Merry Pranksters  

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"Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters helped shape the developing character of the 1960s counterculture when they embarked on a cross-country voyage during the summer of 1964 in a psychedelic school bus named "Furthur." Beginning in 1959, Kesey had volunteered as a research subject for medical trials financed by the CIA's MK ULTRA project. These trials tested the effects of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and other psychedelic drugs. After the medical trials, Kesey continued experimenting on his own, and involved many close friends; collectively they became known as "The Merry Pranksters." The Pranksters visited Harvard LSD proponent Timothy Leary at his Millbrook, New York retreat, and experimentation with LSD and other psychedelic drugs, primarily as a means for internal reflection and personal growth, became a constant during the Prankster trip. The Pranksters created a direct link between the 1950s Beat Generation and the 1960s psychedelic scene; the bus was driven by Beat icon Neal Cassady, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was onboard for a time, and they dropped in on Cassady's friend, Beat author Jack Kerouac--though Kerouac declined participation in the Prankster scene. After the Pranksters returned to California, they popularized the use of LSD at so-called "Acid Tests," which initially were held at Kesey's home in La Honda, California, and then at many other West Coast venues. Experimentation with LSD and other psychedelic drugs became a major component of 1960s counterculture, influencing philosophy, art, music and styles of dress." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters lived communally at Kesey's homes in California and Oregon, and are noted for the sociological significance of a lengthy road trip they took in the summer of 1964, traveling across the United States in a psychedelic painted school bus called Furthur or Further, organizing parties and giving out LSD. During this time they met many of the guiding lights of the mid-1960s cultural movement and presaged what are commonly thought of as hippies with odd behavior, tie-dyed and red, white and blue clothing, and renunciation of normal society, which they dubbed The Establishment. Tom Wolfe chronicled their early escapades in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test; Wolfe also documents a notorious 1966 trip on Further from Mexico through Houston, stopping to visit Kesey's friend, novelist Larry McMurtry. Kesey was in flight from a drug charge at the time.

Notable members of the group include Kesey's best friend Ken Babbs, Carolyn "Mountain Girl" Garcia, Lee Quarnstrom, and Neal Cassady. Stewart Brand, Dorothy Fadiman, Paul Foster, Dale Kesey (his cousin), George Walker, the Warlocks (now known as the Grateful Dead), Del Close (then a lighting designer for the Grateful Dead), Wavy Gravy, Paul Krassner, and Kentucky Fab Five writers Ed McClanahan and Gurney Norman (who overlapped with Kesey and Babbs as creative writing graduate students at Stanford University) were associated with the group to varying degrees.

These events are also documented by one of the original pranksters, Lee Quarnstrom, in his memoir, When I Was a Dynamiter.

See also

prank




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Merry Pranksters" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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