|Founded by||John Griggs|
|Founding location||Orange County, California, United States|
|Criminal activities||Drug use, manufacturing and distribution|
The Brotherhood of Eternal Love was an organization of drug users and distributors that operated from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s in Orange County, California. They were dubbed the Hippie Mafia by the police. They produced and distributed drugs in hopes of starting a "psychedelic revolution" in the United States.
Appearing in 1968 as an orange tablet measuring about 6 mm across, "Orange Sunshine" acid was the first largely available form of LSD after its possession was made illegal.
In 1970, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love hired the radical left organization Weather Underground for a fee of $25,000 to help Timothy Leary make his way to Algeria after he escaped from prison, while serving a ten-year sentence for possession of marijuana.[better source needed]
Their activities came to an end on August 5, 1972, when a drug raid was executed on the group where dozens of group members in California, Oregon and Maui were arrested. Some who had escaped the raid continued underground or fled abroad. More members were arrested in 1994 and 1996, and the last of them in 2009; Brenice Lee Smith served two months in jail before pleading guilty to a single charge of smuggling hashish, and then was released after being sentenced to time served.
Nick Schou, author of "Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World," gives you a tour of the places and characters from a long-gone era of Orange County history.
In 1966, a notorious working class gang of tough marijuana dealers from Orange County invaded and ripped off a Hollywood party over a pot deal gone bad. Among the items they grabbed was a bunch of LSD. They didn't even know what it was — except that it was obviously a drug. One day, the gang leader, John Griggs tried it. “This is it!” he told his followers. “A religious experience.” He threw his gun into the ocean. In nearly an instant, the Street Sweepers gang became a religious psychedelic commune. And the skills they'd learned smuggling marijuana from Mexico… well, that still fit the profile. They added acid and hashish to their sales repertoire and became such a successful underground operation that they would eventually get dubbed “the hippie mafia.”
The drug had a similarly profound effect on the petty criminals who would become the Brotherhood, two-thirds of whom had already had run-ins with the law. Their founder, John Griggs, was high on heroin when he robbed a Hollywood producer at gunpoint – but after taking LSD for the first time, he renounced violence, apologised and returned the stolen goods....Brotherhood members, christened the ‘Hippie Mafia’ by the police, used multiple identities to evade detection, but remained socially and politically influential....The group's celebrity also inspired one of the strangest films ever made, Rainbow Bridge (1972)...Owsley Stanley, who made LSD into tablet form for the acid tests of writer Ken Kesey, described the Brotherhood as “loose cannons on a ship of fools”. Richard Alpert, who renamed himself Ram Dass (‘servant of God’) after meeting his guru in India, was wary of the group's ambition: “They were rebellious and wanted to use psychedelics to challenge the government. They had the tiger by the tail”.
Part of a local hotrod gang called the Street Sweepers, "Farmer John" Griggs was a notorious boozer, brawler, and heroin user. But after robbing a stash of LSD from the home of a Hollywood producer, he tripped out for the first time and had a spiritual epiphany. Overwhelmed by his experience of "God-consciousness,” Griggs returned the stolen acid, gave up his gangbanger ways, and devoted himself to proselytizing on behalf of LSD. He began taking small groups out into the woods every Sunday and leading them on guided trips. Travis had also experienced “death of the ego” moments while tripping before, but it wasn't until he accompanied Griggs on these excursions that he began to find meaning in the experience. Believing that LSD was the ultimate tool for human enlightenment, Griggs—along with his wife Carol, friends Michael Randall, Ricky and Ron Bevans, Chuck Mundell, Travis, and a number of others—made it their sacred mission to turn on the world.
Just how did the Brotherhood spread the word? Posters announcing the event were distributed up and down the coast of California, and then there were the Christmas cards. The cover of each invitation featured an illustration of—depending on how you looked at it—a butterfly, a sunset or a profile of the face of Buddha. Inside each card was the message “Let Sunshine Do,” and instead of R.S.V.P., the initials “LSD….300 micrograms.” A hole in the card revealed a tab of Orange Sunshine. According to Blind Faith gallery owner Kent Kelly, who provided us with his card—minus the tab of acid—thousands were sent out across the country.
