Tag Archives: LSD

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

In 1938, Albert Hofmann, a Sandoz Pharmaceutical chemist in Basel, Switzerland, was researching drugs for blood. He found Lysergic acid diethylamide, a drug we much later came to know simply as LSD.

Ken Kesey Graduates
Albert Hofmann

Five years later, Hofmann accidentally ingested some of the drug. He wrote afterwards, “Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

And so the journey began.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Psychotherapy > Behavior Control > Transcendence

In 1949, research into LSD began in the United States when Boston psychiatrist Max Rinkel and Los Angeles psychiatrist Nicholas Bercel both obtained the drug from Sandoz.

The following year, 1951, the Central Intelligence Agency began research into the use of drugs for behavior control. And one year later, the CIA included LSD in its experimentation.

Interestingly, that same year Al Hubbard tried LSD as a “transcendental” drug.

Most people are walking in their sleep,” Hubbard said. “Turn them around, start them in the opposite direction and they wouldn’t even know the difference. [but]  give them a good dose of LSD and let them see themselves for what they are.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Timothy Leary

Open research (unlike the government’s secret programs) continued throughout the 1950s and in 1960 Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert established the Psychedelic Research Project at Harvard University.

That same year, a Sidney Cohen surveyed 5,000 individuals who had taken LSD and concluded it was safe.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Elton Kesey

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Ken Kesey was a good student and an excellent wrestler who wanted to write. In 1961 while Kesey was a graduate student in creative writing at Stanford University he enrolled in an Army-sponsored hallucinogenic-drug experiment—which paid him $75 a session—run by Stanford scientists at the Menlo Park VA Hospital. The program was part of the CIA’s top secret MKULTRA behavior control program.

Kesey likened the experiment to exploring a haunted house. “[The scientists] didn’t have the guts to do it themselves, so they hired students. ‘Hey, we found this room. Would you please go inside and let us know what’s going on in there?’ When we came back out, they took one look at us and said, ‘Whatever they do, don’t let them go back in that room!’”

“That” room was the LSD room. As a night aide on the psychiatric ward at the hospital he began to write a book. He also had access to the cabinet that contained LSD.  The book became the instant best seller, One Flew Over the Cuckkoo’s Nest in 1962,

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

On the bus

In 1964, Kesey and his friends, together self-labeled the Merry Pranksters, decided to travel cross-country for the publication of his second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion.

New wave journalist Tom Wolfe wrote about Kesey, the Pranksters, and that famous 1964 bus trip (literally and figuratively, of course) in Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

One of the bus stops along the way was visiting Timothy Leary at the Hitchcock estate in Millbrook, New York. By this point, Harvard had dismissed Leary (1963), but Leary continued his work.

Back in California, Owsley Bear Stanley first succeeded in synthesizing crystalline LSD in February 1965. The Pranksters will set up living in La Honda, California.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Acid tests

By the end of 1965, the Pranksters have begun what became a series of so-called Acid Tests (thus the name of Wolfe’s book). (Open Culture article)

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

In early 1966, Ken Kesey was found guilty of marijuana possession. While awaiting sentencing, he is again found in possession of marijuana (ironically, LSD was still legal).

The second arrest would have led to immediate incarceration, Kesey “committed suicide” and fled to Mexico.

The Acid Tests continue minus Kesey and the media begin to report on this “new” drug and its apparent dangers to life, liberty, and the American way of life. Sandoz recalled the LSD it had previously distributed and withdrew its sponsorship for work with LSD.

Owsley continued manufacturing his synthetic LSD, considered better than Sandoz’s.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Kesey captured

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

In early October 1966, Kesey secretly came back into the US from Mexico but on October 29, authorities accidentally discovered and arrested Kesey.

Ironically, it was the same month the US made possession of LSD illegal.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

Graduation

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates

As a way to mollify authorities and perhaps put himself in a better light at his upcoming trial, Kesey agreed to have a “farewell to LSD” event that he and the Pranksters labeled the “Acid Test Graduation.”

And so on this date, October 31 (1966), they held the ceremony. Of course the ceremony did not end the use of hallucinogenics, but Kesey stepped aside and explained that the doors LSD had opened were now there for anyone to peer through.

Kesey would serve a 6 month sentence and move back to his home state of Oregon where he continued to raise his family.

Ken Kesey LSD Graduates
Please follow and like us:

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Byrds, “Ballad of Easy Rider” (Roger McGuinn)
The river flows, it flows to the sea
Wherever that river goes that’s where I want to be
Flow river flow, let your waters wash down
Take me from this road to some other town
All he wanted was to be free
And that’s the way it turned out to be
Flow river flow, let your waters wash down
Take me from this road to some other town
Flow river flow, past the shady trees
Go river go, go to the sea
Flow to the sea
Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Woodstock away

When Michael Lang and the other Woodstock Ventures partners agreed that they’d do not just an outdoor festival, but an outdoor festival in the country, away from the city, back to Nature, away from the Establishment’s concrete lives, they were tapping into an old American view of the freedom of travel.

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Premiered July 14, 1969

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Road stories

We humans love stories and we particularly love stories about journeys. Ever since Homer sat down and recited the tale of Odysseus and his attempt to return home to Penelope, multitudes of tales have followed creating variations on that theme.

