I had a rough night,” I shrugged.
After examining my papers and discovering who I was, this policeman decided to release me, against the advice of the prosecutor who’d wanted us held all weekend—provided I signed a confession to possessing the three kilos of pot and hash. He explained I would likely have to pay a ﬁne in a few months to clear things up.
It’s not allowed to have this much cannabis in your possession,” he explained. “But I can see you are a nice guy, and your event should go on.”
Several hours later, I found myself outside, breathing fresh air and feeling the awesome beauty of freedom, and was reunited with two crew members, both of whom were completely off the hook, thanks to my signed confession. The police returned all my essential documents. It was almost 4:20, and we’d blown an entire day’s shooting schedule. Worse, we’d just gone from the weed kings of Amsterdam to absolutely weedless! Even our personal stash had been conﬁscated. The product and glass video shoots we were supposed to have executed this day would be jettisoned like heavy bricks on a long march. It would be a struggle to catch up, since we had multi-camera shoots in twin locations to arrange for the next ﬁve days, and presentation videos that had to be edited for each event.
“Don’t tell anyone about this,” I murmured as we rode the trolley back to the Leidseplein. “Knowledge of this could cause widespread discomfort and wreck the vibes. We must act like nothing happened, like we overslept or something.”
We went back to the hotel room, which was emanating fearful vibes, and found the videotapes intact and my computer still functioning. Next to the computer was a huge slab of Jelly Hash—no doubt mistaken for a melted chocolate bar.
Then I noticed 30 Scooby Snaxx laminates. The room started emanating a lot less trauma after hits on Jelly and Scooby! In 15 seconds I went from feeling like I had to check out of the hotel immediately to feeling like staying. There simply wasn’t time to relocate anyway. I had an hour to edit the video presentation for the kickoff dinner, which was supposed to include the results of the pre-test. In my haste, I listed Morning Glory ﬁrst and New York City Diesel second, because Morning Glory had the most overall votes. Later, Kyle would suggest that Diesel should have been number-one, because it received the most ﬁrst-place votes.”
“By the time we got to the Pax, the kickoff dinner was starting and it was time to roll video. Of course, Mike Esterson wanted weed, lots of weed, since everyone was pressing him for samples. Reluctantly, I explained in conﬁdence what had happened. When I told Mike where I’d spent the night, his face went white. I had to eat crow too, about how stupid I’d been not taking his advice.
Fortunately, he had the seed-company samples, which had been stashed at another hotel. It was enough to satisfy the celebrities, but not the crew, most of whom were mystiﬁed. “Where’s the weed and hash?” It became the crew mantra, because they found so little available during the event. Only four people in the room knew why. I spent the night handing out Scooby Snaxx here and there, trying to stretch the little stash I had.
The three hash judges, Jorge Cervantes, Freedom Fighter of the Year Shawn Heller, and the winner of the 420tours contest, were supposed to get samples at the dinner. Mike got on a cell phone to round up some hash, but the samples didn’t arrive for 24 hours.
Other than that glitch, the Cup went off without any further incident. Mila had her confrontation with Kyle at the Pax. De La Soul, Fishbone, Defari, and many other hip-hop acts performed great sets, and everyone remarked how the crowd was the most polite and well-mannered ever. The peak improvisational moment came when the Cannabis Cup Band took the stage and introduced Article Dan from Trinidad, who made up a song on the spot titled “Your Time, My Time,” and dedicated it to High Times and the Cup. For the rest of the event, one could hear judges singing those lyrics in coffeeshops around the city. “My time, your time, my time high! Who’s really high? I’m really high!” Article Dan’s performance, along with all the other highlights of the Cup’s entire history, was released on the ﬁrst Cannabis Cup DVD.
The day after the awards show, I went to the traditional 420 ceremony at the winning coffeeshop, which this year was Barney’s. Soma burst into the room like a man on a mission. He’d just purchased $200 worth of the winning Old Church hash. He threw it on the table with disdain. He sat down and loaded a bong with a slab of Jelly. He held another slab in his hand and worked it into a ball as he sang love and praises for his Jelly, which sells for three times more than any other hash in Amsterdam. Then he turned his attention to the Old Church hash. “If Helen Keller and her two blind sisters were the hash judges, they could not….”
Bluebird had given a similar speech after failing to capture a hash prize at the 8th Cup. For many years thereafter, the Bluebird refused to enter the event, even though they clearly had some of the best hash in Amsterdam. By some karmic coincidence, someone mentioned that the Bluebird had just gotten hit by a narc squad. Soma looked stricken. He stopped his rant, pulled out a cell phone and called Harry to make sure he was OK. And he was. Whew. “Hey, I agree with you,” I told Soma. “Americans can’t judge hash. The Jelly was the best hash. It deserved the Cup in my opinion. I’ll tell you what; they gave me a Cup at the awards show. I’ll give my Cup to De Dampkring in recognition of the Jelly.”
Soma whipped out his cell phone and called Paul at De Dampkring, so I could repeat those words to him. However, I neglected to tell them that particular Cup, which was supposed to end up on my ﬁreplace mantle, had been stolen from the backstage area the night of the awards show, so it was probably going to take a while to deliver on the promise.
Later that night, I told Arjan from the Green House what had happened. “You are making a big mistake,” he said. “First of all, that hash from the Old Church was sold to them by the Rokerij [owned by Arjan’s brother-in-law]. It’s called Christmas Butter, and only six kilos a year are produced. It is my personal favorite hash.”
Suddenly, there I was again, smack in the middle of the biggest, longest running competition between two cannabis titans: Arjan of the Green House and Paul of De Dampkring. These two had been vying for the Cannabis Cup for years—although De Dampkring did drop out for three years because they got tired of having to spend so much promotion money to compete. We’d changed some rules to make the contest more fair, and as a result they came back into the fold. The Cup wasn’t the same without Paul and Arjan battling it out. But my mind was already plotting a new ceremony. Medieval silversmith Robin “The Hammer” Ludwig had to forge a Cup on Overlook Mountain, on the winter solstice, near where Bob Dylan bought his ﬁrst house and lived for many years, an area rich in counterculture vibrations, holy ground for peace culture. I needed to deliver this Cup to De Dampkring , and hope it brought enough positive energy to clear the air, because the 15th Cup… It really was all about the Jelly.
Morale at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) might have been reaching an all-time low early in 1993. The previous summer, the agency had initiated and botched a case against Randy Weaver in Idaho. (Weaver later collected $3.1 million in restitution for the death of his wife and son. ) Then came widespread accusations of sexual harassment inside the agency. 60 Minutes, the most-watched news show in the country, jumped all over that one.
The ATF brass wanted something to turn around the bad publicity, and they wanted it fast. In March, they were scheduled to appear before Congress to defend their annual budget. The solution? They began planning the biggest, most elaborate raid in ATF history. On February 28, a mile-long, 80-vehicle caravan pulled out of Ford Hood, Texas and headed 50 miles northeast for an appointment with the Apocalypse near Waco.
“Raiding is the expertise of the ATF, and statistically, it’s not as dangerous as one might think,” writes Dick J. Reavis in The Ashes of Waco. “In 36 months, the agency had called out its SRT or SWAT teams 578 times, executed 603 search warrants, mostly against dope dealers, and had seized some 1,500 weapons. It had encountered gunfire on only two of its raids, and the only fatalities (three of them) had been among the suspects.
The ATF videotaped the planning sessions, as well as the training maneuvers at Fort Hood. Many agents carried cameras along with their flash-bang grenades, nylon handcuffs and assault rifles. A video camera was mounted on one of the three helicopters that were scheduled to arrive with the raiding party.
Unfortunately, there were serious problems with the raid’s planning and execution. The search warrant contained inflammatory and prejudicial comments. Legal citations were incorrect. It contained blatantly false information about a methamphetamine lab, info which had been fabricated to obtain free military assistance. Two-thirds of the warrant involved charges of child abuse, a crime for which the ATF had no jurisdiction. Many consultants had urged the ATF to conduct the raid before sunrise, but the designated time had been moved to to 9:30 am. The plan involved multiple “dynamic entries,” which meant forced entry from numerous sides and levels simultaneously.
The planning was shoddy because the ATF needed the raid to happen fast, and expected a cakewalk. It needed to happen during good lighting conditions to optimize the video footage. The target, a religious community called Mount Carmel, had been under observation for over a month. It housed about 130 people, of which two-thirds were women and children. The occupants ranged from very elderly to babies and included two pregnant women. An undercover agent who’d penetrated the community reported endless hours of Bible study, with two communion services daily. The last thing the ATF expected was armed resistance in the face of their overwhelming firepower. Had they a better understanding of the Students of the Seven Seals who lived at Mount Carmel, the ATF might have realized they were about to stick their nose into a hornet’s nest.
The Search for a Living Prophet
The Romans threw John the Apostle into a pot of boiling oil as punishment for spreading Christianity; but he survived and eventually was banished to the Greek isle of Patmos, where, around 90 AD, he wrote the Book of Revelation, a violent prophecy in which the unbelievers (read: Romans) are subjected to horrible tortures while the true followers of Christ are lifted into a golden city in heaven. Think of it as the original vengeance drama. Written before much of the New Testament, Revelation was placed at the end of the Bible. Martin Luther warned that excessive study of it could lead to insanity. It ends with a plea for the Apocalypse to come quickly.
In 1831, William Miller launched the Second Advent Awakening, the biggest American-born religious movement in history. According to Miller’s calculations, the end of the world was due on Oct. 22, 1844. Miller attracted a huge following of doomsday advocates, the survivalists of their time. When Jesus and the Apocalypse failed to appear at the appointed hour, the devotees had to recover from what they dubbed the “great disappointment.” Miller’s followers eventually blossomed into 84 groups of churches with over ten million members worldwide, the largest of which is the Seventh Day Adventist Church, with about 750,000 members in the United States. Adventists believe the Second Coming is imminent, and that the power of prophecy will flourish in the final days. Despite this, only one person since Miller has ascended to official “living prophet” status.
In 1935, Bulgarian immigrant Victor Houteff declared himself a living prophet and was promptly banished from the church. He assembled a large band of devotees at Mount Carmel Center in Texas. Upon his death in 1955, his widow took over and announced the Second Coming was due April 22, 1959. But when the date came and passed without an Apocalypse, 10,000 members were left in disarray. Most stopped sending in contributions, leaving self-proclaimed prophet Ben Roden and about fifty “Branch Davidians,” as they called themselves, in charge of the once prosperous Mount Carmel.
Following Roden’s death in 1978, his widow, Lois, took over the church. Lois not only proclaimed herself a prophetess, she attracted a lot of attention in Adventist circles by declaring the Holy Spirit was feminine.
Vernon Wayne Howell joined the congregation in 1981. Born in Texas to a 15-year-old single mother, Howell had been passed between family members and physically and sexually abused during childhood. Due to dyslexia, he was held back many times in school, earning the nickname “Mr. Retardo.” At age nine, he became a devout Seventh Day Adventist. By age 12, he’d memorized large tracts of the King James Bible.
When Howell arrived at Mount Carmel, he was a stuttering, insecure boy given to fits of self-pity. More than anything, he wanted contact with a living prophet. He formed a secret sexual liason with Lois Roden, then in her late sixties. With his encyclopedic command of the Bible, Howell became an inspirational figure whose “visions” were taken seriously, despite his ninth-grade education. This angered George Roden, Lois’ son, who saw himself as the future leader of the group. George suffered from Tourette’s syndrome and frequently exploded with uncontrollable rage and inappropriate behavior. When Howell took a 14-year-old member of the congregation as his wife, Lois acted the jilted lover and confessed her secret affair during Bible study class. George expelled Howell and his teenage bride from Mount Carmel at the point of an Uzi. Most of the congregation followed Howell to East Texas, where they lived communally in wretched conditions. Thus began his conversion from inspirational figure to living prophet. In 1987, Marc Breault joined the East Texas enclave and became Howell’s right-hand man, helping recruit dozens of new members to the community.
After his mother died in 1986, George Roden became completely unglued. Determined to wrest back his congregation, he dug up a corpse and challenged Howell to see who could raise the dead. Instead, Howell reported the corpse abuse to the local sheriff. The sheriff wanted evidence, so Howell and several armed followers crept back to Mount Carmel under cover of night with a camera. Before they embarked on this mission, however, Howell outfitted everyone with identical camouflage fatigues and armed them with AR-15 assault rifles.
A gun battle ensued and Roden was wounded. He would have likely been killed, except the neighbors called the police, who broke up the gunfight and arrested Howell and his men for attempted murder. During the trial, Roden wrote angry letters to the judge, threatening to reign down a pox of AIDS and herpes on him. The judge sentenced him to six months in jail for contempt. The trial ended in a hung jury. Two years later, Roden was convicted of an ax murder and locked in an insane asylum.