John Griggs founded the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in 1965 and was decreed by avid LSD-advocate and defrocked Harvard professor Timothy Leary as his spiritual guru. Griggs was a tough-guy malcontent from Anaheim who “saw God” the first time he took LSD in 1963. After stealing the drug from a Hollywood producer at gunpoint, Griggs and his buddy drove back to OC, popping pills along the way. “They took a lot,” Kirkley said, and Griggs ran for miles in the middle of the night to tell his wife and high-school sweetheart, Carol, how much he loved her and that LSD was the antidote to hate and war. “He was completely transformed,” said Kirkley, from thug to flower child with one whopping dose. As the Brotherhood grew, Griggs careened his gang into a tax-exempt church anchored by the headshop Mystic Arts
Per Carol, “we moved to Mojeska Canyon, as a group, from our individual dwellings in Anaheim, Long Beach, and Garden Grove…”. Per Los Angeles Times (May 21, 1989): In October, 1966, they moved from their Anaheim haunts to Modjeska Canyon, where they became “psychedelic evangelists”, says Dion Wright, who befriended Griggs in Laguna Beach 20 years ago.
The next time you're driving to Idyllwild, watch for the turnoff to Fobes Ranch. Amid trophy properties and grazing colts, the LSD revolution flamed out. In the late 1960s, Fobes Ranch was the hub of an international, multimillion-dollar LSD operation. The distributors were the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, Orange County surfers who sprinkled around acid like psychedelic Johnny Appleseeds. Their figurehead drug king and former Harvard professor, Timothy Leary, lived in a teepee near the apple orchard.
Curator and art historian Bolton Colburn's new exhibition, at Coastline Community College Art Gallery, displays work by artists shown at Mystic Arts World,....Colburn's exhibition features more than 40 different artists who showed at Mystic Arts World during its tenure, and the variety of styles and techniques of art is vast, ranging from welding and ceramics, to light work, drawing, printmaking, painting and assemblage. "Most of the artists in the show are artists that I was not familiar with, and I've been involved in the art world in this area for 15-20+ years. So, for me it was a revelation," Colburn says....Although Mystic Arts World wasn't the only place in the state for psychedelic art and experimentation, it really was a hub for Southern California's counter culture. Offering yoga, art, clothing, jewelry, health food, books and a meditation room, the small storefront on Pacific Coast Highway turned into a thriving center for the community. "While it lasted, Mystic Arts World was a focus of seminal, sometimes cosmological, and always super conscious art. What you see in this exhibition is a collection of surviving works of that wild period," says Wright, the maitre d' of presenting "far out, outta sight" art.
Leary, a former Harvard lecturer who held a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, became an evangelist for the use of LSD. In late 1967, he moved to Laguna Beach to spend time with The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a group of counterculture hippies who lived together in the Woodland Drive area (known by the police as “Dodge City”) and manufactured LSD nicknamed Orange Sunshine....After noticing the car smelled of marijuana, Purcell called for backup and searched the vehicle. The search yielded two roaches found in the ashtray, a pound of marijuana, two ounces of hashish and some tabs of LSD. Leary claimed the drugs were planted by the police.
Fifty-seven persons connected with Timothy Leary's sex and drug sect, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, were arrested or indicted and large quantities of LSD, hashish, hashish oil, cocaine, mescaline and marijuana were seized in dawn raids in California, Oregon and Hawaii today, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs announced....Included in the arrests were two of the leaders of the group who had previously been targeted by agents. They were John Charles Gale, who was arrested in San Diego County, and James Leroy Crittendon, who was arrested in Mariposa County....LSD produced by the Brotherhood Laboratories, known as Orange Sunshine, has turned up in the drug subculture in all 50 states, Canada and Australia officials said. A man arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 26 had 500 of the Orange Sunshine tablets.....In October, 1966, Leary and his followers applied to the state of California for corporate status. On Oct. 26, 1966, the brotherhood became a legal corporation in California, with tax-exempt status, because of its religious nature....In Afghanistan, the bureau said, the brotherhood dealt with Amanullah Salem Tokhi and his brother, Hayatullah Tokhi, who are among those indicted in the alleged narcotics smuggling enterprise.
