Some weeks ago, a writer named John Wisniewski wrote to me and asked if I would be interested in an interview with Adam Gorightly. I wrote back and said that although I was doing my own interview I would also be interested in his piece.
My interview ran, establishing for the record that Mr Gorightly is neither a gonzo author or a crockpot expert, but a very interesting "crackpot historian."
Wisniewski has now sent me his interview, which is interesting and highlights Gorightly's new book about Kerry Thornley, Caught in the Crossfire. The book is referred to in the interview as upcoming, but now it's out -- you can run out and buy it!
John Wisniewski is a freelance writer who has written for L.A. Review of Books, Paraphilia magazine, Toronto Review of Books, Urban Graffiti magazine and other publications. He currently resides in West Babylon NY.
Hi Adam. You have two new books out "Caught in the Crossfire" and "Historia Discordia," a history of the Discordian Society. Could you tell us about Kerry Thornley— who he was?
Thornley was born in Whittier, California in 1938, and throughout his life was an unconventional, free thinking type. In high school he became friends with a school mate named Greg Hill and the two lads cooked up the spoof religion called Discordianism, which was the worship of the Greek Goddess of Chaos and Confusion, Eris. This discovery of Eris occurred with a vision in a Whittier bowling alley in 1958 when time stopped and a chimpanzee appeared. It gets pretty involved to relate it all here but to find out more you can refer to the bible of Discordianism, the Principia Discordia. The history of Discordianism is chronicled in my latest release Historia Discordia: Origins of the Discordian Society.
In 1959 Thornley enlisted in the Marines and in the fall of that year served at El Toro Marine Base near Irvine, California with none other than Lee Harvey Oswald. Oddly enough, Thornley was writing a novel based on Oswald three years before the JFK assassination.
In 1967, Thornley was targeted by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as part of a JFK assassination conspiracy based out of New Orleans where Thornley had lived throughout 1961-63 during the same period that Oswald had spent time there. Garrison claimed that Thornley had been one of the notorious Oswald doubles—as well as a CIA asset—and that he had met with Oswald during the New Orleans period as part of his supposed JFK assassination involvement, an accusation that Thornley denied.
Garrison’s case eventually ran out of steam in 1970 when the lead suspect in the case, Clay Shaw, was acquitted and around that time the charges against Thornley were also dropped. Over the next few years, Thornley grew to suspect that Garrison might have actually been on the right track with some of his JFK assassination related theories, but that his involvement in the assassination had been that of an unwitting dupe and as a potential fall back patsy if the Oswald setup had gone awry.
All of this is covered in greater detail in my soon to be released Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation.
Could you name a few other key figures in the History of the Discordian Society? We have mentioned Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill, of course.
Well, of course Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea — the authors of Illuminatus! —were deeply influenced and likewise contributed greatly to the Discordian mythos. Their Discordian nicknames were, respectively, Mordecai the Foul and Josh the Dill.
Another key figure was Bob Newport (are we sensing a trend here with all the Bobs?) Newport was a contributor to the 4th edition Principia Discordia, and become the Keeper of the Sacred Chao (KSC) when the Discordian Archives were passed on to him after Greg Hill’s death. (The original printing of The Sacred Chao emblem is contained within the archives, hence the illustrious KSC title.)
Newport (aka Rev. Hypocrates Magoun, Protector of the Pineal) passed the archives on to me 5 years ago and I became the next in line KSC. These materials led to the Historia Discordia website, Historia Discordia book project, as well as the forthcoming Caught in the Crossfire.
The Discordian Society was birthed in a Southern California bowling alley in 1958, but really didn’t gain serious traction until Hill and Thornley relocated to New Orleans in the fall of ‘61. A couple of key Discordians who helped spread the gospel during the NOLA period were Roger Lovin (whose middle name was Robert—another Bob!) and a fellow named Bob McElroy (yes, another Bob.) Their respective Discordian monikers were Fang the Unwashed and Dr. Mungojerry Grindlebone. Lovin authored several books including The Complete Motorcycle Nomad in 1974.