Meanwhile, Howell and his followers rebuilt Mount Carmel, which had fallen into disrepair. They maintained a 24-hour armed vigil against possible retribution from Roden, who’d briefly escaped from the mental institution and continued to assert his ownership over the property. By paying back taxes and occupying the site, Howell hoped to gain full legal ownership within five years. In 1990, he changed his name to David Koresh and announced the Apocalypse was commencing in five years.
His group called themselves “Students of the Seven Seals,” not “Branch Davidians,” as they would later be known by the news media. Koresh yearned for recognition as a living prophet from the Adventist Church. His group lived a happy and communal life. They were an eclectic group of races, cultures and nationalities, some with advanced degrees in theology. One was the first black graduate of Harvard Law School.
Koresh formed a rock band, and the elders viewed him as a possible MTV-style prophet who could breathe life into a dying religious movement. He drove a souped-up Camaro and enjoyed target practice with semiautomatic assault weapons. He believed guns would come in handy during the 1995 Apocalypse. “What are you going to do when the tanks are surrounding us?” he’d ask his congregation.
Adventists believe the Bible contains clues concerning the date and nature of Judgment Day. They also have a religious obligation to take claims of prophecy seriously. By creating down-home explanations for many confusing passages in Revelation, and by memorizing all 150 Psalms and treating them as prophecy, Koresh created a fresh take on doomsday Christianity that was irresistible to some Adventists. His congregation was not a collection of brainwashed zombies, but an educated and highly spiritual community. Koresh frequently came to Bible class straight from work, his hands soiled with axle grease, the tones of his voice always conversational, never bombastic like a typical Southern Baptist.
Life at Mount Carmel was spartan, but people stayed because it was spiritually charged. One never knew what outlandish prophesy Koresh might spout next. He had a knack for constantly topping himself, like Jackie Chan dreaming up new stunts. Serious problems began, however, soon after Breault left the community and moved back to Australia, a split that coincided with Koresh’s celibacy prophecy, which he called “The New Light.”
“At the time of the end, those who have wives should live as they have none,” said Koresh, quoting the Bible to support the new policy. It was time for male members at Mount Carmel to become celibate, except for Koresh, who was obligated to sire 24 children by 1995. He already had several wives at Mount Carmel, one of whom he’d seduced when she was twelve. (Koresh later admitted it was difficult keeping former couples from getting it on once in a while, just as it was difficult keeping his harem sexually satisfied.)
It wasn’t your typical American family, but the children were Koresh’s jewels. They were reportedly extremely well-mannered, quiet, obedient and showered with love. They’d never seen a television, never eaten junk food, never been to a public school. Their welfare had been monitered by the Texas Department of Human Services. The children showed no signs of physical or emotional abuse.
The community sincerely believed Koresh’s interpretations of the Bible, and accepted him as “The Lamb,” the only person capable of opening the seven seals that would bring about the Apocalypse. His matings with teenagers was unlawful, but conducted with parental approval. It was considered a sacred honor to bear his child. “It’s not like I really want to do this,” Koresh would always explain. “The Lord is telling me I have to.”
Instead of turning his newlywed wife over to “The House of David,” Marc Breault embarked on a vendetta to expose Koresh. He hired a private investigator to document Koresh’s history of statutory rape. When he couldn’t get the press or authorities interesting in the story, he began mixing exaggerations with real facts to produce a tantalizing stew of tabloid sensationalism. Eventually, he gave the story to an Australian TV show and began working on a book deal. Meanwhile, based on his evidence, the ATF elevated Koresh to ZBO.
Zee Big One
Zee Big One (ZBO) is “a press-drawing stunt that when shown to Congress at budget time justifies more funding,” wrote investigative reporter Carol Vinzant in Spy. “The attack on the Branch Davidians complex was, in the eyes of some of the agents, the ultimate ZBO.” In the spring of 1992, a United States Parcel Service driver opened a box of grenade hulls that were being shipped to Mount Carmel and reported it to the local sheriff, who alerted the ATF. A member of Koresh’s community was developing a profitable and entirely legal business selling firearms and survivalist fashion wear at gun shows. The empty grenade hulls were sewn into ammo vests, part of the official David Koresh survival gear.
On July 30, 1992, gun dealer Henry McMahon called Koresh, saying ATF agents were at his home asking questions about him. “Tell them to come out here,” replied Koresh. “If they want to see my guns, they are more than welcome.” The agents responded by motioning silently, “no, no,” and getting McMahon to hang up.
In January 1993, three undercover ATF agents occupied the house across the street from Mount Carmel and began videotaping and gathering intelligence. Although it was obvious they were government agents, Koresh welcomed their arrival and spent considerable time discussing the Bible with agent Robert Rodriguez, trying to convince him the government represented a false Babylonian power. He urged Rodriguez to move into Mount Carmel so he could have a better understanding of the community. They engaged in target practice together and inspected each other’s weapons. Koresh noticed Rodriguez’s gun had a hair trigger, standard issue for a police sniper, and had been converted to full automatic fire, normally an illegal modification unless one registered the gun and paid the proper taxes. “This is a dangerous weapon,” noted Koresh.
The day before launching “Operation Trojan Horse,” the ATF reserved rooms in local hotels for over a hundred agents and personnel. They also alerted the national and local media to be ready for a big story that was about to break. A highly inflammatory article attacking Koresh as a child abuser appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald the morning of the raid. It wasn’t difficult to see a massive operation was underway, aimed at Mount Carmel.
David Jones, a local postman and Mount Carmel resident, was tipped off to the upcoming raid when a news cameraman asked for directions to “Rodenville.” While they spoke, an ATF sniper team drove past and National Guard helicopters flew overhead. Jones raced to Mount Carmel and found Koresh discussing theology with Rodriguez. He whispers in Koresh’s ear that the Feds are in route. Koresh remains calm. “We know they’re coming,” he said while shaking hands goodbye with the agent. “Do what you gotta do.”
Rodriguez called ATF Special Agent Chuck Sarabyn in a failed attempt to cancel the raid as the crucial element of surprise had been lost. Instead, however, Sarabyn panics and orders his troops to speed up, “They know we’re coming!” The Ft. Hood convoy was at Bellmead Civic Center, ten miles from Mount Carmel, with seventy-six ATF raiders loaded into two unprotected cattle trailers pulled by pickup trucks.
Despite the clear possibility of an ambush, Sarabyn felt he could not cancel a ZBO.
There are many versions of what happened next, but the most believable accounts come from the surviving residents of Mount Carmel. Their perspective has been best documented by David Thibodeau, the drummer in Koresh’s band, in his book, A Place Called Waco. “David appeared in the cafeteria accompanied by four or five men armed with AR-15s,” writes Thibodeau. Koresh told his congregation to keep cool. “I want to talk it out with these people,” he said. “We want to work it out.”
A few minutes later the cattle cars filled with agents pulled up broadside to the front door. The first shots were probably fired by agents into the dog pen in front of the building, where an Alaskan malamute lived with her pups. All the dogs were killed. There is also evidence one panicky agent accidentally discharged two rounds into the radiator and windshield of an ATF vehicle.
Koresh opened the front door. He was unarmed. “What’s going on?” he shouted. “There are women and children in here!” When he failed to hit the ground upon command, the agents opened fire, fatally wounding 64-year-old Perry Jones, who was standing next to Koresh. The door slammed shut and residents began to return fire. Under Texas law, defending oneself against excessive police force is legal.
Within seconds, Harvard Law graduate Wayne Martin, a local attorney, called 911. “There’s 75 men around our building shooting at us at Mount Carmel,” said Martin. “Tell them there are women and children in here and to call it off!” Ten minutes passed before Lieutenant Lynch, a deputy sheriff known to Martin, picked up the line. “I have a right to defend myself!” shrieked Martin. “We want a cease fire!”
Strangely, there was no line of communication between local law enforcement and the raiding party, even though Lynch had visited the ATF command center earlier in the day. The command center was filled with phones and fax machines, all ready to blanket the news media with press releases, but had no communication with the raiding team. Apparently, none of the raiders had cell phone.
It would take two agonizing hours to arrange a cease fire, and it happened only after ATF agents ran out of bullets. During that time, six residents were killed and four were wounded, while four ATF agents were killed and sixteen wounded. Many of the wounded agents were lying helpless on the field of battle. Of all the residents, Koresh was the most seriously wounded, a bullet had blown through his side. News photos reveal ATF agents in panic and disarray, loading their wounded on the hoods of vehicles.
The ATF had arrived in overwhelming force, including air support, and assaulted a church, only to be driven back by less than a dozen armed men and at least one woman shooting back. Suddenly, instead of a ZBO, ATF had one of the biggest pubic relations disasters in American history in the making. The ATF agents were quickly replaced by the FBI, the media were drawn back a mile from the scene and all lines of communication to Mount Carmel were severed. “A crazy cult is holding their children hostage,” went the standard press release.
The most damaging “evidence” of what really happened that day is the bizarre disappearance of all videotape shot by the ATF. The explanation given was that all cameras malfunctioned simultaneously, producing no tapes whatsoever. It’s far more likely the tapes disappeared because they supported the claim of Mount Carmel residents, all of whom insisted the ATF fired first.
Even worse, no written reports were filed by any agents on the field of battle, a startling reversal of ATF policy. Later, when agents were questioned about the skirmish, interviews had to be canceled because they were producing evidence favorable to the defendants inside Mount Carmel.
Today, the ATF tells a much different story: “We were ambushed by a hail of machine gun fire the moment we got off the cattle cars.” This explanation doesn’t hold up. Photos reveal Mount Carmel heavily peppered with bullet holes, while the vehicles used as cover by the ATF bear few signs of incoming fire.
Dr. Alan Stone, a Harvard psychiatrist and law expert hired by the government to write a report on Waco, concluded: “If they were militants determined to ambush and kill as many ATF agents as possible, it seemed to me that given their firepower, the devastation could have been even worse….the agents brought to the compound in cattle cars could have been cattle going to slaughter if the Branch Davidians had taken full advantage of their tactical superiority.”
Tragically, the fact four ATF agents died while attempting the initial dynamic entry calls into suspicion any statements made by agents at the scene. Why? Because “testi-lying” (fabricating evidence against suspected criminals in order to obtain convictions) has become standard operating procedure for some agencies, and an unofficial wall of silence protects police engaged in vigilante retribution against cop-killers. Many law enforcement officers will always believe Koresh and his followers got what they deserved, and if it requires a few lies to make it stand up in court, who cares?
The FBI brought in ten Bradley fighting vehicles, two Abrams tanks and a multitude of other armored vehicles. Shortwave radio and cell phones were electronically jammed. The only contact out was a single phone line the FBI ran from Mount Carmel to FBI negotiators off-site.
Koresh requested that Robert Rodriguez be installed as a negotiator, a logical choice since they had already developed a relationship. The request was denied. Instead, the FBI created a team of revolving negotiators, none of whom developed any sensitivity to Seventh Day Adventist doctrine. FBI negotiators dismissed all religious talk as “Bible babble,” not realizing Bible quotations were perhaps the best tool for bringing the residents out.
Early on, Koresh agreed to voluntarily surrender if a one-hour tape explaining his theology was aired on national radio. However, the night before, the residents had dug out the medicinal whiskey supply and held a party in the chapel while he lay wounded upstairs. Koresh abruptly canceled the surrender by saying God had told him to wait. “Some of us blamed the previous night’s binge, saying we’d sinned and acted wildly,” writes Thibodeau.
The FBI responded angrily and began a psychological war, playing loud music and the sounds of animals being tortured. Searchlights beamed into the building during the night. “Every time we thought we were cooperating, people were coming out, or we were doing what they asked, we’d be punished, almost right after complying,” says Clive Doyle, one of the survivors. “The electricity being cut off, the music being played, all that kind of stuff just gave us the attitude they certainly did not mean what they were promising, that we couldn’t trust them. All the things that went on for the next fifty-odd days just confirmed in our minds they had no concern for our children at all.”
During the siege, snipers routinely mooned women with their exposed buttocks. They also gave the finger to the men inside and loudly called them “cocksuckers” and “motherfuckers,” behavior that contributed to the residents impression that they were surrounded by an immoral force sent by Babylon. Meanwhile, the tanks and armored vehicles circled Mount Carmel, crushing cars, trampling graves, destroying property and contaminating the crime scene.
During the siege, 35 residents voluntarily left Mount Carmel, mostly children and the elderly. The elderly were immediately put in chains and treated like hardened criminals, while the children were fed candy and other junk food. Most of the people remaining inside became convinced surrender was not a viable option by watching how the FBI treated those exiting Mount Carmel.
On April 15, after the residents celebrated several days of Passover, Koresh informed the FBI that God had given him permission to write down his interpretation of the Seven Seals, a major breakthrough since he had never written down any of his philosphy. He feverishly went to work on the manuscript. As soon as it was done, he planned to surrender. His aides expected the work to be completed within a week.
But the mood of the FBI had turned permanently sour. Residents were no longer able to peacefully surrender after April 15. Instead, anyone who left the compound was immediately subjected to a barrage of deadly flash-bang grenades. Apparently, the cost of keeping so much law enforcement and equipment at the site (estimated at $500 thousand per day) had reached the limit. Deep inside the bowels of the federal government, a final solution was being hatched for the Students of the Seven Seals.
The Final Solution
In January 1993, the United States and 130 other countries signed the Chemical Weapons Convention banning the use of CS gas in warfare. Use of this toxic chemical had been condemned by everyone from Amnesty Internatonal to the US Army.
On April 14, 1993, the Department of Justice secretly flew in two military officers, Brigadier General Paul J. Shoomaker and Colonel William “Jerry” Boykin, then Commander of Delta Force (B Squadron) Special Ops at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. They were flown by FBI transport to Waco to “assess the situation,” then flown to Washington to meet Attorney General Janet Reno, to discuss “contingency plans that may be used to bring the situation in Waco to an end,” according to an Army Operations Command memo obtained by WorldNetDaily in August 1999.
On Saturday, April 17, Reno suddenly agreed to the use of CS gas in ending the Waco siege. She would later offer several reasons for approving the gas attack: Intelligence had indicated Koresh was sexually abusing the children. Armed militia from around the country was converging on Mount Carmel to free the residents. The perimeter had become unstable. Finally, the agents at the scene were suffering from fatigue.
At 6 am on April 19, while it was still dark, the huge speakers began broadcasting a new message to the 83 people inside. “The siege is over. We’re going to put tear gas in the building. The tear gas is harmless, but it will make your environment uninhabitable. You are under arrest. Come out now with your hands up. There will be no shooting. This is not an assault.”
From several sides at once, M60A1 tanks modified for demolition began punching holes into the walls of Mount Carmel. According to the plan signed off on by Reno, this phase of the gas attack was supposed to continue for 48 hours if necessary. However, in the fine print of the plan, the part Reno may not have read, rapid escalation of the attack was approved if the tanks drew fire from the residents. Within a few minutes, four BV tanks began firing ferret rounds into the building. Four hundred canisters had been stockpiled for the attack. Ninety minutes later, they had practically expended the supply and put out an emergency request for more canisters.
“By noon the building is a tinderbox,” writes Thibodeau. “A thick layer of methylene chloride dust deposited by the CS gas coats the walls, floors, and ceilings, mingling with kerosene and propane vapors from our spilled lanterns and crushed heaters. To make things worse, a brisk, thirty-knot Texas wind whips through the holes ripped in the building like a potbellied stove with its damper flung open.”
Shortly after two pyrotechnic ferret round were fired into the house, one in the rear and one in the front, two fireballs raced through building. Within seconds, the entire structure was in flames. According to the survivors, the only logical exit for most people was through the cafeteria. Most of the women and children were huddled in a concrete vault nearby. The children had no gas masks, so they sought shelter under wet blankets. When people tried to exit, they were driven back into the building by sniper fire. With their escape cut off, they roasted alive.
Nine residents survived, all of whom emerged from locations visible to the telephoto lenses of the network TV cameras. The presence of those cameras may explain why they survived, unlike the unfortunate ones who attempted to exit through the rear.
Fire trucks were available to put out the blaze, but were held back and not allowed near the scene until nothing but ashes were left. Meanwhile, the tanks ran over bodies and pushed debris into the fire to make sure nothing remained standing. Texas Rangers, who were not allowed near the scene until much later in the day, believed the FBI was salting phony evidence, while destroying the crime scene to make an investigation impossible. What little evidence did remain disappeared quickly.
After the smoke and dust cleared, the ATF flag was run up the Mount Carmel flagpole, signaling victory. Only the bunker where the moms and kids roasted alive (or were poisoned by gas) was left standing. Meanwhile, the official press release went out and the official story became: “The cult set fire to the building and committed mass suicide rather than surrender.” It was spun in the media as a Jim Jones-style event.
Dr. Nizam Peerwani, medical examiner for Tarrant County, was in charge of the autopsies. Although 21 people appeared to have died from gunshot wounds, all bullet fragments were immediately confiscated by the FBI and never subjected to independent analysis. Many of the bodies were decapitated or mutilated beyond recognition. According to the official report, “There was a particular instance where all that remained was the arm and hand of a mother clasping a small child’s hand and remains of an arm. You could see how tightly the child’s hand was being squeezed by the mother.” The body of one charred six-year-old was bent backward until the head almost touched the feet, the result of CS gas suffocation. Two fetuses died instantly, expelled after their mothers’ deaths. Autopsies revealed 20 of the dead had bullet wounds, including Koresh, who was shot in the back of the head. Among the 25 children, one three-year-old had been stabbed in the heart with a knife. The major question unanswered: how many residents committed suicide to avoid being roasted alive and how many shot by snipers? Residents had been afraid to flee, as many believed the snipers wanted them all dead.
Texas Rangers tried to investigate, but were prevented from examining crucial evidence. It took four years before lies spread by the Justice Department unravelled, including the assertion no pyrotechnic rounds had been used, and no shots had been fired into the structure during the final assault, statements thoroughly debunked by the 1997 award-winning film Waco: Rules of Engagement by William Gadzecki.
The government engineered a slam-dunk cover-up almost immediately. A blatantly biased judge was selected for the criminal trial, held in San Antonio in 1993. “The government is not on trial here,” he would say repeatedly. Eleven members of the community were charged with the murder of the ATF agents, but the evidence against them was weak. The judge gave the jury 67 pages of instructions about how to render a verdict. After four days of deliberations, the jury found all eleven not guilty of murder or conspiracy to commit murder. Four were found guilty of manslaughter, with four others convicted on weapons charges. The jury felt none of the defendants deserved long prison terms, and they expected another trial to take place, one for the architects of the original assault plan.
The judge ignored the jury. He accused the defendants of firing the first shots and setting the fire and proceeded to sentence four defendants to 40 years, one to 20 years, one to 15, one to 10 and one to 5. The jury was outraged During appeals, all sentences were greatly reduced.
Thanks to the work of independent investigators, the cover-up began unraveling, as numerous assertions by ATF, FBI and Janet Reno kept turning up false. They claimed no pyrotechnic rounds were fired by the FBI during the siege or gas attack. They claimed no Delta Force assassins were on site. None of these assertions would hold up under scrutiny.
Journalists like Dick Reavis were paraded in front of Congress and lambasted for showing sympathy for Koresh and his community. The sickening bias of Congress was clear in the award-winning documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement. The most damaging evidence uncovered by the filmmakers was an infrared videotape shot from a helicopter during the CS gas attack, which revealed two snipers firing into the cafeteria.
After the initial cover-up failed to hold, Reno appointed former Senator John Danforth (R-MO) to conduct an “independent investigation,” which lasted 14 months, employed 74 people and cost $17 million. The investigation sifted through 2.3 million documents, interviewed 1,001 witnesses and examined thousands of pounds of physical evidence. Danforth state emphatically that the “government did not start or spread the fire….did not direct gunfire at the Davidians, and did not unlawfully employ the Armed Forces of the United States.” The report was a morass of obfuscation, utilizing Orwellian doublespeak at every turn.
In the preface, Danforth stated that he investigated whether the government engaged in “bad acts, not bad judgment.” He noted that 61% of the country, according to a Time magazine poll, believed the government had started the fire, a matter of grave concern. Instead of seeking the truth, he set out to calm the citizenry. “When 61% of the people believe that the government fails to ensure life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also intentionally murders people by fire, the existence of public consent, the very basis of government, is imperiled.”
Only one man was criminally charged by Danforth: William Johnston, a former assistant US attorney in Waco who helped draw up the original warrant and was one of the lead prosecutors in the San Antonio trial. He was indicted on five felony counts and threatened with 21 months in jail.
Apparently, Johnston’s real “crime” had been to allow filmmakers into an evidence locker, where they discovered pyrotechnic rounds mislabeled as “silencers.” Later, he came forward and admitted he’d lied by saying no pyrotechnic rounds had been fired into Mount Carmel. Johnston quietly worked out a plea-bargain agreement that resulted in no jail time.
The ATF fired Charles Sarabyn and Phillip Chojnacki, two of the raid’s commanders. But when the agents threatened to sue, they were reinstated with back pay. ATF director Stephen Higgins was eventually forced to resign, and Deputy Director Daniel Hartnett and two other ranking ATF officials were temporarily suspended. However, one of them, ATF intelligence chief David Troy, was later promoted.
The internet was flooded by contradictory statement about the massacre, and the survivors have split into camps. The cover-up continues, and some websites are undoubtedly counterintelligence operations designed to confuse and divide, like chaff and flares dropped from a jet with a heat-seeking missile on its tail.
The most frightening development, the militarization of the police, has grown exponentially, as have the ranks of the government assassins.
The Second Anniversary
In 1995, a highly decorated veteran of the Gulf War named Timothy McVeigh (who was videotaped two years earlier as a spectator at Waco) became the designated fall-guy for the bombing of a nine-story federal building in Oklahoma City, a bombing staged on the two-year anniversary of the Waco tragedy.
One third of the Alfred E. Murrah building was destroyed and 168 were killed, including 19 children and two pregnant women. Most victims were crushed by falling debris. Thus the legacy of Ruby Ridge and Waco was captured through the greatest act of domestic terrorism on American soil, an event that shocked America and took most of the wind out of the sails of a growing militia movement. In other words, this event had the opposite effect of the FBI’s burning of Mount Carmel.
McVeigh had been living at Elohim City, a right-wing religious compound and militia training camp where he’d met Andreas Strassmir, head of security. Strassmir’s grandfather had been one of the founders of the Nazi Party while his father had been chief-of-staff to German chancellor Helmet Kohl. He allegedly left the German army after four years in order to move to the USA to work for the DEA using his father’s CIA connections, but ended up at a remote white separatist cult in Oklahoma, where he became known for agitating for “blowing up a federal building,” according to ATF confidential informant Carol Howe, who had penetrated the cult. Although the plot involved a number of people, most of them disappeared from the official narrative, with the exception of McVeigh and his closest associates.
Strassmir, meanwhile, immediately fled back to safety in Germany after the bombing and remained hidden from public view while McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. McVeigh could have been a spook working some deep-cover assignment involving hypnosis as well as wearing a biometric chip who got played like Oswald. He was so cool at his execution, I had to wonder if he was convinced the execution was going to be faked and he should act dead for the press until they were ready to relocate him into witness protection.
It’s somewhat suspicious McVeigh had zero statements to make before the execution, and left only a poem as his final statement. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul. My head is bloody, but unbowed.”
That’s about as nebulous as one can get.
On September 3, 2001, two cannabis activists would be assassinated by government snipers in Michigan. They planned a Waco-like siege so they could spread the real story of hemp legalization while exposing the brutal oppression they had been subjected to just for being activists for legalization. Their young son had already been taken away by the state, and the state was coming next for all their property and assets. Cornered in this way, they took up arms to make a last stand, but were killed quick before they knew what hit them, and long before any media could catch on to the real crime. Just as many bodies at Waco were mutilated, so was the body of Rollie Rohm, castrated while still alive, his assassins standing over him gloating while he bled out. It’s just something assassins like to do once in a while.
A few days later some planes flew into the Twin Towers in New York City and all mention of the two killings at Rainbow Farm disappeared like a snow devil in a winter storm, their misguided but brave attempt to recapture the legacy of Waco a failure.
On September 16, 1986, a self-employed building contractor traveling east on Highway B, a two-lane road linking Plain and Sauk City, Wisconsin, accelerated to pass a pickup truck. Normally, he would not have paid attention to a pile of plants in the bed of a truck, but this was two days after President Reagan’s nationally televised address launching a new war on drugs, and the plants looked like marijuana. Even more suspicious, the truck had out-of-state plates. So the civic-minded contractor decided not to pass the truck, but followed it five miles into Sauk City, intending to follow the vehicle home and report the address to the police.
Halfway through town, however, the driver of the pickup realized he was being followed and turned onto a dead-end street leading into August Derleth Park, driving to an isolated parking lot near the banks of the Wisconsin River.
Rather than follow the pickup into the park, the contractor spun his car around and drove two blocks to the Sauk City Police Department. He raced downstairs and confronted Betty Neumeyer, the dispatcher.