In these exclusive videos, writer Nick Schou, author of Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and its Quest to Spread Peace, Love and Acid to the World (just released in paperback), takes Patch readers on a tour of several key locations from Laguna Beach's late-'60s/early-'70s heyday when the city became the international capital of LSD trafficking.
Using talking head interviews with all of the core group of Eternal Lovers, as well as sun-dappled reconstructions filmed on Super-8 cameras, director WilliamA. Kirkley tells this magical, optimistic tale of the naïve but admirable Brotherhood as they smuggled hash across continents, ran rings around the authorities and created a peace-loving utopian community in Laguna Beach in the sixties.
In 1966, amid ongoing political unrest in Argentina, McCloud's parents sent him at age twelve to Webb School, a boarding school in Claremont, California. At a hotel in Santa Barbara the following summer—as the Summer of Love flowered in Haight Ashbury— McCloud took LSD for the first time with a friend. The acid-infused sugar cubes came from the Timothy Leary–associated, Laguna Beach–based Brotherhood of Eternal Love.5 About his first trip, at the tender age of thirteen, McCloud has said, “I was blind, but then I could see.” The winter after graduating from Webb, McCloud took 300 micrograms*, an ordinary dose, of Orange Sunshine LSD while a student at Santa Clara University. During this trip, McCloud fell out of a window from the seventh-floor of his dorm room. When describing it later, he said he experienced “rapture” and an ontological change, in which the “basic fabric” of his existence changed. McCloud left Santa Clara the following year, continuing his education at l’Ecole du Louvre in Paris before returning to finish his undergraduate degree and then an MFA at the University of California, Davis.
Church members engineer an international smuggling ring to bring hash, pot, and acid back from sources in Europe and Afghanistan. They trick out their vans and surfboards with secret compartments to hide the contraband from border agents. They launder their money through an art gallery in Laguna Beach, build an LSD lab in Palm Springs, and are ultimately responsible for distributing over 100 million hits of acid....The influence of this resourceful “Hippie Mafia” grew so strong that the acid they widely distributed (including the ubiquitous Orange Sunshine strain, from which the documentary takes its title) ended up in the hands of Steve Jobs and the Beatles.
In the documentary “Orange Sunshine,” Brotherhood member Travis Ashbrook recalls traveling to Afghanistan to buy hashish to fund the Brotherhood's LSD-making operation. Ashbrook describes a very different way of air travel at the time, with far less security and scrutiny than today. ...LOCAL KIDS John Griggs was the nucleus of the Brotherhood. He was a bit of a troubled kid. His first experience with LSD came after he and his friends robbed a Hollywood movie producer at gunpoint, relieving him of his drugs....Through parties, dances and at the beach, Griggs and others came together, including Randall and Travis Ashbrook, who grew up in Rossmoor and also spoke with the Register about his time with the Brotherhood....As a group, they moved to Modjeska Canyon and started a church, with LSD as their sacrament. They aimed to introduce it to everyone and called themselves the Brotherhood of Eternal Love....The Brotherhood sold hashish to fund the making of LSD. They were able to bring drugs across the country, to the East Coast, at a time when airline security was far less stringent than today. The Brotherhood moved to Laguna Beach in 1967 to set up its acid-making operation. The members opened Mystic Arts World, a store, art gallery and gathering place on Pacific Coast Highway....Police began focusing their attention on the Brotherhood, especially when Timothy Leary showed up....Neil Purcell, the retired Laguna Beach police chief who in 1968 arrested Leary. Leary was charged with possession of marijuana, LSD and hashish....But Griggs’ death in 1969 after ingesting psilocybin definitively ended the Brotherhood as it once was... in Colorado in 1981 when Randall was arrested. He said he served five years for conspiracy to smuggle hashish and for passport fraud. Ashbrook served 11 years in prison for hashish smuggling and tax evasion....These days, Ashbrook is a consultant for a medical marijuana company. Griggs Randall and Randall run a jewelry business in San Anselmo, near San Francisco.