In fact, a number of the early Discordians were published authors including Thornley, Hill, Wilson, Shea, Lovin in addition to Louise Lacey—aka Lady L, F.A.B. (Fucking Anarchist Bitch) —who in the early 70s wrote her classic tome on natural birth control, Lunaception: A Feminine Odyssey into Fertility and Contraception.
Camden Benares (aka The Count of Fives) is considered a leading authority on Zen and his books have been published in German, Dutch, and other languages. Benares wrote a total of three books in his Zen series which included Zen Without Zen Masters and A Handful of Zen. His third and final book, Riding Buddha’s Bicycle, was finished shortly before his death in 1999 and remains unpublished.
Another seminal Discordian—who I’ve just recently learned much more about—was Tim Wheeler (aka Lord Harold Randomfactor.) Along with his wife, Mary (aka Hope Springs), Wheeler also contributed greatly to the Discordian mythos, and like Hill and Thornley is cited in the Illuminatus! trilogy. Wheeler was a humor editor for William F. Buckley’s National Review, which I suspect some will find rather curious as to why Wheeler was intermingling with those early Discordians, who most would consider more left-leaning than right-wingers. The reality is that the early Discordians were all across the political-ideological landscape—from liberalism to anarchism to conservatism to surrealism—but the one thing that bound them all together was their reverence of Eris…and also smoking pot, which Wheeler was also very fond of. They’ll be much more about Tim Wheeler in coming blogposts at historiadiscordia.com, so stay tuned!
Adam Gorightly with Robert Anton Wilson.
When and how did you meet Robert Anton Wilson?
I met Wilson in 2001 at his apartment in Capitola, California. This was an interview for my book The Prankster and the Conspiracy, and had been set up with the help of Bob Newport. It was at this time that I was first exposed to some of the Discordian Archives, which Newport brought along with him to the meeting. We had some scotch, ordered a pizza and I later bummed a smoke from Wilson, which we enjoyed from his balcony overlooking the ocean. All in all, a pretty memorable day.
Around the time of our meeting, my friend Miles Lewis was organizing the National UFO Conference (NUFOC) for later that year—the weekend of September 16th in Austin, Texas—and after my meeting with Wilson I’d helped Miles get in touch with RAW to have him speak at the event. Miles had even planned to present RAW with an honorary award at the conference, which of course never took place, as 9/11 screwed all that up and shut down flying for the next few weeks and so it had to be cancelled. I had planned to attend, so all of this was certainly a bummer.
I’ve attached a poster for the event—the greatest UFO conference that never happened—that was illustrated by my good friend Mack White, who also provided illustrations for my book The Beast of Adam Gorightly: Collected Rantings (1992-2004).
Was there a conspiracy surrounding the death of Robert Kennedy?
Well, Kerry Thornley certainly thought there was a conspiracy behind RFK’s assassination, and that the group behind MLK, RFK and the Manson Family murders were the same individuals who had manipulated him in New Orleans. Kerry, at one time or another, placed himself in the center of all these conspiracies — as someone who had become ensnared in this tangled web — and that he was the only one who had really figured out the connections linking all of the assassinations together, which he felt ultimately led to the escalation of the Vietnam War.
As for myself, I can’t claim any certitude in the matter, although the possibility of a conspiracy in RFK’s assassination seems quite likely. RFK’s alleged assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, had all the earmarks of a mind control subject. Sirhan claimed to have no memory of shooting RFK, although he did recall the events leading up to—and immediately following the assassination—as well as his curious encounter with a certain girl in a polka-dotted dress in the Ambassador Hotel ballroom just before the hit went down. Sirhan remembered the girl pouring him a cup of coffee and then after that he went blank, which suggests the likelihood that hypnosis in combination with psychoactive drugs were used to program him.