The list of those variations is far longer than any little blog like this one could delineate, but Mr Chaucer’s 1478  Canterbury Tales comes to mind as does Jack Kerouac’s 1957 On the Road. And of course Mr Tolkien’s tale of Mr B Baggins of Bag End.

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Road films

As soon as Americans started to build roads for motorized vehicles, a plethora of films about people and their travels ensued. The movie of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath novel couldn’t have happened without cars and roads. At least not in the same way.

Visit the Federal Highway Commission’s site for its extensive list of road-related films.

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Easy Rider

By the summer of 1969 the cultural revolution was in high gear. Rock festivals dotted the summer calendar. War protests continued. The anti-hero reigned. In 1967, The Graduate had shown us the suburban anti-hero. Easy Rider introduced  us to two western hippie anti-heroes.

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Captain America & Wyatt

Peter Fonda played Captain America and Dennis Hopper played Billy. Both dress in a counter-cultural style: Fonda in a leather jacket with an American Flag stenciled on it;  Hopper in leather pants and jacket in imitation of some Native American tribal dress.

They leave California with a gas tank filled with drug money, intending to head east to New Orleans and thence to Florida. Such a trip is the opposite direction of what traditional American history books told of Manifest Destiny and going west to explore, settle, displace, and claim the American dream.

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Easy Rider Itinerary

Along the way they visit a commune, experience free love, get arrested, introduce a new friend (“George Hanson” played by Jack Nicholson) to marijuana, get beaten by locals, use LSD, and witness death.

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider

Impact

The story reinforced the counterculture’s view of the Establishment’s worthlessness and corruption, and that most Americans saw those who tried to live freely as a threat to their way of life.

The soundtrack’s artists reinforced that view. Included were The Band, The Byrds, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Steppenwolf.

Fonda Hopper Easy Rider
Please follow and like us:

Furthur Departs Arrives

Furthur Departs Arrives

June 17, 1964

Furthur Departs Arrives

sound from the trailer for “Magic Trip”

When did the 60s begin?

            When did the 60s–“those” 60s–begin? Not with Elvis Presley’s return from the Army and becoming a movie actor. Not with JFK’s Camelot, neither its captivating start nor tragic end. Not even with the Beatles USA arrival.

When the words “the 60s” are said, people typically think of psychedelics, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, Vietnam protests, assassinations, political turmoil, and general cultural revolution.

Furthur Departs Arrives

Ken Kesey

Ken Kesey was a writer who participated in the US Government’s top secret 1950s Project MKUltra. At a time when the fear atomic warfare between us and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dominated our daily consciousness, any way of stopping such an apocalyptic war seemed reasonable.

The idea was that human drug testing might help us get their spies to reveal secrets and to keep our spies from revealing secrets. Our sensible aim, our necessary aim was to learn how to strengthen, to weaken, or to demoralize.

Furthur Departs Arrives

LSD

LSD was among the various drugs given to him and Kesey found that it seemed quite enlightening, enjoyable, and even entertaining. Legal still, he and Ken Babbs helped form the Merry Pranksters who used LSD recreationally.

Furthur Departs Arrives

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

             Kesey was also a successful writer having landed in 1962 on best seller lists with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  His next novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964) required his presence in New York City. And 1964 meant the start of the New York World’s Fair. What better way to get to New York and its Fair than do a cross-country trip (literally and figuratively) with friends, i.e., the Merry Pranksters?

Furthur Departs Arrives

Furthur

                They bought a 1939 International Harvester school bus, decorated it, named it Further (or Furthur), built an observation turret on top, and installed a sound and recording system. Neal Cassady was the bus driver and scenery docent.

Furthur Departs Arrives

Furthur Departs

They left their base in La Honda, California on June 17, 1964. They only traveled 40 miles their first day due to a mechanical (actual, not figurative) problem that temporarily stalled them.

The Pranksters’ trip was a living art project, performance art. They stopped regularly to visit friends or experience the world through LSD. On the east coast and New York, they visited fellow LSD aficionado Dr Timothy Leary in Millbrook, NY. The Pranksters’ west coast approach to LSD and the more academic east coast approach did not meld and the two camps left with no detente.

Furthur Departs Arrives

Tom Wolfe

The best-known account of the whole Prankster scene and Furthur’s journey is Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  The Pranksters themselves did film their trip, but understandably the visual and sound were rarely coordinated. It was not until 2011 that the movie Magic Trip, with overdubbings, revealed the trip’s many interesting facet.

Furthur Departs Arrives

Acid Tests

The Acid Tests began back in California after the Pranksters’s return. The Warlocks–soon to be the Grateful Dead–were the house band. Thus began that amazing partnership between hallucinogenics and music.

The last official acid test was its graduation on October 31, 1966. Kesey went to jail for 6 months shortly after.

Furthur Departs Arrives

Woodstock

The last trip that the original Furthur made was to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969.  The bus returned to Oregon and the colorful bus and melted into its damp shady resting place. [NYT obit for Kesey]

Furthur Departs

Furthur Departs Arrives

Resurrection of sorts

For the 45th anniversary of Woodstock, the new generation of Pranksters, including Kesey’s son Zane, created a new Furthur and crossed the country. On August 15 the Pranksters visited Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

Furthur departs Furthur departs Furthur departs

Furthur Departs Arrives

 Furthur Departs,  Furthur Departs,  Furthur Departs,  Furthur Departs,  Furthur Departs,  Furthur Departs,  Furthur Departs,  Furthur Departs, 

Please follow and like us: