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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

L. Wayne Benner's "Seven Shadows"

I bought L. Wayne Benner's book, Seven Shadows, because I knew he had collaborated with Robert Anton Wilson on Wilson's article, "The RICH Economy," that's reprinted in The Illuminati Papers, and because he had collaborated with Timothy Leary. In addition, Benner had other interesting elements in his life story: He was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping TV and film star Leon Ames for $50,000 in ransom.

Well, you'll learn more about the Ames incident if you read this news clipping than if you read the book; Benner doesn't even bother to identify the victims.

And if you were thinking of buying the book to learn more about Robert Anton Wilson, here's the entire text of the book dealing with Wilson:

"Timothy also introduced me to Robert Anton Wilson. Over the next several years Robert and I wrote some articles and papers on RICH, an economic alternative for America."

There's a vivid portrait of Timothy Leary, although I doubt you'll learn anything about Leary you didn't already know. I will say that the discussion of Leary sounds truthful and is interesting.

Benner's book is a self-published, raw, unedited manuscript replete with spelling errors and obvious holes. You'll have to read it carefully, for example, to figure out that he grew up in Minnesota.

His habit of leaving out full names (Leary and Wilson are two of the few exceptions), specific dates and other hard facts make it hard to verify some of  his best stories.

For example, the centerpiece of the book is an account of how he escaped from Folson Prison when he was being driven from the prison to a court date. In Benner's account, he overpowered the guard, took the guard's gun and drove the car away despite being in chains. He then evaded a police chase despite having to drive the car while still in chains and took a family hostage. The next day, he forced the family to drive him to an airport, where he planned to hijack an airplane but was surrounded and captured by police. He doesn't give a date for any of this, but the book says he was sentenced to an isolation cell as punishment in spring 1971, so it would have to be early 1971 or sometime in 1970.

I could not find any articles about this when I searched Google News. The Wikipedia article on Folsom prison mentions several escapes, but not Benner's. Did it really happen? Maybe.

Benner's book says that he was released from prison on April 1, 1975. A few pages later, he describes a stint in New York City, including a memorable evening when "I traveled across the Brooklyn Bridge with Woody Gunthry [sic] on our way to meet with Bob Dylan."

Woody Guthrie died in 1967. Maybe Benner meant to say "Arlo Guthrie."

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