“I just followed a truck carrying marijuana into town!” he said excitedly. “He drove into Derleth Park. It’s a white Ford pickup with Texas plates. The driver is wearing a cowboy hat.”
Neumeyer picked up her microphone and called Officer 63, the only policeman on duty. She tried three times to reach him, but received no reply. Conservation Warden John Buss happened to be standing at the xerox machine, overheard the conversation, and realized Neumeyer was having trouble locating a squad car.
“Betty,” said Buss. “I don’t have a firearm and I don’t have my credentials, but I can drive down to the park and maintain radio contact. I won’t stop the guy, but I’ll watch him for you.”
“I’d appreciate that,” said Neumeyer.
Buss ran upstairs, hopped into his truck and drove toward the park entrance. As he turned the corner, Buss spotted a white Ford pickup with Texas plates traveling toward him in the opposite direction. The pickup swerved around Buss and made a left turn on Water Street. The driver looked to be in his late forties, a typical good ole boy in a cowboy hat.
Buss radioed Neumeyer. “I’m following a vehicle matching the description,” he said. “The tailgate is down and there appears to be a green leafy substance in the back….suspect is turning right on Washington Street….”
A few minutes later, Officer John Mueller, age 40, returned to this squad car and was notified a white Ford pickup believed to be containing controlled substances was parked in a driveway at the corner of Oak and Ash streets.
Mueller started his engine and headed across town. His day usually consisted of issuing warnings for minor violations or refereeing family squabbles. Drugs were a more dangerous matter. He popped another piece of gum into his mouth and chewed furiously.
Mueller was considered a model officer, professional, polite, well-groomed, affectionately dubbed “John Boy” by local tavern owner Jeff Lawson on account of his youthful appearance. But on September 16th, Mueller was uncharacteristically haggard, his normally greased and combed hair unkept. His uniform, normally starched and spotless, was dirty and wrinkled. Mueller was planning on getting married in a few months and the sudden change might be explained by the proximity of the event, at least that’s what some people thought.
The truth, however, was more bizarre. Mueller thought he was engaged in a top-secret mission for the Federal Government, a mission so sensitive not even the Federal Government knew of its existence because Mueller’s directives came direct from the White House.
He was admittedly a bit foggy on the exact nature of the current assignment as messages were delivered in code, sometimes in newspaper headlines, sometimes during incidental meetings on the street with strangers. The messages were often difficult to decipher and their intensity had been mounting since Sunday night…the night Mueller watched President Reagan’s speech…the night Mueller stopped taking his Thorazine because the commander-in-chief told him drugs were evil.
Hopefully, it would not be long before Mueller learned more details concerning his current mission. Meanwhile, his snub-nosed .357-caliber Magnum revolver was loaded and close by his side.
After following the pickup to the driveway, Warden Buss, age 26, executed a U-turn and parked nearby. The individual with the cowboy hat knew he was being watched because rather than get out of the truck, he stayed scrunched down in the front seat, occasionally peering over his shoulder at Buss.
Buss was a relative newcomer in town. In 1982, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in biology and environmental law enforcement, he’d become a State Conservation Warden assigned to the Sauk City area in October 1985. Buss was a devoted outdoorsman with a wife, kids, and a pair of pedigree hunting dogs. His number one concern at the moment was the apprehension of midnight dumpers who were polluting the nearby lakes and rivers. He’d never been involved in a drug bust before.
In a statement given at the Sauk City Police Department that day, Buss described the arrival of Officer Mueller at the scene:
When John arrived, I advised him to look over his right shoulder at the pickup truck. I advised him I was unarmed, did not have my credentials, but I’d stay and backup. John turned on his squad lights and parked behind the pickup. I got out, walked over to him, and explained the whole scenario. John got out and approached the truck. I stood to the left behind him. John opened the door and asked for identification.
“What for?” said the individual.
“Get out of the truck,” said John.
The individual swung his body around placing his feet on the running board and said, “This is as far as I go.”
John grabbed his arm and started wrestling him out of the truck. I came over and grabbed the guy’s left arm.
John slammed the guy to the cement, and I was pulled down with him, like hanging onto a rope.
I mean, BOOM!, we went down. There was really no need for that because the guy wasn’t really resisting to the point of fighting. John pulled out his handcuffs and put them on one wrist. I put them on the other.
“Relax,” I told the guy, “I’m a State Conservation Warden.”
I searched him for weapons, pulled out a pocket knife and wallet, and tossed them back at John. John was saying a bunch of stuff. I don’t remember what, but it was like he was talking to someone else. Then John walked back to his car. The guy started to roll over on one side. “Just lay there and hang tight,” I told him.
I walked behind the truck and found some green leafy substance in the back. I was looking at some seeds when John came up.
“John,” I said, “do you have any evidence bags to put this in?”
“Don’t worry about it,” said John. “This is resisting a Federal Agent.”
He was talking slowly, chewing his gum overly hard, and staring at the truck as if he could eat a hole right through to the pavement. It went through my mind that maybe John was working with the Feds somehow. I just kept picking up leaves and seeds. John walked over to where the individual was lying on his belly in handcuffs.
I heard a shot, looked up and saw John shoot the guy in the back of the head a second time. I saw orangish muzzle flash coming from his gun. John was standing upright, holding his gun with both hands.
John turned around, looked at me with real starry eyes, and started marching toward me, as if he was in front of a drill instructor. He was holding the gun at a 45-degree angle. He stopped about three feet away, with the gun pointed at my belt.
“John,” I said, “You’re not going to shoot me, are ya?”
I was going to take off running because the guy was lying down on his stomach and John shot the fucker…I’m sorry…the individual….in the back of the head. But there was no place to run.
John was looking right through me. “Don’t…worry,” he said. “This….is…resisting….a….Federal….Agent….”
I figured I was going to get it. I mean, I was scared. I wanted to disappear, just disappear. John holstered his gun, walked back to his squad car, and got inside. I looked at the guy on the ground and saw a lot of blood. The body was quivering. I knew he was dead or mortally wounded.
I don’t know if I ran, walked, flew, or what, but I went back to my truck, got in and backed down the road. When I felt I was far enough away, I stopped and opened the door. This might sound crazy, but I had a shotgun loaded with buckshot in the truck and I thought, if John comes down I road I’m going to have to kill him.
I tried to call in, but John got on the radio before me, so Betty told me to stand by. Basically, John said he had a 10-42, which means end of duty, although we sometimes use it to mean a traffic fatality, instead of saying over the radio that someone is dead. He requested an ambulance.
Finally, I got on the radio and said, “We got a 10-33, we need officers. Get one and two down here,” meaning the sheriff and chief deputy. At the same time I made a few notes.
John got out of his car, walked up to the body, and took off the handcuffs. I think he felt I’d left. He was looking around, but he never made eye contact with me. Then he marched into the middle of the road. People were coming out of their houses, gathering around.
John stopped in the middle of the street and started directing traffic like a Milwaukee police officer, real rigid.
But there wasn’t any traffic.
The twin cities of Sauk City and Prairie du Sac are nestled around the bend of the Wisconsin River about 150 miles northwest of Chicago. The towns have a combined population of 54,000, and share a school district, sewer system, weekly newspaper, and police force. Despite their closeness, they maintain separate identities: Sauk City was settled primarily by Germans, while Prairie du Sac was settled by English. The nearest major city, Madison, is 25 miles to the southeast.
Sauk City has a rich past. On July 21, 1832, Black Hawk and 50 braves fought a holding action against 1,000 government troops in a forest south of town. The lopsided battle succeeded in giving the Sauk women and children time to cross the Wisconsin River to safety. Unfortunately, the tribe was massacred 12 days later at the Battle of Bad Axe.
After the natives were disposed of, the white settlers moved in, led by Count Augustin Hrzstzy, who founded a vineyard nearby. His vines continue to produce today even though the Count left abruptly, moving to Napa Valley, where he founded the California wine industry.
“Many Germans who came here were members of the Frei Gemeinde,” says Tracy Madison, editor of the weekly Sauk Prairie Star. “They were local intellectuals, very cultured and well-read.”
A larger, less progressive contingent of German settlers moved into the state and formed the Wisconsin Synod, an ultra conservative wing of the Lutheran Church. It was in this tradition John Mueller was raised, the second of seven children.
Mueller was born in Jefferson, a town similar to Sauk City but located halfway between Madison and Milwaukee. His father changed careers several times, working as a security guard, mortician, postal clerk, and finally food store manager. In 1964, Mueller graduated in the middle of his class at Lakeside Lutheran High School, where he was a member of the school band. On the surface, Mueller seemed a typical teenager. He worked a paper route, collected stamps and restored old cars. There was, however, something odd about the boy. “John was a good kid, but always just a little bit different,” says Harry Minshall, owner of the funeral home where Mueller’s father had been employed.
Upon graduation, Mueller enlisted in the air force. He was granted high-security clearance, became a communications officer, and was posted in both Japan and Thailand. Mueller refuses to discuss his work for the air force, except to say that he was a radio technician involved in top-secret matters. Immediately after leaving the service, he was hired by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Created by President Harry Truman in 1951, the NSA was the most powerful intelligence agency, larger than the CIA, but its very existence was considered classified and not revealed until 1975 in a Congressional investigation.
Most of the public never learned about the agency until 1983, when James Bamford published The Puzzle Palace, which is likely the official cover story parading as an expose.
Located inside Fort Meade, halfway between Washington and Baltimore, the NSA HQ is the Taj Mahal of eavesdropping “almost the size of the CIA’s Langley with the United States Capitol sitting on top. In 1978, the agency controlled 68,203 people, more than all the employees of the other intelligence community put together….no law had ever been enacted prohibiting the NSA from engaging in any activity,” according to Bamford.
The NSA was a secret agency with a license to wiretap anyone. Long before computers and smart phones, the agency’s capacity for electronic surveillance on virtually anyone was staggering.
The agency always had a special interest in the civil rights and anti-war movements, which overlapped considerably. In 1971, President Richard Nixon sought NSA assistance to dismantle the counterculture through a nationwide data base for drug users. Many years later, the NSA claimed to have shut down that project after only two years.
In 1969, at the close of his second tour of duty, Mueller called his parents and informed them he was going to England for a three-year tour. They assumed he was still in the service, but he wasn’t. Mueller’s work in England was sensitive and he couldn’t tell his parents the truth. He relocated to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, 80 miles west of London, and purchased a red MGB sports car.
Like many servicemen during the waning years of the Vietnam War, Mueller had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Within a matter of months, he was displaying signs of a mental breakdown that seems to have been precipitated by an unhappy love affair.
A nurse who interviewed him later wrote: “John talked about the girl with whom he was serious. He appeared to have many feelings, some of resentment, but could not express them. It was shortly after John wrote her a letter and got no reply that he smashed up his car while drinking.”
After wrecking the car, Mueller returned to his apartment, went into a frenzy, and smashed everything in sight. He was hospitalized and lost his job. Three weeks later he was discharged with a prescription for Stelazine, an antipsychotic.
In September 1970, Mueller boarded a plane and returned to his parents’ house in Jefferson, where his mental health continued to deteriorate. Despite his problems, Mueller made a sudden, unexpected move one week after coming home: He married a woman five years his junior. At the time, the family knew something was wrong, but kept silent.
Mueller found a job working for the Jefferson Well Drilling Company and seemed determined to lead a normal, domestic life. The plan failed.
On the night of June 30th, after much encouragement from his family and his wife, Mueller admitted himself into the Madison Veteran’s Administration Hospital. According to a psychiatrist’s report: “Several family sessions were held and it came out John thought he had murdered a prostitute while in England. The accuracy of this statement was not confirmed, but John continued to believe he had committed such an act. He told his minister that he knew he would never be forgiven for anything he had done, and would never accept the minister’s reassurances that he would be forgiven.” The diagnosis? Acute paranoid schizophrenia.
On August 5th, Mueller was discharged on a daily dose of 800mg. of thioridazine (the maximum allowable dosage), combined with 200mg. of Thorazine. (In other words, enough tranquilizer to turn the average human into a lead-footed zombie.)
Six months later, Mueller was hired as a law enforcement officer, working for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. The following year, his wife gave birth to a boy. Mueller was not present for the birth, however, having been recently admitted to the veteran’s hospital, where he remained for four months. Hospital records made pubic during the trial contained the following summary:
“After exhibiting several days of agitated schizophrenic behavior, including gouging his eyes superficially with a pencil, (Mueller) tended to gradually improve his behavior….Although we had some hesitation about his return to police work, and are hopeful that he will begin to consider other less threatening work options, we discharged him to outpatient treatment, to be followed weekly by psychology and social work service. He was to continue his medications, Thorazine 50mg. four times daily.”
The Sheriff of Jefferson County wanted to keep Mueller on the force on a part-time basis working jail duty. However, Mueller grew dissatisfied with this arrangement and quit.
Hopes that Mueller might regain his mental health received a severe setback in 1974, when he discovered his three-year-old son Danny was suffering from reticuloendotheliosis, a rare blood disease. Mueller had difficulty accepting his son’s illness, eventually concluding it was God’s punishment for his own sins. In March, Mueller suffered another breakdown and was taken to the hospital, where he exhibited inappropriate behavior (smiling while discussing his son’s illness and boasting of earning $100,000 a year as a salesman).
Strange enough, after being discharged, Mueller was hired as police chief of Mazonanie, a small town south of Sauk City with a reputation as the local “Dodge City.” He held that position for four years and remained emotionally stable, despite his son’s death in 1975.
In 1978, a daughter Paula was born. Mueller and his wife met with their pediatrician, Dr. Dvorak, and discussed Danny’s death in detail for the first time. Although Dvorak wasn’t sure of the cause of death, he admitted that valban, cortisone and cobalt treatments may have been a contributing factor.
According to Mueller’s wife, the statement had a lasting effect on Mueller, leading him to believe his son had been killed by drug treatments.
Later that year, after a dispute with the town board (a board Mueller would later accuse of being involved with drugs), he was fired. Mueller went to a junior college for a period and attended a training session in Texas in hopes of buying into a job-motivational teaching franchise.
The night he returned, his wife jokingly spoke of getting a divorce. Mueller was unable to sleep and had a number of crying spells. His wife called the hospital and Mueller’s doctor recommended an additional 25mg. of chlorpromazine, which allowed Mueller to sleep.
The following night, however, Mueller was unable to sleep even with the additional medication. Several times during the night, he hallucinated blood on his wife’s arm and leg, and was unable to stop thinking about his son’s death. On July 9th, he was driven to the hospital and remained under observation for six days.
“We felt John’s calm appearance and behavior represented his attempt to control with rigidity his fragmented thinking,” wrote the attending doctor. “With his observing ego, he was probably acutely aware of this fragmentation and wanted to appear normal. As he had been maintained on chlorpromazine as an outpatient, we attempted to control him by increasing doses. However, on the second hospital day he acutely decompensated, because acutely agitated, disorganized, and paranoid, with blocking and required tranquilization with I.M. and seclusion.”
After his release, Mueller went through a succession of menial, dead-end jobs. His wife insisted they separate and remained apart until their divorce became final in 1983. At the divorce proceeding, Mueller’s wife suggested a program of “mental health consultation” be established, a suggestion that went ignored.
Mueller’s violent tendencies surfaced several times during his visits to the hospital. On January 1, 1982, he escaped while undergoing treatment and wound up in a “scuffle” with a stranger in a city building. The stranger later dropped the charges after discovering Mueller was a mental patient. The next morning, Mueller refused medication and attempted to leave the ward without permission. He was stopped by a nurse smoking a cigarette.
“What’s that smell?” he said. “That’s cyanide. Put it out.”
Mueller grabbed the cigarette and tried to put it out on the nurse’s arm. After “Code Orange” was called, he was removed to the quiet room.
“It is God’s will that I go in there?” he asked repeatedly. “I want to see God’s will. I’ll go into the quiet room, but its against my will.”
Mueller continued to refuse medication, stalked around the room, and constantly looked over his shoulder as if someone was sneaking up on him.
The next day, Dr. John H. Greist, the psychiatrist who wrote the most probing and detailed analysis of Mueller, visited the quiet room. According to his notes that became available during the trial, Greist:
“Entered seclusion room at 11:41 am with Mrs. Keepman while Mr. Mueller was asleep. He appeared to be asleep. When awakened, he attempted to sit up, then lay down again. I asked to feel his pulse and he quickly rose and moved back against the window, pointed at me and said something about ‘Satan.’ He appeared frightened, was staggering, and moved toward the door, grasping, but not hurting, Mrs. Keepman. We gradually moved him to return to his mattress after considerable persuasion.”
In the spring of 1983, Mueller’s brother, Wayne, was working for a car dealership in Sauk City, and noticed an announcement in the Sauk City Star for a police officer. He sent the paper to his brother and suggested he apply for the job. Mueller passed the oral exam with flying colors and was sent to the Madison Area Technical College Police Academy, where he also excelled. He was chosen to give the class valedictory speech, which was later described as being “carefree.”
Thanksgiving was frequently an upsetting holiday for Mueller, and shortly after assuming his duties with the Sauk City police force (the weekend before Thanksgiving), Wayne noticed his brother was having problems sleeping again. A restraining order had just been placed on Mueller limiting visits with his daughter.
“John talked slow, in left field, cooked supper, which was cold, was drinking more beer than usual, and wanted me to leave the apartment to see a friend even though my family was there,” recalls Wayne. Later that night Mueller’s landlord informed Wayne that his brother had been up the past two nights pacing the floor. Wayne visited his brother, who claimed to be upset about over his recent divorce. John also objected to his daughter being allowed to listen to rock music, which he described as being “really evil.”
Wayne went home, but had to return after a late-night phone call. This sequence was repeated a second time, and Wayne drove his brother to the hospital. He returned home at 5:30 am, and received yet another phone call. “I should watch out if I were you,” said John, “because they are out to get me.” Wayne asked who “they” were, but received no reply.
Later that week, when Wayne visited his brother in the hospital, John informed him that he needed “to go to Washington, DC, to meet with the generals in the Pentagon to solve the world’s problems.” Wayne told a psychologist his brother went into a trancelike state, babbling words that were recognizable but didn’t fit together to make sense, and then said, ‘the Holy Ghost has just spoken, believe it.'”
Although Mueller managed to hide his mental illness from most people, he had a harder time fooling women than men. At his favorite hangout, the Eagle Inn, where he ate most of his meals, the younger waitresses were certainly wary of him. Mueller asked a few for their phone numbers, but they refused. Mueller followed one of them home in his squad car, and she got so flustered that she fell and twisted her ankle.
However, there was one woman who was not afraid of Mueller: Patsy Murphy. An attractive divorcee with two children age 8 and 11, Murphy had already been through one bad marriage plagued by alcohol and violence. As far as she was concerned, Mueller was a dream date who showered her with attention, sent her romantic letters, and behaved with impeccable manners. Even more important, he was a quiet man willing to listen thoughtfully to her many problems.
In August 1986, Mueller and Murphy visited the Wisconsin Dells. Within a month, they were engaged to be married. Mueller found a house in Prairie du Sac he wanted to buy. He needed money and became interested in starting a photography business as a side hustle.
On September 10th Mueller visited a local attorney to seek advice on filing a suit against a woman who had accused him of molesting girls while on duty. The following day, he called his brother Lynn and asked him to come over and look at a house he wanted to buy. Lynn felt his brother was having trouble focussing his thoughts and asked what was wrong. Mueller replied: “There’s lots of pressure, a lot going on.”
On September 14th Mueller got off work at 7 pm, and drove straight to Murphy’s house. For several days he’d been looking forward to seeing the President’s speech concerning the war on drugs. Still dressed in his uniform, Mueller sat rigidly in front of the television, staring intently at the screen, saying nothing until the speech was over. After dinner, he drove home and threw all the alcohol in his apartment away. The President had told him drinking was evil, and Mueller always obeyed his President. He also decided not to take his medication. Without a tranquilizer, however, Mueller was unable to sleep. He spent the night pacing the floor, listening to a cassette tape titled “How to Relax” by Norman Vincent Peale.
The following day, Mueller and his fiancee had a meeting with Mueller’s pastor concerning their upcoming wedding. Murphy, a Catholic, was planning to convert to the Lutheran faith. Mueller arrived at Murphy’s house looking unkempt and frazzled. He explained his unusual appearance by saying he’d “been up all night with diarrhea.” Murphy offered him some coffee, but he requested water. “Well, you know where the water is,” said Murphy. Mueller then changed his mind and asked for coffee.
While driving to the church, Murphy admitted she was nervous. Mueller uncharacteristically walked ahead of her into the church.
During the meeting, Mueller seemed preoccupied with minor matters, while Murphy tried to plan the details of the ceremony. The pastor asked if Murphy was aware of Mueller’s background. Murphy confessed she knew very little about her prospective husband. At this point, Mueller became agitated and asked to leave the room. While he was gone, the pastor told Murphy about Mueller’s mental problems. Mueller abruptly entered the room and stated it was time to leave.
The couple drove to Mueller’s apartment, which was, atypically, in a state of disarray. A bottle of pills from the Veterans Administration Hospital was on the table. “What are these for?” asked Murphy, picking up the bottle.
“You know, for a chemical imbalance caused by my drinking problem,” said Mueller evasively, while leading her into the living room.
“What do you want to tell me?” asked Mueller.
“I don’t think much of your pastor,” said Murphy.
Mueller began to cry. “If he’s going to get personal, I don’t ever want to go back to that church.”
Later that night, Mueller arrived at the Eagle Inn for dinner and discovered the booths were full. He took a seat at the counter and ordered the daily special. Les Tesch, the owner of a local gardening store, sat behind him.
“I always had a lot of respect for John,” says Tesch. “I felt he was the most sensible, down-to-earth officer on the force. We got into a discussion while he was waiting for his food. I told him I was 100% behind Reagan. I don’t think we have room in our society for people who take drugs. I told him they should get capital punishment. They should be blown away. John didn’t say anything. He just nodded his head.”
That night Mueller was unable to sleep and paced the floor continuously. At 8:30 am he arrived at Murphy’s house for breakfast looking wild and glassy-eyed. His hair was uncombed, he couldn’t sit still, and he swore repeatedly. “He’s been caught with his pants down in the squad car,” he said of one of his fellow officers. Mueller’s hands were shaking. He ate a slice of toast with peanut butter, got up to leave, kissed Murphy, and left a smear of peanut butter on her face.
Later that night, he called Murphy at work and spoke in a slow, robotic voice. “Is this Patricia or Peaches,” he asked. “What are you doing? Don’t ask me any questions. I’ll do the asking. You tell me the whole story. Tell me what you did. I know it’s been bothering you for a long time.”
“What’s the matter? asked Murphy. “Give me a hint.”
“You know,” replied Mueller.
“Stop it,” said Murphy breaking into tears. “You’re scaring me.”
“Keep it warm, keep it real warm just for me,” said Mueller. “I’m hanging up now. I’ll be here until two. You can tell me the whole story. Bye-bye.”
Murphy knew something was seriously wrong and called Mueller’s pastor. The pastor called Mueller, but Mueller refused to discuss anything, saying he had to leave for work. Murphy then called Neumeyer at the police station and asked to speak with Chief Rentmeester.
“John sounds really strange,” said Murphy. “I’m afraid something is wrong.”
Neumeyer relayed the message to Rentmeester, who responded by saying Mueller had been quietly lately, but that he was always quiet.
A few hours later, Mueller unholstered his .357 and pumped two rounds into the back of John Graham’s head. Fired at point-blank range, one of the bullets entered on the left side of Graham’s neck, creating fractures in and around the second and third cervical vertebrae and damaging the spinal chord before exiting on the right side of the neck. The second entered behind the left eyebrow, caused extensive brain damage, and exited through the right ear. Either shot would have been sufficient to kill.
Det. Sgt. Manny Bolz was the first member of the Sauk Country Sheriff’s Department to arrive at the scene of the shooting. After hearing details of the murder, he arrested Mueller and delivered him to the county jail. Bolz searched the August Derleth parking lot and found 34 marijuana plants in the bushes. He also searched Graham’s toolbox in the truck and found a baggie containing a groomed marijuana bud. Bolz’s case was not against Graham, however, who was dead, but against Mueller, and a search of his home was even more revealing.
The small, second story apartment was filled with religious books and Republican Party propaganda. There were framed photos of Bush and Reagan, a flag folded military style on a chair, a notebook filled with letters addressed to Reagan, and several self-improvement books, including How to Sell Yourself, Write Better, Speak Better,The Miracle of Speech Power, and Professionals at Their Best.
While Mueller’s strange life gradually unfolded during his trial, the unfortunate victim remained something of a mystery. “I didn’t even know John Graham existed,” Chief Rentmeester told James Romenesko of Milwaukee magazine. “Nobody in our department ever had contact with the man, even as much as giving him a warning ticket.”
Unfortunately, Crystal Graham couldn’t provide much insight into why her husband might have been driving a load of marijuana, and continued to insist he did not smoke nor cultivate cannabis. Mrs. Graham portrayed her husband as a genial, laid-back country boy whose only interests were hunting, fishing, and listening to the Statler Brothers. This does not seem strange, however, if one considers Mrs. Graham is a former undercover narcotics officer herself.
“(My husband) would talk to most anyone,” she said. “He couldn’t sit still. Four walls would get to him. He was a collector of anything and everything, and especially if it had something to do with hunting. He loved knives and guns.”
Born in Winter Garden, Florida, Graham was the son of migrant workers, and spent most of his youth traveling the country working on farms. He joined the air force and was stationed in San Antonio, where he married Crystal Olson. That same year he obtained a job with the phone company in Orlando, Florida. Crystal, meanwhile, joined the Orlando Police Department.
In 1971, she was given the plum assignment of infiltrating the office of a local chiropractor who was suspected of providing cannabis medication for an extra fee to clients. Crystal enjoyed this sort of clandestine work, She got into the office by answering a help-wanted ad placed by the chiropractor and got the job. For several weeks, she witnessed drug transactions and later became the state’s chief witness at the suspect’s trial.
As a result of her undercover work, Mrs. Graham became the first female officer to win the National Police Officer of the Year award, which is why she bristles at any suggestion her husband was a stoner, despite evidence to the contrary. According to her somewhat farfetched scenario, her unemployed husband was coming home with the marijuana just to show her so he could say something like: “Honey, you ain’t gonna believe this, but this stuff is growing wild. Now just look. I can go down there and cut it, and here it is,” she said.
Four days after the shooting, at the suggestion of his attorneys, Mueller was interviewed by Dr. Greist, who attempted to find out if Mueller was disassociating during the shooting. He asked Mueller to describe what happened on September 16, 1986, beginning at any previous point in time that made sense to him.
Mueller spoke at the incredibly slow rate of ten words per minute.
“I was laid off and initiated looking for work in various aspects of the employment market, and during the months of employment search learned of the Sauk-Prairie Police Department opening.
On April 11, 1984, Deputy Ward, Officer and Mrs. Chileen and I attended a meeting in Milwaukee. Vice President Bush presented an address at this meeting. Christmas, 1984, is a memorable event. The White House received Christmas cards from me. The President and Mrs. Reagan sent me a Christmas card. The Christmas card arrived on or about January 12, 1985. The return address on the Christmas card was the White House. The President and Mrs. Reagan’s congratulations for my support are contained in the Christmas card. Continuing correspondence made many changes.
In September of 1985, I traveled to Washington, DC, for the purpose of sightseeing. The Capitol tour is a highlight of my trip. When I returned to work, I was blessed with much work. Since then, my interest continues with the programs of the President.
My familiarity with all programs is limited. However, I listen intently to the words of the President.
On Tuesday, September 16, Lieutenant Harmon reported to my residence at his convenience. At approximately 1410, Lieutenant Harmon and I proceeded to Lieutenant Harmon’s residence. En route to the lieutenant’s residence, Lieutenant Harmon stated a phrase that was not familiar to me. However, I interpreted the phrase in connection with government action. The phrase was: the wild geese are flying. The meaning has been defined to me as specific commando action.
I never heard that phrase prior to Tuesday, September 16.
Continuing our travels to Lieutenant Harmon’s residence, we met no opposition, that is, we did not receive any calls. When I changed shift, I then proceeded on patrol and was requested to ask the police chief to call the police department. I delivered the message to the police chief and then was requested to assist another officer. Conservation Warden John Buss requested assistance with a vehicle containing controlled substances.
My thoughts were to administer action to prevent illicit controlled substances. At the time, I believed to be serving in my official capacity as a government servant. I believed that a continuing obligation existed and continue to believe this obligation exists. The obligation I believe exists with the specific nature of my duties with the National Security Agency. In 1969 and 1970, I believe a formal obligation existed. Since 1970, I believe the informal obligation still exists.
The shooting cannot be considered a part of my informal obligation. The actions taken at the scene of the controlled substances on Tuesday, September 16, are not a part of the written obligation that exist. The reasoning I use with that is at the present time our nation is plagued with illicit drugs. Everyone is concerned about this devastating enemy is doing what they can do in their own way to eliminate the existence of illicit controlled substances. I believed and still believe that in defense of our country, state and cities, an action that is threatening to harm the people our a nation, a strengthening move must be taken.”
Three days before Oliver North claimed innocence in the Iran-Contra-Cocaine affair on account of righteousness, John Mueller appeared in Circuit Court in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The proceedings did not take long. The prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and four psychiatrists all agreed Mueller was suffering from chronic paranoid schizophrenia. Judge James Evenson ordered Mueller taken to the Mendota Mental Health Center in Madison. During the sentencing, Mueller looked passively around the room, an eerie smile fixed on his face. He continued to maintain his innocence, and was quite upset to learn he’d been fired from the Sauk City police force.
For many decades, Mueller’s grasp on reality had been tenuous and he reached for the firmest anchors he could find: God and country. But both let him down.
In a world where most people support the delusion an old man is watching everything they do, how can anyone maintain a sense of reality? It’s a paranoid’s fantasy, yet billions subscribe to it largely because influencers in the media, schools and government support the delusion.
Crystal Graham’s attorneys eventually presented a $2,880,000 lawsuit against the Village of Sauk City.
Mueller was one of the few associated with the case who was eager to talk to me.
“I would like to allow you to make some interviews,” he said over the phone, sounding confident, clear-headed, and effusively polite and gracious. “The condition would be some monetary amount,” he continued. “The amount would be $10,000. Until you meet this condition, I would ask you not to speak to my fiancee or my family.”
I asked Mueller if he’d been following the scandal unfolding in Washington, the one that blamed the surge of cocaine into North America on a CIA-created army in Central America using Colombian cocaine to fund a war on Communism.
“Oliver North was a man who ordered generals around,” replied Mueller. “it’s strange that my life would be connected with his.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to either of us, Big Pharma was already preparing plans to addict countless millions on recently invented psychoactive substances like Prozac, Ritalin, Zoloft and Adderall.
While claiming a war on drugs with one hand, they began drugging the nation with the other.
A poor farmer named Simylus awakes before dawn and rekindles the embers in his hearth.
Simylus grinds grain and wakes his African slave Scybale to fetch wood for the fire. He makes dough with the flour and kneads a loaf of bread. While he waits for it to bake, he mixes garlic, cheese, coriander seeds, vinegar, and a variety green leafy herbs in a mortar and pestle, and spreads the result on hot bread and consumes it before starting out to plough his field. The poem is most notable for coining the term “e pluribus unus,” a reference to moretum being ready to eat once the various colors and ingredients have merged into a single light-green paste.
Long before humans appeared on earth, tools had already been invented by earlier primates. We don’t know which came first, fire or the mortar and pestle, but it wasn’t until primates discovered both that most of the energy that had been required by the stomach and intestines to process plants could redirect into developing bigger brains. Our distant ancestors in Africa discovered early on that pounding plants, seeds and nuts with stones made both cooking and digestion easier.
The Ebers Papyrus, named for German Egyptologist Georg Ebers, contains the first written description of a mortar and pestle. It dates to 1550 BC, although it likely was copied from much earlier scrolls. Containing 700 medicinal remedies and incantations, the scroll is 20 meters long (approximately 110 pages). Ebers bought the manuscript from Edwin Smith in 1872, and three years later, Ebers published the first translation.
In the 16th Century BC, the Phoenicians were developing their alphabet, the first hymns of the Rig Veda were recorded in Sanskrit, and the Sumerian civilization was eclipsed by Babylon. Sumerians had invented beer, discovered opium (the happy plant), and learned how to make flour by pounding wheat berries. One of their favorite treats was pistachio encrusted dates. A mortar and pestle would have been used to pound the pistachios into powder before dipping the honey-soaked dates.
The Rig Veda describes the making of soma, which was considered the greatest medicine, the “king” of healing plants. There are numerous mentions of “pressing stones” used and the clacking sounds they made. Strangely, virtually no historian seems to realize “pressing stones” is Sanskrit for mortar and pestle.
In the 1920s, some historians began pointing out the obvious: soma was most likely cannabis. In fact, the descriptions of soma match the current recipes for modern bhang, which remains a popular drink in parts of India. Whole kolas, leaves and flowers, are blanched in boiling water and then pounded into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Typically, almonds, spices and hot milk are added, but the ancient recipes often included opium and ephedra.
In the late 1930s, Reefer Madness was launched by the just-created Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and a well-funded campaign to demonize cannabis swept across the world. At the same time, a campaign to misidentify soma as a mushroom was initiated by a vice president of America’s most powerful bank.
Check with Wikipedia today and you won’t find much of anything useful in the description of soma. The academic community refuses to accept the obvious and continues to obscure the real history of cannabis.
Someday this house of cards must fall.
Meanwhile, I encourage everyone to get a mortar and pestle. Pestos are easily made using any nut or seed with any green plant and any spices. Our modern pesto recipe originated in Northern Italy in the 1600s, but for millennia before that it was known as moretum.
Also made in mortars was Manna, the food that saved the Jews from starvation. Manna was just hemp seeds crushed into hempseed flour, which was baked into wafers. I have a separate blog on that subject if you seek further proof and clarification.
Poem attributed to the young Virgil and comprised of 124 hexameter lines and written in the Greek tradition (as in Callimachus’ Hecale and other poems involving meals with gods and people, aka Theoxeny).
Already had the night completed ten Of winter’s hours, and by his crowing had The winged sentinel announced the day, When Symilus the rustic husbandman Of scanty farm, solicitous about The coming day’s unpleasant emptiness, Doth slowly raise the limbs extended on His pallet low, and doth with anxious hand Explore the stilly darkness, groping for The hearth which, being burnt, at length he finds. I’ th’ burnt-out log a little wood remained, And ashes hid the glow of embers which They covered o’er; with lowered face to these The tilted lamp he places close, and with A pin the wick in want of moisture out Doth draw, the feeble flame he rouses up With frequent puffs of breath. At length, although With difficulty, having got a light, He draws away, and shields his light from draughts With partially encircling hand, and with A key the doors he opens of the part Shut off to store his grain, which he surveys. On th’earth a scanty heap of corn was spread: From this he for himself doth take as much As did his measure need to fill it up, Which ran to close on twice eight pounds in weight He goes away from here and posts himself Besides his quern,’ and on a little shelf Which fixed to it for other uses did The wall support, he puts his faithful light. Then from his garment both his arms he frees; Begirt was he with skin of hairy goat And with the tail thereof he thoroughly Doth brush the stones and hopper of the mill. His hands he then doth summon to the work And shares it out to each, to serving was The left directed and the right to th’ toil. This turns about in tireless circles and The surface round in rapid motion puts, And from the rapid thrusting of the stones The pounded grain is running down. At times The left relieves its wearied fellow hand, And interchanges with it turn about. Thereafter country ditties doth he sing And solaces his toil with rustic speech, And meanwhile calls on Scybale to rise. His solitary housekeeper was she, Her nationality was African, And all her figure proves her native land. Her hair was curly, thick her lips, and dark Her colour, wide was she across the chest With hanging breasts, her belly more compressed, With slender legs and large and spreading foot, And chaps in lengthy fissures numbed her heels. He summons her and bids her lay upon The hearth some logs wherewith to feed the fire, And boil some chilly water on the flame. As soon as toil of turning has fulfilled Its normal end, he with his hand transfers The copious meal from there into a sieve, And shakes it. On the grid the refuse stays, The real corn refined doth sink and by The holes is filtered. Then immediately He piles it on a board that’s smooth, and pours Upon it tepid water, now he brought Together flour and fluid intermixed, With hardened hand he turns it o’er and o’er And having worked the liquid in, the heap He in the meantime strews with salt, and now His kneaded work he lifts, and flattens it With palms of hand to rounded cake, and it With squares at equal distance pressed doth mark. From there he takes it to the hearth (ere this His Scybale had cleaned a fitting place), And covers it with tiles and heaps the fire Above. And while Vulcanus, Vesta too, Perform their parts i’ th’ meantime, Symilus Is not inactive in the vacant hour, But other occupation finds himself; And lest the corn alone may not be found Acceptable to th’ palate he prepares Some food which he may add to it. For him No frame for smoking meat was hung above The hearth, and backs and sides of bacon cured With salt were lacking, but a cheese transfixed By rope of broom through mid-circumference Was hanging there, an ancient bundle, too, Of dill together tied. So provident Our hero makes himself some other wealth. A garden to the cabin was attached, Some scanty osiers with the slender rush And reed perennial defended this; A scanty space it was, but fertile in The divers kinds of herbs, and nought to him Was wanting that a poor man’s use requires; Sometimes the well-to-do from him so poor Requested many things. Nor was that work A model of expense, but one of care: If ever either rain or festal day Detained him unemployed within his hut, If toil of plough by any chance was stopped, There always was that work of garden plot. He knew the way to place the various plants, And out of sight i’ th’ earth to set the seeds, And how with fitting care to regulate The neighbouring streams. And here was cabbage, here Were beets, their foliage extending wide; And fruitful sorrel, elecampane too And mallows here were flourishing, and here Was parsnip,’ leeks indebted to their head For name, and here as well the poppy cool And hurtful to the head, and lettuce too, The pleasing rest at end of noble foods. [And there the radish sweet doth thrust its points Well into th’ earth] and there the heavy gourd Has sunk to earth upon its belly wide. But this was not the owner’s crop (for who Than he more straightened is?). The people’s ’twas And on the stated days a bundle did He on his shoulder into th’ city bear, When home he used to come with shoulder light But pocket heavy, scarcely ever did He with him bring the city markets’ meat. The ruddy onion, and a bed of leek -For cutting, hunger doth for him subdue-, And cress which screws one’s face with acrid bite, And endive, and the colewort which recalls The lagging wish for sexual delights. On something of the kind reflecting had He then the garden entered, first when there With fingers having lightly dug the earth Away, he garlic roots with fibres thick, And four of them doth pull; he after that Desires the parsley’s graceful foliage, And stiffness-causing rue,’ and, trembling on Their slender thread, the coriander seeds, And when he has collected these he comes And sits him down beside the cheerful fire And loudly for the mortar asks his wench. Then singly each o’ th’ garlic heads be strips From knotty body, and of outer coats Deprives them, these rejected doth he throw Away and strews at random on the ground. The bulb preserved from th’ plant in water doth He rinse, and throw it into th’ hollow stone. On these he sprinkles grains of salt, and cheese Is added, hard from taking up the salt. Th’ aforesaid herbs he now doth introduce And with his left hand ‘neath his hairy groin Supports his garment;’ with his right he first The reeking garlic with the pestle breaks, Then everything he equally doth rub I’ th’ mingled juice. His hand in circles move: Till by degrees they one by one do lose Their proper powers, and out of many comes A single colour, not entirely green Because the milky fragments this forbid, Nor showing white as from the milk because That colour’s altered by so many herbs. The vapour keen doth oft assail the man’s Uncovered nostrils, and with face and nose Retracted doth he curse his early meal; With back of hand his weeping eyes he oft Doth wipe, and raging, heaps reviling on The undeserving smoke. The work advanced: No longer full of jottings as before, But steadily the pestle circles smooth Described. Some drops of olive oil he now Instils, and pours upon its strength besides A little of his scanty vinegar, And mixes once again his handiwork, And mixed withdraws it: then with fingers twain Round all the mortar doth he go at last And into one coherent ball doth bring The diff’rent portions, that it may the name And likeness of a finished salad fit. And Scybale i’ th’ meantime busy too He lifted out the bread; which, having wiped His hands, he takes, and having now dispelled, The fear of hunger, for the day secure, With pair of leggings Symilus his legs Encases, and with cap of skin on ‘s head Beneath the thong-encircled yoke he puts Th’ obedient bullocks, and upon the fields He drives, and puts the ploughshare in the ground.
Everyone knows the nation has been swamped by a crisis in violence, although nobody seems to know how to fix the problem. Much trauma today can be traced to the insane war on drugs that continued for decades and we have casualties on both sides. It never should have happened. Cannabis is the world’s greatest medicine and there was no need to destroy lives over a healing plant that grows everywhere.
My current mission is to build Dizzyhippieland (working title), a dogma-free ceremony site for helping those with PTSD. I will start by erecting a memorial to the victims of the war on drugs, including law enforcement officers killed and injured, as well as growers and users of marijuana.
The plan is to recruit 12 of the coolest people in the world. These volunteers will build and occupy their own hobbit homes around a lake or riverbank. There will be bike trails through the forest lit by LED lights that one can ride day and night. (My primary vehicle is a solar-powered trike called the Elf. I already have a fleet of them ready to move to the site, as well as a fleet of pedal boats.) These are the rides at Hippiedizzyland. No cars or combustion engines allowed inside and everything will be solar powered. The volunteers will be allowed to rent out their homes and/or use them to vend arts and crafts.
In April, I’ll unveil my new 420 ritual. Although I never got credit for spearheading 420, I was the first person to create 420 ceremonies outside Marin County. My new 420 ritual is based on Peter Schumann’s puppet theater and you can find an elaborate script on my Facebook page.
I was 16 when I founded my first counterculture publication in Urbana, Illinois. Ours was a fascinating town stuffed with colorful characters. Johnny Roselli was a frequent visitor as the 20-something who inherited the local TV station and newspaper was his favorite mistress. Chicago “men of honor” came down often to shoot quail in the cornfields.
More important to me, the town was a seething hotbed of revolutionary thought. This energy got focussed at the Unitarian Church on campus. A beatnik coffeeshop called The Red Herring opened in the basement.
My tribe created garage rock. I went from a shy wallflower with no friends to having supreme confidence with my new trajectory in life. The power and glory of music should not be underestimated. Music, math and spirituality ride together.
I witnessed the full illumination of the biggest local rock star Jim Cole. He transformed quick after his first public performance on the sidewalk of Green Street. Watching the footage of early Elvis on his toes, his entire body charged with electric energy, reminded me of Jim. He reached an illuminated state while his life became performance art.
Where did this power come from? Every super hottie in the twin cities wanted to eat Jim alive and they squealed with delight during his performances. Jim wasn’t the only one in the band soaking up those juices. The 15-year-old guitar player Mark Warwick wrote “Only Me,” one of the first psychedelic rock songs. The next year, I created The Tin Whistle.
After I moved to NYC, I got into punk, because I understood the connection between punk and garage rock. I founded the Soul Assassins and began creating psychopunkadelia.
Then I landed at the dying High Times, which I quickly turned into the magazine success story of the 1990s. Everything I did while at High Times was recorded on video and I hold the only copies of the footage. I kept notes, letters, audio and video tape, photos, and original art from 1964 until the present. It represents the world’s most valuable counterculture archive and is income-producing. The archive will be moving to the Church of the Holy Grail at Dizzyhippieland.
Most of the so-called cannabis churches today are hoodwinks working out-dated dogmas. I gag when I see people calling themselves “reverend this or that” or “Weed Jesus.”
I provide something different: real enlightenment. I have ransacked the history of religion and magic and distilled the ancient wisdom down to its ultimate essence. First, let your mind be free of all dogma. There is only one rule: don’t hurt anybody. Once you strip away the fake dogma, you can follow your heart, where the real Bible is already written.
My revival movement involves spreading peace culture. My ceremonies are always free to attend. I hand out hymnals and do singalongs of my spirituals, which are dogma-free.
If not for prohibition, I believe we’d have a lot more weed spirituals. You can find my hymns on my Youtube site under The Seeds of Doubt. Check out my anthem, In Search of the Grail. The real secret of the grail saga was not the cup itself but the medicine that went inside, an elixir capable of bringing peace to the kingdom. The grail story is really about the power of cannabis to bring peace.
I’m not interested in chasing money. I am interested in exposing fake gurus and weed religion carpetbaggers who spread Santa Claus stories about everlasting life.
I’m looking for a few dozen acres in the Catskills with a private lake or riverbank where I can erect a phoenix on a commanding site so that when the sun rises on April 20th, it appears between the phoenix’s wings to illuminate a crystal on top of a peace pole.
If you contribute $5 or more to building Dizzyhippieland, your name will be on that memorial (provided you rank among the first 420 donors).
Kudos to Larry Green for being the first to send a donation. Jiffy Schnack was the first volunteer. He was an artist-in-residence at Area when I first met him. Since then, Coke La Rock, Busy Bee, Grandmaster Caz, and Shawn “Ammo” McQuate have saddled for the ride.
Maybe you’d like to ride with us? I am looking for capable artists, musicians, performers, carpenters, mechanics. You’d be allowed to develop your own rockstar compound on the site if accepted onto the crew.
It’s not a full-time gig and there won’t be pay beyond room and board.
There’s nothing plastic about Dizzyhippieland, although everything is constructed cheaply. Tents, tipis, Christmas lights, and non-toxic spray paint create much of the set pieces. There will be numerous stages, saunas and massage tables because they are useful in healing. There will be fireworks and burns at the center of the lake during major ceremonies. The stage faces the lake with the sun behind it, and the lake acts as a sounding board. The music becomes magical from this lake effect.
The growth of the site will depend entirely on how many people come to the ceremonies, the first of which will occur between April 19-21, 2023.
Of course, if any cannabis companies step forward and want to help sponsor such a place, I would welcome them.
And their karma might soar because they did something for peace and not plata.
Mani was the greatest avatar of the ancient world and also the greatest portrait painter and calligrapher. He inspired the greatest religious revival of his time, but did not wear expensive robes, nor cultivate toadies. What Mani did was successfully integrate the best of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity.
Mani’s bible equated spiritual energy with light, and considered the light of the sun as Jehovah, and light of the moon as Jesus.
Mani used the Zoroastrian sacrament of mixing hot milk with cannabis flower to heal the blind and lame, serving this elixir in a sacred chalice. The origins of the grail story start in ancient Scythia, long before Mani’s time, and centuries before the arrival of Jesus.
Mani lived several hundred years after the mythical birth of Jesus, but he was the most famous Gnostic of his time, and considered himself one of Christ’s appointed agents on earth, just as many Buddhists in India considered him the living Buddha.
Mani was lured back to Persia under false pretense, skinned alive and decapitated for the crime of trying to end war over religion. The gate in Persia where his head was put on a pike still bears his name, although nobody seems to know anything about him. That gate is his only trace.
A holocaust soon followed on Mani’s followers, and it did successfully tamp down his philosophy for centuries, but eventually, all across Europe, a movement very similar to Mani’s appeared. It became known as Catharism. It had no leader. Cathars rejected the crass commercialization of Rome 300 years before Martin Luther came to similar conclusions. They believed in a connection between light and spiritual energy, and worshipped a form of Christianity with a Buddhist flavor, rejecting heaven and hell for reincarnation, just like Manichaeism.
The Pope in Rome at first tried to negotiate with the Cathars in France, around Languedoc. After that failed, he declared the first crusade, the Albigensian Crusade, which could have been an even bigger and more horrific ethnic cleansing than Mani’s. The closest thing I can imagine is the Rape of Nanking. Entire towns were destroyed, women and children raped, and then murdered. It didn’t matter if one was Cathar or Catholic. “Let God sort them out,” said the evil Pope.
The last hold-outs were in Montsegur. In 1244, their fort was stormed after a brutal 10-month seige. The 200 inhabitants were thrown on a bonfire.
But the night before the siege ended, a small group successfully slipped through enemy lines, carrying their greatest treasure to safety, a green-stained goblet. Perhaps this was an actual artifact from Mani, and if so, would have been the sole surviving possession from the greatest avatar of the ancient world.
Many decades earlier, Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote Parzival, a search for the grail. His grail castle is called Monsalvat, which is similar to Montségur and has the same meaning: “safe mountain.”
The book Crusade Against the Grail by Otto Rahn in the 1930s revived interest in the connection between Catharism and the Holy Grail, and painted Parzival as a veiled account of the Cathars. That research fascinated Heinrich Himmler, who made Rahn an archaeologist in the SS, which, later, helped inspire Raiders of the Lost Ark.
It’s a bit lonely connecting these dots from Scythians to Zoroastrians to Mani to Catharism to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s been a solo adventure, but I’m hoping others will pick up and follow the trail. This is the true secret of the holy grail. It’s not about the actual chalice but the elixir that went inside.
On April 19th, 2021, at 4:30 PM, a ceremony for peace by Steven Hager and the Seeds of Doubt will premiere on Youtube. Several songs from the film have already been posted on the site. “In Search for the Grail” is the film’s theme song.
Study the Scythians to help navigate the missing history of religion. Their religion was documented by Herodotus, the father of Western history.
Scythians believed god sent them three golden objects: a golden cup, a golden plough, and a golden battle ax.
The cup was too hot too touch, but one day a boy was able to pick it up. His offspring became the royal Scythians, in charge of appointing the Enares, who ran the ceremonies. The family with the plough was put in charge of planting hemp and other crops in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. During the summer, they moved their herds up the mountain fields to graze, and returned to the banks of the Black Sea during the winter. I could write a long time about their customs, even though they had no written language and everything we know comes from Persia or from Greece, in other words, their enemies. The Scythians built and controlled the Silk Road, which meant they were also involved in the slave, drug and spice trades. Silk didn’t appear until millennia later.
When the straits of Bosphorus were first breached, possibly due to a meteor strike, sea water flooded into the Black Sea burying all the towns and villages on the shore, as well as several islands. The survivors move away, some to Turkey, some to Persia, some to Afghanistan. They develop flood myths.