In junior high and high school, hanging out in the canyon there were still tree houses up there where the Brotherhood had lived a couple decades before. It sounded like such a crazy story, and I couldn't believe something like that happened in conservative Orange County. You would never guess it, and I found the idea of moving hundreds of millions of tabs of LSD very intriguing. Later I moved to New York to work on another documentary project and someone I was kind of close with went to prison. He'd been peripherally involved with the Brotherhood in the '60s and '70s, and he'd write me letters telling me stories about them. I thought, “This is incredible, this has to be my next documentary.” So when I finished the New York project I moved back to California to pursue the doc, but when I started asking around, nobody wanted to talk about it....I told them, “Look this is the story. It's a shame you aren't telling it, because this is your story. And if you'd be willing to say yes, I'd be willing to take everything I've done, put it on a shelf and start over with you.” They said yes. Then it took another three years....In “Rainbow Bridge,” there's a scene where they cut open a surfboard and there's a bunch of hash packed inside....One of the mythic stories I heard early on was that when the Brotherhood started making some money and expanding their travels they took a surfing trip to Sri Lanka. A small group of Brotherhood surfers went because they'd heard about the great waves, but they also discovered this great pot being grown there. They called it Mars because it was out of this world, and they wanted to buy a bunch of it and bring it back. But the local Sri Lankans said U.S. money wouldn't do them any good, so the Brotherhood is like, what do you want? They said Levi's jeans. So the brotherhood called up HQ in Laguna Beach and told the guys, get as many jeans as you can. A dozen people go out to every Sears and department store that sold Levi's, right before summer, and bought up all the jeans to ship to Sri Lanka.
The Orange Sunshine soundtrack is out November 11 via Varese Sarabande. Matt will be on an Orange Sunshine tour of the West Coast in November, where he'll perform songs from, and inspired by, the documentary after a screening of it.
The 1970 “Christmas Happening” in Laguna Beach didn't have the thronging masses or the heralded music, or the dynamics to make it more than a scribble in the history books...And it did have LSD dropped from an airplane in the sky...The idea for the festival came from a guy named Curtis Reid, a Laguna local who had a number of friends in the alternative community. Reid was the force behind getting the posters printed and getting the word out about the concert. That word moved from the local hippie communities to alternative newspapers and radio to mainstream media. What was expressed as a celebration of Christ's birthday with love and music mushroomed into a looming event that alarmed the more conservative citizens of Laguna Beach....Some accounts had it that the festival was originally slated for downtown's Main Beach, but the final site was Sycamore Flats, outside of town in the soft hills of Laguna Canyon. Our Christmas family gatherings prevented us from going that first day of the concert, but on the morning of Dec. 26th, we set out for the site. We had no clue that the nearby streets would be choked with cars, some left, ala Woodstock, on the sides of roads far from the festival...Having already hosted the first day of the concert, the site displayed a lot of Christmas wrapping, in the form of sagging tents, trash, rumpled blankets, camping equipment and backpacks. There were lots of people, certainly several thousand, probably more. Some later crowd estimates had it at 20–25 thousand, but I wonder...Lots of screechy feedback, dropouts and inconsistent volume. This did not improve...But we'd never conclusively heard that any big-name bands would come, so we were satisfied with the sonic sludge we were served...I'd seen in the distance a plane drop what look liked leaflets on the gathering. None landed right near us, but not too far either...In the spirit of Christmas, a local organization called the Brotherhood of Eternal Love managed to drop thousands of hits of Orange Sunshine affixed to colorful cards from a small plane onto the masses...The cards circulated through the crowd, and Marty and Dennis took their share. It's hard to say what is harder on your body, Orange Sunshine or Vienna sausages, but I opted out, for a strong reason...Perhaps fifty yards in front of me, I saw the first living, fully naked woman of my life. I thought that was delightful, until she broke away from the group she was standing with, and ran, flat-out full speed, into the side of a parked truck. That, with the horrible sound of speeding human flesh hitting immovable object, was not delightful....The concert did go on for another day (even with many police roadblocks), and a couple of thousand people stayed in the canyon until the 28th, when the Laguna and Orange County cops raided the place and forced everyone out, bulldozers blazing.