Sirhan suffered amnesia during the three months leading up to RFK’s assassination. His attorneys put together a psychiatric team (led by U.C. Berkeley’s Dr. Bernard Diamond) who presented the case that Sirhan had been hypnotized and during his period of missing time had written a series of diary entries in an apparent trance state, repeating the phrase “RFK must die” over and over like he was reciting commands that had been drilled into his brain.
Sirhan’s lawyers claimed that his trance states had been self induced, although in the years to follow Sirhan has gone on record stating that he was misrepresented by his first legal team, and has steadfastly claimed that he was indeed the victim of mind control, and that his handler was the girl in the polka-dot dress.
Witnesses observed the girl in polka-dotted dress running from the Ambassador Hotel yelling “we shot him.” One witness to this was a campaign volunteer named Sandy Serrano, who afterwards claimed that she was badgered by LAPD SGT Hank Hernandez into recanting her story.
Ballistic evidence in RFK’s assassination was sketchy, and some sources suggest that Sirhan never got close enough to RFK to have been able to fire the fatal head shot. Many point to a security guard named Thane Eugene Caesar as a likely triggerman. Also ballistic evidence was removed from the assassination scene (The Ambassador Hotel pantry) that later came up missing or was destroyed, which included ceiling panels and a door jamb, as I recall.
I’ve only scratched the surface here, but if you really want to go deep down this rabbit hole, I’d recommend reading RFK Must Die! by Robert Kaiser and The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy by authors Jon Christian and William Turner in addition to the excellent film documentary RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy directed by Shane O’Sullivan.
Adam could you tell us a little about MK-ULTRA, what it is and conspiracy cases are involved with it?
MK-ULTRA was a code name for a series of CIA sponsored covert mind control experiments started in 1953 under a program exempt from congressional oversight. Agents and “spychiatrists” involved in MK-ULTRA tested radiation, electric shock, microwaves, and electrode implants on unwitting subjects, one of whom might have very well been Kerry Thornley, as well as Lee Harvey Oswald.
MK-ULTRA’s ultimate goal was to create sleeper agents that could be awakened by post hypnotic commands ala The Manchurian Candidate. To this end, the CIA tested a wide range of drugs to find the perfect chemical compound in which to achieve their goals. In 1953, the Agency attempted to purchase the entire world supply of LSD from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. In fact, for many years the CIA was the principal source for LSD. Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg and Jerry Garcia were all turned on to acid via CIA funded projects sponsored by such conduits as Stanford University.
Atsugi Air Base in Japan—where both Thornley and Oswald had been stationed—was one of two overseas outposts where the CIA conducted MK-ULTRA experiments. These activities took place in a group of buildings at Atsugi identified as the Joint Technical Advisory Group, the ultimate aim of which was to establish if drugs, such as LSD, could be used as interrogation tools on enemy agents, and also as a tool for agents-in-training to familiarize themselves with LSD’s effects in case they were slipped a psychedelic mickey. Atsugi, it should be noted, was just one of two locations outside of the US (the other in Manila, in the Philippines) where the CIA, during this period, maintained storage of LSD. Besides Atsugi, Thornley also served with the Marines in Manila. Go figure…
There are also stories that suggest that Oswald was dosed with LSD during this period, which I share in Caught in the Crossfire.
Speaking about MK-ULTRA, was MK involved with The Manson Case as well?
Test-Tube Murders: The Case of Charles Manson by Carol Greene, published in Germany, presents the theory that the “Summer of Love” was not a spontaneous phenomenon, but a planned behavior modification program designed to undermine the 1960’s youth movement ala MK-ULTRA—with the Manson Family the end product of these sinister shenanigans. Greene contends that Manson’s parole officer, Dr. Roger Smith, who worked at the Haight-Ashbury Free clinic and the director the clinic, Dr. David Smith, directed this clandestine operation. The Haight Ashbury Clinic was sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and, in recent years, it has been revealed that the NIMH was an MK-ULTRA front funded by the CIA. Which is not to say I can substantiate any of these claims, but they’re certainly intriguing.
