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The Prankster and the ConspiracyPoint here for more book info
The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture
by Adam Gorightly
Foreword by Robert Anton Wilson

Paraview Press, 2003
ISBN: 193104466X
Biography, 292 pages
Trade paperback, $16.95
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Excerpt
 

Excerpt from the Foreword by Robert Anton Wilson

  Ye have locked yerselves up in cages of fear--and,
behold, do ye now complain that ye lack
FREEDOM!
Ye have cast out yer brothers for devils and now complain ye,
lamenting, that ye’ve been left to fight
alone.

-- “Epistle to the Paranoids,” The Gospel According to Fred by Kerry Thornley

Kerry Thornley wrote those words in the mid-1960s and within 10 years he had become a clinical paranoid himself, in the judgment of almost all of his friends, including Dr Robert Newport, a psychiatrist who had known Kerry since high school. The moral of this seems to me: take great care which nut cases you dare to mock, for you may become one of them.

I do not write in any spirit of smugness or superiority. I became somewhat paranoid myself, for a while there, or at least experienced acute anxiety attacks. For several months I literally could not leave my house without looking around to see if Kerry crouched behind a bush waiting to shoot me.

You see, he had become convinced that I worked for the CIA and served as one of his “managers” or “brainwashers,” but I thought I worked as a freelance writer and considered myself his friend. As his letters to me grew increasingly hostile and denunciatory, I began to fear that he might have graduated from “weirded out” to “dangerous.”

This now seems silly to me -- an over-reaction -- but the violence and paranoia of the Nixon years made everybody in this country feel a bit jumpy. A Black Panther leader in my part of Chicago seemed to have gotten shot by the local police while sedated; the extreme Right and extreme Left both had wild conspiracy theories about everybody else; anti-war meetings, anti-segregation meetings, even pot-legalization meetings all had people making nervous jokes about who among us the government had infiltrated to report on our Thoughtcrimes. The government not only appeared irrational and out of control, but so did a large part of the population.

I finally moved to Ireland to start a new life as an expatriate, and my worries about Kerry executing me for “brainwashing” him made up only a microscopic part of my motive. The whole country seemed a bit funny in the head and I had to hide out and lie low for a while. Silence, exile, and cunning, as Joyce had advised.

Looking back, I feel amused and humbled. Like Kerry, I had satirized the paranoids before the sheer number of them frightened me into acting just like one of them.

I remember my last phone conversation with Kerry, during which he announced that just a week earlier I had come to Atlanta, argued with him about my alleged CIA connections, spiked his drink with LSD, and brainwashed him again. I told him that I had not left San Francisco in months, and that if he had a bad trip the previous week then somebody else gave him the acid, not me. I insisted on this as persuasively as I could.

Finally, Kerry relented -- a bit. “Well, maybe you believe that,” he said. “But that means your bosses have been fucking with your head and implanting false memories in you too!”

How do you argue that you haven’t had your head altered? “Look,” I said, “I’ll put my wife Arlen on. She’ll tell you I haven’t left here in months.”

“That won’t prove anything,” he said with the calm certitude of a Grand Master announcing checkmate. “They probably fixed her head too.”

I don't remember the rest of the conversation. I felt lost in an Escher painting.

Copyright © 2003 Adam Gorightly
 
 

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