Nicholas Schou talks about The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a drug-smuggling hippie group that produced and distributed “Orange Sunshine” LSD in California and around the country in the late 1960s. Mr. Schou spoke at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.
In the midst of all this, in the fall of 1970, a young man named Curtis Reid threw the I'Ching and learned that "holding together brings good fortune." And he had a brainstorm: he would invite every longhair and hippie and flower child in the nation to a Christmas festival in Laguna Beach. ... In early December, the Flower Children started drifting into Laguna Beach, hitching or driving or somehow just showing up. The town began slowly filling. ...People camped out in the canyon, where there was a lot of open land. Soon even Orange County's local media caught on. On Dec. 23, the Register ran its first story about the Christmas Happening,...Out in the canyon, work on a large wooden stage was already under way at Sycamore Flats, an undulating field of waist-high grass and brush in a natural bowl of the coastal hills, just north of where the San Joaquin Hills toll road now crosses Laguna Canyon Road....In 1970, he was just a sergeant, albeit a famous one: as a rookie in 1968, he had arrested Timothy Leary for possession; the arrest eventually landed Leary in the state prison at San Luis Obispo.... By the end of the Christmas Happening, Atherton says, there were two births; two deaths from accidents; one case of a rattlesnake bite; 15 cases of frostbite; and 300 bad trips, which he treated by having helpers hug the sufferers until they came down. .... Soon after the area was clear of people, bulldozers and other heavy equipment moved into Sycamore Flats. It was supposed to be a cleanup, but it was almost as if the city fathers wanted to obliterate all traces of the Christmas Happening. The stage was burned. Trenches were dug, and into them the bulldozers swept the accumulated garbage along with tents, sleeping bags, clothing, anything left behind in the hasty departure of the Flower Children-even the borrowed pots and pans that Leeds and her cooking crew had used to feed the multitudes. Some people got back in to pick up their gear, but not many.
Two publications address the Christmas 1970 hippie takeover of Laguna Beach: Bob Emmers, “Laguna on Acid: The Great Hippie Christmas Invasion of 1970” in OC Weekly of December 24, 1998; and especially Nicholas Schou, Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, New York, St. Martin's Press, 2010.
From the July 2010 issue; In their 1985 LSD history Acid Dreams, Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain described the Brotherhood as "a bizarre mélange of evangelical, starry-eyed hippie dealers, mystic alchemists, and fast-money bankers." Leary was both friend and unofficial guru to the Brotherhood. He described them in his 1982 autobiography Flashbacks as "transfiguring themselves from working class adolescent low riders to apprentice divinities." He said "there was something magical about this band…outlaws who created a global legend and then disappeared quietly from the scene." In a 1972 indictment, Orange County's district attorney falsely portrayed the defrocked professor as their capo di tutti capi in international crime. Michael Hollingshead, a British adventurer who was one of the earliest suppliers of LSD to Leary, offered the perfect one-line description of the Brotherhood: "the Dead End Kids who took acid and fell in love with beauty." And while they were at it, built up the largest-volume illegal drug smuggling and distribution network of their time. Any cinematic treatment of this story will likely be based on the new book Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, written by Nicholas Schou, a journalist who first wrote about the Brotherhood's history and lingering after-effects for the OC Weekly in 2005. This is not the first book purporting to tell the clandestine Brotherhood's full story. In 1984 the British journalists Stewart Tendler and David May issued The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, which told the same tale with a wider perspective on the history of LSD, and with some significant differences from Schou's, mostly in extending the Brotherhood's story past the point where Schou stops it. Tendler and May also claim a closer relationship between the group and the Mellon heir Billy Hitchcock and the international smuggler (and suspected government provocateur) Ronald Stark. Schou keeps closer to the original Orange County gang, telling the story largely from their perspective.