After his prison release in ‘67—during the so-called "Summer of Love"—Manson landed in the Haight Ashbury where he began gathering his hippie chick harem around him. There are those who suggest that Haight-Ashbury was a “human guinea pig farm” and the Manson Family were cooked up there in the same sort of test tube cauldron that Carol Greene wrote about. Dr. Louis Jolyon West—an infamous figure in the MK-ULTRA annals—ran a safe house in the Haight where he tested LSD on unwitting subjects during the same period that the Manson Family was being birthed.
Conspiracy researchers Mae Brussell and John Judge also stated as much: that the Manson Family was the product of a covert government mind control experiment engineered to undermine the 60’s counterculture. Brussell referred to all of this as a “strategy of tension” orchestrated to create unrest in the good ol’ US of A and bring about a fascist controlled state.
In the 1980’s, John Judge was corresponding with Manson Family member Patricia Krenwinkel, who stated her suspicion that she’d been a victim of MK-ULTRA. To this end, Judge contended that many of the Manson girls came from high ranking military intelligence families and that they were fed mind control drugs and Manson was given control over them. Meanwhile, Manson’s handlers led him to believe he was some sort of new age messiah, who after Helter Skelter came down would ultimately rule the world. After Charlie’s arrest, he said, “I want to know who was peeing on my leash,” which meant that Manson understood he’d been let out a certain amount, then dragged back in once he'd served his purpose.
Could you tell us more about your new book, Adam. Why was the use of mind control a major issue in the Kennedy assassination?
Once again, I have no definitive smoking gun proof regarding MK-ULTRA mind control in any of this craziness—from JFK to RFK to MLK to Manson. There are connections that can be made which certainly suggest that such scenarios were possible and that it appears Oswald and Thornley were manipulated—and I explore those theories in my latest book. But in the final analysis—in my mind, at least—they remain theories. Ultimately it’s up to the reader to make that leap, and I’m sure some will: that MK-ULTRA or the Illuminati or fill-in-the-blanks with alphabet soups were responsible for the assassinations of everyone from JFK to John Lennon to Joan Rivers. But for me these remain unsettling theories to ponder in those wee, weird hours—in the quiet and the dark.
As for Caught in the Crossfire, it’s really the story of Kerry Thornley and the trials and tribulations he encountered as a suspect in Garrison’s JFK assassination investigation. The aim of the book is not to present another explanation of who was behind the JFK assassination. There have been a multitude of books that have gone down that road many, many times. My book is more a recounting of what went on behind the scenes with the Garrison investigation and how that impacted Kerry Thornley’s life.
Was Kerry Thornley ever questioned in any other conspiracy trials? Besides the Kennedy assassination?
Technically, Thornley never testified at a conspiracy trial. He did testify before the Warren Commission, and Jim Garrison believed that Thornley’s involvement with the Warren Commission was part of the Oswald frame-job orchestrated by the CIA.
While some probably envision Thornley’s Warren Commission testimony as being a rather formal affair—presided over by government lawyers and high ranking politicians where he was sworn in and questioned like in some televised congressional investigation—in actuality Kerry just met a couple government attorneys over the course of an afternoon in a very informal setting and provided them with his memories of serving with Oswald in the Marines. Kerry was then able to review a transcript of his testimony the following day and make any changes or corrections he deemed necessary.
As for the Garrison affair, this would probably be as close to a “conspiracy trial” as it got, and once again this wasn’t actually a formal trial, but just one day of questioning before the Orleans Parish Grand Jury. For that matter, Garrison never brought Kerry to trial and eventually dropped all charges against him after the Clay Shaw acquittal in 1970.
Similar to his testimony before the Warren Commission, Thornley provided information to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the mid seventies, which consisted of a one day meeting with Committee investigator L.J. Delsig. Kerry initiated this meeting because he felt he had important knowledge to share related to the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations. However, Kerry soon discovered that Delsig wasn’t interested in anything he had to share but was more interested in Garrison’s charges, which Kerry had been denying since day one. And so that basically ended any chance Kerry had of stating his case and his theories related to the assassinations and ostensibly ended his HSCA participation.