Meanwhile, in Bactria a new avatar emerges, Zoroaster, who is using the Scythian sacraments, and popularizes drinking hot milk mixed with cannabis, which turns out to be the most effective delivery system, both for medicinal and inspirational purposes. Zoroaster is a barefoot holy man, not a warrior like Heracles, the previous avatar. He carries a magic stick instead of a magic sword. He saves the tribe through feats of magic, not through feats of strength.
The first Zoroastrian king of Persia (Cyrus the Great) defeats the corrupt Babylonian empire and replaces it with a more enlightened form of government. He frees the Jews enslaved by Babylon and says, “Take this money and go back to Jerusalem and rebuild your temple and write down the history of your tribe.”
Naturally, they create a new avatar to update Abraham, named Moses, who is a composite of Zoroaster and Cyrus. Like Zoroaster, Moses goes to the top of “smokey” mountain and comes back with god’s rules after conversing with a burning bush. Like Cyrus, Moses was a foundling whose real identity was kept hidden.
Alexander the Great’s father becomes the first to defeat the Scythians in battle, opening the way for his son to march across the Silk Road and conquer Bactria. Meanwhile a new avatar emerged in India and became popular in Bactria. His name was Buddha. The great pantheons of Indian, Greek, Egyptian and Persian gods had been rejected by Zoroaster, who created the first monotheistic religion, but Buddha creates the first “no gods” religion in which your fate is ruled by karma, not by whims of some god.
Alexander embraces Buddhism before he dies and for centuries afterwards the entire Middle East becomes Buddhist with a Greek flavor. Judea borders the Greco-Buddhist empire, and soon the most advanced Jews are working on a new avatar, inspired by Buddha. Stories and scrolls are written to celebrate this new movement, which is vegetarian and seeks to stop the slaughter of birds and animals inside the temple.
This is a small, tiny movement, but one that troubles Rome, so they send one of their citizens to persecute these new Christians causing trouble in the temple, interfering with the slaughter of animals and birds, which makes a lot of profit (and Rome gets a cut).
The persecutor is unable to wipe out the movement, so he joins it and becomes its biggest influencer after the movement’s leader, James, is thrown off a tower and murdered. Thus ends any talk of vegetarianism.
Two hundred years later, a boy is born of a Christian father and Zoroastrian mother in Persia, and develops unique theories on religion at a young age, amazing the Magi while only 12. He successfully merges all religion to end war, and becomes a hunted man in return. He is such a vegetarian he won’t eat roots, only freely fallen fruits, nuts and vegetables. Lured out of safe haven in India he is skinned alive and decapitated for the crime of trying to end war. His murder makes him famous worldwide and the mercenary army of Rome begins flocking to his religion in droves, reading the bible he wrote by himself in his own unique calligraphy. He was the greatest portrait painter of his time. His temples spread over the world, until it got so big, Rome got worried again.
That’s when Constantine embraces a small cult designed to give comfort to the poor, and transforms it into an imperial juggernaut to take over the world. Many elements of Mani’s life are incorporated into the story of Jesus.
Not a single temple, bible, nor painting of Mani’s survives the great Inquisition, although pockets survive in modified form, like the Cathars in France. Eventually the Pope will order them all slaughtered to stop the spread of Mani’s dualism.
Mani had been healing the blind and lame, not with magic, but with the original oil of Moses, a mixture of cannabis resin suspended in olive oil with some spices, and a tad of opium and ephedra if available.
Rome disappears Mani and disappears cannabis at the same time. The Scythian holy grail, which was about the substance inside the cup, is transformed into the Christian Eucharist.
Johanna Harcourt-Smith was 26-years-old when she met Timothy Leary. After Leary turned informant, she was branded a CIA-honeypot by Allen Ginsberg and shunned by just about everyone. For a time, most of the counterculture turned on Leary and his acid queen.
The primary person Leary ratted out was a lawyer named Michael Kennedy who’d engineered Leary’s prison escape through the terrorist Weather Underground. Leary was only told they “were political people,” not that they were terrorist bombers responsible for the death of a San Francisco policeman. The Weather Underground sought to use Leary as a publicity tool by sending him to Algeria to live with Eldridge Cleaver. They wanted to replay the film Algeria, which documented the success of a terrorist Islamic-Marxist revolution led by downtrodden Muslims, who had no rights in French Algeria. Hundreds of thousands died in their fight for independence, and the Weather Underground was envisioning a similar scenario in the USA, except led by middle-class teenagers. The real mission, however, was driving the left violent in order to marginalize and isolate it from the mainstream.
In 1969, Leary successfully legalized cannabis for a brief moment when he appealed a pot conviction all the way to the Supreme Court and won, so the antiquated 1937 Marijuana Tax Act had to be swiftly replaced by the Controlled Substances Act, which broadened the reign of terror on medicinal plants.
In 1987, when I arrived at High Times the entire editorial staff had recently been fired over the Christmas holidays. The magazine was teetering on insolvency and circulation had cratered. The advertising base consisted of two companies selling lookalike pills obviously intended to be sold as real on the blackmarket. Caffeine was likely the primary ingredient. The magazine had recently relocated to save money on rent, and the files that survived were in a shambles. There were no photo files, and no manuscript log for unsolicited articles. All unsolicited material disappeared into a black hole. The publisher was an accountant who kept the magazine running by cutting expenses. But the publisher turned out to be a puppet for lawyer Kennedy.
Tom Forcade had created a trust to gift the company to loyal employees in the event of his demise, but when Kennedy learned of this, he immediately engineered a trip to the bank vault where the document was stored, and wrote his name on the list of trustees, while promising to serve as “protecter” of the agreement.
Soon Tom was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound and Kennedy conspiring with Tom’s widow and family, including Tom’s lawyer uncle, the author of the trust. He was a former tank commander in WWII who’d been recruited into military intelligence. Employees began exiting en mass, mostly through sudden firings, but some because the thrill was gone. High Times became a treacherous environment run like an intelligence operation, where information was on a need-to-know basis.
Since the counterculture media had died or been co-opted by the 1980s, being put in charge of a nationally-distributed magazine represented a huge opportunity and I had no problem turning the financial situation around instantly just by upgrading the magazine’s content and focusing on celebrating the remaining counterculture, which included the Grateful Dead followers and Rainbow Family. One day A. Craig Copetus, one of the original High Times employees, visited the office. He seemed surprised to hear Kennedy had taken control. “Right before he died, Tom held a meeting and told us not to let Kennedy get control,” said Copetus. Obviously, Tom had second thoughts about that trip to the bank vault.
I sent a letter to Kennedy outlining my plans for creating universal, non-violent ceremonies that would focus on ending the drug war. I was already doing these cannabis-infused ceremonies in Amsterdam as part of the Cannabis Cup, as well as filming them, and felt a class-action lawsuit could be successfully mounted to protect hippies from persecution by claiming pot was a legitimate sacrament. To bolster these claims, I’d been accumulating evidence Zoroastrianism, the foundation for Judaism and Christianity, had originated as a cannabis cult, and the smoking bush of Moses was a reference to the inspirational power of cannabis. Despite offering a splendid opportunity for Kennedy to double-pay himself and get tremendous publicity for himself (and for the magazine), and increase sales, and especially because it would save countless thousands from jail and financial ruin, Kennedy never responded to the letter.
What Kennedy did instead is launch a series of campaigns to have me fired. A series of publishers were installed, all instructed to “start looking for a new editor.” Attempts were made to kill the Cannabis Cup, but I managed to offload that to Michael Esterson for a licensing fee. The agreement also kept videotaping alive as Esterson agreed to cover that cost. But as soon as the WHEE! festival became profitable, and Mountain Girl agreed to move the festival to her estate, Kennedy summoned me to his office, where he unexpectedly declared WHEE was dead. Kennedy informed me it was a huge waste of time and resources. Bolstering this lie required support from the publisher, who was Mike Edison at the time, who would soon be fired, and who later write a revenge memoir branding me as incompetent. Apparently, among my many crimes was believing the assassinations of the 1960s deserved further investigation, and that a group of teens from Marin had invented 420.
The next year, the trust dissolved and Trans High Corporation gifted to the employees. I was given some token shares along with a handful of other real employees, but Kennedy and Tom’s family held the majority. Kennedy moved into the High Times office and began running the operation into the ground. Meanwhile, I could never comprehend why Kennedy was so angry with me all the time since I’d been making him millions and sales sank without me at the helm. He was living on billionaires row on Central Park South, his summer residence was an ocean-front property in the Yale enclave in the Hamptons, and he also had a winter home in Palm Beach, as well as an estate in Ireland. I was a single dad living hand-to-mouth with two kids with a disabled wife to support at a different location, and just eking by thanks to the debates I was doing on college campuses against the former head of the New York DEA.
One day, I was summoned to Kennedy’s office where he introduced me to Buffalo Mailer, Norman Mailer’s son. Kennedy wanted Buffalo to provide some young energy to the aging editorial staff, so he was being installed as Executive Editor and I needed to introduce him to staff as if it was my idea.
The following day, I was again summoned to Kennedy’s office upon arrival in the morning, where a shame-faced Mailer held a copy of a just-released New York magazine, which contained an interview with Richard Stratton where he announced his next project: running High Times. Kennedy had made a secret deal with Stratton and Mailer was Stratton’s stalking horse. I felt sorry for Mailer, for allowing himself to be dragged into participating in a slimy hoodwink. At the editorial meeting later that morning where Mailer announced the real situation to the staff, only Natasha shed tears for me. The others were already angling for elevation on the masthead.
I was moved out of the office so as not to interfere with the transition. I could never understand why nobody wanted my participation as I’d always thought of magazines as a team effort, and the goal was assembling the best possible staff. My investigative journalism had been a significant part of the magazine’s success, so why wouldn’t that continue? Instead, my contribution was limited to a 500-word monthly column, for which I was paid a steadily dwindling salary.
One day I got an email from Johanna saying she wanted to talk. I’d believed the stories about her being a CIA agent, but I was having second thoughts about that, as well as the truth concerning Kennedy’s participation in the Weather Underground. I knew Bill Ayers remained a close friend since I’d recently edited Kennedy’s adopted daughter’s wedding video.
I soon began formulating my alternative history of the 1960s, in which Tim Leary and Charlie Manson are manipulated pawns deployed to de-tooth the counterculture. Knowing I was on treacherous ground, I sent an email to Kennedy requesting permission to interview Johanna. Strangely, I got a response right away, and it contained an emotional plea not to because the memories remained an open wound. That email was nothing like any other email I ever received from Kennedy. It wasn’t like him to show weakness.
Johanna died recently from breast cancer, but she was able to finally get her story out. She’d watched Wormwood on Netflix and felt compelled to contact the filmmaker, who’d instantly agreed to interview her. During the film, it becomes apparent Johanna felt she was being manipulated into Leary’s orbit and it was through surveillance on her that the CIA was keeping tabs on Leary. But she’d never been a knowing participant. And I believe this is the way a lot of intel operations work. Few have any clue to the unseen strings or who the puppet masters might be.
Johanna had become promiscuous at age 15, and a parade of powerful people connected to arms trafficking and illegal drugs soon became her friends and lovers. She became part of the Rolling Stones jet-setting entourage. At 26, she was likely nearing the end of a glamorous career as swinging super hottie, when Aleister Crowley devotee Anita Pallenberg (who’d inspired the Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” phase), told her to look up Leary because he was available and hiding out in Switzerland.
At their first meeting Leary pulled out Crowley Tarot deck.
I was disappointed the film never delved into whether Johanna could have been sold by her mother to the CIA as an MK/Ultra sex slave. She’d had a raging libido from the age of 15, and typically held at least eight males under her command at all times. The reason Wormwood resonated so deeply could have been because her role as an acid queen was ordained.
The sad truth about Leary is he was half-visionary and half-huckster. His first book on the psychedelic experience was based around the Tibetan Book of the Dead, magic incantations intended to lead the dying to nirvana, basically the same hoodwink MI6 operative Somerset Maugham deployed in the Razor’s Edge, in which the secrets of the universe are located in Eastern philosophies. Imagine leading people from India or China to adopt Catholicism as the true faith. Enlightenment is not like climbing a mountain. You don’t reach the top and become released from temporal bondage. There is no nirvana, no heaven, no hell, no eternal soul. You’re just replacing one Santa Claus story with another. The real secret to magic and religion is it only works on believers.
Strangely, the Weather Underground celebrated the Manson murders, and held Charlie up as a counterculture hero for “killing pigs.” They also celebrated Sirhan Sirhan for the same reason. Both Leary and Manson were held in isolation at the same prison, but their cells strangely located next door, allowing them to communicate.
“They took you off the streets so I could continue your work,” said Manson.