Many in the brotherhood distrusted Leary, Schou writes. To them, the acid guru was a charlatan, addicted to fame and willing to glom on to anyone willing to help promote his great cause: himself. The entry of the high-profile Leary into the organization was accompanied by increased scrutiny from law enforcement, which prompted many members to flee California for Maui. Filling the void were nefarious characters more interested in money and fear than peace and love. The name of the brotherhood, Schou notes, “now was being hijacked by dope pushers and used as a sales pitch or a marketing device.” After Griggs died in 1969 of a drug overdose, the group lost its tenuous bond. Business became more ruthless. The drugs got heavier. Mistakes were made, and, in 1971, the police finally brought them down.
In their heyday, 'Brothers' smuggled surfboards inlaid with LSD and hash worldwide. Mexican officials were paid off to allow tons of pot to cross the border. A hash-packed yacht was sailed to Hawaii by stoned non-sailors. Jimi Hendrix was enticed to make an incoherent film, and even the famously stoned guitar god found the Brothers too weird...Leary was busted in Laguna Beach, but broken out of jail using Brotherhood of Eternal Love money funneled to the Weather Underground and Black Panthers...At one point they were so big and bizarre they had an outpost in… Cloverdale. But soon things went sour.“Cocaine, and the greed and paranoia that came with it destroyed whatever was genuine in the Brotherhood's idealistic, spiritual origins, writes Schou. Griggs had already died of a psilocybin overdose, and rougher Brothers prevailed. Rip-offs and violence ensued. It all culminated in a 1972 bust that yielded 53 people and two and half tons of hash, thirty gallons of hashish oil, and 1.5 million tablets of Orange Sunshine
Yes this question always comes up every time someone mentions Griggs' death. Although it's not in the book since I only talked to [Brenice] Brennie Smith after I turned in the manuscript, he was there the night Griggs died and confirms that he died of a toxic reaction to a crystallized form of psilocybin as stated in my book. Who knows what else was mixed in with it, but by all accounts, it was poisonous in the extreme in so far as Griggs ingested far too much of it, according to Smith as well as other Brotherhood members who weren't there but got that story straight from those who were present. Nobody I interviewed for the book who was in the Brotherhood and on the scene when he died have any confusion that this is how he died. It was widely known among the Brotherhood that this psilocybin was making the rounds, see where I mention Ed Padilla mentioning Griggs' enthusiasm for the stuff the last time he saw Griggs. Some speculate that Griggs choked on his own vomit on the way to the hospital, but Smith says this is not the case and backs up the version in my book.
The roots of the brotherhood can be traced to Anaheim in the early 1960s, when Orange County was an "American Graffiti" landscape of hot rods and hoodlums. One such figure was John Griggs, just another average low-grade dealer and user -- until he dropped acid in 1965 and became a devotee of Timothy Leary's lysergic philosophy and a pied piper for the promotion of hallucinogenic drugs. Griggs, Schou writes, "would recruit everyone he knew -- surfers, street fighters, pot dealers and petty crooks -- into a tribe of people who viewed acid as a sacrament, a window into God itself."
A suspected member of an LSD distribution ring was arrested in California after nearly four decades on the lam. San Francisco police Lt. Bill Darr said Brenice Lee Smith was taken into custody Saturday at San Francisco International Airport after arriving from Nepal. He was arrested on two, nearly 40-year-old warrants issued in Orange County related to the sale and possession of drugs.
Nick Schou sits one cubicle away from mine at OC Weekly. And yet, I interviewed him about his new book, Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, from my home while he was on the road to his home in Long Beach.